[Advaita-l] bhAgavata purANa

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Sat Aug 19 12:56:33 CDT 2006

Sorry for the late reply.

On Sat, 29 Jul 2006, Annapureddy Siddhartha Reddy wrote:

> praNAm.h all,
>       Could someone clarify what the traditional advaita vEdAntic
> position on the purANas is, vis-a-vis the following questions:
> -- Is there any agreement on the date of the bhAgavata purANa in
> traditional schools/academia?

As far as Advaitins are concerned, the puranas including the Bhagavata are 
the compositions of Veda Vyasa at the beginning of the Kali yuga from 
older material.

Historians are divided on the matter.  I believe the consensus is that in 
the form we have them now, they were redacted between 2nd-7th centuries 
AD (but again incorporating much older material) with accretions upto as 
far as the 18th century.

H.H Wilson in the introduction to his translation of Vishnupurana makes 
some historical speculations which are obsolete but tells an interesting 
account of some controversy amongst Pandits in medieval times concerning 
the date of the Bhagavata.  Apparently some believed that the "Bhagavata" 
in the list of Puranas should refer to the Devibhagavata not the 
Krshnabhagavata which was acutally written by Vopadeva (the 12th or 13th 
century author of the grammatical work Mugdabodha.) Various scholars 
jumped into the fray to defend one view or the other.  However, mostly 
the Devibhagavata theory  seems to have been part of the sectarian 
infighting between Smartas and Vaishnavas in Kashi in those days.  Most 
Advaitins accept the authenticity of the Krshnabhagavata.

> -- It seems like the bhAgavata purANa was known by the time of
> shaN^kara. Is this correct btw?

Yes.  It is supposedly quoted in Vishnusahasranama bhashya and a 
prakarana called sarvavedantasiddhantasarasangrah.  Not in the prasthana 
trayi bhashyas though.  Also according to Wilson, in the controversy 
mentioned above, one of the arguments made in favor of the Krshnabhagavata 
was that Shankaracharya commented on it.  Though if this commentary ever 
existed it has been completely lost now.

If true, is there a reason shaN^kara
> doesn't quote it in his BGB? Could it be because the bhAgavata isn't
> in line with advaita vEdAnta?

Not only is an Advaita interpretation of the Bhagavata possible, it has a 
long history. The foremost commentator on the Krshnabhagavata, Shridhar 
Swami is an Advaitin (though for some reason Gaudiyas claim him as their 
own.)  In his commentary he quotes an earlier commentary by Chitsukha Muni 
who wrote the celebrated Advaita work Tattvapradipa or Chitsukhi.  There 
have been other Advaitin commentators ancient and modern too.

> -- Wendy Doniger seems to date many of the purANas later to shaN^kara.
> Is there any consensus on this? At least, what is the opinion of the
> tradition on this issue?

See above.  Even where he does not quote directly from them, 
Shankaracharya is clearly familiar with stories from the Puranas and 

> Are the purANas always treated to be 18 in
> number (not possible in shaN^kara's times if Wendy were to be
> believed)?

I have no idea how she could have come to this bizarre conclusion.  The 
puranas have always been considered to be 18 in number.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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