By kAnchI kAmakoTi pIThAdhipati shrI shrI chandrashekharendra sarasvatI mahAsvAmigal
If it is said that it is mentioned in various Shankara Vijaya texts that it was parameshvara, the shambhu who too avatAra as shankara, one may ask: “Those who wrote Shankara Vijayas must have been devotees of shankarAchArya. They would have also been the followers of his siddhAnta and taken him as their guru. It is natural to elevate the status of such a guru above a mahApuruSha and praise him as an avatAra. What is praised thus out of reverence need not be the reality. Therefore, if there is any evidence other than the shankara vijayas which show that the AchArya was Ishvara’s avatAra, show that to us. In other words, instead of relying on what is written by those who were followers of his religion, if there is any evidence in any other great literature, then we shall accept”.
There are such authorities but above all that, there is the authority in the Veda itself! Instead if stating explicitly that AchArya was an avatAra puruSha, it has been said in an indirect manner. When we understand clearly what is said in an indirect manner, it gets more interesting.
I had mentioned the two words shambhu and shankara and said that it was shambhu who came as shankara. In the veda, these two names have been mentioned in the same order and then the panchAkShara. It is in yajur veda. Before going there, I shall show one pramANa which is in rg veda. In order to speak about rg veda which is said to be the oldest grantha in the world, we have to start from 17th to 18th century AD. There lived a great person named bhAskararAya. The dIkShA name which he got from his guru was bhAsurAnandanAtha. bhAskara refers to the sun. bhAsura also refers to brightness. True to these names, he was shining as an intellectual so that he could be called vidvatsUrya. Many of these things we have been able to know today come from him. He was a great devotee of ambA. He was written important books on the procedures of shrIvidyA upAsanA. The commentary which he has written on lalitA sahasranAma shines as an authority and commands the special respect of shrIvidyA upAsakas. This great scholar has composed a shloka on AchArya. It is from this shloka that we can know that rig veda indicates the avatAra of shambhu as shankara:
shrIrAmaM prati puShkaprAbhidhamahAyakSheNa vedatraya
vyAkhyanavasare vishiShya kathitaM shrIviShNudharmottare |
etAM dhenuM upahvayAmi sudhugAM iti R^iggataM sha~nkarA-
chAryaM shiShyachatuShTayena sahitaM vande gurUNAM gurum ||
This verse composed by bhAskarAya describes our AchArya as the guru of all gurus. Since the shloka starts with shrIrAmam, we can understand that AchArya has been connected with rAma. But what though is the connection?
rAma’s story did not end with what has been narrated in rAmAyaNa. There are some other texts which narrate details which are not present in vAlmIki rAmAyaNa. One of them is yoga vAsisTha or jnAna vAsistha. The other one is viShNu dharmottara purANa. In the second line of this shloka, it is this book which has been referred to. rAma who conducted himself as a human being obtained upadesha of both pravR^itti and nivR^itti mArgas from two different teachers. From vasisTha he obtained the j~nAnopadesha of advaita which is the highest state of nivR^itti. That is j~nAna vAsisTha. All those who study vedAnta are familiar with this book. The upadesha which rAma obtained for karma or pravR^itti mArga has not become as popular. That one is viShNu dharmottara. It is generally spoken of as a supplement to viShNu purANa. A yakSha named puShkara gave it as upadesha to rAma. The verse calls the puShkara mahAyakSha and from this we can understand his greatness. When rAma who was himself an avatAra took upadesha from him, he must have been a great personality. Just as there are kinnaras, kimpuruShas, gandharvas and others among the celestials, there are also the yakShas. Their chief is kubera. It is puShkara who was a yakSha who gave upadesha of the karmakANDa of the three Vedas (rg, yajus and sAmaveda) to rAma. In this context, when explaining the meaning of a rg veda mantra, there is a reference to AchArya.
etAM dhenuM upahvayAmi sudhughAm: this refers to the mantra in rig veda, first maNDala, sUkta 164. This is a vedic mantra which talks about Ishvara protecting the world in the manner of a cow that gives milk to its calf. In viShNu dharmottara, when puShkara explains the meaning of this verse to rAma, he says that it is indirectly stated in the mantra that when advaita tattva is forgotten in the world, just as the cow gives milk to its calf, parameshvara will incarnate to impart jnAna to people. It does not stop at mentioning about AchArya’s avatAra alone. It also states that he will take avatAra along with four shiShyas. If a great person such as bhAskararAya says a thing on his own, that itself commands a lot of respect. What is stated in a purANa such as viShNu dharmottara also commands respect. There is no need to assert the importance of what is stated in the veda itself. When a great man such as bhAskararAya says that puShkara the mAhA yakSha has said that in the veda there is mention about our AchArya’s avatAra, it becomes still greater.
