[Advaita-l] Adi Sankara's Birth Date

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Fri May 6 12:32:38 CDT 2011

> Adi Sankaracharya mentioned that it is like saying thyat the barren woman's son was king before the coronation of Purnavarman and recent research indicates that Purnavarman or Hala was oindeed  coronated in 494 BCE. Assuming that Adi Sankaracharya was born in 509 BCE his age in 494 BCE was 15 years and he was yet to write the Sutra-bhashya. Thus there does not appear to be any  "Visangati" or discrepancy in  Adi Sankaracharya's referring to Purnavarman's coronation in the past tense for considering his birth year to be 509 BCE. My curiosity is to know whether the proponents of the date of 788 BCE tried to find out which Purnavarman Adi Sankaracharya was referring to.  

Indeed, there would be a discrepancy, if you think it through.

If Purnavarman/Hala was coronated in 494 BCE and if the then 15
year old Sankaracharya had not yet written the sUtrabhAshya, then
he wrote the sUtrabhAshya within the next 17 years, i.e before 477
BCE, as he lived only for 32 years on earth. What happened to this
Purnavarman and his empire in those 17 years, to justify a comment
that there was no sArvabhauma ruler in his times (as perr sUtra
bhAshya 1.3.33)? Indeed, what prevented Sankaracharya from
referring to this Purnavarman as a sArvabhauma ruler within recent

Proponents of the 8th century CE date have indeed discussed the
Purnavarman sentence. See discussion in Kunjunni Raja's papers
for instance (late head of The Adyar Library, Chennai), or the book
by Sri R M Umesh on the date of Sankara. There is a lot of material
that has been discussed already.
> I  was reading the Brahmasutrabhashya in the mid nineteen sixties and at that time I had the curiosity to know about Adi Sankaracharya's date and all that I could gather at that time was that he was born in the 14th year of the reign of king Vikrama and that the date was 44 BCE and that after Sureshwaracharya there was a big gap of 700 years for the next name of the mathadhipati in the Guruparampara list. Thereafter it all changed and the Sringeri now says that the year is 788 CE. There must be some reason for abandoning the earlier views. That is the curiosity.
> Regards,
> Sunil KB

Again, please note the Sringeri Matha's stance, which has been very
consistent throughout. They have the paramparA, which has 36 names
to date. That has never changed. They have given dates for all the 
AcAryas in the list in the post-Vidyaranya period, for which a lot of
historical evidence is available. For the AcAryas in the pre-Vidyaranya
list, have accepted the dates given by historians whose conclusions
have been found to be credible. For a while, all historians assumed
that any date reference to Vikrama would indicate the Vikrama Samvat,
so the Sringeri authorities gave the 44 BC date. When later historians 
provided a different interpretation of this Vikrama reference, that 
removed the extremely unlikely 700 year period assigned to Suresvara,
and therefore the Sringeri Matha administration has given up the 44 BC
date. That is all.

If any credible historian can prove all the contentious points of history
and provide convincing reasons for rejecting the 8th cent CE date, then
the Sringeri dates can be re-examined. I'm sure the Sringeri Matha will
be the first to re-examine the issue, if there is convincing reason to do
so. The previous Jagadguru Sankaracharya of Sringeri said as much,
in the discourse, the text of which Sri Subrahmanian posted a year ago
and mentioned again in his posting a couple of days ago. If dating Adi
Sankaracharya to 5th cent BCE is all that important to a group of people,
the arguments for that date have to be a lot more convincing than 
hitherto presented. Merely appealing to Indian sentiments and the
 charm of ever-increasing antiquity is not enough. That is ultimately
only jingoism. Merely bad-mouthing Max Mueller and Western scholars
is not enough. That is merely more jingoism. Merely repeating the unique
abhinava Sankara legend as if it were history or commonly accepted
tradition is not enough. This story is not at all common legend, and for 
every such story, there are ten other competing stories providing a
different view. Merely pushing the Buddha's date to 19th cent BCE is not
enough. There is no rule that specifies the number of centuries between
Buddha and Sankara. Merely repeating that this or that other Matha gives
a much longer list is not enough either. There are lots of complications
all along those lists that need to be first addressed. All of the above put
together is not enough either, because the totality is merely a house of
cards. It comes down very quickly! 

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