Subhanu Saxena Subhanu.Saxena at INTL.PEPSI.COM
Mon Sep 7 02:59:25 CDT 1998

On Sep 5th , Nagy asked the following:
>                                               Om
> Being a Master and propunder of Advaita why Adi Shankara composed
> several
> stuti's, stotras etc. to multitude of Gods and Godesses  advancing
> Dwaita
> view?
I am afraid I have no words of wisdom that will help you, but I offer
you the following 2 explanations as to how one might answer the

Explanation 1)

It is actually quite consistent with Shankara's philosophy, because we
see in his Bhashyas that the Bhashyakara adopts both the empirical and
trancendental standpoints to turn the seeker towards the truth.  You
will find the following quotes from Shankara's Brahma Sutra Bhashya
(III, iv, 27) and Gita Bhasya (18-50) useful in this context:

"Hence the rise of knowledge of the Self depends on sacrifice, charity,
and austerity and the rest, also on inner and outer control and the
performance of the duties of one's caste and stage of life. A
distinction, however, between the 2 kinds of meands of knowledge shall
be drawn.  Inner and outer control and the rest are more proximate means
because they are DIRECTLY connected with knowledge of the Self through
the phrase 'he who knows thus' (Brihad IV,IV,23). Ritual sacrifices etc
on the other hand are only connected with promoting the DESIRE to know,
and hence are to be regarded as more remote aids"

Those interested in the original Sanskrit can find the passage in Brahma
Sutra Bhashyam where I have indicated above, and should read from
"TamsAT yagyAdIni"..... to  "iti vivektavyam".

Shankara here draws a distinction between direct means which lead to
direct knowledge of Brahman (VidyAsamyogAt in the text), and means
(including karma, stuti and the rest), which he decribes as more remote
because they promote the DESIRE to know vs the actual knowledge
(vividishAsamyogAt).  He affirms that this however is still valid for
some classes of aspirants.

In the above extract, Shankara is speaking from the empirical
standpoint, where Pramanas are seen to function This is a useful device
to give us the context for why people perform Homa, Pooja, recite
stotra's etc. From the transendental standpoint, Shankara states as
follows from Gita Bhashyam 18-50 "The Atman is at no time really unkown
to anyone. Therefore in knowing it, NO EFFORT IS REQUIRED.. " Again for
the Sanskrit you should read from "Na hi AtmAnAMa..." to
"AtmabudhinvrtAveva." in your copies of the Gita Bhashyam at the
reference above.

So, the first explanation would explain Shankara's compositions as a
concession to the empirical standpoint to those class of aspirants who
find such an approach useful.

Explanation 2)

As many of you are all aware, there is a penchant for our tradition to
assign works to various historical figures when there is no hard
evidence to suggest that these works were actually composed by the
person.  Those of you who have read the various Shankara digvijaya's
will have seen how Shankara is descibed as having done different things
in different versions at supposedly the same time.  Although "tradition"
uniformly attributes many of these works to Shankara, there is still no
hard evidence to confirm or deny this fact.  All we can say with some
certainty is that message and content of Shankara's Bhashya's are pretty
consistent and uniform with each other (Though even here, there detail
fanatics out there will have noticed a difference in style of the
Taittiriya and Brihadaranyaka Bhashya's from the rest, and the
Swetasvatara Upanishad Bhashya style is different again), whereas the
same is not necessarily the case across the vast number of Stuti's and
Stotra's attributed to Shankara.

Explanation 2 would therefore state that of the various number of
strotra's etc, a number of these were not actually composed by Shankara
himself, but have been assigned to him by tradition/penned by others
under the pseudonym Shankara/Penned by later ShankarAcharya's of the

What is my own view on the above? Well, to start with it is impossible
for us at such a vast distance of time from Shankara to sort out the
genuine article from something else, but if I were to indulge myself, I
would suspect that it is a combination of the 2 explanations.  When I
read a stotra, I care less for "was it really written by Shankara or
not" vs "what is the message?" and "is this consistent with Shankara's
core teachings in the Bhashyas, following the Adhyaropa Apavada method
together with his position on Avidya". Based on explanation 1 above it
is not inconceivable that Shankara did indeed write some of these pieces

Most of the time, I read a stotra and simply delight in the poetry if I
like it,whoever wrote it!

Hope this helps


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