ADMIN: Apologies

Anand Hudli anandhudli at HOTMAIL.COM
Tue Apr 7 11:27:53 CDT 1998

I would like to respond to one point that has been raised here.
Certainly, advaita is not restricted nowadays to followers of
Shankara. Many other traditions that have recently started
such as the ones by Ramakrishna and Vivekananda, Chinmayananda,
Ramana Maharshi, etc. can be classified as new advaita schools or
neo-advaita schools. I see no harm in discussing advaita as seen
by these schools, precisely because all these schools have
established some kind of a tradition in India and abroad. Now,
the view of advaita according to these schools may be debated,
but that is not the point I am trying to address here. There is
nevertheless some tradition that classifies these schools as
belonging to advaita and, more importantly, such classification
is not the result of purely academic "research."

But, in contrast, there is absolutely _no_ such tradition assigned
to Buddhism in India. Buddhism virtually disappeared from India
a long time ago. Today, it is rare to come across a Buddhist in India,
much rarer is a Buddhist who knows the philosophy as taught by
Buddha and his descendents. In spite of the fact that Buddha was/is
considered to be VishNu, there is scant respect shown for his
teachings in Indian philosophy. More relevant here is the fact that
Shankara is sharply critical of Buddha in his Brahma suutra Bhaashhya.
He condemns both Buddha and his teachings in no uncertain terms.

This being the case, my question to people here in the list who want
 to harp on Buddhism or who perhaps want to mix Buddhism and advaita,
 or who want to treat both the same is this:
Do we consider ourselves so superior to Shankara that we override
his opinion on Buddhism? I am not saying that one must not question
the reasoning that Shankara and his followers put forth against
Buddhism. There has been plenty of debate about this but still
some people keep harping on alleged similarities between Buddhism
and advaita. This is what I find disturbing, because it indicates
perhaps a lack of respect for Shankara on one hand, and a blind
faith in what modern day academicians, new age philosophers, etc.,
say. This kind of belief in everything that  such people  say
is as bad as and as deplorable as people's blind belief in the
"dark ages." What I am saying is that before you jump to conclusions
 based on some academic's half-baked theories, try to subject those
 theories to the same critical analysis that you would to a text
from classical advaita.

Coming back to the neo-advaita schools, it would be injustice to
Shankara' school if we deny its predominant influence on such
schools. Many of the monks from the new schools were either
directly or indirectly influenced profoundly by Shankara's tradition.
The founders of these new schools did not just pick up advaita
from scratch. They had to read and learn from commentaries by
Shankara and his followers. And Ramakrishna Mission and Chinmaya
mission have published many texts attributed to Shankara and his
followers. This shows that they have accepted these texts as
texts to be studied by their own members. So it is futile to
even try to project these neo-advaita schools as being independent
of Shankara's advaita.

 I had the opportunity to meet with and have discussions with the
 current head of the Chinmaya mission, Swami Tejomayananda about
 two years ago in Austin, Texas. He is a very unassuming, well
 learned man, and with a great sense of humor too. Apart from the
 discussion I had on various topics including Panchadashii, karma,
 bhakti, and jnaana, I also had the opportunity to listen to his
 lectures on the fifth chapter of the Giitaa. I do not recall even
 a single instance when he made references to anything that had to
 do with Buddha or Buddhism. Also, looking at some of his books,
 I did not see any influence from Buddhism. My impression at this
 point is that Chinmaya mission does not adopt anything from
Buddhism. Sadananda, please correct me if I am wrong. My impression
of the other neo-adviata schools are also similar, although I do not
know much about Nisargadatta. So the conclusion is none of the
advaita schools, whether it is Shankara's or the new schools, do not
care much for Buddhism. Why should the list?


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