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Re: Vidyaranya

vidya_at_cco.caltech.edu
Date: Wed May 01 1996 - 15:45:58 PDT

skaushik wrote:

> An authoritative "not true"! :-)
>
> My knowledge of these matters is restricted to one source,
> the introduction by Swami Tapasyananda of RK Mutt Publication
> Sankara DigVijaya. From what I have seen, Tapasyananda has commented
> on number of other works and seems reasonably knowledgeable. However,

I am not denying that Swami Tapasyananda is very learned. Some of his 
writings are very well done, but in this particular matter, I would beg
to disagree with him. His discussion of Sankara's date is also somewhat
inconclusive, in that he tries to concede as much as possible to all sorts
of contrary "traditional" dates, which leads nowhere. This may be okay for
the purposes of hagiographical description, but as history it is weak. 

> This is verbatim from the book:
> 
> "In the fortieth year (i.e. 1335), he became associated with
> thefounders of the Vijayanagara empire - Hari Hara I and his brother
> ....
> 1380 to take up the life of Sannyasa at the age of 85. He begame the
> head of the Sringeri Math for a few years and passed away at the age
> of 91 in 1386."

This is not what the Sringeri traditions and more reliable historical 
records say. The legend about the founding of the Vijaynagar empire is that
Harihara and Bukka met and became disciples of Vidyaranya, when he was doing
tapasyA on virUpAksha hill near Hampi. This might have been in the year
1335 CE. What is certain from rock inscriptions is that in 1346 CE,
Harihara and Bukka came to Sringeri, to pay respects to the maThAdhipati 
there, for his blessings in setting up the Hindu kingdom. The founding of
the Vijayanagar empire is probably the first time a Hindu king consciously
thought of the Arab and Turks as aliens who needed to be resisted on religious
as well as political and military grounds. 

This 1346 inscription mentions bhAratI tIrtha and vidyAraNya as disciples of
vidyASankara tIrtha, who were on the "dharma simhAsana of Sr.ngeri". This was
also the time when the foundation for the vidyASankara temple was laid at the
site of the samAdhi of vidyASankara tIrtha. The relevant records are now in the
possession of the Archeological Survey of India. 

Obviously, if vidyAraNya was already at the dharmasimhAsana of Sr.ngeri in 1346,
it is difficult to square this with the idea that he "served" under three kings
of vijayanagar. The source for this confusion is the fact that vidyAraNya's
name was originally mAdhava. Whether this mAdhava was the younger brother of
sAyaNa or not, is not very clear. In the vijayanagar empire itself, there was
a minister named mAdhava and a governor of the province of Goa, also named
mAdhava. 

> You mentioned the gotras, what were teh gotras of the various
> Vidyarananyas?

The various gotras are of the various mAdhavas. There was only one vidyAraNya. 
sAyaNa and mAdhava were of the AngIrasa gotra, bodhAyana sUtra yajurvedins. 
mAdhava, the governor of Goa was of the Gautama gotra, and the other minister
mAdhava was kauSika gotra, I think. More authoritative discussion on the gotras
of the three mAdhavas can be found in P.V. Kane's History of Dharmasastra, in
the context of his discussion on the pArASara-mAdhavIyam. It is not clear
what gotra was the mAdhava who became vidyAraNya. This of course squares in
with the advaita attitude towards the complete severing of all pUrvASrama 
connections after sannyAsa. Even for fairly recent advaitins, there is very
scanty information on their pUrvASrama lives. 

> He further goes on to argue why the Vidyaranya, the Muttadhipathi, is
> the same Vidyaranya of the Vijayanagara court. He writes (again
> quoting verbatim):
>
> "The identity if further established by the poet (i.e. Vidyaranya)
> Madhava's reference to his life in the royal court in the following
> touching introductory verses of his work: "By indulging in indulging
> in insincere praise of the goodness and magnanimity of kings, which

This introductory verse only proves that the writer of this Sankara-vijayam
was a mAdhava who used to praise kings to receive material benefit. It does
not prove that this mAdhava is the same as vidyAraNya. Of course, there has
never been any doubt that the mAdhavIya Sankara-vijayam is indeed the composition of a person named mAdhava who lived in the 14th century. There has been 
some recent controversy about its authorship, but that is driven by rivalry
among different maThas. Swami Tapasyananda also points this out in his footnotes in pages 8-10 of his introduction to the translation. However, I don't see
how this verse can be taken as proving the identity of this mAdhava with
vidyAraNya. 

Even if the author mAdhava is the same as vidyAraNya, the verse does not 
identify which king it was that he praised, nor when he composed this 
Sankara-vijayam. The reference to praising kings is too general and not
conclusive. 

> Anyway, regardless of how this issue is settled, I am personally
> of the opinion that these are nit-picky issues that are best handled
> by Ph.D dissertations and of little consequence to establishing
> Sri  Vedanta Desika's spiritual outlook.

Of course. If it is the vairAgya of vedAnta deSika that is sought to be
emphasized, what you say is true. However, when referring to vidyAraNya, who
is considered a jIvanmukta and a jagadguru by the advaitins, it is perhaps 
advisable to be more careful in the choice of words than to call him a
court official or a minister of the vijayangar kingdom. It is also not 
consistent with the fact that vidyAraNya was called karNATaka simhAsana
pratishThApanAcArya - surely this was an AcArya who blessed the effort to
establish a karNATaka simhAsanam, not a mere official. 

So, all in all, getting back to Swami Tapasyananda's translation of the 
mAdhavIya Sankara vijayam, a large part of what he says in his introduction
is true. But his account of when vidyAraNya became a sannyAsI is not correct.
This is further reinforced by the fact that vidyAraNya's guru is always
mentioned as vidyASankara, and not bhAratI tIrtha, who preceded vidyAraNya
at Sr.ngeri. This information is based upon the colophons of the philosophical
works of vidyAraNya, the authorship of which is beyond doubt. Now, if you 
look at the dates Swami Tapasyananda gives for vidyASankara, it is clear that
vidyAraNya could not have become a sannyAsI as late as the 1380's. 

Regards,

S. Vidyasankar