GAUḌAPᾹDA , Indian philosopher, was the reputed para-ma-guru ("teacher's teacher") of Śaṅkara. Information about Gauḍapāda is scant and has been subject to scholarly controversy. In what is now regarded as a fantastic thesis, Max von Walleser professed in his Der ältere Vedanta: Geschichte, Kritik und Lehre (Heidelberg, 1910) that Gauḍapāda never existed at all. However, both V. Bhattacharya (1943) and T. M. P. Mahadevan (1969) have argued convincingly that Gauḍapāda was a real person, the author of what is called Ᾱgama Śāstra or Gauḍapādīyakārikā, or simply Māṇḍūkyakārikā.
The name Gauḍa indicates that he must have come from Gauḍadesá ("Gauḍa country"), or Bengal. On the authority of the Śārīrakamīmāṃsābhāṣya-vārttika of Bāla-kṛṣṇananda Sarasvatī (seventeenth century ce), it is known that in the country of Kurukṣetra (north of present-day Delhi), near the Hīravatī River, there lived a group of people who had migrated from Bengal (and hence were called Gauḍas); the most eminent among them was one Gauḍapāda. Exactly when Gauḍapāda lived has also been a matter of controversy. Some scholars place him in the fifth century ce, but this theory contradicts the traditional belief that he was Śaṅkara's teacher's teacher, for Śaṅkara is generally assumed to have flourished somewhere between 788 and 820 ce. Another assumption is that Gauḍapāda was a contemporary of Apollonius of Tyana, who traveled to India in the first century ce. This, however, is highly conjectural, and would place Gauḍapāda at an earlier, and even less likely date.
According to Ᾱnandagiri (a pupil of Śaṅkara), Gauḍapāda lived the final part of his life in Badarikāśrama, the holy residence of Nara-Nārāyaṇa, and spent his time in deep meditation on the lord (Nārāyaṇa-Kṛṣṇa). Greatly pleased with Gauḍapāda, the lord thus revealed to him an insight into the quintessence of Upaniṣadic wisdom, which he recorded in his Māṇḍūkyakārikā. Commenting on Gauḍapāda's Ᾱgama-Śāstra, a certain Śaṅkara (perhaps identical with the great Śaṅkara) remarked that nondualism had been recovered from the Vedas by Gauḍapāda in order to refute the dualism of the Sāṃkhya masters.
The Ᾱgama Śāstra is divided into four prakaraṇa s, or chapters. It is regarded as a commentary on the brief, enigmatic Upaniṣad called Maṇḍūkya. Only in the first chapter are the mantras of the Maṇḍūkya discussed. Then the author goes on to establish the Advaita ("nondual") doctrine by arguing against the dualists, such as the Sāṃkhya philosophers, and the pluralists, such as the Nyāya philosophers. His doctrine is called the ajātivāda, or the "theory of nonorigination." The paradox of permanence and change is invoked to show that causation or origination of new things is unintelligible. The Sāṃkhya philosophers who say that the cause persists in, and is identical with, the effect (satkāryavāda ), and the Nyāya philosophers who say that the cause creates the effect, which was nonexistent before (asatkāryavāda ), oppose each other and both, thereby, are refuted; this then points toward the truth of the view of nonorigination, that is, that nothing can originate. Creation is only an illusion; the diversity of the world has only a dreamlike existence, for the ultimate reality is a nondifferential unity.
It is believed that Gauḍapāda was strongly influenced by Buddhism, especially by the Yogācāra school. It has even been suggested that the Ᾱgama Śāstra is actually a Buddhist text. But while the influence of Buddhist doctrines and arguments upon Gauḍapāda is undeniable, it would be wrong to conclude that he was a Buddhist. The fourth chapter of the Ᾱgama Śāstra undoubtedly includes much Buddhist material. But it is still safe to conclude that Gauḍapāda was an early Vedāntin who must have influenced Śaṅkara in the development of his celebrated nondualism.
Bhattacharya, Vidhushekhara. The Ᾱgamaśāstra of Gauḍapāda. Calcutta, 1943. An indispensable sourcebook containing edited text, annotated translation, and introduction.
Mahadevan, T. M. P. Gauḍapāda: A Study in Early Advaita. Madras, 1969.
King, Richard. Early Advaita Vedanta and Buddhism: The Mahayƒana Context of the Gaudapadya-karika. Albany, 1995.
Bimal Krishna Matilal (1987)