[Advaita-l] RE: On the parakAyapraveSa legend about Sankara

S Jayanarayanan sjayana at yahoo.com
Tue Mar 27 14:27:18 CDT 2007

The question is not whether the Madhaviya Sankara Digvijayam (SD) is
historically accurate, but whether its portrayal of Sankara is
harmful to the tradition.

Example: The Kamba-Ramayana is a Ramayana written in Tamil by the
poet Kamban. It contains many episodes that are not found in the
Valmiki-Ramayana -- perchance Kamban's devotion prompted him to
"fabricate" these episodes. But that does not imply that the
Kamba-Ramayana has harmed the tradition, or that Kamban's portrayal
of Rama is "stupid". The fact is that the Kamba-Ramayana is highly
esteemed, like the Ram-Charit-Manas, even though it contains stories
not *exactly* in line with the original Valmiki-Ramayana. It is not
reasonable to opine that the Kamba-Ramayana has harmed the tradition
because of its changes from the original storyline.

Therefore, I can accept that the episode in the SD _may_ not be
exactly historical, but I disagree that it is somehow anti-advaitic,
or harms the Vedanta tradition.

In fact, the so-called "arguments" against Sankara's portrayal in the
SD can also be made in the context of the Vishnu Purana or the
Bhagavatam: Why should Krishna play sexually with the Gopis at all?
Why not simply give them mukti by love/worship portrayed in a
non-sexual manner? Why the elaborate drama about Krishna stealing the
Gopis' clothes in a sexually charged environment?

The reason I gave the analogy of Krishna among the Gopis was that the
SD itself provides this analogy. This analogy is not perfectly
one-on-one with the SD episode, but the basic point is that
Sankara-in-king's-body and Vishnu-in-Krishna's-body did not "indulge"
in sexuality, although they were both placed in a situation where
they might have been *expected* to do so. This should be interpreted
as, "Although sexuality causes great harm, it is powerless against
the Master-Yogin, just as although poison is harmful when ingested,
it is powerless against its antidote."

The Apastamba Dharma Sutra 2.6.13 says:

"Transgression of the law and violence are found amongst the ancient
(sages). They committed no sin on account of the greatness of their

The "lustre" in the above quote is "lustre of Yoga".

The SD thus reveals Sankara's Mastery of Yoga by recounting how
Sankara abandons the king's body with ease, causing the body to drop
dead in the midst of the court, while Sankara returns to enliven his
original body. Could this tremendous yogic feat have been capable of
someone who was not a Master of Yoga? This is pretty much the spirit
in which the Vishnu Purana or the Bhagavatam speaks of Krishna's
exploits with the Gopis -- the Master-Yogin fears nothing and is not
tainted by any action, including sexuality.

Therefore, instead of criticising the SD by saying, "This shows
Sankara's actions in poor light", one should view it as, "This shows
Sankara's Mastery of Yoga in good light."

I will make this point in my next posting on the Jivanmuktiviveka,
which speaks of the Master-Yogin as capable of "cancelling out" any
Karma through his power of Yoga.


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