Kalupahanas' contentious statements (Was Re: question)

nanda chandran vpcnk at HOTMAIL.COM
Mon Jan 17 09:51:33 CST 2000

>I am not very clear about what you mean by the 'self' with a small 's'. Do
>you mean the 'soul'? In that case, it seems to me that the Purusha Suktam
>or the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad talk about the creation not of the 'self'
>but of men and gods of different social classes, i.e. of the *classes
>themselves*, according to which men and gods are classified. In fact, the
>Purusha Suktam does not seem to use the word 'aatman' anywhere.

It can be quite misleading to use the word "Soul" for Atman, due
to the words obvious Western connotations. In Christianity the
basic doctrine is the salvation of the Soul. But in Astika
philosophy, the Soul being eternal, salvation is only phenomenal
- the soul in reality is already liberated. So it's better to use
the word "Self" for Atman instead of Soul.

The Self being eternal, if people were born in different varnas
due to the "quality" of their Selves, then being reborn as a
higher evolutionary being or brAhmana would become meaningless,
for they would be repeatedly be born in the same class, as the
Self is eternal and always the same. The concept of Karma itself
would become questionable.

>Or do you, by 'self'-with-a small-s, just mean 'persons' or
>'psychophysical personality (as Kalupahana puts it)? In that case, this
>present 'self' is just a result of karma and beginningless cycle of births
>and deaths, right?

If you're already liberated, why is it you do not know it? So it's
obvious that you as you are at present, are not the liberated Self.

So who are you?

So Astika philosophies, inspired by texts like the MundAka Upanishad
which teach of an eternal changeless Self underlying our individual
personality (self), work out such a scheme of psychology. And naturally
it's our empirical personality which is postulated as experiencing
the fruit of our karma. Our true Self - the essence of our "I" sense
- is beyond karma, for it is eternal and changeless.

>the Buddha recognized the caste system as a social convention, not as an
>absolute as the Shruti and Smritis do. I also think the Buddhists (and
>Jains) did indeed address the problem of equality in different texts.

The Buddha himself is not so egalitarian as is usually portrayed.
He himself never approved of women joining his order. And he also
repeatedly stresses the importance of a "good birth". He actually
takes pride that his ancestors preserved the purity of his race
by going to the extent of resorting to incest!

And the caste system is hardly an absolute in the Vedic tradition.
If that had been so, as explained before, the concept of karma itself
would have become questionable. And a careful reading of the dharma
shAstrams will reveal that the caste system was more a social
convention in Vedic thought, albeit an integral and essential part
of the framework to preserve the dharma.

Knowledge of the Self is the goal and not brAhmanahood.

>He doesn't exactly portray the Buddha as a radical social reformer, but as
>a sort of social and philosophical critic.

That IMO, would be an accurate description. If one reads the
DhammapAda, it'll be obvious that the Buddha is not a critic of
the caste system or the brAhmana per se, but a critic of the
prevelant rules and values dominating the system in his day -
like the excessive claims of superiority by the brAhmanas.
Preservation of the dharma is the ultimate aim of the caste
system and the Buddha understands its true utility.

So his point was that a brAhmana is one who has, "crossed the
farther shore," and not one who takes pride in his birth.

>Is Kalupahana's interpretation of Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.4.1 as
>"cogito ergo sum" correct?

No Astika school will agree with Descartes. According to the
latter, since he thinks, he exists. But for the Astika schools,
thought is essentially transient - changing. But the Self is
eternal and changeless. So the Self is not validated by thought.
It's apart from thought. That's the reason the SAmkhyas or Patanjali
classify the whole mental mechanism as prAkriti apart from the Self
- the Purusha. Advaitam terms it as as beginningless ignorance apart
from the changeless Self.
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