Absolutism and Relativism in Advaita

nanda chandran vpcnk at HOTMAIL.COM
Tue Apr 4 23:40:39 CDT 2000

>The big question I have is : "Is Advaita Absolutist or relativist?".  By
>using the shruti statement, "Ekam Sad;ViprA bahudha vadanti", are we to
>understand that there are many valid expressions of truth and Advaita is
>just one among the many?  This would naturally be the stand of the
>philosophical relativist.

Almost all schools accept that there're many ways to
the Truth, but the difference is on emphasis.

For the JainAs truth is multi faceted and that's
the logic behind the syAdvAda or the "maybe"
doctrine - relatively the truth is one, relatively
the truth is many etc It's an anti-absolutist stand.

For Advaitins the truth is absolute - one without
another. But this is paramArtha saytam - ultimate
truth. In vyavahAra satyam, you can have many ways,
though this stand might not be supported by all
AchAryas. In the hymns of Shankara we find an
element of bhakti, while Sureshvara is anti-karma.
MAdhusudhana Saraswati thinks both yoga and jnAna
can lead to the goal.

The MAdhyamika Buddhists take a stand
similar to Advaita. Relativity is the essence
of samvritti or vyavahAra and truth can be taught
in many ways. But when one understands the meaning
of ShUnyA, he progresses to a higher level of
reality - ParamArtha - from which nirvAna is
attained. But again the MAdhyamikas accept neither
the absolutist stand of the Advaitins or the
non-absolutist stand of the JainAs. For them
truth cannot be expressed in words as all thought
is in the realm of relativity ie there can be
an absolute only if there's a relative. Truth
is beyond these conceptions.

>This leads to my second question : Can conflicting philosophies be
>"resolved" within Advaita?  I have heard that even dvaita and
>vishishTadvaita have a place in Advaita. But, as a philosophy Advaita is
>**opposed** to dvaita and vishishTadvaita. Right?  So, how can there be a

Doesn't GaudapAda himself in his KArikA on the
MAnduka Upanishad say that all conflicting
theories are resolved in Advaita?

All speculative philosophies if logic is strictly
adhered to will either end up in absolutism or
nihilism - because these are the two ends of human
conception. Push the right buttons and all the
HinayAna schools of Buddhism which deny the Self
will end up in nihilism. All the non-absolutist schools
which have the Self/consciousness as reality - the JainAs,
the brAhmanical schools - if they strictly adhere to
their own logic, will end up in the absolutism of

The MAdhyamika school manages to straddle the fence
between absolutism and nihilism only because it is
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