A pAshupata inscription and some thoughts on the history of nyAya-vaisheShika

gotre .ananta samAhvaye bhava-dina-prakhyas-tapas-tejasA dR^iShTAdR^iSTa vishuddha-karma-nirataH shrI-bhAvatejA guruH |
AchAryodbhuta-kevalArtha-vachasA pA~nchArthiko yaH sudhIH kAma-krodhaja-varga-durga-vipina-ploShasya dAvAnalaH |
shrutvA samastaagama-yogashAstraM vyAkhyAya cha nyAya-kaNAda-shAstraM abhyasya yaH pAshupata cha yoga shivasya sAyojyam-avApa bodhAt |

TThe above verses in the shArdula-vikrIDita and upajAti meters are contained in lines 5-8 of the Tewar stone inscription from the old city of tripuri (13 Km from Jabalpur), which was inscribed on 17th June 1151 CE during the reign of the king gayAkarNa of the kalachuri (haihaya) dynasty of the tripuri branch. The inscription begins like several kalachuri inscriptions with the pa~nchAkSharI mantra and then continues in verse. It mentions a pAshupata AchArya named bhAvatejas of the ananta gotra who is described specifically as a follower of the pA~nchArthika system (i.e. based on pAshupata sUtra-s). He said to have heard all the teachings of the agama-s and yoga shAstra, expounded the nyAya and vaisheShika (kaNAda) philosophies and practiced pAshupata yoga to attain sAyujya with shiva. This point is of interest because it is clear cut evidence that a northern/central Indian pAshupata AchArya was an expounder of nyAya-vaisheShika. Around the same in the Andhra and karNATa countries the relatives of these pAshupata, namely the kAlAmukha-s of both the shakti and siMha pariShad-s mention being exponents of the same philosophical systems. This suggests that the common ancestor of the kAlAmukha-s of Southern India and the related pAshupata-s of central and northern India were already both allied to these darshana-s. Thus, the philosophical alliance with these darshana occurred even before the diversification of the lAkulIsha pAshupata; further, these might have even played a major role in the nyAya-vaisheShika syncretism.

Another inscription of the kalachuri-s of the tripuri branch (the Gurgi stone inscription) by the king kokalladeva-II describes the great saiddhAntika AchArya name prashAnta-shiva patronized by this rAjan. The Acharya is mentioned as installing shrines for umA, ardhanArIshvara, skanda and images of vinAyaka and sarasvati near the gate of the shiva shrine he was associated with. He is said to have mastered yogic Asana-s in a secret place and interestingly having spent his time in the company of those learned in the pa~nchArthika texts. So, here we have the case of a bona fide saiddhAntika shaiva who is explicitly described as being associated with the pAshupata-s. This point is notable because from the evidence of the niHshvAsa saMhitA we can see that the pAshupata-s were evolutionary precursors of the saiddhAntika-s. This connection seems to have been retained even later.

Now, the reason this is interesting is because of the famous saiddhAntika commentator on the pAshupata sUtra-s vyoma-shiva who composed the TIkA vyomavati after prashastapAda on the system of kaNAda. He not only preserved those apparently lost words of kaNAda of great purport “yad iha bhAvarUpaM tat sarvaM mayopasaMkhyAtavyam|” but also developed the defense of vaisheShika against its earlier critics to uphold the principle that every cognition has a counterpart in the external world. Based on testimonia is quite likely that vyoma-shiva was the student of sha~Nkara the nyAyAyika and probably lived in the first half of the 700s of the CE. This suggests that the saiddhAntika-s too [perhaps in part] acquired the nyAya-vaisheShika system from their pAshupata precursor or in course of their early interactions with the pAshupata-s after their divergence. rAmakaNTha-II, a much later saiddhAntika, makes a statement in the beginning of his commentary on the mata~ngaparameshvara that people have tried to interpret the saiddhAntika shAstra-s using other philosophical systems like nyAya. But he intends to give a purely saiddhAntika interpretation. When he says this it is likely that he had in mind a group of nyAya-vaisheShika theorists amongst the saiddhAntika-s, perhaps developing as an offshoot of sha~Nkara and vyoma-shiva’s endeavors. The extant of this connection is hinted by the observation that authors external to the shaiva systems often conflated them with nyAya and vaisheShika. The nAstIka guNaratna in his ShaD-darshana-sammuchChaya equated nyAyAyika-s with pAshupata-s and vaisheShika-s with saiddhAntika-s.

