There is a useless debate going on about the danda (staff) of the great Acharya Bhagavan Bhashyakara Shankaracharya. Whether he held on to three staffs (ti-danda) or single staff (eka danda). And whether at ell he had one, without giving it up, as is the nature of the one with great wisdom.
First of all, the tri-danda is only for the kutichaka and bahudaka sannyasis. The kutichakas, as we have discussed in detail in our lecture series on Sannyasa (both in Tamil and English), live in the house along with their relatives. And bahudaka will stay put in the same village, and will have connection with the relatives. And this is the type of sannyasa which the vaishnavas follow. This, more than a sannyasi, is a gloried householder.
Now coming to the other topic, he definitely was a dandi. We are not just talking about the photos which depict him with one. Because it is after all an imagination of someone, but remember, this too cannot be farfetched from reality.
In shankara Dig-vijayas, I am only quoting Sri Vidyaranyas, when the acharya leaves for Omkereshwar for meeting his Guru, after taking the vidvat sannyasa, is described as to hold on the the staff.
Maybe, he gave it up later. No, this is not possible too, as we can see in the intro to the debate with the Chandala, the MAnisha-Pancaka episode, acharya was seen to go to the Ganges in a hot summer afternoon to do the obulations as prescribed for a dandi sannyasi.
Ok, maybe after that, when he wrote the bhashya or after writing it. This logic is also useless, as he is explained to hold on to the staff in both his hands when he went to do debate with Sri Kumarila Bhatta (7 canto sloka 71).
Maybe after that, but this is also impossible, because, first of all the pundits following the karma kanda, do not accept sannyasa, and even if they accept the do not accept the sannyasi without a danda, even no. Though there maybe exceptions. This cannot be any different in the olden days.
And the goal for this avatara of acharya was to establish the Sanatana Dharma, and if he himself does not follow it, then taking this as the excuse the others too will definitely give up the danda.
And in the text like yatidharmasangraha (please listen to the lectures for clarity) very clearly states that, if one desires to give-up the staff, he should also give-up the other basic necessity things as the dress and the kamandalu (vessel).
Therefore for all these reasons, we can clearly conclude the Acharya was definitely a eka-dandin and held it till the end of his ‘mortal’ existence.