Appayya Dīkṣita

(A. D. 1520—1592)

One of the few most versatile writers on Advaita philosophy, Appayya Dīkṣita was born in a village near Kāñcīpuram (Tamil Nadu), probably in A. D. 1520. A scion of a family of great scholars, he was tutored by his father Raṅgarāja Adhvarin as also by Yajñeśvara Makhīndra.

Bhaṭṭoji Dīkṣita, the author of the well-known textbook of Sanskrit grammar, Siddhānta Kaumudī, was his pupil. Nīlakaṇṭha, the famous commentator of Mahābhārata was his grandson.

Being an orthodox brāhmaṇa deeply devoted to the Vedic culture, he is said to have performed the Jyotiṣṭoma and the Vājapeya sacrifices for the good of mankind. King Narasiṁha Bhūpāla of Tanjore attended the latter and honoured him.

Appayya Dīkṣita toured the south extensively and propagated both Śaivism and Advaita Vedānta. Traditional anecdotes attribute many miraculous powers to him which he had to exhibit, to counter the evil designs of Tātācārya, a contempo-rary Vaiṣṇavite scholar. Governor Cinna Bomma Nāyaka of Vellur (16th cent. A.D.) was a devoted disciple of his. He is reputed to have shed his mortal coil in the famous Cidambaram temple in a mysterious way.

Appayya Dīkṣita was a prolific writer and composer. In all, he composed 104 works, the subject ranging from Śaivism to Advaita Vedānta, grammar and rhetoric as also tantra and hymnology. Out of these, the three works on the Brahma-sūtras and a treatise on the various aspects of Advaita are well-known. They are:

  1. Nyāyarakṣāmaṇi, an independent commentary on the first pāda or quarter of the Brahmasūtras from the standpoint of Advaita.
  2. Parimalā, a simple but detailed gloss on the Kalpataru of Amalānanda, which itself is a gloss on Vācaspati Miśra’s famous work Bhāmatī. Bhāmatī, again is a subcommentary on Śaṅkara’s Bhāṣya on the Brahma-sūtras. The three commentaries—Bhāmatī, Kalpataru and Parimalā—have created a new school of Advaita, known as the ‘Bhāmatī-prasthāna.’
  3. Śivārkamaṇidīpikā, a commentary on the Śrīkaṇtha-bhāṣya of Brahma-sūtras, written from the standpoint of Śivaviśiṣṭādvaita.
  4. Siddhāntaleśasaṅgraha, an original treatise dealing elaborately with the various aspects of Advaita doctrines developed by the post-Śaṅkara writers. This work has attracted the attention of a number of scholars who have written commentaries.

His Kuvalayānanda, a work on rhetoric is studied as a standard text-book even today.