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An Introduction to the Daśaślokī of Śaṃkara and Its Commentary Siddhāntabindu by Madhusūdana Sarasvatī


The aim of this short article is to introduce a topical text called the Daśaślokī of Ᾱdi Śaṃkara, widely known as Śaṃkara (the systematic propounder of Advaita Vedānta, ca. eighth-century CE) and its only available commentary the Siddhāntabindu by Madhusūdana Sarasvatī (ca. sixteenth-century CE, generally said to have hailed from Bengal). While these two classics delineate in a nutshell the basic tenets of Advaita Vedānta philosophy and are placed with great significance in the tradition, very little work on them, particularly those based on textual study, has been done in modern scholarship. Thus, the article, without going into much detail of the content of these two works (i.e. the Daśaślokī and the Siddhāntabindu) and the commentaries available (on the Siddhāntabindu), gives, in brief, their introduction, in order to revisit them.

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  1. Divānji (1933), Introduction, p. I and Aufrecht (1962), p. 188.

  2. A prakaraṇa is often viewed as ‘a subsidiary treatise, which is correlated to the central texts and discusses one or more of the central problems of a system’ (śāstraikadeśasambaddhaṃ śāstrakāryāntare sthitam/āhuḥ prakaraṇaṃ nāma granthabhedaṃ vipaścitaḥ//) [cited in Nyāyāmṛtādvaitasiddhī 1984, English introduction, footnote, p. 35].

  3. Besides Śaṃkara’s , we find other texts too bearing the same name. Nimbārka (ca. twelfth century CE), the chief protagonist of Dvaitādvaita school of Vedānta, is said to have written ten verses (Daśaślokī), also called the Vedāntakāmadhenu or Siddhāntaratna, explaining the distinction between the individual self, God and the world (Radhakrishnan 2009, pp. 701–702). K. H. Potter in his Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies refers to another five texts bearing the name Daśaślokī, such as the Daśaślokī by Nimbārka, Vāsanāpratikāradaśaka or Daśaślokī by Amareśvara Śāstrin (1850 CE), Daśaślokī or Anubhavādvaita by Appaya Dīkṣita (sixteenth century CE), Daśaślokīmahāvidyāsūtra by Kulārkapaṇḍita (1175 CE), Daśaślokīviḍambana by Śeṣa Śāraṅgadhara (1420 CE) etc. (Potter 1995, pt. 2, pp. 1475–1476). Besides, Theodor Aufrecht in his Catalogus Catalogorum: An Alphabetical Register of Sanskrit Works and Authors cites some other works having the same name as the Daśaślokī, namely (a) praise of Sarasvatī, attributed to Āśvalāyana, (b) from the Nandikeśvarapurāṇa, (c) quoted in the Śuddhimayūkha, (d) Daśaślokī or Siddhāntaratna by Nimbārkācārya, etc. (Aufrecht 1962, p. 248). The New Catalogus Catalogorum mentions as many as 14 texts bearing the same name (Raja 1974, pp. 356–358).

  4. Siddhāntabindu (1986b)

  5. Aufrecht refers to other three commentators of the of Śaṃkara, in addition to MS (Aufrecht 1962, p. 188). Likewise, the New Catalogus Catalogorum mentions as many as three other commentators (Raja 1974, p. 358).

  6. svāminnahaṃ na prithivī na jalaṃ na tejo na sparśano na gaganaṃ na ca tadguṇā vā / nāpīndriyāṇyapi tu viddhi tato’vaśiṣṭo yaḥ kevalo’sti paramaḥ sa śivo’hmasmi // (Śaṃkaradigvijaya 5.99) [Śaṃkaradigvijaya 1915, p. 179].

  7. Śaṃkaradigvijaya (1915), p. 181.

  8. ‘Great sentences’ (mahāvākya-s) indicate the Upaniṣadic statements which refer to the non-difference between the individual self (jīva) and the supreme self (brahman). ‘Consciousness is brahman’ (‘prajñānaṃ brahma’—Ṛg Veda, AU 3.3), ‘That thou art’ (‘tattvamasi’—Sāma Veda, CU 6.8.7), ‘I am brahman’ (‘ahaṃ brahmāsmi’—Yajur Veda, BU 1.4.10), and ‘Brahman is this self’ (‘ayam ātmā brahma’—Atharva Veda, MāU 2) are regarded as the principal great sentences in the four Vedas respectively (see also Bhattacharya and Bhattacharya Śāstrī 1981, p 21).

  9. Śaṃkaradigvijaya 5.89-106 (Śaṃkaradigvijaya 1915, pp. 175–185); Tapasyananda 2009, pp. 47–48; Mahadevan and Veezhinathan 2004–2005, , 29.2, pp. 111–112).

