[Advaita-l] Vivekachudamani Vs Bhashyas

nanda chandran vpcnk at hotmail.com
Thu Jul 31 23:28:43 CDT 2003

>Because they were not written by "Sankaracharya"s. The main
>cause of confusion is the existence of texts written by
>heads of the Sankara maths from later times who were also
>called Sankaracharyas.

Do we really know if Vaachaspati or Sri Harsha, didn't become 

How about Sureshvara or Vidhyaaranya - both are considered to have been 
"Shankaraachaaryaas", but still their works have not been ascribed to 

>This would not be a valid argument as per the advaita
>tradition. Passage of time or change in attitude is not
>applicable to a jivanmukta.

Is writing books "applicable to a jivanmukta"? We should distinguish between 
vyavahaara and paramaartha here.

The mind is one and the atman is another.

If the mind were absolute there would be no difference in the philosophies 
of jnaanis. Everyone would have taught the same philosophy.

The various philosophical systems reflect how those who experienced reality 
viewed it. The accuracy of their philosophies depends on the level of the 
intellect of such jnaanis. Some are sharper than others and thus their 
philosophies are more accurate. Some do not even speak out!

The reason I noted the issue of Ishvara Krishna and Kaalidaasa is that the 
poet in his youth would have revelled in his powers of expression. But at a 
later stage would have realized that such expression itself is the veil 
which hides the truth - so it is not strage that as a sanyaasi he restricts 
himself to a simpler form of expression.

Likewise Shankara in his youth would have revelled at the power of his 
intellect - his voluminous commentaries on the prasthaana traayi reflect it. 
A great chunk of such material is devoted to criticizing the philosophies of 
other systems and rationally establishing the Advaita philosophy. But the 
mind irrespective of however sharp it is, is still avidhya. However 
interesting such works might be, still they're atbest conceptual 
construction and can atbest only remove ignorance. Theoretical philosophy 
can atbest show you what is false, but cannot show you the truth. Beyond a 
certian limit philosophy can even be counterproductive (for the unwary such 
texts are the noose strings by which they hang themselves because they 
cannot get out of the loop of conceptual construction - you can find people 
forever debating about adhyaasa, non-dualism etc).

Saadhana of a more practical nature is needed to effect liberation.

So once having got over his intellectual urges, it is quite natural that 
Shankara composed works of a more practical nature to help serious 
aspirants. In such works theory is wedded with practice and the emphasis is 
on the latter.

IMO of the two it is the praakarna graanthaas which are of greater relevance 
to serious aspirants.

>Doubting the authorship of Vivekachudamani is not to deny the
>fact that it is a very popular and important book within the
>Advaita tradition. But is Shankara´s interpretations of Advaita
>fully in line with the different interpretations within the
>Advaita tradition after him? Has nothing at all happened to the
>tradition for the last 1200 years? Of course it has. There are
>even different subtraditions within the Advaita tradition itself,
>and considering this fact maybe we should ask if all the
>post-Shankara advaitins are completely faithful to the the
>teachings known to have been propagated by Adi Shankara. If they
>are, then what about these subtraditions and different schools of
>interpretating? And if they are not, then why simply dismissing
>the question regarding the authorship of Vivekachudamani. If this
>book contains doctrines opposed to the prasthana traya, then is
>it not reasonable to conclude that it was actually not written by
>Shankara himself? Particularly considering the fact that VC is
>not mentioned by any acharya before several hundred years after

One thing should be clear when debating such issues :

The human mind is often unifocal - it can only see things in certain 
perspectives and is often indifferent to other perspectives. "We 
read/understand what we want to" in texts is to a great extent true. That 
you've the bhaamati and vivaarna streams each claiming to be the true 
interpreter of Shankara is a case in point here (likewise with Advaita, 
Visishtadvaita, Dvaita etc). Each will keep arguing to death the validity of 
their own claims.

Likewise what one considers as "opposed to the prasthaana traaya" might not 
be considered so in other quarters. I don't think anybody in the history of 
the Advaita tradition has ever disputed the Vivekachoodaamani on this issue.

> > Questions disputing its authorship can only have dubious
>It would be interesting to know what you mean by this

It is important to note that such a question as doubting the authorship of 
the Vivekachoodaamani has never risen till recent times. There's a reason 
that religion is a matter of faith. Questions of this nature normally chip 
away at the credibility of the tradition. And often these have been propped 
up by forces inimical to the tradition.

>For the followers of the Advaita Vedanta tradition, Adi Shankara
>is the authority No.1. Then is it really a "dubious motive" to
>question whether a book is actually from his pen or not? If we
>consider Shankara as the greatest authority within the Advaita
>tradition, then the question regarding his genuine doctrine is a
>fundamental one. And if different books attributed to Shankara
>contradicts each other, then the question regarding his doctrine
>is in fact also a question regarding which books where actually
>written by him.

But whether "different books attributed to Shankara contradicts each other" 
is itself in dispute here.

>But the question is if there are teachings in the VC that
>contradicts the prasthana traya of Adi Shankara. And if VC
>contradicts prasthana traya, is it still probable that VC
>actually was written by Adi Shankara? I don´t think such a
>question is irrelevant. Is it irrelevant to study which doctrines
>was actually propagated by Adi Shankara? And is it irrelevant to
>know if there are other doctrines, for one or another reason
>wrongly attributed to him?
>It is well-known, I guess, to the main part of the members of
>this list that there are several subtraditions (such as for
>instance the Vivarana and Bhamati schools) within the broad
>spectrum we call the Advaita tradition. Since different
>interpretations has become a part of the tradition over time,
>this may lead some people to the conclusion that differences
>doesn´t matter, and that Adi Shankara would have accepted them
>all. But I think such a conclusion is wrong. There where several
>different interpretations of Advaita Vedanta known to Adi
>Shankara, and he refuted them all, except for the tradition
>represented by Gaudapada. He was very careful to make a
>distinction between his own tradition and the (in his opinion)
>faulty advaitic interpretations.

It is to be noted that in certain quarters (myself included) there're 
questions whether Shankara was faithful to Gaudapaada himself.

Lesson to be learnt : do not be so sure of your position.

>Just as an example, there is no doubt that Shankara´s teachings
>are different from those of Mandana Mishra (probably a
>contemporary of Shankara, and a forerunner of the Bhamati
>school), and Mandana Mishra himself refutes important parts of
>Shankara´s teachings in his work Brahma Siddhi. Nevertheless, the
>Bhamati school is today considered a part of the Advaita Vedanta

The Bhaamati school was pioneered by Vaachaspati Mishra based on his 
commentary on Shankara's Brahma Sutra Baashyam and AFAIK has little relation 
to the Brahma Siddhi of Mandana, whose certain doctrines are obviously 
different from Shankara's Advaita, which the latter himself has noted.

The main issues regarding the validity of the Bhaamati vis a vis Shankara's 
Advaita, is quite different from those issues in which Mandana and Shankara 
are in conflict.

>Today, the Advaita Vedanta tradition is often referred
>to as simply "Shankara´s Vedanta school" or the like. But it is
>highly questionable that Shankara would have approved of this.

Why not? According to Shankara, his was THE Advaita Vedaanta.

Anyway I don't have anything more to say. Unless arguments radically 
different in nature from what's been brought forth till now are put forward, 
I'm signing off this discussion.

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