Understanding Advaita Vedanta

Questioning Authenticity of works attributed to Adi Sankara

Updated on: 20th September 2015

Part V, Page 1/3 - Questioning Authenticity of works attributed to Adi Sankara


This is Page 1/3 of Part V.

This part attempts to show the reason why some scholars do not consider the works attributed to Adi Shankara are genuinely acharya's creation and finding limitations in their adopted process for critical examination of works.

Table Of Contents

Updated 20th September 2015


Are all the works attributed to Adi Sankara bhagavadpAda actually his compositions?

There are over 400 different works attributed to Adi Sankara. Many eastern and western scholars have raised their concerns about the works which are attributed to Adi Sankara are actually composed by the great acharya. There are several reasons for these assumptions. Hymns, stotras, stutis, etc are not voluminous works. Westerners may not have any hidden motives, but researchers, by nature, are extrovert unless they are Self Realized. An extrovert person who believes in logical reasoning cannot imagine something that their mind cannot comprehend, nor they can accept things that do not seem to be practically possible, comparing their ability and the extraordinary effort and time needed to compose those hymns. Genuine enquiry is welcome.

It is not in my capacity to find the truth behind the authenticity of works attributed to Adi Shankara. This page is created to know the reasons behind such doubts, so that at least we can understand the basis on which the doubt is created. Attempts are made to give simple logical explanation in support of works attributed to our AchArya Adi Sankara bhagavadpAda.

Critical analysis of Adi Sankara's authorship over vast works attributed to him can be broadly classified into two reasons

  1. A person cannot change writing style and thinking pattern (this includes the main philosophy taught by him as he cannot change his basic philosophy, which has become a part of his life itself).

  2. In short life span, a person cannot compose around 400 hymns, stotra-s, independent grantha-s and commentaries. Hence later AchArya-s who hold the title of SankarAcArya must have composed them.

We will try to understand these objections and give possible answers.

Let us now try to understand what methods are used to determine authenticity of attribution of works attributed to Adi Shankara Bhagavadpada

Methods of evaluation for determining authenticity

There are certain parameters and rules according to which works are tested. There are three types of works

  • Commentaries / Sub-commentaries

  • Independent hymns, stuti-s and stotra-s, which includes those related to his biography.

  • prakaraNa grantha-s

Methods of evaluation mostly include

  • Colophon (Introduction to a chapter e.g. intro of different chapters in Gita BhASya)

  • Writing style, Chanda, Meter, Terminology, Grammar, etc used

  • Sub-commentaries by famous successors of Advaita tradition citing reference of his works. E.g. Siddhanta bindu is a commentary by Madhusudan Sarasvati on dasasloki, manasollasa is commentary by sureSvarAcArya on daxINAmUrty stotra

  • Historical facts relating to incidents in his life as mentioned in Adi shankara’s biographies like Sankshepa Madhaviya Digvijay or Ananadgiri’s PrAcina-Sankara-vijaya

Major works are of westerners who just think logically without meditating and so they do not get proper insight. Some critics have biased mind. Natalia Isayeva’s work is published in a book titled 'Shankara and Indian Philosophy' (found here, refer pg 101 [1]), Reading 5-10 pages gives you an idea on the way of analysis. On page 101 (110 in pdf file), she mentions three types of debates, vAda, jalpa and vitaNDa. She declares that it is vitaNDa that appears to have been particularly prevailed in advaita polemics. One can understand the mindset of these type of critics. For the sake of understanding, let us under what these three words mean, as explained by Kanchi Paramacharya. (sanskrit words are not spelled as per transliteration)

The word "vada" itself is nowadays wrongly taken to mean stubbornly maintaining that one's view is right. As a matter of fact it truly means finding out the truth by weighing one's view against one's opponent's. It was in this manner that Sankara held debates with scholars like Mandanamisra and it was only after listening to the other man's point of view that he arrived at non-dualism as the ultimate Truth. Vada means an exchange of thoughts, not a refusal to see the other man's point of view. To maintain that one's view of a subject is the right one without taking into account the opinion of others is "jalpa", not vada. There is a third attitude. It is to have no point of view of one's own and being just contrary: it is called "vitanda". Source & Credits

[1] Update: Link updated, file mentioned in earlier link was deleted by scribd.

A copy of Book is attached at the bottom of this page.

We would like to make a note that not all western indologists, Orientalists and fact finders try to malign Hinduism. There were and are good westerners who dedicated their life in understanding Hinduism and projected our dharma in a positive way. One such name is Arthur Avalon (Sir John Woodroof) who defended tantra-s. He was not just an analyst but a tantrika practitioner who studied tantra-s and practised under guidance of able guru-s. Another name is Professor John Grimes. He defended advaita and the authorship of Vivekchudamani which is questioned by many critics. We must give credits to them too.

From example of Natalia Isayeva (and Wendy Doniger), we can understand that not all authors are neutral in their approach. In past, systematic planned attempts were made to denigrate our dharma.

Conspiracies by East India Company, Asiatic Society and Max Muller

<content shifted to Conspiracies by East India Co, Max Muller, Wilson, Jones and others>

To add fuel to fire, questioning authenticity of works attributed to Adi Sankara were first questioned by westerners and they took the lead in critical study. This sparked the fire within Indian scholars and rival sampradAya-s too exploited claims made by western scholars.

Lets continue our analysis of Authentic works of Adi Sankara.

Brahma Sutra BhASya as de-facto Standard for comparing works

The de-facto standard adopted by westerners is to compare works with that on commentary based on Brahma sutra, which they conclude is undoubtedly authentic work of Adi Sankara. If any work appears contradictory to Brahma Sutra bhasya by any means, then it is rejected as unauthentic. Sadly, since the work attributed by Adi Shankara is claimed to be of dubious authority, the entire work, it's philosophy, underlined principle and it’s content are rejected. Apart from Adi Shankara there are many works by later acharyas which are very useful in understanding advaita like Naiskarmya Siddhi of Sureshwaracharya, Panchadasi and Jivan Mukti Viveka of Vidyaranya Swami.

brahma sutra, the topmost canonical text

It is a fact that brahma sUtra is a top level text for a vedAntin. It is studied last after mastering gItA and upanishads. After one has contemplated on upanishads and meditated the advaita way, still if there is any confusion e.g. s/he may find virodhAbhAsa i.e. contradictory statements in different upanishads say, one upanishad is saying something and another is contradicting the earlier upanishad, then such confusion gets cleared by contemplating on brahma sUtra-s under the guidance of a guru. AchArya who is well versed in brahma sUtra, and is capable of clearing doubts in our shAstra-s is considered as an authority. Such great AchArya-s are very few. Not all can write commentary on brahma sUtra. Anyone can question commentary of AchArya and AchArya must be able to defend his/her views. If AchArya fails to do so, his commentary is discarded and s/he loses all honorific titles like 108, 1008, mahAmaNDaleSvara, etc. During Adi Sankara's days, if s/he gets defeated in debate, then he must accept the views of rival AchArya and must become his disciple.

A great example is the debate between maNDana mishra and Adi Sankara mentioned elaborately in sarga 8 of ShrI Sankara digvijaya of mAdhava vidyAraNya svAmI (S.D.V.). Debates may take hostile turn, but this was not the case with Adi Sankara. In this debate, a female, ubhaya bhArati, wife of maNDana mishra, was chosen as a referee. She asked both Adi Sankara and maNDana mishra to wear fresh garlands and then begin the debate, and said that the one whose garland loses its freshness would be declared as the loser! (S.D.V. 8.68) Why? Because if one gets angry, the body will develop heat, and, as a result, the flower garland will lose their freshness in that heat. Anger within is a sign of defeat.

Commentary of vedAnta sutra (brahma sUtra) is of different genre, targeted to different audience, precisely to very advanced sAdhaka-s who are well versed in tradition and are sufficiently inwardly pure with strong vairAGYa and mumukshutva. All four primary qualities - viveka, vairAGYa, SaTasampatti, mumukshtva are cultivated in their hearts to a great extend. They are uttama adhikAri-s (the best amongst sAdhaka-s). Adi Sankara didn't asked laymen or a pandit to write sub-commentary on vedAnta sUtra.

An Interesting Story ...

There is an interesting story behind composing sub-commentary in sarga 13. The first offer to write sub-commentary made to sureshvarAchArya (maNDana mishra) (S.D.V. 13.3). Adi Sankara considered sureshvara to be sufficiently inwardly pure to write the sub-commentary (vArtika) on his commentary on brahma sUtra bhAshya.[1]

Other disciples objected saying that since sureshvara was a mimAmsaka, a hardcore ritualist in this pre-monastic life, he might not do justice in further explaining Adi Sankara's commentary, as advaita is based on renunciation of action. They further argued that unlike padmapAda who had surrendered himself at your lotus feet and as a result of thy grace his ignorance was removed is the best suited. padmapAda recomended hastAmalaka, as he was a GYAnI. hastAmalaka recommended padmapAda. Disciples said that they didnt have any jealousy for anyone, but sureshvarAcArya had taken sanyAsa because he was defeated in shAShtrArtha (debate), but he might not have surrendered your heart to you.

AchArya Sankara peacefully replied that it is true that hastAmala is a great GYAnI, but he stays only in Atma-sthiti, the supreme non-dual state of Self-Realisation. It is not possible to write anything in this state.

To avoid further conflict, sureshvarAchArya surrendered AchArya-s commentary back to AchArya. AchArya then asked padmapAda to write sub-commentary, but not vArtika. But this doubt was needed to be uprooted. Hence AchArya asked sureshvara to write an independent grantha of advaita nature. Soon sureshvara, composed 'naishkarmya siddhi' and surrendered it at the lotus feet of his guru. This text was accepted by all and with this acceptance, doubts about sureshvara's true understanding of advaita faded away.

Importance of vArtika

There are many types of sub-commentaries. Their job is to further clarify and explain the commentary. None can contradict the main commentary written by Adi Sankara. If it happens, views explained in sub-commentary on that verse is rejected as Adi Sankara is the supreme authority and his opinion are considered as final. In this unique tradition, the only sub-commentary that can contradict the main commentator is 'vArtika'. Hence vArtika is highly revered can be critical of the views of original commentator. sureshvarAvArya is the only vArtikakAra amongst AchArya's disciples. He alone enjoys this status and is reverentially called as 'vArtikakAra'. Surely the advaitins were not vitaNDavAdin-s (those adopting vitaNDa way of debate)

Debate (vAda), a medium to clear doubts

In S.D.V. it is said that sureshvara while debating with Sankara bhagavadpAda realised the truth and with heart he accepted sanyAsa and GYAna mArga. For sureshvara, debate was a medium to clear doubts.

[1] Note: In a sanskrit movie based on biography of Sankara bhagavadpAda, following incident is shown. The author could not find this incident in S.D.V. It must be taken from other biographies. Since Joshi Math, Kanchi Math and other SankarAchAryas have seen this movie and authenticated it, this incident must be true. As per the movie, Adi Sankara wished sureshvara to write a commentary. This was done when sureshvara one day observed some brAhmins performing animal sacrifice. Out of compassion, they had replaced animal meat with wheat flour. sureshvara witnessed one such yaGYa being performed. He realized that even replacing meat with floor didn't purify the mind. Be it animal or wheat floor, the intention of killing doesn't change. Hence the purpose is not fulfilled by substituting meat with floor. He discussed this with Adi Sankara. Adi Sankara happily concluded that now the sanyAsa is cultivated within you. sanyAsa is a 'state of mind' and 'not a way of living'.

vArtikAkAra, a shining example of transformation

Life of our vArtikakAra is a shining example that as one matures spiritually, thinking pattern changes. The reason for this change is opening and expanding 'inner eye (of wisdom)'. As mind is purified, inner reflections change. With inner realization, the perception changes and so does the attitude, the way of living.

A hardcore, celebrated mimAmsaka (ritualist), accepted sanyAsa as he was strong and pure enough to accept the truth behind our AchArya's logical words which were in-turn backed by the power of direct experience and guru's and Ishvara's blessings. The new life was completely opposite to that he earlier lived. But the opening of inner eye made this change possible. Second change was the incident of animal sacrifice.

madhususan sarasvatI, a unique example of transformation

madhusudan sarasvatI (MS) is a unique examples of transformation of heart. MS was an adept in dvaita, navya-nyAya and was highly influenced by Sri chaitanya mahAprabhu. He wanted to refute advaita. In order to acheive his goal, MS learned advaita under Sringeri SankarachArya. But as he learned it, not only his doubts cleared but he realised that it is the advaita siddhAnta that is the ultimate reality. As a repentance to his act (of learning advaita with the intention to later refute it), MS took sanyAsa as a eka DAnDI sanyAsI. Soon MS became a celebrated name in dvaita-advaita polemics. MS defended advaita and made it thorn-free. He defended works of other pUrvAchArya-s too. Yet MS remained devoted to his ISTa-devatA bhagavAn krShNa. MS in his gItA commentary chapter 6 has quoted patanjalI yoga sUtra-s along with vyAsa bhAshya. His gItA commentary also has bhakti in it. In this way, MS is a unique example of transformation.

