Posted by: adbhutam | January 13, 2015

Brihat Shankara Vijaya and T.S.Narayana Sastri

Sri ChittaranjanNaikji:

Can you inform us of the source from which you obtained the extract of Citsukacharya’s biography of Shankara?

I ask this question because, as far as I know, Citsuka’s biography on Shankara has been lost and is not in existence today. I feel that the extract of the book which you quoted in your article, showing the inconsistency between Shankara’s birth-date and the astronomical date mentioned by Citsuka, seems to be have been from a reproduction that was (deliberately) manipulated. It is highly unlikely that Citusuka would have made such a mistake and even more unlikely (and incredible) that none of the panditas in our tradition well-versed in Jyotisha at that time, of which there would have been many, or subsequently, would have failed to notice such an error.

If the source of the text you quoted from comes from, or is traced to, Sri Narayana Sastri or his citations from Citsuka’s work published posthumously, then I would be quite sure that it is a manipulated text.


The five verses, which contain information about when Bhagavatpada was born and the planetary positions at that timeand which are said to be from the BrihatSankara Vijaya of Sri Citsukha,were reproduced in our article from Sri T. S. Narayana Sastri’sThe Age of Sankara(1971 edition, p. 273).These verses did not figure in the first edition of 1916 of The Age of Sankara. As for Sri Citsukha’s Briha tSankara Vijaya, it has never been printed and is unobtainable even in manuscript form. Sri Narayana Sastri has, however, claimed, “In his biography of Sankara, which is known to the later writers, on account of its bulk, under the name Brihat Sankara Vijaya or Guru Shankara Vijaya, he has given a full account of the lives of Sankara and Suresvara and of the works they had written. Except the Bhashyas which were simply referred to, almost all the minor works of Sankara are collected and given in this work with the occasion on which they were composed. (The book has been evidently divided into three parts, (I) Purvacharya Satpatha, (II) Sankaracharya Satpatha and (III) Suresvaracharya Satpatha; but we have been able to get a mutilated copy containing only Sankaracharya Satpatha.) It is a pity that the work has not as yet been completely collected and printed in any part of India. (op. cit., p. 40) [Underlining added].” Prior to presenting 32 verses of which the ones referred to in the article are verses 12-16, he has claimed, “Thefollowing is the full text of the Prakarana as is found in the copy of the manuscript in our possession. (op. cit., p.272) [Underlining added].” Even the Brihat Shankara Vijaya’s Sankaracharya Satpatha’s copy that he claimed to have in his possession (and from which he says he reproduced the verses) is unavailable now. His son Sri T. N. Kumaraswamy, who brought out the second edition in 1971, has written in its preface, “My father, who was engrossed in this intense study about Sankara for twenty long years, produced this biography of the Loka-Guru in 1916…he could not bring out all the supplements he promised to incorporate. Death overtook him at the prime of life and prevented him from fulfilling his intentions. The manuscripts containing valuable matter were lost, leaving no trace behind. (op. cit., p. iii-iv) [Underlining added]”

Thus, the verses in question belong, according to Sri Narayana Sastri, to the Brihat Shankara Vijaya but neither is this work available anywhere now even in manuscript form, nor is the copy that he claimed to possess and from which, he says, he reproduced them. Sri Atmabodhendra has mentioned the Brihat Sankara Vijaya in Sushama, his commentary on the Gururatnamalika, and has cited it on more than one occasion but not one of these verses has been referred to by him. Nobody has reported having coming across these verses in any work predating Sri Narayana Sastri. So, unless it so happens that Brihat Shankara Vijaya comes to light somewhere and these verses are found therein, we have only the word of Sri Narayana Sastri that they are from it.

Taking Sri Narayana Sastri trustworthiness for granted, several authors have, over the years, stated that these verses are from the Brihat Shankara Vijaya and presented them as definitive evidence for Bhagavatpada’s date. You have questioned the genuineness of the verses. I too have such misgivings; there are grounds to suspect Sri Narayana Sastri’s credibility.

Here are two examples of Sri Narayana Sastri’s unreliableness and prejudice sent tomeby a friend, who had identified several more such instances too.

(1) The Jagadguru-parampara-stotra and the Jagadguru-parampara-namamala of Sri Mahadevendra Sarasvati (said to be the 65th pontiff of the Kanchi Math) do not include Sri Sadasiva Brahmendra (the great jivanmukta-yogi and disciple of Sri Paramsivendra Sarasvati) as a pontiff of the Kamakoti Pitha; they present Sri Atmabodhendra Sarasvati as the 57thAcharya and successor of Sri Paramasivendra Sarasvathi. The official website of the Kanchi Math too lists Sri Atmabodhendra as Sri Paramasivendra’ ssuccessor, not Sri Sadasiva Brahmendra. The pertinent link is:

Sri Narayana Sastri has, however, chosen to list (in English) Sri Sadasiva Brahmendra as the 57thAcharya of the Kamakoti Pitha and the successor of Sri Paramasivendra Sarasvati (The Age of Shankara, 1971 edition, p. 197). Ironically, he has done so just after presenting (in Sanskrit) Sri Mahadevendra Sarasvati’s Jagaguru-parampara-stotra in full (op. cit., pp. 185-191). Presumably, he was so brazen in propagating misinformation that he did not even care about the possibility of a reader comparing what is found in the said hymn with what he has claimed thereafter.

(2) With regard to the ‘copper-plate inscription’, Sri Narayana Sastri has written “The following is the full text of King Sudhanvan’s Copper plate published at p. 29 of the ‘Vimarsa’: (The Age of Sankara, 1971 edition, p. 219)” and then given, in Sanskrit, the text of the inscription (op. cit., p.220-221). He has, however, slyly replaced ‘vishvarUpApara-nAmadheya-sureshvarAcAryAmsca…[Visvarupa alias Sureshvaracharya]’ found in Vimarsha(on p.30, line 19) with ‘maNDanamishrApara-nAmadhyeya-sureshvarAcAryAmsca…[Mandana Mishra alias Sureshvaracharya] (TheAgeofSankara, 1971 edition,p. 221, line 6).’ Thus, Sri Narayana Sastri was prepared to slyly make changes even when quoting from a book available in print.

Ironically, in the pages just preceding the one in which Sri Narayana Sastri surreptitiously replaced Visvarupa by Mandana Mishra in the citation from Vimarsha, he accused many of having indulged in textual manipulation. He wrote, “Visvarupacharya cannot be identified with Sureshwaracharya…Even the identification of Prithividhara (Prithividhava) with Visvarupa is open to serious objections. It was to meet this difficulty that the various SankaraVijayas known to us under the names of Madhavacharya (Vidyaranya), Sadanandacharya and Cidvilasayati had been brought into existence and given the appearance of ancient worksthe Kumbhakonam Mutt had, in their eagerness to give over-prominence to the Kamakotipitha established by SankaraBhagavatpada…introduced serious changes in the names of the first Acharyas of the various Mathas established by Sankara in India in their newly framed Mathamnayas and Guruparamparas…(The Age of Sankara, 1971 edition, pp.212-216) [Underlining added].”

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