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  • The Vivekacūḍāmaṇi of Śaṅkarācarya Bhagavatpāda: An Introduction and Translation
  • Douglas L. Berger
The Vivekacūḍāmaṇi of Śaṅkarācarya Bhagavatpāda: An Introduction and Translation. Translated by John Grimes. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2004. Pp. xii + 292.

The Vivekacūḍāmaṇi or Crown Jewel of Discrimination has for centuries been celebrated as one of the most effective prakaraṇa grantha or independent pedagogical [End Page 616] treatises in the literature of Advaita, the nondualistic school of Vedānta, owing to its straightforward dialogical style and lucid presentation of bedrock theories of the school. It has been ascribed, along with literally hundreds of other works, to the preeminent philosophical commentator in Advaita's illustrious history, Śaṅkara (ca. 650-700 C.E.). Modern lndological scholarship, however, has contested both of these grounds for its fame, calling into question its consistency with the theoretical framework laid down by Śaṅkara as well as its traditional attribution to the hand of the medieval Kerela master.

In The Vivekacūḍāmaṇi of Śahkarācārya Bhagavatpāda: An Introduction and Translation, his recent translation of The Crown Jewel—the tenth made into English—John Grimes sets out to defend the integrity of tradition against modern criticism. Grimes, whose incisive scholarship has given us a number of important works on Advaita such as An Advaita Vedanta Perspective on Language and Problems and Perspectives in Religious Discourse: Advaita Vedanta Implications, as well as A Concise Dictionary of Indian Philosophy, applies his considerable Sanskrit and Advaita acumen to The Crown Jewel in order to achieve a twofold goal. In the Preface he vows to contribute a readable translation that is attentive to the religious sensibilities and goals of the Vivekac&umacrḍāmaṇi to guide the reader to ultimate wisdom and liberation but also to offer a rendition that speaks to contemporary audiences in an inclusive way, opening the possibility of knowledge of purified Selfhood to male and female readers alike (pp. vii-ix). At the same time, given the length to which he goes concerning this matter in his extensive Introduction, Grimes proves himself keen to show that, despite modern objections and reservations, "a strong case can be made that the Vivekacūḍāmaṇi is a genuine work of Śaṅkara's and that it differs in certain respects from his other works in that it addresses itself to a different audience and has a different emphasis and purpose" (p. 13). What is offered to the modern reader in this translation, then, is a defense of the traditional authorial and authoritative status of this popular Advaita treatise.

Grimes' presentation falls into two parts. The first is a fifty-page Introduction that includes the life and teachings of Śaṅkara, a rundown on the basic doctrines of Advaita Vedānta, and reflections on the various approaches to the study of author and school. Much of this Introduction is occupied with the question of whether the historical Śaṅkara actually wrote the Vivekacūḍāmaṇi, in a discussion that engages the criteria for reliably attributing a work to him set down by Paul Hacker a half century ago. Here, Grimes immerses himself in a debate in which Hacker came down on the side of Śaṅkara having written the work, while Daniel lngalls and Sengaku Mayeda, following Hacker's own criteria, have rejected this conclusion. Grimes point by point traverses Hacker's criteria of authorship, particularly Hacker's analysis of how Śaṅkara defines basic terms such as avidyā, anirvacanīya, prāgabhāva, and other related concepts in works such his commentary on the Brahmasūtra compared to how these are defined in The Crown Jewel. Grimes concludes minimally that "there is still a likelihood that Śaṅkara is the author of the Vivekacūḍāmaṇi" (p. 23).

The second half of the work is the translation itself, which includes the voluminous Sanskrit text in romanized form, Grimes' verse-by-verse rendition, and explications [End Page 617] on the meaning of each verse complete with relevant textual references to the Upaniṣads and a lexicon of important Sanskrit terms.

With regard to Grimes' contribution to the intriguing ongoing...