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International Journal for Basic Sciences and Social Sciences (IJBSS) ISSN: 2319-2968 Available Online at www.rfbss.org Vol.

1, Issue 2, August-2012 Page: 40-45

Neo-Vaisnavism of Srimanta Sankardeva Whether a Religious Cult or a Self- Conciously Established Philosophical School : With Special Reference To Vedanta Philosophy
Pabitra Duarah Kamarbandha College, Golaghat, Assam, India.

Abstract: The purpose of this article is to trace the philosophical tenets of Sankardeva and to throw light on the impact of the Vedanta Philosophy on Bhaktivda, particularly on Sankardevas philosophy. Particular efforts have been made to see if Sankardevas Philosophy is the outcome of the Vedanta Philosophy of Indian Vedic school or it is a separate independent philosophy of Sankardeva. Keywords: Mahapurusiya Dharma, Ek-Sarana Dharma, Universal Brotherhood, Democratic Religion. Introduction Mahapurusa Srimanta Sankardeva was basically a religious preacher. He did not write any philosophical discourse to create a philosophical school. His basic aim was to create a universal religion. Sankardeva wrote everything to achieve that purpose. However his philosophical thoughts can be gleaned from his vast writings. But though Sankardeva did not write any philosophical discourse his whole philosophical thoughts can be assimilated from that of Vedanta philosophy, particularly to the philosophy of Rmnuja and his disciples. Sankardevas philosophy is really a religious philosophy. Since his basic motive is religious, his whole ideals centered to his religious principles and the cult of religion known as Mahpurusiya dharma, Ek-sarana nam dharma, or Bgavati Vaishnava dharma. On the basis of traditional vaishnava cult of India, Sankardeva tried to establish a novel and universal form of Vaishnavism that could be the religion of humanity irrespective of caste, status, sex and age. Indeed Sankardevas main objective was to evoke a practical philosophy with a view to popularizing his Neo-Vaishnavism. Objectives 1. An effort to trace the philosophical tenets of Sankardeva and to throw light on the impact of the Vedanta philosophy on Bhaktivda, particularly on Sankardevas philosophy. Particular effort will be made to see if Sankardevas philosophy is the outcome of the Vedanta philosophy of Indian Vedic school or it is a separate independent philosophy of Sankardeva. 2. It is to make a discussion whether Sankardeva self-consciously established a basic philosophy known as the philosophy of Sankardeva or it was his followers who gave his religious tenets a philosophical form. Method of The Study The method of the study is analytical. It also contains a brief description of the data collected. The sources of the data will mainly be the secondary sources. Review of Related Literature To prepare the article Sankardeva, Studies in Culture, a collection of articles edited by Bhaba Prasad Chaliha published by Srimanta Sankardeva Sangha in 1978 and Srimanta Sankardeva and his Philosophy an anthology of articles edited by Dr.

Pabitra Duarah, Neo-Vaisnavism of Srimanta Sankardeva Whether a Religious Cult or a Self- Conciously Established Philosophical School ; With Special Reference To Vedanta Philosophy 40