Although Vedas are said to be four, in actual practice only rg, yajus and sAma Vedas are important for all karmAnuShThAna. In the yajnas which are part of the forty smaskAras, only these three Vedas are used. It is for this reason that we say: vedatrayI. bhAskararAya also sates the same: vedatraya vyAkhyAna. Yajur veda occupies the second and hence the middle position among the three. Whatever is in the middle is accorded greater respect. The garbhagR^iha of the mUrti is at the center of the temple. If we consider yajurveda, what is its center? It is divided into seven kANDas. Therefore the middle of yajurveda is the fourth kANDa. shrI rudram is in the middle of the fourth kANDa. It is called shrI rudra prashna or shatarudrIyam. It is in the form of a prayer to paramashiva.
What is in the middle of the rudram will thus be in the centre of the entire vedatrayI. Those words form the center just like the mahAli~NgamUrti at the centre of a big temple. The center and the very life of the veda is the shiva panchAkShara mahAmantra which occurs in the middle of the eighth subsection of rudram. The two names shambhu and shankara occur before that mahAmantra, as if leading one to the mahAmantra.
First the name shambhu is mentioned, then the name shankara and then shivanAma is mentioned in the form of namaskAra, forming the panchAkShara mahAmantra. What is thus given in the order of shambhu, shankara and panchAkShara provides support to the matter we are discussing. panchAkShara is to be recited only after receiving upadesha of the same from an AchArya. When the term AchArya is mentioned, what first comes to our mind is our AchArya bhagavatpAda alone who was jagadAchArya. How was he before took this avatAra? We have seen that he was shambhu! First it was the form of shambhu which was silent as the great dakShiNAmUrti. Then it was the form of shankara who taught his disciple verbally and through his writings. And then is the form of panchAkShara which has to be received as upadesha from Guru. Now, this is what occurred to me. One of those who wrote commentaries on the rudram was abinava shankara who found that there is evidence in the same sUkta for Acharya being the avatAra of paramashiva. We shall now consider it.
From the second to the eighth part of this sUkta, there are mantras which describe rudra and which says that all the beings in the world both sentient and insentient are the forms of the rudra. Since this has been made as nAmAvaLi in the name of rudra trishatI and we perform archana with these names. In this it is described that carpenters, potters, blacksmiths, hunters, tribals, thieves are all paramashiva, the great rudra. It is also said that the chief of the thieves is also rudra, taskarANAM pati. Whether it is tree or grass or flood or waves, rain or wind, all these are of the form of shiva. Let it be cattle, or a dog or a chaNDAla who eats the dog, these are all of his form. Thus, rudra prashna proclaims that all things in the world are of the form of the one paramAtman.
In addition to being the several things of this world, there are also the names of the form of parameshvara which we know. These are called asAdharaNa nAmas. Usually, we understand sAdhAraNam as ordinary and asAdharaNam as something special or rare. The fact is sAdhAraNam means what is general and asAdhAraNam means what is specific. When paramashiva is referred to as the several things of the world, such reference will be in the plural form and the asAdhAraNa names which are exclusive to paramashiva are mentioned in singular. While mentioning names specific to shiva, it is said, bhava, rudra, sharva, pashupati, nIlakaNTha, shitikaNTha; note that the names are all in singular. After the name shitikaNTha, the two names kapardI and vyuptakesha are mentioned with namaskAram immediately followed by sahasrAkSha (one with countless eyes) and shatadhanvan (one with countless weapons). Then the names girIsha and girisha are mentioned which which are specific to shiva are also mentioned. Thus, due to the occurrence in the midst of the several asAdhAraNa nAmas appropriate only to parameshvara, the names kapardin and vyuptakesha are listed, it means that these two are also specific to Him.
What is meant by kapardin and vyuptakesha? Kapardin means the one who is having jaTA. Vyuptakesha means the one who is having a shaven head. In rudra, names given to Ishvara in succession are opposites in quality. He is jyeShTha and he is kaniShTha. In the same manner, he is the one with jaTA and the one with the shaven head. But there is something special about kapardi. Kaparda means jaTA. But it does not refer to the jaTA of everyone. Only the jaTA of parameshvara is called kaparda. When mahAviShNu, brahmA, indra, and all the other devas are wearing a kirITa on their heads, it is only shiva, the yogi, who is with jaTA. Only parameshvara who wears the gangA, the moon, the snake, the kapAla, the dhatUra flower etc. has been specifically given the name kapardI. It is therefore a confirmation that this name refers only to parameshvara.
