Fwd: Advaita and Buddhism

Anand V. Hudli anandhudli at HOTMAIL.COM
Wed Jun 23 12:00:05 CDT 1999

On Wed, 23 Jun 1999 09:03:41 -0700, Sankar Khrish <kssubramanian at YAHOO.COM>

>>   The second point that advaita shares tenets from
>> Buddhism is also
>>   flawed. The _only_ point that advaita and Buddhism
>> seem to share in
>>   common is the illusory nature of the world, the
>> jagan-mithyAtva
>>   aspect. But even here, if one cares to look
>> deeper, the illusion
>>   theory of Buddhism is different from that of
>> advaita. In advaita,
>>   the worldly illusion is explained as
>> "anirvachanIya", an indeterminable
>>   entity which can neither be classified as real nor
>> unreal. Further,
>Correct me if I am wrong, but I had the impression that brahman is
>anirvachanIya.  Per upanishads,  that one which the mind cannot grasp
>and the words cannot describe, that is the brahman.
>This world as we see is a vyavahArika sathyam whereas the anirvachanIya
>brahman is the paramArthika sathyam and this is the bone of contention
>between buddhism and advaita.

 I can understand the confusion here. The word "anirvachanIya" means, as
 per sadAnanda's vedAntasAra, "sadasadbhyAmanirvachanIyam.h", that which
 cannot be described or said to be real (sat) or unreal (asat). That is
 why "anirvachanIya" is also defined as "sadasadvilaxaNa", that which is
 different from the real and unreal.

 So "anirvachanIya" (in advaita-vedAnta) really means (no pun intended!)
 "that which cannot be explained or described or classified as real or
 unreal"; it does not mean "that which cannot be described in words."
 The word can be applied to describe the ontological status of the world
 as well as the status of objects in perceptual error such as the status
 of a snake in the rope or the perception of silver in nacre. The illusory
 snake, which is seen as a result of super-imposition (adhyAsa) on the rope,
 is not real, because the snake is not seen after the illusion ends. But
 the snake is also not unreal because it is perceived in the state of
 illusion! Note that the illusion of snake-on-rope has a real object, the
 rope as a substratum. The illusion is not a purely imaginary thing such as
 a hare with horns. Every illusion has a basis.

 Even though Brahman is said to be indescribable by words, It is
 classified as sat, reality/existence, but not anirvachanIya.  Even though
 Brahman is indescribable by words, Its reality is confirmed by becoming
 Brahman! I suppose one could use the word anirvachanIya for Brahman but it
 would be extremely confusing and even misleading, given the history of the
 word anirvachanIya as used in advaita. So for historical reasons, we
 should use the term "anirvachanIya" for the world, not for Brahman.


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