[Advaita-l] Whom did Shankara consider a Guru?

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Thu Sep 22 13:05:02 CDT 2016

There are at least two or three clues we get from Shankara's works to find
out what he considered or would have no objection to consider a given
entity as a Guru.

There is the famous Manīṣā panchakam which says 'if a person has this firm
conviction that he is Brahman and not the anātman, I hold him to be my Guru
irrespective of whether he is a Brahmana (dvija) or a chāṇdāla.  This
alone, that is, being established in that conviction, Shankara considers
what is required for being a Guru.  There is no mention of daśa nāmī,
śrotriyatva, etc. In fact one cannot expect a chandala guru to be a

This work is considered by the followers of Shankara as a genuine work of
his. It is, along with the background of its composition by Shankara,
mentioned in the Mādhavīya Shankara Vijaya of the 14 CE and has several
commentaries. Advaita sampradāya Acharyas study and teach this work.

Next, in the Bhāṣya Shankara has given very great importance to
'śiṣṭāchāra'.  I have cited the very many instances Shankara invokes this,
in earlier mails. The central point to this is: 1. If some practice is
followed by/approved by śiṣṭas, that is enough reason for one to emulate
them. 2. That practice should not have been censured/faulted by śiṣṭas,
then also it is safe to follow it.

The above has a basis in the Taittiriya Upaniṣad: ye tatra brāhmaṇā
sammarśinaḥ...' where the Upanishad teaches one to follow the methods or
advice of the śiṣṭas 'there', 'then', whenever he is in doubt as to the
method of performing a karma or conducting himself or following a
particular course of action.

Now, in the case of Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi, all the above criteria are
eminently satisfied.  His not being a daśanāmi sannyāsin is no
disqualification; there have been many non-sannyasin teachers in the
Upanishads/Puranas. No one knows who was the guru of Ajatashatru or
Vamadeva. In fact Shankaracharya himself is not known to have had any
daśanāmi name attached to his name. [These names are - bhAratI, sarasvatI,
sAgara, tIrtha, purI, ASrama, giri, parvata, araNya and vana.]  No one
knows what monastic name he had; his two commentators Sureshwara and
Padmapada do not refer to such names.  In fact Sureshwara says Shankara
belonged to the Atri lineage (gotra).

Also, most importantly, the Acharyas whom the world looks upon as having
come in the line of Shankara sampradaya have had nothing to censure in the
case of Ramana; they only held him in high regard.

I also wish to point to two other cases here.  There was a great saint by
name Sridhara Swami in Sagar, Karnataka. He is extremely popular in those
parts.  His life and teachings are worth studying. He was not a sannyasi
with any daśanāmi name. The earlier Sringeri Jagadguru was visited by him.


//As the saying goes, “the Good always over-powers the evil”, the evil of
baseless criticisms and other odds that came his Shridhar's way, was
over-powers by his greatness as the most devoted Bramha-Nishta which was
accepted by all his contemporary saints and sadhaks. Swami Shivananda,
Swami Chinmayananda, Shri Gulvani Maharaj, Swami Swarupanand, Satya Sai
Baba, *Shringeri Sankaracharya,* Shri Karpatrikarji to name a few. Shri
Shridhar Swamiji always said, “Dutt ani mi vegla nahi (Dutt and I are no
two different forms.)

Next, I wish to mention the name of a saint who very recently passed away.
He was popularly known as 'Sakkarāyapatṇa Avadhūta'. He was a householder.
There is a large following for him and the present Jagadguru of Sringeri
has even visited his place and holds him in high esteem. This person was
not a sannyasin.

I pointed out these two cases, as a sample, for the 'śiṣṭāchara' pramana
that Shankara has held in high regard.


More information about the Advaita-l mailing list