Knowledge, Cosmic Generation and the World in Madhva’s Interpretation of Chāndogyopaniṣad 6

Michael Williams


The subject of this article is the hermeneutical theology of the 13th century Vaiṣṇava Vedānta theologian, Madhvācārya. My focus is his interpretation of a single Upaniṣadic text, namely the sixth adhyāya of the Chāndogyopaniṣad which culminates in the celebrated mahāvākya tattvam asi, or atattvam asi, according to the Mādhva tradition’s controversial reading. This celebrated episode which takes the form of a dialogue between the haughty Śvetaketu and his father became central to the exegetical activities of medieval Vedānta traditions, particularly in debates concerning the nature of cosmogony and the individual’s relationship to the reality that cosmic generation produces. Here, I will attempt to show how a close, systematic reading and comparison of the diverse texts in which Madhva discusses this, certain aspects of this passage clarify his understanding of important components of it and all point to a single unity of meaning and purpose, in other words the ekavākyatā of the text.

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