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An Interpretation of the Life and Philosophy of Sri Sankaracarya (Elucidatory and Reconciliatory)

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Item Code: IDJ311
Author: Swami Mukhyananda
Language: English
Edition: 2005
ISBN: 9788175052833
Pages: 159
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.4" X 5.5"
Weight 270 gm
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Book Description

Back of the Book: The greatest teacher of the Vedanta Philosophy was Shankaracharya. By solid reasoning he extracted from the Vedas the truths of Vedanta, and on them built up the wonderful system of Jnana that is taught in hits commentaries. He unified all the conflicting descriptions of Brahman and showed that there is only one Infinite Reality. He showed too that as man can only travel slowly on the upward road, all the varied presentations are needed to suit his varying capacity'. - Swami Vivekananda

Publisher's Note to the Present Edition

The third edition of this book has been revised and edited thoroughly with the active cooperation and guidance of the author himself who in spite of his old age took time to enhance the quality of the book. In this edition we have incorporated the diacritical marks to the transliterated Sanskrit words to help correct pronunciation. The title of the book has also been changed in accordance with the true character of the work. Hope the readers will welcome the new appearance of the book in its revised edition.
13 May, 2005
Sri Sankara Jayanti

Preface By the Author
(To the First Edition)

This book was not planned to be written. On May Ist 1966, we had given a talk at the Ramakrishna Mission, New Delhi, on Acarya Sankara on the occasion of his birthday celebration. A devotee who had attended the talk gave us a shorthand report of it expressing his satisfaction and appreciation saying that historical doubts standing for many years were cleared. On the basis of this report, with some editing and additions, footnotes, etc., we contributed an article entitled : Acarya Sankara and His Contribution to Indian Spiritual Regeneration, which was published in the May and June 1978 issues of the Vedanta Kesari, Madras. It has been appended at the end of this book after some revision under the text. Around this time and earlier too, we had occasion to read and hear several, what we felt were, unjustified criticisms and ignorant misrepresentations of Sankara's philosophy and views. To answer these and to put the records straight, in the light of our understanding, we prepared a paper for publication in the Vedanta Kesari in continuation of our above article. But the management wanted only short articles and did not like to entertain a long article.

However, in due course, the paper was developed further into a book as we came across other types of criticisms and questionings and also several new ideas occurred to us while studying and teaching some of Sankara's works. As it was not possible to recast the entire book, some of these ideas were given in the form of footnotes at relevant places. Since some of the footnotes were long, and it would be inconvenient to print them on relevant pages, they are appended at the end along with references to quotations, though it would have facilitated reference if they were readily available below the text.

But another consideration also decided the issue. The book is not intended only for scholars, but also to the general intelligent public who wish to know something of Sankara's life and thought without going deeply into its technicalities. Hence they can read on without the notes and references also. As much as is necessary for them has been given in the body of the text. For this reason, that is, to serve the general reader, we have adopted the usual English spellings for the Sanskrit words, along with the use of diacritical marks for the benefit of the scholars. A separate Note will explain the system, which we have adopted for our other books also with good results.

Though we have tried to answer the criticism and objections to Sankara's views as understood by the critics by presenting them in the proper perspective, our approach has been reconciliatory and not polemical, as advocated by Swami Vivekananda, and as is the need of the times, when we have to consolidate the whole range of Hindu thought to meet the world-wide challenges from scientific and socialistic materialism, dry rationalism, and narrow dogmatism of alien religions. As such, though we have tried generally to keep to the traditional views, whenever a more suitable presentation has been possible, justified by the original texts and reason, we have adopted it. Hence the apt title of the book: An interpretation of the Life and Philosophy of Sri Sankaracarya (Elucidatory and Reconciliatory). Generally, the treatment is a fresh interpretation in a broader context, with new modern illustrations whenever possible, to render Sankara's thought dynamically relevant to the present times. Though it may differ here and there from the strictly orthodox traditional view-point, the work is not written in a spirit of challenging the orthodox view of deep scholars but to expound Sankara's ideas, in the light of our understanding, in a simple non-technical language understandable to the intelligent reader interested in the thought and achievements of the genius of Sankara.

However, to keep in true with the orthodox view, though not strictly in line with it, the manuscript has been shown to the late Dr. T. M. P. Mahadevan, who was well versed in Sankara's thought, and to Swami Acalanandaji of Mysore, whose learned translation, with Introduction and Notes, of Siddhanta Bindu of Madhusudana Sarasvati has been published by Mysore University. Both of them have gone through the work carefully and we acknowledge our gratefulness to these learned scholars, who have appreciated the work and found it presentable and useful. Dr. Mahadevan wrote: "I have enjoyed reading the paper along with notes. You have covered many of the aspects of Advaita and answered the usual charges levelled against it." Swami Acalanandaji wrote: "I have gone through the manuscript of Acarya Sankara : An Interpretation with care. In general the book is well written and is a welcome addition to the literature available in English on the subject. It can help many persons to an understanding of the doctrine of Advaita..... The explanations and clarifications given are quite clear and consistent." They both were kind enough to make some relevant observations and suggestions as well, which have been suitably incorporated in the book and changes effected where necessary. Hence, we feel assured that no conscious violence has been done to the orthodox view and only the cause of Sankara's thought is furthered by this fresh interpretation.