Difference between brahma sUtra and prakaraNa grantha-s

Coming back, commentary on brahma sUtra is for advanced sAdhaka-s and not for masses. On the other hand, prakaraNa grantha-s are for beginners hence they are written in different genre, in a simple way. Unlike commentary on brahma sUtra, the AchArya while composing a prakaraNa grantha does not take it for granted that the reader is well-versed in the tradition and is sufficiently inwardly pure to understand the inner meaning. AchArya composes prakaraNa grantha-s for beginners. prakaraNa grantha-s explain basic concepts of vedAnta. Hence it is not difficult to understand that the author adopts a different writing style.

Composing hymns ...

When it comes to hymns and composing poetry, the poet can change his style of writing. Soaked in ecstasy, with heart overflowing with devotion and tears flowing from eyes and rolling on the cheeks, a poet saint in transcendental bliss, can compose hymns saturated with devotion and glory of the almighty. Ishvara puts such high-souled devotees in a blissful divine state. Ishvara himself gives inspiration and words to compose. Such hymns have the strength to spread far and wide, and touch hearts of all those who come under it's influence. Such hymns stir heart & soul, instilling devotion in all.

How can one person have equal reverence for more than one form of God?

While it is true that a devotee can be in transcendental bliss and can sing glories of his chosen deity, question arises how can a devotee who has surrendered his heart and soul to rAma may compose hymns to Siva or even to krShNa?

Lets try to understand why a devotee generally do not compose hymns on deities other than his/her ISTa devatA.

A script writer, depending upon his intellectual ability, can shift gears and can write plays, drama and movie scripts which are completely different than the author's previous writings. In case of spirituality, it is not only intellect, but intense intimacy and spiritual bonding experienced by a devotee for his chosen personal deity and also for the philosophy that s/he follows. Hence when one has poured heart and soul in worship of his/her chosen deity, it is difficult to imagine that another form of God is equally supreme as that of his/her chosen God. Even if by God's grace one does not try to prove superiority of his/her chosen deity and siddhAnta, still s/he will find it difficult to eulogize another deity as supreme brahman due to intense meditation focused on chosen deity that too following a particular methodology.

This doubt is very genuine and needs to be addressed. It is practically possible in select few to compose hymns to more than one deity. The answer is their spiritual maturity and God's grace.

As one progresses spiritually, negative emotions fade away. There is no hatred for other forms of God, hence there is no attempt to denigrate their status. Other deities are absent for them. It is just pure devotion to one form of God. As one progresses, devotion increases. Devotion is a quality. A Siva bhakta has same intensity of devotion for Siva that a rAma bhakta has for rAma. Upon reaching certain maturity, if a rAma or a krShNa bhakta listens to Siva bhajan-s his heart will be filled with devotion. This happens spontaneously all by the grace of God. A devotee need not do anything by himself. His life is controlled by Ishvara. Ishvara himself cultivates devotion for other deities. A rAma bhakta may not need to worship or practice japa of Siva in order to instil devotion in his heart. Hence for a select few blessed souls, Ishvara attracts their hearts for more than one form of God. When their heart is completely filled with devotion of rAma, they compose hymns dedicated to rAma. The same Ishvara then instils devotion for Siva in his heart. Now, the heart is completely filled with devotion to Siva. A devotee will spontaneously create hymns for Siva.

Composition of hymns can also be verified from historical records, local legends and from various biographies.

Works verified based on historical facts...

Some works can be verified on historic facts connected to his various biographies. Sometimes, even biographies are accused of being corrupted. It may be true that some biographies written by later acharyas are corrupted, but Madhaviya Shankara Digvijaya is considered as the most authentic extant biography on Adi Shankara. Even if we take into account some interpolations here and there, not everything written about Adi Shankara is wrong. Even if one incident like composing hymn 'kanakadhArA stotra' on Goddess Laxmi, it opens new doors to AchArya-s philosophy.

Kanchi Paramacharya has confirmed composition of various hymns by relating Adi Sankara's biography with historical facts.

Paramacharya says, "We find it here upon historical fact the creation of "Sivapadadi-kesanta stotram" and "Sivakesadi-padanta stotram" and Saundarya lahiri"

Paramacharya further says,

"Sankara's yatra to Kailasa, the abode of Lord Siva, is one of the most notable events in the history of the Acharya. During the course of his peregrination in the Himalayan region, Sankaracharya desired to have darshan of Sri Paramesvara having his abode in Kailas. Sankara managed to reach Kailas quickly because of His yogic power. He had darshan of Lord Paramesvara and Devi Parvati. According to tradition, Sankara adored Paramesvara by singing two hymns, known as "Sivapadadi-kesanta stotram" and "Sivakesadi-padanta stotram". Immensely pleased with Sankara's prayers, Paramesvara blessed Sankara, presented him with five sphatika (crystal) lingas and instructed him to arrange for the worship of the lingas for the sake of the welfare of the universe, indicating also the mode of worship. Paramesvara also handed over to Sankara the palm-leaf manuscript of Soundarya Lahari, which is noted as Siva's own hymn in praise of the Parasakti.

From available biographical information, it is learnt that Sankaracharya placed one of the five sphatika lingas got at Kailas and kept the Yoga Linga for his own personal worship and that of his successors at Kanchi.

Bhagavatpada Sankara got Kanchi city remodeled and also caused the reconstruction of the three principal temples of Kanchi, viz., the temples of Sri Ekamranatha (a form of Shiva), Devi Kamakshi (Sri Yantra / Shakta) / Mantra Sadhana ==> tantra) and Sri Varadaraja (a form of vishnu) with the assistance of Rajasena, ruler of Kanchi. Sankara consecrated the Srichakra before Devi Kamakshi and thereby secured Her bounteous grace for devotees having Her darshan."

We have already understood that a author can adopt different writing style. We will now try to understand more about it.

Explanation for different writing style than Brahma Sutra BhASya

While genuine enquiry is welcome, the intention behind every enquiry is not always noble. Sometimes, it is the lack of intellectual understanding by scholars, as none could be compared to Adi Sankara in any terms - authority, grammar, compositions or writing style, as Adi Sankara had mastered many arts, Vedas, 14 adobes of knowledge, chandas, meter, etc. Vivekchudamani has more than one chand. Before Ech sloka has a dedicated Chanda in which it is supposed to be sung is mentioned.

From his biography, we know that Adi Sankara mastered all arts. To interpret different shastras like Mimamsa and Nyaya, one has to think from one level. While practicing Mantra Yog, one has to adapt different philosophy. While interpreting Advaita and Ajata Vada, one has to rise to that level and talk from that standpoint.

'Reject' and 'neglect'

Many who have read advaita suferficially have the understanding that advaita rejects everything as 'mithyA'. However, this assumption is not true. Advaitains do not reject anything, it 'neglects' everything.

Kanchi Paramacharya says,

"Advaita or non-dualism is in agreement with Mimamsa up to a point. It accepts Vedic karma as well as the six pramanas (perceptions or sources of knowledge) defined by Kumarilabhatta. Sankara's non-dualism, Ramanuja's qualified non-dualism, and Madhva's dualism are all Vedantic doctrines and all three are not against Vedic rituals. While non-dualism accepts all the six pramanas of Mimamsa, qualified non-dualism accepts only three- pratyaksa, anumana and the Vedas. I will explain these terms when I deal with Nyaya.

The three leading Vedantic teachers (Sankara, Ramanuja and Madhva), do not completely reject Mimamsa, but the paths they have cut out go beyond the mimamsic view: devotion in the case of Visistadvaita and Dvaita and jnana in the case of Advaita.

Mimamsa is called karmamarga since it teaches that karma is all. But karma here does not have the same meaning as in Vedanta which speaks of the three paths- karma, bhakti and jnana. In Vedanta karma is not performed for the sake of karma and is not an end in itself, but consecrated to Isvara without any expectation of reward. This is also karmamarga or karmayoga. It is this view of karma that the Lord expounds in the Gita. In the karmamarga of mimamsakas there is no bhakti. But, all the same, the Vedic rituals create well-being in the world, lead to a disciplined and harmonious social life and bring inner purity to the performer. Mimamsa holds karma to be a goal in itself; Vedanta regards it as a means to a higher end. " (source and credits)

Similarly, neglecting anything or any concept does not mean that any phenomenon is non-existent. Lets understand this with an example of kunDalini.

An advaitin though s/he considers kunDalini as an illusion, may very well have experiences of rising kunDalini. Upon divine command if such blessed soul shifts focus of sAdhanA from advaita to kunDalini yoga, then one will start giving importance to kunDalini, chakra-s, nADI-s and vAyu-s. As a result of giving importance the attention shifts to kunDalini and chakra-s and one begins to have divine experiences related to kunDalini and chakra activation.

We have saints who have talked on both dvaita nd advaita, on bhakti, as well as GYAna. Some have also given importance to karma kANDa. Some names are madhusudan sarasvatI, appaya dixita (dikshita) and sridhara svAmI. We will talk of these AcArya-s later.

Hence shifting the levels and changing thinking pattern is practically possible.

As explained earlier, the different style of writing in prakaraNa grantha-s is because their purpose is to explain basic terms and concepts of advaita, which of course should be written in easy language. Since each and every person is on dvaita on practical ground, hence neti-neti, the core philosophy and ajata vada of Gaudapadacharya cannot be explained to a beginner. Basic concepts are to be explained in a way so that a beginner can understand. Writing style would definitely change. It is not fair or reasonable to compare the writing style of a prakarana granth with that of Brahma sutra bhasya.

As far as composing hymns is concerned, we have already dealt with the topic earlier. The idea is to cover all types of people so that upon maturity, a seeker can turn towards advaita. Advaita is not for everybody. By abiding in Self (GYana), one uproots desires by staying detached from anAtmA (Non-Self). But what about those who cannot establish themselves in GYAna-sthiti. Beginners cannot even detach themselves from their body. For such devotees, others paths are described and propagated by the same AchArya.

jagadguru's task was not only to write commentary and preach just one siddhAnta (advaita). His job was to unite India and make people of all kinds of temperament to follow dharma. At the same time, he has to make sure that all seekers would one day reach the same ultimate destination. Promoting a different siddhanta is reflected in his final teachings and his commentary on Tai. Up. 1/11 (satyam vada, dharma chara, …), where our AchArya promotes vedic rituals until one gets sufficient inner purity. For this he has to take into consideration mindsets of different people and compose hymns praising deities they worship. Without devotion, any kriyA or oblation offered in yaGYa is meaningless. All spiritual activities without bhAva (emotional attachment towards God) are mechanical. AchArya toured the entire length and breadth of India. Hence he was able to understand the mindsets of people of north India, south India, east and West India. He also understood the mindset and ability of laymen and scholars of different varNa-s. Hence acharya promoted panchyatna puja and shanmata to unify the whole of India.

The reason for choosing 10 upanishads to comment is unknown. As per my understanding and study, which is admittedly very limited, I can say that one of the reason is that all ten upanishads, that achArya chose to comment teaches us traditional method of adhyAropa apavAda. We have seen this in a page dedicated to this philosophy. These ten upanishads are also mentioned as principle upanishads in muktikA upanishad. Other upanishads may focus on one thing like praising one deity like atharvashiras upanishad praising Lord Rudra. Other upanishads are dedicated to explain certain concepts like akshamAlikA upanishad, teaching us the importance of rudrAksha beeds.

Ignoring the multi-talent ability of siddhA-s

History has recorded that there are many prominent personalities in all kinds of fields who have good grip over more than one subject. There are many multi-talented saints can easily change thinking patterns. Many saints are artists proficient one or more form of art like singing, playing musical instruments or painting or composing devotions hymns.

Earlier, we have understood from example of our vArtikakAra that as one matures spiritually, thinking pattern changes. We will further try to understand why a person can change his thinking pattern, change writing style and write on a topic which does not comply with his main philosophy (siddhAnta). Later, we will give examples of few such saints and AchArya-s who are shining gems of sanAtana dharma. Please note that the names are picked up in random manner as writer's memory recalls.

