Amongst all the debates that the Acharya had with several men of learning, the one with Mandan Mishra is the most famous one. Mandan Mishra was born in a family of orthodox Brahmins believed to be in Kashmir. His parents named him Vishwaruapa but was more known as Mandan Mishra amongst scholars.
Vishwarupa studied under the great KumarilaBhatta. Before KumarilaBhatta had arrived in the scene, the Buddhist and Jain influence on the society had brought down the respect for performance of rituals amongst the followers of Vedic dharma. It was with great effort that KumarilaBhatta managed to engage the Buddhist and Jain scholars in debate and convinced them about the Vedic way of living and the place of the sanctioned rituals. He was one of the strongest proponent of ritualistic portion of the Vedas codified by Jaimini.
Vishwarupa was a very keen student and soon mastered all the relevant texts. KumarilaBhatta considered Mandana Mishra as even more learned than himself.
KumarilaBhatta had done a great job of demolishing the Buddhist objections to the Vedic way of life. He once visited the kingdom of King Sudhanvan in whose court were present a fairly large number of Buddhists scholars. He addressed the entire assembly and slowly dismantled the Buddhist teaching with his powerful logic. After that he expounded the meanings of the Vedic mantras. There are descriptions of how King Sudhanvan subjected KumarilaBhatta and the Buddhists to various challenges and in the end Kumarilaemeged victorious and the Buddhists stopped receiving favours and the Vedic way of life came to be more accepted first by the king and then by the masses.
While both KumarilaBhatta managed to re-establish the importance of the Karma Khanda portion of the Vedas, they believed performance of karma and rituals as the most important and final teaching of the Vedas. In their mind there was no higher truth to be learnt. Mandan Mishra’s conviction on performance of karma as the final goal was so strong that he completely disapproved of people taking Sanyas in search of a higher truth.
Thus though the faith in Vedas were re-established, it was only to a partial extent and did not cover the most important teachings that form part of Vedanta literature. In fact Mandan Mishra openly opposed that part and dismissed them as invalid. This influenced a vast section of people and lead to a strong adherence to performance of rituals amongst people but with no attention being paid to the deeper teachings of the Vedas. Hence a debate was required to re-establish the true meaning for the benefit of mankind for all times to come.
After Sri Sankara had written his commentaries on the Upanishads, he was instructed by VedVyasa to engage in debate with the distractors of the Vedic teachings and help re-establish the vedantic truths in the society. Learning of KumarilaBhatta as an established scholar of ritualistic section of the Vedas, Sri Sankarasaught him out to meet him and engage in a debate. Sri Sankara left for Prayag to meet the famous KumarilaBhatta. When he reached there he found that KumarilaBhatta had already decided to give up his body by sitting on a pyre of burning husk in order to cleanse himself of a sin committed earlier. (Details of the sin committed etc. are not covered here). Sri Sankara met him under those circumstances. Kumarila had heard of Sri Sankara’s works and reputation. He asked his disciples to cordially welcome him. Sri Sankara showed him the commentaries he had written on the Upanishads and requested him to review it. After going through the commentary,Kumarila was highly pleased; for, though a follower of Purvamimamsaand therefore a dualist, he was a noble-minded person.It is only the shallow-minded people who view everything with acontroversial spirit. He said: "An explanatory thesis of at leasteight thousand verses will be required even for a single subject likesuperimposition treated in this work. Had I not taken this vow,I would have produced such a Vartikam on your commentary”. Sri Sankaratried to convince him to abandon his decision to give up his body but Kumarila was determined. He instructed Sri Sankara to engage with Mandana Mishra and said “If you could manage to defeat Mandana, famousamong scholars as the greatest exponent of the ritualistic interpretationof the Vedas, your path for the establishment of the doctrinesof Advaita as the true Vedic teaching will be clear of ail obstacles.His defeat will be equivalent to the defeat of all scholars of thisschool.”
Sri Sankara Challenges Mandan Mishra
Sri Sankara then proceeded to Mahismati to the residence of Mandana Mishra. After meeting him he explained the purpose of his visit and invited him for a debate. Mandana Mishra agreed to it and his wife UbhayaBharathi was chosen as the umpire. A date and place for the debate was finalized.
