From the Jacket
The Shankaracharya arose and once more revived the Vedanta philosophy. He mad e it a rationalistic philosophy. In the Upanisads the arguments are often very obscure. By Buddha the moral side of the philosophy was laid stress upon, and by Shankaracharya, the intellectual side. He worked out, rationalized, and placed before men and wonderful coherent system of Advaita.
In Buddha we had the great universal heart and infinite patience, making religion practical and bringing it to everyone's door. In Shankaracharya we saw tremendous intellectual power, throwing the scorching light of reason upon everything. We want today the bright sun of intellectuality, joined with the heart of Buddha, the wonderful infinite heart of love and mercy. This union will give us the higher philosophy. Science and religion will meet and shake hands. Poetry and philosophy will become friends. This will be the religion of the future, and if we can work it out, we may be sure that it will be or all times and peoples.
We have great pleasure in offering to the English knowing public one more work by the great Acharya who needs no introduction to the student of Indian Philosophy. The Sarva Vedanta Siddhanta Sara Sangraha by Acharya Shankara, as its name implies, is a compendium and a precise re-statement of all that has been thought of and set down about the Self from a purely philosophical viewpoint. A translation of this work originally planned and undertaken by Swami Tattwananda has since been revised by swami Jagadananda of the Ramakrishna Mission with a View to make it simpler and easy of understand by the general public. the publishers do not , however, claim that this rendering into English is literal or precise. Notwithstanding the limitation of English language as a vehicle of expression of Indian philosophic thought, the author has endeavoured to maintain the spirit of the original in the translated version, by elaborating at times the too cryptic expressions in the original or by giving the near meaning where he classical expressions do not lend hope that the book in its present form will have a greater appeal to the modern man, who inspite of the strain and stress of everyday life may yet wish to continue his spiritual quest by poring over the masterpieces of the past.
We take this opportunity in expressing our sincere thanks to Sri V.A. Thyagarajan, Retd. Professor of English, Mysore and Kerala Universities whose assistance in the matter of translation and whose financial contribution have expedited the printing and publishing of the present volume.
Sri Ramakrishna Advaita Ashrama
1. The life and works of Acharya Sankara
Many a writer has written the life of Sri Sankara, many a poet has sung his glory; and many an orator has spoken of the depth of his philosophy and the sublimity of his thought. It may be asked, why, then, should one more attempt be made today to place before you this lofty soul and to unfold to you his life and thought. I have two reasons for this. My first rea- son has been aptly put in the form of a question by an ancient . poet. He asks, "Do not people perform the Tarpanas of their forefathers with the water which Bhagiratha brought from heaven for the spiritual uplift of his ancestors?" In the same way, my spiritual craving can be satisfied only by my per- sonal homage to the Master-mind whose light has illumined the world. In order to satisfy myself, to purify my own thoughts, to do my duty and to make myself blessed I should like to place before you my thoughts and reflections on the life and work of the great sage; Acharya Sankara.
I feel very much pained when I see the children of my country going and sitting at the feet of the prophets and sages of other countries, without caring to know what our own proph- ets and sages have taught the world at large. Many a young man of the present day knows very little of the immortal Sankara, whom the great Swami Vivekananda considered to be the greatest intellect of the world: I should like to rouse the enthusiasm of our young men to study the works of Sankara; and that in the original, if possible. Sanskrit, the mother of all Indian languages, in which the thought of our forefathers finds embodiment, is not at all a difficult language if one has a mind to study it. Learn Sanskrit and read the works of Sankara. To be. really proud of our country one must study Sankara. To know what India contributed to the regeneration of the world, one must study Sankara.
Sri Sankara's life is shrouded in mystery. Even the date of his birth and the place of his birth are left uncertain. The writers who have attempted his biography conceive of him as a mythical figure and are lacking in the historical outlook. Our original authorities on the life of the Acharya are the various Sankaravijayas written by Madhavacharya, Anandagiri, Chidvilasa, Swami Sadananda and Govindanatha. The Madhva-Vijaya and Manimanjari, both of them by Pandit Narayanacharya, a not too favourable Madhva writer, give us additional information. Finally we have the Skandapurana and the Vayupurana. Among recent writers special mention may be made of Wilson, Max Muller and Telang. Girish Chandra Ghose, the famous Bengali dramatist, has also written a drama on the life of Sankara.ln reading these works the reader must be specially on guard, as there is little that is common between these works. A few words regarding the relative merit of these works will not be out of place.