It is indeed a good augury that the book is being published by Sri Ramakrishna Advaita Ashrama, Kalady, situated close to the house in which Sankara was born. We are thankful to Swami Gananandaji, President of the Asrama, for kindly undertaking to publish the work. We hope the book will be found useful and welcomed both by the scholars and the general readers.

Swami Achalanandaji concluded his comments on the manuscript of the book with his good wishes to the author: "I hope He is keeping you in good health and cheer to perform His works of teaching and interpreting Sri Sankara's Vedanta, which He has entrusted to you". Though we do not consciously feel that any such task has been entrusted to us by the Supreme Being, nor have we done much in this direction, we do bear great love and admiration for Sankara's luminous, compassionate, towering personality and versatile genius and seek to place at his blessed holy feet a few fragrant colorful flowers plucked from his own beautiful garden of rich and profound thoughts, in reverential homage, on this his sacred birthday.
Om Santih, Santih, Santih
Swami Mukhyananda
Sri Sankara Jayanti
Belur Math on Ganga (Kolkata)
25th April 1985




  1. Introduction 15
  2. The Date and Time of Sankara 15
  3. A Short Life - Sketch 15
  1. Introduction 24
  2. Works of Sankara 25
  3. Sankara's Approach 27
  4. Sankara's Methodology 30
  1. The Socio-Spiritual Conditions at the time of Sankara 36
  2. His Triple Scientific Methodology 40
  3. Reason Vis-a-Vis Revelation (Scripture) 42
  4. A Harmonizing Scientific Philosophy of the Secular and Spiritual of the Physical and Metaphysical 45
  5. Universal Spiritual Religion 45
  6. A Great Nation-Builder; Reconstruction of Religion & Society 53
(Elucidative and Reconciliatory)
  1. The Task Before Sankara 58
  2. The Questions He faced 60
  3. The Guiding Principles of His Approach 60
  4. Two Standpoints on Reality 61
  5. The Absolute or Noumenal Reality 62
  6. The Relative or Phenomenal (Empirical) Reality 64
  7. The Empirical Personality 66
  8. Maya: The Principle of Relativity 68
  9. The Basis of Our Empirical Activities 72
II 10. Our Empirical Knowledge and Superimposition 73
  11. Avidya, Isvara, and jiva 78
  12. Is the Postulate of Maya Necessary 80
  13. Can We Give up Isvara and the Universe? 83
  14. Brahman and Isvara are same Reality 85
  15. Empirically Different views of Isvara-jiva-jagat Acceptable 86
  16. The Triangle of Isvara-jiva-jagat is Relatively Eternal. It Can be Transcended, not Eliminated 89
  17. Isvara-Bhakti-Mukti 90
  18. Karma marga 93
  19. Jnana marga 93
  20. Significance of 'Jnanat eva moksah' 94
III. 21. Jivanmukta: Liberated-While-Living 97
  22. The Aim of Philosophy-Discovery of Truth 98
  23. Disciplines for the Seeker of Highest Truth 99
  24. Graduated Paths to the Highest Truth 100
  25. Attitude Towards Karma and Bhakti 102
  26. The Two fold Great Achievements of Sankara 103
  27. The Concept of mithya 104
  28. Grades of Empirical Realities and Unrealities 107
  29. The Status of the Universe
a. Ajata-Vada
b. Sankara's System-Vivarta-Vada
c. Sristi-Dristi and Dristi-Sristi Vada-s
d. An Alternate View
  30. The Phenomenal Isvara 121
  31. What is Sublated? 123
  32. Standard of Judgement and Correlation 124
  33. Does Transcendental View Affect Empirical Life? 126
  34. Can the Non-Personal Brahman Serve as Personal Isvara? 128
  35. Is Brahman Superior or Isvara? 134
  36. Duality is not Final 136
  37. The Character of Sankara's Philosophy 138
  38. Contribution of Sankara to the Religio-Philosophical Thought 140
  39. Advantages of the Advaitic View-Point 144
  40. Conclusion 147
APPENDIX I Notes on maya And Its Cognates 149
APPENDIX II A Comprehensive List Of Works  
  Attributed To Sankara 152
  Vivekananda on Sankara 155
  Great Assurance by Sankara 157

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