Following sections are taken from the book Sankara-Dig Vijaya written by MadhavaVidyaranya and translated by Swami Tapasyananda.
At dawn, when the infant sun had begun to redden the eastern horizon with his fresh radiance, Sankara, the wisest among men and the best among knowers of Brahman, completed his morning duties, and accompanied by his disciples, proceeded, ready for debate, to Mandana's house, where several learned scholars had already assembled to attend that intellectual contest. As previously fixed, Mandana's learned wife, Ubhaya-bharati, who was none other than Saraswati in a human form, was to be the president and umpire at that learned assembly, where Mandana presented himself for debate with Sankara. The devoted wife that she was, Ubhaya-bharati, who was as handsome as she was learned, accepted the proposal conveyed to her through her husband to be the arbiter in the intellectual contest between himself and the SannyasinSankara, and she adorned the presidential seat like the real goddess Saraswati herself. In the midst of that enthusiasm of debate prevailing in the assembly, Sankara, the great Sannyasin and the most learned of men, came forward first to announce his proposition of the unity of all existence as follows: "Brahman the Existence-Consciousness-Bliss Absolute is the one ultimate Truth. It is He who appears as the entire world of multiplicity owing to dense ignorance, just as a shell appears as a piece ofsilver. Justas,whentheillusionisdispelledthesilverissublated by, and dissolved into, its substratum, the shell, so also, when ignorance is erased, the whole world is sublated and dissolved into its substratum, Brahman, which is the same as one's own Atman. This is supreme knowledge as also Moksha (liberation), and it brings about the cessation of future births. The Upanishads, which form the crown of the Vedas, are the authority in support of this proposition. Iamsuretoprovethisandbevictoriousinthedebate. If, however, I am defeated, I shall cease to be a Sannyasin, abandon my ochre robe, and assume the white dress. Let Ubhaya-bharati be the umpire to determine success or failure."
When Sankara had finished making his declaration, Mandana, the great householder, made his, emphasising the teachings of his faith, as follows: "The Vedantas or the Upanishads cannot be a proof of a subject-objectless Pure Conscious- ness, unoriginated and infinite. For, words can reveal only objects which are originated entities, but never a pure subject-objectless Consciousness, which does not form an effect. Therefore the non-Vedantic part of the Veda, dealing with such effects pro- duced by works, is the real Sabda-Prarnana (verbal testimony). In the light of it, actions alone constitute the steps leading to Moksha, and embodied beings have to perform action (Karma) till the end of their lives. If I happen to be defeated in argument. I shaH take to the life of Sannyasa. As requested by you, let my wife Ubhaya-bharati, who is learned enough for the work, be the judge in this contest."
Thus solemnly undertaking that the defeated party should adopt the Ashrama (mode oflife) of the victor, and making the learned lady the umpire in the contest, they started the debate withtheirhearts'firmlysetonvictory. As these twolearnedsavants began to debate with great avidity after finishing their respective daily rites, Ubhaya-bharati, who took her post as the umpire, came forward and put two wreaths on the necks of both the contestants and declared: "That person is to be considered defeated whose wreath is seen to fade."
MANDANA: O Supreme Sannyasin! You categorically maintainthat the Jiva and Brahman are identical in their real nature. I findno valid proof for this.
SANKARA: In the Upanishads, in the teachings of great sages like Uddalaka and others to worthy disciples like Svetaketu.there are passages asserting this unity. For example: tat tvam as “abhayamvaiJanakapraptosi, tad atmanamevavedahambrahmasmiti; tasmiitsarvamabhavat; tatrakomohakahsokaekatvamanupasyata, etc.
MANDANA: Statements like tat tvamasi convey no specialmeaning. They are, at the most, meaningless words like humphatvashat etc., which are not meant to convey any sense but only tobe used in Japa for eradication of sins. (Mandana is here speakingfrom the presumption of his philosophy.) Vedic sentences aremeant directly or indirectly to prompt men to action. There is noplace for mere statements giving information about the nature ofanything that is not connected with a Vedic ritual. In the Vediccontext, therefore, hum phatvashat etc., meaningless in themselves,are significant when used in activities like Japa.