Madhavacharya, whose work is placed first in the list is identified with the famous Vidyaranya. He was the minister of Hukka and Bukka, the founders of Vijayanagar. It is said that Vidyaranya later on became the head of the Sringeri Math. Some scholars are however of the opinion that the author of Sankaravijaya is not Vidyaranya, but some later writer. Granted that the original author was Vidyaranya himself, it would follow that the work could not be earlier than the four- teenth century: This work is based to a large extent upon traditions and popular stories; nor does it redound to the criti- cal outlook and historical insight of the author. In brief, it is . more a Purana than a biography. All the other Sankaravijayas are of much later origin. Wilson however claims for Anandagiri's work age as well as authenticity. But a cursory glance at the book shows us that the writer was not the origi- nal Anandagiri who was a disciple of Acharya Sankara, but some other person of the same name and of Tamil origin. Skandapurana is of comparatively recent origin and is not of much historical value. Vayupurana merely mentions the name of Sankara and gives us a list of his disciples. Madhva Vijaya and Manimanjari are polemical works animated by a spirit of sectarian controversy. Among other works special mention may be made of a still unpublished work, entitled Brihat Sankara Vijaya. It is attributed to a person called Chitsukhacharya, who is said to have been five years older than Acharya Sankara. He is also said to have been a fellow student, disciple and companion of the Acharya in his wan- derings, and third in the line of succession at Dwaraka Pitha. . . Madhava, the author of Sankara Vijaya also refers to an ear- lier work entitled Prachina Sankara Vijaya, of which however very little is known. The Math records would have been very valuable sources of information if they did not, unfortunately, contradict one another. The other works of Acharya Sankara do not afford us sufficient internal evidence which may be of value to the biographer; for, they are essentially lacking in the egoistic element which is so essential for an autobiog- raphy.
With the single exception of Anandagiri, the other writers on Sankara are unanimous in their view that Sankara was born at Kalady, a village about eight miles to the north east ,of Alwaye. Anandagiri is the only writer who says that Sankara was born at Chidambaram. Attempts have been made to rec- oncile these to different points of view by a critic who points out that although the original Sankara was born at Kalady, there was another Sankara, not less famous, who was born at Chidambaram. In support of the view that Acharya Sankara was a Malayalee Brahmin we may note that in the temple of Narayana at Badari, which is said to have been founded by Sankara, the officiating priest has been a Nambudiri from Malabar and that this practice has come down from very an- cient times.
The Agrahara at Kalady is said to have been founded by a neighbouring chief called Rajasekhara. As Kaiady was at that time part of Cochin state, the founder of the Agrahara might have been a Maharaja of Cochin. This chief, we are told, had a dream that Lord Siva had become manifest in a Linga that had arisen spontaneously in the neighbourhood of his capital. It was in fulfilment of that dream that the king en- dowed an Agrahara, so that the temple service might be continued. In that Agrahara there was a person called Vidyadhiraja.lt may be that this was a title indicating his learn- ing. He had an only son named Sivaguru. After having com- pleted the usual courses of instruction open to Brahmin boys in those days, he settled down as a householder. His wife's name is said to have' been Aryamba. For a long time they were childless; and both of them prayed to Siva at Vrishadri to bless them with a child. This Vrishadri might have been either Trichur or Pulliman-tulli near Kalady. We are told that Siva appeard to them in a vision, in the guise of a Brahmin, and asked Sivaguru if he would wish to have a large number of wicked sons, or an only son who would be wise but short- lived. Sivaguru chose the latter alternative and Sankara was born as his son. The story points out that the birth of Sri Sankara was, as in the case of Sri Ramakrishna, attended with miraculous events.
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