Reid B. Locklin

in Hinduism

ISBN: 9780195399318
Published online April 2012 | | DOI:

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Śaṅkara (or Śaṃkara, c. 8th century ce) is widely recognized as the most influential teacher in the early development of the Hindu tradition of Advaita or nondualist Vedanta, as well as one of the most significant philosophers of South Asia. Vedanta, “the end of the Vedas,” comprehends both the last major portion of the Vedas, the Upanishads, and their systematization in the terse Brahma-Sūtras. As the author of the first extant commentary on these sutras and other core Vedanta texts, including the Bhagavad Gita, Śaṅkara largely set the terms for later debates among the exponents of different theological positions within the broader Vedanta tradition. Due to his insistence on the ultimate nondifference (advaita) of the highest brahman and the innermost self (ātman) of each and every conscious being, Śaṅkara has often been labeled as a “Buddhist in disguise” by theist Vedantins and other rivals; yet, in later hagiographical traditions, he is credited with defeating many Buddhist opponents and contributing to its disappearance from the subcontinent. He is also credited with founding the Daśanāmī monastic order and its presiding Śaṅkarācāryas as guardians of Brahmanical orthodoxy, yet we gain little confirmation for such claims from his certainly authentic writings. In the midst of these historical debates and challenges to traditional claims about Śaṅkara, his nondualist teaching continues to generate lively interest among practitioners and scholars alike. This article offers an overview of several approaches to Śaṅkara’s life and work, texts and translations of his writings, major themes and contested questions in his construction of Advaita Vedanta, his relations with other major Indian schools of thought, and selected engagements with his teaching in the modern and contemporary fields of comparative philosophy and comparative theology.

Article.  19516 words. 

Subjects: Hinduism

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