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Maṇḍana Miśra (c. 8th century CE), also (incorrectly) known as Suresvaracharya, was a Hindu philosopher, who wrote on the Mīmāmsā and Advaita systems of thought. He was a follower of the Karma Mimamsa school of philosophy and a staunch defender of the holistic sphota doctrine of language. He was a contemporary of Ādi Śankara, and is said to have become a disciple of Adi Sankara.
Maṇḍana Miśra lived in the ancient Indian town of Mithila (Mahismati) during the time of Adi Sankara. He is known to be a student of a mimamsa scholar Kumarila Bhatta. Being a follower of the Karma Mimamsa school, he was a ritualist and performed all of the ritualistic duties prescribed by the Vedas. In certain Hindu traditions, Maṇḍana Miśra is considered to be an incarnation of Brahma.
Coversion to Advaita Vedanta
A strong tradition in Hinduism being that he started life as a Mīmāmsaka, but changed his name and became a sannyāsin and an Advaitin after Maṇḍana Miśra and his wife were defeated by Shankara in a debate.
Identification with Sureśvara
Maṇḍana Miśra has often been identified with Sureśvara. Sureśvara (fl. 800-900 CE) and Maṇḍana Miśra were contemporaries of Shankara. Both explained Sankara "on the basis of their personal convictions."
According to Kuppuswami Sastri, it is not likely that Maṇḍana Miśra, the author of Brahmasiddhi, is identical with Sureśvara, but the tradition is correct in describing Maṇḍana Miśra and Śankara as contemporaries. His critical edition of the Brahmasiddhi also points out that the name Maṇḍana Miśra is both a title and a first name, which is a possible cause for a confusion of personalities. Maṇḍana Miśra's brand of Advaita differs in certain critical details from that of Śhankara, whereas Sureśvara's thought is very faithful to that of Śhankara.
According to Sharma, Hiriyanna and Kuppuswami Sastra have pointed out that Sureśvara and Maṇḍana Miśra had different views on various doctrinal points:
- The locus of avidya: according to Maṇḍana Miśra, the individual jiva is the locus of avidya, whereas Suresvara contents that avidya regarding Brahman is located in Brahman. These two different stances are also reflected in the opposing positions of the Bhamati school and the Vivarana school.
- Liberation: acording to Maṇḍana Miśra, the knowledge which arises from the Mahavakya is insufficient for liberation. Only the direct realization of Brahma is liberating, which can only be attained by meditation. According to Suresvara, this knowledge is directly liberating, while meditation is at best a useful aid.
According to Sureśvara, mere knowledge of the identity of Jiva and Brahman is nor enough for liberation, which requires also prolonged meditation on this identity.
Maṇḍana Miśra, who was a contemporary of Shankara, may have been more influential in the Advaita Vedanta tradition than is usually acknowledged. According to Richard E. King,
Although it is common to find Western scholars and Hindus arguing that Sankaracarya was the most influential and important figure in the history of Hindu intellectual thought, this does not seem to be justified by the historical evidence.
According to King and Roodurnum, until the 10th century Sankara was overshadowed by his older contemporary Maṇḍana Miśra. In the centuries after Sankara it was Maṇḍana Miśra who was considered to be the most important representative of Vedanta. His influence was such, that some regard this work to have "set forth a non-Sankaran brand of Advaita." The "theory of error" set forth in the Brahma-siddhi became the normative Advaita Vedanta theory of error. Vachaspati Misra Bhamati provides the link between Mandana Misra and Shankara, attempting to harmonise Sankara's thought with that of Mandana Misra.[web 1] According to Advaita tradition, Shankara reincarnated as Vachaspati Misra "to popularise the Advaita System through his Bhamati."
