Was ShrI Shankara a Vaishnava?

Ramakrishnan Balasubramanian ramakris at EROLS.COM
Wed Aug 11 20:55:30 CDT 1999

Vivek Anand Ganesan <v_ganesan at YAHOO.COM> wrote:

> I remember reading in one of Natalia Isayeva's book that there is a
prevalent opinion that
> ShrI Adi Shankara was a vaishnava. Is there any substance to this

Ganesh has already pointed out correctly that it was the late Paul
Hacker who tried to make a case that sha.nkara was a vaishhNavite. See
"Philology and Confrontation" published by the SUNY Press. Nataliya
Isayeva actually disputes this and thinks Hacker was misled by his
Christian convictions and tried to bring sha.nkara more to his line of
thought. She seems to accept at least some of the "Saivite" stotras
are by sha.nkara.

First we should realize something. The Western scholars classify any
text which praises vishhNu as vishhNuite and anything which praises
siva as Sivaite. Now, a vishhNu worshiper could be a smArta,
vIra-viaishhNava or a mAdhva. When analysing texts Western scholars
rarely pay attention to this detail. Gonda for example in his Sivaism
and Visnuism says that Visnuites come in different colors and can vary
widely but "neverthless there are Visnuites and Sivaites". Of course
Gonda from his comfortable chair in his university never even knows
that there is something called "smArtaism". Now there are pa.ncAyatana
temples dating back to even the 2nd century CE. So there can be no
doubt that smArtas would have been engaged in writing at least some of
the purANic texts which Gonda analyzes. Gonda does not even seem to
realize this.

While his book "Sivaism and Visnuism" is useful in the sense that it
gives lots of textual references, most of the conclusions are utterly
wrong and make it a shoddy piece of research. For example Sringeri is
called a "Sivaite Mutt"!! Of course his book "Medieval Religious
Literature in Sanskrit" published by Weisbaden is an excellent book,
as are some others. I am not trying to devalue all of Gondas works.
The reason I am pointing this out is that Gondas work is still
referred to as an authority in the Indological circles. Hacker is of
course in this camp (although he may have preferred to think
otherwise). Anyway, I'll give some textual references from sha.nkaras
works and also rebut some of Hackers points when I get the time.


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