[Advaita-l] Was Shankaracharya a Vaishnava??

Raghav Kumar Dwivedula raghavkumar00 at gmail.com
Fri Jun 12 23:38:54 EDT 2020

On Thu, 11 Jun, 2020, 10:50 PM P R via Advaita-l, <
advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org> wrote:

> I have had this question for a long time whether Shankaracharya was a
> Vaishnava
> I have listed a few reasons for it
> 1. The Geetha Bhashya starts with the mangalacharana as Narayanaha paro
> avyaktha.

That shloka itself is enough to assert that Sri Shankara was not a
vaiShNava. It says this world of names and forms (the anDa) has arisen from
the avyakta (the unmanifest latent state in which names and forms are
absent). And nArAyAna is parah i.e., distinct from and more subtle.

That clearly indicates that for Shri Shankara, 'nArayaNa' is formless and
free of attributes. He is not a mUrta form with chaturbhuja etc., in his
bhAShyas. So the word nArAyaNa used by Shri Shankara shows that he is not a

 He says in the ‘vAkya vRitti’ through an opening verse: yasya prasAdAt
ahameva vishnuH, mayyeva sarvam parikalpitam cha.

So Sri Shankara here says, by GYAnam,.  "I am Vishnu himself (ahameva
viShNuh)" - not "I am a vaiShNava"!
These topics have all been discussed in detail on this forum before.

You can check out


2. Geetha Adhyaya 18 Shloka 61
> Ishwara sarva bhutanam hrudeshe arjuna tishtathi
> Here shankaracharya comments as Eshwara eshanasheelaha narayana ityartha

Excerpted from the previous link -
The word narayana has been explained by the sAyana bhashyam in the narayana
sukta explanation with the famous verse:

“आपो नारा इति प्रोक्ताः आपो वै नरसूनवः । अयनं तस्य ताः प्रोक्तास्तेन
नारायणः स्मृतः” as the etymological meaning of the word given in puranas.
For the words ‘vishvam nArAyanam..’ SAyana says that vishvam is narayana
since it is superimposed in that sentient being. It does not mean any
connection with vaikuntha, etc.  If one realizes narayana as the consort of
Lakshmi etc.,that does not constitute true advaitic knowledge.  It is not
tattvam of narayana.  It is mithya jnanam alone, though it will help the
sadhaka progress further to gain the nirguna brahma jnanam.  This is
because Shankara has stated in the BSB 2.1.14 that all the attributes such
as omniscience, omnipotence are superimposed by avidya and get dispelled
upon the arising of the knowledge of the absolute truth.  Thus, vishnu
jnanam is not what the vaishnavas take it to be. It is ajnanam in the
advaitic supreme point of view. It has a different connotation in advaita.
What non-advaitins think is the tattvam of Vishnu is ignorance as per

3. The 3 amnaya peethas established by him were in vaishnava places viz
> badrinath ,puri,dwaraka. Some people also believed that he had stayed in
> kanchi for a long time which has the shrine of Varadaraja
> 4. During his mother's last days,shankaracharya gave him Krishna mantra
> upadesha and composed bhaja govindam

That is incorrect. Sri Shankara did not compose bhaja govindam at his
mother's last phase. In any case he brahmapadam tvam pravisha viditvA (by
knowledge, gain the Brahma padam)

5. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad :- eshate mama atma antaryami amrutaha
> here while commenting shankaracharya has given the mening of antaryami as
> narayana

> Due to all these points and many more too, I have had this question.

Please throw some light on this
> Regards
> Dr Pradyumna R

Sometimes these type of questions that Shankara was a vaiShNava etc., are
propounded by some narrow-minded and fanatical Vaishnava preachers and they
only misuse out of context quotations from shri Shankara bhAShya to push
their sectarian agenda. A holistic study of the commentaries leaves no
doubt that Shankara unfolds only non-dual brahman.

Also there is not a *single* reference to Lakshmi Devi, the consort of
Vishnu, who is supposed to intercede etc.

All bhakti or devotion for Ishvara is validated and nurtured in Advaita.
But theological sectarianism is dismissed. It's obvious.


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