By Swami Harshananda
According to the traditional biographies of Śaṅkara, like the Sañkara-digvijaya, he was Maṇḍana Miśra, a great scholar of Mīmānsā, whom Śaṅkara defeated in a disputation. As per the earlier agreement, he accepted sañyāsa from Śaṅkara and became his disciple, assuming the new name Sureśvara. Modern scholars however do not subscribe to this view. According to them he was an entirely different person, known earlier as Viśvarupa.
Significant Literary Work
Sureśvara lived in A. D. 800. He was one of the four chief disciples of Śaṅkara. He has written two vārttikas or sub-commentaries on the bhāṣyas of Śaṅkara on the Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad and the Taittiriya Upaniṣad. The first one is one of the longest works spread over 11,151 verses in the philosophy. The introductory part of it consists of 1135 verses. It is known as Sambandhavārttika. It tries to establish the sambandha or relation between the Karmakāṇḍa portion and the Jñānakāṇḍa portion of the Veda which deals with rituals and knowledge respectively. The work is highly polemical.
Sureśvara’s other works are:
- Vārttikas on Śaṅkara’s bhāṣyas
- Vārttikas on the Brhadāranyaka
- Vārttikas on the Taittirīya Upanisads
- Mānasollāsa a vārttika on the Dakṣināmurtistotra
- Bhāṣya on Śaṅkara’s Pañcikarana
Sureśvara was the first pontiff of the Śāradāpīṭha of Śrigeri, one of the four monasteries established by Śaṅkara. According to another version, he was the first pontiff of the Kāñcī Kāmakoṭipīṭham after Śaṅkara, a fifth monastery supposed to have been established by Śaṅkara for his own stay. The controversy regarding this point is still very much alive. It is however true that this Maṭha also has produced many great ācāryas.
- He lived in A. D. 788-820.
- Vārttikas means poetical expositions.
- Bhāṣyas means commentaries.
- It is an independent treatise on Advaita Vedānta.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore