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

Kim Poulsen poulsen at DK-ONLINE.DK
Fri Nov 29 21:56:31 CST 1996

Vidyasankar Sundaresan:
>Again, one could find fault with your last sentence. If you look at how
>the Brahminical tradition has internalized Buddha as an avatar of Vishnu,
>it is in a rather hostile sense. And GK, being appended to an upanishad,
>is a quintessential Brahminical document.

If there is something Gaudapada is not, it is your average brahmin.
You can hardly affirm that a primeval revelation should have much
to do with secterian emotions in popular works. We have at
one hand a secret treatise, considered in part an upanishad itself,
being highly repectful of buddhist thought. On the other a few remarks
in popular, exoteric works which may be interpolations.

> I also find it difficult to believe that Gaudapada would say, "The Buddha

>was born to reveal it" and that a century later, his grand-disciple,
>would find fault with the Buddha's teaching as being misleading.

   You completely misses my point here, I'm afraid: The Buddha did not
teach on certain subjects, hence the teaching is incomplete. Being
incomplete it will not give a full picture, - unless you *also* studies
vedanta. This is the only solution that can explain both the positive
and negative comments.
   Furthermore without this, the arising of Mahayana metaphysics would
be  incomprehensible, they would be innovations, had the Buddha not
worked from a framework which is often only alluded to in his sayings.

>In general, the advaita vedAnta tradition does not set great store by
>a particular person being born to reveal a particular doctrine.

   I withdraw the word born, it gives a wrong impression. It will suffice
to say that Gaudapada represents his various terms (including the
typically buddhistic) as facts, not something to refute or somebody
else's view. This includes, among many terms, Buddha and Buddhas.
  Further more he inserts a short desciption "of that which is not
taught by the Buddha" between verses with a buddhistic form. This
includes Atman and its four quarters, etc. - or something looking
like a desciption of the upanishad content.
   This gives me a definite impression of "filling in the blanks."

>>Shankara says in Nikhilananda's translations, "is said to
>> be similar to or very near ot the truth of the non-dual Atman. But this
>> knowledge of non-duality, which is the Ultimate Reality can be attained
>> through Vedanta alone."

>This is asking the buddhists to commit to a rather radical shift in their
>allegiances, no? According to the same Sankara, vedAnta can be learned
>from the upanishads alone, which are Sruti. Remember that the rejection of
>the Sruti as a valid source of knowledge is a corner-stone of any buddhist
>school of thought.

Not their allegiance, rather their attittude. And this rejection is
no-different from that demonstrated by their brahminical counterparts.
Fundamentalism is ever popular, demanding little intellectual effort.

>>   Or said different, the paramartha, the highest meaning of these
>> doctrines, was not touched upon by the Buddha, and must be
>>  found in the Vedanta.

>Here, I draw attention to Sankara's one-sentence criticism of madhyamaka
>buddhism in his brahmasUtra bhAshya. He says in effect, "to deny the
>reality of this world, without affirming a higher reality, is to fall into

- and which is adressing a very common misinterpretation of buddhist
   Many an objection in the bhashyas is forwarded by a vedantin
devil's advocate. No one would deduct anything from that.
   The denying is a peculiarity of Nagarjuna, where AsaN^ga, the
yogacharya is exactly opposite.

>One extreme position seeks to deny any
>influence of buddhist thought, while the other extreme position sees more
>buddhism than there really is in the GK. A piece of gratuitous advice: let
>us follow the middle path and avoid both extremes!

The approximate number of parallels can of course be decided by hard work.
>From here everything further is interpretation.
>From ADVAITA-L at TAMU.EDU Sun Dec  1 19:33:02 1996
Message-Id: <SUN.1.DEC.1996.193302.0600.ADVAITAL at TAMU.EDU>
Date: Sun, 1 Dec 1996 19:33:02 -0600
Reply-To: "Advaita (non-duality) with reverence" <ADVAITA-L at TAMU.EDU>
To: "Advaita (non-duality) with reverence" <ADVAITA-L at TAMU.EDU>
From: Sankar Jayanarayanan <kartik at ENG.AUBURN.EDU>
Subject: Shankara and Krishna
Comments: To: advaita-l at
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: TEXT/PLAIN; charset=US-ASCII

I have a doubt regarding the competence of the Shudra for Brahma-vidya.

In his commentary on the Brahma-sutra (1,1,1), Shankara says,"...One has
to mention that earlier thing which is a prerequisite for the deliberation
on Brahman...depends invariably on an earlier study of the Vedas."

And in his Brahma-sutra Bhashhya(1,1,2), Shankara says,"...The realization
of Brahman results from the firm conviction arising from the deliberation
on the (Vedic) texts and their meanings, but not from other means of
knowledge like inference, etc."

And according to BSB(1,1,4),"...the attainment of the highest human goal
(ie, freedom) becomes an accomplished fact only when the total eradication
of sorrows comes about as a result of the realization of the Self as
Brahman beyond acceptance and rejection."

The chain of causality goes like so:

liberation <- realization of Brahman <- deliberation on Brahman <- Vedic

And in his BSB(1,3,38),"A born shudra has no right to knowledge...A shudra
has no right to knowledge through the Vedas."

The obvious inference from the above passages is this: A born Shudra
has no possibility of acquiring knowledge of the Vedas and
hence cannot deliberate on Brahman or acquire Brahma-vidya, ie,
realization of Brahman, and therefore, has no chance whatsoever of
reaching the supreme goal, ie, liberation.

But Krishna in Gita (9.32) says,"Those who surrender to me, even though
they be of inferior birth...women and shudras...they reach the supreme

Now my question is: Shankara's contention is that a shudra *cannot*
achieve the highest since he has no access to knowledge of shruti. But
Krishna says that even a shudra can achieve the highest goal by
surrendering to him, though the shudra may have no knowledge of shruti.
The two opinions appear to contradict each other. What is the right way to
resolve this? Also, is there a third opinion on the subject?

Someone posted a translation of Shankara's commentary on Gita (9.32)
in soc.religion.vaishnava:

    Why O Partha? Those who are born by virtue of sin, who are they?
    Namely women, vaishyas, sudras. Even they attain sadgati by
    surrendering to me.

What exactly is Shankara's view on the subject of the shudra's
competence to brahma-vidya?

Moreover, there was an old discussion elsewhere about the nature of avidya
according to Shankara. Shankara says, in the preamble of his
Brahma-sutra bhashhya, in the translation by Gambhirananda that I
have,"...there contiunes a natural human behavior based on
self-identification in the form of "I am this" or "This is mine."
This behavior has for its material cause an unreal nescience..."

So according to Shankara, nescience is _unreal_, not "anirvachaniya" as
later advaitins have postulated, which means "neither real nor unreal."
But I have also read in an article by Ingalls, an eminent Indologist, that
Shankara did not declare the polarity of avidya to be either real or
unreal. Was Ingalls then mistaken?

Thanks for your reply,


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