SANKARA: It is true that hum phat etc. have no meaning andare, therefore, useful only for Japa. But, when there is actuallya meaning conveyed by a word or sentence, as in tat tvam as;etc., how can you say that they are meaningless word combinations to be used for Japa only?
Alternative Interpretation of Tat TvamAsi
MANDANA: Granted they convey some meaning, that meaningcannot be a declaration of unity of Brahman and Atman, althoughit may apparently look so. All Vedic sentences are injunctionsprompting man to actions, and those which are not so apparently,are allied to actions and have to be interpreted that way. For there are no Vedic sentences purely descriptive of an alreadyexistent entity like Brahman having no connection with action.Wherever they are found to occur, they have to be interpreted inthe light of the principles stated. Tat tvamasi and such otherVedic passages are Vidhi-seshas-they occur after the portionscontaining injunctions 'to actions like Yagas and Yajnas, and are,therefore, not injunctions in themselve, but only allied to themin a subsequent sense. Here in the case of tat tvam as;, it is only a praise of the performer of a Vedic sacrificial ritual for his highlymeritorious deed, calling him Iswara Himself.
SANKARA: Such an interpretation is fanciful. What are calledVidhi-seshas occur only in the earlier, i.e., the Karma-kandaportion of the Vedas, as they are closely connected with Karmas.They are meant to eulogise the various entities forming parts ofthe ritual. Examples of this are 'Aditya is Yupa (sacrificial post, 'The sacrificer is Prastara', etc. Here, 'Yupa', 'sacrificer', etc ..who form vital parts of a sacrifice, are eulogised through identification,and so these passages occur in proximity with the injunctionsregarding sacrifice. But how can Tat tvamasi and suchpassages, coming olltside the Karma-kanda and having nothingto do with rituals, become Vidhi-scsha, or app,'endages to Vidhi(injunction)? Look at such Upanishadic passages of a simiiarnature: 'The Real alone existed in the beginning', 'Atman aloneexisted at first', 'Brahman is immutable'. How can any personsay that they are all meant for praising the virtues of a sacrificer?
The Question of it being an Instruction for Meditation
MANDANA: If such sentences as Tattvam as; are not meantfor praise, they are meant for meditation which would enhancethe efficacy of a ritual. When a sacrificer meditates, 'I am That'and superimposes Iswarahood on himself, his power is therebyenhanced, and through that, the fruitfulness, too, of the ritual heperforms. Further, Vedas say, "Whatever is done with understanding,faith and determination, their potency is enhanced.'The saying Tat tvam as; is parallel to sayings such as, 'Meditateon Aditya as Brahman', 'Meditate on mind as Brahman', etc.,when Brahman is superimposed on Aditya, mind, etc., throughmeditation. In Tat tvamasi, Iswarahood is superimposed on theJiva and, thereby, the power of the Jiva performing sacrifice is enhanced. Interpreting the Upanishads in this way, they can bebrought within the scheme of Vedic injunctions and thus mademeaningful as a revelation. For, all Vedic passages are connectedwith action, and no passage unconnected with action (rituals)can have a place in it.
SANKARA: O Learned Sir, in passages like 'Meditate on mindas Brahman', the verb is in the imperative and, therefore, thesentence is a commandment, ail inducement to action. But Tattvam as; is a mere statement, the verb being in the simple indicativemood. In the face of this obvious fact, how can you assert thatit is an inducement to action?
