Demolition Derby Debates by Sankara

Veeraswamy Krishnaraj

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Sankara statue in white marble


During his tour, Sankara was demolishing the opponents of Monism with well-placed explosive charges in the opponents' well-structured arguments so much so they became converts to his philosophy of thought. One such incident involved a husband-wife team of towering intellect, disputatious abrasiveness and royal patronage, which gave them a Big Ego. Real-life Mandana Misra was the worthy but older opponent and his wife Bharati served as the moderator. She devised a simple objective measure of heat (fever) generated in a person during an argument. The one who generated more heat than light would be the loser. The loser would convert to the philosophy of the victor and his order of life. (I wish we settle our differences like this.) She placed a flower garland one each for Sankara and Mandana. They wore their garlands and started their arguments and disputations. In the meantime, she did her daily chores. They fired salvos and counter-salvos at each other; there was light and heat; this went on for eight days, until it reached a fever pitch. Mandana's hold on his tenets was climbing a slippery slope; he began to cling to the tenets of Sankara and felt helplessly to side with Sankara. Mandana's flowers showed signs of wilting, (external and objective) evidence that Mandana (an incarnation of Brahma) generated more heat than light in his arguments and disputations. Sankara's flower garland was as fresh as the flowers on the living stem indicating that he kept his cool under fire, emitted more light than heat and saved the flowers from wilting. Bharati declared Sankara the winner against her hope and wish. Mandana in the blink of an eye shed his royal robe, donned the saffron robe of Sannyasin, became Sankara's disciple and later his real-life successor. His new name was Suresvara Acharya, appointed as the Acharya of the Sringeri Matha later. Suresvara wrote many commentaries: Vartikas, Taitiriya, Brihadaranyaka Bhasyas, commentary of Dakshinamurthy Stotra and Panchikarana, a book on the teachings of Sankara (Naishkarmya Siddhi).... Bharati though a fair moderator still had remnants of ego in her, did not accept Sankara's Monism and clung to the tenets of rituals. Legend had it she was the incarnation of Sarasvati, the goddess of speech. They launched verbal salvos at each other; Sankara sent bruising replies; her arguments were losing ground. As a married woman, she changed her tune and tactic and thought she would demolish bachelor Sankara on the art of conjugal love. She said to herself, "This time, I will get you good and supine." When Bharati introduced this new element, Sankara asked for and received deferment. By that time, the local King Amaru shuffled off his mortal coil leaving a bevy of inconsolable queens in the harem. Sankara saw the opportunity and by his yogic power left his body, entered the body of dead Amaru to everyone's surprise, jumping from one chamber to the next like an Alpha Male, engaged in love-making of the queens far beyond the range, scope and practice of Kama Sutra so much so Sankara knew the art of love than Bharati. Soon to the consternation of the royal household, the erstwhile anabiotic king dropped dead for real from exhaustion of marathon love-making like the male bee on its nuptial flight; Sankara left Amaru's body, reentered his own body (under the watchful eyes of his disciples), and was ready for argument with Bharati with his new facile confidence and attitude, beat-you-in-your-own-game. She posed delicate and intimate questions; his counterpoise was telling in its finesse. All her moves received instantaneous appropriate reciprocal fitting counter moves from Sankara. She, a mistress (miester) in the art of love, found Sankara an (verbal) acrobat, whose verbal pośe of balletic perfection left her breathless. She accepted defeat, was impressed knowing the art of love but also the science of love and joined her husband as Sankara's disciple. Even today, she is tall in her defeat in the temple at Sringeri. Devout followers of Sankara and Saradamba (Bharati) believe that the debate material of the type in Kamasutra, (Havelock Ellis, and Masters and Johnson) was invented, appended and integrated in the story by overzealous followers and admirers to prove that Sankara was an all-round expert in Tantric sex and Vaidic ways. After his