Sureshvara and Mandana Mishra

Vidyasankar Sundaresan vidya at CCO.CALTECH.EDU
Fri Dec 19 20:01:05 CST 1997

On Fri, 19 Dec 1997, Cyber Maadhva Sangha wrote:


> Now, I certainly am no fan of Radhakrishnan, but it seems unlikely to
> me that he is wrong in his facts here.  So my query is, how is it that
> Sureshvara and Mandana Mishra are identified as two people, holding
> diverse views on a key point?  I was under the impression that the
> Advaitic tradition identifies the two as the same person.  Saying that

Actually, tradition is ambivalent on this issue. Even if we take only the
Sankaravijayam texts as the repositories of tradition, there is some
uncertainty. Madhaviya and texts that follow it equate Mandana Misra with
Suresvara and also with Visvarupa. Other texts equate Visvarupa with
Suresvara, but not with Mandana Misra. Yet other texts equate Mandana
Misra with Suresvara, but not with Visvarupa. And there are other legends
which identify all of them or some of them with another author named
Umveka. Personally, I don't think any of the Sankaravijayam texts gives us
reliable information about it. Identifying the two as one person most
probably results from a quasi-mythological story that describes both
Suresvara and Mandana Misra as incarnations of Caturmukha Brahma.

The Sringeri matha lists Suresvara in its lineage of gurus, and I remember
having read that its Guruvamsakavya does not give any other name for
Suresvara. Moreover, there is some talk in contemporary literature from
the various mathas that Mandana Misra is not the proper name of one
person, but some sort of a title (e.g. Raj Gopal Sharma's Hindi text, Sri
Shankaramatha vishayak vivada aur vimarsha), and also that more than
person might have been named Mandana Misra (e.g. Polakam Rama Sastri's
Tamil text, Adisankarar mudal Kanciyil todarnduvarum guruparamparai).

However, if we rely on the internal evidence from the commentaries that
have come down to us over the centuries, it seems that Visvarupa and
Suresvara are most probably the same person. Sankarananda, Vidyaranya,
Rama Tirtha and other commentators consistently attribute quotations from
Naishkarmyasiddhi and the Upanishad-vaarttikas to one Visvarupacharya, but
never to Mandana Misra. And Mandana Misra is referred to as
Brahmasiddhi-kara by Vacaspati Misra, Sankhapani and Anandapurna
Vidyasagara, while Suresvara is routinely referred to as vaarttika-kara,
by most writers. There is no explicit identification of Suresvara with
Mandana Misra, although there is no explicit denial of such an
identification either. But then, none of these earlier authors might have
felt the need to deny the identification, if such a thing had never been
done in their times.

If we compare the views of Naishkarmyasiddhi (by Suresvara) and
Brahmasiddhi (by Mandana Misra) on the question of the locus of avidyA and
the object of avidyA, there is a clear indication that both texts could
not have been written by the same person. Unless of course, Mandana Misra
wrote Brahmasiddhi before he became Suresvara and then changed his views.
In my opinion, there is no compelling reason to say such a thing, and the
identification of the two can be safely put aside.

> Mandana Mishra held the view that `mAyA' alone is the cause of the
> world when he was a pUrva-mImAmsaka, and later changed his views when
> he became Sureshvara, seems implausible for at least two reasons.
> One, because `mAyA' is a Vedantic concept that finds no mention in
> pUrva-mImAmsaka thinking (at least as far as I know).  Second,

Yes, pUrva mImAmsA has no place for mAyA.

> Prakashananda would surely not be naive enough to follow the lead of
> one who had changed his own mind on the subject after meeting his
> teacher.

The issue is not so simple. Within the advaita tradition, later authors
have not hesitated to respectfully disagree with Sankara and/or Suresvara,
if their own thought demanded it. Prakasananda is quite an independent
thinker, who actually holds that advaita vedAnta has really no place for
standard views of causality - he comes very close to Gaudapada's
Ajativada. He might just be referring to Mandana's view of mAyA, without
necessarily endorsing it.


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