- When & where he was born
- A Prolific Writer
- The Great Yogi
- Appayya’s Contemporaries
- Mission against attacks on Shaivism
- The Soma Yajna sacrifice
- Thathacharya’s Evil Deeds
- Vedantic Works of AppayyaDikshitar
- Last Days
AppayyaDikshitar was born in Adayapalam, near Arni in the North Arcotdistrict; in 1554 AD. His father’s name was Rangarajudhwari. Appayyaacquired the name VinayakaSubramanya when Namakarana ceremony or christening took place. AcharyaDikshitar or AcchanDikshitar was the younger brother of Appayya. Appayya studied the Holy Scriptures under Guru Rama Kavi.
A master logician with uncanny intelligence Appayya completed the fourteen Vidyas during the early stage of his life. He was well-versed in grammar, metaphysics and other sciences. He was a master in all branches of learning. Appayyaespecially earned famefor his unique interpretations about Vedanta which cleared earlier doubts.
Chinnabomma, Raja of Vellore invitedAppayya and his brother AcchanDikshitar to his capital after the death of Rangaraja, who was the Chief Pundit of the State. SrinivasaThathachari, the Dewan censured the worshippers of Lord Siva. On the contrary, Appayyasimply praised the Siva Lilas and the glory of Lord Siva.
When & where he was born
AppayyaDikshitar was born in Adayapalam, near Arni in the North Arcot district, in 1554 A.D., in the Krishna Paksha of the Kanya month of PramateechaVarsha under the UttaraProushthapada constellation.
Appayyasettled for a normal household life after getting married to Mangalambika. Appayya had two daughters.Mangalamba, the younger daughter, was a great devotee of Lord Siva. Neelakanta was Appayya’s grandson.
Mangalambika was the daughter of RatnaKhetaSrinivasaDikshitar, a learned scholar in Sanskrit. Srinivasawas a devotee of Kamakshi Devi. It was during his spiritual interrogations with Kamakshi Devi he realized that in spite of conquering Appayya he should better get his own daughter married to Appayya. When Appayya went to Kancheepuram,Srinivasa took his daughter and reached Appayya’s residence. Appayya honored Srinivasa duly with Arghya (offering of special hospitality by way of respectful libations and glorification), Padya (washing of the feet), Asana (offering of an elevated seat), etc. Srinivasa said, “The Devi has ordered me to give my daughter in marriage to you. O Appayya, please marry her and attain fame, prosperity and tranquility”.
AppayyaDikshitar was well learned in every branch of Sanskrit learning and wrote many works, large and small. Only 60 of them are extant now. These include works on Vedanta, Siva–Advaita, Mimamsa, Vyakarana, KavyaVyakhyana, Alankara, and devotional poetry.
He wrote the Chatur-mata-sara to illustrate the philosophical thoughts of the four prominent schools of interpretation of BrahmaSutras.
- The Naya-manjari deals with Advait
- The Naya-mani-mala withSrikantamat
- The Naya-mayukha-malika with Ramanuja’s philosophy
- The Naya-muktavali with Madhva’s philosophy.
A Prolific Writer
AppayyaDikshitar is the reputed author of more than a hundred and four works, representations of all branches of knowledge in the Sanskrit language and literature. He attained great fame mainly for his works on Vedanta. His Vedanta works, the Chaturmata Sara Samgrahais justified famous for the even-handed justice with whichithas expounded the tenets of the four great schools Dvaita, Visisthadva, Sivadvaita and Advaita.
His other prominent works were SivaakaramaniDipika and Parimala, dealing with Sivadvaita and Advaita which speak of Appayya’s distinguished ability in expanding both the philosophies. His MadhavatantramuktaMardana is a highly provocative work criticizing the tenants of the Dvaita schools.
AppayyaDikshitar was a mighty intellect and great reverence is paid to him even now.
