Antiquity of advaita vedanta (was : an open letter to all)

nanda chandran vpcnk at HOTMAIL.COM
Thu Jun 15 12:35:24 CDT 2000

>1) In the words of
>Anantakrishna Sastri, one of the great scholars of advaita in the 20th
>century, he speaks of mAdhyamika or shUnyavAda (I quote) "...tanmataM
>dUShitaM bhAmatInyAratnAvalyAdau vistareNa" (foot note on page 142 -
>advaita-siddhi, parimal publications), "...that system has been
>refuted in detail by works such as bhAmatI, nyAyaratnAvalI, etc."
>And guess who the author of bhAmatI is? VAchaspati Mishra himself.
>So now we have a problem. Pt. Anantakrishna Sastri says VAchaspati
>Mishra has refuted mAdhyamika in his bhAmatI whereas you say that
>the same VAchaspati openly lauds mAdhyamika. Who should we believe?
>Please solve this problem for us!

Please read the bhAmati yourself. VAchaspati criticizes the SarvAstivAdin
bauddhas as being of inferior intellect, the vijnAnavAdins as being of
middling intellect and lauds the MAdhyamas as of having a superior
intellect. And MAdhyamaka as a school later developed into many forms which
was not truly faithful to the original teachers of the schools - some of the
new forms were the svatantra MAdhyamaka of BhAvaviveka, the SautrAntika
vijnAnavAda of DignAga and Dharmakiirti etc. Most VedAntic criticism's are
of those schools and are not aimed at NAgArjuna.

>2) You are right that shrIharshha uses Buddhist logic to refute
>    nyAya theories. But he is very clear in showing his allegiance to
>    vedAnta! The conclusion is he uses the techbiques only as a tool,
>    to put forth his own thesis of vedAnta. It is possible to put forth
>    the advaita doctrine using modern logic. Would doing so mean that
>    we are somehow indebted to the western logicians? No it doesn't.
>    To argue for advaita, we can use Buddhist logic, modern logic or
>    some other technique. Buddhist logic is NOT indispensable, not even
>    necessary.

If you notice that's what I'm trying to say out here - that the MAdhyamaka
dialectic can be used as a tool for us to have an intellectual grasp of
mAyA. Since very few of us have the guts to be real VedAntins who could
experentially understand mAyA, this is almost the only jnAnic way out.

And logic doesn't differentiate between bauddha or nyAya or modern. It is
only the conclusions that logic is used to arrive at that marks it as
specific to this or that school. According to both Advaita and the
MAdhyamaka, the phenomenal world is unreal in the ultimate sense. That's
the reason Sri Harsha has no problems about using MAdhyamaka logic.

>3) As far as GauDapAda saluting Buddha, nothing can be farther from
>   the truth. His salute to "dvipadAM varaM" has been shown by Shankara
>   to refer to nArAyaNa Himself. And we have the concurrence of the
>   shrIvaiShNava scholars on this point as well. GauDapAda salutes
>   nArAyaNa in his kArikA, not Buddha. (Of course, you may argue that
>   Buddha was considered an avatar of ViShNu, but that point is irrelevant
>   here.)

Have you read the KArikA? The opening salute is not the only place of
reference. There are numerous other direct references to the Buddha in the

>4) Speaking of Shankara, we are yet to see brilliant claims   of  his
>    worshipping Buddha. While you are working on this, please explain
>    why Shankara is so sharply critical of EVERY school of Buddhism in
>    his sUtra-bhAShya. Concluding his refutation of Buddhism with the sUtra
>   "sarvathAnupapatteshcha", Shankara says "na kAMchidapyatropapattiM
>    pashyAmaH", " we do not see any (logical) propriety here (in
>    Buddhism)." Shankara means that Buddhism is logically flawed. He
>    says the Buddha taught mutually contradictory theories either because
>    he was so terribly incoherent in his teachings or because he really
>    wished to harm his followers by confusing them.

Swami Jayendra Saraswati of KAnchi Matham recently said something in this
context. Asked whether Hindus should disown the Buddha since Shankara
sharply criticized him, the swami diagreed saying that somebody of the
spiritual genius of Shankara could do that and not us. When he himself, a
practicing VedAntin and an AchArya considers himself in the "us" category, I
don't think we should even talk about the subject.

>The question I have
>    is: should we then conclude based on what your insight in mAdhyamika
>    provides us that Shankara was incapable of understanding what the
>    Buddha meant, something that you have been able to accomplish?

And this I suppose is the trick question which is supposed to pit me against
Shankara himself and thus invalidate my arguments. Any which way you can to
win the argument, I suppose!

Anyway the answer is that Shankara himself was not a direct disciple of the
Buddha. What he knew of the Buddha's teachings was through the various
schools which had sprouted up, each claiming to teach the true message of
the Buddha. And of the numerous schools probably only two are truly close to
his teachings. And they have a lot in common with Advaita itself. But even
these two schools by the time of Shankara had flowered to various forms. And
Shankara's main criticism is against the distorted versions of the new
schools and not of the original authors themselves.

Even in your posting from Advaita Siddhi, where it is said that ShUnyavAdins
endorse momentariness, it is a plain misreading of the MAdhyamaka position.
Nowhere does NAgArjuna even endorse momentariness, infact he specifically
refutes the theory.

And can't we have an objective discussion without resorting to personal
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