Madhavendra Puri

Vidyasankar Sundaresan vidya at
Tue Apr 8 17:25:42 UTC 1997

On Tue, 8 Apr 1997, Jan Brzezinski wrote:

> At 03:24 97-04-08 BST, S. Vidyasankar wrote:
> >
> >
> >Excluding Vallabha and Nimbarka, who were both south Indians, the one
> >tangible medieval link between southern and northern vaishNavism is
> >rAmAnanda, who was from the SrIvaishNava sampradAya. 
> >
> I think that F. Hardy makes a rather good case that Madhavendra Puri was a
> Southern Vaisnava with strong leanings to an emotional bhakti as exemplified
> by the Alvars. Since clearly he was not a Madhva or a Srivaisnava, then what
> was he? From the Caitanya-caritamrita, it is clear that Caitanya's group
> included primarily both householder and sannyasi disciples of Madhavendra or
> Isvara Puri. The Sannyasis were nearly all Puris or Bharatis. Kesava Bharati
> also probably belonged to this group of Vaisnavas in Sankarite disguise.

Which makes it all the more curious that the Gaudiyas explicitly claim a
connection with the Madhvas, and strenuously deny any links to an advaita
tradition. Any contemporary advaita monk would be labelled a Vaishnava or
a Saiva or a Sakta in Sankarite disguise. For a few centuries, the
followers of Sankara have tended to be inclusive, encouraging different
kinds of karma and bhakti oriented religion. So, I don't think the
designation "Vaishnava in Sankarite disguise" means much. Madhusudana
Sarasvati was one such, and it becomes moot whether these people were
Vaishnavas in Sankarite disguise, or Sankarites in Vaishnava disguise. 

That said, there have always been many southern Sankarite sannyasis who
are steeped in Vaishnava bhakti. One example is Girvanendra Sarasvati
(also known as Bhagavannama Bodhendra) of Kumbhakonam, who wrote advaita
treatises and is also credited with codifying the bhajana sampradAya in
the south. Milton Singer and T. K. Venkateswaran are good sources for this
tradition, which they call the "rAdhA-kr.shNa bhajana" sampradAya.
Interestingly, this bhajana sampradAya regards Caitanya very highly. 

> There is clearly a phenomenon here about which little is known and about
> which little has been written. Hacker, I believe, wrote about Vaisnava
> influences on Sankara, and Daniel Sheridan has written a book about the
> advaita strands of belief in the, which is clearly South
> Indian in origin. Maadhavendra Puri was clearly a hybrid of sorts who grew

Yes, there are whole chapters in the Bhagavata Purana which clearly teach
advaita. But let us leave alone the topic of Vaishnava influences on
Sankara himself aside. That is an entirely different issue, and can be
debated forever. Madhusudana Sarasvati's influence in his native Bengal is
probably a much more important factor for Gaudiya Vaishnavism than any of
Sankara's texts. 

S. Vidyasankar

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