Adi Shankaracharya & Mandanamishra


Author: Shivashankar Rao (Bangalore, India)

The discussion between the proponents of two diverse view points has been dealt with in detail in the Maadhaveeya shankaravijaya (sarga 8), in Sadaananda’s shankara vijaya (sarga 6) and it is mentioned in brief in Anandagiri’s version(56) and in Chidvilaasa(17yh and 18th chapters).

The umpire for the argument was Mandana mishra’s wife Ubhaya Bhaarathi (Shaaradaadevi).

Shankara declared, ” In this Universe, the only truth which is sat, chit and nirmala is Brahman, As soon as one realises that knowledge of Brahman the existence of the physical world vanishes. the Individual jeeva gets liberated from the cycle of births and deaths. This is the truth that the Upanishads proclaim. This is what I believe and if I cannot prove this to you, I will reject my sannyaasa and become a householder. Let the decision come from Ubhayabhaarati.”

In reply, Mandanamishra says, ” Karmakaanda is the most important portion of the Vedas. I do not accept the Upanishads which are not the authorities. It is only through Karmas that one can get liberation(mukti). If I cannot prove this point of view, I will reject the family life and become a sannyaasi”.

Once the discussion started, there would be a break in the afternoon for lunch and Ubhayabhaarati devi would invite Shankara for Bhikshaa and Mandana for BhOjana. Since she had to attend to cooking and other household duties, she would give two garlands to both the contestants and observe whether any one has dried to know who is defeated. This went on for a few days and at the final stage a discussion started on the Upanishadic statement. ” tat tvam asi”.

Mandanamishra believed that Jeeva and Brahma are not the same. He felt that the two cannot be the same as per pratyaksha or anumaana as both clearly conclude that the two are different. Every individual knows that he is not the God himself.

Shankara replied, ” This argument is not correct. Pratyaksha jnaana is dependent on vishaya and indriyas. Brahman cannot be afflicted by the indriyas”.

Mandana retorted, ” Jeeva is alpajna; and brahman is sarvajna. No one doubts this. How to accept the concept that they are the same?”

Shankara- ” There is a flaw in this argument. The basis for the two are on two different planes. While jeeva because of avidya and eeswara covered with maaya are shown as different by pratyaksha pramaana, when avidya and maaya are removed, the atma becomes chaitanya and becomes one with Brahma. Thus in pratyaksha, the two are contaminated. Based on the shruti when the base is clarified, they become the same”.

Mandana- ” what about anumaana? Jeeva is not a sarvajna. An individual ghata cannot be one with the brahman”.

Shankara- ” Is your differentiation imaginary or paaramaarthika?”.

Mandana- Have you considered the meaning of this shloka?-

dvaa suparNaa sayujaa sakhaayaa samaanam vrksham parishasvajaatE,

tayOranyah pippalam svaaduatti, anashnanyO abhichaakasheeti”?

– This mantra clearly brings out the difference between jeeva and brahman and jeeva is a recipient of karmas and Iswara has no such connections.

Shankara- This indicates the difference between buddhi and the purusha and not between jeeva and brahman. It is buddhi which enjoys the karma phala as per the shruti vaakyas. Purusha is different from buddhi. Purusha does not get afflicted with the results of the karmaphala.

Mandana- I do not agree to this logic because buddhi is jada. It is only the spirit (chaitanya) who can enjoy the karmaphala and not the jada material. No scholar can accept that the jada buddhi can be the bhOkta. So, shruti is of the conclusion that jeeva and eeswara are different.

Shankara- Your objection is not valid. Buddhi (sattva) enjoys the karmaphala. Jeeva is only a witness as clearly mentioned in the brahmana

‘ Paingya rahasya’ (see- tayOrasya pippalam syaadvatti iti sattvam anashnananyO abhichaakasheeti iti anashnan anyaha abhipashyati jnastaavEtou tattva kshEtrajnou iti paingee rahasya braahmanaha).

Mandana- the medium through which one sees the dream should be true. Brahmans say that the one who stays in the body as a witness is the kshEtrajna. But meemaamsa ignoring this meaning say that the meaning of sattva is svapna (dream) and the one who sees is the jeeva, the kshEtrajna is the Iswara who sees the dream.

Shankara- ” no, these are not the correct meanings. sattva is not the karta of daarshanas, but the karana. This means the meaning of the word is buddhi and not jeeva. Since the kshetrajna is associated with the body (shareera), the meaning is the jeeva and not the Iswara.”

Mandana- ” alright,. let us leave the shruti here. As there is the difference between light and darkness there is the difference between jeeva and Iswara as stated in the kaTOpanishat-

Ritam pibantou sukrtasya lOkE guhaam pravishtou paramE paraardhE

chaayatapou brahmavidO vadanti panchaagnayO yEcha triNaachikEtaaha”

Shankara- This only states the world famous bhEdajnaana which is seen by every body outwardly. Shruti does not try to prove it as it is so simple. What it tries to prove is the characteristics of the special one which is non dual. The powerful shruti vaakyas are those which provide m meanings which are not possible to be understood through pratyaksha and anumaanas. So, tattvamasi is the declaration of the non duality of Brahman and there can be no other meaning.”

” prabalyam maapaadayati shruteenaam maanaantaram naiva budhaagrayaayin.
gataartha taadaana mukhEna taasaamdourbalya sampaadakamEva kintu”

With this assertion, Mandanamishra became silent and the garland on his neck dried.

Ubhaya Bhaarati although was unhappy to lose her husband for the sannyaasa declared Shankara the winner.

(Although it is a lengthy discussion and it goes on for volumes, this is in brief the main points discussed. Errors if any in the translation from Kannada- the original of my book on Shankaraacharyaru – is regretted).