Lets understand how it is possible to adopt a different writing style.

Explaining ability to adopt different philosophy or writing style than main philosophy

Earlier, in the section, 'How can one person have equal reverence for more than one form of God?', we have already understood how it is possible to compose hymns on more than one form of Ishvara. For advaitins, it is easy than for Siva or viShNu bhakta-s. the reason is that advaita sits on karma kANDa which believes in multiple form of deities. shruti-s, smriti-s and purANa-s too do not adhere to simple deity. All advaitins were earlier smArta-s. In smArta sampradAya, five forms of Ishvara are considered as equally potent and manifestations of supreme brahman. Hence for an advaitin, it is easier to have devotion to more than one form of Ishvara.

One may argue- advaitins consider the form of Ishvara as mAyA and as an illusion. How can an advaitin be interested in form of Ishvara? There are many factors for an advaitin to compose hymns on deities. As we move ahead, we will find that gradually answers ger unfolded. We will have to read full article.

For time being we will attempt to give short answer. The reason is, as mentioned earlier, advaita sits on karma kANDa. If we remember the updesha of Kanchi Paramacharya. Here is an extract from the same -

Kanchi Paramacharya says,

"The three leading Vedantic teachers (Sankara, Ramanuja and Madhva), do not completely reject Mimamsa, but the paths they have cut out go beyond the mimamsic view: devotion in the case of Visistadvaita and Dvaita and jnana in the case of Advaita.

...karma here does not have the same meaning as in Vedanta which speaks of the three paths- karma, bhakti and jnana. In Vedanta karma is not performed for the sake of karma and is not an end in itself, but consecrated to Isvara without any expectation of reward. This is also karmamarga or karmayoga. It is this view of karma that the Lord expounds in the Gita ..." (source and credits)

Kanchi Paramacharya says, that karma and it's fruits are surrendered to Ishvara. Hence in vedAnta, bhakti is involed. Without bhakti there can be no surrender. bhakti is the foundation upon which GYAna rests. One shifts to advaita after attaining the sufficient inner purity. The pure mind does not loose bhakti. Bhakti exists, but the approach is different. An advaitin does accept higher authority. An advaitin adopts a bhAva of 'abheda' (non-difference) between him and Ishvara.

Here the word 'Ishvara' or 'bhagavAn' might be a misnomier. This is explained in separate section ''Meaning of the word 'bhagavAn' as given in bhAgavat purANa 3.32.31-33'' in article ''viShNu and caturbhuja viShNu''. An advaitin does not imagine a form of Ishvara say krShNa and meditates on him and his glories. When an advaitin says, 'meditate with abheda bhAva', it means there is non-difference between the suddha svarUpa of Ishvara which is formless, attributeless brahman. An advaitin does not say, I am not different from krShNa and I can replicate his deeds, his lIlA-s (Leela, divine sports) like lifting govardhan parvata (mountain), etc.

visiSTAdvaita and dvaita are accepted upto certain point

From the POV of his glories, it cannot be replicated. From this POV, as far as personality of Ishvara is concerned, both philosophies, visiSTAdvaita and dvaita are correct in it's place. A jIva is in essence similar to that of Ishvara as it is created from Ishvara. Hence jIva is qualitatively same, but quantitatively different. An analogy of drop and ocean is given in support of this claim. dvaita is correct from it's POV too. Outwardly, each soul is different, it is unique. brahmA jI is highly evolved soul according to dvaitins. They take into account the personality of jIva. Hence the mind is also taken into account. Each soul is unique from this perspective

Kanchi Paramacharya says that both visiSTAdvaita and dvaita are accepted upto a point. From vyavahArika level (empirical reality, practical reality), both are true from their standpoint.

We will now come back to our main topic - How can a person adopt different writing style and change his thinking pattern. Most common point that is ignored is the spiritual evolution due to intense meditation.

Spiritual evolution is often ignored

The most important factor is the spiritual heights that saints have reached as a result of their sAdhanA. In order to throw light on the importance of spiritual achievement making it possible to adopt different writing style, we must briefly understand spiritual path from meditative POV and the internal changes that one passes through as one progresses spiritually.

Since this is very difficult, I humbly pray to the supreme Goddess, mother mahA-trIpurAsundarI / kunDalini devi, the epitome of wisdom, the supreme Self, to guide me throughout this article. May her grace and infinite compassion flow through me and be the guiding light for all. Without Guru's blessings, nothing is possible, hence I pray to my Guru and param guru to grace me through this inner journey.

The spiritual path is such that we need to purify the mind. It is about transforming an extrovert mind into introvert mind. guru makes external mind introvert and Ishvara establishes introvert mind into heart (source of all).

Mind, which is made from mAyA has three guNa-s, sattva, rajas and tamas. Hence mind too has these guNa-s in different permutations and combinations in each one of us. Out of three sattva is the purest. As one progresses spiritually, percentage of sattva guNa increases. As sattva guNa increases, lower animal qualities like hatred, anger, revengeful attitude, grief, desire to achieve name, fame and glory, etc fade away. Hence there is no desire to spread the name, not even in the name of the Lord. Such divine souls do not take any kind of initiatives by themselves, not even for the upliftment of humanity. First they establish themselves in Atma-sthiti (in the state of Self Realization), then if God orders them to do some work, they do it with detached spirit leaving the fruits of the work upto God. Such saints are not bound by any law, any philosophy, they simply obey the command of God faithfully. It is God who gives them power and required knowledge and resources to fulfill his (God's) mission.

AchArya-s do not hold on to rigidity

AchArya-s are not themselves strongly attached to the siddhAnta-s as much as their followers are. We have not seen founding AchArya-s of different sampradAya-s questioning authorship of Adi Sankara. Neither rAmAnuja, nor mAdhva, nor SrI chaitanya mahAprabhu questioned the authorship of AchArya, though they disagreed with AchArya-s core philosophy of kevala advaita. It is believed that mAdhva used to teach advaita to those who showed interest (or were qualified to learn).

As one progresses spiritually, all kinds of orthodoxy, rigidity and even habit of logical analysis melts away. Mind is no more bound by any logic. This may be difficult to digest but it is a fact.

Conditional Surrender believed to be Unconditional Surrender

Initially, man's devotion is conditional. Even though one might think that his devotion is unconditional it is not true. A meditator feels this way when everything is happening in an expected way and one thinks that meditation is very easy. But when situation becomes adverse, say, there is too much of business loss, or there is no job for 1 year or if one becomes sick and the body does not gets cured, but on contrary, disease becomes more severe, or there may be too much of emotional stress due to clashes in family. in such cases, mind does not support meditating on God. Then one begins to makes effort (purushArtha) to solve the problem. At that time, status of mind is such that it cannot simply leave it to God and move ahead. When a sincere mumukshu (meditator having burning desire for moksha) passes through this experience, s/he realizes that 'my' surrender to God is 'conditional' and not unconditional. S/he also realizes that 'I' still have ego and that it is troubling me to fully surrender to God and making me to make Self Effort.

The Inner Journey ...

God makes such a mumukshu to pass through such experiences for his/her benefit, so that s/he can identify the obstacles, take required action and progress spiritually of course under the guidance of a (Self Realized) guru. It is experience of all sincere mumukshu-s, no matter whatever path they are following (dvaita, advaita, yoga, etc) that spiritual progress is completely dependent upon guru's and God's grace. Sri Ramana Maharshi says, "From the moment you get into the quest for the SELF and begin to go deeper, the real SELF is waiting there to receive you and then whatever is to be done is done by something else and you, as an individual, have no hand in it. In this process all doubts and discussions are automatically given up, just as one who sleeps forgets all his cares for the time being". We may progress spiritually with the help of logical analysis, but finally when mind is completely surrendered to God, in this divine state, intellect is absent. Before going to bed, you may give autosuggestions like 'I want to Sleep', 'my eyes are getting heavy', 'I am feeling sleepy', etc until you fall asleep, but will you repeat these autosugestions after you go to sleep? No. In the same way, in the divine state of unconditional complete surrender, there is absence of qualities like concentration (there is no need to make an effort to concentrate as mind is fully absorbed in thy beloved God or in Brahman), logical analysis, fear and even willingness to be at lotus feet of God, as you already are experiencing intense bliss due to the presence of beloved God. Likes and dis-likes fade away. All doubts fade away and with it logic. If there are no doubts, there can be no answers. It is just Peace and Bliss. Hence even the siddhAnta that one has followed fades away. In the end, bhakti is indeed 'blind' :), devoid of logic. Each mumukshu experiences divine transformation. S/he experiences that heart, mind and intellect gets gradually purified and as a result intensity of Bliss and deep peace increases due to getting closer to God and due to increase in vivek-yukya vairAGYa, shraddhA (faith) and samarpaNa (surrender) and of-course due to diligently practicing spiritual disciplines.

An Analogy ...

There are many paths in which supreme state of Self Realization can be reached. But the final destination is one and the same. Lets understand this with analogy. A huge mountain has a broad base, but has only one peak. The ways to reach them are many i.e. by walking from any direction one can reach the peak. Each path is unique and at some point, the path becomes dangerous. A person walking from northern side will experience a different route and scenery than a person walking on southern route. In this process, if a person traveling southern route is handed a map of northern path, will it be of any help to him? No. But as they climb higher and approach the peak, other paths become visible to him. Still a person does not quit his own path and start walking on another path, but begins to understand that there are other ways to reach the peak. After reaching to highest peak, which is only one, any person will have same universal view. Such a person, standing on the highest peak of Self Realization or God realization, as some say, can have a clear view of all paths that reach the peak. He can guide any one following any path, be it northern, southern, western or eastern and give advise accordingly. He will also caution against the dangers in each path which are unique to that path. Now imagine 4 persons write down their path guided by the same person and hand it over to another person who has not climbed the mountain, infact this person has no experience of climbing any mountain. Such a person is simply a bookworm gathering information based on experiences of others. Can such a person digest that same person has guided different people from different directions? Similar is the case with so-called scholars who themselves have not climbed to any one of the paths, has not passed through any spiritual experiences, still, simply based on their limited intellect try to critically examine writings and life of a divine soul whose mind, heart and intellect were transformed by the grace of guru and God and, as a result, has achieved salvation and gives different types of updesha-s to various types of audiences.

As one progresses spiritually, certain qualities are bound to cultivate and blossom within each one of us like faith, surrender, dispassion in worldly matters, etc. Various paths have their own problems and so certain precautions are prescribed. We will understand precautions prescribed by some paths later on. But the intention of giving such precautions is that one should not be sidetracked or get bound by divine experiences that one experiences during intense meditations. After attaining certain level of purity or say after crossing certain milestone, instructions change. Devotee becomes very humble, negative qualities are flushed out of him and such a person does not indulge in criticizing others with negative intention.

An example ...

With this background, lets understand the approach of 3 main paths, yoga, GYAna (advaita) and bhakti w.r.t to activation of kunDalini.

A yogI or a tAntrika will willingly awaken kunDalini devi and let her flow upward through suShumNA nADI. kunDalini reaches sahasrAra after passing through different chakra-s. A yogI will certainly experience this upward flow and activation of different chakra-s. But a GYAnI and bhakta may or may not have such an experience. A yogI cannot believe that progress is possible without activating kunDalini, but a GYAnI will consider it as mithyA and a bhakta will ignore it. Though technically a yogI is right, it is not necessary to willingly activate kunDalinI. As one progresses spiritually, chakra-s and nADI-s are cleansed automatically and kunDalini rises upwards without any conscious effort on the part of a GYAnI or bhakta. Both may very well experience this phenomenon, but their path does not give too much importance. Both of them patiently allow this experience to happen, bow to the supreme reality and pray to God to keep progressing spiritually, as such experience does not indicate the end of spirituality.

The reason for ignoring such a divine experience is not to condemn it, but because it can become a hindrance if one gets attracted towards it. If one gives importance to this experience, then next time, one will wish to have this experience and if it is not experienced, then the mental peace gets disturbed and so will be the meditation. To add to it if one keeps exploring kunDalini, chakra-s, nADI-s and the inner universe, one may easily get sidetracked from the main goal of Self Realization. It is not the path of a GYAnI or a bhakta to willingly activate kunDalini, but for a yogI, it is compulsory.

Change in perception due to progress in sAdhanA

During sAdhanA days, a sAdhaka is walking on a path, and hence s/he must observe some discipline and one-pointedness, but after reaching the destination, what is the need to observe these disciplines? They have served their purpose. Hence, the notion that 'only my path is true and God can be reached only through one path' dissolves along with the melting of the little ego. When such a person, reaching the peak of spirituality, comes back to a level that s/he can interact with society, then such a person can easily understand other paths.

