Alavandar’s argument

Aki Azhvan was a pandit in the court of a Chola emperor

and he subscribed to the theory that only Brahman was

real and everything else was illusion. “Ekameva

Advitiyam,” says the Upanishadic statement.

Aki Azhvan belonged to a school of thought, which

interpreted this to mean that there was only One and that

was Brahman and that there was no second to It.

In Aki Azhvan’s interpretation, all except Brahman, was

illusion. Alavandar proved him wrong, said M.A.

Venkatakrishnan in a discourse.

“There is only one emperor and that is you. There is no

second to you,” Alavandar told the emperor. The King was

pleased. But then Alavandar said “Why are you happy,

instead of being sad?” The King wondered why he should

be unhappy. Alavandar replied “Since there is one Chola

emperor, that means you the emperor do not have a wife,

or children, or even an empire.”

The King laughed, and said “What kind of an

interpretation is that? When you say that I am the only

Chola emperor, it means that there is none superior to me

and that there is none equal to me. How can it mean I stand

alone without anything else?”

Alavandar then explained: “In the same way, Brahman is

Supreme, with none to surpass Him or to equal Him. This

is what the statement, ‘Brahman is One,’ means. It doesn’t

mean that there is nothing other than Brahman. There is

only One means there is only one Brahman and that there

isn’t another Brahman. It doesn’t mean that the world is

illusory. The entire Universe belongs to Him.”

And Alavandar’s explanation is what Ramanuja later

elaborated on, when he wrote Vedantic texts on the

Brahma Sutra, Upanishads, and the Bhagavad Gita.