Answers to a few questions + 2 more

Vidyasankar Sundaresan vidya at CCO.CALTECH.EDU
Mon Jan 13 20:23:19 CST 1997

On Sun, 12 Jan 1997, Dennis Waite wrote:

> Many thanks, Vidyasankar, for your swift, comprehensive and scholarly reply
> to my queries; I really appreciated this. I'm bound to say that I cannot
> comment immediately; I will have to print it out at work on Monday and then
> study it at leisure. You say that "Most of these terms and their
> significance will be known to everybody
> here." Unfortunately this is not true. I read most of the articles on the

I keep forgetting that you had indicated as much in one of your earlier
posts. I'll try to translate as much as possible in the future.

> One thought which did occur to me whilst reading through your response is
> that it is most unlikely I could ever reach your level of understanding of
> the scriptures. (Where have you found the time to do this if you only began

Oh no, please don't assume I have a very deep understanding of the
scriptures. There is a vast ocean out there, of which I have only begun to
test the beach. As for time, I confess it has taken away from time I might
have spent getting my PhD in chemical engineering, but I don't consider it
time lost. Also, one impediment in understanding the upanishads might be a
lack of knowledge of Sanskrit. Fortunately, I was taught Sanskrit at home,
when I was a child, so there is no language barrier. A year or so of
intense Sanskrit learning will definitely remove this obstacle that you
perceive. After that, understanding the scriptures should be easy, if you
have a guru who can guide you.

> a *serious* interest in 1994?!) Anyway, the point I wanted to make is that
> my inclinations (vaasanaas) propel me towards trying to understand all about
> these things too, even though I appreciate that the Self is beyond any
> understanding. The School I attend attempts to address all three aspects of
> gnaana, karma and bhakti yoga, together with meditation but I feel
> positively anti- any bhakti aspects and my practises through action are
> somewhat inconstant to say the least! What I am getting round to ask, if
> it's not too presumptuous, is do you feel that acquiring all of the
> knowledge which you obviously have has been completely worthwhile in the

Personally speaking, I think it has. Although senior family members were
disciples of the Sringeri acharys, I could not personally claim to have
any real knowledge of advaita a few years ago. What started as a more or
less intellectual interest in the upanishads has managed to convey at
least a small sense of the grandeur and the devastating simplicity of

Any traditional advaita school will have elements of bhakti, karma and
jnAna, at least in practice, if not in the philosophy itself. The main aim
of this approach, as far as I can see, is to inculcate a sense of humility
in the student, in addition to imparting jnAna. The paths of karma and
bhakti definitely help in developing what SankarAcArya calls the
sAdhana-catushTaya (the four requirements of the seeker).

> sense of furthering your 'progress' along a spiritual path (obviously
> recognising the falsehood of any concept of progress in the true sense with
> reference to realisation.)?
> My thanks too to Swami Vishvarupananda for the references wrt creation of
> the universe through sound. I was surprised to learn that this was a tenet
> of Kashmir Shaivism. The School I attend is effectively supervised by HH
> Santanand Saraswati, who was (one of?) the Shankaracharya of Jyotir Math
> back in the seventies and this material comes from him. Is it the case then
> that his teaching would have derived from Kashmir Shaivism?

There have been a lot of mutual relationships between advaita vedAntins
and pratyabhijnA Saivas over the centuries, but I don't suppose that one
has to postulate that a particular tenet came from one school or the
other. I also suspect that there may have been pre-Sankara connections
between advaitins and Kashmir Saivas. Read Natalia Isaeva's "From early
Vedanta to Kashmir Saivism: Gaudapada, Bhartrhari and Abhinavagupta"
(SUNY, Albany, 1995) for a fairly decent analysis of such connections.
Interestingly, SAradA, the Goddess of Kashmir, is important for advaitins
too. Both Sringeri and Dwaraka mathas are called SAradApIThas, if for
nothing else but the fact that SAradA is the Goddess of all learning.
The common high regard for the Goddess of learning may have historically
brought Kashmir Saiva scholars and advaitins together. The legends of
SankarAcArya having visited Kashmir and having ascended the sarvajna-pITha
there also point to historical connections of advaita vedAnta, at least to
the land of Kashmir, if not to the specific philosophy of pratyabhijnA.