Therefore, the name vyuptakesha which comes immediately after kapardi must also be specific to paramashiva. This name does not appear in between the names such as the carpenters, potters, fishermen, outcaste, thieves etc., but instead between those names which refer to Him as the only one Ishvara who is the Lord of the world. These two names are mentioned in singular referring to Ishvara only. We have seen that kapardi is the asAdhAraNa nAma specific to him; therefore the name vyuptakesha should also be such based on the pattern. This is an important point we should make note of.
Thus, the name vyuptakesha refers to the form of sannyAsin with shaved head, which is specific to paramashiva. There is no mUrti other than our AchArya which can be shown as with a shaven head. Whether it is dakShiNAmUrti, naTarAja or tripurAri, all these mUrtis are with jaTAs. When it is so and the veda clearly refers to a particular mUrti of paramashiva as vyuptakesha, it only refers to the shankara avatAra which is to take place in the future. This is how abhinava shankara who has commented on the rudram has explained this nAma.
Will it be enough if we say that when rudram specifically mentions a person with shaven head as shiva svarUpi, it is specifically our AchArya? It will be satisfying only if some other authority is also shown. This is where we examine the purANas. It is the way of our elders that the meaning of the veda should be understood only through purANAs and itihAsas.
itihAsapurANAbhyAM vedaM samupabr^iMhayet |
The puraNas and itihAshas are upabrAhmaNas of the veda and give detailed explanations. The one who has learnt itihAsa, purANa along with the veda is a great scholar or a bahushruta. One who tries to investigate the meaning of the veda without the knowledge of itihAsa and purANa is alpashruta. It is at the very sight of such a person that the veda shudders in fear. But why is the veda afraid? It is afraid because it thinks: He will pull me anywhere to his liking, and will ascribe meanings to mantras as he likes. Therefore, one should investigate the purANas to find out who is that vyuptakesha who is the shivamUrti. It is said in vAyu purANa:
chaturbhiH saha shiShyaistu shankaro.avatariShyati |
abhinava shankara also found out from the itihAsa named shiva rahasya and got confirmation and declared in his commentary that vyuptakesha refers to shankara avatAra. Let us now consider shiva rahasya. The divine stories which have greater authority than the purANas are called itihAsas. Both rAmAyaNa and mahAbhArata are itihAsas. Similarly the itihAsa which concerns shiva is shiva rahasya. It consists of more than fifty thousand shlokas and the weel-known dharma shAstra grantha nirNaya sindhu accepts it as an authority. subrahmaNya gave upadesha of it to sage jaigishavya and hence it is referred to as a compilation of jaigishavya. Subrahmanya also does not state that he himself has given upadesha to the sage. He only says that he gave as upadesha the itihAsa which parameshvara had told ambA long ago.
Just as rAmAyaNa consists of seven kANDas, shiva rahasya has been divided into twelve parts. In the ninth part, the life stories of great shiva bhaktas have been described. The stories of the sixty-three nAyanmArs are also found here. In the same manner, the story of our Acharya is also present. The stories have been narrated in such a manner that what is going to happen in the future has been seen through jnAna dR^iShTi.
The object of shiva rahasya is to specifically deal with shiva bhakti. Advaita j~nAna mArga which is important for our AchArya is not important for this book. But AchArya was also a bhakta avatAra just as he was a j~nAna avatAra. He was a great bhakta of Ishvara, viShNu and ambA. Although he himself was of the svarUpa of parabrahmam, he operated as a bhakta in order to show to people bhakti as a preliminary step to jnAna. He undertook pilgrimages to several holy places, composed stotras, conducted pUjA and observed anuShThAnas, thus showing himself as bhakta.
As a devotee of ambA, he wrote saundaryalaharI and other stavas and established shrIchakra in several temples. He sang bhaja govindam throughout the country. In the mutts established by him, he has established chandramoulIShvara as an important mUrti. He was always adorned with vibhUti and rudrAkSha. He has given us stotras such as shivAnandalaharI related to shaivam. He has thus been accorded a place in shiva rahasya as he has helped in the propagation of shiva bhakti. Although AchArya wrote commentaries related to advaita vedAnta and preached them all over the country and made the scholars accept them to earn the title advaitapratiShThApanAchArya, all this is not important for shiva rahasya. Importance has been given only to the fact that AchArya obtained from Ishvara the five sphaTika lingas which have been installed at five places.
