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Shankara and his successors

Chaos and confusion pervaded all through India in the matter of religion and philosophy. Sect after sect, such as Charvakas, Lokayathikas, Kapalikas, Shaktas, Sankhyas, Buddhas and Madhyamikas sprang up. The number of religions rose as high as seventy-two. There was fight amongst sects. There was no peace anywhere. There was superstition and bigotry. Darkness prevailed over the once happy land of Rishis, sages and Yogins.
Adi Shankara or Bhagavatpada is the saint and integrator of Hindu India, who consolidated Hinduism. He established four mutts or ashrams in four directions of the country – Jyotirmath in North, Govardhan at Puri in east, Shringeri in south and Dwarika in west. With the help of Guru Govindapada and his Parama Guru or the teacher's teacher, Gaudapada, pondered about the source, nature, foundation, scope, validity and limits of human knowledge. He preached his Advaita philosphy (awareness of the ‘Divine’) wherever he went. Perfection is absolute, and cannot have any qualities. Bhagavatpada cleansed the Vedic religious practices of ritualistic excesses and restructured various religious practices into acceptable norms. He taught the rules of bhakti, yoga and karma.
A number of works titled Sankaravijaya, or Sankara digvijaya, give accounts of Sankara's life, with myth and legend interspersed with historical facts. These were written few centuries after Sankara lived. The mAdhavIya written by vidyAraNya, is probably the oldest available. Sankara's life follow this text in most details, e.g. birth in Kaladi, meeting with his guru on the banks of the river Narmada, writing of commentaries, debate with maNDana miSra, establishment of the SAradA temple at Sringeri, ascension of the sarvajnapITha in Kashmir and his last days in the Himalayas. mAdhavIya Sankaravijaya gives only a general description of the establishment of maThas, at Sringeri and other places. Other ones are:AnandagirIya Sankaravijaya by Anandagiri; bRhat Sankaravijaya by citsukha; and prAcIna Sankaravijaya.

Sankara was born in a very poor family (Sivaguru - Aryamba) in the year 788 A.D. in a village named Kaladi,. Around 16, Sankara met Swami Govindapada Acharya in a hermitage in Badrikashram (Badrinath) in the Himalayas and he prostrated at the teacher's feet. Govinda asked Sankara who he was. Sankara replied: "O revered Guru! I am neither fire nor air nor earth nor water-none of these, but the Immortal Atma (Self) that is hidden in all names and forms".
Sankara proceeded to Kashi where he wrote all his famous commentaries on the Brahma Sutras, the Upanishads and the Gita and successfully met all the criticisms levelled against them. He then began to propagate his philosophy. Sankara had the greatest esteem for his Guru Govindapada and his Parama Guru or the teacher's teacher, Gaudapada. He then proceeded to Kedarnath higher up in the Himalayas. He became one with the Linga in 820 A.D. in his thirty-second year.
Sringeri Mutt to Sureswara Acharya (Mandana Misra - Karma Mimamsa faith ) - Sri Sarada (Bharathi, wife of Mandana Misra) 'aham brahmaasmi.'
Padmapada, highly learnt and devotional (Dwaraka Mutt) Kalika Pitha - 'tat tvam asi.
Hastamalaka, can understand only philosophy and dull otherwise (Purii - Govardhana Mutt) Vimala Pitha - 'prajnanam brahman'.
Trotakacharya, a poor self lerant person doing menial jobs for (Badri - Joshi Mutt) - 'ayam atman brahman.'
Sankara was a giant metaphysician, a practical philosopher, an infallible logician, a dynamic personality and a stupendous moral and spiritual force. His grasping and elucidating powers knew no bounds. He was a fully developed Yogi, Jnani and Bhakta. He was a Karma Yogin of no mean order. He was a powerful magnet. Sankara was the exponent of the Kevala Advaita philosophy. Brahman is Nirguna (without the Gunas), Nirakara (formless), Nirvisesha (without attributes) and Akarta (non-agent) and above all needs and desires. This Atman is self-evident. Satyam-Jnanam-Anantam-Anandam are not separate attributes but the very essence of Brahman. Brahman cannot be described, because description implies distinction. Brahman cannot be distinguished from any other than It.
Brahma Satyam Jagat Mithya | Jeevo Brahmaiva Na Aparah [Brahman alone is real, this world is unreal; the Jiva is identical with Brahman

debate with Mandana Misra

Shankara entered Mandana’s house and Mandana, who disliked Sanyasins, entered into a violent wordy duel with Shankara. The sages who were present, pacified Mandana and Mandana welcomed Sri Shankara’s challenge along with the condition that the loser of the debate would become the disciple of the victor. Mandana’s wife Ubhaya Bharati, accepted to be the judge. Sri Shankara initiated the debate, announcing his proposition of the unity of all existence as follows: ‘Brahman, the Existence-Conscious-Bliss Absolute (Sat-chit-ananda) is the one ultimate Truth. It is He who appears as the entire world owing to ignorance, just as a shell appears as silver. When the illusion gets dispelled, the silver dissolves into the substratum, the shell. Similarly, when ignorance is erased the whole world dissolves into its substratum Brahman, which is the same as Atman. This is the supreme knowledge, as also Moksha (liberation from births and deaths); and the Upanishads are the authority for this proposition.’
Mandana made his proposition, emphasising the tenets of his faith thus: ‘The non-Vedantic part of the Veda dealing with effects produced by Karma is the real authority; actions alone (Karma) constitute the steps leading to Moksha and embodied beings have to perform action till the end of their lives.’ Ubhaya Bharati put a garland of flowers on the neck of the two contestants, declaring that the person whose garland withers will be considered defeated. Ubhaya Bharati accepted that the cogent arguments of Shankara had overcome the contentions of Mandana and gave her verdict subjecting Mandana to defeat. The flower wreath on Mandana’s neck also faded. Mandana adopted Sanyasa in accordance with the wager. Ubhaya Bharati gave Bhiksha to both Sri Shankara and Mandana, indicating that her husband was now a Sanyasin.


