[Advaita-l] Supremacy of Shiva over Vishnu

Gerald Penn gpenn at cs.toronto.edu
Thu Sep 1 14:39:11 CDT 2016

> Supremacy of Shiva over Vishnu / Vishnu over Shiva are irrelevant 
> topics in advaita.
> And that is why, to sort of these petty issues, Acharya Sankara 
> incarnated to unify us.

That's what I had thought, but I was recently reading a summary of the
arguments that Adi Shankaracarya was a vaishnava in Matthew Clark's
recent book on the Dashanami samnyasis.  Some of them are more in the
vein of absence-as-evidence, which I find rather specious, but others are 
rather more affirmative:

- an alleged refutation in the Brahmasutrabhasya (2.2.36-41) of shaiva
(spec. Maheshvara) doctrine.

- Padmapada's expression of reverence in his Pancapadika to his teacher,
who "had merely the name of Shankara, whom he contrasts with the real 
Shiva.  He states that Shankara (the teacher) did not wear ashes smeared 
over his body like Shiva and his ascetic devotees, nor does [his teacher]
have any of the marks or emblems of Shiva."

- the BSB refers to the shalagrama three times in the context of a 
metaphysical analogy, but not the lingam.

- the BSB refers to the superimposition of the spiritual vision of Lord
Vishnu onto idols (pratimaa) four times, as instances of religious ideas
being superimposed on objects.

- similar vaishnava imagery occurs throughout Adi Shankaracarya's 
commentaries on the Upanishads.

- imaginary persons used by Adi Shankaracarya in explanations are 
frequently vaishnava characters, e.g. Devadatta, Yajnadatta, Vishnumitra,

- in his commentary on the Gaudapada mandukyakarika, Adi Shankaracarya
equates Sambuddha with Narayana.

- in the BSB (3.4.20), Adi Shankaracarya equates vanaprasthas with a
group of orthodox vaishanavas called vaikhaanasas.

- a disparaging remark that Adi Shankaracarya allegedly makes on the 
worship of Vinayaka in his Gitabhasya, to the effect that it amounts to 
the worship of a bhuta.

What do the learned members of this list think of these observations?
This matter is important, I believe, to advaita philosophy, particularly 
as Clark adduces this evidence on the way to making a different point,
namely calling into question the legitimacy of claims that Adi
Shankaracarya had founded either the Sringeri or Kanchi maths, both
of which Clark regards as predominantly shaiva institutions.


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