MANDANA: 0 Great Yogin! If they are mere descriptions andnot inducements to action, the Vedantic sentences will becomea mere jumble of purposeless words in place of being the Sastra(Veda). A Sastra must induce a man to act for something desirable,or to desist from something undesirable. Now the Vedanticpassages can be given the force of a Sastra only if they are interpretedas commandments urging man to attain to the fruit ofMoksha (Jnana-vidhi), and not by taking them as mere descriptionsof a state that serves no human purpose. This is what isdone with Vedic passages of a descriptive nature such as: 'Thosewho perform Ratri-satra are established in the state of greatness.'This, in effect, is only a commandment, meaning: 'If you wantto attain to the state of greatness, perform Atiratra.' Just like that,'That Thou art' means, 'If you want the fruit of Mukti, becomeBrahman through meditation concerning Brahman and Atman.'Many Vedanta passages are couched exactly in this form as commandments.For example: 'This Atman should be seen, heard,thought of and meditated upon,' 'This Atman which is free from all stain, deserves to be sought after and striven to be known.'Thus the Vedanta passages on non-duality are not mere descriptionsbut commandments, with the fruit of Mukti In view.
SANKARA: But by such an interpretation, Moksha will becomean effect of an action. For. Meditation is a mental action, andlike any action, it can be done, or not done, or done in a contraryfashion. The implication of making Moksha an effect is to make it impermanent like Swarga and all attainments generated byhuman activity. This is the very negation of Moksha. In meditationyou.impose one entity on another by an assertion of thewill and generate a new effect which did not exist before. Brahma Vidya (knowledge of Brahma) is not an activity like that of convertingAtman, which was not Brahman before, into Brahmanby mental assertion. Brahma Vidya is knowledge and notmeditation.Knowledge is a mental mode of 'being what one has alwaysbeen' and not of 'becoming into something that was not before.' The text 'That Thou art' declares the eternal nature of things.Whatever passages look like commandments in the Upanishadsas 'This Atman should be heard of, meditated upon, etc. are onlyfor removing the obstacles or coverings. Jnana or knoweldge, ifyou call it an action at all, is only of the nature of removal ofobstacles. and not of bringing about a new condition or effect. Whenthe obstacles are removed, the truth that 'the Atman has alwaysbeen Brahman,' stands revealed. This is 'not an effect but what isin the nature of things.Why not an Assertion of Similarity ?
MANDANA: (Now, giving up his thesis that the Vedanticsentences are injunctions for meditation, Mandana adopts a newposition and argues:) Let us give up the contention that 'Tattvamasi' is an injunction for meditation. What harm is there in understanding it as an assertion of similarity between Brahman andAtman and interperting it as 'You are a spirit similar to Brahman',and not that you are the same as that?
SANKARA: What is this similarity asserted of? Is it of merelybeing a spirit, or of having the distinctive features of Brahmanas the soul of all, omniscience, omnipotence, etc.? The first ofthe alternatives is already accepted. The second cannot be, becauseit goes against the plain meaning of the Vedantic sentence that theAtman and Brahman are one. That they are one cannot meanthat they are two similar but different entities.
MANDANA: Let it be maintained that similarity is assertedonly of their both being .eternally conscious entities, while inrespect of qualities like. 'being the soul of all' etc., let us say theyare there but are covered by Avidya (ignorance) and only look as if they are absent. By accepting this meaning, the basic onenessremains, while for all practical purposes the difference also isasserted. Can't we get over the difficulty suggested by you this way?
SANKARA: If you are prepared to go so far, why do you hesitateto say openly that they are one? For, this is what it amounts to,when you admit that the difference perceived is not real but onlyapparent, being caused by Avidya.
MANDANA (Changing his position a little): But, don't you thinkthat the doctrine of similarity helps to repudiate materialism?For, by comparison with yourself, it helps you to understandwhat is meant by speaking of the cause of the world as intelligence.The only self-conscious intelligent entity you understand is yourself,and the intelligent nature of another entity can be understood onlyby observing and accepting similarity. And once the causeof the world is accepted as pure intelligence, i.e., that theworld has come out of intelligence, then all these quasimaterialisticdoctrines like those of Samkhyas and Kanadas arerepudiated.
SANKARA: Why follow all these tortuous methods of misinterpretingthe Mahavakya, only for securing the refutation ofmaterialism? That is already done directly by passages such as'That thought, let Me become many' etc. The intelligent natureof the cause of the world is established directly by such passages.Moreover, to get the meaning.you have to distort a statementlike 'That thou art (Tat tvamasi), into 'That is like you' (Tat tvatsadrso'sti,or Tadastitvamiva). Where is the justification for allthis distortion, if the object is only to secure that intelligence is the source of the world ?