By separating oneself from 5 bodies, one can have control over them. yogI-s say that after the consciousness shifts to higher body, it can control lower body. For example, if a yogI's consciousness ascends from prANamaya kosha to manomaya kosha, then it is very easy to control prANamaya kosha. Wise say that after one gets detached from thoughts and emotions, one can know the nature of mind and can control it. Hence it is very easy to control mind and change it's habits or way of thinking after one transcends beyond mind.

A soul may have done intense meditation in past life or past lives in more than one discipline. For example, he may have practised kunDalini yoga. In the current life, he was initiated into advaita vedAnta. His guru might not have taught him yoga, yet due to his vAsanA (impressions) in his past life, he can have experiences of kuNDalini awakening and rising through various chakras upto sahasrAra.

A divine soul blessed by guru and God, though used to practice advaita on a personal level to reach to supreme reality, can again come to the plane of a sAdhaka (from the plane of a siddha) and can adopt another approach. As mind is destroyed, so are all the notions along with it. When they return back to body consciousness, mind remains untainted from delusions. The ego is not the real one but a pseudo ego, as ego and mind are necessary to keep a connection with physical body., else body will drop.

Even if a person does not return to the state of sAdhaka, as explained earlier with the help of example, such a divine soul can easily understand other paths with utmost clarity, in a much better way than the sAdhaka-s practicing that path since many years.

The delay in reaching 'peak' is due to the obstructions. Spiritually speaking, our own mind is an obstruction. But for a siddha (GYanI, bhakta or yogI), there is no such obstruction. His / her kunDalini is already awakened. His chakra-s and nADI-s are already cleansed and purified. Mind is very pure. Heart is so much developed that it hankers constantly for God and none else. There are no negative qualities in him, no worldly desires that side-track mind. Hence if such an accomplished siddha adopts a different path, say from his main philosophy of advaita to yoga, then a siddha, by God's grace, can easily understand the path (due to deep inner vision) and amazing clarity due to direct experience of supreme goal that yoga text is talking about. s/he knows that yoga texts teach ways to reach about same reality (that he has already realized), but has a different approach. A realized soul, a siddha in any path, by grace of God can also have divine experiences similar to that a yogI or a bhakta or a GYAnI experiences.

Sticking to 'brahma satya jagat mithyA' is an error

The problem with advaita is that many understand it to be only 'brahma satya and jagat mithyA'. However this is not true. This topic is very vast and is out of scope as far as current topic is concerned. We advaitins accept shAstra-s and bhagavad gItA. Hence we too accept the existence of Ishvara, who sung gItA. It is not possible that the words of gItA are authentic but Isvara who sung it is an ilusion. The theory of illusion is for removing dependency of all that is not Ishvara, but one needs to take AdhAra of that which is beyond mAyA in order to rise above it. Ishvara is the only tatva that is capable of doing so. If anyone negates the existence of Ishvara then such a sAdhaka may not be able to progress spiritually. Extreme view about anything is harmful.

We have seen that advaita accepts karma and sAkAra bhakti upto a certain point. For this we have given examples of saints and the commentary on Tai. up. 1.11, satyam vada, dharmam chara. Adi Sankara lays same emphasis while commenting on gItA verses BG 3.3-4 where bhagavAn replies to arjuna's doubts regarding GYAna and karma. It is in these verses that bhagavAn has given two paths - path of action (karma kANDa) and path of renunciation (path of GYAna). Here too, our AchArya explains that until one attains sufficient purity, one has to keep practising karma with bhakti. bhakti is necessary as fruits of karma need to be surrendered. A person will definitely believe in the authority of veda-s and in existence bhagavAn as truth. Siva samhitA (S.Sam.1.20) too talks about two paths.

Hence advaita is a progression from lower truth to higher truth.

There are two types of shriShTi - jIva shriShTi and Ishvara shriShTi. Lets discuss them.

jIva shriShTi and Ishvara shriShTi

jIva shriShTi is that which is created by us. We create relationships. Ishvara has not send us in the world making us a father or a friend or a husband. We choose these relations. In the same way attachment to any person or an object is also a creation of mind. It is our mind that values one object than other. An example is the difference in valuation of Gold, Silver, Iron and Sand. Ishvara has not created any distinction between them nor do they objects themselves decide their own 'value'. It is our mind which creates differences among different objects. Staying biased towards one person, taking things on our own ego, etc are the creation of our own mind. Hence it is called as jIva shriShTi. Advaita asks us to remove this false notion, this illusionary world created by attachment. It is 'Me' and 'mine' that is the culprit.

Ishvara shriShTi is that which created by Ishvara. This includes graha-s (planets), nakshatra-s (constellations), 5 elements, rivers, ocean, mountain, Sun, Moon, etc. Ishvara shriShTi does not cause any obstruction in spiritual progress. Infact, it helps us. We all know that meditating in brahma muhurata is advised by all. If everything is an illusion, then why to believe in concept of brahma muhurata? It is the jIva shriShTi that is negated as it is illusionary.

As mind becomes introvert and pure, one is able to live on basic necessities. Mind does not demand anything special. Such a soul can easily contemplate on Brahman. Ishvara need not have a form. Even if form is ignored, it does not cause harm. Ishvara himself lifts the soul beyond his mAyA and establishes it in himself (brahman). It is the path that demands ignoring anything that is Not-Self. Why would anyone think of that which does not harm? Ishvara shriShTi causes no obstruction in spiritual progress. Later on, mind does not even think of mAyA or any shriShTi. Mind is totally focused on brahman. All else is non-existent in the mind of an advaitin. After Self-Realisation, when mind comes down and re-awakens, it experiences that this world is real, but is not different than Brahman.

mithyA and mind

We will try to understand why world is said to be 'mithyA'. When mind turns introvert and contemplates on brahman, all the vAsanA-s gets destroyed. Hence there is no more hankering for external objects. With physical body and five senses, mind cannot perceive anything. Mind experiences everything through senses. While science says that when light of external object falls on ceribral cortex, and forms an inverted images, brains registers the senses and interprets it. But according to shAstra-s, wise say that mind travels through senses up to the object and experiences it. It can be said that whatever one experiences is due to mind. Mind is a medium through which one experiences anything and mind takes help of physical body and indriya-s (five senses) to register an external objects. In other words, this world, as we see it, is nothing but a projection of mind. In the same way, the internal objects i.e. the dream world, any thoughts, images or scenes created by mind are entirely it's own creation. Each one will interpret one problem in different way, and hence will find different ways to solve the problem. Mind is unique. Each one of us is unique [character]. Here mind is used interchangeably with jIva. It includes the impressions (vAsanA-s) of past lives. Here we would mean mind to have a particular combination of three guNa-s - sattva, rajas and tamas.

Both external and internal worlds are nothing but the construct of mind.

haTha yoga pradipikA (H.Y.P. 4.58) also says the same. nAtha yogI-s do not consider this world as mithyA, yet they have this explanation. Siva samhitA (S.Sam.1.32-48), another haTha yoga text and patanjali yoga sUtra-s (P.Y.S. 2.22) also have the same opinion. Siva samhitA S.Sam.1.48 clearly says that this world is an illusion.

An introvert mind, focused on brahman, does not run after external objects. If mind does not register the object, it is as good as not present for that person. Hence this world, as we see is mithyA, as it is the perception of mind, which in-turn is coloured by the three guNa-s.

Are External objects plants, mountains, etc also mithyA?

The answer is, what matters is the presence of consciousness. When one is in dream state, or while day dreaming, solid external objects in front of our eyes are not registered by our brain. Hence for that person, that object is absent. Hence for an individual, the world is mithyA, but collectively, the world exist. The POV changes in collective consciousness as not all jIva live in same level of consciousness. Hence each one of us interpret same thing in different ways. Logically, that which is present at one time (even for an individual), but is absent for another time, cannot be called as eternal and hence are not true (as per BG 2.16). Hence the objects and the world are not absolute truth.

The question arises that we do not experience our True Self, but take our body as 'self'. so in that case even Self is not eternal. While this argument seems true, it is not completely true, as when one experiences the true Self, one realizes that the Self was never lost, it was always present and all that a person experiences or evaluates via mind, body, intellect or senses is due to the power of this true Self. Without the power of this true Self, one cannot experience anything. It is the basis of all. Hence the Self, though, at present, forgotten or hidden or is invisible and unseen, is the sole reason for us to experience anything.

Relative and Absolute Existence

Earlier, we have seen that it is our mind that gives importance to external objects and gives different grades according to it's use. We will understand this with examples to understand how the external objects are also mithyA i.e. they are not true. Everything in this world has relative existence and not absolute existence.

All social relations like father son, brother, etc are all classified under relative existence. A same person is father to one, brother to another, son to another and husband to another person. We will call this person as 1st person and other person as 2nd, 3rd and so on. The existence of relationship is dependent upon multiplicity. A bachelor cannot be called as husband. The only thing (tatva) that can exist without second is brahman. It shines by itself. Since all relationships are relative, hence the worlds created by relationship also come under relative existence. My house is my property and not anyone else property. An Unknown person cannot say that Mr. X's house is 'My House' as it is not his property. What is important is the intention behind building house. It is build with 'me and mine' attitude. Hence a sanyAsin is asked to renounce all relationships and attachments towards all external objects, property and person. Close relatives are considered as poison.

Now we will try to understand the illusionary nature of this world and why sanyAsins are told to avoid it like poison. We will understand this with with the help of story.

Once lived a sanyasin. He had a disciple. They both were wandering monks. One day, Guru asked disciple to meditate and live in one place until he returned from pilgrimage. Disciple obeyed him and started living near the end of forest, near village. Soon, he caught the eyes of villagers and they started visiting him and paying respect to him.

One morning, when he woke up he saw that his cloth was torn, eaten by rats. He had no other cloth to wear. So he decided to keep a pet cat. He got new cloth and a cat to keep a watch on mouse. For survival of cat, he need milk. So he asked someone to donate a cow. Cow needs fodder. One devoted man offered him a patch of land, but disciple himself had to do the farming and plough the farm. Soon he got tired up from hard work. He needed assistant and someone to help him. A devout villager offered his daughter to this sanyasin. In order to take care of his wife's needs, disciple had to earn money. So he started selling excess fodder and expanded his business. Soon he begot children. Years passed by. One day Guru returned. He saw that in place where he left his disciple, someone has build a big house. In order to enquire about his disciple, he knocked the door and was surprised to see his disciple !!!

Just one mistake of accepting cat made this yogi (monk) into a bhogi (householder). Had he not accepted cat, he could have still lived like a monk. the reason for accepting cat was the 'fear of shame' - if he had nothing to wear what would happen? What will the world think of him? Instead of leaving everything on Ishvara, he decided to care take of his belongings by himself and the result was that his yogic life was destroyed. Hence a sanyAsin should not submit to such mental impulses and emotions like fear, hatred, shame, etc. He ended up creating his 'own world' which could have been avoided by leaving everything to Ishvara.

Whatever is created is relative. It is our own creation which our own mind values. A big house is an asset for an householder and he may be a respected person in society, but for a sanyAsin, building big house is more of a curse then boon. It is liability and not an asset. One thing might be important to one person but not to another. It all depends upon our perception and what we value. All creation is relative and not absolute. Hence the truth is also relative truth. Absolute truth is not dependent upon anything. Wise say, it is only one tatva, it is brahman, the unborn supreme reality, pure consciousness, the substratum of entire universe.

If a pure mind considers this creation as mithyA, one can easily reduce importance of this world and it's objects, leave it 'as it is', accept this world 'as it is' without thinking too much on it. Mind which cannot stay without contemplating on object, now turns towards it's source which temporarily acts as it's object until it dissolves in it. With mind dissolved, ego too dissolves in 'source' loosing it's individual identity. In state of nirvikalp samAdhi, there is absence of both internal (mental) and external (worldly) objects. There is no time, hence there is no movement or an activity. There is no creation, there is no second one. It is just eternal bliss and peace, pure consciousness existing by itself.

We will now come back to explain the change in state of mind as it's keeps purifying due to intense meditation on brahman.

As one progresses, holding on to any philosophy melts away.

