[Advaita-l] [advaitin] Works of Sri Vidyashankara

Sunil Bhattacharjya sunil_bhattacharjya at yahoo.com
Tue Jan 3 00:11:04 CST 2017

Dear Venkatraghavanji,

Good you could get the paper. I however agree with Prof. Karmarkar. Further it appears to me that the  the Bhagavadgita-bhashya was written by the great scholar Sri Shankara (Nava-Sankara, whom many advaitins consider as an incarnation of Adi Shankara). Shakara (also called Nava-Shankara or Abhinava Shankara)  lived in the 8th/9th century CE and he refuted the Bhagavadgita-bhshya of Bhaskar, who lived in the 8th century CE. 

Sunil K. BHattacharjya

On Mon, 1/2/17, Venkatraghavan S via Advaita-l <advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org> wrote:

 Subject: Re: [Advaita-l] [advaitin] Works of Sri Vidyashankara
 To: "A discussion group for Advaita Vedanta" <advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org>
 Date: Monday, January 2, 2017, 3:56 PM
 Dear all,
 Firstly, here is wishing everyone a very happy new year.
 Good news. I have managed to find the ABORI edition where
 Prof. Karmarkar's
 paper on the authorship of the Gita was published. Here is
 the link
 I was initially reluctant from sharing my thoughts on the
 paper with the
 group as I am in no way to qualified to question the erudite
 Professor, but
 I am doing so having consulted with some esteemed list
 members, who thought
 this may be of interest to a broader group. At the outset, I
 want to
 clarify that no disrespect whatsoever is intended to the
 Professor or his
 Having read the paper, I am sorry to say that I do not find
 the objections
 to Shankara's authorship of the gIta bhAshya convincing at
 all. I have
 tried to present the summary conclusions of Prof. Karmarkar
 and my replies
 1) One of Prof. Karmarkar's objections is that in the
 introductory portion
 of the Gita bhAshya, the whole description of Ishvara as
 NArAyaNa, VishNu,
 etc., the reference to the six-fold jnAna-aishvarya shakti
 of Ishvara and
 vaishNavIm svAm mAyAm,  do not appear quite in line
 with Shankara as an
 advaitin. The passage, he says, looks more apt in the mouth
 of a
 Vaishnavite or some follower of the Bhakti school proper.
 This does not seem to take into account the practice of
 advaita vedAnta at
 all - bhakti is very much accepted within the sphere of
 advaita practice
 and is viewed as a means for chitta shuddhi which is a
 pre-requisite for the gain of advaita jnAna. The
 acknowledgment of Vishnu
 as Bhagavan occurs in the Brahma sUtra bhAshya itself.
 2) Prof Karmarkar goes on to say that Shankara scarcely
 refers to VedavyAsa
 as Bhagavan and sarvajna in the Brahma sUtra bhAshya but the
 author of the
 gIta bhAshya does so. However, he does not provide the
 number of instances
 where VedavyAsa is referred to as sarvajna BhagavAn in the
 gIta bhAshya vs
 the sUtra bhAshya to prove his point - now, if the argument
 was based on
 the usage of the epithet in the gIta bhAshya and the
 scarcity of its usage
 in the sUtra bhAshya, then it would be important to justify
 that argument
 with statistics. Prof. Karmarkar fails to do so.
 From my search, the usage of the epithet "Bhagavan" when
 applied to
 VedavyAsa appears twice in the gIta bhAshya - once in the
 section (which is referred to by Prof. Karmarkar) and once
 in the bhAshya
 for sloka 2.21 (which is not). In comparison, the number of
 occasions the
 sUtrakAra is referred to as BhagavAn / Bhagavata in sUtra
 bhAshya is thrice
 by my count (once in BS 1.1.1 when Shankara calls the
 sUtrakAra as
 "भगवान्सूत्रकारः", once in BS
 3.4.8 as "भगवतो बादरायणस्य"
 and  once in
 4.4.21 as "भगवान्बादरायण
 आचार्यः".) Prof. Karmarkar fails to mention
 other two occurrences in the sUtra bhAshya, and says that
