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SankarAcArya is arguably the most important philosopher in the history of advaita. The story of Sankara's life is recounted in traditional works called Sankara-vijayams. SankarAcArya's guru, govinda-bhagavatpAda, was a disciple of gauDapAda. Just as SankarAcArya is considered to be an incarnation of Siva, govinda is popularly regarded as an incarnation of AdiSesha.

It is SankarAcArya's interpretation of the source texts of vedAnta that lays the foundation for classical advaita. It is also largely because of Sankara's composition of bhAshyas on the brahmasUtras, upanishads and the bhagavad-gItA, that these three have become important in all vedAnta literature as the prasthAna-trayI.

The following bhAshyas (commentaries) are his principal compositions: [1]

  1. upanishad (Sruti prasthAna) bhAshyas on
    • aitareya upanishad
    • bRhadAraNyaka upanishad
    • ISa upanishad
    • taittirIya upanishad
    • kaTha upanishad
    • chAndogya upanishad
    • kena upanishad
    • muNDaka upanishad
    • praSna upanishad
    • mANDUkya upanishad and kArikAs
  2. bhagavadgItA (smRti prasthAna) bhAshya,
  3. brahmasUtra (nyAya prasthAna) bhAshya.

In addition to the upanishads in the list above, SankarAcArya also quotes the kaushItakI, SvetASvatara, mahAnArAyaNa, jAbAla, paingala and a few other upanishads in his brahmasUtra bhAshya. There are bhAshyas on SvetASvatara, kaushItakI and nRsimhatApanI upanishads, the attribution of which is doubtful.

Sankara is also said to have written texts in other Indian philosophical traditions. There are texts on yoga, like the yogasUtra bhAshya vivaraNa and a commentary on the adhyAtma paTala of the Apastamba dharmasUtras, [2] and commentaries on the vishNu sahasranAma and lalitA triSati. A sAm.khya work called jayamangalA and a nyAya work called sthirasiddhi are also attributed to him.

A large number of advaita treatises, called prakaraNa granthas, [3]are also usually attributed to Sankara. There is doubt within modern critical scholarship, regarding the authorship of these works. It is possible that works of later advaitins have been assumed to be those of Sankara himself, as his successors in the various maThas have also come to be called SankarAcAryas. However, the living advaita tradition itself views the prakaraNa granthas as Sankara's own compositions. These works are often used to teach beginners. The important ones are:

  1. upadeSasAhasrI
  2. Atmabodha
  3. aparokshAnubhUti
  4. daSaSlokI
  5. SataSlokI
  6. vivekacUDAmaNi
  7. vAkyavRtti
  8. pancIkaraNa

Other such compositions include svAtmanirupaNam, tattvabodha, ekaSlokI, yogatArAvalI, svarUpAnusandhAnam, Atmapancakam and prapancasAra. A few stotrams (hymns) are also attributed to Sankara. These range from the famous bhaja govindam hymn to the dakshiNAmUrti stotram. There is a large number of sub-commentaries to Sankara's works, called TIkAs, TippaNis, vArttikas and dIpikAs, which will be noticed in the section on post-Sankaran advaitins.


Last updated on May 5, 1999.

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