Madhava, Vidyaranya, Sringeri, and Kulke

Vidyasankar Sundaresan vsundaresan at HOTMAIL.COM
Thu Jun 8 00:00:49 UTC 2000

Sudalaimuthu Palaniappan <Palaniappa at AOL.COM> wrote:

>When Madhva broke from advaita tradition, it is possible he was interacting
>with adherents of advaita. That does not mean that they were part of a

It is more than possible, it is certain. His hagiography says that his guru,
Acyutapreksha, handed over the control of his own matha to Madhva, and was
himself converted from Advaita to Dvaita, because of the force of Madhva's
arguments. Thus, the guru is said to have become the disciple of his own
disciple. If not for Madhva, we probably would not even know of a
pre-existing Matha in Udipi, although the said Matha was transformed from an
Advaita institution to a Dvaita institution.

>(As Zydenbos asked, do we have any evidence that Madhva broke from a
>If that were the case, then should we not assume that when Ramanuja broke
>from yAdavaprakAza, there was a maTha in Kanchi in the 11th century?

Yes, Yadavaprakasa's matha, not an Advaita Matha. Yadavaprakasa was most
probably a bhedAbheda-vAdin. Again, as with Madhva and Acyutapreksha,
Yadavaprakasa is said to have eventually submitted to Ramanuja, so whatever
institution he may have headed was clearly converted to a Srivaishnava

>to him. When teacher-disciple linkages can be established as between nandi
>and meykaNTAr of the saiva tradition, why not between Sankara and

Just to clarify, doesn't Saiva tradition relate Meykantar directly to Nandi?
Or are there intermediates between the two? In any case, it doesn't matter,
because the origin myth would have to be associated with whoever is named
immediately after Nandi.

The case with Sankara and Vidyasankara is different. Firstly, Sankara is not
a wholly mythical creation of later Advaitins. He was a historical person,
in flesh and blood. Between Sankara and Vidyasankara, there are a few names.
Secondly, the mythical origin of the lineage goes back to a time before
Sankara. Gaudapada is said to have been a disciple of Suka, the son of
Vyasa. Leaving aside whether there was one person called Gaudapada or many,
this is admittedly ahistorical. It relies upon the myth of Vyasa and Suka
being ciranjIvin-s. Therefore, by the time one gets to Sankara, the myth of
origin is already old, by at least a century. It is perhaps even older,
because through Vyasa and Suka, we are taken back to the old Rishi,
Vasishtha and to the gods, Brahma and Narayana. A different strand takes the
lineage back to Siva, who is supposed to have imparted the Upanishadic
Mahavakyas to Suka, as found in the Sukarahasyopanishad. This is where the
mythical origins of the lineage lie, not in the legends about Sankara and
Vidyasankara. But this is not any more mythical or less believable than the
origins of various gotras from Bhrgu and Angiras.

>As for the seal of Vidyasankara, Rigopoulos says that one side of the seal
>contains the impression of a boar, while the reverse shows the impression
>Sri Vidyasankara. Unless the seal mentions the Sringeri maTha affiliation
>this Vidyasankara, one cannot assume that the case for Sringeri maTha
>existing in the 13th century is proven. Does the Sringeri maTha use the
>sign as its emblem?

The boar sign was in use till recently. AdivarAha is also said to be the
deity of the southern AmnAya. After Independence and the adoption of the
Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment Act(s), the legal status of every
Matha is that of a charitable trust, answerable to the respective Charity
Commissioner's office for administrative details. The old seal has thus
become irrelevant for purposes of official communication.

More interestingly, the boar was the royal emblem of the Hoysalas in the
12th-13th centuries, and of the Chalukyas before them. In later times, it
was adopted by the Mysore Wodeyars. Again, there seems to be a prehistory to
the relationship between Advaita monks and Vijayanagara royalty. It is not
an entirely new development in the 14th century.

>guruparamparAprabhAvam by pin2pazakiya perumAL jIyar. The vaishnava text
>which deals with the lineage of teachers does not mention any Sankara

Why should it? The Srivaishnava lineage of teachers is quite different from
that of Sankara's followers. Does this Vaishnava text refer to Saiva
Mathas/lineages or to the contemporary Madhva institutions and monks?

>In the prefatory section, the advaita text praises kOvindamAmun2ivan2
>(Govindabhagavatpada) in one verse followed by Sankarabhagavatpada in the
>next verse. It does not praise any head of an advaita maTha.

Is the 13th century date of this Tamil Advaita text well authenticated?

But take the case of the commentary on vivekacUDAmaNi, written by Sri
Chandrasekhara Bharati of Sringeri (1912-1954). After Govinda and Sankara,
his invocation verses simply salute a "nRsimha guru", with no mention of his
guru's status as the Mathadhipati of Sringeri. And nowhere in his commentary
does he refer to his own position as the head of the Sringeri Matha either.
That he was the head of an institution, and that this reference to a nRsimha
guru is to his predecessor on that seat, depends solely on evidence external
to the text. You don't even get the full name of the teacher in the work of
the disciple. A few centuries hence, this may well be cited as the absence
of textual evidence for a Matha in the 20th century. And if information gets
lost, a future researcher could well question whether the author of this
commentary was the head of any Matha at all. A similar case obtains with
Vidyaranya and Bharatitirtha. In the numerous texts they wrote, manuscript
colophons do not refer to their Matha. But for the inscriptional evidence,
we would not know about a Sringeri Matha in the 14th century. There is an
internal logic to this attitude of Advaitins, that deemphasizes
identification with place and time, as far as their texts are concerned.

Get Your Private, Free E-mail from MSN Hotmail at

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list