Bhagavatpadabhyudaya by Lakshmana Suri (study)

by Lathika M. P. | 2018 | 67,386 words

This page relates ‘Canto IX—Depicting of Travel to Kailasa’ of the study on the Bhagavatpadabhyudaya by Lakshmana Suri: a renowned Sanskrit Scholar from the 19th century. The Bhagavatpada-abhyudaya is a Mahakavya (epic poem) narrating the life of Shankara-Acharya, a prominent teacher of Advaita Vedanta philosophy. This essay investigates the socio-spiritual conditions of 8th century AD in ancient India as reflected in Lakshmanasuri’s work.

Cānto IX—Depicting of Travel to Kailāsa

Ācārya Śaṅkara along with his disciples started on a Digvijaya. It is regarded as a missionary tour for the propagation of the Advaita doctrine by controverting all philosophies opposed to it.[1] He first travelled towards the Setu. By the way, he came across a sect whose followers were Śaivās. They drank liquor in their worship like the Śāktās. There he engaged a debate with the Brahmanas of Śākta persuasion. After he worshipped Rāmanātha at Rāmeśvara Śaṅkara travelled through the Pāndya and Chola countries and reached the city of Kāñci. There he built a temple, for the worship of Devi. He made so many rituals with the Vedic tradition and suited to the attainment of supreme knowledge. He gave up in those rituals every trace of the tāntrika modes of worship. Then he worshipped Lord Veṃkaṭanātha, and reached the land of Vidarbha. There Padmapāda along with his disciples engaged themselves in controverting the perverse doctrines of the Bhairavas. Then Śaṅkara reached the shores of the Western sea. The sea looked like a great opposing controversialist. Its waves were like gestculating hands, and its roar was like sound of argument to the accompaniment of kettle drums. At noisy Gokarna, he took his bath in the sea and worshipped at the shrine of Lord Śiva.

The Ācārya at Dvāraka and at Ujjayini

The Ācārya and his disciples next travelled through Saurashtra and at last reached the city of Dvāraka. There were Vaiṣnavās who bore seal marks of Viṣṇu’s emblems like Śaṃkha, Cakra etc, on their arms, big upright painting on their forehead and Tulasi leaves on their ears. They held the doctrine that salvation is obtained by the recognition of the five differences. They are between God and Jīva, between Jīva and Jīva, between Jīva and insentient objects, between God and insentient objects and between insentient objects themselves. Hundreds of them came forward for arguments and were defeated by the disciples of the Ācārya. After defeating in arguments the sects of Vaiṣṇavās, Śaivās, Śāktās and Saurās, Śaṅkara reached the city of Ujjayini. To great joy they heard the loud sound of Mṛdaṅga, announcing that the worship of Lord Śiva was going on in the great temple of the city. Ācārya then proceeded to the great temple to adore the Deity Mahākāla. After the worship is over, then he adored of all the great sages. Then he called the disciple Padmapāda and said “there is a great scholar named Bhaṭṭa Bhāskara. Find out and inform him of our presence”. Bhaṭṭa Bhāskara was considered a prince among the scholars. He was the author of many works and a victor in numerous debates. Padmapāda met him and said “Here has arrived the Yogi Śaṅkara of world wide reputation who has been touring all over the country. He has defeated the scholars of opposite schools and spread the philosophy of non-dualism. Refuting the interpretations of all other schools he made a commentary of Vyāsa’s Vedanta Sūtras. And then Bhāskara replied that “as a swan swallows the tender stalk of lotus and performs its dance, your teacher has not yet heard of me who has torn to shreds the false teachings of many sects. Before my teachings even the lusture of the words of Kaṇāda. (He is the teacher of the Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika system) falls like that of the moon before the sun. Padmapāda then returned to his teacher and aquainted all that had happened. Then Bhaṭṭa Bhāskara arrived, and then he entered into arguments with Śaṅkara on philosophical and theological doctrines. Bhaṭṭa quoted many authors, each was bent on defeating the other. The controversy was unique for subtlety of arguments employed, for the skill convinced in refuting the thesis of the opponent, and for the splendid eloquence and mastery of language they displayed. None could know in the least, on what side victory lay. Gradually before the moon light of Śaṅkara’s dialectics, the lotus of Bhaṭṭa’s intellect began to shrink and close and at last he fell into a confused state of mind.

