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GAUAPDA , Indian philosopher, was the reputed para-ma-guru ("teacher's teacher") of Śakara. Information about Gauapāda 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 Gauapāda never existed at all. However, both V. Bhattacharya (1943) and T. M. P. Mahadevan (1969) have argued convincingly that Gauapāda was a real person, the author of what is called gama Śāstra or Gauapādīyakārikā, or simply Māūkyakārikā.

The name Gaua indicates that he must have come from Gauadesá ("Gaua country"), or Bengal. On the authority of the Śārīrakamīmāsābhāya-vārttika of Bāla-kananda Sarasvatī (seventeenth century ce), it is known that in the country of Kuruketra (north of present-day Delhi), near the Hīravatī River, there lived a group of people who had migrated from Bengal (and hence were called Gauas); the most eminent among them was one Gauapāda. Exactly when Gauapāda 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 Śakara's teacher's teacher, for Śakara is generally assumed to have flourished somewhere between 788 and 820 ce. Another assumption is that Gauapāda was a contemporary of Apollonius of Tyana, who traveled to India in the first century ce. This, however, is highly conjectural, and would place Gauapāda at an earlier, and even less likely date.

According to nandagiri (a pupil of Śakara), Gauapāda lived the final part of his life in Badarikāśrama, the holy residence of Nara-Nārāyaa, and spent his time in deep meditation on the lord (Nārāyaa-Ka). Greatly pleased with Gauapāda, the lord thus revealed to him an insight into the quintessence of Upaniadic wisdom, which he recorded in his Māūkyakārikā. Commenting on Gauapāda's gama-Śāstra, a certain Śakara (perhaps identical with the great Śakara) remarked that nondualism had been recovered from the Vedas by Gauapāda in order to refute the dualism of the Sākhya masters.

The gama Śāstra is divided into four prakaraa s, or chapters. It is regarded as a commentary on the brief, enigmatic Upaniad called Maūkya. Only in the first chapter are the mantras of the Maūkya discussed. Then the author goes on to establish the Advaita ("nondual") doctrine by arguing against the dualists, such as the Sākhya 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 Sākhya 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 Gauapāda was strongly influenced by Buddhism, especially by the Yogācāra school. It has even been suggested that the gama Śāstra is actually a Buddhist text. But while the influence of Buddhist doctrines and arguments upon Gauapāda is undeniable, it would be wrong to conclude that he was a Buddhist. The fourth chapter of the gama Śāstra undoubtedly includes much Buddhist material. But it is still safe to conclude that Gauapāda was an early Vedāntin who must have influenced Śakara in the development of his celebrated nondualism.

See Also

Nyāya; Sākhya; Śakara.


Bhattacharya, Vidhushekhara. The gamaśāstra of Gauapāda. Calcutta, 1943. An indispensable sourcebook containing edited text, annotated translation, and introduction.

Mahadevan, T. M. P. Gauapāda: A Study in Early Advaita. Madras, 1969.

New Sources

King, Richard. Early Advaita Vedanta and Buddhism: The Mahayƒana Context of the Gaudapadya-karika. Albany, 1995.

Bimal Krishna Matilal (1987)

Revised Bibliography

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