on zankara's date - 2

Vidyasankar Sundaresan vsundaresan at HOTMAIL.COM
Tue Mar 21 02:05:41 UTC 2000

Sudalaimuthu Palaniappan <Palaniappa at AOL.COM> wrote:

> >  Madurai does not otherwise have any significant traditional connection
> >  Adi Sankara's life. The city is not even mentioned in the more
> >  hagiographic texts.
>But there was no Tamil caGkam in Madurai in the 16th century. Its revival
>(under Panditturai Tevar?) is about 4 centuries later. As far as I know, no
>Tamil tradition mentions a Madurai debate with a visiting zaGkarAcArya.
>leads us to two possibilities.

The single verse in the SankarAbhyudaya is very meager evidence. The verse
does not necessarily indicate the kind of cankam that ancient Tamil land was
famous for. "sanghapalaka" in the verse seems to be just a generic reference
to a seat of honor, and chosen to evoke a memory of times long gone. I
suppose it could have been something as simple as an Advaitin monk
discussing Tamil with a poet attached to a Saiva Adheenam. After all, there
is a substantial Advaita literature in Tamil, with a pronounced Saiva slant,
from around the same period. There are also a few monastic institutions that
were born around the same time, combining Sanskritic Advaita and Tamil Saiva
elements, e.g. Koviloor Mathadheenam.

>1. The tradition refers indeed to Adi zaGkara. In that case, the fact that
>was not mentioned by other texts may be due to the authors not being
>conversant with all the details.

That presumes there were some in and around Madurai who were conversant with
details that had been lost elsewhere. I find that somewhat hard to believe.

>We have two other stories about zaGkara modeled after the stories of Tamil
>zaiva saints.

Hagiography is very fluid, and there are some standard themes that recur.
For example, Dattatreya is always depicted with four dogs, representing the
four Vedas. And Siva often appears in the most surprising places, and often
subverts the assumptions of the social order.

Re: entering a dead person's body (parakAyapraveZa), this is a Yogic
accomplishment mentioned in Patanjali's Yogasutra, definitely a pre-Sankaran
text. However, in all the Skt. hagiographies on Sankara, this legend is
invariably linked with a reference to Matsyendranatha and Gorakshanatha,
revealing a rather Hathayogic background to how and why Sankara is also
claimed to have demonstrated his ability to enliven another person's dead

Given that almost all extant older hagiographies of Sankara were written by
south Indians, I don't doubt that these authors were influenced by Saiva
legends, deliberately or unconsciously. However, as for Advaitins trying to
attract Smartas with a leaning towards Saivism, see the salutations of
Sankara in the writings of his own direct disciples. Both Suresvara and
Padmapada compare Sankara to Siva. Notwithstanding Hacker's conclusion about
Sankara's Vaishnava identity, I think from the earliest times, there was a
substantial Saiva component among those who followed Sankara's teachings.
Perhaps this is also consistent with the fact that it was most often the
Vaishnavas who offered other interpretations of the Vedantasutras in
post-Sankaran times.

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