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According to tradition, maNDana miSra was originally a pUrva mImAm.saka, who debated with Sankara, and lost. He is then said to have become a disciple of Sankara, and taken the name sureSvara.

A number of works on grammar (vyAkaraNa - sphoTasiddhi) and vedic exegesis (pUrva mImAm.sA - vidhiviveka, bhAvanAviveka and mImAm.sAnukramaNikA) have been written by maNDana miSra. He is also the author of vibhramaviveka, a treatise on theories of error, in which he refers both to the "anyathAkhyAti" theory of pUrva mImAm.sA and the "anirvacanIyakhyAti" theory of advaita. Moreover, although he is traditionally held to be a disciple of kumArila bhaTTa, the most famous pUrva mImAm.saka, maNDana clearly holds non-dualistic philosophical views in vidhiviveka and sphoTasiddhi. maNDana also severely criticizes kumArila's mImAm.sA theory of language in the sphoTasiddhi, and following bhartRhari, he upholds the non-duality of Sabda-brahman.

maNDana miSra's treatise on advaita, the brahmasiddhi, consists of four chapters, containing both prose and verse sections. He shows a sharp knowledge of the crucial aspects of all the systems which he refutes in the brahmasiddhi, including nyAya-vaiSeshika, pUrva mimAm.sA, bauddha and jaina schools and other vedAnta schools. He is arguably the first among a galaxy of advaitin scholars who made substantial contributions to other schools of Indian philosophy. There are a number of commentaries to the brahmasiddhi, including brahmasiddhi-TIkA by SankhapANi, abhiprAya-prakASikA by citsukha, and bhAvaSuddhi by AnandapUrNa vidyAsAgara. It is said that vAcaspati miSra's tattva samIkshA, which is not available now, was a commentary on the brahmasiddhi.

The traditional identification of maNDana miSra with sureSvara has been doubted in the modern literature. Much can be said on both sides of this issue. It has been pointed out that maNDana miSra and Sankara are most probably contemporaries, and that maNDana must have known of Sankara's philosophical views when he wrote the brahmasiddhi. Many themes are common to both maNDana and Sankara, e.g. that the reality of the universe lasts only until liberation, which is nothing more or nothing less than realizing the true nature (svarUpa) of the Atman; and that the jIva is really brahman, but appears to be different by false knowledge and limiting adjuncts.

Perhaps this similarity is to be expected, because these are some of the cardinal principles of advaita, and any advaitin of note would necessarily follow these lines. There does seem to be some contrast between maNDana and Sankara on some other issues. maNDana shows a tendency to accommodate what is known as "jnAnakarmasamuccayavAda" - a combined path of jnAna and karma to achieve liberation. On the other hand, Sankara is uncompromising in emphasizing jnAna and denying that karma can directly lead to liberation, except for its role in cittaSuddhi, i.e. as a means of purification. And sureSvara's independent work is titled naishkarmyasiddhi - the achievement of the state of the absence of karma. maNDana and sureSvara also differ on the question of the locus of avidyA. maNDana holds that the avidyA rests on the jIva, and has brahman for its object. sureSvara maintains that avidya both rests on brahman and has brahman for its object. This difference in view about the nature and locus of avidyA is also seen in post-Sankaran advaita. vAcaspati miSra takes the same view as maNDana does, and authors in the bhAmatI sub-school expand their views along these lines. However, the vivaraNa writers mostly follow sureSvara's line of reasoning, and hold that brahman is both the locus and object of avidyA. Many contemporary scholars think that this difference of opinion is a late, post-Sankaran development. In this connection, it is important to remember that maNDana was a contemporary of Sankara, so that this difference of opinion indeed has an old history.

Did maNDana miSra, the author of brahmasiddhi, write several treatises on pUrva mImAm.sA earlier? If so, did maNDana, the pUrva mImAm.saka, change his philosophical views later in his life to become maNDana, the vedAntin? Is maNDana, the pUrva mImAm.saka, the same as maNDana, the vedAntin? Or are they different people? Finally, is maNDana the same as sureSvara? Such questions will probably never be answered to everybody's satisfaction. It is interesting to note in this connection that, in the post-Sankaran advaita literature, the names sureSvara and viSvarUpa are used interchangeably to refer to the vArttikakAra, while maNDana, the author of the brahmasiddhi, is usually referred to only as the brahmasiddhikAra . However, many traditional hagiographies, including the mAdhavIya Sankara-vijaya, identify the two.


Encyclopedia Britannica's entries on maNDana miSra

Last updated on May 5, 1999.

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