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Sri Gaudapadacharya


kulaguNagaNanAtham hyUrdhvasamjnam namAmi

shrI gauDapAdAchArya is listed as the Guru of Sri Govinda Yati and Parama Guru of shrImadAchArya. He is also listed as a guru in most of the Srividya lineages existing today. However, details about the great Guru are largely unclear. If one looks at the name gauDapAdAcharya as he is popularly know, there are two words to be examined: gauDapAda and AchArya. AchArya seems to be an epithet of respect and the actual name is gauDapAda. Again, it is not clear whether the word gauDa is a samjnA or a visheShaNa. gauDa could just be his name or an indication of his origin, gauDa desha. Sri Sureshwaracharya, in his Naishkarmya Siddhi, speaks of Acharyadvaya, gauDa and drAviDa. The former may refer to gauDapAdAchArya and the latter to bhagavatpAda shankara. This is seen as a sufficient proof of his association with gauDa desha by many traditionalists. This interpretation is countered by a few ancient scholars like shArmaNya who interpret the words of Sureshvara as referring two distinct vaidAntika sampradAyas, gauDa and drAviDa. We have examples of personalities who have no association with gauDa desha, but have been referred to as gauDa. One example is Brahmananda, the author of aghuchandrikA, a commentary on the precious advaitasiddhi of madhusUdana saraswatI. This work is popularly referred to as gauDabrahmAnandI. Similar is the case of abhinanda paNDita, the author of laghuvAsiShTha. There still seems to be confusion between laghuvAsisTha, yogavAsiSThasAra, mokshopAyasAra and yogavAsiShThasamkShepa and the authors, abhinanda and gauDa abhinanda. These works indeed seem to be the works of one abhinanda, referred to as gauDa abinanda paNDita, in spite of his being a kAshmIra deshastha, which makes him a relevant example in our current case study. Also, a person whose ancestors belonged to gauDa desha, or the one who lived for sometime in gauDa country or started towards gauDa desha with an intention of settling there, all these are possible candidates who might have come to be referred to as gauDas at a latter point. The example of a mAthura quoted in shAbara bhAShya is exactly similar.

bAlakriShNAnanda saraswatI (of aitareyopaniShad bhAShya fame) describes gauDapAda as residing in kurukShetra, on the banks of river hirAvatI [hirarAvatI, hIrAvatI]. He traces the origin of gauDapAda to gauDa desha and states: because the great master was immersed in samAdhi from the beginning of dvApara till kali, his actual name (visheShAbhidhAna] was forgotten and people began to refer to him with his sAmAnya nAma, gauDapAda. Again, he might not have been necessarily born in gauDa desha but could have only taken birth in a gauDIya brAhmaNa family, as pointed out by bAlakriShNAnanda. Some others think that there was no particular person with the name gauDapAda. The kArikAs associated with gauDapAda, also known as AgamashAstra, consists of four prakaraNas: Agama, Vaitathya, Advaita and Alatasanti, which form the four pAdas of the philosophy of a certain gauDIya vedAnta school and hence the name gauDapAda. In shArIraka bhAShya, shrImadAchArya, when referring to the kArikA, says, atroktam vedAntasampradAyavidbhiH AchAryaiH, sampradAyavido vadanti etc. Anandagiri, in his nyAyanirNaya and govindAnanda, in ratnaprabhA, use similar expressions such as vriddhasammati etc. when referring to the kArikA. Sureshwara refers to the kArikA as gauDaiH kR^itam. Thus, it seems not too unreasonable to interpret the word gauDapAda as referring to gauDIyas in general or the gauDa school of vedAnta rather than a particular person. Vijnana Bhikshu, in his Samkhya pravachana Bhashya refers to the kArikA but does not mention gauDapAda to be the author. It seems likely that there was a flourishing school of vedAnta in gauDa desha before the advent of shrImadAchArya, the teachings of which were codified as the kArikA. An imaginary person called gauDapAda originated from gauDapAdIya kArikA and not vice versa is the opinion of some scholars. Or, if the authorship of the kArikA is to be associated to a single person, it is still possible within the framework of the above thought by assuming that the kArikA was authored by one person who captured the thoughts of the gauDa school of vedAnta but that still does not prove the existence of a personality named gauDapAda.

paramArthasAra is another work associated with gauDapAda. This work, which inspired the later version by abhinavaguptapAdAcharya with the same name, is attributed to Adi sheSha. It is sometimes referred to as AryA panchashatI. Some hold this to be older than the kArikA and some describe the author to be patanjali. It is a common belief that sage Patanjali was an incarnation of Adi sheSha, which can be seen in the description of mahAbhAShya as phaNibhAShitabhAshya by various authors. It is interesting to note a striking similarity in certain concepts between the karikA and paramArthasAra. Some of the other works claimed to be authored by gauDapAda are the sAmkhyakArikA bhAShya, uttaragItA bhAShya, bhAShya on nrsimha uttara tApinyupaniShad, durgA saptashatI TIkA, subhagodaya, shrIvidyAratnasUtram etc.

Traditional tales involving gauDapAda are abundant. Some such sources are the jagadgururatnamAlA stava of sadAshivabrahmendra saraswatI, the commentary on it by Atmabodhendra saraswatI, gauDapAdollAsa of harimishra, patanjalivijayam of rAmabhadra dIkShita [which identifies gauDapAda with patanjali] etc. It is said that gauDapAda, after learning the shAstra from Shuka, began to meditate in the Himalayas for ages till the advent of the bauddhas. Some of the lesser known works dealing with Srividya like udghoShamuktAvalI, guruparamparAcharitra, pAdukAvaibhavam, gadyavallarI, ratnasUtravimarshinI, samayAchAra sUtrANi [Andhra deshIya], subhagodaya dIpikA, subhagodaya chandrikA etc describe various accounts of gauDapAdAchArya. It may not be correct to dismiss these authors as totally incorrect by accepting the above standpoint, which is from the vedAntic angle. It is unfortunate that the vedAntic angle, whether correct or not, is popularly accepted without much thought to its contextual relevancy and Agama/tantra viewpoints are downplayed, and this hardly seems to be a fair practice. So, one needs to analyze the following:

1. Was there a person named gauDapAda who authored the kArikA?

2. If there was, is he the same as the author of ratna sUtra, subhagodaya, samayAchAra sUtra etc.? [the guru mandala for parA shoDaShI lists two gauDapAdas, one called gauDapAdaka in the siddhaugha and the other called simply gauDa in the mAnavaugha]

3. Or were both of these simply sects originating from a common source, the gauDIya school of thought?

4. If so, how is it that samayAchAra, a philosophy more associated/popular with kashmIra [shubhAgama panchaka refers to kAshmIra at several places vide sanaka samhitA; while offering gurumaNDala pUja in the eleventh AvaraNa, eight gurus precede gauDapAda after shuka, who seem to be from kAshmIra desha] and dakShiNa desha [lakShmIdharAcharya's karNAvatamsa stuti is said to be a gloss on the panchaka; samayamatasAra was authored by vijnAnendra saraswatI, again from dakShiNa desha; satyAnandanAtha's lineage is spread across dakShiNa desha pre-dominantly]

Let's examine these in the next part of this article.

tatkShobhavisphUrjitamAnasAya |
naiShkarmyabhAvena vivarjitAgama
svayaMprakAshAya namaskaromi ||