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Brahmanadin – Advaita Teacher Before Adi Shankaracharya

Brahmanadin was an advaita teacher preceding Adi Shankaracharya and was considered such a reputed authority on Vedanta that Adi Shankara takes him as a source of his Advaita doctrine, not to mention the esteem in which he was held by non-Advaitic Vedantins like Ramanuja, who also quotes Brahmanadin.

Brahmanadin was famous as the author of Vakya, a work on the meaning of Chandogya Upanishad. Though his work is not available, it is quoted to clinch the issues in the works of Advaitins and by Ramanuja in his writings.

Brahmanadin holds that the formless reality (Brahman) takes on forms for the sake of the devotees. However, this form is just only apparent and is not real. Brahmanadin formulates the theory of the degrees of reality like pratibhasika (merely illusory), vyavaharika (the empirical) and paramarthika (the real).

Brahmanadin has phrased the great identity text “That Thou Art” in the form of an aphorism: siddham tunivartakatvat, making it clear that one’s own nature as Brahman is forgotten and is to be restored by reminders through the teacher’s instruction.

Draviacharya, the commentator on Brahmanadin’s Vakya, has brought out the meaning of the above aphorism by the story of a prince abducted by dacoits as a child, forgetting his princehood. He is only to be reminded of his true identity. This story has been used by the later Advaita thinkers as the text of identity.