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

Sankar Jayanarayanan kartik at ENG.AUBURN.EDU
Sun Nov 24 17:58:27 CST 1996

On Sun, 24 Nov 1996, Ramakrishnan Balasubramanian wrote:

> 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
> 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)

The translation by Gambhirananda (also from RK math) says:

"The knowledge of the enlightened man, who is all pervasive, does not
extend to objects; all the souls, too, like objects (do not reach out to
objects). This view was not expressed by Buddha."

Another way to translate it would be (just minor variations in the
translation you have provided):

"The knowledge of the Buddha, 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 in the teachings of the Buddha."

Note that the word is "Bhashitam" not "drishhTi". Therefore, a better
translation is "teaching" and not "view." Also, the "wise one" in the
beginning of the verse when replaced by "Buddha" makes it all the more
clear that the word "etat" -- "this" -- in the second line refers
to the _knowledge of the Buddha_. Therefore, the import is "The knowledge
of the Buddha is not in the teachings of the Buddha."

> Further in the next stanza, he does not salute the buddha, but brahman.

The next (100th) verse reads:

durdashamatigambhiiramajaM saamyaM vishaaradaM .
buddhva padamanaanaatvaM namaskurmo yathabalam ..

"After realizing the state that is difficult to see, very profound,
birthless, uniform and holy, we salute it to the best of our ability."

Note that the word used for "realize" is "buddhva." I don't think the word
"Brahman" ever occurs in the fourth prakarana (difficult to check this

> 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.

If you mean the 99th verse of the fourth chapter of the Karika, both the
words are in the noun form. The first is "Buddhasya GYAnaM" which means
"knowledge of the Buddha" and the second is "Buddhena BhashitaM" or
"taught by the Buddha."

> 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.

OK, what exactly is the shUnyata concept according to you?

To call the Buddhist "shunyavadi" is just as wrong as labeling the advaitin
"mayavadi." A much better word for the philosophy would be "Madhyamika,"
since both the views of existence as well as non-existence is refuted.

Actually, Gaudapada does say that he does not argue against the Madhyamika
view-point. I'll make the point later on...

> 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.

There would be no better way to get back those people than to reconcile
the Madhyamika Buddhist philosophy to advaita.

> 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.

Again, the Buddhists do not hold onto any "shunyata" or a concept of the
"void." Rather, the word "shunya" is used to denote "existence without
essence (svabhaava)." The very fact that change occurs indicates that
non-existence is not the right view concerning the universe, for
*How can nothingness undergo change?*

> It was more of getting back the brahmins back
> to the vedic fold. In fact, gauDapaada himself seems to have anticipated
> 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.
> he is not saluting the buddha at the beginning, but rather naaraayaNa.

The first verse of the last chapter, "alaaTashaanti prakaraNa":

GYAnenaakaashakalpena dharmaanyo gaganopamaan.h .
GYeyabhinnena saMbuddhastaM vande dvipadaaM varam ..

This translates as,"I bow down to the fully realized Sambuddha, the
greatest among the bipeds, who has known fully the dharma resembling the
sky, through his knowledge that is comparable to space and is
non-different from the object of knowledge."

To call "Sambuddha, the greatest among the bipeds" as Narayana is rather
contrived, when a much simpler explanation exists.

> Further the whole chapter is not based on buddhist teachings but rather
> buddhist terminology.

Well, OK.

> A little thought would reveal that the best way to
> convert back brahmins who had become buddhists would be to refute buddhism
> it's own terminology.

The verses 4 and 5 of the fourth prakarana read:

4: "A thing that already exists does not pass into birth; and a thing that
does not exist does not pass into birth. These people, while disputing
thus, are really non-dualists, and they reveal the absence of birth."

Gaudapada has abridged the entire thesis of Nagarjuna in the first line.
The fundamental teaching of Madhyamika is that the perception of change
indicates the absence of birth. Therefore "these people" refers to the
madhyamika Buddhists.

5:"We approve the birthlessness that is revealed by them; we do not
dispute with them. Understand this philosophy that is free from dispute!"

Now, Gaudapada says that he _does not_ dispute with "them", ie, the
Madhyamika Buddhists. The word is "avivaada" -- he is going to present a
non-conflicting viewpoint with the Buddhist viewpoint.

What is the difference between the two viewpoints? This:

Madhyamika: "There is no birth."
Advaita   : "There is an unborn."

The two viewpoints are non-conflicting, yet different.
Now, the meaning of "learn how this philosophy is free from
dispute" becomes all the more revealing. Both Buddhism and advaita are
ajaati vaada(doctrine-of-no-birth), but with the above difference.

> 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).

AFAIK, the "three states" argument is to be found nowhere in the fourth
prakarana. It's present in the earlier three prakaranas only. The fourth
is a discussion about birthlessness, mainly. The fourth does contain a
discussion on the dream state (34), but again, the context is that of the
existence/non-existence of the external object, not an analysis of the
Self per se. A similar argument is, I think, given by the Buddhists too
(I'm not so sure about this).

> Ramakrishnan.


More information about the Advaita-l mailing list