Sundarapandya's Varttika

Vishal Agarwal vishalagarwal at HOTMAIL.COM
Wed Jun 2 13:53:35 UTC 1999

Dear Mr. N. Chandran et al:

Here is all the information I could gather on Sundara Pandya. If you wish, I
can send it to you as a formatted file. References are at the end.

Acharya Sundarapandya

His Life and Age:
Nothing positive is known about Sundara Pandya except that he was a
predecessor of Bhatta Kumarila. Kuppusvami has attempted to equate Sundara
Pandya with a king of the Pandya dynasty but the reasons adduced by him are
not very convincing (Ref. 94). Pandey states that Sundara Pandya was
anterior to Bhartrmitra but gives no reason for the same (Ref. 93). In
Sabara Bhasya, we find numerous metrical quotations (ref. 92) and it is not
clear where they are cited from. Some of them are stated to be from the
Vrttikaragrantha of Bhagavan Upavarsa. Are the rest from the pen of
An inscription dated 750 C.E. names one Sundarapandya as a scholar
proficient in all Sastras and a remote ancestor of  the Pandyan King
Arikesarin (Ref. 114, pg. xiv). In fact, Sundarapandya might have been
anterior to Arikesarin by several centuries (Ref. 115)

1. Varttika on Mimamsa Sastra in 20 chapters: From the citations below, it
will be clear that Sundara Pandya probably composed a Varttika on the Purva
and Uttara Mimamsas. The fact that he has been quoted reverentially by
Bhatta Kumarila as well as by Samkara implies that his metrical work was
held in great esteem by Mimamsakas as well as by Vedantins and that he was
long anterior to Kumarila.
2. Nitidvisastika: This is a famous collection of 120 beautiful maxims on
morality attributed to Sundarapandya. The verses have been quoted by many
Sanskrit authors in later times, attesting to the popularity of the work.
Several other verses attributed to Sundarapandya occur in literature but are
not found in this text. A critical edition of the work was published
recently (Ref. 114). In the learned introduction, Dr. Jayasree, the editior
and translator of the text demonstrates that there is nothing in the work
that suggests that its author and the famous author of the work on Mimamsa
were different personalities. However, no definite information is available
on the work about the age of Sundarapandya. The work is alternately called
'Sundarapandyasataka' and 'Aryavali' also in manuscripts probably because
all the verses are in the Arya meter. The editor has also pointed out
numerous similiarities between this work and some verses of Kalidasa and
those occuring in the Tamil classic Tirukkural. The very first verse
eulogizes Sundarapandya as "Sri Sundarapandya, well versed in the meaning of
words enshrined in the Vedas and canonical texts, has composed this Arya
which very well develops the intellect of the listerners." This verse
clearly hints at his mastery over the Mimamsa and points to his vast
3. Kriyanighantu (?): In his commentary 'Puruskara' on the Sanskrit
grammatical work 'Daiva',  Krsnalilasukamuni (1250 C.E.) quotes a line from
the 'Kriyanighantu' of Sundarapandya. It is uncertain if the two
Sundarapandyas are identical

Citations from his works and his views:

