Any discussion on Indian philosophy is incomplete without considering the assertive and enduring contribution of Mithila particularly in the fields of Nyaya, Sankhya and Mimansa. In the galaxy of luminaries like Gautam, Kanaad, Yagyavalkya, Janak Udayanacharya and several others, Pundit Mandan Mishra ,the doyen of ancient Indian philosophy and a pioneer in the field of Mimansa and Adwait Vedanta i.e. Monoism,stands apart as an eternal source of inspiration through out the ages. Although the modern historians and philosophers are yet to reach unanimity on his exact period ,
Mandan Mishra, on the basis of his treatises on philosophical theories is universally accepted as a senior contemporary of Aadi Shankaracharya whose life span is believed to be 788 –820 AD. On the basis of this widely accepted proposition Mandan Mishra’s period is safely assigned to 8th. Century AD.
Mandan Mishra was born in Mahishi village under Saharsa district of Bihar state. The village known for its ancient cultural heritage as a shaktipeetha with the temple of goddess Ugra Tara is situated on the bank of ancient Dharmamula river. A large number of antiquities particularly the Budhist deities are collected in the temples and worshipped under various names of Hindu gods and goddesses by the local people.
In order to check the growing influence of Budhism and to propagate the Sanatan dharma in accordance with Vedic tradition and culture, the great seer, Aadi Shankaracharya had launched a national campaign during which he had reached Benaras to hold discussion with the great scholar , Kumaril Bhatta. Bhatta who was immolating himself in penance had directed Shankar to hold discussion with Mandan and said that Mandan’s defeat in the scholarly debate would ensure Shankar’s triumph in the entire Northern India. Accordingly Shankar coming from remote southern part of the country was had come across a pitcher-woman and asked her the whereabouts of Mandan. As Madhawacharya in his famous book , Shankar Digvijoy(Conquest of Shankar) has mentioned , the pitcher-woman ,obviously a maid-servant, informed him that the door of the house where you find two parrots discussing the complex philosophical theories of “Swatah Pramanwad and Paratah Pramanwad” is the residence of Mandan Mishra. Astonished as he was ,Shankar reached there and held prolonged discussion on the origin and ways of action of Brahma and Jeev. What is more significant is ,Mandan’s better half, Bharti who was herself a great scholar was appointed the judge in the scholarly debate by none other than Shankar himself. Even more significant and worth-emulation is the judicial wisdom of Bharti who had fairly delivered the justice and declared her own husband’s defeat.
Mandan Mishra had established an educational institution, Math where thousands of his disciples gathered for knowledge and wisdom. It is believed that Mandan’s concept of Brahma and Moksha differed from those of Shankar . For Mandan , Sanyaas i.e. renunciation is altogether undesirable for the attainment of Brahma and Moksha (emancipation of soul).Six books composed by Mandan Mishra are available. They are— (1) Brahmasiddhi (2) Vidhi Vivek (3) Vibhram Vivek (4) Bhavna Vivek (5) Mimansanukramanika (6) Sphotsiddhi.
Mandan stands apart in the field of Mimansa mainly because of his assertive principles coupled with a sense of humility. He propounded his principles with all firmness , fairness and independence but he never drags his arguments to the extent of rebellion. Occassionally he appears to be following the sacred traditions. For example, he faithfully abides by the dictum of his tutor, Kumaril Bhatta , but when it comes to the Upnishadic principles of Adwait (monoism) he does not hesitate in cricising his Guru . His monoistic theories are in line with and largely inspired by the Shabdadwait and Sattadwait theories of Bhartrihari (a predecessor of Shankar), but on the principles of emotions he seems to have differed from Bhartrihari and his contemporary grammarians.
Mandan follows the enduring tradition of Mithila and considers garhasth life (family life) as superior to renunciation for the attainment of Moksha (liberation of soul.) In his book Brahmasiddhi he seeks to establish that man attempting to learn Brahma by undertaking Yajna, Daan and Tap attains the Moksha more speedily than the ways of renunciation.
Mahishi village under Saharsa district of Bihar stands a mute spectator to this legendary glory where a mound specified as Mandan Dhaam still exists. Scholars and tourists from distant parts of the country ,including those from South visit the place in utter reverence which has now been admitted as a centre of pilgrimage by all the present shankaracharyas of various peethas believed to have been established by Shankar himself in his life-time.