Panegeric of Śaṅkara

Bhāskara defeated and converted most of the Brahmins who had broken away from the Vedic principles. They had been misguided by the teachings of the Buddha. Those people were made humble by the great Ācārya and they accepted the Advaita doctrine. Various doctrines like Śāktā, Pāśupata, Kṣapaṇaka, Kāpālika and Vaiṣnava caused injuries on the body of Vedic religion by their mis-interpretation. It was to save the spirit of Veda that he used the path of arguments and not for gaining fame. Advaita was laid first by Brahmā which was guided by Śaṅkara and other Kumāras and maintained by Vālmīki. By and by it was inflicted by dualistics and pseudo religions. Bhāskara tried to clear the Vedic thoughts to render the seekers a safety path. Śaṅkara’s growth was fostered by great ethical value. He was brought up as Ṣaṇmukha was by his six mothers. Śaṅkara served advaita wery well. Every one who tried to misguide and misinterpret Advaita doctrine was terrified by the presence of Śaṅkara who was gleaning with the power of spiritual strength. The resounding drum beat announced the Ācārya’s victory. It was like a roaring forest fire ready to consume all malignant growth of bad doctrines. All other sectarians like Buddhists, follower of Kaṇāda, Kapila, Patañjali etc surrendered to Śaṅkara, who was the emperor of spiritual realm. The followers of Kaṇāda accepted Vedas later while Cārvāka and his doctrines disappeared from the area of philosophy. All other followers of Vedas, followed the path leading to Brahman proclaimed in the Upaniṣads. Śaṅkara’s mercy and sympathy were worth noticing while he was in company with the saṃnyāsiṃs. All bad doctrines and their apostles met with their doom at the hands of ‘King-of-staff-holders’. Advaita thought like ambrosia down poured and put an end to spiritual famine. Śaṅkara’s doctrines destroyed the sprouts of atheism. Śaṅkara taught genuine philosophy and removed the darkness of ignorance from the minds of people.

Ascending the Throne of Omniscience

Next morning Ācārya and his disciples were assembled near the banks of Gaṅga. Some people said that Jambu Dweepa is the most famous region. There Bhārata excels all others. In Bhārata, Kashmir is the most famous place. There mother Śāradā is present. In that place there is a temple with four gates dedicated to Śāradā within is the Throne of Omniscience.[2] But only an omniscient one can occupy that throne, the entrance to it will not be open to others. Scholars from the East, the West and the North could stand the test to prove their respective directions.[3] It was said that till now there has been no learned man from the South qualified enough to get the Southern entrance opened. On hearing this news the Ācārya who came from the South, felt a prompting to get the entrance opened and efface the stigma on Southerners that there never had been a scholar in the south competent to enter through the Southern gate to the throne of omniscience. Soon Śaṅkara started at the temple of Śārada in Kashmir. After reaching that temple, people who hailed his advent began to exclaim “O elephants of perverse controversialists! Flee from your forest of dualism. For hear comes Śaṅkara, the lion ruling over the forest of Advaita, with saṃnyāsa for his terrific teeth, bent upon breaking the foreheads of all of you, elephants of the forest of Dvaita! He is verily like lion that shatters the foreheads of elephants in rut. By his mere look he will put you, jackals of controversialists, to flight.”

