Sankara with disciples: sureSvara,
padmapAda, toTaka and hastAmalaka

Transliteration Key

sureSvara is the most prolific writer among Sankara's immediate disciples. His advaita writings include vArttikas on SankarAcArya's bRhadAraNyakopanishad bhAshya and taittirIyopanishad bhAshya, naishkarmyasiddhi, an independent exposition of advaita, and minor works like pancIkaraNa vArttika, mAnasollAsa, a commentary on Sankara's dakshiNAmUrti stotram. Other works include bAlakrIDA, svarAjya siddhi and kASImoksha vicAra. Tradition also identifies sureSvara with maNDana miSra, and with viSvarUpa, a disciple of kumArila bhaTTa. Sankara is said to have gone to viSvarUpa's home in order to debate with him. The debate ended in Sankara's triumph, and viSvarUpa became a sannyAsI disciple of Sankara, under the name of sureSvara. If this identification is correct, then numerous other works on pUrva mImAm.sA, vyAkaraNa and other subjects are also the work of the same person.

According to tradition, sureSvara composed the taittirIyopanishad bhAshya vArttika in honor of Sankara, his guru, who belonged to the taittirIya SAkhA of the kRshNa yajurveda. Since he himself belonged to the kANva SAkhA of the Sukla yajurveda, he next wrote the bRhadAraNyakopanishad bhAshya vArttika, with an introduction known as sambandha vArttika. The naishkarmyasiddhi was composed before he wrote these two upanishad bhAshya vArttikAs. The naishkarmyasiddhi has attracted the attention of many later commentators, including jnAnottama miSra, who wrote the candrikA, citsukha, who wrote bhAva tattva prakASikA, jnAnAmRta, who wrote vidyAsurabhI and rAmadatta, the author of sArArtha. sureSvara was installed as Sankara's successor at the southern advaita maTha at Sringeri. An old samAdhi at Sringeri is traditionally identified as the site where sureSvara was buried. Another tradition connects him with the western advaita maTha at Dvaraka.

padmapAda is the author of the pancapAdikA, a commentary on Sankara's brahmasUtra bhAshya. There are a few traditions current about him. His name was originally sanandana, and like his guru, he hailed from southern India. The story goes that while learning with Sankara at kASi, he was once on the opposite bank of the gangA, when he heard Sankara call out his name. Oblivious to the fact that there was a wide river between him and his guru, he started walking across it, and the river miraculously supported his step by sprouting lotus flowers (padma) under his feet, as he crossed it. Hence he was given the name padmapAda.

padmapAda is said to have once written a complete commentary to Sankara's brahmasUtra bhAshya. However, his original manuscript was lost in a fire orchestrated by a jealous uncle of his. He had read out the portion of his work dealing with the first five padas of the brahmasUtras once before to Sankara. On learning of the loss of the original manuscript, Sankara dictated this portion back to him from memory. Hence the work came to be known as the pancapAdikA. This story is recounted in some of the Sankaravijayam texts. In any case, the extant work titled pancapAdikA ends abruptly after elaborating on Sankara's bhAshya upto the fourth sUtra. padmapAda is said to have succeeded Sankara at the eastern maTha at Puri. The pancapAdikA has a commentary named vivaraNa, by prakASAtman, which forms the basis for the later vivaraNa school of advaita vedAnta. Other works attributed to padmapAda include vijnAna dIpikA, AtmAnAtmaviveka, and a commentary on Sankara's Atmabodha, titled vedAntasAra. padmapAda is associated with the pUrI maTha as the first guru after Sankara.

toTaka is the author of two works, toTakAshTakam and SrutisArasamuddhAraNa, both in the delightful toTaka meter. The tradition about him is that he was originally a quiet student named giri, who did not impress Sankara's other students as being very scholarly. However, Sankara would not begin his regular class without his being present. The other students once asked Sankara to begin, without waiting for giri to finish his other chores. In order to teach them giri's true worth, Sankara is said to have caused him to understand the deepest truths in a moment's insight. giri returned singing the praises of his guru in the toTakAshTakam, stunning the other students, who had not believed him to be capable of scholarly composition. He was thereafter known as toTakAcArya. He also wrote the SrutisArasamuddhAraNa set to the same meter. An AtmAnAtmavivekavidhi is also said to be his composition. toTakAcArya is traditionally said to have been Sankara's successor at the northern maTha at Jyotirmath near badrinAth. toTakAcArya is sometimes wrongly identified in some modern literature with Anandagiri. toTaka was a direct disciple of SankarAcArya, while Anandagiri, who wrote many sub-commentaries to Sankara's works, was a disciple of SuddhAnanda, and he lived much later, in the 13th century CE.

hastAmalaka is known mainly through a poem called the hastAmalakIya Sloka. According to the mAdhavIya Sankaravijayam, hastAmalaka's parents lived in a village called SrIbali, near gokarNa (Karnataka). He was born already Self-realized. His behavior as a child caused his parents a lot of concern, because the young boy would remain dumb and completely unaffected by happenings around him. The troubled parents brought him to Sankara, who asked him who he was. The boy replied in verse, describing his essential nature as the non-dual Atman. Sankara realized that this seemingly dumb boy was actually like the vedic Rshi vAmadeva, and asked the parents to leave the boy with him as a sannyAsin, who was then called hastAmalaka. This name comes from a well-known metaphor. The words hastAmalaka and karatala-Amalaka are often used in advaita writings, when the immediate knowledge of the Atman is said to be grasped as if it were the gooseberry (Amalaka) fruit in one's hand (hasta). As such, the name hastAmalaka denotes this disciple's depth of AtmajnAna. His dialogue with Sankara came to be known as the hastAmalakIya Sloka. Some of Sankara's disciples felt that such an accomplished master as hastAmalaka would be the ideal candidate to write sub-commentaries to Sankara's bhAshyas. However, Sankara did not want to ask him to descend from his height of non-dualistic brahmAnubhava, even to write commentaries to his own works, and asked sureSvara and padmapAda to write them instead. Another work called vivekamanjarI is attributed to hastAmalaka, who is said to have been appointed at the western advaita maTha at Dvaraka, under the guardianship of sureSvara.


Last updated on May 5, 1999.

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