[Advaita-l] Age/History of Sankara

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Sun Oct 1 16:15:43 CDT 2006

>On Adi Sankara, scholars seem to agree on the following ONLY
>             a) That he was born at Kaladi of Kerala
>             b) That he was just 32 years when he attained mukti
>And scholars seem to differ on rest of issues like
>             a) when he was born (and hence when he attained mukti)
>             b) What works he himself authored
>             c) What mutts he himself established
>             d) where he attained mukti
>Looks like that we may never have closure on these issues to the
>satisfaction of all

Even on the first two questions, there is difference in opinion. And except 
for the issue of what works he wrote himself, no other issue is "scholarly" 
in origin. Rather, there are internal social, political, literary and 
personal histories behind these controversies.

anantAnandagiri's Sankaravijaya, according to its earliest editions (1867 
and 1881 AD), says that Sankara was born in Chidambaram. Only the 1971 
edition of this Sankaravijaya says Kaladi but there is ample reason to 
believe that the original reading in the manuscripts must have been only 
Chidambaram. This has been discussed many times on this list in the past. As 
for the age to which he lived, 32 is the traditional number cited by all 

It is perhaps correct to say that not all will be satisfied with any sort of 
closure on these questions. However, at an individual level, you are 
prepared to take the following steps, you can indeed achieve closure to your 
own satisfaction.

1. Be objective about what is said to be tradition/history.

2. Take the trouble to gain a measure of Sanskrit knowledge and read texts 
in the original. Often, you will find that a statement "such and such a text 
says this" can be easily verified or refuted if you are able to read the 
quoted text in its original, rather than translations and late editions.

3. Renounce the belief that any great person who lived in India in the past 
had to have lived before Christ. Countless great men and women have lived in 
India not only in the very distant past, but also in the roughly two 
millenia since Christ.

4. Renounce the belief that the correctness of a statement is dependent upon 
who is making that statement. Examples: Westerners in India have always had 
their own agenda at various points of time, but that does not make wrong 
everything that they said or wrote. Nor, on the opposite side, does a 
statement become true merely because it was said for the first time by a 

5. Renounce the belief that a seeming abundance of evidence from selected 
source(s) is necessarily compelling. Often, what is offered as evidence is 
ridden with holes upon closer examination.

6. Renounce the beliefs that if an institution is prominent today, or if its 
head is worthy of respect, it has always been prominent throughout history, 
or that all the historical claims of the said institution are correct.

7. Apply all the above even to your own favorite people and institutions, in 
addition to people and institutions who differ from your favorites.

Of course, this could be asking for a lot and may be difficult, if not 
impossible, to achieve. However, most confusing issues will get sorted out 
if you take the trouble to equip yourself with some critical thinking 

Best regards,

The next generation of Search—say hello!  

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