Last word on the Buddhism-advaita issue (Hopefully!)

Sankaran Panchapagesan panchap at ICSL.UCLA.EDU
Thu Jun 17 13:47:01 CDT 1999

  I realize all this started with my "comparison" (if you can call it
that) of buddhism and advaita, which I realize, was a really stupid and
misinformed one. As Ramakrishnan said, I should read more before I start
doing comparitive philosophy. I'm sorry.

  I'd just thought I'd make some points clear.

        I am not denying that the Buddhists borrowed from Hindu scriptures
at all. It seems to me pretty probable that they did.

        Also, I am not claiming from what I have read, that Advaita has
copied from Buddhism. It seems to me that Mahayana buddhism has borrowed a
lot from "Hinduism". I think maybe because of lack of information(lost
works, etc.) the history of advaita is clouded in mystery. It seems to me
to be totally improbable, that the true doctrines of the old upanishads
(admittedly pre-buddhist), evidently advaitic, should be lost to the
upanishadic school, only to be revived by Gaudapada after he came across
mahAyAna buddhism. But it seems to me that historians can work only with
existing works, and so based on them, claim that advaita borrowed from
Mahayana buddhism.

> Indeed. This grounding of action in desire is a fundamental insight of
> advaita vedAnta that has often been ignored. This is something that Sankara
> and his successors repeatedly point out. Most objections raised against
> advaita by well-meaning orthodox people overlook this basic issue.

        Please note that I didn't say or believe that vedic animal
sacrifices are adharmic. I realize fully well that dharma in Hinduism is
defined only according to the Veda (according to Purva Mimamsa?). I still
haven't made up my mind about it since it is not easy to reconcile ahimsA
with it because of my upbringing.  I have a question in this topic, which
may sound uninformed, hope you can answer it to clarify things for me.
What is 'sin' in vedic religion? Am I right in saying that sin is
understood to be that which is against vedic dharma? In that sense, vedic
animal sacrifice is certainly not "sinful".
        I also understand that a vedic sacrifice is performed with a
specific desire in mind, which will be fulfilled if the sacrifice is
performed correctly. My question is, is it "sinful" to have a desire, the
satisfaction of which involves an animal sacrifice? Which dharmaSAstrs say
more about the specific karmic consequences of the vedic sacrifices?


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