  10. Thus, in the first nine out of ten verses in , there is a common refrain ‘tadeko’vaśiṣṭaḥ śivaḥ kevalo’ham’. This work has significant resemblance with another work of Śaṃkara that is known as Nirvāṇaṣaṭkam or Ᾱtmaṣaṭkam, a work in six verses, dealing with the nature of self, and each of these verses begins by stating what the self is not and has the common refrain ‘cidānandarūpaḥ śivo’haṃ śivo’ham’ (Śrīśāṃkaragranthāvalī 1999, Nirvāṇaṣaṭkam, pp. 63–64).

  11. Śrīśāṃkaragranthāvalī 1999, Daśaślokī, pp. 309–311.

  12. In consonance with the subject matters of and MS’s commentary on it, the SB has been divided by some editors like P. C. Divanji into four parts—(i) the prolegomena (upodghāta), (ii) the determination of the meaning of the word ‘thou’ (tvam), (iii) the determination of the meaning of the word ‘that’ (tat), and (iv) determination of the meaning of the Upaniṣadic great sentence ‘That thou art’ (tattvamasi). We have refrained from this discussion, as, in his commentary the Gūḍhārthadīpikā on the Bhagavadgītā, MS has said that, out of the 18 chapters of Bhagavadgītā, the first 6 deal with the meaning of the word ‘tvam’, and the next 6 chapters deal with the meaning of the word ‘tat’, and the rest 6 chapters deal with the identity of ‘tvam’ and ‘tat’, and he has followed this method in his Siddhāntabindu as well, even though he has not divided the content of it into chapters (Bhagavadgītā 1999, Madhusūdanīvyākhyā, introductory verses 5–10, p. 3 and Divānji 1933, Contents of the Text, pp. 13–24) [see also Mahadevan and Veezhinathan 2004–2005, , 29.2, p. 113].

  13. Divānji (1933), Explanatory and Critical Notes, p. 1.

  14. Divānji (1933), Introduction, p. CXXXVIII.

  15. Debate (vāda) is 1 of the 16 subjects held by the Naiyāyika-s, viz. means of right knowledge (pramāṇa), object of right knowledge (prameya), doubt (saṃśaya), argumentation (tarka), etc. They also hold that by the thorough knowledge of these factors, the highest good (niḥśreyasa) is attained (Dasgupta 2000–2007, p. 294). The supremacy of vāda as a means of argumentation is also found when the Lord in describing his divine manifestations (vibhūti) considers it as one of them (Bhagavadgītā 10.32).

  16. Adhikaraṇa generally means a topic, subject, section, a complete argument treating a particular subject, etc. Sūtra-s of Vyāsa and Jaimini are divided into the adhyāya-s, adhyāya-s into the pāda-s and pāda-s into the adhikaraṇa-s or sections.

  17. Nair (1990), p. 27.

  18. The primary meaning (mukhyārtha) of the statement ‘That thou art’ can be shown in the following way. ‘That’ (tat) is the supreme self (brahman), viewed as the source of the universe, while ‘thou’ (tvam) is the individual self (jīva), the ātman conditioned by the body-mind complex. The secondary sense (gauṇārtha) of the sentence is that ‘that’ means pure consciousness, which is by nature existence, consciousness and bliss, and ‘thou’ denotes pure consciousness, which is the witness (sākṣī) of the states of waking, dreaming and deep sleep. As the term tat refers to remote consciousness (parokṣa-caitanya) and the term tvam refers to immediate or direct consciousness (aparokṣa-caitanya), they lack the fitness (yogyatā) to express the identity (abheda) of their respective referents. So, for the Advaitins, the identity between the referents of these two terms can be conveyed through what is called ‘exclusive-cum-non-exclusive implication’ (jahadajahallakṣaṇā or bhāga-lakṣaṇā). In this kind of implication, the direct meaning of a word constituting the sentence is partially omitted, but partially retained. Thus, both the terms in this sentence imply consciousness as such, but the immediacy and the remoteness associated with consciousness, which are denoted by them respectively, are left out—thereby referring to non-difference between what is signified by these two terms (viz. tat and tvam) in the statement [see also Mishra 2006, p. 67 and Bhattacharya and Bhattacharya Śāstrī 1981, pp. 102–103].

  19. These are all theories pertaining to the relation between jīva and brahman propounded by the Advaitins. MS deals with all these theories in his SB elaborately (see also Siddhāntabindu 1986a, p. 41ff).

