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From Saundarya Lahiri written by Adi Shankar I found following verse -

kvaṇatkāñcī-dāmā kari kalabha kumbha-stananatā
parikṣīṇā madhye pariṇata śaraccandra-vadanā |
dhanurbāṇān pāśaṃ sṛṇimapi dadhānā karatalaiḥ
purastā dāstāṃ naḥ puramathitu rāho-puruṣikā || 7 ||

Let the Divine Mother dwell intimately in our hearts …with her tinkling fillet girdle, Her full bosom - akin to the frontal globes of a young elephant - making her bend forward (reaching us), Her lean waist enhancing her beauty, Her face akin to the full autumnal moon. She sports in her palms a bow and arrow, a noose and a goad. I revere this Divine Mother who is the ‘I’ consciousness in the Lord, Parama Siva.

Now the highlighted sentence is Kashmiri Shaiva concept where Lord Shiva (Bhairava) is existence or consciousness & the agency through which the consciousness is aware of its consciousness is Shakti (VijnAna). And this is clearly signifying an activity of Shiva (awareness of own consciousness) which Advaita Vedanta rejects as AV doesn't believe in activity in Brahman. In fact, I am not aware if anywhere Adi Shankaracharya ever mentioned reflexive consciousness (That the agency by which Brahman is consciousness of itself).

So here is my set of questions related to above details.

  1. Did Adi Shankaracharya mention about the reflexive consciousness in its any other work. i.e, the Brahman's consciousness/awareness of being consciousness.
  2. Do we find similar deviation in his later works? Because in ManishApanchakam also, he is ready to accept ChAndAla as his guru unlike in Brahmasutras where he asked to pour liquid lead in Shudras ear's on hearing Vedas. So, Did Adi ShankarAcharya's philosophy was somewhat changed in the last years of his life i.e, after writing commentary on Brahma Sutras? Please share any such Hindu research works or thoughts if available.
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  • This can be explained through Saguna Brahman or from Vyavaharika level.
    – The Destroyer
    Commented Nov 26, 2017 at 15:56
  • @TheDestroyer But it seems he is taking Shiva as Brahman here not Ishwar. Commented Nov 26, 2017 at 16:34
  • Because otherwise, even mine "I" is also Shakti Commented Nov 26, 2017 at 16:34
  • Here Divine Mother is "I" or Atma of Parama Shiva. So, this is about Iswara (Saguna Brahman) according to Shankara.
    – The Destroyer
    Commented Nov 26, 2017 at 16:39
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    Rohit- It should be "after writing commentary on Brahma Sutras".
    – Rickross
    Commented Nov 26, 2017 at 16:49

2 Answers 2

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Answer to question 1:

Adi Shankaracharya's devotional writings do not reflect any change in his philosophical position. In these writings he has spoken in a manner that is familiar to devotees who are not capable of following Jnana Yoga and need hand holding from the deities.

There exists three great misconceptions regarding Sankara's philosophy, both in India and in the West. The first of these is that he discourages the performance of duties and advocates the discipline of non-action for the realization of the Truth.

...............

Secondly it is contended, specially in the West, that because of Sankara's staunch loyalty to the Non-dualistic ideal of Brahman, or the Absolute, he is an enemy of the gods and goddesses of the popular religion. Undoubtedly he held the Ultimate Reality to be beyond name and form and of the nature of Pure Consciousness. He also stated that the direct method for realization of Brahman is not worship, but the path of knowledge, which consists in hearing the instruction of a teacher, reflecting on its meaning, and lastly, meditating with single-minded devotion on Truth. Philosophical discrimination (viveka) and renunciation of the unreal (vairagya) constitute for Sankara the basic disciplines for realization of Brahman. Yet he was aware that few aspirants are strong enough to climb this steep path. The majority require a tangible symbol of Truth, anthropomorphic or otherwise, and also a human relationship with a Personal God. For them prayer and supplication form an indispensable part of worship. Out of compassion for these seekers Sankara composed many hymns in praise of such popular deities of Hinduism as Siva, Vishnu, and the Divine Mother. As one reads these hymns, one is impressed by the magnanimity of Sankara, who having attained the highest vision of the Absolute, brought himself down to the level of ordinary worshippers smitten with the idea of many transgressions, assumed their attitude of insignificance and helplessness, and prayed to the Lord for grace to attain liberation from the many miseries of earthly life. ...............

