Prakarana Granthas of Adi Sankara

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Fri Mar 22 07:07:54 CST 2002

[This was sent last night but apparently didn't go through.  Apologies if
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On Thu, 21 Mar 2002, Srikrishna Ghadiyaram wrote:

> Hari Om !!
> I saw some posting in the Advaitin list that 'Vivekachoodamani' is not
> Sankara's composition and it is a 16 th century text. I saw another post
> claiming that 'Aparoksha Anubhuti' is also not a Sankara composition.

Whenever you see someone making such patently absurd claims, you need to
ask them what their criteria is.  What one looks for makes a big
difference to what one ends up seeing!

For instance critics start with say the Brahmasutrabhashya which we can
indisputably say is Shankaracharyas.  Then they look at the other works to
see if the ideas in them match those in the Brahmasutrabhashya.  If for
instance there is a text that says moksha is not possible for the living,
we could reasonably conclude it is not genuine.  Or they look at writing
styles.  If we see a work in ungrammatical Sanskrit or with prakrit
idioms, we can reasonably conclude it is not genuine.  Another way is to
see if it is independently quoted by other authors.  If some Buddhist
let's say, ascribes a text to Shankaracharya it is reasonable to conclude
it is genuine.

As you can see there is a lot of guesswork and personal bias involved.
For instance most of the western scholars reject the Bhakti or Tantric
works out of hand because they think an Advaitin couldn't be interested in
such things.  But is it really such a strange notion?

> In the light of such comment, I would seek your comments on the
> authenticity of these statement. What are the known facts about their
> authorship.

"Facts" are few on the ground.  When we cannot even conclusively date
Shankaracharya, how can be reach a definitive answer to this question?

But I would be willing to bet Vivekachudamani is older than the 16th
century.  I would really like to know how your source came to that
astonishing conclusion!

> In addition which other compositions of Sankara are not disputed (say
> Tattva Bodha or Atma Bodha)

Different scholars have their own views and reasons for accepting or
rejecting various works.  The shortest list I've come across suggested
only Brahmasutrabhashya, Brhadaranyakopanishadbhashya,
Taittireyopanishadbhashya, and Upadeshasahasri are unimpeachable.

Personally I do not hold to much stock in these historical investigations,
not in this case.  It is not that they are deliberately trying to mislead
but there is just not enough to go on.

I think it is actually far more rational to accept tradition as a guide in
these matters.  Who is the Shankaracharya we are interested in?  Just a
man who lived long ago?  Or the embodiment of a certain ideal and way of
life?  I think what is more significant than the age of Vivekachudamani is
that it expresses Advaitic ideas in a way which has stirred many
multitudes of seekers.  They thought it was a composition of
Shankaracharya and that's good enough for me.  (Hey their guess is just as
"scientific" as anyone elses!)

Under the supervision of the Shringeri Matha, Vani Vilasa press of
Shrirangam put out a 20 volume set of the complete works of
Shanakaracharya which is still in print from time to time.  It includes
the Prasthanatrayi bhashyas, prakirna granthas, tantrc works and stotras.
I consider this to be the "canonical" edition.

> Also, does it mean that without the help of Vivarna and Bhamati schools
> addition, Sankara's compositions do not clearly state the Advaitic
> thought ? How could not have Sankara foreseen such objections ?

Actually I think in some cases Shankaracharya does anticipate lines of
argument which only came to the fore centuries later.  But of course every
age has its' new questions so new answers have to be developed for them.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at>
It's a girl! See the pictures -

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