You say, “But Shankara announced his universal victory.” This announcement also was not made by Shankara; this announcement was made by the people who were following Shankara, but couldn’t understand him. You cannot understand anyone just by following. It is very easy to follow anyone, but it is difficult to be a disciple. It is very easy to follow or to copy others, but it is difficult to understand someone and then to develop your life according to that understanding.
So those who followed Shankara announced his universal victory. They are still doing so. The Shankaracharya of Puri is still doing so, Karpatri is still doing so. They still go on saying that Shankara defeated the whole world. The Shankaracharya of Puri still says that he is jagat guru, master of the world. This is not Shankara’s announcement, because Shankara knew that nobody wins and nobody is defeated with logic – it only means that the other person’s logic was weaker than yours and you were more skilled, but tomorrow the other person can also become more skilled in logic.
Shankara knew that the victory of logic and argument was no victory, it was only a deception. And Shankara was not attempting to defeat anyone with logic. His attempt is unique, but this unique attempt cannot be seen by those who are following him, they will only see that he defeated another man. Those who are following him can only understand the language of the ego. They cannot see that actually Shankara didn’t defeat the person but made him victorious, he brought him on the path of the heart. The person was losing, sinking deep into logic – Shankara saved him, and showed him the path of victory. Now that person will be victorious.
That is why people like Kumaril Bhatt, who was defeated by Shankara, became his disciple – he didn’t become his disciple in misery and anguish. If Kumaril Bhatt had become a disciple after being defeated, then it would have hurt his ego and he would have tried to take the revenge for his defeat. Kumaril was as great a logician as Shankara. By debating with Shankara, Kumaril realized that debating was futile. Shankara was not victorious, Kumaril was not defeated. Logic was defeated and emotion won.
It is necessary to understand this. By debating with Shankara, by playing with an expert player, Kumaril saw clearly that those things which he depended on fell down with just the blowing of a breeze. This doesn’t mean that he accepted Shankara’s logic. Shankara’s skill is only that, through debate, he shows you that your arguments are futile, that my arguments are futile: logic becomes meaningless. Neither Kumaril was defeated nor Shankara won – logic was defeated. Because this defeat of logic came through the medium of Shankara, Kumaril bowed and fell down at his feet.