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The most prominent thinker of 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. As I discuss in this question, Gaudapada is famous for his commentary on the Mandukya Upanishad. But I'm interested in Gaudapada himself.

As you can see here, 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. My question is, what is the story of how Gaudapada met the sage Shuka?

I've found one possible story which is from a seventeenth-century work called the Patanjali Charitam. In this account Gaudapada starts out as a student of Patanjali, the ancient grammarian and author of the Yoga Sutras. But Gaudapada displeases Patanjali, who curses him to turn into a Brahmarakshasa or cannibalistic demon. The only way for Gaudapada to be free from the curse is for someone to correctly answer a Sanskrit grammar question. After many years of roaming the forest as a Brahmrakshasa, Gaudapada finally comes across Govinda, a boy who correctly answers the question. Gaudapada then proceeds to teach the boy all about Sanskrit grammar, and this finally frees Gaudapada from the curse. After he returns to his human form, Gaudapada goes to Badarikashrama, where he meets the sage Shuka and becomes his disciple. Then years later, Govinda goes to Badarikashrama and finds out that Gaudapada is now an Advaita Acharya, so he decides to become his disciple (taken from this forum post):

After Gaudapada taught the boy, he was released from the curse. He then went northward searching for a guru. Having heard that Sukadeva was identified with the entire universe, he felt a desire to become his sishya and learn from him. After a long search he met Suka at Badari and was initiated by him into Advaita Darshana....

After searching in various places, [Govinda] finally went to Badari and met his old guru who had taught him grammar. He learnt that Gaudapada had become a sannyasi. He too took sannyasa from him. From then on, he was called Govinda Bhagavadpada.

So are there any older works that confirm the story given in the Patanjali Charitam? Are there any alternate accounts of how Gaudapada and Shuka met? I'd like to try to find the oldest known story of their meeting.

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    I am unfamiliar with the myths surrounding Gaudapada's life. There are many myths regarding Sankara's also. In the Dig-Vijayas of Sankara there are conflicting accounts and references to books no longer available - and even they conflict. There is an account of Sankara and his disciples meeting with Vyasa, He appeared to them and held a debate with Sankara. Not surprised there is a myth that Gaudapada met with Shuka but the references are I am sure lost in the haze of time. Apr 23, 2015 at 5:53
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    @SwamiVishwananda if Shuka did not meet Gaudapada then what is the lineage of sankara vedanta ? why they include Shukas name in that ? Feb 25, 2017 at 18:55
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    @RakeshJoshi Many many sannaysins, including myself, chant a hymn every morning reciting the lineage of major teachers to thank them and honor them. Sankara is about half way - there are many names pre-Sankara chanted before Sankara is reached. You should really read more sources, including academic. Feb 26, 2017 at 2:38
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    @SwamiVishwananda नारायणं पद्मभुवं वशिष्ठं शक्तिं च तत्पुत्रं पराशरं च व्यासं शुकं गौडपादं महान्तं गोविन्दयोगीन्द्रं अथास्य शिष्यम् । श्री शंकराचार्यं अथास्य पद्मपादं च हस्तामलकं च शिष्यम् तं तोटकं वार्त्तिककारमन्यान् अस्मद् गुरून् सन्ततमानतोऽस्मि ॥ ” — अद्वैत गुरु परंपरा स्तोत्रम् “ nārāyanam padmabhuvam vasiṣtham śaktim ca tat-putram parāśaram ca vyāsam śukam gauḍapāda mahāntam govinda yogīndram athāsya śiṣyam śri śankarācāryam athāsya padmapādam ca hastāmalakam ca śiṣyam tam totakam vārtikakāramanyān asmad gurūn santatamānato’smi ” — Advaita-Guru-Paramparā-Stotram Feb 26, 2017 at 7:29
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    @SwamiVishwananda bodhayana was not advaitin but vishistha advaitin i suppose Mar 11, 2017 at 6:59

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The notion of Sukadeva being the guru of Gauṛapāda was popularized by the late 14th century mahanta of Sṛṅgerī maṭha Śrī Vidyāraṇya in his biography of Ādi Śaṅkara.

However, the author of the Śrīvidyarṇava Tantra gives a very different view.