A. Brahma Sutra Bhasya of Samkara
1. At the end of his Adhyasa Bhasya, Samkara says: "In accordance with this,
they (i.e. men knowing Brahman) have made the following declaration-
'When there has arisen (in a man's mind) the knowledge, "I am that which is,
Brahman is my self," and when, owing to the sublation of the conceptions of
body, relatives, and the like, the (imagination of) the figurative and the
false Self has come to an end; how should then the effect (of that wrong
imagination) exist any longer?
As long as the knowledge of the Self, which scripture tells us to search
after, has not arisen, so long the Self is knowing subject; but that same
subject is that which is searched after, viz. (the highest self) free from
all evil and blemish.
Just as the idea of the Self being the body is assumed to be valid (in
ordinary life), so all ordinary sources of knowledge (perception and the
like) are valid only until the one Self is ascertained."
Atmasvarupa, who was a disciple of Narasimhasvarupa and wrote a commentary
called Prabodhaparisodhini on Padmapada's Pancapadika, states in this work
that these three verses are the composition of Acarya Sundara Pandya (Ref.
B. Madhavamantrin's Tatparyadipika- A commentary on Sutasamhita (Ref. 94):
This work cites the third of the three verses cited by Samkara and says that
the verse is from the Varttika composed by Acarya Sundara Pandya.
C. In Amalananda's Vedantakalpataru- a commentary on Bhamati 3.3.25:
Here, the following three verses are quoted as from the pen of Sundara
Pandya. The translation if these verses (Ref. 93) is as follows: "When two
persons try to climb up a ladder to obtain a fruit which is attained by
getting on a ladder only, then if their speed is equal and there is no
obstacle on their way, then out of the two rivals the fruit is obtained by
him who ocuppies the ladder first and the other person who starts the ladder
later climbs in vain to get at the fruit."
D. In Tantravarttika of Bhatta Kumarila:
1. Kumarila quotes the three verses quoted by Amalananda followed by two
other verses in the Balabaladhikarana (Ref. 94). The commentator of
Tatravarttika Somesvara Bhatta says in his Nyayasudha that these five verses
are from an old Acarya. Since the first three verses are due to Sundara
Pandya, we might surmise the same regarding the last two also. Also, it
appears then that Sundara Pandya was long anterior to Kumarila Bhatta.The
last two verses are translated as (Ref. 93)- " In the forgoing example, the
second person, although having the capacity which could have been
materialized under different circumstances, yet when there is competition,
his inactivity is descipable. Sometimes the weak attain to the sky high
positions and the strength of their stronger rivals is completely
2. Later, in the same work, Kumarila quotes two other verses which are again
called the composition of 'an old teacher' by his commentator Somesvara
Bhatta. We might assume that Sundara Pandya was again the author of these
verses. The translation of these verses as given by Pandey (Ref. 93) is-
"Three parts of the Veda that are Pramana i.e., the parts that lay down
injuctions and the how and why of an action that is to be performed. The
sprout etc. that are mentioned in the Vedas are more than that. The
existence that is useless for Dharma is meaningless. Therefore, the sprout
etc. are meaningless entities. The relation of End and Means is invariably
dependent on Bhavana. Theefore without the conception of Bhavana, there can
be no conception of the relation between the End and the Means."
E. In Samkara's Commentary on Gita 13.13 (Ref. 93)
Sri Samkaracarya (Ref. 27, Pg. 349) says: "Accordingly here, there is a
saying of the sampradayavids which runs as follows- "That which is devoid of
all duality is described by adhyaropa and apavada," i.e., by superimposition
and negation, by attribution and denial." It is not certain whether these
are indeed from the pen of Sundara Pandya and this attribution is merely a
conjecture. It is surprising that no successor of Sri Samkaracarya has
quoted this statement in support of the doctrine of Advaita Vedanta. It must
be kept in mind however, that Sri Samkaracarya has elsewhere used the
honorific title 'sampradayavids' ('they who know the traditional method of
teaching') for Vakyakara, for Dramidacarya and for Gaudapadacarya. There is
no proof that the former two accepted the doctrine of adhyaropa and
This doctrine is nevertheless harmonious with the verses attributed
traditionally to Sundara Pandya.


Using these citations, Pandey (Ref. 93), extracts the views of Sundara
Pandya ingeniously:
1. All the six pramanas are valid only for practical knowledge and are
futile for the purpose of knowing the Self. Once the self is ascertained,
the 6 pramanas loose their validity.
2. The attributeless Brahman can be described by the method of
superimposition and subsequent sublation. Absolute knowledge/Higher
Knowledge, is neither the process of superimposition nor that of negation.
Jnana is more close to a process than to a reality.
3. This twin-fold method culminates in the realization of the Supreme Self
and of the unreal character of the world. When, owing to the cublation of
the conception of the body, the relatives and the like, the imagination of
the figurative and false Self comes to an end, the effect that is the world,
with all its distinctions, cannot exist any longer.
4. Sundara Pandya has made the assumption of Maya and the doctrine of pure
Brahman which is free from Maya.
5. His verses quoted by Amalanda and Kumarila Bhatta indicate that he
believed in the alternative combination of karma and jnana and rejected
jnana-karma samuccaya.

Selected Verses from Nitidvisastika on various topics:


"A creeper that has been cut can be be made to grow again, but it will never
look as beautiful as it used to. Similarly, an affectionate relationship
that has been spoilt, can be revived again, but it will not have the same
charm as it used to." Nitidvisastika 49


"A noble man makes a gift of charity respectfully and without publicity.
Mean men also practice charity, but they are guided by selfish motives and
give away with disrespect." Nitidvisastika


"Friendship with the good grows day by day just as the sap of from top to
bottom, hoint by joint. Friendship of the wicked is opposite in nature to
this." Nitidvisastika 16


" Foolish people never give up enmity, just as a line drawn on a rock cannot
be erased. But the wise forgive and forget, their enmity is as ephermal as a
line drawn on the surface of water." Nitidvisastika  64


"Where fools pretend to be wise, the wise should pretend to be foolish.
Under the spell of ignorance ridicule even the wise sayings." Nitidvisastika

"Avoid even the sight of foolish men. If one does see them, then avoid their
company. If one does fall into the company of foolish men, then let him keep
silent. And if one does have to speak amongst them, then let him too speak
like them." Nitidvisastika 19


"If one is censured for a genuine fault of his, then he should endure that
rebuke. And if he is censured for no fault of his, he should forgive the
other person thinking that the censure did not occur at all." Nitidvisastika

"If a dog bites a man, he does not bite the dog back. Therefore, if a wicked
man humiliates a virtuous one, the latter should not seek revenge."
Nitidvisastika 68


"Following are the characteristics of a bad friend- making fun of their
friend in public, showing friendlines only as long as some benefit is
obtained from the relationship, and not forgetting the bad deeds of his
friend towards him." Nitidvisastika 46

" One should retain formal courtesy only as long as friendship has not been
achieved. Once friendship is acquired, formal courtesy is a sign of deceit."
Nitidvisastika 53


"Just as female bees gather so much honey little by little that it can fill
several pots. Likewise, wise men gather knowledge, religious merit and
penance little by little continuously, without ever giving up."
Nitidvisastika 36-37

"Even old men should humbly approach younger men with reverence for
clarification of their doubts, just as they would approach their teachers
with respect." Nitidvisastika 33

"One should strive to beome learned and not hanker after wealth alone. It is
common to find a wealthy man, but rare indeed is he who has erudition."
Nitidvisastika 92


"Of what use is a long life to those whose minds are blemished with lust and
jealousy, who work inefficiently and who feel insulted at slight pretexts?"
Nitidvisastika 60


"Although dim, the rays of moon falling on the snow clad peaks of the
Himalayas look resplendent and illuminate entire mountain ranges. Likewise,
even a few good qualities become abundant in persons who are lofty with
merit." Nitidvisastika 55


" The wealth of a man who merely hoards riches, but does not want to enjoy
them is like someone else's wealth lying in his house. It is the like a
daughter who is brought up (with love and affection), only  to be given away
at the time of her marraige." Nitidvisastika 22

"No purpose of existence and no object of human life is attained by him, who
turns miserly at the sight of a needy man and turns him away."
Nitidvisastika 23

"That man's life along is meaningful who sustains and nourishes vast
multitudes of men from his provisions. And he, who does not sustain his
dependents is indeed dead, even if alive." Nitidvisastika 25


"They who are pure at heart are pure even if impure externally. And they
whose hearts are impure are impure even if they be clean from outside."
Nitidvisastika 44

Sweet Speech

" A wise man should not speak ill of others in an assembly. Even that truth
should not be uttered, which, if expressed, becomes unpalatable."
Nitidvisastika 4

" Why should men endowed with good sense speak harshly, when sweetness is
within their own power and when sentences can be composed with sweet words?"
Nitidvisastika 6

"When a person is addressed harshly, he responds in a doubly harsh manner.
There, one who does not wish to hear unpleasant words must not use such
language himself" Nitidvisastika 7

" He is an eloquent speaker who speaks with brevity, but whose speech is
sweet. One who speaks a lot but speaks with little sense is nothing but a
prattler." Nitidvisastika 8

