[Advaita-l] Excerpts from Sri Sankara Digvijaya - 8

S Jayanarayanan sjayana at yahoo.com
Mon Oct 16 22:30:00 EDT 2017

 (Continued from previous post)
Shankara Digvijaya – Part 3
Sri Shankara and Kumarila Bhatta
After Vyasa left, Shankara started on a spiritual conquest of the whole land of Bharat. Starting on his journey,
Shankara decided to go to Prayag with a view to win over Kumarila, the staunch upholder of the ritualistic interpretation
of the Vedas. Having reached Prayag, he came to know that Kumarila was about to enter into a fire, as an act of expiation
for betraying his teacher from whom he had the tenets of Buddhism. Sri Shankara rushed to the place where Kumarila was,
only to see him already standing in the oven of husk. Kumarila recognised Shankara, narrated to him his work against the
Buddhists, his awareness about Sri Shankara’s Bhashyas and his desire to write a Vartika (explanatory treatise) on his
Bhashyas. Kumarila explained how he was not in a position to break his vow of expiation and therefore could not undertake
the Vartika work. He further expressed his conviction about Sri Shankara being born to protect the doctrine of Advaita
and how he had become sinless on seeing Sri Shankara.
Shankara replied thus, ‘I recognise you as an incarnation of Skanda, the son of Shiva. Sin can never affect you.
I can save you by extinguishing the fire and you may write the Vartika.’ Kumarila who was a firm adherent of right conduct
very politely declined the offer of saving him and instead requested for initiation into Brahma Vidya. He added that if
Shankara could defeat Mandana Mishra, whose actual name was Vishwaroopa and famous as the great exponent of the
ritualistic interpretation of the Vedas, it would clear all obstacles in the mission that Shankara had undertaken.
Sri Shankara could then make Mandana his own disciple and get the Vartika written. Shankara then imparted to Kumarila
the knowledge of Brahman, and Kumarila hearing the Upadesham of Shankara realised his oneness with Brahman,
dispelling his sense of individuality. Shankara then proceeded to Mandana’s place called Mahishmati, in present-day Bihar.
Shankara’s debate with Mandana
Shankara entered Mandana’s house and saw him cleaning the holy feet of Sages Vyasa and Jaimini, whom Mandana was able to
bring there on account of his penance, for the conduct of a ceremony performed by him as per the Sastras. Mandana,
who disliked Sanyasins, entered into a violent wordy duel with Shankara. The sages pacified Mandana and then he welcomed
Sri Shankara’s challenge along with the condition that the loser of the debate would become the disciple of the victor.
Mandana fixed the next day for the debate and requested Jaimini and Vyasa to be the judges. But they said that Mandana’s
wife Ubhaya Bharati, accepted as an incarnation of Goddess Saraswati shall judge the debate. The following day,
Sri Shankara initiated the debate, announcing his proposition of the unity of all existence as follows:
‘Brahman, the Existence-Conscious-Bliss Absolute (Sat-chit-ananda) is the one ultimate Truth. It is He who appears as
the entire world owing to ignorance, just as a shell appears as silver. When the illusion gets dispelled, the silver
dissolves into the substratum, the shell. Similarly, when ignorance is erased the whole world dissolves into its
substratum Brahman, which is the same as Atman. This is the supreme knowledge, as also Moksha (liberation from births
and deaths); and the Upanishads are the authority for this proposition.’
Mandana made his proposition, emphasising the tenets of his faith thus: ‘The non-Vedantic part of the Veda dealing with
effects produced by Karma is the real authority; actions alone (Karma) constitute the steps leading to Moksha and embodied
beings have to perform action till the end of their lives.’
(To be Continued)

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