Even in his theistic hymns Sankara never permits one to forget that Brahman alone is the foundation of all relative ideas and that the effulgence of Pure Consciousness radiates through the vesture of name and form. The devotee catches a glimpse of the Absolute through the form of a Personal God, who is the highest manifestation of the Infinite that a finite mind can comprehend on the relative plane. Sankara reiterates the art of concentration through the worship of the Personal God (Saguna Brahman) and acquires purity of heart through performance of unselfish duties. Endowed then with concentration and purity, he sets himself to the task of acquiring the Knowledge of Brahman and realizes, the the end, the Impersonal Absolute. Sankara initiated the worship of Sakti, or the Divine Mother, in his monasteries.

Thirdly, it is said by some of Sankara's Western critics that he moved away from the teachings of the seers of the Upanishads. ..................

Preface in Self-Knowledge (Atmabodha) by Swami Nikhilananda

Answer to question 2:

It is certainly true that Manisha Panchakam would appear to show a dramatic change in Sankaracharya's position regarding the caste issue. The problem is that not every scholar considers it to be an authentic writing of Sankaracharya. If you read the letter of Swami Vivekananda he mentions the contradiction in Sankaracharya's writing on caste but is silent on Manisha Panchakam. It would have beem natural to point out the U-turn in Manisha Panchakam but he remains silent.

(Translated from Bengali )

All Glory to God!

BARANAGORE, CALCUTTA, 7th Aug., 1889.

DEAR SIR,

................ I have certain questions to put, and you, sir, have a wide knowledge of Sanskrit; so please favour me with answers to the following:

  1. Does any narrative occur about Satyakâma, son of Jabâlâ, and about Jânashruti, anywhere else in the Vedas excepting the Upanishads?2

**2. In most cases where Shankaracharya quotes Smriti in his commentary on the Vedânta-Sutras, he cites the authority of the Mahâbhârata. But seeing that we find clear proofs about caste being based on qualification both in the Bhishmaparva of the Mahabharata and in the stories there of the Ajagara and of Umâ and Maheshvara, has he made any mention in his writings of this fact? ** 3. The doctrine of caste in the Purusha-Sukta of the Vedas does not make it hereditary — so what are those instances in the Vedas where caste has been made a matter of hereditary transmission?

  1. The Achârya could not adduce any proof from the Vedas to the effect that the Shudra should not study the Vedas. He only quotes "यज्ञेऽनवक्लृप्तः" ("The Shudra is not conceived of as a performer of Yajna or Vedic sacrifices.") (Tai. Samhita, VII. i. 1. 6) to maintain that when he is not entitled to perform Yajnas, he has neither any right to study the Upanishads and the like. But the same Acharya contends with reference to "अथातो ब्रह्मजिज्ञासा", ("Now then commences hence the inquiry about Brahman.") (Vedânta-Sutras, I. i. 1) that the word अथ here does not mean "subsequent to the study of the Vedas", because it is contrary to proof that the study of the Upanishad is not permissible without the previous study of the Vedic Mantras and Brâhmanas and because there is no intrinsic sequence between the Vedic Karma-kânda and Vedic Janâna-kânda. It is evident, therefore, that one may attain to the knowledge of Brahman without having studied the ceremonial parts of the Vedas. So if there is no sequence between the sacrificial practices and Jnana, why does the Acharya contradict his own statement when it is a case of the Shudras, by inserting the clause "by force of the same logic"? Why should the Shudra not study the Upanishad?

