Advaita school of Hindu Philosophy and Yakshagana

Context: Kesavananda Bharati Swamiji, seer of the Edneer Math in Kasaragod district of Kerala and petitioner in the landmark judgment of the Supreme Court on Fundamental Rights, passed away in the math recently.

  • A proponent of Advaita philosophy, the seer belonged to the lineage of Thotakacharya, one of the first four disciples of reformer Adi Sankaracharya.
  • The Swamiji was a good singer and a popular ‘Bhagavata’ (singer and director) in Yakshagana, where he rendered compositions in the Carnatic music style.

Analysis

Advaita School of Hindu philosophy

  • Advaita (Nondualism) is one of the most influential schools of Vedanta, which is one of the six orthodox philosophical systems (darshans) of Indian philosophy.
  • While its followers find its main tenets already fully expressed in the Upanishads and systematized by the Brahma-sutras (also known as the Vedanta-sutras), it has its historical beginning with the 7th-century-CE thinker Gaudapada, author of the Mandukya-karika, a commentary in verse form on the Mandukya Upanishad.
  • Gaudapada builds further on the Mahayana Buddhist concept of shunyata (“emptiness”). He argues that:
  • There is no duality; the mind, awake or dreaming, moves through maya (“illusion”); and nonduality (advaita) is the only final truth. That truth is concealed by the ignorance of illusion.
  • There is no becoming, either of a thing by itself or of a thing out of some other thing.
  • There is ultimately no individual self or soul (jiva), only the atman (universal soul), in which individuals may be temporarily delineated, just as the space in a jar delineates a part of the larger space around it: when the jar is broken, the individual space becomes once more part of the larger space.
  • The medieval Indian philosopher Shankara, or Shankaracharya, builds further on Gaudapada’s foundation, principally in his commentary on the Brahma-sutras, the Shari-raka-mimamsa-bhashya (“Commentary on the Study of the Self”).
  • Shankara in his philosophy starts not with logical analysis from the empirical world but rather directly with the Absolute (brahman).
  • If interpreted correctly, he argues, the Upanishads teach the nature of brahman.
  • In making that argument, he accounts for the human error in taking the phenomenal world for the real one.
  • Fundamental for Shankara is the tenet that brahman is real and the world is unreal.
  • Any change, duality, or plurality is an illusion.
  • The self is nothing but brahman. Insight into that identity results in spiritual release (moksha).
  • Brahman is outside time, space, and causality, which are simply forms of empirical experience.
  • No distinction in brahman or from brahman is possible.
  • Nevertheless, the empirical world is not totally unreal, for it is a misapprehension of the real brahman.
  • A rope is mistaken for a snake; there is only a rope and no snake, but, as long as it is thought of as a snake, it is one.

Yakshagana

  • It is a traditional theatre form of Karnataka state in India
  • Yakshagana is a theatrical form of presenting Mythological, historical stories & Puranas.
  • A Yakshagana performance includes music, dance and dialogues, usually recited in Kannada.
  • It is a temple art form that is performed with massive headgears, elaborate facial make-up and vibrant costumes and ornaments.

Meaning and Origin of Yakshgana

  • The word Yakshgana means the songs of the Demi-Gods (yaksh ‘meaning Demi-God, and ‘gana’ meaning song).
  • The performers wear interesting and colourful costumes, and elaborate headgears.
  • The stage design and unique rendering is similar to that of the Western Opera.
  • The true representation of the poems enacted in these plays is attributed to have started during the Vaishnav Bhakti movement in the 11th century. 
  • In 13th century, a Sage named Narahari Thirtha started Dashavathara performance in Udupi, which later developed into the Yakshagana of today.
  • It is believed to have originated in the coastal districts of Karnataka.

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