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Shankaraachaarya-2 (Events of His Life)
c 806-838 AD = 32 yrs
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Shankar Defeated Mandan Mishra
Shankar traveled all over the country defeating great, well-known philosophers. One great philosopher among them was Mandan Mishra. In those days Kumaaril Bhatt was a great philosopher, so Shankaraachaarya sought a debate with Kumaaril Bhatt and met him in Prayaag where he had buried himself in a slow burning pyre to repent for sins committed against his Guru: Kumaaril Bhatt had learned Buddhist philosophy from his Buddhist Guru under false pretenses, in order to be able to refute it. Learning anything without the knowledge of one's Guru while still under his authority constitutes a sin according to the Ved. Kumaaril Bhatt thus asked Adi Shankar to proceed to Maahishmatee (known today as Mahishee Ban Gaaon, Saharsaa District in Bihaar) to meet Mandan Mishra and debate with him instead. That is how he was directed by Kumaaril Bhatt to see Mandan Mishra.

Mandan Mishra had a great following. Even a town exists in his memory on the beautiful bank of the Narmadaa River. This is the place where the river descends from the mountains. The city is called Mandal in the memory of Mandan Mishra. Shankar must have been at the age of thirty when he reached Mandal. Just on the outskirts of the town, a few women were drawing water from a well. He asked them - "I want to know where the great philosopher Mandan Mishra lives."

The women started giggling and they said - "Don't be worried, you just go inside. You will find it."
Shankar said - "But how will I find it?" They said - "You will find it, because even the parrots around his house, he has a big garden and there are so many parrots in the garden, repeat verses from the Upanishad and Ved. If you hear parrots singing or repeating a verse from the Upanishad or Ved, you can be certain that this is the house of Mandan Mishra."

He could not believe it, but when he went inside and saw this, he had to believe it. At that time Mandan Mishra was an old man, maybe about seventy years of age. He asked Mandan Mishra - "I have come a very long way from South India to have a discussion with you, with a condition : If I am defeated, I will become your disciple, and if you are defeated, you will have to become my disciple. Naturally, when I become your disciple all my disciples will become your disciples and the same will be true if you become my disciple - means all your disciples will become my disciples."

Old Mandan Mishra looked at the young man and he said, "You are too young and I feel a little hesitant whether to accept this challenge or not, but if you are insistent, then there is no way; I have to accept it. But it does not look right that a seventy year old man who has had thousands of debates should be having a debate with a young man of thirty. But to balance, I would suggest you to choose the judge who will decide. So you find a judge. You are too young, and I feel that if you are defeated at least you should have the satisfaction that the judge was of your choice." Now where to find a judge? The young man had heard much about Mandan Mishra's wife. Her name was Bhaaratee. She was also old, about sixty-five. He said - "I choose your wife to be the judge."

This is the atmosphere, so human, so loving. First Mandan Mishra gave him the chance to choose, and then Shankar chose Mandan Mishra's own wife. At this Bhaaratee said - "But this is not right, I'm his wife, and if you are defeated you may think it is because I may have been prejudiced, favorable towards my husband." Shankar said - "There is no question of any suspicion. I have heard much about your sincerity. If I'm defeated, I'm defeated. And I know perfectly well that if your husband is defeated, you will be the last person to hide the fact."

It took six months for the discussion. On each single point that man has thought that they quarreled, argued, quoted, interpreted, and after six months the wife said - "Shankar is declared victorious. Mandan Mishra is defeated."

My Note
There are several legends about this incident.
(1) That every day Shankar and Mandan Mishra would wear a garland of delicate fresh flowers and the debate would go on. On the fifteenth day, as the debate went on, the flowers of Mandan Mishra’s garland started wilting proclaiming his loss to Shankar. As long as the voices of the two emerged from their natural selves, the body temperatures remained normal and allowed the flowers to be fresh. When Mandan could no longer sustain his thread of argument, the rise in temperature in his body due to the taking over by the ego led to the wilting of the delicate flowers. No words were necessary to proclaim Mandan’s defeat. He became Shankar's disciple with the monastic name, Sureshwaraachaarya.
(2) That Bhaaratee, the Avataar of Saraswatee, just gave them the two garments to wear, and whose garment begins to fade first is defeated.
(3) That Mandan Mishra had a rose which faded when he was going to be defeated by someone. That flower was fading day by day. And Bhaaratee had noticed it.

Thousands of people were listening these debates for the last six months. It was a great experience to listen to these two so refined logicians, and this was a tremendous experience, that the wife declared Shankar to be the winner. There was a great silence for a few moments, and then Bhaaratee said - "But remember that you are only half a winner, because according to the scriptures the wife and husband makes one whole. I'm half of Mandan Mishra. You have defeated one half; now you will have to debate with me too."

Shankar was at a loss. For six months he had tried so hard to win the debate. Many times he had been thinking of giving up because the old man was really very sharp even in his old age. Nobody has been able to stand against Shankar for six months, and now the wife says his victory is only half. Bhaaratee said - "But I will also give you the chance to choose your judge." He said - "Where am I going to find a better judge than Mandan Mishra? You are such simple and fair and sincere people." So a debate again started, this time between Shankar and Bhaaratee. The debate continued for 17 days. But Bhaaratee was very clever, more clever than Shankar had imagined. After 17 days she started asking questions about the science of sex.

Shankar said, "Forgive me, I am a celibate and I don't know anything about sex."
Bhaaratee said, "Then you will have to accept your defeat, or if you want some time to study and experience, I'm willing to give you some time."

He was caught in such a strange situation. He asked for six months and six months were given to him. Bhaaratee said - "You can go and learn as much as you can because this will be the subject to begin with, then later on, other subjects will also be debated upon. It is not easy to beat Mandan Mishra. But that half was easier, I am a much harder woman. If I can declare the defeat of my husband, you can understand me that I am indeed a hard woman. It is not going to be easy. If you feel afraid, don't come back; otherwise we will wait for you for six months." Shankar returned for the debate and won Bhaaratee also. After this, both Mandan Mishra and Bhaaratee became his disciples.

According to another version - When Bhaaratee asked Shankar question about Kaam Shaastra, he could not reply it because of being a Sanyaasee. he was given some time which he utilized  by entering in a king's dead body. he obtained the knowledge of Kaam Shaastra through that body, but when he wanted to come out of that body, by some mistake he could not come out of that body and he ended his life in that king's body only.
- but it does not seem correct as people had seen him going in the cave in Badaree Naath and disappearing there.


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Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/06
Updated on 04/14/13