Kannada Article by: Tharodi Suresha
English Rendering by: M R Bhashyam
A deep silence engulfed the assembly. The august audience was waiting with singular curiosity. A very profound aspect of the culture was about to be debated. Knowing the import and gravity, the learned and the naïve, the wise and the not-so-wise had gathered.
Shri Shankara, with a serene and solemn countenance, a captivating personality with radiating divinity which permeated into others, was one of the debaters. He expounded the ultimate supremacy of Jnaana (Supreme Knowledge). The other, Shri Mandana Mishra, an intellectually honest, a noble householder and an exceptionally erudite scholar was present to propound the supremacy of Karma and to repudiate the arguments of Shri Shankara. To find an adjudicator for such a discussion between two towering personalities was a challenge indeed! The suggestion that Shrimati Ubhaya Bhaarati, the wife of the opponent, Mandana Mishra, be the honourable judge came from Shri Shankara himself. Besides, the choice in itself bespoke of the supreme confidence of Shri Shankara in himself and in his doctrines and the intellectual integrity and extraordinary scholarship of Shrimati Bhaarati Devi. All agreed and the debate ensued. One would put forth an argument and the other would counter, so went the seemingly endless debate. There seemed to be no indication as to which was the paramount paradigm.
The process adopted by the principled and respectable Justice for the occasion to decide the winner was even more puzzling. She embellished both opponents with a floral garland and declared that the garland of whom-so-ever withered first, should accept defeat. How can this method be appropriate? Can there be anything more puzzling? What is the connection between a withering garland and a defeat in the debate? Such questions are but natural. But this process of decision making was ingenious.
Shri SriRanga Mahaguru decoded the secret thus: When one is angry and agitated, the body heat rises and so the flowers wither faster whereas if one is serene, his body will be cool and the flowers do not dry so fast.
When one has reached the Source and substratum of Truth, his arguments will be dispassionate. Shri Mandana Mishra, who was yet to reach this destination, was basing his arguments on religious texts and his expertise over them. He became emotionally agitated and angry and so the garland that he wore withered fast. Will not the flowers decked to a person with fever fade? One who is yet to be moored (fastened) to the foundation of a tenet will wander far afield. But the one who is stationed at its foundation – Tatva-bhoomika, will be calm. Shri Shankara, anchored to the essence of the texts and shaastras,and who had only the goal of establishing the truth, was serenity personified. The garland donned by him stayed afresh.
Ordained Actions (Karma) performed with an understanding of the science (Vijnaana) behind, will establish one in dharma and through it in the knowledge of the ultimate (Jnaana). “Oh! Paartha! All actions (as prescribed in Shaastras and performed as described), culminate in the knowledge of the Supreme” so said Lord Krishna. (“Sarvam karmaakhilam Paartha, Jnaane parisamaapyate” – Bhagavat Geetha). So it was established all tenets and actions as inshaastras–karma, are practiced to attain through Jnaana the resplendent light at the root of creation. As had been agreed earlier, Shri Mandana Mishra became Shri Shankara’s disciple.
It should be noted that, though it appears that the strategy for deciding the winner of the deliberation was strange, it could still lead to the right conclusion about the underlying principle.
Note: The Kannada version of this article can be viewed at AYVM blogs
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