The reason for explaining about jIva and Ishvara shriShTi is, advaitins do not 'reject' anything. They just focus on Brahman. (attachment towards) Non-Self is destroyed through detachment. If mind does not hanker in this world (samsAra), then there is only one place after which it hankers - Ishvara or Brahman, as mind cannot stay without hankering. It needs anything to hold on to. As desires (vAsanA-s) are destroyed, naturally thoughts too gets destroyed. You don't get thoughts about that you are not interested in. Hence mind gets inwardly pushed towards it's source which is Brahman. Please understand that holding to any siddhAnta will also fade away, but at a much later state. Finally even the last desire of 'achieving moksha' or 'abiding in Self' also melts away. Such a soul has not attachment towards any philosophy, nor does the mind and intellect hold on to any logic. This state is difficult to understand and the author finds it difficult to explain. Certain state of mind can only explained via direct experience. Laymen cannot visualize it or comprehend it. Those who have experienced this blissful 'state of detachment' are capable of imagining this state of mind.

We have been talking about shifting thinking pattern and following different path than that of main philosophy. This is not just a theory, but we have many examples of great saints who were or are living examples of this trend.

Intense concentration, Intuitive Knowledge & ability to change thinking pattern of Realized Saints

Earlier we had talked about two types of objections -

  1. One cannot compose over 400 works in short life span of 32 years

  2. One cannot change thinking pattern and cannot contradict his own philosophy. Hence those works not in tune with main philosophy cannot be composed by the same AchArya.

We have examples of many saints who have contributed to different philosophies which they themselves have refuted at other places. Prominent examples are: vidyAraNaya svAmi, madhusudan sarasvatI, appaya dixita, GYaneshvara mahArAja, upanishad brahma yogin, annamAchArya, sAyanAchArya, abhinavgupta, and Sriram Sharma Acharya. Many saints were actively involved in composing hymns, independent grantha-s and writing commentaries which crossed their personal path.

Lets list their work in brief.

Examples of Saints who have contributed to more than one philosophy and had written vast literature

vidyAraNya svAmI (VS) is a shining example of multi talented saint who had composed volumenous works on different topics.

karma kANDa: He helped his brother compose commentary on all four veda-s,

dharma smriti: manusmriti vyAkhyAna

tantra: yaGYa tantra sudhAnidhi

shAkta text: Soundarya Lahari Tika, Lalita Sahasrnama Bhashya

Advaita prakaraNa grantha: jivanmukti viveka and panchadaSI

Advaita: Sub-commentaries on Upanishads, vArtikasAra

bhakti: Devyaparadha Stotra

Comparative Work: sarva darshana samgrah - displaying the knowledge about 16 different philosophies

Other works: sUta samhitA tAtparya dipikA (skanda purANa), Jaiminiya Nyayamala Vistara, Vaiyasika Nyayamala Vistara, Sri Yoga Vasishta Ramayana Sangraha (Laghu Yoga Vasishta),

panchadaSI is considered as manual of advaita. In panchadaSI, VS has accepted all forms of Ishvara like gaNesha, Siva, viShNu, etc as supreme brahman.

From his works like panchadaSI and sUta samhitA tAtparya dipikA, we can conclude that shrI vidyAraNya svAmI believed in Siva-viShNu abheda.

Complete list of works attributed to him can be found here

madhusudan sarasvati

madhusudan sarasvatI was an adept in navya nyAna. He is a celebrated name in dvaita-advaita polemics. Composed many works, showed Siva viShNu abheda in his unique commentary on Siva mahimna stotra. Each verse is explained in two ways. One glorifying Siva, another krShNa (Krishna). The only aim was to establish Siva-viShNu-abheda (detailed explanation). though he was deeply devoted to bhagavAn krShNa, he never denigrated status of bhagavAn Siva. MS in his gItA commentary chapter 6 has quoted patanjalI yoga sUtra-s along with vyAsa bhAshya. vyAsa begins his commentary on patanjalI yoga sUtra-s with invocation to the Lord of snakes, epitome of yoga, bhagavAn Siva. This indicates that one person can revere more than one form of Ishvara.

madhusudan sarasavtI (MS) is a shining example of being adept in the art of grammar and logic, a great krShNa bhakta, a yogI and a great advaitin defending his sampradAya's siddhAnta and works of his pUrvAchArya-s like SrI harsha's khaNDan-khaNDa-khAdya. Sringeri SankarAcArya SrI bhArtatI tIrtha pays obediences to him and svAmI brahmAnanda (who wrote a commentary on madhusudan sarasvatI's master peice advaita siddhi) advaita siddhi is a polimical work, refuting obbjections raised on advaita siddhAnta mainly on the concept of mithyA (illusion) and anirvachaniya mAyA (unexplainable quality of mAyA).

MS's works include:

Commentary on Gita: Bhagavad-gita-gudhartha-dipika (भगवद्गीता-गूढार्थदीपिका) - a unique and original commentary only next to Adi Sankara's gItA bhAshya.

krShNa bhakti: Paramhamsa-priya (परमहंसप्रिया - भागवताद्यश्लोकव्याख्या) - commentary on two verses of bhAgavat purANa

Bhagavata-bhakti-rasayana (भगवद्भक्तिरसायनम्)

Krishna-kutuhala-nataka (कृष्णकुतूहलम्)

Bhakti-samanya-nirupana (भक्तिसामान्यनिरूपणम्) (?)

Sandilya-sutra-tika (शाण्डिल्यभक्तिसूत्रटीका)

Hari-lila-vakhya (हरिलीलाव्याख्या)

Siva-viShNu-abheda: shivamahimnastotra-TIkA (शिवमहिम्नःस्तोत्रटीका)

Credits and Source

gItA commentary was composed after thoroughly studying Adi Sankara's bhAshya. It has elements of karma, bhakti (sAkAra bhakti), gYAna and even yoga.

In addition to his literary contribution, MS upon the request of Akbhar created a group of military monks called 'nAgA-s'. The reason for such creation is that many maulvis considered it their duty to kill Hindu pandits. Since Maulvis are religious leaders their acts do not come under the normal civil laws. In other words Maulvis enjoys protection for their evil deeds from Muslim rulers. MS approached King Akbhar who advised him to create an army Military Monks. In addition to this, King Akbhar amended the rules and excluded Hindu Monks from being tried under Civil Laws. He gave both Maulvis and nAgA-s Protection from Civil Laws. Now nAgA sAdhu-s could protect Pandits, children and women from ruthless assault of Muslims. This incident is totally opposite to an act of a saint. Advaitins and bhakta-s do not indulge into fighting. Yet situation demanded this step to be taken.

MS is a shining example of Siva-viShNu abheda, worshipping more than one Ishvara, be a krShNa bhakta and an advaitin. He wrote works on more than one topics.

appayA dixita (dikshita)

appaya dixita (AD) composed 104 works. Complete list is available at Shaivam.org. After going through the list, it can be concluded that AD was actively involved in polemical debates, wrote voluminous works on different topics. AD composed hymns dedicated to both Siva and viShNu. AD dedicated his life in defending Siva's supremacy. The sole reason as mentioned by him was that he never wished to denigrate status of viShNu. This sole aim was to defend Siva's supremacy.

viṣṇurvā śankaro vā śruti-śikhara-girāmastu tātparya-bhūmiḥ

na-asmākama tatrva vādaḥ prasarati kimapi spaṣṭam-advaita-bhājām |

kintu-īśa-dveṣa-gāḍhānala-kalita-hṛdām durmatīnām duruktīḥ

bhanktum yatno mama-ayam nahi bhavatu tato viṣṇu-vidveṣa-śankām ||

'I have not the slightest objection, to anyone coming to any conclusion, that the spirit of the Vedas and the Vedantas, declare either Vishnu or Shiva as the First God. I am a follower of the Advaita doctrine. I have no difference between Shiva and VishNu. But if in order to establish Vishnu as the main God, if somebody starts abusing Shiva or hates him, I cannot bear it. There are as many proofs or pramanas in the Vedas, Vedanta, Puranas and Agamas to establish that Shiva is a mighty God, as there are to prove that Vishnu is a powerful one. However, I am propagating my Vedic dharma and indulging in debate and disputation, only to persuade everyone not to hate Shiva. Let no one have the slightest doubt that I either hate or wish to denigrate Lord Vishnu simply because I praise the grace and greatness of Supreme Lord Shiva.'

AD too believed in Siva-viShNu-abheda. AD was an advaitin, karma kANDin and a Siva bhakta. He was a adept in school on logic.

GYAneshvara mahArAja

GYAneshvara mahArAja or GYanedeva, as he is reverentially called was also a multi-talented saint. He started varkari movement, a bhakti mass-movement dedicated to Lord viThThala (a form of viShNu/krShNa), composed amritAnubhava after he got initiation in nAtha yoga. In this work he praised Siva-Sakti as supreme brahman. His commentary in gItA, bhAvArtha popularly known as GYaneshvarI gItA is originally written in marathi language. It covers karma, bhakti (sAkara bhakti), GYana and kunDalini yoga. Like MS, GYanadeva too has explained kunDalini in chapter six of bhagavad gItA. His work chAngadeva pAshShTi is very popular. Devotional works like haripAtha (हरिपाठ) and various abhanga-s in marathi is also popular. abhanga-s are short hymns or poems of 4 two-line verses.

His legacy was carried on by saints like sant tukArAma, sant mukAbAI, sant nAmadeva, sant ekanAtha.

GYAndeva, who started varkari movement chanting names of hari and moving in crowds, left his physical body at will, at the age of 22. A yogI can leave his physical body at will by pulling prANa and apAna vAyu in suShumNA nADI and raising it to sahasrAra chakra. yogI raises prANa shakti further in the space merging prANa shakti into cosmos.

GYAnadeva is revered by vaiShNava-s, Saiva-s, nAtha yogI-s, tAntrika-s and GYAnI-s (advaitins) alike.

GYAnedeva is another example of great saint who saw Siva-viShNu abheda, covered all paths karma, bhakti, GYana and yoga.

upanishad brahma yogin

upanishad brahma yogin (UBY) or upanishad brahmendra is a honorific title of shrI rAmachandrendra sarasvatI associated with kAnchi matha. UBY wrote 45000 grantha-s. UBY is the only saint to write commentaries on all 108 upanishads mentioned in muktikA upanishad. UBY composed independent hymns praising his IStava devata rAma, Siva and other forms of Ishvara. He wrote commentary on brahma sUtra. In addition to this, UBY wrote prakaraNa grantha-s and wrote commentary on them too. More details about his life and works can be found here.

UBY, though a rAma bhakta has commented fairly on non-vaiShNava upanishads, i.e. Saiva, SAkta, yoga and sAmAnya upanishads. It is said that he laid great emphasis on OM.

UBY believed in Siva-viShNu abheda.

Other AchArya-s who wrote voluminous works are


annamAchArya composed and sang 32,000 Sankirtanas, 12 Satakas (sets of hundred verses), Ramayana in the form of Dwipada,SankIrtana Lakshanam (Characteristics of sankIrtanas), Sringaara Manjari, and Venkatachala Mahatmamyam.


sAyanAchArya is credited to write commentary on all 4 veda-s, a highly voluminous work. vidyAraNya svAmI helped him in this task. His veda-bhAshya (commentaries in veda-s) are considered as authentic by both eastern and western scholars.


abhinavgupta was a unique AchArya who composed a voluminous independent tAntrika work, tantraloka and wrote commentaries on it from three different standpoints, each one indicating the understanding according to level of evolution of consciousness.

Sriram Sharma Acharya

Sriram Sharma Acharya is a modern saint who wrote voluminous works on almost all aspects of life. He translated all 4 veda-s and 18 purANA-s. He wrote independent works on almost all aspects of life.

From above examples, we can conclude that a saint can change thinking pattern, praise more than one deity and can write works on other topics like nyAya or vaisheshikhA which they have themselves contradicted in some of their works. It is not an uncommon trend to write commentary on on different topics.

Sri Ramakrishna and Abhinav Vidyatheertha - Unique examples of practising different disciplines

We can see this in the life of Sri Ramakrishna who has practised multiple disciples, multiple philosophies and had successfully experienced the common divinity in them. He was a living example that all paths lead to same truth. Similar is the case with the AcArya-s of Sringeri maTha. Sringeri paramAcharya, Sri abhinava vidyAtirtha mahAsvAmI. He had practised different disciplines like hatha yoga, narmihma upAsanA, laya yoga, kunDalinI yoga, advaita sAdhanA (path of negation). Sringeri paramAchArya also had divine vision of bhagavAn Siva and ambA mAtA, the presiding deity of Srigeri SAradA maTha. His life is recorded in a book, 'Yoga, Enlightenment and Perfection of Sri Sri Abhinav Vidyatheertha Mahaswami'. More details can be found here. We would like to add the name of svAmI brahmAnanda, SankarAcArya of jyotir matha. He revived jyotir matha after 165 years. He was considered as an authority on shrI vidyA. swAmijI was an adept sAkta and an advaitin.

