on zankara's date - 2

Vidyasankar Sundaresan vsundaresan at HOTMAIL.COM
Thu Mar 23 02:32:10 UTC 2000

Being a Tamilian myself, I am highly intrigued by the parallels that keep
cropping up between Sankara's hagiography and Tamil Saiva legends. However,
I would like to err on the side of caution, as I think mythic themes have a
way of rapidly travelling far.

Take the case of Sankara's debate with Mandana Misra. The former is a monk,
the latter is a householder. Sankara enters Mandana's home during an annual
Sraaddha ritual, and they banter about for a while before entering into a
serious philosophical debate.

It all sounds highly Hindu/Brahminical, with a vivid description of the
tension between ascetic and householder. Recently, I found from Robert
Thurman's "The Central Philosophy of Tibet" that a very similar report is
found in 16th c. Tibetan texts, about a debate between Aryadeva and
mAtRceTa. Here too, an ascetic visits a householder's home during an annual
Sraaddha ritual, and engage in similar banter before getting into a debate.
> From what I can make out from Thurman's account, even the quips about being
shaven-headed and the rest of the word-play seem quite similar. I don't know
if such a story is found in older Pali accounts.

What is the direction of indebtedness? Has the late Tibetan author taken up
an Indian Hindu theme and cast it into a Buddhist legend, or has the
follower of Sankara taken a Tibetan Buddhist theme and given it a Vedantic
spin on the householder vs. ascetic tension? Or is it that what is central
to both accounts is precisely this tension, that is present in all Indian
religions? I wonder if there is a similar story from some Jaina source, and
I wouldn't be surprised to find one. The specific doctrinal aspects of these
accounts could then be secondary, and we might want to point to a cultural
aspect of Indian society. Similar things could be happening with other
mythological themes too. Deriving geographical and historical information
out of them is quite tricky.

Venkataraman Iyer wrote:

>  The Madurai 'sangapalaka' legend briefly mentioned in the late text
>is likely to come from Srivaishnavism very prevalent in Satyamangalam.
>More on this later.

Intriguing. Do elaborate on the relationship between Srivaishnavism and the
Madurai sanghapalaka reference. Satyamangalam is of course important in
stories of Ramanuja's life also, but it is quite close to the TN-Karnataka
border, not in Madurai. It is Veerappan land nowadays.

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