This is an episode in the life of Shankaracharya who spread
the message of Vedânta all over India. He traveled widely in
the mission of propagating jnâna and dharma. During his
travels he reached Kashmir, which was a seat of learning.
There he met Mandana Mishra, a scholar of great repute.
Mandana Mishra belonged to the Mimamsa school of
thought, which held the view that rituals and work are superior
to jnâna. Shankaracharya believed in the supremacy of jnâna.
A debate was arranged between the two scholars to decide
An interesting condition was laid down to decide the winner.
At the beginning of the debate a garland each was to be placed
around the necks of the scholars. The one whose garland faded
first would have to accept defeat and serve the other. Both
accepted the condition and the debate began.
The scholars argued impressively. It looked as if Mandana
Mishra’s karma school of theory was about to win. Suddenly
there was a reversal of events and the garland around
Mandana Mishra’s neck faded. Shankaracharya won the
debate. As per the condition, Mandana Mishra took a new
name, Sureshwaracharya and became the disciple of Shankara.
When we listen to this story, two questions arise in our minds.
What is the connection between the result of the debate and
the fading of the garland?
When both the garlands were worn at the same time and the
climate being the same, how could one of them fade faster?
The great yogi, Shree Ranga Mahaswamiji of Mysore offers
the following explanation.
While Mandana Mishra argued for his personal victory,
Shankara argued for the victory of an ideology. Mandana
Mishra argued to defend his position as the undisputable
scholar but Shankara wanted to place before the world, the
truth he had realized.
When Mandana Mishra feared that he was going to lose the
debate, his body became hot and the garland faded.
Shankaracharya debated fearlessly for the cause of truth.
His body and mind were cool and the flowers did not fade.
There are three types of debate. Vâda is a conversation
between two people to gain knowledge; it is of sâthvik nature.
Jalva is an argument with an intention of conquering others;
it is of rajas nature. Vithanda is condemnation of others’
argument without declaring one’s stand; it is thâmasic.
Let the goal of all our debates be to gain jnâna. Then the
garland of life will never fade.