Sankaran Panchapagesan panchap at ICSL.UCLA.EDU
Wed Jan 12 15:40:22 CST 2000

  I am presently reading the book "Nagarjuna, The philosophy of the middle
way" by David Kalupahana. He makes some contentious statements about
Vedanta and other Astika philosophies, which I would like to be clarified.
(I am not making any statements on Buddhism-Vedanta relationship with a
half-baked understanding, as I did before :-)). I do think the question is
relevant to the list since Kalupahana seems to be misrepresenting the
"opponent's" case and I would like to be clarified on that.

1. On page 9, when discussing the context in which the Buddha came up with
his philosophy, Kalupahana says that in general there were two schools of
philosophy in India, the substantialists who claimed existence of Atman,
and the nihilists, mainly materialists who presented non-existence.
        In this context, he says:

        At a very early stage, they (the brahminical philosophers)
asserted that this self (aatman) was created by a god or gods who
determined that it belongs to one or the other of the four social classes:
priestly(braahmaNa)...servant(shuudra). Thus each individual's status was
predetermined and unchangeable.  It was this particular idea of creation
that elicited the most vehement criticism both from the Materialists as
well as the Buddha."

For this statement he gives the references, Rg-veda x.90; also
Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.4.11-13.

This seems to be a misinterpretation since the Brihadaranyaka upanishad
talks about the creation of the brahmin *class*, *not* of aatmans. Is the
Rig Vedic reference that of the purusha suktam? Even there, there is no
talk of aatmans being created according to varNa, only the creation of the
varNas, right?

Is there any aastika school of philosophy which subscribes to the views
ascribed by Kalupahana, especially during the time of the Buddha?

2. On page 37, Kalupahana says when discussing Nagarjuna's
Muulamadhyamakaarikaa, Chapter III:
        "However, in verse 2, Nagarjuna criticizes a particular definition
of "seeing" (darshana) and that definition involves "the perception of
itself" (svaatmaanam darshanam). This undoubtedly is the Indian verstion
of the Cartesian "cogito" which led to the belief in a permanent and
eternal self during the period of the Upanishds (ref.1) and continued to
flourish in the speculations of the later Indian philosophical schools

For reference 1, Kalupahana gives Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.4.11-14 and
for ref.2, Swami Satprakashananda, "Methods of Knowledge, according to
Advaita Vedanta".

Though he may be right about Advaita Vedanta and "cogito", Is he right in
claiming that the particular verses of the Br.Up. do really talk about the
"cogito"? Is that the way Sankaracharya interprets it in his commentary?

Hoping to receive clarifications from members.

bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam

Archives :
Help     : Email to listmaster at
Options  : To leave the list send a mail to
           listserv at with
           SIGNOFF ADVAITA-L in the body.

More information about the Advaita-l mailing list