Doctrine of Unity Contradicts Perception
MANDANA: (Mandana now takes up an entirely new line ofobjection and says:) The doctrine of the unity of Brahman andJiva contradicts the evidence of perception. For, we see onlytheir difference and not unity. So sentences like' AhamBrahmasmi,' 'Tat tvamasi', etc., which seemingly assert unity, are meant onlyfor Japa (silent repetition) by Yogis. They have not got the forceof Vedic sentences.
SANKARA: It has to be established, and not merely presumed,as you do, that perception of the difference between lswara andJiva is actually experienced by the eye. Then only is the nonperceptionof the unity between Iswara and Jiva of any significance,and the situation of identity passages in the Upanishads beingcontradicted by perception, arises. But actually perception cannotat all reveal the difference between Iswara and Jiva, because nokind of relation can be established between ~he organ eye and thekind of difference you speak of. Actual contact of the organ andan object is necessary for perception to function. Here there isno such contact between the eye and this difference.
MANDANA: 0 learned one! We have actually got a feelingthat we are different from Tswara. Leaving aside the question ofactual contact, let us take this feeling of difference as an attributeof the Jiva, and interpret it as revealing the difference between theJiva and Iswara.
SANKARA: Now, to say that an attribute like difference aloneis perceived and not the object it qualifies, is an irrelevant andsenseless proposition. When you say that the non-existence of apot on a table is perceived, the table, which the 'non-existence'is supposed to qualify, should also be seen. In this case, the Atman, which is the object supposed to be qualified by difference, is notseen. How can you then contend that 'difference', which is oneof its attributes, alone is seen?
MANDANA: Both the Atman and the mind are Dravyas or substances.One substance can contact another substance and reston it. So your contention that the mind does not and cannotcontact the Atman is not correct.
SANKARA: In your way of thought, the Atman must be eitherAnu (atomic) or Vibhu (all-pervasive). In either case, it is a partlessentity. In this world, we find that only entities with partscan have mutual relation. (So if you contend that mind contacts the Atman, you will have to admit that the Atman has parts,which will destroy the very conception of the Atman as a partlessand indestructible whole.) All these arguments are vitiated by thepresumption that mind is a sense organ which directly contactsobjects. But this is not a fact. It is only an aid to the senses forperceiving their respective objects, just as light is is not a senseorgan.
Does Intuitive Feeling Contradict the Doctrine of Unity?
MANDANA: Let the contention that the sense of differencebetween the Jiva and Iswara is born of perception, be given up.Let us say that the difference is an inborn intuitive feeling in us(Sakshi). Can't one say that this intuitive feeling contradicts theVedic sentences propounding the unity of the Jiva and Iswara?
SANKARA: What the intuitive feeling certifies is the differencebetween the Jiva as qualified by Avidya (ignorance) and •Iswaraas qualified by Maya (creative power). The unity which the Vedicsentences certify is the inherent unity realised on the eliminationof the above qualifying adjunct'> of both. The sphere of intuitive feeling and Vedic sentences here being different. The questionof conflict between them does not arise. Besides. even in case aconflict is seen, it is resolved by the law that in two successiveexperiences or statements, the succeeding one is the stronger one andcan abrogate the earlier, according to the doctrine of Apachcheda.
Does Inference contradict Unity ?
MANDANA: Then let the evidence of perception in any formbe given up. Let us take the position that inference. Contradictsthe doctrine of unity of the Jiva and Iswara. The Jiva is an entitywith little knowledge. Iswara is an all-knowing entity. The Jiva is.therefore, different from Iswara, just as a pot is different fromHim. This conclusion contradicts Vedic passages declaring theunity of these two.
SANKARA: Say whether the difference between Iswara and theJiva is actual or merely apparent. If you say it is actual thenthe example you have shown to prove it is inappropriate and invalid.The instance shown must be one having knowledge or sentiencyin order to have resemblance with the. entities involved, namely theJiva and Iswara. You must show another conscious entityto illustrate your point. The pot is an insentient object. So yourargument falls due to insufficiency of illustration.
