[Advaita-l] Email of Sri Vidyashankar Sundaresan of March 31, 2007, on the Parakayapravesha legend of Shankara.

srikanta at nie.ac.in srikanta at nie.ac.in
Mon Apr 2 06:36:33 CDT 2007

Sri Vidyashanker has started his email with two questions "How do we know
what we know",and "Are we so special that we know better than everybody
else".i hope all of us in this forum agree that there is no personal
element involved in this discussion and certainly not with the  superior
feeling of I know everything.The topic of the discussion was "Does the
Parakayapravesha story of Shankara casts badlight on the character of
Shankara as a Brahmajnani,a great teacher,who wrote in his famous
poem"Mohamudgara"(Bhajagovinda slokah),describes"Nabhisthanbhara
nabhidesham......etatmamsavashadi vikaram,manasavicintaya varam
varam"?again and again in his Bhashyas he describes the evils of
Samsara,to be eliminated only through "Brahmajnana"?As Sri Vidyashanker
and Sripraveen has stated there are also other stories like"Shankara
asking the untouchable to go aside from his path in Varanasi,the Kapalika
out to behead Shankara and rescued by Padmapada on whom the Lord Narasihma
came,the crmation of Aryambha,the mother of Shankara by Sannyasi Shankara
and many other stories.The author of Madhaviyashankara vijayam is the
first to write these stories.Coming to the cremation of Aryambha,the
mother of Shankara, who promises his mother that he would come to her on
her death bed, the Gurumars of the  Nambudri sect to which Shankara
belonged objected to the cremation of Aryambha by Sannyasi Shankara,upon
which it is written in the Shankara vijayam that he cut the body into
pieces(!) and cremated in the house, and this method was followed till a
few centuries ago.Then onwards, Shankara cursed the Gurumars.Upon this
the Gurumars still perform "Apradakshina"(counterclockwise
circumambulation) in all rituals and temples instead of the conventional
Furthter,the episode of "parakayapravesha"has a "Tantrik" element in it.
There is no way of verifying the veracity of the story.But,it can be
clearly seen that these episodes are exaggerated to personally glorify
Shankara(unwittingly though).Another view which is raised is that none
traditionally questioned the legend in its past 700 years of history.One
neednot believe it because our forefathers believed it.As Shankara says in
his Bhashya"Thousand sruthi statements cannot make the fire cold".There is
certainly no personal element as sriVidyashankar says "...certainly,the
form of a legend can morph in various ways,but to think that we,in this
day and age,know much better and can unravel it all correctly,and to
criticize everybody else who says there must be a reason why something
perish in the tradition,reveals a lot of arrogance,and superior
feeling,both about our own intellects and about our bhakthi towards
Shankara Bhagawathpada."
I say that this topic of discussion is to explore how far this story is
true and  has done credit to Shankara who is a teacher parexcellence and a
Brahmajnani,and should we continue to hold on to it?.There is no way of
verifying this story by doing parakayapravesha in this modern age,and
certainly sri Vidyashankera agrees that without this story Shankara is
very great.
                      Bhava Shankara Desika me saranam.

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