mahendra varma pallava

Anand V. Hudli anandhudli at HOTMAIL.COM
Tue Jun 15 16:28:02 CDT 1999

On Tue, 15 Jun 1999 13:38:15 -0700, Sankaran Panchapagesan
<panchap at ICSL.UCLA.EDU> wrote:

>>  He may have attacked Jainism or Buddhism. But does this
>>  necessarily mean what he wrote about them is false? Was there a
>>  basis in reality for what he wrote about them? Even Sureshvara,
>>  the direct disciple of Shankara, was a mImAmsaka before he "converted"
>>  to advaita. And he wrote criticisms of the mImAmsakas themselves after
>>  his "conversion."  We do not take such criticisms of Sureshvara as
>>  in truth and substance just because "he had reasons to attack mImAmsA."
>Correct me if I am wrong, but I don't think the above argument is valid.
>The question of the truth in Sureshvaracharya's attacks on
>logic/metaphysics of opposing systems is one of logic/philosophy, but any
>claims/accusations of copying, are historical claims, and do not have the
>same validity. They are to be settled by historical research, not by any
>extension of valid philosophical criticism by Sureswara on mImAmsA or
>Buddhism, right?

 Please note that I am not arguing one way or the other above. Mahendra
 VArma may be right or may be wrong. What I am saying is that just because
 he makes a criticism does not mean he is wrong. We need to find out more
 about the context of his criticism and any explanations of his before
 passing judgement. Also, we don't have to worry about historical claims vs.
 logical claims in this case. What we know for sure are obvious parallels
 between the mahAbhArata, parts of the upanishads (aspects other than
 those which explicitly talk about Brahman, especially parts of the
 muNDaka upanishad), on one side and Buddhism on the other. Now, we have
 to decide whether

  1) Buddhism borrowed from mahAbhArata and the upanishads, or
  2) viceversa

 If we accept 2) it would mean the mahAbhArata and the upanishads
 were influenced by Buddhism. Accepting 1) would mean the opposite.
 In this case, if we have a historical or otherwise independent
 confirmation, it would serve as the "tie-breaker."

 That said, it is fair to say that any date that the historians
 assign to any Vedic text is on very slippery ground. First, the
 Vedas were orally handed down from generation to generation from
 time immemorial. Second, even the dates assigned by the modern
 scholars as the dates when the Vedic texts were "composed" keep
 changing and are constantly challenged. Even the most skeptical of
 the scholars admit that at least a few upanishads were existing
 prior to Buddha. So it is impossible to prove with certainty that
 the upanishads were written after Buddha. Similar is the case with
 mahAbhArata, although it is acknowledged as an authored text in Indian

 From this it follows that it is impossible to prove 2), but it is
 at least conceivable that 1) can be proved. Hence, the search for
 corroborating historical evidence for 1). If we find such evidence,
 the evidence in itself may not be conclusive, but taken with what
 we know about the parallels between the two systems, it will be
 much more plausible than arguments of historians to the contrary.

 Also, we should not forget that Buddhism was a revolt of sorts
 against the corruption of brahminical society. It was more of a
 attempt to _reform_ brahminical religion than a claim to be an
 independent system. And reform means removing what Buddha perceived
 to be corrupt practices _while_retaining_ the best elements of the
 brahminical religion. This is exactly what he proceeded to do.
 Understanding this, one will cease to be surprised to hear that
 Buddha borrowed concepts from vedAnta and the 'bhArata.


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