MANDANA: My view is that self-knowledge does not annulthe difference between the Jiva (oneself) and Iswara any morethan it eliminates the differerence' between .oneself and a pot.Self-knowledge means knowledge of oneself only and not of the pot or of Iswara. It need not abolish these differences. Yourview, on the other hand, is that it annuls all differences, includingthat between the Jiva and Iswara. As I hold Iswara, the pot and allother objects on a par in comparison with self-knowledge my argument is free from the fallacy of inappropriateness of illustration.
SANKARA: Now, the entity you indicate by the word 'self',of which knowledge is predicated-is it unaffected by all dualitieslike pleasure and pain, or is it the same individuality that is subjectto all these? In the latter case, I have no difference with you thatthe knowledge of a 'physical self will not annul differences. Butwhat do you gain by thus establishing a materialistic doctrine thatthe body is the self. If, on the other hand, the knowledge is of the'unaffected and unaffectable' spiritual Self, that knowledge effacesAvidya, which is the cause of all differences, including that betweenthe self and the pot. Hence, since all illustrations to show differencecan be drawn only from the realm of Avidya, they become inappropriateas illustrations for comparison with that uncontaminated'spiritual Self.'
MANDANA: Now you are not prepared to admit a self thatis subject to pleasure and pain, different from Iswara. You saythe cause of this sense of difference is Avidya and that when Avidyais removed, all the Upadhis or adjuncts born of Avidya and causingdifferences, are also eliminated. Now I do not admit such a theoryof Avidya. Differences are inherent and not due to adjuncts thatcan be eliminated. There is inherent difference between Iswaraand the Jiva. There is equally inherent difference between Iswaraand the pot and between the Jiva and the pot. So, for illustratingthe difference between the Jiva and Iswara, the example of the potand Iswara is quite adequate. So, my example stands.
SANKARA: Your denial of the fact that differences are causedonly by Upadhis which have their source solely in Avidya, is notvalid. In the case of the pot, though it is not conscious of ignorancelike the sentient Jiva, the whole existence of the pot is due to thebasic Avidya, and insentiency is its Upadhi. On the other hand,the Jiva being pure sentiency,•it cannot be separated from Brahmanexcept by the Upadhi of Avidya. For, all sentiency is Brahman,and the different centres of sentiency in it can be conceived onlyon the assumption of Upadhis.
MANDANA: I maintain that Brahman, the spiritual Being, hasgot His own distinctiveness, which cannot be sublated by theJiva knowing Brahman. You admit that the distinctiveness of apot is in no way affected when you know it. God and the Absolute
SANKARA: What is your contention-is it that even when selfknowledgedawns on all the Jivas, Brahman will still continue tohave His distinctiveness? Or is it that the self-knowledge of oneJiva alone, will still leave Brahman in His distinctiveness? If it is the latter, there is nothing at issue except that the fact is not assimple as that. For when the Jivarealises itself as Brahman, alldifferences in their totality vanish, and in that vanished totality ofdistinctions is included all the distinctions of individual Jivas and ofinert objects like the pot. When Brahman is the sole existence, there is nothing left to show off this distinctiveness. 0 learned one!What have you in mind when you speak of the knowledge of thespiritual Being-have you in mind God, the Deity, who has attributeslike omniscience, omnipotence, immortality, etc., or NirgunaBrahman, which is pure, attributeless, absolute Consciousness? Ifit is the former, I am in agreement with you in maintaining thatdifference exists between God and the world of limited beings. Ifyour reference is to the latter, the attributeless Absolute, difficultyarises alike in speaking of knowing Him and not knowing Him. Ifyou say you know Him, it contradicts the Vedas which declare the Absolute to be beyond all means of knowledge. If, on the otherhand, you say that He cannot be known, then all attributes and all distinctions lose their basis and must come to naught.
