[Advaita-l] Email of sri VarunSud,March 29, 2007 regarding persecution of Sankaracharya and his followers

srikanta at nie.ac.in srikanta at nie.ac.in
Mon Apr 2 05:51:44 CDT 2007

Dear Sri VarunSud,Namaste.
Before going into the question,we have to see the time and context Sankara
lived.There were other schools of thought in Hinduism like Sankhya,Nyaya
,Vaisesika,Mimamsa,Adwaitha of different shades like the Bhedha-bhedha
etc.and it was Sankara who systematised Adwaitha(monisIt was through his
brilliant commentaries.In his Bhashyas itself we see these different views
by thinkers like Bhartruprapancha,Brahmanandi,Bhrtruhari
who were his predecessors and during Vyasa's time the author of
Brahmasutras,Badarayana,Jaimini,Audulomi,Karsyakrtna etc.who lived before
Shankara.The illustrious Kumarila Bhatta also lived before Shankara.It was
Acharya Gaudapada,the paramaguru of Shankara who wrote the Gaudapada
Karikas on the Mandukya Upanishad,that is still available to us.We can say
that Acharya Gaudapada was the first  systematic commentator on the
Mandukya Upanishad which brings about the quintessence of Adwaitha
vedantha.It was Adwaitha vedantha which was referred to by the
word"Vedantha".The Dwaitha,Vishistadwaitha systems came much later.Thus
Adwaitha vedantha has a long and ancient tradition.It was Shankara's
responsibility to put the concept of Adwaitha in its proper perspective
and pristine glory when many other views from within and without started
distorting the Adwaitha view.In all his commentaries we see that the
prakaranas or Bhashyas start with "Purvapaksas",which are raised either by
other schools(vaidika or non-vaidika) and by Shankara himself to clarify
various points and answer the doubts of the disciples.This method is the
foremost characteristic of Shankara Bhashyas,which is called
"Anvikshiki".Through this method Shankara strives to examine the position
of all schools like,Sankhya,mimamsa,Nyaya,Vaisesika,Bauddha ,jaina etc.
Now coming to your question whether Shankara has used harsh words against
his opponents,one can see the dialectics adopted by Shankara is not to
personally attack the thinkers of these schools but to critically examine
these views.Some of these I have listed below:
1) In the "Abhavadhikarana"of Brahmasutra,Shankara while commenting on the
sutra"Naabhava upalabdeh" has brought to focus the views of
"Bahyarthavadins"of the Buddhism against the "Vijnanvadins"of Buddhism.He
quotes the statement" Yadantarjneyrupamam tad bahirvadavabhasate"by
Dignaga, a disciple of Vasubhandhu the Yogachara teacher of
Buddhism.Shankara to establish that external objects exist aligns the the
view of"Bahyarthavadin"against "Vijnanvadin" view,says,"Nirankushatvatte
thundasya"(there is no control over your toungue,even while experiencing
external objects you say that they do not exist),we see here that Shankara
is juxtaposing the two views to show that they oppose each other,and not
to personally attack the disputants.
2) In the same paragraph he says "Aho pandityam mahaddarsitam"You have
displayed your profound scholarship by saying this.
3)By stating different views of Buddhism it becomes that Buddha(Gautama
Buddha)is a enemy of people(prajapadveshi)and not a enlightener.
we see similar sentences in the Bhashyas of Upanishads and prakaranas,but
it must be remembered that as a great teacher and jnani he strived to put
across the Truth according to the Sruthis and smrtis.
Coming to the followers of ISKON and other organizations which cast
Shankara and his followers as "Mayavadins"it is to be said that this has
arisen due to non-understanding of Adwaitha vedanta correctly in its
proper perspective.I have had my own experience in one of the centres of
ISKON when I questioned about Shankara to a senior prabhudasa of ISKON.He
fired up saying that Madhwacharya defeated Shankaracharya,and questioned
me whether I have read "Bhagwatham"?I told him that I can convince him if