It is a Vedantic work, an extremely readable commentary on the very difficult commentary called Kalpataru by an advaitic teacher named Amalananda. That Kalpataru is itself a commentary on Bhāmatī by VācaspatiMiśra, which in turn is the famous commentary on the Sutra–Bhashya of AdiShankara.
While the Parimala follows the advaitic approach, Dikshitar has written another commentary Sivaarka-mani-deepika on the Brahmasutras. But this is written from the point of view of Siva–visishtadvaita.
These two works –Sivaarka-mani-deepika and Parimala – are his magnum opus both in bulk and importance. Though both are commentaries on the Brahmasutra, Parimala aligns itself to the advaitic interpretation while the other work expounds the Sivadvaita philosophy of Srikanta-acharya. Dikshitar’s patron, King ChinnaBommaNayak of Vellore made endowments for the maintenance of a college of 500 scholars who studied Sivaarka-mani-deepika under Sri Dikshitar himself, thus equipping themselves for the Saivite propaganda work, which had been organized with a view to stemming the tide of Vaishnavite attacks and encroachments.
The Great Yogi
Appayya had great poetic skills, achievements on the philosophical propagations,Saivite missionary work; in addition of this he was also a great Siddha-yogi. One of his yogic experiments was as great and thrilling. In the later years of his life, he was subjected to attacks of colic pain. He was convinced that it was due to his Prarabdha and past karma. Whenever he wanted to meditate deeply or worship the almighty, he used to make a bundle of his towel and put it in front of him. By his yogic power he transferred his malady to the towel and sat in meditation. His disciples watched the towel jumping about the place. To them he explained later that he transferred his ailment which was in the form of an evil spirit to the cloth and then took it back soon after his meditation was over.
1) He was a grihastha and a fine example to prove how the nithyakarma and worshipdone with faith confer on the adherent ample peace, comfort, prosperity and upliftment spiritually. He led a life of a karma, bhakthi and gnana yogi. He performed a number of yagas and yagnas like vajpeya and was anithyaAgnihotri.
2) Appayya was very intelligent. He was a master logician. He was well-versed in grammar, metaphysics and other sciences. He was a master in all branches of learning. His exposition of Vedanta was unique. He cleared the doubts of all. His name and fame spread far and wide.
3) Dikshitar’s great dialectical skill is fully reflected in the work called ‘Anandalaharichandrika’, where he tries to narrow down the differences between the apparently divergent schools of thought and tries to show that the advaita of Sankara is the real eternal truth to which all others try to approximate.
1) Once Appayya’s wife and his pupils requested him to show his real Swarupa. Appayya agreed. He sat in Siddhasana and entered into Samadhi and thereafter a lustrous Purusha Lord Siva himself, rose from the body ofAppayya, He was adorned with Rudraksha, vibhuti and various divine weapons. Miracles happened one after another – once when Appayya was suffering from highfever, the King Chinnabornma came to see Appayya who transferred the fever to the deer skin which began to shiver.
2) Once Appayya went to Tirupati temple, where the Vaishnavas refused him admission. The next morning they found the Vishnu Murthi changed into a Siva Murthi. The Mahant was much astonished and asked the pardon of Appayya and requested him to change the idol again into Vishnu Murthi.
Sri RatnaketaDikshitar, SarvaBhaumaKavi, Thathacharya, SamarapungavaDikshitar, Narasimhaswami, Doddayacharya, Vijayeendra, VyasaBhatta, ParasaraBhatta, Varanandi, Bhattoji, NilakantaDikshitar (grandson of Appayya’s brother), Guru Rama Kavi, GovindaDikshitar, NarayanaAdhwari, RajachudamaniDikshitar, AtiratraYajva, Veeraraghava or Balakavi, GirvanaYogindra (Mantra Guru of NilakantaDikshitar), VenkateswaraMakhi, etc., were all contemporaries of Appayya.