Examples of Intuitive knowledge

Sri Aurobindo once said - that realized people do not need to think, as ordinary folks do - there is no mental activity involved for them. All their knowledge is intuitive, it comes down directly without effort. That is how Sri Aurobindo wrote his major works. In fact Sri Aurobindo has specifically said that when the mind comes in the middle it ruins the task.

"In writing also thoughts may not pass through the mind at all. While I was writing for the Bande Mataram, they didn't pass through the mind; they either came directly to the pen and I didn't know beforehand what I was writing or they came just like that (gesture from head downwards). Sometimes they passed through the mind which was quite passive. If the mind takes part then the whole thing gets spoiled. In poetry it is the activity of the mind that meddles." (Source: Talks with Sri Aurobindo Volume 2, page 572)

How can we forget a great saint vAlmiki who composed rAmAyaNa. As per legend, when Valmiki cursed a hunter who killed two loving birds, the curse came in the form of poetry. Valmiki was not a poet, but since he was chosen by the supreme God to author the great epic, Ramayana, he was given this gift. When the Lord makes us an instrument and entrusts us some work, he will also give us ability to complete the task. Similarly in case of Adi Shankara, he did not want to enter into debates, he did not want to spread advaita, he did not wanted to write commentary on Brahma Sutra, but it was upon the order of Lord Shiva he composed commentary and later on Bhagavan Ved Vyas tested him and authenticated his work. bhagavAn extended AchArya's life to further 16 years and blessed him to spread the the truth of upanishads and revive vedic dharma. It is with their blessings that Adi Shankara was able to fulfill their work.

Sri Ramakrishna was not learned in shastras, however his teachings in the form of parables and simple instructions are always in line with shastras. They do not contradict shastras. KAnchi Paramacharya calls Sri Ramakrishna as great men.

It is well known that Sri Ramana Maharshi was not a sanskrit scholar. But when he translated Upadesha Saram (Upadesh Sar) into Sanskrit, everyone was surprised with the accurate translation and with poetic beauty. Similarly his 'forty verses on reality' and 'Who Am I' are much appreciated and revered by advaitins.

Paul Brunton who came to India in search of fully realized saint. He met Kanchi Paramacharya. Paramacharya directed him to meet Sri Ramana Maharshi.

Srimad Rajchandra composed Atma Siddhi in just 90 minutes.

Great Saints in communion with Ishvara do not need to edit, proofread and revise their works. hence they take little time to compose hymns and other works.

State of Self Realization gives one unlimited power

State of Self Realization gives one unlimited power and nothing is unachievable for such a person as he is one with the source from which everything gets power. This state cannot be imagined by extrovert mind, hence they cannot comprehend the power which realized saints possess. We have Mahavatar Babaji, a deathless saint, Aghori Kenaram, a men who had control of panch mahabhutas. We have Sant Jnaneshwar (Gyaneshvar) who made a buffalo to sing Bhagavat Purana. Though all countries have produced many great men, our country has unique rich heritage of many such men of extraordinary power. It is said that Einstein used only 10 % of his brain. Still he was genius. Great yogI-s and realized saints can increase their brain power and can achieve feats which are generally unthinkable by laymen. From spiritual POV, availability of their works indicates that their works are divinely revealed since they have stood the test of time.

We will now shift to second response which can be skipped.

Brief Compilation of Saints:

Brief Compilation: Examples of Saints

We have examples of great acharyas who have written voluminous works. SriRam Sharma Acharya of Gayatri Parivar wrote commentaries and translated Gita, 108 upanishads and Brahma Sutra, along with other independent works. Sriram Sharma Acharya wrote books on more than 3000 topics covering all walks of life. Sriram Sharma Acharya is respected by Karpatri Swami (also known as Hariharananda Saraswati), disciple of Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, Shankaracharya of Joshi Math. Swami Vivekanand memorised entire 'Encyclopedia Britannica'. Srimad Rajchandra composed Atma Siddhi in just 90 minutes. We have sAyanAcharya, who wrote commentaries on all 5 veda-s (shukla and Krishna Yajurveda as two). We have Upanishad Brahmayogin who wrote commentaries on 108 upanishads of Muktika Upanishad, along with many independent works, writing more than 45000 grantha-s. He wrote independent grantha-s and wrote commentaries on them too. Sri Tallapaka annamAchArya (1408-1503) the mystic saint composer of the 15th century. He composed and sang 32,000 Sankirtanas, 12 Satakas (sets of hundred verses), Ramayana in the form of Dwipada,SsankIrtana Lakshanam (Characteristics of sankIrtanas), Sringaara Manjari, and Venkatachala Mahatmamyam.

Examples of divinely guided Saints

Likewise we have saints who were divinly guided for their works or had performed miracles in life. GYAneshvara had made a buffalo chant bhAgavat purANa. Sri Ramakrishna didnt study any shAstra-s, but his experiences were in line with shAstra-s. Sri Ramana Maharshi didnt study sanskrit, but when he translated Upadesha Saram (Upadesh Sar) into Sanskrit, everyone was surprised with the accurate translation and with poetic beauty. Similarly his 'forty verses on reality' and 'Who Am I' are much appreciated and revered by advaitins.

Sri Aurobindo once said - that realized people do not need to think, as ordinary folks do - there is no mental activity involved for them. All their knowledge is intuitive, it comes down directly without effort. That is how Sri Aurobindo wrote his major works. In fact Sri Aurobindo has specifically said that when the mind comes in the middle it ruins the task.

"In writing also thoughts may not pass through the mind at all. While I was writing for the Bande Mataram, they didn't pass through the mind; they either came directly to the pen and I didn't know beforehand what I was writing or they came just like that (gesture from head downwards). Sometimes they passed through the mind which was quite passive. If the mind takes part then the whole thing gets spoiled. In poetry it is the activity of the mind that meddles." (Source: Talks with Sri Aurobindo Volume 2, page 572)

How can we forget a great saint vAlmiki who composed rAmAyaNa. As per legend, when Valmiki cursed a hunter who killed two loving birds, the curse came in the form of poetry. Valmiki was not a poet, but since he was chosen by the supreme God to author the great epic, Ramayana, he was given this gift. When the Lord makes us an instrument and entrusts us some work, he will also give us ability to complete the task. Similarly in case of Adi Shankara, he did not want to enter into debates, he did not want to spread advaita, he did not wanted to write commentary on Brahma Sutra, but it was upon the order of Lord Shiva he composed commentary and later on Bhagavan Ved Vyas tested him and authenticated his work. bhagavAn extended AchArya's life to further 16 years and blessed him to spread the the truth of upanishads and revive vedic dharma. It is with their blessings that Adi Shankara was able to fulfill their work.

Similarly, we also have examples of great saints who contributed to more than one art or more than one philosophy (some names are repeated).

Brief compilation: Examples of Saints who have contributed to more than one art or philosophy

Meditation on more than one deity and in more than one way:

We can see this in the life of Sri Ramakrishna who has practised multiple disciples, multiple philosophies and had successfully experienced the common divinity in them. He was a living example that all paths lead to same truth. Similar is the case with the AcArya-s of Sringeri maTha. Sringeri paramAcharya, Sri abhinava vidyAtirtha mahAsvAmI. He had practised different disciplines like hatha yoga, narmihma upAsanA, laya yoga, kunDalinI yoga, advaita sAdhanA (path of negation). Sringeri paramAchArya also had divine vision of bhagavAn Siva and ambA mAtA, the presiding deity of Srigeri SAradA maTha. His life is recorded in a book, 'Yoga, Enlightenment and Perfection of Sri Sri Abhinav Vidyatheertha Mahaswami'. More details can be found here. svAmI brahmAnanda, SankarAcArya of jyotir matha revived jyotir matha after 165 years. He was considered as an authority on shrI vidyA (Sri Vidya Upasana). svAmijI was an adept sAkta and an advaitin.

Contribution to more than one philosophy

Going back to medieval period, we have great AcArya-s from various traditions. Abhinavgupta is a unique AcArya. An authority on Kashmir Shiavism, was a multitalented AcArya who wrote drama scripts, composed tantra loka, a text for advanced tAntrika-s and even wrote a commentary on bhagavad gItA, though being a Saiva at heart. His composition tantraloka is considered as a masterpiece. He himself wrote unique commentaries on it explaining one verse from three different levels of evolution of human consciousness. We have the great names like nAmabodhendra savasvatI, SankarAcArya of kAnchi maTha, who spread rAma nAma and was an advaitin. The great vidyAraNya svAmI who helped his brother sAyanAcArya write commentaries on all 4 veda-s (which talk about karma kANDa) and also wrote sub-commentaries on Sankara bhAShya-s of some upanishads and even composed independent compositions like jivanmukti viveka and pancadaSI, often called as manual of advaita. His masterpiece is sarva-darshan-samgrah, in which he has displayed his knowledge about 16 different types of arts and philosophies like advaita, viSiSTAdvaita, dvaita, chArvAka, etc. We must add the name of SrI madhusudan sarasvatI (MS) who is eulogized by one AcArya as the 'one who knows the limits of sarasvatI but sarasvatI does not know the limits of madhusudan sarasvatI's knowledge'. He is a celebrated name in dvaita-advaita debate who is said to have put to rest all logical objections raised against advaita. MS was an ardent krishna bhakta but a staunch advaitin. MS has composed a unique commentary on Siva mahimna stotra. MS has interpreted each verse in two ways, one eulogizing Siva and another eulogizing Krishna (viShNu). As per MS, the sole intention for composing this commentary was to establish Siva-viShNu abheda. Then there is appaya dikshita (AD), a well known name in Saiva as well as advaita who has composed more than 104 works. AD has composed hymns on Siva, and viShNu. He contested against vaiShNava-s with a sole purpose of refuting Siva-deShI-s. AD has no problem accepting viShNu as 'God'. He performed vedic rites (karma kANDa) and even wrote a commentary on brahmasUtra-s. He also compared different commentaries on brahmasUtra-s and gave his opinion. There are many examples like kAlidAsa writing plays centered around bhagavAn rAma and bhagavAn skanda by the names raghuvansha and kumArsangam. Finally we will add one more name to this short list. His name is GYAnadeva mahArAja. GYanadeva started a varkari movement, a mass movement where people of all varNa-s (caste) can take part on singing glories of Lord viThThala (a form of Lord viShNu). He wrote commentary on gItA, popularly known as GYAneshvarI, where he has accepted kriShNa as supreme Godhead. He has also described kunDalini in chapter 6. He composed amritAnubhava, a text glorifying Siva-Sakti and saluting his brother, guru and nAtha yogI nivrittinAtha. nAtha yogI-s worsihp Lord Siva. When a great siddha, chAndeva, who had control over 5 natural elements (earth, water, etc) came to know about this young boy's feets, he send him an empty letter to him. The reason, he said was to ask few question to him. This siddha wanted to mock this young boy. GYanadeva wrote 67 verses on this plain paper. Impressed with the response, chAngadeva surrendered to GYAnadeva nad made him his guru. These verses are popularly known as 'chAngadeva pAshaShTI'

From the above explanation, we would like to conclude that it is very much possible for siddha to compose hymns one various deities and even expound a different siddhAnta. If a siddha can expound different philosophies, why can't an avatAra? Adi Sankara was no ordinary human being, he was an avatAra.

Adi Sankara

Adi Sankara was one of the brightest of the bright. He learned to speak sanskrit when he was one year old, learned to write when he was 2 years old, and mastered veda-s when he was 8 years old.

Miracles are associated with the life of Adi SAnkara. We know from mAdhaviya digvijaya, that Adi Sankara at very tender age, before taking sanyAsa, changed course of river pUrNA by invoking her. He also stored flood water of river in his kamanDala. Only a siddha yogI can perform such miracles. Most of them are avatAra-s like the great mahAsiddha-s shrI gorakhnAtha and shrI matsyehdranAtha who are revered by buddhists as 'mahA-siddha-s'.

Most hymns are not voluminous and hence it can take even 15 minutes to spontenously compose hymns which are divinely guided and written under deep trans. There are no thoughts while composing, everything is sponteneous and written based on intuitions in bhAvAsthA (transcendental state of intense bliss due to vision of divine form of Ishvara).