victorious debate tour, he went to Sringeri with his disciple Mandana Misra to build a mutt and a temple. There he heard that his mother was ill and went to perform the last rites in Kalladi. He helped his mother in the deathbed to have visions of Siva's Ganas and Vishnu's messengers. The local Nambhudiris forbade that a Sannyasi could do the funeral rites and stopped everyone offering help to Sankara. Sankara carried the body to the backyard, created fire before him by his yogic power and cremated her body. He left Kalladi for Sringeri and later east coast, reformed the Saktas and Bhairavas, built Mutts in Kanchi and Puri and returned to Sringeri. He was back on his tour of the North, built Mutts in Dwaraka, went to Nepal and Kashmir, and later to Badrikesh where he built a temple for Narayana. He lived for 32 years on this earth and shuffled off his mortal coil, some say in a Himalayan cave, some say in Kanchi.
Pandit N. Bhashyacharya (of Madras) in his "Age of Sankaracharya" (Adyar Library, Madras, 1890 A.D., page 22) says, "Lastly towards the end of his life he came to the south but had to leave his body and this world at Kancheepuram at the early age of thirty-two:' Saligram Srikanta Sastry of Sringeri has taken a copy of the 16th chapter of the ninth amsa of "Sivarahasya" from the Manuscript Library in Mysore and has rendered it in Kannada. The English translation of a sentence in the Kannada work is : "Having come to Kanchi, in his own ashrama, he (Sankara) absorbed his gross physical frame into the subtle one, became pure, blissful citsvarupa and attained final Siddhi:'---
Sankara takes on the cosmological questions. Does anybody know why God (or whoever it is) created these universes? What is His motive? The Vaishnavas say that Vishnu created this world and beings as a sport and amusement. It is fun for God to play around with exploding Supernovas, hot and dense neutron stars, collapsing White Dwarfs, dusty and gaseous EGG Nebulae (EGG = Evaporating Gaseous Globule), planetary embryos, stellar nurseries where stars are born, shooting stars with long tails, Kuiper Belts, errant Asteroids, ravenously hungry Black Holes, magma-belching volcanoes.... Everyday is July 4th on a cosmic scale. Some say it is for His own edification and glorification. Why do we have to suffer for His vanity, vainglory and self-edification? Some call God's act His love for humanity and beings. Wars, famines, natural disasters, genocides...are happening under His watch: Are they acts of love? Then what is love? Sankara says the answer lies in Vedanta. It is Samsara--metempsychosis. Sankara believes that we are like plants. When the plant dies, it leaves behind a seed, from which new plant grows and the cycle repeats itself. Likewise, when man dies, he leaves behind Karma, a suitcase of his thoughts, words and deeds (Subtle body). Karma has a long arm. You heard of death and taxes as certainty. Karma is the third certainty, we don't think of. Karma's long arm reaches and touches you over many future births. Your present life is the Karmic fruit from the seed you left behind or planted in your previous birth.
Every thought, word and deed (good and bad) bear seed, which grows as a plant, bear fruit, and leave a seed for future birth. The cycle goes on. How do we get rid of this seed? We can roast it so it cannot germinate. That is called Expiation by Chariyai, Kriyai, Yogam, and Jnanam. Primer in Saiva Siddhanta. Once Karma comes to be a Null Entity, there is no more birth. You are liberated; you live in heaven with God (Brahman).
Alvars of Srivaishnavism talk about the worldly miseries in a different perspective. Man would find no need to aspire for heaven, if everyone has a heaven on earth. Karmic miseries suffered by man may be the inducer to aspire for heaven in the after-life. Kulasekara Alvar explains these miseries of man and his attitude towards his God in this verse.
Kulasekara Alvar sings on the misery of life inflicted by the power of Maya, seeking Grace and taking refuge at the Feet of the Lord.

Translation by Veeraswamy Krishnaraj
691 Divyaprabhandam
வாளால் அறுத்துச் சுடினும் மருத்துவன்பால்
மாளாத காதல் நோயாளன் போல் மாயத்தால்
மீளாத் துயர்தரினும் விற்றுவக்கோட்டு அம்மா! நீ
ஆளா உனது அருளே பார்ப்பன் அடியேனே 5.4
Though cut by scalpel and cauterized, towards the surgeon
boundless love the patient has; likewise by Maya
endless misery heaped on me, O Lord of Vittuvakkottu, You.
as servitor I seek your Grace at Your feet.