That said, note also that the concept of Sabda brahman is common both to
vyAkaraNa (grammar) and pUrva mImAm.sA, and is more ancient than the
SivasUtras of Kashmir Saivism. Although advaitins do not emphasize brahman
as Sabda very much in their philosophical writings, the grammarians do.
bhartr.hari, the author of the vAkyapadIya, a work on grammar is probably
the first to write of the four levels of speech. As Sanskrit scholars,
advaita vedAntins are very familiar with bhartr.hari's thought. advaita
vedAntins have also been in the forefront of purely grammatical philosophy
for quite a few centuries now. For example, bhaTToji dIkshita, an
advaitin, and a disciple of appayya dIkshita, wrote the siddhAnta-kaumudi,
which is the main introduction to pANinian grammar in a traditional
Sanskrit education. Thus, the use of the words parA, paSyantI, madhyamA
and vaikharI may have come into both advaita vedAnta and Kashmir Saivism
through a philosophy of Sanskrit grammar.

Though SankarAcArya disagrees with certain aspects of the sphoTa theory of
bhartr.hari, the concept of Sabda brahman is quite acceptable, in general
terms, to advaitins. maNDana miSra, an advaitin contemporary of Sankara's,
even wrote a work called sphoTa-siddhi, supporting bhartr.hari's
philosophy against the pUrva mImAmsaka theory of language. Check
Purushottama Bilimoria's "Sabdapramana, word and knowledge: a doctrine in
Mimamsa-Nyaya philosophy (with reference to Advaita Vedanta-paribhasha) -
towards a framework for Sruti-pramanya" (Kluwer Academic Publishers,
Dordrecht, 1988) for a scholarly treatment of advaita vedAnta's attitudes
towards the concept of Sabda brahman.

Finally, you have to remember that although advaita vedAnta is held to be
independent of time and space, i.e. its truth is not culture-specific,
advaita vedAntins do not live in a culture-non-specific environment. As
philosophers and religious leaders, they constantly interact with
adherents of other philosophies. The Kashmiri Saivas have contributed a
lot to philosophies of language, grammar, aesthetics and other cultural
aspects. advaitins would find nothing wrong in referring to abhinavagupta
or abhinanda if the context warrants it. Nor do they hesitate to quote the
nyAya-sUtras or the mImAm.sA-sUtras on occasion, although the severest
criticisms in advaita writings are reserved for nyAya and mImAm.sA (after
buddhism of course). The systems of nyAya, sAm.khya, yoga and mImAm.sA are
definitely taught to students in the advaita monasteries in India. There
is another possible connection between Saiva thought and advaita vedAnta
through the medium of nyAya-vaiSeshika. From the internal evidence of the
nyAya works themselves, almost all the nyAya and vaiSeshika authors were
pASupatas, a school of Saivas that has now been absorbed into other Saiva
groups now. Although nyAya conclusions are rejected, all advaitins who
have learned the darSanas in the traditional way are expert scholars of

The contemporary SankarAcAryas are well-versed in systems other than
advaita also. They have to be, as they are religious leaders revered by
large sections of the Hindu population, in addition to being philosophers.
When a SankarAcArya is requested to perform the kumbhAbhishekam of a
temple, he will follow  the rites and rituals demanded by the affiliation
of the temple. This might take the form of vaikhAnasa rituals for a vishNu
temple, or installation of SrIcakras in a devi temple or Kashmiri Saiva
derived rituals for a Siva temple. And this requires them to have an
intimate knowledge of the various Agamas that these different rituals
derive from. The governing principle in all these cases is that the
ritual required of them should not be contradictory to vedic
injunctions or practices. Hence it is not surprising at all that someone
from the north is very familiar with Kashmir Saivism or Gaudiya
Vaishnavism. You will find that advaitins from the south are very familiar
with the Tamil Saiva Siddhanta, Pancaratra Vaishnavism, Virasaivism and
Sivadvaita, and they will definitely use concepts and terminology from
these systems to teach advaita.

S. Vidyasankar
>From ADVAITA-L at TAMU.EDU Tue Jan 14 19:38:35 1997
Message-Id: <TUE.14.JAN.1997.193835.0530.ADVAITAL at TAMU.EDU>
Date: Tue, 14 Jan 1997 19:38:35 +0530
Reply-To: "Advaita (non-duality) with reverence" <ADVAITA-L at TAMU.EDU>
To: "Advaita (non-duality) with reverence" <ADVAITA-L at TAMU.EDU>
From: "Rushikesh K. Joshi" <rushi at BRONTO.IITM.ERNET.IN>
Subject: Re: If advaita stands, all other systems(including dvaita) fall
Comments: To: ADVAITA-L at
In-Reply-To: <Pine.A32.3.91.970113125800.233164A-100000 at> from "Anand Hudli" at Jan 13,
        97 12:58:58 pm
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> > I guess Buddha also would have  experienced the same bliss but still
> > he taught  emptiness.

Did he say emptiness with respect to the Ego ?

>  The bliss of Brahman is far, far superior to all these kinds
of bliss. And it cannot be the same as emptiness.

How can it be superior than emptiness ? If thoughts are absent, great peace
is experienced. If everything is absent, that can be the real peace.

- joshi

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