[Advaita-l] Adi Sankara Vs Vyasa Debate in Sankara Dig Vijaya

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Tue May 29 11:25:03 CDT 2012

> > Yes, prabhuji. But my last doubt, whether mAdhaveeya considered as 
> authentic work in accounting these details?? If yes, on what basis can we 
> say ONLY mAdhaveeya is trustworthy among available other biographies?? 

Firstly, I would suggest using the word hagiography rather than  biography.

Secondly, the texts are what they are. One can take them or leave them. If
you have chosen the latter and think all of them are merely fictitious in nature,
there is hardly any need to investigate why some others would prefer one
account over the others.
Thirdly, consider the following. Forget about Adi Sankara who lived hundreds
of years ago. Take your pick of any venerated and/or saintly figure in India
within the last two hundred years or so. It could be Shirdi Sai Baba or Nehru
or Gandhi or one of the important Sankaracharyas, or it could even be some
of the infamous names among contemporary Swamijis and Babajis making
the news today, self-appointed or otherwise. What guarantee do you have
that what you hear about their lives and miracles is based on historical fact
and nothing else? On the other hand, would you dismiss everything that is
said about them as nothing more than the imaginations and fancies of those
who write/wrote these accounts?
Obviously, the truth lies somewhere in between, but we will never know for
certain exactly where that somewhere lies. There is always a tendency to
exaggerate and embellish certain things and to whitewash other things. If
you trace the add-ons over time, you will see that some aspects of these
legends grow in importance and others get de-emphasized. These reveal a
lot more about the preoccupations of those who write such accounts than
about the actual lives of the people whose lives they are supposed to
describe. This is par for the course.
Coming specifically to the mAdhavIya, its acceptance within the institutions 
associated traditionally with the name of Sankara bhagavatpAda is nearly
universal. As I have mentioned before, the exceptions to this acceptance are
very, very few. That alone is reason enough to take its account seriously. For
example, if you read the Hindi translation by Pandit Baldev Upadhyaya, you 
will see page after page of letters from a large number of daSanAmI leaders
recommending the text as the traditionally accepted account of Sankara's life
and commending the translator for his effort. Swami Tapasyananda of the
Ramakrishna Math also saw fit to translate the text into English. A large
number of saMnyAsins and experts in vedAnta lore, theory and practice don't
think negatively of its accounts of Sankara's debates with maNDana, bhAratI
and vyAsa. 
As for the so-called bRhat Sankaravijaya of citsukha, note that for the last
150 years or so, there have been claims that it is available somewhere, but
it is most fascinating that it has never seen the light of day. As late as the
year 1970, N Veezhinathan published an edition of anantAnandagiri's text,
and in the introduction, the veteran scholar T M P Mahadevan, for reasons
best known to himself, sought to identify anantAnandagiri's text with BOTH
the prAcIna Sankaravijaya and bRhat Sankaravijaya. I have discussed the
issues and problems arising from all these Sankaravijaya texts in great
detail on this list in the past, so I have no wish to go down that road once
more. The archives are available for searching.

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