Challenge by Scholars

When Ācārya approached in Southern entrance with a view to open it, that time a set of controversialists stopped him and said “Where are you going in great haste? You please say what you want? Through thoughtless action, you can achieve nothing. Only one who can establish his claim to be omniscient that is, to be a master of all branches of learning can go in. He will be tested, he says, that Śaṅkara cannot gain entrance here before that. A proud controversialist, an adherent of the school of Kaṇāda, which holds there are six categories approached the Ācārya and said their philosophy, two atoms together form into new atoms subtlety called Dvayanuka or doubled atom. If you are an omniscient, tell me what is it that unites the two Anu’s or atoms into one unit. If you cannot give a correct answer, them your claim for omniscience is only a bluff publicised by your disciples. Then Śaṅkara replied that the unity is due to something inherent in the atoms.The glorifiers of Kaṇāda then withdrew, saying that the Ācārya was correct. Then came forward the representative of the Nyāya school. Gautama’s school differs in the conception of liberation or mukti from the school of Kaṇāda. By narrating the difference please justify your claim to omniscience. Śaṅkara replied that in the view of Kaṇāda, liberation or mokṣa consists in a state like that of Ākāśa free from all qualities. Śaṅkara says that both accept Īśvara or God as the cause of the world. Thereupon the representative of Gautama school of Nyāya withdrew. The Saṅkhya came forward and said, please say whether Pṛakṛti or Nature is independent or dependent on an intelligent entity? If you are omniscient you must give a correct answer. Then only can you get in. Śaṅkara replied the Pṛakṛti, constituted of the three guṇas, out of which the universe is formed, is independent. But the Vedantists said that it is dependent on Īśvara. Then Sāṅkhya withdrew. Then came two scholars of the famous Buddhists schools of realism and nihilism, declaring that without being tested, you cannot enter the temple. Realism is of two kinds. What is the difference between them and what is difference between Vijñāna Vāda (idealism) and your philosophy? You please give the correct answers of this questions Śaṅkara replied that the two schools of realism are Sautāntṛkās and Vaibhāṣikas. Both accept the universal impermanence. The difference between them is very little. The Vijñāna Vāda accept the consciousness as a momentary and perishable one. But the Vedantins maintain it to be unitary and unchanging. But the difference between them is very vast. The Digaṃbara Jaina approached and asked that if you are a masters of all learning, tell us what is meant by Astikāya in our system. In this question Śaṅkara replied that the Jainas speak of five Astikāyas -Jīvāstikāya, Pudgalāstikāya, Dharmāstikāya, Adharmāstikāya and Akastikāya. Regarding the Jaimini’s doctrine, what is the nature of sound or Śabda is it substance (dravya) or quality (guṇa)? To this question Śaṅkara answered that Varṇa is eternal, all pervasive, and graspable by the ear, Śabda is its form. Substance (dravya) is all pervasive, according to this school of thought.

Test by Sarasvatī

The people who created a controversy in the beginning were then satisfied and they opened the entrance to the temple respectively. When Ācārya was about to ascend the Throne of omniscience, holding Padmapāda’s hand he heard disembodied voice of Sarasvatī, the Deity of the temple. One voice challenged him by telling that he was not deserving to ascend the Throne as his life was not so pure. He had to reflect whether he had been absolutely pure in life. Inorder to learn about the sex life he has lived in sexual relationship with women. To ascend the throne, perfect purity of life was a much needed necessity.

To those words Ācārya replied that he had done no sin with the body of him. He led a sex life when he was in another body. It would not affect of his own body. The voice of Sarasvatī was no more audiable. Her voice became silent.[4] The Ācārya ascended the Throne of omniscience and spectators praised him lavishly just as Gārgya, Kahola and others did to Yajñavālkya. They proclaimed that he was a worthy person to the title of omniscience. The praising voice of his followers, dimmed the voice of Kapila’s and Kaṇādā’s followers. The doctrine of Kumārila, Bhāskara and Patañjali, lost their glamour. All the teachings of Kaṇāda, Kapila, Bhaṭṭa and Bhāskara were wiped of by the brilliance of Ācārya. Devas in heaven beat drums and its noice reverberated as bursting sounds of clouds and deep roars of ocean. They showered the Kalpaka tree’s flowers on him.