In 1013 CE the army of Islam led by Mahmud Ghaznavi entered Punjab; a temple of shiva was destroyed in the place named Nardin by the Islamic chroniclers. Then the accursed Sultan marched on Sthaneshvara (Thanesar) in Haryana, a great center of pAshupata-s, and mAntrIka shaiva-s of both the bhairava-srotas and Urdhva-srotas, and destroyed the temple. The triumphant Moslems declare that the blood of Hindus flowed till the stream turned red. Next in his path was Mathura, a center for Hindus of various sects, and a major pAshupata center. The temples in the city were flattened completely. Then Kanauj was attacked and a great temple of umA-maheshvara was destroyed, and the Hindus slaughtered and scattered in large numbers. Moving on to the great shaiva center of Anahilapattana the Moslems devastated the city and burnt demolished the temples. Finally, in the December of 1025 CE reached Somnath, the center of the world of the pAshupata-s and saiddhAntika-s. It was destroyed after a desperate struggle that left 50,000 Hindus dead. Mahmud’s successor Muzaffar Ibrahim suddenly attacked the great jAlandhara pITha (modern Jalandhar in Punjab) and savaged the city. In the words of his chroniclers: “By the morning meal not one brAhmaNa was left alive or free. Their heads were severed by our swordsmen. Their houses were leveled to the ground with flaming fire”. This was just the beginning – in the next 300 years all the major Hindu religious centers were already attacked and most major Hindu kingdoms were completely destroyed (see for example our earlier account on the destruction of the shaiva center of rudramahAlaya). For another 350 years from that point on the army of Islam repeatedly romped all over India, especially the north, destroying Hindu temples systematically, where ever they were, and committing genocide of Hindus. Despite these attacks the Hindus tenaciously hung on, but the toll was severe.

As we have seen before, the rise of many medieval dynasties were closely connected to pAshupata and saiddhAntika AchArya-s. This connection was at its pinnacle when the whirlwind of Islam mangled North India. Despite their ascetic leanings, these shaiva-s were metropolitan ascetics, with most knowledge of the system concentrated in monastic scholars or AchArya-s. With the destruction of the dynasties, systematic smashing of the major holy centers and temples and targeted killing of AchArya-s by the Moslems both saiddhAntika and pAshupata systems collapsed in North India. Several retreated to the south and to fringe zones, but with Khalji and Tughlaq’s invasions and then the horrors of the Bahmanids even the south no longer offered steady royal patronage. These systems were destroyed over much of India or survived in the fringes in a rather diminished form. Then came the great Hindu struggle – the fight-back. The one Rajasthan was spear-headed largely by the valor of Rajput kings but they were unable, for a variety of reasons, to revive the past systems to any level comparable to the past. In the south the revival took place under new intellectual leadership with people like vidyAraNya, vedAnta deshika and rAmadAsa who were inclined towards vedAnta of different types or the newly dominant bhakti-mArga. In the process what happened is very clear. nyAya and vaisheShika took a heavy blow due to the fall of their primary proponents. This in my opinion narrowed the focus of the philosophical development of India. We have good evidence that vaisheShika was a major element for the development of Indian medicine in its early phase. Its decline, I would go as far as to state, actually affected the development of Indic medicine. In a sense, the development of nava-nyAya moving away from the syncretic nyAya-vaisheShika happened due to this break in tradition.

Finally, I must add that (in my opinion) the break in continuity did not end Hindu creativity during the Moslem devastation as some Western and Indic authors have felt – it continued rather vigorously in certain parts of India. However, I do feel that the break did have a major effect in reducing the intellectual community and, hence, the pool of good ideas. It also set the clock back vis-à-vis new discussions. This is clear when we look into the several new directions that did emerge in the late medieval period. But two were of great significance – almost trying to catch up for centuries of break in tradition – these were works of vij~nAna-bhikShu in the Northeast and of my co-ethnic, close associate of my clan in ritual, and teacher of the illustrious tAntrIka bhAskararAya in Thanjavur.

~ by mAnasa-taraMgiNI on August 2, 2008.

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