he spend some time with me.I took his outburst humourously.Looking through
the history of Vaishnavism,We see that  Shankara is  a  true Vaishnava and
a devotee of Lord Krishna.People from Kerala still use "Gopichandana"which
is the hallmark of a Vaishnava.We can see in his commentaries how much
reverence and devotion he pays to Lord Krishna,and in his discussion of
contrary views
he says"idam Bhagvataha uktam vacanam badyeta"(this contradicts the view
of Bhagavan Krishna).Thus we can say that Shankara was a staunch Vaishnava
just as Vyasa,Suka,Gaudapada and others.He worshipped at the Krishna
temple which still stands on the banks of Purna nadi in Kaladi.I must also
mention some of the harsh words used by other Acharyas of other systems on
Sankara.Yamunacharya the author of "siddhitraya"calls Shankara as
"Chadmavesadhari"(a consealed one under an umbrella) and "Pracchanna
bauddha"(a crypto-Buddhist).Ramnujacharya in his Sri Bhashya directs his
criticism against Adwaitha position by starting his Bhashyas with a
"Mahapurvapaksa"against Shankara.Vedantha Desika in his work
"Paramathabhangam"which was written in "Manipravala"(a mixture of sanskrit
and tamil)opens his work with the
sentence"...let us club Buddha(Gautama) and Shankara as to oxens of a
Bullock cart"and calls shankara as "Pracchanna Bauddha","Rahu
mimamsaka".Such harsh terms have been personally used against
Shankara.During Madhwacharya's time, an Adwaitin by name
"Trivikramapandithacharya"was defeated in a debate by Madva followers and
he wrote a scurrillous little book by name "Manimanjari"in which there are
obscene and blasphemous references on Shankara.In modern times many
starters of organizations and foudations have used harsh
words.J.Krishnamurti who started the Krishnamurti foundation,and schools
has used harsh words on Shankara and his followers,on Upanishads,Bhagawad
Gita and on Hindu religion.Infact he has shown a liking to Buddhism,as can
be seen in his writings.Srila Bhaktivedantaswami Prabhupada  the founder
of ISKON has used harsh words on Shankara and his followers as "Mayavadins
who are a frustrated lot".But what these people forget is, the same
epithets can be directed against them.The object of "Adwaitha vedantha"is
to search for the Truth which is "one without a second",through
Upanishads,Bhagawadgitha and the Brahmasutras,which form the
"Prasthanatrayi".Acharya Shankara is the guide
to expound the Adwaitha vedantha through his illustrious Bhashyas.There is
no personal element implied in this.One reason why the followers of the
Dwaitha and visistadwaitha call Shankara as a "Nastika" and a "Mayavadin"
is that there is no mention of personal God in his Bhashyas.For
Shankara,God or Brahman is Impersonal.The reason for calling Shankara as a
"Pracchhanna Bauddha"is: both Buddhists and Adwaitins use the term
"Maya"in their scrptures.Shankara and the Adwaitins like Acharya Gaudapada
use the term "Maya"with a substratum(svadhisthana.For the appearance of
the world,Brahman is the substratum(adhara-basis),like the appearance of
silver on nacre(shukti-rajata,illusion of the appearance of a snake on a
rope,etc.For Buddhism the term "Maya"is used in the sense of "without a
substratum"(niradhisthana Bhrama) like castles in the air,flowers in the
sky,Barren woman son,horns of a hare.Shankara questions this view of
Buddhism by asking how can there be an appearance without a
substratum?"Brahma satyam,jagan mithya,Jivo Brahmaiva naaparah"(Brahman
alone is real,the world is unreal(it is only an appearance,it has only
Vyavaharika satya),the individual soul is Brahman alone and non-different
from it".This is Adwaitha,and Shankara has adopted different pedagogical
methods to expound this system
enshrined in the scriptures.
                        Hari Om Tat Sat.Bhava Shankara Desika me sharam.

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