  20. Siddhāntabindu 1986a, pp. 74–85.

  21. The concept of ignorance/nescience/illusion (avidyā/ajñāna/māyā) plays as the basis of Advaita metaphysics, epistemology, and ethical orders. a jñāna, with its two aspects of concealment and projection, covers the reality of the self and projects the unreality of being individual self, God and world in it by taking it (self) to be both its content and ground (for a brief but clear-cut note on these points, as held by MS in his SB, see Siddhāntabindu 1986a, p. 46ff).

  22. Siddhāntabindu (1986a), pp. 85–154.

  23. Siddhāntabindu (1893).

  24. Siddhāntabindu (1986a).

  25. Siddhāntabindu (1989).

  26. Divānji (1933).

  27. Siddhāntabindu (1986b).

  28. Siddhāntabindu (1997).

  29. Siddhāntabindu (2010).

  30. Divānji (1933) and Siddhāntabindu (1986b).

  31. Siddhāntabindu (1989) and Siddhāntabindu (1986b).

    Though there is a reference to the Guruṭīkā in the Laghuṭīkā, no manuscript thereof is found yet (Siddhāntabindu 1989, Introduction, p. 11; p. 233).

  32. Siddhāntabindu (1989) and Siddhāntabindu (1997).

  33. Siddhāntabindu (2010) (while it was published in the early part of the last century, it was not widely known being in Telugu script).

  34. Siddhāntabindu (1986a).

    In addition to the first three commentaries on SB of MS, Theodor Aufrecht mentions as many as six commentators under the term Siddhāntatattvabindu or Siddhāntabindu. However, out of the works of these six commentators, only two bear specific names, which seem not to be extant or falling under misinformation (Aufrecht 1962, p. 719 and Divānji 1933, Introduction, p. CXXXIX). K. H. Potter too mentions a number of other commentaries attributed on it, namely Vyākhyā by Viśveśvara Pandita, Sarvasudhākara by Sadānanda Svāmin, Sāra by Tārānātha Tarkavācaspati, Ṭīkā by Saccidānandayogīndra (1640 CE), Siddhāntasindhu by Rāma Kavi and Siddhāntabinduśīkara by Bodhendra or Gaṅgādhara (Indra) Sarasvatī (1755 CE) [Potter 1995, p t. 2, pp. 1475, 1525].

  35. For a detailed account of these available commentaries, refer to Divānji (1933), Introduction, pp. CXXXIX-CXLII.

  36. Siddhāntabindusāra (1872).

  37. Advaitasiddhi (2005), pp. 490, 537, 546, and 579 (see also Modi 1986, Introduction, p. 34).

  38. Sāṃkhya Vedāntatīrtha 1404 Bengali Era, ullāsa 1, kārikā 24, p. 43.

  39. Karmarkar (1962), p. 164.

  40. Bhagavadgītā (1999), Madhusūdanīvyākhyā, Bhagavadgītā 2.18, p. 64 (having found the similar context there and MS’s indication to discuss those contexts in greater detail in some other places, P. M. Modi holds that the Gītāgūḍhārthadīpikā on Bhagavadgītā 2.13, 2.15 and 2.28 also refer to the SB of the author) [see also Modi 1985, Introduction, footnote 41, p. 49].

  41. Siddhāntabindu (1986a), pp. 133 and 141.

  42. Modi (1985).

  43. Divānji (1933).

  44. Acalānanda (1981).

  45. Subramanian (1989).

  46. Sastri (2006).

  47. Pant (1932).

  48. Upreti (2002).

  49. Shastri and Ghosh 1334 BE.

  50. Tarkaratna et al. (1995).

  51. Siddhāntabindu (1986a), pp. 1–2 and 153.

  52. Compare Śrīśāṃkaragranthāvalī (1999), Daśaślokī, pp. 309–311 and

    Brahmasūtra (2000).


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I would like to express my gratitude to Professors Godabarish Mishra (University of Madras), who introduced us to the trove of Advaita Vedānta philosophy, and Prabal Kumar Sen (formerly, University of Calcutta) for their seeing through the draft version of this piece of writing and lending their suggestions for improvement. My thanks are due to the anonymous reviewers and to Shri V. Subrahmanian for their constructive reviews and to-the-point suggestions. Halder is always beyond all thanks.

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Saha, N. An Introduction to the Daśaślokī of Śaṃkara and Its Commentary Siddhāntabindu by Madhusūdana Sarasvatī. SOPHIA 56, 355–365 (2017).

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  • Daśaślokī
  • Advaita Vedānta
  • Ᾱdi Śaṃkara
  • Commentary
  • Siddhāntabindu
  • Madhusūdana Sarasvatī