International Journal for Basic Sciences and Social Sciences (IJBSS) ISSN: 2319-2968 Available Online at www.rfbss.org Vol.1, Issue 2, August-2012 Page: 40-45
Girish Baruah published by Srimanta Sankardeva Sangha in 2012 (second edition)has been taken into account. Particular review has been made on the article by Dr. Girish Baruah titled Sankardeva and Sankaracarya of the later. Besides another article of Dr. Baruah Vedanta Darsana aru Sankardeva published in the Smriti Surabhi the Soveinour of the 56th annual conference of Golaghat District Srimanta Sankardeva Sangha, 2009 is particularly reviewed. In his article Dr. Baruah makes a very good discussion about the similarities between Sankardevas philosophy and that of the Vedantists. In particular he tries to show the coherence and differences between Sankardevas philosophical views with Sankarcaryas philosophical doctrines. So, on the light of his discussion I am trying to established the philosophical ideals of Sankardeva as a separate independent one having own creativity. Interpretation of Sankardevas Philosophy Different scholars interprete Sankardevas philosophical views variously. Mahapurusiya Dharma Some regards Sankardevas religious philosophy as Mahpurusia dharma. In his Purani Kamrupar Dharmar DhrDr. Banikanta Kakoty says that the religious preachers of India are known in different names such as Chaitanya is known as Mahprabhu, the saints of Sikhism are known as Gurus, Tulsidas is known as Goswami. But among his contemporary preachers of India, particularly among the vaishnavite saints only Sankardeva is called Mahpurusa. Hence his religious cult is popularly called as Mahpurusiya dharma. But some scholars rejects this view and says that the epithet Mahpurusa or suprime being is an epithet of Vishnu in the Bhgavata Purna (11-5,33-4) and Pariksita is called Mahpurisiya (2-1,10) for his devotion to Mahpurusa Vishnu. It is found to have been used in the context of Nm-ghosa by Madhavadeva, the most favourite disciple of Sankardeva . So, the expression Mahpurisiy dharma implies the faith or devotion to Mahpurusa i.e. Vishnu. Then the principal deity Krishna, subsequently for his extra ordinary qualities Sankardeva is also called Mahpurusa by his devoties. But Mahpurusiy dharma is not the name of a religion like Buddhism or Christianity. It is a religion observing devotion to Mahpurusa God. (Srimanta Sankardeva and his culture p.24). Ek-Sarana Dharma According to another interpretation Sankardevas dharma is known as Ek-sarana dharma. Normaly the word sarana is used synonymously to diks. But in Mahpurisiy dharma sarana means taking absolute shelter or refuge in Lord Vishnu or Krishna. In the Bhgavata Gita God Krishna him self tells Arjuna, Sarva dharma parityajya mamekam saranam vraja. i.e. abandoned all varieties of religion and just surrender in to me. Sarana, nma, and satsanga are the three basic concepts of the Mahpurusism which Sankardeva derives from Bhgavat Gita, Padma Purana and Srimad Bhagavata Purana respectively. So, Ek-sarana dharma of Sankardeva is the principle of supreme surrender in to the single God Vishnu or Krishna. In the Eksarana system there is no scope for casteism or classism. It also makes Sankardevas philosophy Monotheism. Since his creed based on the worship of single God Vishnu-Krishna, the supreme entity, pure existence. Eka deva , eka seva, eka vine nai keva i.e. one God, one shelter, there is none but the one, is the moto of Ek-sarana vaishnavism. We also find Anya devi deva nakariv seva prasdo nakhib tra/ Murtiko nachib grhonapasib bhakti haiba vyabhicra//(Bhagavata dvitiya scandha) It means bow not to other gods and goddesses; partake not of others offerings; caste no glance at their images; enter not the house where they are worshipped , least thy devotion to one would be polluted. The same ideal is found in the Padma Purana also in the Uttara kanda in 282, 63 as Nanyam devni tu vikseatra brahmano na ca pujayet Nanyam prasdam bhunjita na nasyatanam viset Significantly with Ek-sarana dharma bhakti or devotion to single God Vishnu Krishna , moral rules are inseparably associated as found in the Bhakti Pradipa Ancri kri mora apardhi nuhi nadeva pujoiyito sehi mora druhi Yito mahmlecha khy kukuraka mri Tta kari apavitra hito ahamkri Dekhi bur diba lge nhi tta cidra

Pabitra Duarah, Neo-Vaisnavism of Srimanta Sankardeva Whether a Religious Cult or a Self- Conciously Established Philosophical School ; With Special Reference To Vedanta Philosophy 41

