New listmember: shrI Mikael Aktor

Vidyasankar Sundaresan vidya at CCO.CALTECH.EDU
Mon Oct 26 16:41:56 CST 1998

> From: Mikael Aktor <aktor at>
> To: aum at
> Subject: New listmember
> So, I am interested both in the spiritual history of advaita and
> the institutional, political aspects of the same history. As a
> matter of fact, these two aspects are rarely separable when it
> comes to religious orders of the weight and authority as that of
> the daSanAmi order.

"Indian Sadhus" by G. S. Ghurye provides some basic information. There
is one PhD thesis by Wade H. Dazey (UC, Santa Barbara) that discusses the
daSanAmi order and its organization in great detail. Dazey has a chapter
in a book on Hindu and Christian monastic traditions, edited by Vasudha
Narayanan and Austin Creel. William Cenkner's "A Tradition of Teachers" is
also useful, but I have a number of reservations about Cenkner's data and
his interpretations. G. C. Pande's "Life and Thought of Sankaracarya" is
another work that overviews these aspects. I think Pande is too uncritical
in his approach, although he says in his preface that K. Satchidananda
Murthy advised him to take a critical view of his sources.

Also see my forthcoming paper (August 1999) titled "Conflicting
Hagiographies and History: The Place of Sankaravijaya texts in Advaita
tradition" in the new journal, International Journal of Hindu Studies
(IJHS). I've discussed various Sankaravijaya texts in detail, and related
them to the institutional, political and historical context of the times
in which they were written. I've also briefly reviewed Cenkner and Pande
in this paper, but I must warn readers that it is a long one, running to
75 pages in manuscript.

> >From a philosophical viewpoint I am also interested in the
> tradition of advaita thinking in relation to its modern Indian
> context. How far are modern advaita thinkers within the order
> informed by modern agendas, and how do these thinkers see the
> role of advaita in today's India?

This is a complicated issue, and I think you will find that a vast variety
of views can be obtained, especially with respect to political views. For
example, take the explosive issue of Ayodhya and the events of December
1992. There are some leaders who advise that the decisions of the Indian
Supreme Court should be strictly adhered to, while there are others who
think that it is not a judicial/legislative issue at all. Ironically
enough, representatives of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) tend to take
the most extreme positions, whereas the VHP itself was founded by a Swami
who took very moderate, broadly tolerant positions. Personally, I don't
think that philosophical differences between Advaita and Dvaita (for
example) are a big issue in such questions.

I should think that primary field work needs to be done. Western scholars
rarely study the thought of the more traditional representatives of the
order, and concentrate more on the so-called neo-Vedantins. Meanwhile,
accounts presented by Indian scholars tend to be hagiographical and
colored significantly by the penchant to unconditionally praise selected


"bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam"
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>From  Mon Oct 26 21:27:38 1998
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Date: Mon, 26 Oct 1998 21:27:38 -0500
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To: List for advaita vedanta as taught by Shri Shankara
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From: Ramakrishnan Balasubramanian <ramakris at EROLS.COM>
Subject: Re: New listmember: shrI Mikael Aktor
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Mikael Aktor <aktor at> wrote:

> As a new member of this list, let me introduce myself. I am
> educated a historian of religion and I now hold a position as
> research assistant at Departmenet of the Study of Religion,
> University of Aarhus, Denmark. I made my PhD within the area of
> dharmaSAstra where I examined the complex of purity rules in the
> mid-fourteenth century digest, the ParASaramAdhavIya. This text
> is composed by MAdhavAcArya (the brother of SAyaNa) who later in
> his life as a sannyAsin was known as VidyAraNya, the head of

Welcome to the list. The parAsharamAdhavIya is one of the lesser known
texts, and I haven't had the chance to look at it myself. Has your
thesis been published, for eg by SUNY press, or Motilal etc? Or pointers
to your publications on this topic in journals would also be

BTW, while we are on the topic of smR^iti-s, have you read VishvarUpa's
commentary on the yAjnavalkya smR^iti and if you have, may I know your
opinion on it's date, authorship, etc?


"bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam"
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