 uses this epithet in relation to BAdarAyaNa only once - in
 4.4.21. Even
 there he claims that, the use of Bhagavan is probably "an
 addition by some
 In fact, as we have seen, Shankara uses this epithet thrice
 in the sUtra
 bhAshya. One occurrence can be dismissed as the work of a
 copyist, but to
 explain away three instances is difficult. Therefore, Prof.
 statement that "To Sankara, Upavarsa alone is Bhagavan
 proper" is unfounded
 my view. Shankara's reference to vedavyAsa as Bhagavan is
 not out of
 character, given what we see in the Brahma sUtra.
 3) Prof. Karmarkar further states that the description of
 Ashvattha does
 not tally between the gIta and KaTha bhAshyas. He says "the
 most important
 point, however, is that 'अवाक्शाख:' is
 explained as
 शाखाभि:' " in the KaTha bhAshyam, whereas the
 same term is explained in Gita 15.1 as "अध:शाखं
 इवास्यधो भवन्तीति". Prof.
 Karmarkar says "It appears there can be no
 justification for such variation in the interpretations, if
 both the
 Bhasyas were by the same author".
 However, in the next verse Gita 15.2, while explaining the
 line "अधश्चोर्ध्वं
 प्रसृतास्तस्य शाखा" of the
 sloka, the author of the gIta bhAshya gives the
 meaning as "अधः
 मनुष्यादिभ्यो यावत्
 स्थावरम् ऊर्ध्वं च
 यावत् ब्रह्मणः
 विश्वसृजो धाम
 इत्येतदन्तं", which achieves the same
 meaning as the one
 given for the kaTha bhAshyam. Therefore, the difference in
 perceived by Prof. Karmarkar is because the explanation of
 the next gIta
 verse is not taken into account.
 4) The Professor then says that the reference to
 जलसूर्यक दृष्टान्त in
 bhAshya 15.7 is not relevant and that it is not in keeping
 with Shankara's
 tendencies, as he "usually uses  सृगजल,
 रज्जुसर्प and उपाधि
 However, there is an important reason why Shankara gives
 this example in
 this sloka. This is one of the bhAshya portions where
 Shankara presents
 both the AbhAsa vAda and avaccheda vAda as acceptable
 prakriyas within
 advaita siddhAnta. Therefore, the usage of
 जलसूर्यक दृष्टान्त should
 viewed in parallel with the usage of
 immediately afterwards, as two alternative views of the jIva
 within advaita siddhAnta. To complain that Shankara never
 uses the जलसूर्यक
 दृष्टान्त is failing to appreciate the
 true reason for the usage.
 5) Prof. Karmarkar points to sloka 13.12 's bhAshya that
 Shankara has split
 the word अनादिमत्परं occurring in the
 verse as अनादिमत् + परम् as opposed
 to अनादि + मत्परं which is Ramanuja's
 preference. Through this, he argues
 that the author of the shAnkara bhAshya did so in response
 to Ramanuja's
 commentary which must have preceded his. Therefore, Adi
 Shankara cannot
 have been the author of the gIta bhAshya.
 However, it is clear that the author of the gIta bhAshya is
 doing so in
 response to a commentary that is earlier than his (and not
 because in the shAnkara bhAshya, the pUrvapaksha
 interpretation  is
 described as अहं वासुदेवाख्या
 परा शक्तिर्यस्य
 तन्मत्परमिति. The pUrvapakshi
 is saying by matparam, what Krishna means is "Me, the one
 endowed with the
 highest power called paravAsudeva shakti". Shankar goes out
 of his way to
 name the shakti as वासुदेवाख्या
 परा शक्ति.
 Therefore, if the shAnkara gIta bhAshya had followerd
 RAmAnuja's, we
 would expect the specific name of the shakti to be present
 in RAmAnuja's
 bhAshya too. However, RAmAnuja does not specifically call
 this vAsudeva
 shakti, he simply says अहं परो यस्य
 तत् मत्परं.  Therefore, this
 specificity must have existed in some other pAncarAtra
 bhAshya of the gIta
 that Shankara referred to when he wrote the gIta
 Further, vedAnta desika, in commenting on RAmAnuja's
 bhAshya, quotes
 Shankara's bhAshya in introducing the section where RAmAnuja
 talks about
 Brahman being endowed with guNas