Mission against attacks on Shaivism
Dikshitar threw himself heart and soul into this mission for several years and often had to face grave personal danger, which he did with courage and faith. He preached, organized and wrote incessantly, enlisting the cooperation of several enlightened monarchs. He undertook frequent travels and challenged his adversaries to open disputation as it was the custom of those days. He brought to bear on his widespread activities, his resourceful personality and created an atmosphere of tolerance and goodwill, in the place of the prevailing antipathies and narrow-mindedness.
The SomaYajna sacrifice
Appayya was also known as Dikshitendra and he performed Soma Yajna to propitiateChandramauleswara. He performed the Vajapeya sacrifice in Kancheepuram. Seventeen horses were sacrificed. Some scholars alleged that the sacrifice was an act of violence. But Appayya showed to the audience that the chanting of Vedic hymns and Mantras purified everything and gave salvation to the horses. The spectators saw the horses leaving their gross bodies and ascending to heaven amidst praises by Siddhas, Charanas and Gandharvas. From the sky they praised Appayya and said, “On account of thy grace, we have been fortunate to enter heaven”. The doubts of the scholars were removed thereafter.
Several kings came to pay homage to Appayya and to receive his blessings, but Chinnabomma, Raja of Vellore, who was deluded by the evil counsel of his minister Thathacharya, did not come. He later on repented very much for not attending the grand VajapeyaYajna. Chinnabomma came to know of the extraordinary merits and remarkable spiritual glory of Appayya. He wanted to bring Appayya to his State. He sent several scholars to invite Appayya. Appayya accepted the invitation and went to Vellore. Chinnabomma honored Appayya. He constructed a hermitage called “SarvatoBhadram” for Appayya. Appayya became the Premier. Thathacharya became very, very jealous of Appayya.
Thathacharya’s Evil Deeds
1) Thathacharya troubled Appayya in various ways. He bribed the priest of the Vishnu temple to poison Appayya. The priest mixed poison in charanamritand gave it to Appayya but it turned into nectar.
2) Once Thathacharya made him ill through some sorcerers but Appayya cured them.
3) One day Thathacharya forged a letter, purported to have been written by Chinnabomma with the instructions, requiring Appayya to meet him at a certain place at midnight.
4) Thathacharya sent some armed soldiers with instructions to kill Appayya but as soon as they pulled their swords to kill Appayya, they were turned into statues.
5) Once Appayya was proceeding to Virinchipuruam with his disciples to attend the Margasahaya festival. On the way he was encircled by dacoits who were led by Thathacharya. As soon as they faced Appayya, sparks came from his eyes and burnt them up. All were reduced to ashes. Then the compassionate Appayya touched the ashes and brought them back to life.
Appayya went on a pilgrimage and visited Nandi Hills Madhyarjuna, Panchnadam (Thiruvaiyar), Madurai, Rameshwaram, Sivagengani, Jam bukeswaram, Srirangam, Vedharanyam, Kanchipuram, Kashi, Vedaranga, Mathrubhuteswaram, Chidambaram, Virudhachalamand many more holy places.
In a famous Slokah he sings “a few wild flowers, bilwa leaves and drops of water offered to Eswara is all that is needed to live happily and to save one’s soul. Not even doing this, many are condemning themselves to misery and want, and are also committingAtmadroha.”
Having praised the Lord, particularly Sri Margabandhu of Virinchipuram, in many works, he, like Sri Sankara, says that “he was committing sins by conferring a form to the Formless, by praising one who is beyond all thought and speech and by showing lighted camphor to one who was the cause of light and fire.”
Vedantic Works of AppayyaDikshitar
This work is a very elaborate and original treatise written by Sri AppayyaDikshitar wherein he has gathered and brought together in one place, all different dialectical thinking belonging to the advaitic cult. Traditional scholars and students of Vedanta have a rule that they would start reading the Bhashya only after they finish the SiddantaLesaSangraha. In view of this, this work is very much in practice among scholars and students.
