[Advaita-l] Adi Sankara's Birth Date

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Thu May 5 12:01:53 CDT 2011

>The Vikramarka,
> on whose death the  first Vikrama Era in 457 BCE was started, was hailed by the great king
>Hala or Purnavarman, whom Adi Sankaracharya also called as the world emperor. His rule
>spread to beyond the shores of India.

Could you provide a reference where Adi Sankaracharya is supposed to have described
this Purnavarman as a world emperor? Does he ever use the words cakravartin, or 
tribhuvaneSvara or sArvabhauma or some other equivalent? More importatnly, does
Adi Sankaracharya anywhere say that a Purnavarman was his own contemporary?
The only reference I know of is a generic statement about unreality, using the example
of the vandhyAputra. The bhAshyakAra says, "a statement that a vandhyAputra was
king before the coronation of Purnavarman does not specify when the vandhyAputra
was or is or will become king." Here the unreal "son of a woman incapable of bearing
a child" is contrasted with a real person named "Purnavarman," but such a sentence
implies nothing about whether a king of that name was living at the same time as the
Acharya. In fact, the wide generality of this statement with respect to historical time is
underlined thrice by the bhAshyakAra, by the usage of past, present and future tenses
in the same sentence.
In contrast, please see sUtrabhAshya 1.3.33, which explicitly shows that when the sUtra
bhAshya was written, there was NO kshatriya ruling who could have been called a world
emperor. I refer to the sentence,

"idAnIm iva na anyadA api sArvabhaumaH kshatriyo 'sti iti brUyAt, tataS ca rAjasUyAdi
codanA uparundhyAt" - if one says, "just like nowadays, there is never any time when a
sArvabhauma (world emperor) ruler exists," then one would obstruct the rule about the
Rajasuya etc.

As such, the inference is very clear that Adi Sankaracharya lived at a time when no king
in India could have been really described as a world emperor. 

>Sringeri record did mention about Vikramarka's reign related to the birth of Adi sankaracharya.
>Then there is mention in other texts about the Nandana year and 509 BCE was indeed a Nandana

Again, it is not proved that this record absolutely refers to the Vikramarka whom you
date to 457 BCE. In fact, given the above internal evidence in the sUtrabhAshya, it is
much more likely that the record indicates a local ruler named Vikrama, rather than a
world emperor named Vikramarka/Vikramaditya. I will leave aside the nandana year
reference, because the texts that give that year name all have problems of their own. 
In any case, you haven't still taken into account the other argument I've presented
about what reference year to take into account, when assigning dates to available
historical records.
> As you can see there is a strong case for the 509 BCE date too. In fact somebody should unbiasedly look at the date and at that time he or should should completely forget that he or she has any soft corner for any of the Sankara mathas and Adi Sankaracharya would have appreciated that had he been with us today. 
> Regards,
> sunil KB

I would invite proponents of the 509 BCE date to first adhere to this request of forgetting 
their bias towards or against any of the contemporary Mathas.
I rather think that if Adi Sankaracharya were with us today, he would really appreciate
us if we paid better SraddhA towards his bhAshyas and other granthas, and if we didn't
enter into endless arguments about relative dates in Indian history. As such, his own
writings give us quite a few clues about the historical times he lived in, but nobody seems
to be interested in them. I have mentioned merely one reference above. Instead, everyone
wants to make unwarranted inferences from all sorts of other sources and in the process,
they forget the basic texts and references therein.

I hope it is very obvious to all that these historical issues are futile in the pAramArthika
sense. Even in the vyAvahArika sense, they are ultimately futile, because the nature of the
problem is such that one will never have certainty and there will never be consensus and
there will always be room for interpretation according to one or the other additional piece
of evidence. Trying to achieve an artificial consensus for the 509 BC date, by twisting and
stretching the Sringeri record to imply what it doesn't say at all is absolutely unnecessary.
The vyAvahArika futility of the historical exercise can only be mitigated a little, if one is
prepared to accept that expectations of certainty are meaningless and if one is prepared
to adopt a keen critical eye towards a lot of different sources and if one is equipped enough
to deal with primary sources from varied quarters, instead of using secondary and tertiary
references. It is the kind of stuff that will keep a university professor employed or provide
a thesis topic for a PhD student or two, that is all.

ps. The same sUtrabhAshya reference I have mentioned above is proof enough against
those who keep talking of some king named sudhanvA, who is supposed to have given
a grant to Sankaracharya, inscribed on a copper-plate. 		 	   		  

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