Written by Rajesh Anand
Vachaspati Mishra is a name which no serious scholar of Indian philosophy can afford to ignore.
Regarded as one of the greatest scholars and logicians of India of his time , Vachaspati Mishra wrote erudite commentaries on the important works of almost all the schools of Indian philosophy. Researchers place him in the league of Sankaracharya and Ramanujacharya and rightly so.
Vachaspati was was born in the Mithila region in Bihar in 10th century AD.
There is considerable debate among historians about his date and place of birth. Vachaspati himself gives the date 898 for one of his works, Nyayasuchinibandha. (न्यायसूचिनिबन्ध) . It is however not known if he means the Saka calander or the Vikrama one. If we assume the latter, then this work was written in AD 841. This date, however, is disputed among scholars . (1)
According to one view , Vachaspati lived in Tharhi village in Darbhanga district where " even today there is a tank associated with his wife's name, on the side of which, it is believed,he had his house". [Mishra]. Some other scholars are of the view that he belonged to Badgama which is now in Saharsa district bordering Darbhanga . There seems to be an agreement, however, that Vachaspati hailed from the Mithila region.
Vachaspati wrote a number of books and devised a number of formula but he is most famous for his book called Bhamati (भामति ). It is the commentary on Brahm sutras (also called Vedanta Sutra). Brahm Sutra, compiled by Ved Vyasa in pre-recorded history, has 555 aphorisms or sutra, its very first sutra "athato brahm jijgnasa" (one should inquire about Brahm or God) is a very famous line for a seeker on the path of spirituality. Vedanta is one of the six major streams of Hindu philosophy, the others being Nyay (Gautam), Vaisheshik (Kanad), Mimamnsa (Jaimini), Sankhya (Kapila) and Yoga (Patanjali).
The naming of his commentary on Brahma Sutras has a very interesting story which has become part of Mithila folklore.
Vachaspati's enlightened master asked him to write a commentary on Brahma Sutras. The master also married his daughter Bhamati to him and died soon afterwards.
Vachapati started work in the right earnest and soon it became an all encompassing endeavour for him. Time flew. Months turned into years and years into decades. For all these years, he thought about nothing else , saw nothing else and heard nothing else. Finally he finished the great work. Only the title remained to be given. He looked up and saw a lady, lighting a lamp next to him.
Vachaspati asked the woman, "Who are you? And why do you go on serving me like this?"
The lady replied, " Never mind, continue with your work. "
He said , " My work is over, but tell me who are you? "
"I am your wife !" , answered the lady.
Vachaspati was shocked to realize that for 30 years his wife had been serving him dutifully without he even being aware of it. Tears rolled down his cheeks but Bhamati had no complaints. She said she is proud to have a husband like him and has been very blessed to associate with him in letting him finish the great work.
Vachaspati expressed his immense gratitude for his wife and said ,"You are a rare woman". As a tribute to her wife's sacrifices he named his commentary on her, Bhamati.
Bhamati also used to make a rangoli on the floor. The geometric patterns used to help him discover a number of formulas.
The most famous of the works of Vachaspati Mishra are his books on the Smrti which earned him the title of Smarta Vachaspati in the learned society. Among his books on the smriti the ones that deserve special mention are: Acharachintamani, Dananirnaya, Dvaitanirnaya, Bibadachintamani ,Shuddhichintamani, Byabaharachintamani etc. Bangla treatises on the Smrti are found to have been influenced by these books. Apart from logic and smrti, Vachaspati wrote books on other subjects as well.
He wrote a treatise on hindu laws,Vivada Chintamani, where he defines and elaborates on inheritance of property, terms of lending and debt repayment, rules of profit sharing in a partnership , cattle ownership , gift resumption, resolution boundary disputes etc.
His other notable works include Sahasradhikarana written on the philosophical treatise called Mimangsa and a book of poems titled Pitrbhaktitarangi.
- Potter, Karl H. Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies ,Vol 2. The tradition of Nyaya Vaisesika up to Ganesha. P 453-455
- Mishra, Umesh. History of Indian Philosophy ,Vol 2.
- Prossonno Coomar Tagore( (Trans.) . Vivada Chintamani: A Succinct Commentary on the Hindoo Law Prevalent in Mithila
- Mahāmahopadhyāya G. Jha (Trans. ) . The Tattva-Kaumudi. Vāchaspati Misra's Commentary on the Sānkhya-Kārikā
- Motilal Banarsidass Publication, ISBN 8120806514
A History of Early Vedānta Philosophy Vol-2. (p65 -66).