The objective of shiva rahasya is to enable shiva sAyujya, which is mokSha to be obtained through shiva bhakti. But Acharya has also stated that bhakti, be it to any god, is only a preliminary to j~nAna and it is only through j~nAna vichAra that mokSha is attained. AchArya cannot be included in the list of those like the sixty-three nAyanmAras and haradatta who had given all the importance only to shiva bhakti and shivasAyujya. Therefore, if achArya had not been given a place in shiva rahasya the objective of which is only to establish the greatness of shiva and shiva bhakti, it can be expected. Instead of that, he has been mentioned in this work as Ishvara avatAra. This is a valuable authority.
The eleventh chapter of the ninth part entirely deals with the life story of AchArya. It starts with parameshvara telling ambA:
keraLe chAchalagrAme viprapatnyAM madamshajaH |
bhaviShyati mahAdevi sha~NkarAkhyo dvijottamaH ||
madaMshajaH: one who is born of my aspect, paramashiva speaks thus to ambA, addressing her mahadevi.
In kUrma purANa, there is mention of Ishvara having taken the avatAra of Acharya:
kariShyatyavatAraM svaM sha~Nkaro nIlalohitaH |
shrautasmArtapratiShTharthaM bhUtAnAM hitakAmyayA ||
nIla means blue and lohita means red. Thus, the fact that parameshvara who is with shakti i.e. who symbolizes ardhanArIshvara is Himself to going to incarnate as AchArya is mentioned here. Ishvara thus incarnated with the objective of establishing the vedic shrauta and smArta practices. Now let us look at li~Nga purANa:
nindanti vedavidyAMshcha dvijA karmANi vai kalau |
kalau rudro mahAdevaH sha~Nkaro nIlalohitaH |
prakAshate pratiShThArthaM dharmashcha vikR^itAkR^itiH |
shivaM viprA niShevante ena kenApi sha~Nkaram |
kalidoShAn vinirjitya prayAnti paramAM padam ||
There is also a purANa called bhaviShyottara which deals with future. It states thus:
kalyAdau dvisahasrAnte lokAnugrahakAmyayA |
chaturbhiH sahashiShyaistu sha~Nkaro.avatariShyati ||
There is yet another purANa named brahmANDa purANa. In the latter part of this purANa, lalitA sahasranAma and lalitopAkhyAna appear. One part of this purANa is mArkaNDeya saMhitA. It consists of hundred kANDas. In the 72end kANDa and 7 and 8th parispandas, Acharya’s story is told:
lokAnugrahatatparaH parashivaH saMprArthito brahmaNA
chArvAkAdimataprabhedanipuNaM buddhiM sadA dhArayan |
kAlaTyAkhya purottame shivaguroH etc.
Thus, not only in shankara vijayas, but in Rg veda, rudra, shiva rahasya, markaNDeya saMhitA, viShNu dharmottara, vAyu purANa, kUrma purANa, li~Nga purANa, bhaviShyottara purANa, saura purANa (vyAkurvan vyAsyasUtrArtham etc.), in all these it has been said that shrI shankara bhagavatpAda was not an ordinary human being but an avatAra mUrti. If there is importance to what has been said in the purANas and itihAsas which are of a general nature and not emant mainly to praise Acharya, what his own shiShyas who were with him and moved with him closely said about their guru has special importance. Normally, the world understands others only to some extent. Anybody can be assessed only on the basis of what he shows himself to be. The great men of our religion like Acharya lived an open life. There is no doubt about it. We definitely know that they have not just written books with their intelligence and poetic ability but through direct experience. AchArya’s mukhya shiShyas who lived with him were sureshvara, hastAmalaka, totAka and padmapAda. They were great scholars who had also attained j~nAna siddhi. Therefore we are eager to know what they have said about AchArya whom they saw every day.
Of the four shiShyas, hastAmalakAchArya has compiled a short stotra called hastAmalaka stotram. It is filled with the vedAntic truths of advaita. It sayd: there are no human beings, devas, yakShas or any jAti. There is only one Atma svarUpam which is brahma svarUpam. When that is so, can there be a separate Acharya svarUpam or avatAra svarUpam? Therefore, in the words of hastAmalakAchArya, there is nothing in the praise of AchArya. There is nothing that shows him as Ishvara avatAra.