International Journal for Basic Sciences and Social Sciences (IJBSS) ISSN: 2319-2968 Available Online at www.rfbss.org Vol.1, Issue 2, August-2012 Page: 40-45
Cndlaro asushya henahe apabitra It means that one cannot be guilty in my estimation by violating moral rules, but one becomes accountable to me by worshipping other gods and goddesses. Such an arrogant person is more impure than taking bath at the very sight of such person .For a person is no impure so that even untouchable for the cndala. Universal Brotherhood Sankardevas Neo-vaishnavism is not only a religious movement but also a social revolution. Through his bhakti movement Sankardeva became one among Buddha, jesus Christ and Hazarat Muhammad who created a revolution against religious bigotry at the risk of their own lives .Sankardevas doctrine of bhakti based on the concept of universal brotherhood. He was a messiaha to deliver the downtrodden in a new socio-religious order destroying casteism . The greatest social reform brought about by Sankardeva was the recognition of the dignity of the common people irrespective of caste and status. Sankardeva declars Kukura srgla gardahbaro tmrm Jania sabko pari karib pranm Sankardeva believes that even dogs, foxes and asses have the same soul like of a man. So we should salute them as the manifestation of the same God. It is the contribution of Sankardeva that could prevent the stigma of casteism and untouchability from Assam that veiled the other parts of India in those days. There is no prohibition in following Sankardevas religious disciplines among different community. Among his disciples there were the kirta,the kachries,the Gros, the Miris, the Yavanas, the Kankas, the Golas, the Asamas or the Ahoms, the Mulukas, the Rajakas, the Turukas, the Kuvakas, the Mleches, the Cndlas and other vicious people became pure in the company of the devotees of Krishna as stated in the Bhgavata Kirta Kachri Khci Garo Miri Yavana Kanka Gola Asama Muluka Dhovage Turuka Kuvasa Mlecha Cndla Ana papi nara Krishna sevakara sangata pabitra haya Kirtana Ghosa The main disciple of Sankardeva was Govinda, a Gro; Rma,a Kachri; Nryana, a Miri; Boli, a Mikir; Srirm, a Kaivartta; Damudara, a Bhutia; Chnci, a Muslim which shows Sankardevas humanitarian attitude as well as universal brotherhood. Rather Sankardeva admits that a cndla who remembers Hari with heart and soul is much superior to a Brhmin observing external penance. Democratic Religion Besides Sankardeva established a new democratic social order through the institution of Nmghar,the village congregation hall.The nmghar of Sankardeva served as the centre of the intellectual and cultural activities of the village people. Indeed the nmghars can be regarded as the community development centre of the Assamese society playing social, political, economical, religious and cultural roles. Sankardeva set up the sattras, the religious temples at the top of Sankarite religious system and the nmghars are the small unit of it. Sattras play a vital role in the religious activities of the vaisnavite community. Of course the sattras founded by Sankardeva were not like of the present nature. It was Madhavadeva and Damudardeva who gave the sattra institutions a structural and organizational shape that took a definite monastic turn only in the hands of Bamsigopaldeva towards the third decade of the7th century. Now the sattras, nmghars as well as the vaishnavite religious system thus has become a democratic social order. Therefore we can realize that Sankardeva self consciously was eager to formulate a sacred religion of his own based on the traditional vaishnava cult. Now the question is whether his prime motive was to formulate a philosophical school also or it was a theory directly drawn from the Vedanta philosophy of Indian Vedic schooln? To make a definite interpretation to the question one has to make a broad discussion not only on the Vedanta school of philosophy but also on the philosophy of Sankardeva. Vedanta literally means the heart or the inner most part or onta of the Vedas. In other words it refers to the Upanisadas. More systematically it refers to the philosophy of Badaryana evoked through his Badaryana sutra or Sariraka sutra or Uttara

Pabitra Duarah, Neo-Vaisnavism of Srimanta Sankardeva Whether a Religious Cult or a Self- Conciously Established Philosophical School ; With Special Reference To Vedanta Philosophy 42