" As a fire is extinguished only by water, similarly, the anger caused by
harsh speech can be pacified only by the words of wisdom spoken by the
virtuous." Nitidvisastika 11


"Learning, Vedic study, penances, prosperity, fame and splendor--all these
in one who is devoid of good character are like the bath of an elephant (an
elephant throws dust on his body after bathing)" Nitidvisastika 38

"Pilgrimages to holy places for ablutions, gazing at the hot blazing sun as
a penance, standing in water in winter--all these cannot take a man to
heaven if he were devoid of good character." Nitidvisastika 39

"Of what use are garlands and perfumes to the man, the fragrance of whose
noble qualities has permeated all the directions?" Nitidvisastika 40

"Although born in a family of Brahmins, a man who is proud, hypocritical,
harmful to others, evil-tongued, boastful and slanderous is but a lowly
Chadala (outcaste)" Nitidvisastika 43

"The following virtues are inborn and natural in noble persons- appreciation
of merits of others, concealing one's own merits and not publicizing them
for fame, not criticizing the faults of men in front of others to defame
them, sweet disposition and straightforward speech." Nitidvisastika 34

" An ignoble man, though born of a noble lineage, endowed with eloquence, a
handsome appearance and adorned with garlands is like the Palasa tree which
blooms but does not yield any fruit." Nitidvisastika 32

Virtuous Men

"A wicked man feels elated when he has hurts others with his unkind words.
On the contrary, a good man repents immediately even if he makes an unkind
remark out of carelessness." Nitidvisastika 67

"Even at times of calamity, a noble man desist from harboring ill-will or
enmity towards others. He is like the sandalwood tree that imparts its
fragrance even to the axe blade that strikes it down." Nitidvisastika 78

"A small good done to the virtuous bears great results, while even great
help extended to the wicked begets only sorrow. Behold- even grass fed to
cows turns into milk, whereas if milk is fed to snakes, it becomes deadly
poison." Nitidvisastika 109

"The anger of virtuous men is pacified easily but the wicked never give up
their grieviences. After all, gold can be melted, but who can melt mere
grass?" Nitidvisastika 106


"Just as a chameleon changes colors, the low and wicked too put on three
different colors. At first, he acts as relative, next as a friend and at the
end, he turns out to be a enemy."
Nitidvisastika 47

"Even when honored, rogues do not forgo their wichedness. Does a crescent
become round even after residing on the head of Lord Shiva?" Nitidvisastika

Wise Men

"The characteristic of a wise man who has knowledge and wisdom in the right
measure is this- he does not become despondent in adversity, and does not
become arrogant in times of prosperity." Nitidvisastika 85


"Virtuous conduct, cleanliness, patience, courtesy, sweet disposition and
noble birth--all these do not shine in a person who does not possess
wealth." Nitidvisastika 29

"Honor, self respect, knowledge, bravery, high ideals--all these are
fruitless in one who does not have wealth." Nitidvisastika 30



27. Alladi Mahadeva Shastri; Shankaracharya's Commentary on the Bhagavad
Gita; Samata Books, Madras; 1977 (7th Ed.)

92. V. A. Ramaswami Sastri; "Old Vrttikaras on the Purvamimamsasutras";
Indian Historical Quaterly; Vol. 10, pg. 431-452, 1934

93. Sangam Lal Pandey; Pre Samkara Advaita Philosophy; Darshan Peeth,
Allahabad, India; 1974

94. S. Kuppusvami Sastri; "Problems of Identity in the Cultural History of
Ancient India"; Journal of Oriental Research; Vol. 1, pg. 5-15, 1927

114. S. Jayasree (Ed.); Nitidvisastika of Sundarapandya; The Adyar Library
Series- No. 113; Madras; 1984

115. K. A. Nilakanta Sastri; A Note on Acarya Sundara Pandya; Journal of
Oriental Research, 1.2, pg. 179-180; April 1927; Madras

----Original Message Follows----
From: nanda chandran <vpcnk at HOTMAIL.COM>
Subject: Sundara PAndyan
Date: Sat, 29 May 1999 17:19:47 PDT

S Palaniappan writes:
>Where was sundara pANDya-vArttika written and by whom?

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