A Story for a Verse - Udayanacharya

ऐश्वर्य-मद-मत्तोऽसि मामवज्ञाय वेत्स्यसे ।
उपस्थितेषु बौद्धेषु मदधीना तव स्थितिः ॥

In Sanskrit, a huge corpus of literature is dedicated to shastra. No branch of knowledge that has interested the human mind has been deprived of expression in it. The uniqueness of Indian knowledge systems is that they invariably evolve into a darshana (philosophy). Nyaya (Epistemology) and Vaisheshika (Ontology) are two such schools of philosophy. The culmination of these two has given rise to tarka (Logic).

By the time of 10th century C.E., tarka had gotten a reputation of being one with the utmost disregard for the foundational tenets of the Vedas. It was branded a nastika-darshana (atheistic philosophy). It was also under siege from Buddhist logicians, who were working systematically to debase it. The situation called for a saviour. Only a prodigious scholar could free it from the clutches of Buddhists. This was accomplished by Udayanacharya hailing from Darbhanga.

Udayanacharya was born in a small village called Mangarauni, situated on the banks of the river Kamalanadi. Not only did he give a clarion call to save tarka from Buddhist sabotage, he was also at the helm of affairs in the movement. He authored many texts to establish tarka as a knowledge-system based on the Vedas. न्यायकुसुमाञ्जली and आत्म-तत्त्व-विवेक were written by him to this end. He is revered for his scholarly rebuttals to the works of Buddhist scholars like Kalyanarakshita and Dharmottaracharya. न्यायकुसुमाञ्जली and न्याय-वार्तिक-तात्पर्य-टीका-परिशुद्धि are two important works to consider.

Udayanacharya once went on a pilgrimage to Puri in Odisha. He was eager to behold Jagannatha and seek his blessings. He had travelled long and far for this. But when he arrived, the temple was closed. Enraged, he took to task Jagannatha himself.

Being drunk on wealth, you do not care for me now. Just wait –
when the Buddhists arrive, your life depends on me.

Udayanacharya was a man who could do anything to have his way. Even Jagannatha, the lord of the universe, was not spared. And all this because the temple doors were not open when he arrived! He had the audacity to announce that Jagannatha’s existence depended entirely on him. Look at his nerve! This was, however, true. The atheistic Buddhists were working hard to have all temples shut down. With their cold logic, they could make the most articulate scholars tremble with fear.

Udayanacharya, a thorough scholar, was capable of driving them away with his logical prowess. This made him the protector of sanatana dharma and, in a way, a guardian of the gods.

Legend tells us that the doors opened immediately after this. Unfailing logic won over Jagannatha too.

Translated from Kannada by Shashi Kiran B. N.
(The original article is from the anthology Kavitegondu Kathe.)



Dr. Ganesh is a 'shatavadhani' and one of India’s foremost Sanskrit poets and scholars. He writes and lectures extensively on various subjects pertaining to India and Indian cultural heritage. He is a master of the ancient art of avadhana and is credited with reviving the art in Kannada. He is a recipient of the Badarayana-Vyasa Puraskar from the President of India for his contribution to the Sanskrit language.