Poet and Preacher

There are two types of works composed by Adi Sankara

1. As a preacher

2. As a poet

A preacher has to preach and defend a doctrine that he is practising and preaching. A preacher has to preach that which is suitable to the mental make-up of masses. But this is not the case with a poet. Poet is not bound by any philosophy. A Poet will use all his imagination and his art to sing glory of Paramatman says Kanchi Paramacharya. A poetry is composed spontaneously in trans. That is why his works have stood the test of time.

We have also understood that prakaraNa grantha-s and commentary on brahma sUtra address different audience. One cannot be a benchmark to test authenticity of another.

From various examples of saints, we can conclude that it is possible to -

  • Compose hymns more than one form of Ishvara

  • Have equal reverence for other forms of Ishvara

  • Write commentaries on various siddhAnta-s

  • Compose independent grantha-s which adhere to different siddhAnta than the main siddhAnta that author is practising

  • Can shift thinking pattern and adapt different philosophy and 'way of thinking'

  • Can write voluminous works which are not possible for by laymen.

As a preacher, he wrote Bhashyas on prasthAntrayi and some other shastra-s like viShNu sahasranAma stotra. Advaita is difficult to understand and practice for laymen. Adi Sankara walked length and breath of India Preaching Advaita. He had to connect day-2-day activities with advaita and at the same time explain concepts of advaita in simple way, so that laymen can understand them. Hence he created prakaraNa grantha-s. If prakaraNa Grantha-s were not necessary, then he would not have asked sureshvarAchAya to compose independent work, which came to be known as Naikarmya Siddhi. Infact, from the example of sureshvarAchAya, we can know that even his Guru Brothers thoughts that Sureshvaracharya would not do justice in writing sub-commentaries on Brahma Sutras as earlier he was a mimAmsaka. In his vArtikA-s he as refuted arguments put forth by him as a mimAmsaka. After reading naishkarmya siddhi, Adi Sankara was very pleased and satisfied with his work. If a disciple can change his 'way of life' and 'perception', why can't Guru. Afterall, Sankara bhagavadpAda is believed to be an partial avatar of Lord Siva.

As a poet he has composed many hymns and independent stotras.

It is not right to compare works based on particular siddhAnta with that of poems.

It is not right to consider an Advaitin to be stone hearted and keep sticking to 'Brahma Satya, Jagat Mithya'. Many negatively publicise advaita as 'mAyAvAda' and that they 'oppose' deity worship. This is absolutely wrong. advaita sits on the strong foundation of vedic karma kANDa and advocates temple worship and devoting our heart and soul to any one form of Ishvara.

To gauge and limit the potential of a realized saint and an avatar, who descended on earth to revive vedic dharma is an insult to him.

Confirmation Adi Sankara as Author of prapanchasAra opens new doors

amalAnanda in his sub-commentary 'vedAnta kalpataru' has quoted prapanchsAra, 'kalpataru' is a gloss on sub-commentary on brahmasUtra bhAshya by vAchaspatI mishrA's famous bhAmatI, which in turn is a sub-commentary on SrI Adi SankarAcharya jI's commentary (i.e. sUtra bhAshya) on brahma sUtra (vedAnta sUtra). appayA dixita has further written a gloss (further explanatory notes for more clarification) on amalAnanda's kalpataru by the name parimala. He too didnt question amalAnanda's quoting of prapancasAra (source and credits)

Nārāyaṇa Bhaṭṭatiri (1559–1645) authenticates the ‘Prapañchasāra’ of Śaṅkara. Nārāyaṇa Bhaṭṭatiri was a mathematician and author of very popular composition ‘Nārāyaṇīyam’, which is an essence of bhAgavat purANA, is revered by all. (source and credits)

(Credits to Sri V. Subramanian ji of Adbhutam Blog)

When two saints belonging to two different schools as authenticated authorship of prapanchasAra belonging to Adi Sankara, no room for any doubt is left. Confirming the authorship of prapanchasAra belonging to Adi Sankara opens new doors. It breaks the conventional view that Aid Sankara adhered to only one siddhAnta. It also allows one to accept Adi Sankara as the author of saundarya lahiri a text highly revered by SAkta-s.

Authorship of saundarya lahiri

Critics reject the attribution of authorship of saundarya lahiri (SL) to Adi Sankara. They argue that SL is a sAkta text. Though both believe in advaita as the final state, sAkta philosophy is not similar to that of advaita. It accepts this world as real. However from the above analysis, it can be understood that there is no reason not to believe that Adi Sankara has authored SL. Adi Sankara was not interested in writing any commentaries, nor interested in entering into debates. He wrote commentaries because his guru told him to do so. AcArya wrote commentary on brahmasUtra after he got order from bhagavAn Siva himself. bhagavAn veda vyAsa himself tested Adi Sankara, satisfied with AcArya's arguments, he accepted AcArya's commentary on brahma sUtra-s. After surrendering the commentary at the feet of veda vyAsa, AcArya said that his job is now done and that he is willing to leave his body in the auspicious muhurata in the divine presence of bhagavAn. bhagavAn veda vyAsa didnt allow Adi Sankara to give up his body and extended his life for 16 more years. bhagavAn also ordered him to remove misconceptions. What more is needed to say about such a soul, who himself is an avatAra, is blessed by three avatAra, his guru govindapAda (avatAra of sheShanAga), GYAnamUrti bhagavAn Siva and epitom of wisdom, saviour of sanAtana dharma, bhagavAn veda vyAsa.

Vedic sages are known to be a realized souls yet are engaged in worldly duties and even performing yaGYa-s for welfare of all. Even today, brAhmaNa-s (Brahmins) while practising sandhyA vandanA practice prANAyama. yoga and advaita used to go together. The paths are different but final state is advaita only.

An advaitins can also stay in a dual plane and accept a form of God to be supreme. He does so for teaching devotion to laymen. A sanyAsin is an idol to be followed and adorned by the society. Hence he too behaves in a certain way so that people coyinghi will progress spiritually.

From the lives of Sri Ramakrishna and Sri Abhinav Vidyatheertha Mahaswami, we can understand that different spiritual disciplines can be practised by one individual. Hence there is no reason to question the ability of Adi Sankara.

To add to the above, there are about 35 commentaries on SL each attributing it's authorship of Adi Sankara. Later revered AcArya-s like laxmidhara and bhAskararAya makin accepted authorship of Adi Sankara. Such a strong evidence cannot be ignored.

A jagatguru needs to work for upliftment of people of all types of temperament.

As a laymen, what should I do?

The above matter was present with the intent that the critical analysis and gauging methods to determine authenticity of works attributed to Adi Sankara is not fool proof. It is more or less guess work. Critics are themselves neophites as far as their spiritual achievement is concerned. Great Realized saints do not indulge into such critical analysis which are of little importance to them. Atleast AcArya-s of advaita paramparA do not indulge.

We should not feel discomfort if somebody makes such claims. We should avoid getting engaged in such debates, as we would lose our faith in shastra-s, if we try to be a historian or a fact finder. Unless and until any work is against the basic doctrine of advaita and it refutes the basic tenets of advaita, it can be accepted. Authorship is secondary. Vivek Chudamani, whose authorship is disputed (accordingly to some) is extremely important to understand advaita vedanta. Hence it's importance cannot be ruled out. To our knowledge, which indeed is very limited, None of the basic advaita texts or none of the stotras attributed to Adi Shankara contradict Advaita. If studied with faith, they all will lead you to core methodology of neti, neti, only when we are prepared for it. Even bhakti is useful, Yoga is useful, the final state is advaita sthiti and hence pure advaita, which is a path of negation can be applied upon maturity, under the guidance of a realized Guru. Most people meditate on OM. There is no need to read too many shastras. Read only the ones that suit your prakriti, in this case Guru is extremely important or the standard texts that all advaitins refer. Not everything is needed to be mastered for personal spiritual progress.

Let Sankara Charitra may not be 100 % authentic. It is possible that some verses are added later. Does this make the whole charitra fake? Even Gita is said to be tempered. Our acharya has not commented on verse 1 of chapter 13 (BG 13.1), while Ramanujacharya has commented on the same verse. If we take this verse into account total verses in Gita would be 701. Abhinavgupta added 16 more verses to standard 700. gItAmAna verses on mahAbhArata mentions total number in gItA to be 745. However, We todays' accepted version has 700 or 701 verses. Does this mean that whole Gita is fake and an interpolation?

Lets stay calm. Lets dump all the unnecessary confusion and doubt over authorship and let us continue our spiritual journey with full faith and surrender. May paramAtmAn shower his grace and show us the right path.

We would like to conclude this article by offering prayers and gratitude with an intense feeling of being blessed by the divine mother and guru without this this article could not have been possible.

Hari OM

|| Shri Gurubhyo Namah ||

|| Shri Adi Shankara Bhagavadpada Sharanam ||

|| Om Shri Paramatmane Namah ||

Credits: Thanks to Omkara and JigyAsu, members of Hindu Dharma Forums

We end this article with list of works attributed to Adi Sankara. Please note that this list is not authentic nor it is exhaustive.

Brief list of works attributed to Adi Sankara

In the above context following works are said to be genuine work of Adi Sankara.

General observation is that srI Sankara bhagavadpAda's prakaraNa grantha-s are unique in the sense they are to the point, free from polemical tinge and refutation of rival sampradAya.

[needs to be verified]

Commentaries: Considered Authentic

  1. Commentaries on 10 principle Upanishads

  2. bhagavad gItA bhASya

  3. brahma sUtra bhASya

  4. yOga TArAvalI / Yoga-sütra-bhäsya-vivarana - Gloss on commentary yog Sutra Bhasya by Ved Vyas on Patanjali’ Yog Sutra

  5. Adhyätma-patala-vivarana, Short commentary on parts of Apastamba Dharma Sutra (sub-commentary on the chapter about inner atman)

  6. viShNu sahasranAma bhASya

  7. Commentary on sanat-sujAtiya (of mahAbhArat)

  8. prapancsAra tantra - amalAnanda in his sub-commentary 'vedAnta kalpataru' has quoted prapanchsAra. Nārāyaṇa Bhaṭṭatiri (1559–1645) authenticates the ‘Prapañchasāra’ of Śaṅkara. (Credits to Sri V. Subramanian ji of Adbhutam Blog) [1] - No one has questioned the authenticity.

[1] amalAnanda in his sub-commentary 'vedAnta kalpataru' has quoted prapanchsAra, 'kalpataru' is a gloss on sub-commentary on brahmasUtra bhAshya by vAchaspatI mishrA's famous bhAmatI, which in turn is a sub-commentary on SrI Adi SankarAcharya jI's commentary (i.e. sUtra bhAshya) on brahma sUtra (vedAnta sUtra). appayA dixita has further written a gloss (further explanatory notes for more clarification) on amalAnanda's kalpataru by the name parimala. He too didnt questioned amalAnanda's quoting of prapancasAra.

Nārāyaṇa Bhaṭṭatiri (1559–1645) authenticates the ‘Prapañchasāra’ of Śaṅkara. Nārāyaṇa Bhaṭṭatiri was a mathematician and author of very popular composition ‘Nārāyaṇīyam’, which is an essence of bhAgavat purANA, is revered by all. (source and credits)

(Credits to Sri V. Subramanian ji of Adbhutam Blog)

Commentaries: Authenticity Doubtful

  1. bhASya on GAyatri Mantra, discovered by Swami Chinmayananda in Himalayas

  2. bhASya on SvetaSvatara upanishad - some consider it as authentic as it does not contradict advaita.

  3. bhASya on Uttara tApanIya upanishad - some consider it as authentic.

Philosophical Works: Considered Authentic

  1. upadeSa sahasrI (because it’s concept matches Brahmasutra and ajata vada)

  2. Atma bOdh - Commentary (Tika) by svAmI madhUsudan sarasvatI, hence authentic.

  3. viveka cUuDAmaNI – Commentary by Sri candraSekhara bhArati, SankarAcArya of Sringeri, hence confirmed. John Grimes in his scholarly way has refuted the reasons for not accepting viveka chUDAmaNi as not authored by AdI Sankara in his book. [1]

  4. vAkya Vritti - Quoted by srI vidyAraNya svAmI in PanchadaSI 7.71-78 relating to vAkyavRRitti verses 44, 45, 46, 47, 38, 39, 40, 41

  5. aparOkshAnubhUtI - aparOkshAnubhUtI TIkA by srI vidyAraNya svAmI

  6. praSnottara ratnamAlIka - Basic important text, in simple and short Q & A format, some say it was written by Adi Sankara but some sloka-s were added later by his followers. Advaitins reject this claim.

