Antiquity of Advaita Vedanta (was Re: An Open Letter to All)

H.B.Dave hbd at DDIT.ERNET.IN
Sun Dec 31 14:36:57 CST 1995

I write this because I feel a few mails which recently appeared can
create confusion.
Ramakrishnan Balasubramanian wrote:

> Sankaran Kartik Jayanarayanan <kartik at ECE.UTEXAS.EDU> wrote:
> > Nagarjuna also makes a judgment stemming from experience, "All
> entities
> > are subject to causation." Again in stark contrast, VedAnta firmly
> upholds
> > Brahman as transcending causation.
> Thanks to Kartik for pointing out passages from relevant texts. I'll
> try to post some relevant excerpts from sha.nkaras works later. But
> one thing various people have overlooked (although Jaldhar touched
> upon this) the fact that shruti (and smR^iti) pramANa *alone* can
> produce realization.

Bhagavan Bhashyakar say in GitaBhashya : (2-18) :
"saastra.m tu antya.m  pramaa.nam
ataddharmaadhyaropa.namaatranivartakatvena pramaa.natvam aatmati
pratipadyate na tu aj~naataarthaj~naapakatvena |

shastra is the final Pramana as far as it removes the attributed
characteristics (from the mind of the seeker) and not because it makes
something which is unknown, known.

Note that Acharya answered thus when a doubt was raised :
nanu aagamena aatmaa paricchidyate pratyak.saadinaa ca puurvam
Is it not that Atma is already known by text of shruti and because
evryone is aware of is own self?

Further Acharya says :
siddha hi aatmani pramaatari pramitso bhavati
only after establishing Atma as the Pramata, that the real search for
Pramana starts.

> It would be quite clear to anyone not infected by
> vacuous optimism that sha.nkara makes it quite clear that avidyA is
> destroyed by the shruti pramANa only.

What do we mean by the word shruti as used by Acharya? Does it mean
simply listening to scriptures?


> shruti is a pramANa (means of
> knowing), that should be quite clear. It's not a record of some
> mystical realizations of some X or Y or Z.

Yaskacharya,  while explaining RigVedic mantras in his Nirukta,  has said
at several places :
.r.serd.r.s.tarthasya pritirbhavati aakhyaanasa.myuktaaa
the exhilaration felt by the Rishis, who have made contact with the
Ulrimate Reality, get expressed in verbalized form.

What we call shruti *is* an expression (if not a record) of a Rishi's
mystical realization. You may not agree to call it a record, as no
language is effective enough to express the mystical experience, but all
shruti do express the experience.

> The Buddhists don't accept
> shruti pramANa, hence their avidyA cannot be destroyed. There is no
> question of the sha.nkara and Nagarjuna having the same "realization".

How would you know? Neither of them can describe their actual experience.
What they talk about is an approach only, not the final state. And
approaches can be different, but the final state has to be one, if we
accept that both are honest seekers.

> End of story.
> > If you're referring to some mystical realization that you've had on
> > reading the kArikA, I would have to say, "No thank you, but I'm not
> > interested." I'm sure many others on this list share my feelings.
> Exactly. "I sat down in meditation and realized this truth, hence it
> must be true" kind of stuff is not vedAnta.

What is the meaning of "Vedanta" Is it "essence of Vedas"? Is it "what
comes at the end of Vedas"? Is it "the final or ultimate knowledge"?

> Old time list members may
> remember the time when this list was overrun by such characters. Many
> (if not all) of them were trying to use this list as a springboard for
> guru-hood, again clear to anyone not infected by vacuous optimism.
> Yes, at least I share your feelings.

Kindly consider the following :
1.  Keno. (1-3) na tatra cak.surgacchati  ... ...  na vidmo na vijaanimo
... ...
the sense organs like eyes, the varios levels of languages, are
ineffective .... we do not know how to teach about Brahma ...

2.  Keno. ShankaraBhasya on (2-1) tava brahma vicaaryameva  ... ... manye
viditamiti "si.sasya  ... miimaa.msaanantarokti  pratayatrayasa"ngate.h
... ... ekaante samaahito bhuutvaa vicaarya ... ..
the teacher says you will have to do contemplation on Brahma, the
students says I think I know Brahma, after he retired to a secluded place
and did contemplation (meditation). this can be inferred by continuity of
the three steps.

3.  Katho. (1-2-23) :
naayamaatmaa pravacanena labhyo na medhaya a bahunaa "srutena ...

this Atma is not accessible by discussions, by intellect or by extensive
study of scriptures

4. Taittiriya Up. mentions tapa as means of acquiring knowledge. Also,
the famous :
yato vaaco nivartante aprapya manasa saha ... (2-4, 2-9).

5.  Bruhd. Up. (2-4-5-) and (4-5-6) : again the famous :
aatmaa  vaa are  d.r.s.tavya.h "srotavyo mantavyo nididhyaasitavyo
maitreyi |

What is the meaning of nididhyaasitavya.h  ?

6. Gaudapadacharya in his Mandukya Karika warns against getting attached
to the pleasure felt in the meditation (Advaitaprakarana 42), but he does
give instruction for achieving Amanibhava in 41 to 47, which is a kind of

7. (From the Introduction  by Dr. T.M.P. Mahadevan to Panchadasi by
Vidyaranyaswami) :
The words (of Vedas) are not mere sounds, they convey meaning and the
meaning should be understood. {absorbed - HBD}. The final court of appeal
is "experience" - the plenary experience which is fruit of enquiry. In
fact, the text of scriptures are but indicators of this experiencees.
Scripture, reasoning experience -- triple basis by which  in Vedanta the
nature of Truth is saught to be expounded. (see Panchadasi VI-56, XI-89).
Meditation is not without its own great use, in chapter IX of Panchadasi
it is called   sa.mvaadi brahma .
" (hearing, study), manana (reflection) nididhyaasana
(meditation) are the three steps for acquiring knowledge.

> Rama

I think we are going too deep in discussions, while forgetting the basis.
This is not a comment on any one. As a last point, remeber the story of
the "Ten boys"? The sympathetic stranger said "there is tenth" (paroksha
knowledge) and then "you are the Tenth" (aparoksha knowledge). Now is
there any processing done in the mind of the leading boy on hearing this
sentence? What is that processing?
-- Himanshu
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