This is an elaborate and independent commentary on the first pada of the Brahmasutras, which deals with the science of ‘self’ and the ‘universe’. This is also a very well-known treatise of Sri AppayyaDikshitar on the advaitic philosophy and is one of the standard works with which his name is generally associated. The book contains a great many original arguments both for the purvapaksha and the siddhanta under each adhikarana.
BhagavadpadaAdi Sri Sankaracharya wrote a classic commentary on the Brahmasutras of Badarayans. For this commentary or Bhashya of Sri Sankara, a great advaitic teacher name Sri VachaspatiMisra wrote another commentary called Bhamati. For this work Bhamati, another subsequent advaitic teacher by name Amalananda wrote an abstruse and difficult commentary called Kalpataru. The Kalpataru is an extremely difficult piece of work, which would require extensive scholarship to understand. For this work Kalpataru, Sri AppayyaDikshita wrote an extensive and easily understandable detailed commentary called the Parimala.
4 and 5.MadhvaTantraMukhaMardana and its commentary Madhva Mata Vidhvamsan:
Both these works were written in condemnation of the dvaita doctrine of the Madhvas. These two works are now generally prevalent both in the North and in the South. In some of the advaitic seminars these two works are generally given as a test of one’s dialectical skill.
6. PurvottaraMimamsaVadaNakshtra Mala or NakshatraVadavali:
This work contains a mighty dissertation of some of the problems in Mimamsa Vedanta Sastras. The questions and answers given here are intended to explain and make clear the basic truths of the two MimasaSastras. These have never been clearly written anywhere else. But Sri AppayyaDikshita states that the tenets contained in them have been accepted as the basis for the truths of the Bhashya.
7, 8, 9, 10.ChaturMataSaraSangraha:
This is also called as Adhikarana Sara Sangraha and AdhikaranaMala. This work contains, in epitome in four sections, the four schools of Vedanta – the Dvaita, the Visishtadvaita, the Sivadvaita, and the Advaita. The work is in the form of a running commentary in prose and verse on the Brahmasutras of Badarayana, treated topically under the several adhikaranas. In this work Sri AppayyaDikshita interprets each school of Vedanta according to the most ardent expounder of the school. In some places, the work is also called as AdhikaharanaSaraSangraha. Each of the sections of the ChaturmataSaraSangraha is known by an individualistic name also.
The three systems of philosophical thinking that are mentioned in this work are as follows:
(i) The First is the Madhvamata. This is propagated by a commentary on the Brahmasutras from the stand point ofDvaitaSiddhanta. This is also known as NyayaMuktavali.
(ii) The second is the Visistadvaita of Sri Ramanuja. This is propagated by a commentary on the Brahmasutras from the stand point of Visistadvaita. This work is known by NayaMayukhaMalika.
(iii) and (iv): The next two philosophical systems with which Sri AppayyaDikshita deals with are Sivadvaita andAdvaita. Sri AppayyaDikshita refers to Srikanthamata in his ‘Nayamani mala” and Advaita in his Nayamanjari in theadhikarana.
11 and 12.RamanujaSringaBhanga and Tatva Mudra Vidravanam:
These two works are written in condemnation of the philosophy of the Ramanuja and the Madhvas. It does not appear as if these two works have uptonowbeenprinted.From the sixth verse in Sri Dikshitar’sNava RathnaMalika it is seen that he did not write the condemnation of Sri Ramanuja’s philosophy. The Tatvamudra or the practice of branding oneself is common to both the followers of Madhva and Ramanuja’s cults of thought.Though these two works have been included in the old list of works compiled by Sri AppayyaDikshita still, the authenticity about the authorship is not free from doubt.
Appayya went to Chidambaram and stayed there for some time; he said that his grandson Nilkantha would become minister to the Pandyan King at Madurai and establish SivaAdvaita. Appayya attained oneness with Nataraja of Chidambram on the ChaitraPurnima day of the Mrigsheersha month in the seventy second year. He was a unique combination of Yogi,Bhakta and Scholar- an incarnation of Lord Siva.