Journal of Indian Philosophy 48 (1):49-78 (2020)
AbstractTo understand the history of Advaita Vedānta and its rise to prominence, we need to devote more attention to what might be termed “Greater Advaita Vedānta,” or Advaita Vedānta as expressed outside the standard canon of Sanskrit philosophical works. Elsewhere I have examined the works of Niścaldās, whose Hindi-language Vicār-sāgar was once referred to by Swami Vivekananda as the most influential book of its day. In this paper, I look back to one of Niścaldās’s major influences: Sundardās, a well-known Hindi poet and a direct disciple of Dādū Dayāl. Sundardās is typically classified as a bhakti poet rather than an Advaita Vedāntin; certainly he is not included in existing surveys or histories of Vedānta. In his youth, however, he studied Sanskrit and Vedānta in Banaras, and his poems present us with a mind that found no contradiction in claiming Dādū as his master and at the same time embracing the teachings of Advaita Vedānta. I argue that not only should Sundardās be included in histories of Advaita Vedānta, he should be credited for his originality: not only did he “Vedānticize” the Dādū Panth, he “Dādūized” Vedānta. I conclude by comparing Sundardās to two Sanskrit intellectuals from roughly the same period: Mahādeva Sarasvatī Vedāntin and Annambhaṭṭa, both of whom, like Sundardās, had commitments to Advaita Vedānta as well as to other intellectual traditions.
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