[1] Professor John Grimes provides a balanced assessment of Vivekachudamani according to the Hacker criteria step by step and states that ―"A strong case can be made that Vivekachudamani is a genuine work of Sankara‘s and that it differs from in certain respects from his other works in that it addresses itself to a different audience and has a different emphasis and purpose."

He avers that "there is no rule that insists that a prakarana treatise should be consistent with a commentary". (2004, p. 13) (Credits)

We are inclined to agree with Professor Grimes‘ balanced assessment. Vivekachudamani is an ancillary treatise of Sankara addressed to different audience with a specific emphasis and purpose.

Devotional and Other Works: Considered Authentic

  1. daxINAmurtI Stotra, commentary named mAnasollAsa by sUreSvarAcArya

  2. Siva panchAkshara stotram - Commentary by padmapadAchArya

  3. Kanakadhara Stotram - From Madhaviya Shankara Digvijay, Adi Shankara composed it when he visited poor family for alms. Kanak means gold. Stotra goes to Laxmi Mata

  4. SivAnanada lahirI - from Madhaviya Shankara Digvijay, Adi Shankara composed it when he visited in Sri Sailam along with his disciples.

  5. saundarya Lahiri - Over 35 commentaries all attributing work to Adi Sankara. Commentary by Chandrashekharendra Sarasvati of Kanchi math (some consider only 41 verses as authentic. Total verses are 100) laxmidhara kavi has written a commentary on all 100 verses, hence it's authentic.

  6. maniShA pancakam – Confirmed by Kanchi Paramcharya - from Madhaviya Shankara Digvijay, composed when Adi Shankara met Lord Shiva

  7. upadesha pancakama / Sopana Pancakam – from Madhaviya Shankara Digvijay, final Instructions by Adi Shankara Confirmed by Kanchi Paramacharya

  8. Sivapadadi kesanta stotram - Historically verified by KAnchi Math

  9. Sivakesadi padanta stotram - Historically verified by KAnchi Math

  10. nirvana shatTakam / AtmaShaTakam) - similar to his core teachings

  11. mAyA pancakam - similar to his core teachings.

  12. kaupina panchakam

  13. bhaja-gOvindam (earlier known as moha mudgara)- Stresses on vairAgya and Surrender to srI hari, considered an authentic.

  14. gurU-asTakam (gurvAShTakam) - hymn Dedicated to glory of Guru. Even if one has achieved everything in this world, without surrendering to Guru, one achieves nothing

  15. gurU pAdukA stotram - hymn dedicated to Glory of Guru

  16. bhAvanA-aShTakam (bhAvanAShTakam)

  17. annapurna stotra

  18. viShNu sat-padI (six verses on Vishnu)

  19. ganga stotra

  20. devya-aparAdha (DevyaparAdha) KshamApana stotra

  21. ved sAra Siva stotra - Shiva as an essence of Vedas)

  22. SivanAmAlyaShTakam

  23. Siva-aparAdha (SivaparAdha) KshamApana Stotra

  24. dvAdasa manjarikA stotra

Now we will list works or compositions of Sri Adi Sankara which the so-called experts, fact finders, linguists and (not-so-neutral) Historians claims to be of doubtful authenticity and or consider them as wrongly attributed to the great Acharya. But before we list them, there are certain points which I would like to share with you.

Rejecting these compositions is like saying that a well qualified mother or a teacher who has done PhD in Quantum Mechanics or on Theory of Relativity cannot teach kids of pre-primary and primary school. So a well qualified mother cannot teach 'A' for apple, and 'B' for bat, to their children. In other words, a person who has undergone complex study simply cannot talk and express himself or herself in simple way that layman understands. A mathematical genius simply cannot teach 1 + 1 = 2 and that he cannot be multi-talented and so cannot be a poet at the same time and cannot compose rhymes that help kids learn maths or memorize mathematical concepts easily. Do you agree?

According to those who reject these works, they adhere to the commentary of Brahma Sutras as authentic and if the writing style, the core concept is not reflected in any composition, then they reject them. They do not understand that Brahma Sutras are to be studied after thorough study of Gita and Upanishads. By sincere reading of Brahma Sutras with Sankara Bhashya, one's doubts are dissolved and one simply enters into Nirvikalpa Samadhi. This happens to an advanced sadhaka and not beginner. Hence Brahma Sutras are not for beginners. Similar is the application of Self Enquiry 'Who Am I' This is not a mental exercise, but a question that a seeker asks to himself or herself and the result of enquiring 'Who Am I', mind turns introvert and then merges in it's source. One does not have to keep asking the question 'Who Am I' every 5 seconds or every time a thought arises. Later, you do not even need to ask the question. Simply be aware and mind with detach and dissolve into it's source. But this does not happen to a beginner. Hence Sri Ramana Maharshi's works are not for beginners neither is his preferred way of Self Enquiry which is indeed a direct and fastest way to 'Be as you are' in your natural state.

If Adi Sankara has mentioned and expounded 'adhyAropa apavAda' or has said this world to be anitya or asatya or mithyA, then this philosophy has to be found in all his compositions. So hynms dedicated to SaguNa Brahman (Like ViShNu, Siva, devI, gaNesha, etc) are not considered as authentic as Advaita in it's final state of nirvikalpa samAdhi there is no mAyA, and not form of Ishvara. They forget that traditionally, advaita sits on top of smArta dharma, which accepts different forms of Ishvara as equal manifestations of Brahman and one has to worship them in order to gain inner purity before renouncing them and practising advaita meditation.

Philosophical Works: Authenticity doubtful

While these are accepted by western scholars, they discard some popular works like

  1. tatva bOdh - Basic Text, considered very important

  2. panjikaraNa - Important work, dealing with creation and Advaita, work attributed to vidyAraNya svAmI

  3. prabOdha sudhAkara - stresses on surrender to krishna and vairAGYa, two forms of Brahman, kruShNa and nirguNa.

Devotional and Works: Authenticity doubtful

  1. nirguNa mAnas pUja

  2. Siva mAnas pUja

  3. subramaNya bhujangam - Mentioned by kAnchi paramAcArya as authentic

  4. EkAshloki

  5. gaNeSa pancratnam

  6. gaNeSa bhUjangam - Mentioned by KAnchi ParamAcArya as authentic

  7. and many more ...

Many other popular works are not included in the list of authentic works by western scholars and non-advaitins. Vani Vilas Press has published Complete Works of Sri Adi Shankaracharya' in 1910, under the guidance of Shringeri Shankaracharya. Advaita-vedanta.org has listed them here

Official website of Kachi Kamakoti Math, www.kamakoti.org lists some more works. They can be found here and here.

It includes gaNeSa bhUjangam and gaNeSa pancratnam

Some works not mentioned here are accepted by Shringeri Math. This means that the authentic lineage accepts these works.


Appendix - More details about Saints

Some more details of selected saints.


Sri Tallapaka Annamacharya (1408-1503) the mystic saint composer of the 15th century is the earliest known musician of South India to compose songs called “sankIrtanas” in praise of Lord Venkateswara. Annamcharya is believed to be the incarnation of Lord Venkateswara's. nandaka (Sword). He lived for 94 years.

Annamayya became Annamacharya when the sage Ghana Vishnu at Tirumala converted him into a Vaishnavaite (Srivaishnava) at the age of 8.

During his long and prolific career, Annamacharya composed and sang 32,000 Sankirtanas, 12 Satakas (sets of hundred verses), Ramayana in the form of Dwipada,SsankIrtana Lakshanam (Characteristics of sankIrtanas), Sringaara Manjari, and Venkatachala Mahatmamyam. His works were in Telugu, Sanskrit and a few other languages of India.

Chinnanna called the 32,000 Sankirtanas as 32,000 Mantras or Sacred Hymns. It was also recorded in Chinnanna’s Dwipada that Purandara Dasa, who was 70 years younger to Annamacharya, heard about the miracles of Annamacharya and visited him. Purandara Dasa paid his respects to Annamacharya by calling him the incarnation of Lord Venkateswara and his Sankirtanas as Sacred Hymns.

Mahavatar Babaji

It is well known through Autobiography of a Yogi, by Paramhansa Yogananda that Mahavatar Babaji is more than 1800 years old and has transformed his entire body into light. Babaji has conquered death. Mahavtar Babaji revived Kriya Yoga through Lahiri Mahashaya. He is an example of what mind is capable of.

Swami Vivekananda

Swami Vivekananda had unusual capacity of intense mental concentration and followed Strict Brahmacharya

Here is an excerpt between Swami Vivekananda and his disciple (Sharatchandra Chakravarti)

Once Swami Vivekananda was reading the volumes of 'Encyclopedia Britannica'. His disciple associate (Sharatchandra Chakravarti), seeing those twenty-four volumes, remarked, "It is difficult to master the contents of so many volumes in one life." He did not know at the time that the Swami had already finished ten volumes and was reading the eleventh. "What do you mean?" said Swamiji. "Ask me whatever you like from those ten volumes and I can tell you all about it." The disciple, out of curiosity, brought down the books and asked Swamiji many questions on difficult and varied topics/subjects, selecting one or two from different volumes. Swami Vivekananda not only replied each correctly, but in many instances he quoted the very language of the books!

At another time, Swami Vivekananda happened to turn the pages of a book in quick succession just by looking at them once. The disciple asked as to what Swamiji was doing. Swami Vivekananda replied, "Why, I am reading the book." The fellow was utterly surprised to see such an odd method of reading the book! Then Swami Vivekananda explained just as a child reads every letter of a word, most of adults read a cluster of words or a full sentence, "I can read paragraph to paragraph"! Thus, three glances and the whole page used to be read!

Later he greatly emphasized to cultivate power of mind in the form of purity and concentration for spiritual gains, so also perfection in many arts and studies in science and other branches of education.

It has to be noted that prior to this conversation, the disciple was thinking, "Despite his spare food and scanty sleep, Swamiji is very active.

Source: Reminiscences of Swami Vivekananda

Sriram Sharma Acharya

Same was the case with Sriram Sharma Acharya. Those who lived in close proximity with Pt.Shriram Sharma Acharya know that he would read through multiple large texts in a short span of time and remember it all.

Pt. Shriram Sharma Acharya wrote Literature greater than his own body weight. All his texts are scientific in content and research validated. How was this possible in a time when internet was absent ?

About Shriram Sharma it is well known that he did not know English, yet when he used to write, he would ask for a pile of English books from the library at night, and by morning he had read them all, and marked out the pages which he wanted to be referenced in the article he was writing. Such were his Yogic powers.

The Gayatri Pariwar fraternity with its more 3000 social reform centers (Shakti-peeths) are his greatest contributions to the modern world.

He translated the entire Vedic Vangmaya (4 Vedas, 108 Upanishads, 18 Puranas) in hindi and accomplished a feat of writing more than 3000 books on all aspects of life. (source)

Since Sriram Sharma Acharya is relatively new figure born on 20th September 1911 and voluntarily shed his physical sheath on Gayatri Jayanti, 2nd June 1990, there must have been many fact finders who would have spotted this claim of writing over 3000 titles and translating Vedic Vangmaya. No such objection is raised by anyone. Again, he not only did write books, but was actively spreading his mission all over the world. Sriram Sharma Acharya had lived for 80 years Even if we take one-third (1/3rd) part of his life, i.e. 27 years and works it would mean 1000 centers and 1000 titles. Even if we reduce them to half, this would mean 500 centers and 500 works in 27 years. Adi Shankara didnt write commentaries on veda-s and PurANa-s which are voluminous works. Prasthantrayi is much shorter as compared to Veda-s and PurANa-s. It should be noted that Sriram Sharma Acharya was not an avatar. It is said that 450 works are attributed to Sri Adi Shankaracharya. From above, we can understand that such claim is not altogether bogus and is very much within the reach of an avatar, be it a partial Incarnation of Lord Dakshinamurthy, or Shiva or born by blessings of Lord Shiva. This is not to say that all works attributed to him are genuine. The attempt is being made that such a feat is not unachievable.


When Valmiki cursed a hunter who killed two loving birds, the curse came in the form of poetry. Valmiki was not a poet, but since he was chosen by the supreme God to author the great epic, Ramayana, he was given this gift. When the Lord makes us an instrument and entrusts us some work, he will also give us ability to complete the task. Similarly in case of Adi Shankara, he did not want to enter into debates, he did not want to spread advaita, he did not wanted to write commentary on Brahma Sutra, but it was upon the order of Lord, once as Lord Shiva and at another time as Bhagavan Ved Vyas. It is with their blessings that Adi Shankara was able to fulfill their work.