The treatise on liberation-in-life : critical edition and annotated translation of the Jīvanmuktiviveka of Vidyāraṇya
The Jivanmuktiviveka or "The Treatise on Liberation-in-Life," is the only work in its period to specifically address one of the central issues in Hinduism: is liberation reserved for the world-renouncing religious elite, or is it attainable by everyone through devotion and organized ritual worship in the communal tradition? The work was composed c. 1380 CE by the Brahmin scholar Vidyaranya when he was the pontiff of the Srngeri monastery, which still endures today. This dissertation is a new edition of the Sanskrit text based on previously unused manuscript evidence and a new annotated English translation. The introduction is a study of some historical and philosophical problems in the Jivanmuktiviveka. Historians of the twentieth century long debated Vidyaranya's identity and his political activity in the founding of the Vijayanagara kingdom in fourteenth century South India. The position taken here minimizes his political role and explores his possible role in the internal debates of medieval Vedanta philosophy between Advaita and Visistadvaita, thus presenting a historical context for the Jivanmuktiviveka. In this text, Vidyaranya takes the classical Advaita Vedanta position that internal knowledge of the Self (Atman) as Brahman and renunciation of social and ritual conventions lead to liberation, and that liberation can be achieved in an individual's own lifetime (jivanmukti). Tension had existed between the individual renunciant and the mainstream householder community in India for centuries. In medieval India this tension became focused into philosophical positions which resulted in lively debate. Vidyaranya attempted a novel solution to problems internal to Advaita and resolved this tension. The knowledge of Self as equivalent to Brahman in classical Advaita philosophy is considered insufficient to completely root out operative action which causes future births. Liberation also requires a lifelong commitment to the Yogic practices "eradication of latent tendencies" and "elimination of the mind." Vidyaranya preserved the possibility of liberation in this lifetime, while also not disturbing the conventional religious social order who could see the virtues of the paramahamsa yogin following Vidyaranya's teaching. This paramahamsa yogin does not compromise his position but remains an ascetic outside of, while still recognized by, the householder society.