Legendary debate with Adi Shankara
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A legend describes how Maṇḍana Miśra is said to have first met Adi Shankara. It was customary in the time of Shankara and Maṇḍana for learned people to debate the relative merits and demerits of the different systems of Hindu philosophy. Shankara, an exponent of Advaita philosophy sought out Kumarila Bhatta, who was the leading exponent of the Purva Mimamsa philosophy. However, at that time, Kumarila Bhatta was slowly immolating himself as a penance for his sins. After reading some of Shankara's work and realising the depth of his knowledge, he directed Sankara to his greatest disciple, Maṇḍana Miśra, who was leading a householder's life (Grihastha), to debate the merits of their respective schools of thought. While trying to find the house of Maṇḍana, Sankara asked for directions and was told the following:
You will find a home at whose gates there are a number of caged parrots discussing abstract topics like — 'Do the Vedas have self-validity or do they depend on some external authority for their validity? Are karmas capable of yielding their fruits directly, or do they require the intervention of God to do so? Is the world eternal, or is it a mere appearance?' Where you find the caged parrots discussing such abstruse philosophical problems, you will know that you have reached Maṇḍana's place.
Shankara found Maṇḍana, but the first meeting between them was not pleasant. According to Vedic ritualistic rules it is inauspicious to see an ascetic on certain days and Maṇḍana was angered to see Shankara, an ascetic, on the death anniversary of his father. Maṇḍana initially hurled insults at Shankara, who calmly replied to every insult with wordplay. The people in Maṇḍana's house soon realised Sankara's brilliance and advise Maṇḍana to offer his respect. Finally, after a verbal duel, Maṇḍana agreed to debate with Shankara.
Maṇḍana and Sankara agreed that Maṇḍana's wife Ubhaya Bharathi, who is considered to be an incarnation of the goddess Saraswati in the folklore of Mithila, would be the arbiter for the debate, and that the vanquished would become a disciple of the victor and accept his school of thought. The debate spanned many days and ranged across many different subjects within the Vedas, and the arguments of both competitors were compelling and forceful. Sankara finally emerged victorious. But Maṇḍana's wife, who was the judge, would not accept an ascetic as having complete knowledge since he did not have any knowledge about kama sastras (rules about marital life). Sankara was then given a month to research certain aspects of sex-love sciences and then resume the debate. According to legend, he entered into the body of a king who had just died to learn these sciences. Later, after obtaining the necessary knowledge, the debate resumed. After a long debate, Maṇḍana accepted defeat.It is also a legend that the place of debate between Shankaracharya and Mandanmishra, was the town Mandleshwar near Maheshwar. The ancient temple Chhapan Deo of this town is considered to be this place.
As agreed, Maṇḍana becomes a disciple of Sankara and assumed the name Suresvaracharya. Along with Hastamalaka, Padmapāda, and Totakacharya, he was one of the four main disciples of Sankara and was the first head of Sringeri Mutt, one of the four mathas that Shankara later established.
- Bŗhadāraņyakopanişadbhāşyavārttika (commentary on Śankāra's works on the Bŗhadāraņyaka Upanişad)
- Naişkarmyasiddhi (non-commentary)
- Sambhandhavārttika (commentary on Śankāra's introduction to the Bŗhadāraņyaka Upanişad)
- Taittirīyavārttika (commentary on Śankāra's work on the Taittirīya Upanişad)
- Manasollasa (commentary on Dakshinamurty Stotram of Śankāra)
- Panchikarana Vartikam (commentary on Śankāra's Panchikaranam)
- Printed sources
- John Grimes, "Sureśvara" (in Robert L. Arrington [ed.]. A Companion to the Philosophers. Oxford: Blackwell, 2001. ISBN 0-631-22967-1)
- King, Richard (2002), Orientalism and Religion: Post-Colonial Theory, India and "The Mystic East", Routledge
- Kuppuswami Sastri, S. (1984), Brahmasiddhi, by Maṇḍanamiśra, with commentary by Śankhapāṇī. 2nd ed., Delhi, India: Sri Satguru Publications
- Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, et al. [edd], History of Philosophy Eastern and Western: Volume One (George Allen & Unwin, 1952)
- Roodurmum, Pulasth Soobah (2002), Bhāmatī and Vivaraṇa Schools of Advaita Vedānta: A Critical Approach, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Limited
- Adi Sankara and his Parampara
- Guru Parampara of Sringeri Sharada Peetham
- Brahma-siddhi at archive.org
- Sphota-Siddhi at archive.org
- Taittiriyopanishad Bhasya Vartika by Suresvara at archive.org
- Naishkarmya-Siddhi   at archive.org
|Jagadguru of Sringeri Sharada Peetham
Source: Sankaradigvijaya, by Madhava