The most prominent thinker associated with the Advaita Vedanta school is Adi Shankaracharaya, but he wasn't the founder of Advaita; Adi Shankaracharaya's guru Govinda and Govinda's guru Gaudapada were also Advaitins. Now, as I discuss in this question, according to Advaitin tradition Gaudapada was the student of the sage Shuka, son of the sage Vyasa, and then the Advaita Sampradaya is traced back through Shuka's ancestors: Vyasa, Parashara, Shakti, Vashishta, Brahma, and ultimately Vishnu. But it seems that Advaitins also see a more direct connection between Gaudapada and Vishnu. Let me explain.

As I discuss in this question, Gaudapada is famous for his Karika or commentary on the Mandukya Upanishad, which you can read here. In the beginning of chapter 4, Gaudapada says this:

I bow to the best among men, who, by means of knowledge, which is like akasa and which is non—different from the goal of knowledge, realized the nature of the jivas (dharmas), which, too, are like akasa.

Now Adi Shankaracharya, in this section of his commentary on Gaudapada's Karika, interprets the words "best among men" as referring to Vishnu:

The first verse has for its purpose the salutation to the promulgator of the philosophy of Advaita, conceiving him as identical with the Advaita Truth.... I bow to the God, known as Nārāyaṇa, who by knowledge, non-different from the nature of Ātman (the object of knowledge) and which resembles Ākāśa, knew the Dharmas which, again, may be compared to Ākāśa. The import of the words “Dvipadām Varam” (Supreme among the bipeds), is that Nārāyaṇa is the greatest of all men, characterised by two legs, that, is to say, He is the “Puruṣottama”, the best of all men.

Anandagiri's Tika or subcommentary on Adi Shankaracharya's Bhashya explains why Gaudapada is praising Vishnu:

"Nārāyaṇa"—The story runs thus:—In ancient times Gauḍapāda retired to Badarikāśrama, in the interior of the Himalayas, and there worshipped with great austerity the human figure of the Almighty Lord.

Badarikāśrama is the one of the holiest places of Vishnu, being the abode of Vishnu's incarnations Nara and Narayana. So it seems that Gaudapada went to Badarikāśrama and engaged in Tapasya to propitiate Visshnu. Now Anandagiri ends things there, but the translator provides an additional detail.

Ānandagiri says in his Ṭīkā on Śaṅkara’s commentary on the Kārikā (4-1) that Gauḍapāda performed great austerities in the Badarikāśrama, in the interior of the Himālayas, in order to propitiate Nārāyana who is worshipped there as the God-Man. Nārāyana being pleased with his devotion revealed to him the secret of the Advaita Vedānta. Gauḍapāda salutes this Nārāyana in the opening verse of the fourth chapter of the Kārikā.

So my question is, do Advaitins believe that Vishnu appeared before Gaudapada in Badarikāśrama and taught him about Advaita? Are there any works of Advaita Acharyas which mention this?

On a side note, the name Narayana refers both to Vishnu and to Vishnu's incarnation sage Narayana. So given that this is Badarikāśrama, it's possible that Advaitins believe that it was Vishnu's incarnation sage Narayana who appeared before Gaudapada, not the supreme Vishnu.

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    " it was Vishnu's incarnation sage Narayana who appeared before Gaudapada, not the supreme Vishnu." Why do you think Advaitins believe it could be not Vishnu?
    – The Destroyer
    Commented Jul 21, 2017 at 17:05
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    @TheDestroyer I just said it's possible that it's Vishnu's incarnation sage Narayana rather than Vishnu himself, since Badri is where sage Narayana lived. It is of course equally possible that it was Vishnu himself. Commented Jul 21, 2017 at 17:16
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    1) It says Narayana 'revealed to him' it does not say 'appeared' - how do you go from revealed to appear? 2) What is the difference between an incarnation of Vishnu and the Supreme Vishnu (see Gita 9.11)? My goodness, such illogical word chopping! To us ants crawling around on the ground, there is no difference! Commented Jul 22, 2017 at 9:13
  • 4
    I think you are running out of questions..
    – Rickross
    Commented Jul 23, 2017 at 5:35
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    @Rickross Haha, I actually have a very long list of questions that I'm planning to ask in future, and that list keeps growing. I can show you the list in chat if you want. Commented Jul 23, 2017 at 5:38

1 Answer 1


Yes. Advaitins believe Lord Narayana, the Lord Himself, revealed knowledge of Advaita to Gaudapada in Badarikāśrama, as mentioned in the book Preceptors of Advaita.

"Preceptors of Advaita" is a book which has articles collected from various sources published by Kanchi kamakoti Peetam on occasion of diamond jubilee of Sri Chandraseksharendra Saraswati's ascension to the Pitha.

In Gaudapada's section, it is mentioned that Lord Narayana himself revealed Advaitic Knowledge to Gaudapada. Sri Bālakṛṣṇānanda Sarasvatī said Gaudapada did tapasya from beginning of Dwapara Yuga, hence his exact name is not known.

Ānandagiri in his gloss (ṭīkā) on the Māṇḍūkya-Kārikā-bhāṣya, says that the teacher Gauḍapāda in those days spent his time in Badrikāśrama, the holy residence of Nara-Nārāyana, in deep meditation on the [Page 25] Lord, and that the Lord, Nārāyaṇa, greatly pleased, revealed to him the Upaniṣadic wisdom.

Bālakṛṣṇānanda Sarasvatī (17th Century A.D.) writes in his Śārīrakamīmāṃsābhāṣya-vārtika that there was in the country of Kurukṣetra a river called Hirarāvati, on whose banks there were some Gauḍa people (people of Gauḍadeśa, the modem North Bengal); that the pre-eminent of them, Gauḍapāda, was absorbed in deep meditation beginning from the Dvāpara age; and so, as his proper name is not known to the moderns, he is celebrated by the class-name of the Gauḍas.

Since this is contained in book published by Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam on silver jubilee event of Sri Chandrasekhara Saraswati's ascension to Peeta, we can consider Advaitins believe Lord Narayana Himself revealed it Gaudapada.

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