A Myth About Sankara (was Re: [Advaita-l] jnAna-vijnAna, ...)

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Tue Mar 13 23:00:36 CDT 2007

On Tue, 13 Mar 2007, bhaskar.yr at in.abb.com wrote:

> "For the followers of the Advaita Vedanta tradition, Adi Shankara is
> the authority No.1...If we consider Shankara as the greatest
> authority within the Advaita tradition..."
> Is the above really true? I don't think so.
> bhaskar :
> Are you sure you are saying this!!! do you mean to say *in the advaita
> vEdAnta tradition* shankara IS NOT the authority No.1??!!  quite surprising
> indeed.

What I interpret Karthik as meaning is that Shankaracharya is not an 
authority by virtue of being Shankaracharya but only by virtue of being a 
true expositor of shastras.

The same issue comes up in Brahmasutra 2.1.1.  Here and onwards there is a 
sustained criticism of Samkhya.  One of the arguments the followers of 
Samkhya make is that the vedantic criticism is illegitimate because Kapila 
the founder of Samkhya is a Rshi and the mindborn son of Brahma thus 
surely belongs to "astika" sampradaya.  Shankaracharya says that even if 
we were sure that the Kapila mentioned in the shastras was indeed the same 
person as the founder of Samkhya, being an august personage is not 
sufficient for being considered an authority only concordance with Shruti 
is.  If it does not match, it is nastika no matter who says it.

The ironic thing about the current discussion is that by this standard 
both sides are wrong.  Swami Sacchidanandendra, if he is a true expositor 
of the shastras cannot be outside the sampradaya even if he disagrees 
with other representatives of it.  And if Bhamatikara or Vivaranakara are 
true expositors of the shastras, they cannot be outside the sampradaya 
even if they disagree with Shankaracharya.

> What does this mean? This means that if we have doubts regarding the
> correct interpretation of a Sruti statement, we accept Sankara's
> interpretation of it as the correct one. Similarly, if we have doubts
> regarding the correct interpretation of Sankara's statements, we
> accept Sankara's disciples' interpretation of it as the correct one.
> And so on down to the present Acharya. This is the very essence of
> what a Sampradaya is!
> bhaskar :
> what does this show??  though shruti is the antya pramANa, we do have doubt
> about the correct interpretation of it!! to get these doubts clarified we
> are depending on bhagavadpAda's commentary...in which we have the firm
> conviction & faith since whatever shankara interprets is anubhavagamya...in
> this context how can we label shankara bhAshya as lower in authority??
> Even later commentators did not dare to over take shankara commentaries
> while propagating their vyAkhyAna..is it not??  This clearly shows the
> total dominance of shankara's commentary in shruti vAkya nirNyaya in
> advaita saMpradAya.

The problem is however there are certain aspects of Advaita Vedanta which 
Shankaracharya did not explain fully or perhaps in the opinions of some, 
adequately.  (Why did Sureshvaracharya call his vyakhyas varttikas when 
the word implies a lack in the original?)  Also as in, for example, the 
doctrine of sannyasa being for Brahmanas only, Shankaracharya picked one 
of several "correct" opinions.   If Swami Sacchidanandendra (or his 
followers) are saying that a sadhaka can achieve the goal on the basis of 
Shankaracharyas works alone, I don't see any problem. If however he (or 
they) are saying a sadhaka cannot achieve the goal if he uses later 
commentators, it is going to far.  Advaita Vedanta didn't stand still. It 
responded to new developments and those responses are also valuable.

On a related topic:

Annapureddy Siddhartha Reddy wrote:

> Also, on a slightly different note, I wanted to confirm what the position of
> the sampradAya (for example, the shrungEri maTha) is wrt episodes like
> gauDapAda and shuka. Do they treat it as historical reality or not? (If not,
> why is the glorification done? Is the point to emphasize that people like
> gauDapAda are comparable to a-historical stalwarts like shuka (while knowing
> full well the unreality of the episodes)?) Thanks.

Traditionalists accept the idea that Shukadevaji was the Guru of 
Gaudapadacharya.  They don't however use it as a historical or doctrinal 
argument.  The point I suppose is just to show the continuity between the 
shastras and Advaita Vedanta.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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