Fulfilment of Mission and Disappearance at Kedāra

It was Śaṅkara’s doctrines that forwarded him to ascend and adorn the Throne of omniscience. Thus being victorious, he went to Badari, with some of his followers. He deputed his other disciples to Śṛṅgagiri and other places. But at Badari, he taught his Advaita commentary on Sūtras to some followers of Patañjali school. They found his doctrines more acceptable than their own. Thus Ācārya shone like a moon, who was blessed to self a chance to teach his doctrines to the people who are fit to learn it. He spread he light of his fame everywhere. Thus Śaṅkara who was the great incarnation of Śiva reached the thirty second year of his life. He devoted his life completely to practice holiness and to execute noble deeds. During that period he finished his commentaries on Vedic texts. Every learned man accepted it. It helped the humanity to understand what is holiness and what is spiritual freedom and how could they attain those things. Ācārya could put down the pride of the sectarians, who till then got the respect of ignorant people. Ācārya renovated the path to salvation, which was made misguiding by the inference of inferior teachers. Now he attained what he dedicated his life for. His noble fame excelled every beautiful and sacred things in the world. His kindness put out the fire of suffering in the hearts of good men. His fame flooded over everywhere. All the devotees could fulfill their expectations and attain salvation by following his ways. Everything was for the welfare of the world.

In Kedāra, the holy land of Śiva, the cold was so great and his disciples were not able to bear. Śaṅkara meditated on Lord Śiva for giving them relief. Out from the foot steps of the Lord came a spring of hot water, that flows as a stream even to this day declaring the glory of Ācārya Śaṅkara. At that time there came a encourse of Ṛṣis and Devas with Brahmanas at their head. The wanted this incarnate aspect of Śiva back to His pristine state in Śivalokās (Śiva’s abode) in the heaven of Kailāsa. The assemblage of luminous chariots filled the heavenly paths. The celestials rained a heavy shower of Mandāra flowers over the region and sang the glory of Lord Śiva who had taken the form of Saṃnyāsiṃs. He was the first of Devas and the destroyer of Tripuras. He was the three eyed one, the centre from which the origin, the sustenance and the dissolution of the universe take place. When the Devas addressed Him thus, the great Lord, stirred to the depth of His being, was ready to ascend to His supreme Abode, and there came and stood before Him the divine Bull Nandi, His vehicle, of Swan like whiteness. Indra and his Retinue raised their voice in a chorus of hymns and began to rain flowers gathered from the heavenly Kalpaka tree, and in the midst of the thrilling occurrences, Śaṅkara mounting the back of the divine Bull with Brahmā supporting Him, transformed himself into his real form as the great Lord Śiva with matted locks and the crescent moon peeping from it. At that time the Devas and the Ṛṣis cried “Hail unto Him”, He attained to His Divine Abode.

Then Lakṣmana Sūrin salutes Śaṅkara,who was the son of Āryāmba, who was the Niskamakarmi, who received Saṃnyāsa at the age of eighth, who travelled on the banks of Narmada, who defeated Kāma and Krodha, who found out the dwelling of the Guru, who saw Lord Śiva, who wrote Manīṣā pañcā ka, who is having disciples like Padmapāda, who wrote commentaries at the age of sixteen, who was praised by the Vyāsa, who defeated Maṇḍana Miśra, who was the disciple of Bhaṭṭapāda, who propitiated Lakṣmī Nṛsiṃha, who adorn the chair of Śāradā piṭha, who built Āāramās in the Śrīṅgeri piṭha, who established Śrī Cakra, who came over Śākteyās, who acquired the knowledge of Tantṛa, who destroyed Kāpālikas, who was the founder of the philosophy of Advaita, who made hot water spring in Kedāra, who established so many Maṭhās and made those well known in different parts of India, one who came as the son of Āryāmba after so many chanting of Mantra, who got the blessing of Lakṣmī, who released a Gandharva from strong curse, who wrote commentaries on Vyāsasūtrās, who got blessings from Vyāsa, who denied the arguments of Kaṇāda and proved it as a non-sense, who refuted the Śākta religion and who established the Advaita philosophy, I am respecting these qualities of great Śaṅkara.[5]

Footnotes and references:


Vide Lakṣmaṇa Sūrin, Bhaghavatpādābhyudaya, p.113, The summary of the Section is based on chapter IX.


Ibid., p.117




Ibid., p.118


Ibid., pp.124-125

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