Householder (and related topics)

Ramakrishnan Balasubramanian rbalasub at ECN.PURDUE.EDU
Tue Aug 26 10:25:10 CDT 1997

Gummuluru Murthy wrote:

>It was not my intention, nor I have ever stated that Shri Shankara was
>dishonest. If someone reads my sentence that way, I am extremely sorry. I
>personally think that my sentence cannot be read that way. I would be more
>                      -----------
>than happy to withdraw that sentence if it pleases Shri Ramakrishnan. I am
>clear in my mind however, that I never intended any disrespect to Shri
>Shankara. That was the farthest thing in my mind.

Gummuluru Murthy, I _know_ you did not intend any disrespect to shrI
sha.nkara. You need not withdraw your statement to "please" me. The
point I was trying to make was that if it be said that he interpreted
veda-s in that manner it would _suggest_ at least a mild dis-honesty on
his part, actually more than that.

I have seen some modern authors call shrI sha.nkara as a liar etc, based
on similar things (without understanding him IMO). So, that was also in
the back of my mind. shrI sha.nkara makes it clear that his job is to
interpret the veda-s impartially. Saying that he said something about
sannyAsa, for defeating another school, would make him patently
dishonest. That's all.

As an interesting aside on Buddhism and shrI sha.nkara:

Many people think that it was shrI sha.nkara who demolished Buddhism.
Actually the advaitic school itself acknowledges that it was kumArila
bhaTTa, who did that. The mAdhavIya digvijayam invents all kinds of
encounters between shrI sha.nkara and nIlakaNTha shivAchArya, bhaTTa
bhAskara et al which are all very nice to read, but well, not exactly
factual :-) (though it is the most authoritative and oldest "biography"
of shrI sha.nkara available). Interestingly enough, not even one
encounter is mentioned between any Buddhist and shrI sha.nkara. Modern
scholars have also noted that kumArila bhaTTa's arguments against
Buddhism are far more intricate and more in number than shrI
sha.nkara's. His sources are also more original Buddhist sources than
shrI sha.nkara's. This would suggest that the main opponents for shrI
sha.nkara were not the Buddhists. In fact, the main adversaries were the
pUrva mIm.nsaka-s. It would probably be rash to suggest that Buddhists
converted en masse to the vedic religion after kumArila. Probably there
was a significant reconversion to the vedic religion, which must have
been very significant event. kumArila must also have been a forceful
personality to effect such a change and also to produce students who
went on to become very famous themselves (shrI sureshvara for eg). I
think the other star mImA.nsaka prabhAkara was also his student.

In the upadeshasAhasrI shrI sha.nkara makes the comment that because of
shrI gauDapAda many buddhists came back to the vedic religion. So
another important personality in this "re-conversion" must have been
shrI gauDapAda. shrI gauDapAda also displays a very easy familiarity
with all the famous Buddhist schools of thought and argues against them
using their own metaphors.

Another interesting thing is that many advaitins express some opinion
that the Buddha was misinterpreted by his followers! Since we have
sculptures in Mahabalipuram dated 7th century AD, depicting the Buddha
as an avatar of Lord vishhNu, such an attitude is not very surprising. I
believe even shrI sureshvara makes such a comment in the bR^ihadAraNyaka
upanishhad vArttika. Is that true? shrIharsha also apparently makes such
a comment.


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