International Journal for Basic Sciences and Social Sciences (IJBSS) ISSN: 2319-2968 Available Online at www.rfbss.org Vol.1, Issue 2, August-2012 Page: 40-45
mimmsa. Later on different acryas gave different commentaries on the Badarayana sutra evolving different schools of Vedanta philosophy. Among those schools Sankaracaryas Advaita Vedanta or Absolute monism, Ramanujas Visistadvaitavda or qualified monism, Nibarkcryas dvaitdvaitavda ,Madhavacryas Dvaitavda, Vallavacryas suddha dvaitavda, or pure monism and Baladevas Acintya-bhedvedavda etc. are notable ones. Of the above schools Sankarcrya and Ramanuja are the most influential to the Bhakti movement of India. Sankardeva was particularly influenced by Rmnuja. Of course he is not completely free from the influence of Sankarcrya. Its basic motto is that Brahma is the only reality of the world. Others, even God Him self is maya or illusion. According to Sankarcrya, because of the my or illusion, we perceive the world in place of Brahma. To Sankarcrya Brahma is spiritual truth or paramrthika satya , world is practical truth or vyavahrika satya and illusion is reflective truth or prativsika satya. Only Brahma is real and the world and the empirical self or individual self is mere illusion. Brahma is satcidnanda i.e. a combination of sat or existence, cit or consciousness and nanda or bliss. Regarding Moksa Sankarcrya says that bondage of individual self or jiva is caused by avidy or ignorance. So, moksa is the elimination of avidy or my or ignorance. Sankara believes in two kinds of moksa or mukti, jivan mukti, the liberation of one during life time. It is the state of perfection attained during life time through perfect knowledge of the Brahman. The second kind of moksa is the disembodiment state of liberation or vedah mukti. In a word moksa is a state of identification with Brahman or the ultimate reality. It is not the dissolution of the world but only the disappearance of the false out look. But Ramanuja ascribes God as saguna Brahman or qualified entity. He says that unlike Sankarcrya Brahman is not unqualified or attributeless, but the reality of having innumerable attributes. Among those attributes the world and the soul or jagat and jiva are two attributes of the Brahman. Of course still Ramanujas Vedanta is Advaitavda called Visistdvaitavda or qualified monism. Afterwards the disciples of Ramanuja came closer to the Bhaktivda. So Ramanujas visistdvaitavda being purely a philosophical scheme is the basis of Vaishnava faith. Ramanuja wrote commentary on Brahmasutra known as Sribhsya, a commentary on Bhgavata Gita, Vedanta sra, Vedanta samgraha and Vedanta Dipa. Being a worshipper of Vishnu, Ramanuja argues that God is real and independent. The reality of soul also depends on the reality of God or Brahmana. But Ramanuja never declared the world to be an illusion. According to Ramanuja, my is the inscrutable power of the Brahman by which He creates the many. Ramanuja believes that bondage of the soul or jiva is due to its karma. So, liberation or salvation, according to him is not the disappearance of the individual soul or self. The state of liberation means the unimpeded manifestation of natural qualities of intelligence and bliss. Now if we consider Sankardevas Neo-vaishnavism in the light of the Vedanta philosophy we can call him a vedantist and his philosophy is a trend of the traditional Vedanta. But he is not an crya. Because he did not write any commentaries on the three basic scriptures known as prasthna traya; Upanisada, Brahmasutra, and Bhgavata Git. Rather he took the Bhgavata purna to be the commentary or Vedanta bhsya to establish his philosophy. So, the basis of his philosophy is advaitavda or non-dualism and bhaktivda which is the motto of the Vedanta philosophy also. Most of the Vedanta commentators or bhsyakra believe on the non-dualism or advaitavda . But the theme of Sankardevas Vedanta is Ekeswaravda or believe in the single God. During the Sankarite era the custom of worshipping many gods created disorder in society which largely contributed towards his philosophical thoughts. He was greatly influenced by the bhakti or devotion of the Git that enabled him to create a universal religion. That is why we see the importance of God or saguna brahma in Sankardevas philosophy. He not only uplifts god to the position of the Brahman but also improves the position of the values of the individual soul. He calls the Brahman beyond the three qualities i.e. satta, rajas and tamas. Nirguna or attributeless god is the assimilation of sat or existence, cit or consciousness, and nanda or bliss. Though Sankardeva believes on the single god, he is honest enough to accept the plurality of the individual self. Sankardeva describes individual self as parts of the single God Vishnu. The guiding principle of the vaishnava movement is Moksa or salvation which can be attained through devotion. Sankardeva believes that we can achieve God through devotion mixed with knowledge.There are nine kinds of bhakti viz. shravan, kirton, archan ,bandan, smaran, padasewan ,dashya, sakhitva ,and atmanibedan. Among those nine kinds of bhakti, Sankardeva gives priority to the sravana and kirtana. According to sankardeva if Hari, Krishna or Vishnu is satisfied then the chari purusartha i.e. dharma, artha, kma and moksa can be practiced and it should be done through niskma bhakti. The traditional vaishnava preacher Ramanuja and his disciples ascribes the world as real. They reject Sankaracarryas concept of my and moksa. According to them sat , cit and nanda are the gunas or attribute of the Brahman, not the swarupa or nature of Him. They believe that absolute reality is not simply the cit or consciousness. It is the combination of acit or matter with cit or consciousness.

Pabitra Duarah, Neo-Vaisnavism of Srimanta Sankardeva Whether a Religious Cult or a Self- Conciously Established Philosophical School ; With Special Reference To Vedanta Philosophy 43