The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Volume 6, Epistles-(Second Series), VIII

I once asked a staunch Sankara folower as to what is the real position of Sankara on the caste issue given that he takes contradictory position in his Brahma Sutra and Upanishadic commentaries and in Manisha Panchakam. He told me that Sankara's commentaries on the Brahma Sutra and the Upanishads are authoritative and what he wrote in some obscure little text is of no value.

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    In Mahabharata how exactly is caste qualification based when Karna and Ekalavya is denied education by Drona and Parashurama curses Karna for being a Kshatriya.
    – user22253
    Commented Sep 13, 2021 at 16:26
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    Also Manusmriti is clear on caste being hereditary, and Smritis are considered a valid by all Vedantins
    – user22253
    Commented Sep 13, 2021 at 16:26
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    Infact the very story of Sathya Kama Jabala kind of proves caste is hereditary, that's why the Guru says you are so truthful, you must be a son of a brahmin and also he asks the boy who his father was. He doesn't say you are so truthful, your quality is that of a brahmin IMHO.
    – user22253
    Commented Sep 13, 2021 at 16:30
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    @RaghavGoyal oh come on. People are trying to whitewash. What about Ekalavya. Drona didn't teach Karna and denied all education not just Brahmastra. So he went to Parashurama and lied he was a Brahmana and then he got cursed when Parashurama knew the truth. Stop white washing.
    – user22253
    Commented Sep 15, 2021 at 13:35
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    @RaghavGoyal Keep laughing and don't read your own sources. This is what Drona says to Karna according to your own link, he replied, ‘The brahmastra can only be known by a brahmana who is observant of the vows, or by a kshatriya who has performed austerities, and by no one else.’ Having been thus addressed by the best of the Angirasa lineage, he honoured him and took his leave.
    – user22253
    Commented Sep 16, 2021 at 4:18
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IMHO, The question lacks understanding of Advaita and is repeatedly confusing it with other denominations similar to Advaita.

The reflexive I consciousness is not Brahman, in Advaita it's not even considered as an agency of Brahman. So it's not the action of Brahman, it's the action of Maya. Brahman can't do anything except witness. Here's the problem Brahman isn't aware of its own consciousness. The I consciousness in the Brahman is Ishwara. Here Shiva is Brahman and Devi is Ishwari, the feminine version of Ishwara. This is the Shakta Advaitic concept where Brahman is Shiva and Ishwari is Devi. So the I consciousness in Brahman is Devi and she is the Ishwari and all action is attributed to her and not Brahman

So the action belongs to Ishwara not Brahman. Brahman is only the ashraya or refuge. If you walk inside a house, house is not walking, you are walking. So the reflexive ahamkara which is the Ishwara or Ishwari and all the action of reflexive ahamkara belongs to Ishwari.

Also we all human beings reside in Brahman, we walk and talk etc. This doesn't mean these actions are attributed to Brahman. In the same way Ishwara or Ishwari resides in Brahman, all the actions of Ishwari is hers and not the Brahman's or Shiva's in this picture. That's why Shiva is sleeping in the image of Tripura Sundari. The I consciousness in Shiva is devi and the actions of this I consciousness belongs to itself.

Also it's a central tenent of Advaita, it cannot be changed at all. To change it is to change Advaita Vedanta itself where it's no more Advaita. Brahman is only witness, chinmaatra, and no action can be attributed to it. So ofcourse Shri Adi Shankaracharya did not change after writing the Brahma Sutra Bhashya. This is my understanding.

Note: On stack exchange it's preferable to quote scriptures in the answer. But this probably can't be done for this answer as it's an opinionated conjecture asking whether such Adi Shankaracharya changed his opinion by quoting a verse where no such change is seen. So one can only point out that the question itself is wrong. Also this answer was previously a comment, converted to answer for the sake of visibility.

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