Preceptors of Advaita

by T. M. P. Mahadevan | 1968 | 179,170 words | ISBN-13: 9788185208510

The Advaita tradition traces its inspiration to God Himself — as Śrīman-Nārāyaṇa or as Sadā-Śiva. The supreme Lord revealed the wisdom of Advaita to Brahma, the Creator, who in turn imparted it to Vasiṣṭha....



Sri Anantanandendra Sarasvati Swami

In the last part of the first Ullāsa of the work Tattvachandrikā[1] by Vellalakula Umāmaheśvaraśāstrī, we come across the following passage:

ekonaśatam bhāṣyānyanārṣāṇi pṛthvīdhara-abhinavagupta-praṇītāni tatkālam vidyamāna-kartṛkāṇi chhinnānīti prasiddham.

It appears from the above that Ppthvīdhara, Abhinavagupta and ninety seven others, had written bhāṣyas on the Brahmasūtra, that the authors were living in the time of Śrī Śaṅkarāchārya and that those bhāṣyas were so completely refuted by Śrī Śaṅkarāchārya that they ceased to gain further currency. In the opinion of the author of Tattvachandrikā , Pṛthvīdhara who was the author of one of anārsha bhāṣyas is more respected than Abhinavagupta; for he mentions his name first in accordance with the Pāṇini-sūtra ‘abhyarhitam pūrvam’ which states that a revered person must be referred to first.

While we know of Abhinavagupta as the author of several works on Tantras, nothing is known of Pṛthvīdhara or of his works. The only two references to him that have been traced are in the Catalogues of Aufrecht. In his catalogue[2] of Sanskrit manuscripts in the Bodleian Library at Oxford, Aufrecht describes a work Dvādāśa-mahāvākya-vivaraṇa by one Vaikuṇṭha-puri in which the name of Pṛthvīdhara is found among the best of disciples of Śrī Śaṅkarāchārya. Vaikuṇṭhapuri also ascribes to Pṛthvīdhara the foundation of the order of sannyāsins in Kali-yuga. The well-known ten orders of the Advaita sannyāsins are:

  1. tīrtha,
  2. āśrama,
  3. vana,
  4. araṇya,
  5. parvata,
  6. sāgara,
  7. sarasvati,
  8. giri,
  9. bhāratī,
  10. and purī.

The sannyāsins of these orders are the śiṣyas of Pṛthvīdhara.

pṛthvīdhavāchāryaḥ tasyāpi sishyāḥ daśa:

sarasvatī-bhāratī cha purī nāmāni vai daśa.

He is also reported to have written a commentary on Śrī Sūkta published in Banaras.

From the above it may be inferred that after his bhāṣya was refuted by Śrī Śaṅkarāchārya, Śrī Pṛthvīdhara like Maṇḍana and others became a disciple of Śrī Śaṅkarāchārya.

While the other disciples like Sureśvara, Padmapāda and Hastāmalaka wrote Vārtikas, Vivaraṇas and so on to expound the principles of Advaita as established by Śrī Śaṅkarāchārya, the constitution along with the administration of the Advaita Sannyāsins was undertaken by Pṛthvīdhara in whom the great teacher apparently discovered the capacity for organization and all the qualities required to inspire reverence, obedience and faith necessary for the maintenance of discipline.

The other reference to Pṛthvīdhara is found in Aufrecht’s Catalogue[3] of Sanskrit manuscripts in the Leipzig University library. In the course of describing the manuscript gurupādādi-namaskāra Aufrecht says[4] that’ Anubhūtisvarūpāchārya, Troṭaka and Pṛthvīdhara are mentioned in the manuscripts. By the kindness of Prof. Dr. Johs Schubert of the Leipzig University, a micro film copy of the manuscript was obtained. The reference to Pṛthvīdhara in the manuscripts runs thus:


Here too Pṛthvīdhara is stated to have been one of the disciples of Śrī Śaṅkarāchārya and from the context it appears that Pṛthvīdhara after constituting the ten orders of Advaita sannyāsins was himself ordained as the head of the Śṛṅgeri Mutt.

We have to pay homage to Pṛthvīdharāchārya who was held in such esteem by Śrī Śaṅkarāchārya that he was entrusted with the organisation and administration of the sannyāsins who from his time to this day have so worthily discharged their functions by writing works on Advaita and propounding the teaching of Advaita philosophy.

It is also, I think, necessary that further and careful search should be made to find out more about the respected āchārya, Śrī Pṛthvīdhara, and his works especially his bhāṣya on the Brahmasūtra.

Whatever be the fact about Pṛthvīdhara—having been the first head of the Śṛṅgeri Mutt, we have a definite and undisputed fact that Pṛthvīdhara was the author of an anārsha bhāṣya on the Brahma-sūtra, that he established the order of Advaita sannyāsins and that he was very highly respected. Further research is however necessary especially to trace his bhāṣya which should have been considered so valuable that he was placed above Abhinavagupta by Umāmaheśvara when referring to the authors of the anārsha-bhāṣyas.

Footnotes and references:


Tattvachandrikā has been printed at M/s. G. Ramaswami Chetty Printing Works, Madras in the year 1907. Another name of this work is Rāmānujabhāṣya-bhañjanī. Manuscripts of this work are available in the Government Oriental Manuscripts Library, Madras, and Theosophical Society Library, Adyar.


Catalogi Codicum manuscriptorum Bibliothecae Bodleianae Codies Sanscriticos. Th, Aufrecht (1864).


Katalog Der Sanskrit—Handschrifton Der Catalogue of Sanskrit Manuscripts of. Universitat Bibliothek zu Leipzig. Von Theodor Aufrecht (1901).


Manuscript No. 231 Script of 1807.

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