Vedic Passages Teaching Difference: Their Correct Interpretation
MANDANA: (Not being able to show or establish the distinctivenessof Brahman and the Jiva by reasoning, Mandanaagain resorts to Sruti.) There is the following Upanishadicverse, There are two birds of beautiful plumage, unifiedin friendship through eternity, occupying the same tree. Of them,one eats the fruits of the tree, while .the other merely •Iooks onwithout eating,' Here, the two birds •are the Jiva and Brahman,and the Sruti asserts their difference. By this the Sruti contradicts the idea of their unity which, y.ou say, is asserted by other Vedic sentences.
SANKARA: There are many Srutis condemning the perceptionof diversity as: "He who sees only diversity here, goes from deathto death' etc. As against these, quoting a sentence pertaining tofacts known even otherwise, through perception etc..will notweaken the Sruti passages that declare the unity of existence.They only describe the apparent natme. the wrong notions ofthings, as seen in ignorance, say, like the silver in nacre. A Vedicsentence must give you some knowledge unattainable throughother means like perception, or they must prompt you to some fruitful action. Others ate mere Arthavadas, figures of speech and exaggerations, whose meaning is not what they purport to say. Thepassage you have quoted is only an Arthavada. There are manysuch passages in the Veda with dualistic import.
MANDANA: A sentence contained in a Smriti (text:; attributedto great saints and seers, like the Gita, Puranas, etc.), if it is basedon a Vedic text, is considered valid. For example, take the passage'Kshetrajna is Myself' in the Gita. Even so, a truth given byperception, if it is supported by a Vedic text, has to be given thesame validity. The difference between Iswara and the Jiva isgiven in our intuitive perception, and this is supported by theVedic text I quoted. Its validity cannot be questioned.
SANKARA: What the Veda, supports is not all the Smritis, butthe meaning of aSmriti passage which is identical with it. 'Knowthe Kshetrajna to be Myself' is identical in meaning with 'Tat tvamasi'. This unique meaning cannot be got through any other meansof knowledge except the Vedic passage, and insofar as the Gitapassage reiterates this unique meaning, it is relevant in the Vediccontext. This is not the case with regard to the sentence you havequoted about 'the two birds, sitting on the self-same tree.' Theknowledge of ?ifference between lswara and the Jiva is had even by the ignorant. No Veda is required for it. Only that IS Veda whichreveals new knowledge, unattainable otherwise. Its function isnot to reiterate knowledge obtained in other ways. Besides, allthat has been said by you till. now is based on a misunderstandingabout the meaning of the passage, 'Two birds of beautiful plumage'etc. When rightly interpreted, it will be seen that the passageis not meant to show the difference between Iswara and the Jiva,but to distinguish Iswara from the Sattva or the Buddhi (intellect).It is the Buddhi that undergoes the enjoyments and sufferingsborn of Karma, and the passage seeks to distinguish that Buddhifrom Iswara and assert His freedom from Samsara.
MANDANA: If, as you say, the reference in this Mantra is to theBuddhi and Iswara, and not to the Jiva and Iswara, then thepassage will be asqribing 'enjoyership' to an inert substance like the Buddhi (for it is only a product of insentient Prakriti), and witthereby become untrustworthy as a means of valid knowledge.because it can be charged with indulging in obvious absurditie like the doctrine mentioned above.
SANKARA: There is no occasion for such a doubt. Paingya•rahasyaBrahmana gives its meaning clearly as follows: The Buddhi'enjoys' while the Jiva (Kshetrajna) witnesses the enjoyment.
MANDANA: In my view this is not correct. In this Brahmana,the Sattva (Buddhi) is equated with the Sariri (the embodiedbeing). The embodied being is clearly the Jivatma. The 'other'who is spoken of as Kshetrajna (the knower of the field) is Iswarawho merely witnesses.
SANKARA: Such a view cannot stand, as the Sruti clearlydeclares the meaningof the word Sattva to be Buddhi, and Kshetrajna to be that Jiva. "That by which dream is experiencedis the Sattva; He who is the over-seer in the body is the Kshetrajna, i.e., the Jiva."
MANDANA: No; by the words 'by' whom' in the text, the Jivaalone is mentioned as the seer of the dream. Kshetrajna is Iswara,the witness.
