[Advaita-l] RE: Possible revisions of Advaita-vAda?

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Wed Apr 6 13:56:52 CDT 2005

>Hari Om!
>I have heard the following said:
>- ZaGkara hardly ever mentions the term 'mAyA'. He speaks more about 

Not entirely true. A statistical analysis of the language usage in the 
brahmasUtra commentary shows that the ratio of mentioning mAyA to mentioning 
avidyA is about 1:3. So, avidyA is mentioned about three times more than the 
word mAyA, but it does not follow that mAyA is hardly mentioned.

>- 'MAyAvAdA' was initiated of sorts by Mandana Mishra, whose views were
>blended with ZaGkara's possibly by Vacaspati Mishra.

To begin with, the differences between maNDana and Sankara are on very 
subtle points. They agree with each other on most issues. The difference 
between their approaches is highly exaggerated by many modern scholars. 
Also, that vAcaspati miSra attempts a reconciliation of the issues in which 
they differ is attested within the tradition. However, it is wrong to give 
the name mAyAvAda to the teachings of either maNDana or vAcaspati.

>- Vacaspati Mishra and Vidyaranya "made over" ZaGkara and his
>philosophy. The latter (Vidyaranya) made ZaGkara out to be a Saivite and
>attributed many Saivite ideas and texts to him.

This statement about vidyAraNya is quite false. It seems to have originated 
mainly from the work of the German Indologist, Paul Hacker. While Hacker has 
quite a few valid points to make, he also goes overboard in many of his 
speculations, which he presents as if they were well reasoned conclusions. 
To address each of these points would make this mail too long.

The two major advaita works of vidyAraNya are pancadaSI and 
jIvanmuktiviveka. In neither text does he claim Sankara to have been Saiva, 
nor does he attribute Saiva texts/ideas to him. There are other minor texts 
of vidyAraNya too, which I have not had the opportunity to peruse. However, 
the one text that Hacker based much of his speculation on (without having 
analyzed it properly, I must add) is the mAdhavIya Sankaravijayam. I have 
addressed this text in detail in my paper on the Sankaravijaya texts, 
published recently in the International Journal of Hindu Studies. The major 
"problem", according to modern scholars, is that these Sankaravijaya texts 
were written many centuries after Sankara himself and that they describe 
Sankara as an incarnation of Siva.

However, let us leave these texts aside and turn to padmapAda's pancapAdikA 
and sureSvara's naishkarmyasiddhi, when they salute their guru. The former 
text has a delightful invocatory verse, where Sankara, the guru, and Siva, 
the god, are compared in a via negativa manner (namAmy abhogi parivAra 
saMpadam ...). The latter text has a verse towards the end, where the jnAna 
of Sankara, the guru, which leads to liberation, is compared to the river 
gangA, which Siva contained in his head, by the power of his yoga (vishNoH 
pAdAnugAM yAm akhilabhuvanudAM yaS Sankaro'vApa yogAt ...). To be sure, 
there is a reference to vishNu also here, but note that -

a. The advaita tradition has never claimed to be exclusively Saiva or 
vaishNava. It does not at present and will never in future. For us, Siva and 
vishNu are different forms of the same supreme brahman. Just because most 
other rival schools of vedAnta have historically been exclusively vaishNava 
does not mean that advaita tradition is or became "more Saiva".

b. Sankara's direct disciples, indeed the two most important ones, already 
praise their guru by  means of references to Siva.

There is no need to speculate, in however scholarly a fashion, that it took 
the 600 years or more between Sankara and vidyAraNya, for supposedly "Saiva" 
influences to creep into advaita vedAnta tradition. Most of what is supposed 
to be late and external Saiva influence was already there, from the 
beginning and internal to the advaita vedAnta tradition itself. It is only 
among some late 16th or 17th century south Indian writers that one finds a 
deliberate attempt to bridge Agamic Saiva siddhAnta and advaita vedAnta. 
That enterprise began another 300 years or so after vidyAraNya and was 
probably helped by the orientation within the advaita tradition towards 
worshipping Siva. It cannot he held to have been responsible for introducing 
Saiva ideas to advaita from an outside source.

Best wishes,

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