But the other three shiShyas have praised AchArya with great devotion as parameshvara Himself. I am not going to narrate the whole thing; I will only mention what they have stated as a proof of AchArya being paramashiva’s avatAra. toTakAchArya ends each of the shlokas of the famous toTakAShTakam thus: bhava shankara deshika me sharaNam. He says this in the sense: The shankara who I see now is shankara, the shiva”. Bhava is one of the popular names of shiva occurring in the aShTakam. Thus, the interpretation can be: That bhava who is shiva is shankarAchara svAmin or shankara deshika; he be my refuge.
If bhava is taken as a verb, it would mean let it happen or may you be. Therefore we can adopt this meaning as well for bhava. But in the fourth shloka of the stotram ,bhava is used to refer to shiva without any scope for doubt: bhava eva bhavAn. bhavAn means “you”. He addresses AchArya directly and says: you are shiva himself, the shiva who is bhava:
bhava eva bhavAniti me nitarAm samajAyata chetasi kautukitA |
kautukam can mean great joy. nitarAm means entirely. Chetasi means in the mind. What he states is that having realized AchArya as parameshvara himself and not one of the gurus who are human, his mind is immersed in supreme joy.
Then after three shlokas, he says: gurupungava pungavaketana te. Pungava means the one who has the nandin as his flag. And he himself is guru pungava, the noblest of gurus.
sureshvarAchArya has written a book named naiShkarmya siddhi explaining that the actionless state is the ultimate goal. Both in his earlier days when he was a serious karma mImAmsaka and later when he became Acharya’s shiShya. He was never overpowered by emotion. Such people will be keen to establish truths on the basis of philosophy. sureshvarAchArya has written a vArtika on Acharya’s tattirIyopaniShad bhAShya where he states:
mumukShusArthavahasya bhavanAma bhR^ito yate |
“He is the chief of all mumukShus, he is the yati who bears the name of bhava”. mumukShus are those who are keen to attain mokSha and make efforts for the same. sArthavAha usually means one who is the chief of a group of merchants. When merchants cross the seas in boats or the deserts on camels as a caravan, there is generally a merchant who will be the leader who is already familiar with the route and will be able to lead them on that route. Such a leader is called sArthavAha. AchArya is referred to as the sArthavAha who shows the way to the mumukShus through the ocean of samsAra and the desert of samsAra. What are the goods he carries, what is his wealth? It is jnAna alone. When speaking similarly, padmapAdAchArya says: bhAShyavittaka guru, which means he is the guru who has as wealth the bhAShyas which he had written. He says this in his commentary called panchapAdikA. Although in accordance with the characteristics of a sannyAsi he does not possess the worldly wealth, he has with him the wealth of jnAna and is the chief of the merchants of jnAna.
Now let’s move to padmapAdAchArya. If his knowledge and vidvat known from his commentary on sUtra bhAShya, we can notice his devotion by reading the life story of the Acharya. toTakAchArya had kept his knowledge and scholarship subdued and showed himself as a bhakta. hastAmalaka was completely immersed in jnAna like dakShiNAmUrti. Emotion could go nowhere near him. We have also seen that sureshvarAchArya was never overpowered by emotion. It is padmapAda alone who was not only a jnAni but a bhakta as well, who displayed devotional sentiments. He was also a great scholar who could explain the philosophical truth marvelously.
He worships AchArya as an avatAra of shiva in his panchapAdikA. Through a play of words, he describes that the AchArya has qualities which are opposite to those of parameshvara. Now we call our AchArya Adi shankara because all those who came to occupy the AchArya pITha after him are called shankarAcharyas. The first of them is thus called Adi shankara. But those who lived in his time could not have referred to him as Adi shankara. Those who lived in his time and who had realized that we was an avatAra puruSha must have referred to kailAsanAtha as Adi shankara and the AchArya who was moving among them as avatAra shankara or abhinava shankara. In this way, padmapAdAchArya calls him apUrva shankara.
In the name apUrva shankara, there is a pun. In the entire shloka there are several puns. apUrva means strange, wonderful. Since the shloka keeps narrating several things which are the opposite of kailAsa shankara and ends with apUrva shankara, it seems to suggest: He is a strange and different paramashiva.
nirastabhUtiM anumardhavigraham |
vinAvinAyakamapUrva shankaram ||