Vidyaranya, also known as Madhavacharya (a great scholar, kingmaker, patron saint and high priest), recreated Adi Shankara and Shankara cult to unify Hindus who were fighting against themselves.
Madhava may be the pre-ascetic name of Sri Vidyaranya) was the elder of two Brahmachari brothers belonging to learned Brahmin family of Ekasila Nagari (present-day Warangal). The younger of the two, wandering south in search of true knowledge, reached Sringeri when the great Vidyashankara Tirtha was the reigning pontiff. On seeing the innate greatness of the young Brahmachari, Sri Vidyatirtha readily gave him sanyasa diksha with the ascetic name of Bharati Krishna Tirtha in 1328 A.D.
Madhava left home in search of his younger brother. After much wandering, he finally reached Sringeri where he found his brother as the junior pontiff Bharati Krishna Tirtha. At the junior pontiff’s request, Sri Vidyatirtha readily gave Madhava sanyasa diksha in 1331 A.D under the ascetic name of Sri Vidyaranya, in other words, verily a forest of knowledge. Sri Bharati Krishna Tirtha, though younger than Vidyaranya became his senior by virtue of his earlier ordainment into Sanyasa Ashrama and came to be known as the senior Sripada and Vidyaranya the junior.
Sri Vidyaranya then started on a pilgrimage to himalayas and returned to Matanga hill, near Hampi. It was at this time that the two brothers, Madhava and Sayana, the sons of Mayana of Bharadwaja Gotra, approached Sri Vidyaranya and sought his blessings. Sri Vidyaranya graciously gave them his unfinished Veda bhashyas and some other works. He blessed them to complete the works in their own names as Madhaviyam and Sayaniyam. Later, both the brothers served as ministers in the Vijayanagara empire under Bukkaraya and Harihara I and II. At Sringeri, Sri Vidyatirtha attained Mahasamadhi by entering into Lambika Yoga Samadhi and Sri Bharati Krishna Tirtha succeeded him as the 11th Jagadguru of the Sringeri Mutt and reigned from 1333 to 1380 A.D.
Bukka and Harihara who were sharing the responsibilities of ruling their empire and were marching from victory to victory, went to Sringeri in 1346 for the blessings of Sri Bharati Krishna Tirtha. They celebrated the occasion with a land grant to the senior Sripada.
At Hampi, Sri Vidyaranya had built a Mutt near the Virupaksha temple, for his use. After Sri Bharati Krishna Tirtha attained videha mukti, Sri Vidyaranya assumed charge of the Sringeri Mutt and reigned as Jagadguru for six years from 1380 to 1386.
Sri Vidyaranya was indeed a unique personality, scholar and sage, rightly regarded as a great thinker in the post-Shankara period. Under Sri Vidyaranya’s direction, the emperors made endowments to Mutts founded by him or by Sri Bharati Krishna Tirtha in different parts of South India, some of which rose to importance as branches of the Sringeri Sharada Peetha or as subordinate monastic establishments. Prince Chikka Raya (afterwards Virupaksha I) made a grant to Satyatirtha of Muniyur Mutt which marks the origin of the Sakatapuram or Bandigade Mutt.
Hariharapura, an agrahara about six miles from Sringeri was founded by Harihara II, and Sri Ramachandra Saraswathi was the first Acharya of the Mutt established there. The Tirthamuttur Mutt (Tirthahalli taluk) and the Kudali Mutt also came into existence some centuries later under the guidance and encouragement of the Sringeri Gurus and the emperors. The agraharas of Sringapura and Vidyaranyapura were laid out by Harihara II.
Sri Vidyaranya made grants for the worship of Gopinatha in Paschimavahini, a few furlongs from Sringeri on the westward bend of the Tunga, and consecrated lingas and Sri Chakras in several places. On the political front, Sri Vidyaranya’s grace helped in the formation of a Hindu empire.
The Resplendent Jewel amongst Jagadgurus: Sri Vidyaranya was the head of the Sringeri Mutt for only a short span of six years. But because of his association with Sri Bharati Krishna Tirtha (his predecessor Jagadguru and poorvashrama brother) for over five decades, he left an indelible mark on the spiritual life of his times. The Vidyashankara ‘ Bharati Krishna Tirtha ‘ Vidyaranya epoch marks the rise of the Sharada Peetham to the highest of eminence and led to the emergence of the spiritual institution as the torchbearer in sustaining Sanatana Dharma. Sri Vidyaranya is rightly considered as one of the brightest jewels in the illustrious line of Sringeri Guru Parampara.
Sri Vidyaranya is considered to have been one of the enlightened sages in the Advaita-Vedanta tradition, and a master of various branches of Dharmic learning including Yoga-śāstra, Mīmāṃsā, mantra-śāstra, Tantra and Dharma-śāstra.

Appayya Dikshitar

Appayya Dikshitar was born in Adayapalam, near Arni, Vellore in the North Arcot district, in 1554 A.D. Appaya had the name Vinayaka Subramanya. Acharya Dikshitar or Acchan Dikshitar was the younger brother of Appayya. Appayya studied the holy scriptures under Guru Rama Kavi. He was a master logician. He was well-versed in grammar, metaphysics and other sciences. The Rajas of Thanjavur, Kalahasti and Tirupathi invited him. Appayya married Mangalambika.
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