About 800 years ago a great Vedantic philosopher named Prakashatman introduced the conception of Brahman self-conditioned by Maya, and pure Brahman. Swami Vidyaranya follows this great teacher with some reservations. By this time Vedanta had lost its original vigour. It shows signs of age and seems to be static. The period of cohesion is over. Complexity comes in. The want of integration is felt and differentiation supervenes in the great system. The teachers are not wholehearted followers of the great Shankara, though they do not affirm disagreement with him. They lack inspiration and their thoughts do not soar to the gates of heaven.

Padmapad Acharya postulated the inseparability of value and reality. But he becomes an – existential philosopher in spite of his efforts to keep to the tradition of his great master. He was puzzled about the recognition of creativity in the pure consciousness.

Prakashatman tried to remain faithful to the axiom of Padmapad. Prakashatman’s allegiance to Padmapad is doubtful. A new chapter in the history of Vedanta is introduced when it begins to be said that creativity is the Tatastha Lakshana or indirect definition of Brahman, and not the direct and pure definition of the Absolute.

Before Prakashatman the philosophers distinguished between the Upa-Lakshana or the sub-definition, and the Vishesha Lakshana or special definition. Both Padmapad and Prakashatman assert the Vishesh Lakshana under different names. Vidyaranya, who is highly influenced by Prakashatman, believes that Brahman is Sat – truth or pure existence. They identify Sat with Chit and Ananda -Consciousness-bliss. Padmapad holds that Brahman is also creative. Here Vidyaranya and Prakashatman differ from the great sage Padmapad. They call creativity an accidental aspect of Brahman. This is what they mean by Tatastha definition of Brahman.

Prakashatman holds that mere knowledge of Brahman unbacked by realization is not conducive to the highest good. The fact is that the definition of Prakashatman – Tatastha takes one only to the bank of the river and does not lead him to the water to quench his thirst.

Brahman self-conditioned by Maya is the original conception of Prakashatman. This existential view of Brahman is not the theory of the great master Shankara. The article of faith of the great Shankara is inseparability of value and reality. He postulates a faith illumined by reason, aglow with the light of inspiration and deepened by the cool water of Self-contemplation. Prakashatman failed to understand the point.

The Western philosophers of Vedanta seized this weakness in philosophy and reduced Brahman into almost nothing. Deussen failed to reconcile existence with essence. He did a great disservice to the philosophy.

According to Shri Shankara, essence is one with existence. The duality of such a principle is futile. The monism of Shankara rests on the good. It is creative monism. Prakashatman was not fully alive to the idea of the great master and he could not reconcile the creativity with the pure Chit, the pure existence and perfect bliss.

It is this seeming contradiction, due to want of comprehension of Shri Shankara’s position, that gave rise to the theory of Maya as Shakti or power of Brahman. Aurobindo gives prominence to it and the little Vedantins like Vivekananda accept it. But it is not the theory of Shri Shankara. It leads to great moral and practical loss of value.

The Absolute of Shri Shankara is both omniscient and omnipotent, a fact which Prakashatman has failed to understand. There are not two Brahmans:the one conditioned by Maya and the other pure consciousness. It is the One who has the many inherent in It, though not different from It.

The Absolute is indefinable. Shri Vidyaranya too held this view. Then why does Prakashatman divide the Absolute into two? It is neither one nor two; it is Advaita, or non-dual.

There are five teaching points: theology, cosmology, psychology, doctrine of transmigration and doctrine of liberation – Jivan-Mukti.

In the view of Shri Shankara the highest value and creativity are one in Brahman and Prakashatman is not a true representative of Shri Shankara. He has misled the German Vedantins. The real representative of the Vedanta of Shri Shankara is Sarvajnatma Muni. His classic ‘Sankshepa Shariraka’ is worthy of serious study and not the writings of Prakashatman.

The disputes centre on the interpretation of Brahma Sutra 1.1.2. – “That from which all this comes forth, etc.”. Here pure Brahman is defined as the cause of the world. Shri Shankara holds it is a Svarupa (or Vishesha) Lakshana, that is, a direct definition of pure Brahman. Padmapad held that it could stand as a direct definition if completed by the further direct definition as Sat-Chit-Ananda, as Shri Shankara completes it in his commentary. The later writers, Prakashatman and Vidyaranya, regard the Sutra as an indirect definition (Tatastha Lakshana or Upalakshana) of pure Brahman, but a direct definition of “Brahman-conditioned- by-Maya. An indirect definition (Tatastha Lakshana, literally “a definition that merely stands on the bank”) does not describe the real nature of the object to be defined, but merely indicates the general direction in which one must look for it. All hold that Sat-Chit- Ananda is a direct definition of pure Brahman.

Thus Padmapad hesitated to define pure Brahman as the cause of the world, while Prakashatman and Vidyaranya openly refused to do so. Among the later writers it was only Sarvajnatma Muni, pupil of Sureshvara, who remained completely faithful to Shri Shankara on this point.

Index for this series on Fundamental points on the Advaita of Shri Shankara that are overlooked or misunderstood:

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