gaudapaada and buddha (was Re: brahman by ...)

Ramakrishnan Balasubramanian rbalasub at ECN.PURDUE.EDU
Sun Nov 24 12:11:59 CST 1996

Kartik wrote:

> Moreover, Gaudapada does, in his Karika, say that:
> "The Jnana of the Buddha is all-pervasive, but does not extend to external
> objects...But this is not in the teachings of Buddha...We salute this
> knowledge to the best of our ability."
> Now, it's quite obvious that the above is a praise to the Buddha, for
> Gaudapada plainly says that it is the _knowledge of the Buddha_ which is
> not in the teachings of the Buddha, which is merely saying that true
> knowledge of the Buddha is ineffable and therefore cannot be expressed in
> words, not that the teachings of the Buddha are false or that Buddha
> wasn't enlightened. Moreover, the first verse of the last chapter of the
> Karika is an invocation to "The greatest among the bipeds" and the entire
> fourth chapter is based upon Buddhist teachings. According to Richard King
> (and I agree with him), Gaudapada was trying to reconcile the teachings of
> the Buddha with the Upanishads.

Let's see what he actually says:

kramate na hi buddhasya GYaanaM dharmeshhu taapi naH |
sarve dharmaastathaa GYaanaM nautadbuddhena bhaashhitaM |

I fail to see where you get your translation. It means

"The knowledge of the wise one, who is all light, is ever untouched by objects.
All the entities as well as knowledge are also ever untouched by any object.
This is not the view of the buddha. (from Swami Nikhilanada's translation)

Further in the next stanza, he does not salute the buddha, but brahman. I think
you have been confused by the verse which uses buddha in two different senses.
The first line uses it as an adjective whereas the second is a proper noun. It
cannot be any other way.

Thinking that gauDapaada was trying to reconcile buddhism with advaita is a
massive mistake, IMO. The main point of the kaarikaa.IV is to undermine the
shuunyata concept, upon which the whole buddhistic philosophy comes crashing
down. Further there was a power struggle in those days, between the brahmins
and the buddhists for the role of the intellectuals of the society. Lots of
brahmins had drifted to Buddhism and the kaarikaa is obviously an attempt to
get back those people. Similar efforts were also made by kumarila bhatta who
was a mimamsa scholar (and who seems to have succeeded in his attempts to a
reasonable extent). Thus "reconcile" is a wrong word. There is no way you can
"reconcile" shuunyaa and brahman. It was more of getting back the brahmins back
to the vedic fold. In fact, gauDapaada himself seems to have anticipated people
confusing vedanta with buddhism (by cursory reading of both) and had the
foresight to compose a verse refuting outright that he was not a buddhist. Thus
he is not saluting the buddha at the beginning, but rather naaraayaNa.

Further the whole chapter is not based on buddhist teachings but rather
buddhist terminology. A little thought would reveal that the best way to
convert back brahmins who had become buddhists would be to refute buddhism with
it's own terminology. Further the analysis of the 3 states mentioned in the
fourth chapter (34) is not a buddhist methodology, but purely vedantic
(brihadaranyaka, mandukya, kaivalya etc). That way, later advaitins used
nyaayaa terminology to argue with those people. That does not make those
advaitins nyaayayikas. Thus thinking that a "reconciliation" was being proposed
is not taking into account the historical details and the fine points of both
philosophies (not uncommon among western scholars).


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