In the 1st chapter of the book, the author has mentioned how the gurupaṅktis of Śākta, Śaiva, Vaiṣṇava, Gāṇapatya & Saura mantras & those of the 5 āmnāyas in the Śākta Tāntrika sampradāya converged into the person of Gauṛapāda & how Ādi Śaṅkara imparted those Tāntrika mantras of the Pañcadevatās (probably through Pañcāyatanī dikṣā) to 9 gṛhastha brāhmaṇas. The author Vidyāraṇya (who isn't the same as the composer of the Śaṅkara-digvijaya) claims his guru Pragalbhācarya was the śiṣya of Ādi Śaṅkara's one such brāhmaṇa śiṣya named Viṣṇuśarmā. He states that in terms of guru-śiṣya lineage, Ādi Śaṅkara is 6th in descent from Gauṛapāda. The same book also gives a varied lineage of Gauṛapāda too.

For the purpose of this question, here is the Advaita lineage according Śrīvidyarṇava Tantra

Kapila -> Atri -> Vaśiṣṭha -> Sanaka -> Sanandana -> Bhṛgu -> Sanatsujāta -> Vāmadeva -> Nārada -> Gautama -> Śunaka -> Sakti -> Mārkaṇḍeya -> Kauśika -> Parāśara -> Śuka -> Aṅgirā -> Kaṇva -> Jābālī -> Bharadvāja -> Vedavyāsa (most likely Bādarāyaṇa) -> Iśāna -> Ramaṇa -> Kapardī -> Bhūdhara -> Subhaṭa -> Jalaja -> Bhūteśa -> Parama -> Vijaya -> Bharata -> Padmeśa -> Subhaga -> Viśuddha -> Samara -> Kaivalya -> Gaṇeśvara -> Supādmya -> Vibudha -> Yoga -> Vijñana -> Anaṅga -> Vibhrama -> Dāmodara -> Cidābhāsa -> Cinmaya -> Kalādhara -> Vireśvara -> Mandāra -> Tridaśa -> Sāgara -> Mrṛa -> Harśa -> Siṃha -> Gauṛa -> Vira -> Aghora -> Dhruva -> Divākara -> Chakradhara -> Pramatheśa -> Caturbhuja -> Ānandabhairava -> Dhira -> Gauṛapāda -> Pāvaka -> Parāsara -> Satyanidhi -> Rāmacandra -> Govinda -> Ādi Śaṅkara

Although many scholars term the gurupaṅktis mentioned here to be fanciful, there is evidence that multiple pre-Śaṅkara Advaita philospohers existed apart from Gauṛapāda & Govinda and also the fact that a Śrividya ratna sūtra does exist whose authorship is attributed to Gauṛapāda. It also more-or-less tallies with the recent datings of Bādarāyaṇa (500-200 BCE), Gauṛapāda (6th century CE) & Ādi Śaṅkara (8th century CE). While there are multiple instances of medieval Hindu kings fabricating their geneologies after the great-grandfather, it would be a very serious charge to allege that a person has fabricated his/her gurupaṅkti.

Regarding the gṛhastha brāhmaṇa disciples of Ādī Śaṅkara, the text mentions them as

  1. Sundara
  2. Viṣṇuśarma
  3. Lakśmaṇa
  4. Mallikārjuna - whose śiṣyas were mostly concentrated around the Vindhya region
  5. Trivikrama - whose śiṣyas were mostly concentrated in Utkala region
  6. Śridhara - whose śiṣyas were mostly concentrated in Mithilā & Vaṅga regions
  7. Kapardi - whose śiṣyas were mostly concentrated in Kāśī & Ayodhyā regions
  8. Keśava
  9. Dāmodara

Regarding the timing of this Vidyāraṇya, the composer of Śrīvidyarṇava Tantra, we hazard a guess & state it to be around late 11th century based on the following observations

  • The text frequently cites the Śāradātilaka Tantra, which is estimated to be composed around early 11th century but not it's famous commentary by Rāghava Bhaṭṭa, which was written in 1494 (as recorded by Aufrecht's catalogue)
  • The author speaks of personally witnessing Lakṣmaṇa Deśikendra, author of the Śāradātilaka Tantra
  • The text states ''सम्प्रदायो हि नान्योऽस्ति लोके श्रीशङ्कराद्बहिः'' [no sampradāya exists outside that of Śrī (Ādi) Śaṅkara], a bold statement which couldn't have been made after the advent of Rāmānuja (early 12th century).

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