SANKARA: It cannot be construed so grammatically. As theword 'drashta' is used in the sense of 'Karta' (doer), and as it ispreceded by the expression 'the embodied being', the Jiva alone isreferred to as the seer. It cannot be Iswara. What is mentionedas two in the Sruti are the Buddhi and the Jiva, and not the Jivaand Iswara.
MANDANA: (Not being able to establish that 'Sattva meansJiva', Mandana tries now to contend that the epithet Sarira or'the embodied' can be applied to Iswara.) As Iswara is also connectedwith the bodies of all individuals as the all-pervadingindweller, what is wrong in applying the word 'Sarira' or 'embodiedbeing' to Iswara?
SANKARA: Iswara pervades everything, not merely the Sariraor body. Under the circumstances, it is misleading to specify Him as 'Sariri' or 'the embodied one'. Akasa is also pervadingeverything, including this body. Nobody will, on that account,apply the name 'Siriri' to Akasa.
The Uniqueness of the Vedic Authority on Unity of Existence
MANDANA: (Abandoning the position that the reference is tothe Jiva and Iswara, and pointing out the absurdity in maintainingit to be the Buddhi and the Jiva:) A Vedic statement to such aneffect would make the Veda support an absurdity (namely, that aninert substance like the Buddhi can be the Bhokta or the enjoyer),and thereby invalidate its status as a means of valid knowledge.
SANKARA: Naturally iron is not hot. But when heat pervades,it, it becomes hot and burning. So also, the inert Buddhi,whenpervaded by the Chit, the intelligent principle, can function as theBhokta or the enjoyer.
MANDANA: In the Kathopanishad, there is the verse: 'Enjoyingthe fruits of actions, they reside in the cavity of the heart. Theyare related as light and shade. So say the knowers of Brahman'.In this statement of the Kathopanishad, it is stated that Iswaraand the Jiva are residing in the cavity of the heart, and that thereis absolute and fundamental difference between them as betweenlight and shade. Is this not contradictory to the doctrine of nonduality?
SANKARA: The Vedic passages that assert the unity 'of existenceare not in any way affected by other'passages relating to the divisionsand distinctions of relative existence (i.e., life as understood andexperienced by man in ignorance). For, what the non-dualisticpassages do, is to give a piece of knowledge which cannot be hadby any other means, unlike the dualistic passages that teach differencewhich can be known' through other means of knowledgealso. So the position of these non-dualistic passages is uniqueand is quite unaffected by pointing to this passage and that passageteaching difference.
MANDANA: The Vedic passage speaking of difference gets onlygreater strength and validity from the support it gets from anothermeans of vaildknowledge .likePratyaksha (sense experience).It is not thereby weakened, as you say, because of sense knowledgeconfirming it. Therefore these dualistic passages surely affect thevalidity of non-dualistic passages, which are without the supportor confirmation of any other means of knowledge.
SANKARA: O Learned one! The strength of a Vedic passageis not affected, because no other means of knowledge can confirmit: If your contention is conceded, the Veda ceases to be a meansof valid knowledge, self-validating in itself. This is the uniquenessof the position of the Veda among-the means of right knowledgenamely,that it gives knowledge that cannot be derivedthrough any other means. If your position is accepted, Srutibecomes merely a means for confirming knowledge that can begot through other means also. It becomes very weak and purposelessthereby.
Now, Ubhaya-bharati (who was none but GoddessSaraswati herself) accepted that the cogent arguments of Sankarahad overcome the contentions of Mandana, thereby subjectinghim to the humility of defeat. Like a shower of sweet-smellingflowers, came her words giving a verdict, which in effect was adirective to her husband to adopt the life of Sannyasa, abandoninghome and herself. As she thus gave her verdict in favour of thedistinguished Sannyasin, the flower wreath which she had put atthe start round her husband's neck was found to fade. And, unlikeon ordinary days, she now invited them both, Sankara andMandana, for their Bhiksha in the noon; for, from now onwardsMandana was no longer a householder but a Sannyasin, accordingto the wager agreed upon in the beginning.