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Re: Question re: Gaudapada Karikas.

From: Vidyasankar Sundaresan (
Date: Wed Sep 11 1996 - 20:15:26 PDT

I am grateful for the responses from Drs. Krishna Kalale and Sadagopan,
on my query re: Mandukya upanishad. Just a few comments on the issue. I
apologize for the rather technical nature of what follows.   

On 11 Sep 1996, Sri V. Sadagopan wrote:

> 1. Sesvaramimasa : Here Swami Desikan's 
> focus has been described as the defense of 
> Mimaamsa as "Ekasastra" , a single science 
> made up of Purvamimaamsa of Jaimini and 
> Uttaramimaamsa (Vedaantha), the elaboration
> of Brahma Sutras of Badarayana . The Acharya
> maintains that Purvamimaamsa is in harmony with the 
> Bramasutras and not in opposition . Swami continues and 
> states that Jaimini acccepted Isvara as the Universal Lord.
> It is not clear that we might find help on the
> question of Sri Vidyasankar from here.

I thought as much. The question about the Karikas is probably too
specific. However, let me clarify a little bit. As I understand Purva
Mimamsa, the classification of Vedic texts into categories like
vidhi, mantra, brahmana and arthavada is a prime concern of Jaimini's
Sutras. Under this classification, it is probably not very problematic to
club the Mandukya upanishad and the Karikas together, as arthavada. The
Purva Mimamsa school is generally willing to tolerate some non-Sruti
character in the arthavada portions. Only the mantra portions and some of
the brahmanas are strictly considered to be Sruti, hence non-authored. 

However, the advaita school rejects the contention that the upanishads are
just arthavada. Some portions within an upanishad may be described as
arthavada in the commentaries, but the upanishads as a whole are
thought to be more than arthavada. This view upholds the Sruti
(non-authored) character of the upanishads. I am under the impression that
the Sruti nature of the upanishads is upheld by all schools of vedAnta.

In this context, the question whether part of the kArikAs are included
under Sruti or not, is just a particular instance of a broader issue. The
advaita school handles the Sruti nature of the upanishads by suggesting a
two-fold division between karma-kanda and jnana-kanda in the Vedic texts.
This also allows the application of Jaimini's Sutras primarily to the
karma-kanda oriented view, and Badarayana's Sutras to the jnana-kanda
oriented view. If both these sets of Sutras are viewed as parts of the
same whole, as in Visishtadvaita, it is not clear to me what the
implications are, with respect to the status of the upanishads as
arthavada (possibly authored by human beings) or as not arthavada 
(non-authored). Unlike the more involved philosophical concepts, this is a
more basic issue of textual analysis. There has to be agreement among
Vedanta schools, as regards the basic character of the source texts,
because of the sUtras, "tat tu samanvayAt" and "SAstra-yoNitvAt". Hence my
question whether Sri Desika goes into this at all, and what his analysis
would mean for the Karikas of the Mandukya upanishad.  

> 2.The Book by Sri S.S. Raghavachar (Sri Ramanuja on Upanishads)
> might be  a good source to go over the author's 
> view on the place of Mandukya Upanishad & Sri Bhashyam.
> The author  starts off with a reference to the dubious nature of 
> Mandukya Upanishad to begin with.He 
> is referring to the genuine and ancient 
> aspect of this Upanishad in comparison to
> the other Upanishads.He also mentions 

I hesitate to  take a "fundamentalist" view on the relative ancientness of
some upanishads over others, but it must be remembered that the
attribution of specific ages to the upanishads is quite foreign to the
vedAnta and mImAmsA traditions. At least with respect to the principal
upanishads that are quoted by the earliest commentators, the idea that
some are more ancient than the others is not entertained by any of the

>From the point of view of critical scholarship, the question of age might
be of some interest. However, such scholarship presumes that all the
upanishads, as also all the samhitA portions of the vedas, were written
down specifically at some point of time by one or more human authors. Such
a view is completely rejected in both Vedanta and Mimamsa. The Sruti,
being unauthored, is strictly held to be beyond time. Now, if the Mandukya
upanishad is granted the status of Sruti, the question of its age, as
compared to say, that of the Brhadaranyaka upanishad should be
superfluous, at least to the vedAntins. Accepting relative age of
different portions of the vedas requires adjustments or reinterpretations
of other aspects of the philosophical school also. Again, the demarcation
between upanishad and kArikA becomes an issue, because it is definitely
known that gauDapAda is a historical personality, who lived during a
specific period in time.     

> that Adi Sankara does not quote directly from it in any
> of his Bhashya granthas.

However, there is a commentary on the Mandukya upanishad itself by Adi
Sankara, where the upanishad proper and the kArikAs are identified as
distinct. Now, it may be doubted whether this bhAshya is genuinely
Sankara's or not, but quite a few scholars are inclined to say that it 
is a genuine composition of Sankara's. Still, we also have to take into
account that post-Sankaran advaita writers, including Anandagiri,
specifically identify all the Karikas as having been written by Gaudapada,
and we may take it that they have just put in writing the traditional view
of the advaita school, that was passed on in oral teaching. 

> He points out that Adi Sankara and Sureswara 
> quote from the Karikas , an elaboration of
> the Upanishad.He refers to the one passage
> from Karika (I.16) being quoted by Sri Ramanuja.
> Adi Sankara's handling of Karikas and 
> Upanishad as a whole is referred to. 

I presume Sri Raghavachar says this on the basis of statements made by 
Paul Deussen. This idea, that Adi Sankara treats the Upanishad and Karika
as a whole, has since been discredited. In the Brahma Sutra Bhashya, only
the Karikas are quoted, not the upanishad itself. Whenever the Karika is
quoted, both Sankara and Suresvara refer to "Sampradaya-vit" or to the
name Gauda in one form or the other. And in Sankara's commentary on the
Upanishad and Karikas, the respective portions are clearly separated from
each other. So it is quite mistaken to say that the Upanishad and Karikas
are treated as a whole by Sankara. 

> Further,
> Kuranarayana Muni's acceptance of part of the 
> Karikas as inclusions in the text of the Upanishad
> is close to the position of Madhva-commentator on
> this Upanishad-where he takes some of the Karikas
> as part of the Upanishad. In summary , the boundaries betwen
> the Upanishad and the Karikas are uncertain.

Yes, it certainly is intriguing that the first book of the Karikas is
always found closely associated with the text of the upanishad. There is 
no confusion about the other three books, as they are accepted on all
hands to be Gaudapada's work. However, note that the very name "Karika"
implies that it is an exposition on some pre-existing thing. That is what
makes this question so interesting. 

The dvaita school's inclusion of 27 verses as Sruti seems quite arbitrary
to me. There are 29 verses in the first book of the Karikas, and sure
enough, the last two verses mention the absence of all duality. Separating
the first 27 verses from the last two verses of the same section of the 
Karikas does not appear to be justified. 

Namo Narayanaya, 

S. Vidyasankar