International Journal for Basic Sciences and Social Sciences (IJBSS) ISSN: 2319-2968 Available Online at www.rfbss.org Vol.1, Issue 2, August-2012 Page: 40-45
But Sankardeva does not hold the world as real. According to him, Tumihe kewala satya mis hobe na/ Tumi satya brahma mis jagata srajana// It says that Brahman or God is the only reality, others are false or my. Even the world is also a creation of the my of the Brahman or supreme reality Sankardeva believes that my is of two forms, namely, covering or varana and bhrama or illusion. According to him, among sat, cit and nanda, the last one is the nature of God. To him Nitya niranjana suddha nandaswarupa/ Bhakatara jene itcha tene dhar rupa// Jnilu skhyte tumi purusa purna/ Niranjana nanda swarupa sarbajana// So, it indicates that Brahma or reality is nanda or bliss. However it is obvious that though Sankardeva is influenced mainly by Ramanuja and his disciples called Srivaishnavas, yet his tenets can not be isolated from Sankaracaryas philosophy. After all Sankardeva, on the light of Vedanta philosophy is able to establish his philosophical as well as his religious principles as an independent basic self-creative philosophy. Sankardevas prime creation the Kirtana-ghosa is written on the background of the Vedanta view revealed in the Bhgavata purna. Particularly the Veda-stuti, Haramohana Harichandra upakhyna, Srikrishnara vaikuntha prayna of the Kirtana are the evidence of Sankardevas Vedanta views. Conclusion From the discussion on the features of the thoughts of Srimanta Sankardeva with special reference to the philosophy of the Vedanta we can realize that there is enough scope to think that Sankardevas philosophy is directly derived from that of the Vedanta. But it will be wrong to accept this view. Because, it has already been mentioned that Sankardeva did not write any commentaries or bhsya on any philosophical book. Nor he was an academic philosopher. His basic aim was to preach a religious cult. So, he read almost every scripture of Indian culture, religion and literature with a view to establish his views on a strong foundation. His creations were also for the purpose of making his religion popular among the common people Thats why inspite of his ability to write his books in Snskrit which at that time was an established language and the scholars of those days wrote everything in Sanskrit, Sankardeva choosed the local dialect that is the Assamese and the Brajwali or Brajabuli language. Since he read the four Vedas, fourteen scriptures, eighteen purnas, eighteen kbyas, eighteen kushas, fourteen grammers, eighteen samhits and two epics, it is natural to have the reflection of the philosophies of them in his religious tenets. As the Vedas are the heart of Indian philosophy and the Indian tradition, every Indian philosophical school including Vedanta must be rooted to the Vedas and they are initially related to each other. So, Sankardevas philosophy also seems to be the out come of them. He has sixteen literary works which were the by product of his being a preacher. Being a poet philosopher the end of Sankaardevas literary works is to purify Hinduism from within. Though a philosophical trend is found in his writings, his aim was not to establish a philosophy. Of course his Bhaktiratnkara, though a work of compilation, contained enough philosophical elements that could put him in the line of Acryas like Ramanuja, Sridhara etc. We can accumulate the whole philosophy of Sankardeva from his Bhaktipradipa, Bhaktiratnkara, Gunaml, Andiptan, Kurukshetra, Nimi-nava-sidha-sambda, Krishna-prayna, Pndava-niryna compiled under Bhgavata. They are the philosophical and theological tenets on Bhakti and non-dualistic philosophy. But still they were composed for his way to popularize the Ek-sarana Bhakti Dharma. So, in brief I think that Sankardevas philosophy is not a self-consciously established philosophical school; but a religious cult. It is only his disciples who gave his thoughts a philosophical form. Particularly his great and the most favourite disciple Madhavadeva gave his thoughts a definite form, particularly through his Nm-ghos. Thence after other Sankarite thinkers too contributed to its richness.

REFERENCES Chaliha Bhabaprasad edt. , Sankardeva, Studies in Culture, Srimanta Sankardeva Sangha, 1978. Dr. Baruah Girish edt. , Srimanta Sankardeva and his Philosophy, Srimanta Sankardeva Sangha, 2011 (2nd edition) Smriti Surabhi, Soveinour, 56th annual conference of Golaghat District Srimanta Sankardeva Sangha, 2009.

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International Journal for Basic Sciences and Social Sciences (IJBSS) ISSN: 2319-2968 Available Online at www.rfbss.org Vol.1, Issue 2, August-2012 Page: 40-45
Dutta Baruah & Co. , Srimad Bhgavata Purana, 9th edition, 1982. Swami Brahmacari Krishnananda edt. , Srimad Bhgavata Gita, 1993. Board of Editors, Srimanta Sankardeva Sangha edt. , Bhakti Pradip (Mahapurusa Srimanta Sankardeva Bakyamrit) 1983.( 34,35,36.) Das Kailash edt. , The Kirtana-Ghosa, An English verse rendering, Srimanta Sankardeva Sangha, 2005. Kuruksetra(Vakyamrit) 488 Sharma C.D. , A Critical Survey of Indian Philosophy.

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