The GK, mANDUkya controversy and some other stuff

Vidyasankar Sundaresan vidya at CCO.CALTECH.EDU
Fri Mar 14 16:03:35 CST 1997

On Fri, 14 Mar 1997, Ramakrishnan Balasubramanian wrote:

> evaM gauDairdrAviDair naH pUjyairayam arthaH prabhAshhitaH |
> aGYAna mAtropAdhissann aham Adi dR^ig IshvaraH || (IV.44)
> Thus this doctrine has been proclaimed by the venerable ones of our school,
> gauda and the dravida. The Lord himself, with only ignorance for his adjunct,
> is the witness of the ego, etc.

Both Sankaracarya's statement "atroktam vedAntArtha sampradAyavidbhir" and
the above quote by Suresvaracarya leave no room for doubt that the verses
of GK I are not considered to be Sruti by advaitins.

Some modern scholars (e.g. Vidhusekhara Bhattacharya) make an issue out
of the use of the plural in "sampradAyavidbhir" to say that the GK is a
work of many authors. This is not a very sound argument, although there
could be other valid scholarly reasons for reaching the same conclusion.
This argument is not valid because the use of the plural simply denotes
respect. This comes across at once from Suresvaracarya's use of
"gaudairdravidair", where both gauda and dravida are pluralized. There is
only one dravida Acarya quoted by Suresvaracarya viz. Sankaracarya.
Similarly, he must have viewed the gauda Acarya also to be one person

It still mystifies me why the dvaitins from Anandatirtha downwards have
considered GK I to be Sruti. Of course, they conveniently leave the last
two verses out of this reckoning. The GK hardly advances any dualist
tenet. Rather, the intention of GK seems to be to emphasize that while
dualists have different kinds of theories, with which advaita does not
necessarily conflict, advaita is the absolute truth.

As an aside, the juxtaposition of Gauda and Dravida in NS is an
interesting usage. In most traditional descriptions of India, there is a
mention of five Gauda regions (Gauda - Bengal and North East India, Odra -
Orissa, Mithila - Bihar, Nepal and eastern Uttar Pradesh, Kanyakubja -
western Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and central India, and Sarasvata -
Punjab, and the rest of northern India) and five Dravida regions (Dravida
- Tamil Nadu and Kerala, Andhra - Andhra Pradesh, Karnata - Karnataka,
Maharashtra - Maharashtra, and Gurjara - Gujarat). Suresvaracarya
himself is traditionally held to have been from Mithila, while his
co-disciple, Padmapada was from Dravida country. Suresvaracarya seems
to be implying that the two most eminent teachers of advaita before him
represented the two broad regional divisions of India.

> _______________
> [ Note: The NS has both prose and verses. Both are by shrI sureshvarAchArya
> himself. It's not usual to have prose interspersed with verses, however that's
> the way NS has been written. ]

In Sanskrit poetics, the usage of verse intersperesed with prose is called
"campu". Many medieval Sanskrit writers from southern India use this
format. More ancient writers stick to one or the other kind. To us, prose
might seem easier to write, but traditionally, Sanskrit is viewed mainly
as a poetic language, and extended prose is reserved for philosophical
treatises. In other kinds of writings, verse is usually the norm. This
division between the purposes of prose and verse is very ancient, as the
Vedic mantras that are used in the ritual are all in verse, while the
upanishads which expound philosophy are mostly in prose, with very few
exceptions. One pundit acquaintance of mine says that till recently,
Sanskrit scholars spoke very naturally in anushTubh meter even for mundane

> When my uncle was the head of the police in Madurai District, he took care of
> the security arrangements for the Acharya-s of both the Sringeri and Kanchi
> mutts, when they visited Madurai. My uncle mentioned to me that extensive
> security precautions are now routine for for the heads of both the Sringeri
> Kanchi Mutts after the bomb blast in Madurai and the assasination of a Hindu
> political party leader! The situation is viewed quite seriously, since the
> arrangements are taken care of by top officials. The security is also provided
> round the clock and is taken care of by the police of the district where the
> samigaLs are camping (A district is somewhat like an American county). So, for
> eg, the Madurai district police takes charge in the Madurai district and
> accompany the Swami's till they get to the border, where the police of the
> other district take over.

This is a rather unfortunate development of recent times. Indian politics
is taking its toll on the Sankaracharyas. Ever since the Punjab problem
erupted, high profile security became necessary for all prominent Hindu
religious leaders. The growing Hindu-Muslim tensions have added to this
situation. The Puri and Dwaraka Sankaracharyas also have very tight
security arrangements when they travel. Plainclothesmen and armed
policemen are always in evidence whenever any of them visits a city like


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