[Advaita-l] Pa~nchapAdikAchArya

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Fri Oct 6 19:22:05 CDT 2006

I will wait for Ramakrishnan to write on the various issues raised in this 
thread, but would like to make one point here, regarding the appeal to 

I don't think any argument has been made that SSS is wrong because the 
tradition has always said something else. Rather, the issues being raised 
are of what constitutes the said tradition, along with an argument based on 

For example, sureSvara is admittedly very faithful to Sankara in his 
writings. Surely, he left a lineage of students and disciples behind him. 
Ramakrishnan's question was, if some writers quite external to Sankara's and 
sureSvara's disciple lineage came up with the pancapAdikA and its derivative 
vivaraNa school, it would certainly have raised a quite heated debate. On 
the other hand, no one in all the centuries after Sankara had doubted that 
padmapAda was a disciple of Sankara. It is, therefore, not easy to dismiss 
an entire sub-school within the advaita tradition by claiming that padmapAda 
either entirely misunderstood Sankara or was not a disciple of Sankara at 
all. A lot hinges upon whether one splits mithyAjnAna as mithyA + jnAna or 
mithyA + ajnAna. The Sanskrit language would allow for both, and if I read 
Sankara right, he does indeed allow for both possibilities.

As for tradition, the following question is certainly valid - if an author 
of the 20th century dismisses all previous authors within the tradition as 
cases of the blind leading the blind, then in what sense do we accept the 
said author as part of the same tradition? Furthermore, the probability is 
certainly slim that all traditional writers in a thousand plus years have 
misunderstood Sankara. For Sri Gangolli to claim that SSS is the only writer 
to correctly understand Sankara, because he was a reincarnation of Sankara, 
is an appeal to devotion, not to reason. At the most, this can be seen only 
as a stuti, not yukti. Followers of other teachers could equally well make 
the same argument about their own teachers, and thereby refuse to consider 
SSS's position at all.

For me, the fact that SSS formally took to sannyAsa and that he upheld 
advaita and wrote on Sankara is sufficient to make him part of the advaita 
tradition. It is unfortunate, perhaps, that highly problematic statements 
have been made in various publications. For others, this may not be enough, 
and that is what the discussion is about.

As an aside, it is a little ironic, perhaps, that after all the controversy 
with Virupaksha Sastry (who was also a teacher of Sri Chandrasekhara Bharati 
Swami of Sringeri) and others, the SSS centenary commemoration volume from 
Holenarsipur carries a benedictory letter from the Sringeri Acharya.


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