 (बृहत्वगुणयोगि / स्वत:
 परिच्छेदरहितं), with a view to
 refute Shankara's point that nirguNa Brahman
 is being referred to in this verse.
 Another point to be noted is that RAmAnuja translates sat
 and asat as kArya
 and kAraNa, which is the meaning that Anandagiri gives -
 which is a simpler
 interpretation of the sloka. Shankara could simply have used
 this meaning,
 instead he takes a different meaning -  sat as
 existence and asat as
 non-existence. Prof. Karmarkar states this must be from
 RAmAnuja's Brahma
 sUtra bhAshya. He does acknowledge that it may be some other
 prior bhAshya
 that Shankara had access to, but states there is no evidence
 of such a
 Professor Daniel Ingalls, while remarking that BhAskara's
 commentary is
 vociferously, even caustically different from Shankara's on
 certain sUtras,
 also states that it is remarkably similar on several other
 sUtras. This
 leads him to conclude that there must be a vrittikAra, a
 which both of them have based their commentary on. This is
 in line with the
 traditional view too. In my view, this could be the same
 source from which
 RAmAnuja bases his brahma sUtra commentary too, explaining
 the similarity
 of language between the gIta bhAshya and RAmAnuja's sUtra
 6) Prof. Karmarkar also complains that the author of the
 gIta bhAshya
 "ignores completely the first adhyAya of the Gita (46
 slokas) and 10 slokas
 of the second Adhyaya" and that "this goes against
 Shankara's method of
 explanation" as  "in the case of the various section of
 the Upanishads
 where even small introductory AkhyAyikas are introduced". It
 unthinkable, he says that Shankara could have given only a
 very inadequate
 and short reference to the introductory portion of the
 a) Firstly neither Shankara has ignored the stated portion
 nor has he
 omitted giving an introduction to the gIta. In fact he has
 written an
 upodghAta bhAshya introducing the gIta, after which he
 summarises the verses that he has not commented upon, to
 present only the
 message that is relevant to that topic at hand. What is the
 point in
 writing page upon page commenting on which Kaurava and
 Pandava warrior blew
 which conch, etc when that is completely irrelevant to the
 central message
 of the Gita?
 b) Secondly, Shankara does have form in ignoring portions of
 text that are
 not of much relevance. For example, in the vaitathya
 prakaraNa of the
 mANDUkya kArika, Shankara ignores kArikas 2.20 to 2.27 in
 his commentary
 completely. Therefore, it would be incorrect to assert that
 comments on every word of every text for which he writes a
 c) Thirdly, the Professor remarks that some of the
 commentary of Shankara
 in the gIta bhAshya is puerile, and that he is stating the
 obvious in doing
 so. It appears that whatever the author of the gIta bhAshya
 does, he is
 damned in the eyes of the Professor. If Shankara comments on
 passages where there is little room for commentary, the
 Professor remarks
 that the commentary is puerile. If Shankara then ignores
 descriptions of
 battle formation, names of warriors and their paraphernalia
 as irrelevant,
 the Professor says that Shankara is ignoring the text.
 7) Finally, there are a few minor nits that the Professor
 picks on, such as
 Shankara not using the same name for the Gita in many
 places, or that he
 does not name the devayAna / pitryAna in Chapter 8's
 commentary, or that he
 sometimes refers to himself in the singular in the gIta
 bhAshya but at
 least in my view, these are not major flaws that would
 necessitate a
 conclusion questioning the authorship of the gIta itself.
 In light of the above, I believe that the objections of
 Karmarkar's to Shankara's authorship are not very
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