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

Anand Hudli anandhudli at HOTMAIL.COM
Thu Jun 15 16:41:33 CDT 2000

On Thu, 15 Jun 2000 10:35:24 PDT, nanda chandran <vpcnk at HOTMAIL.COM> wrote:

>>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
>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.

 This is a distortion of VAchaspati's position. He does not laud
 mAdhyamika nor does he leave ANY school of Buddhism unscathed to
 his criticism. I will post shortly VAchaspati's conclusive remarks on
 ALL of Buddhism which includes the whole nine yards - Buddha, mAdhyamika,
 and what have you.

 You have NOT answered my question above but from your response I can gather
 that you are right and Pt. Anantakrsihna Sastri is not. Right?

>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.

 What  you say here is slightly more acceptable, for a change! The
 main contribution of Buddhist logic in India was the formalization
 of techniques such as the syllogism, etc.  I agree to this.  But the
 basic Buddhist theories were logically unsound, as Shankara says.  I
 disagree that we need to make an indepth study of the mAdhyamika
 kArikA to know this, unless we are interested in refuting it!
 Once the formalization was introduced it was later assimilated
 and developed further in nyAya. So what we have in nyAya, especially
 navya nyAya is the most formalized version that you will EVER see in
 the entire history of Indian thought as of today.  The utility of
 Buddhist logic during shrIharshha's time was higher than it was after
 the formalization in nyAya. shrIharshha did not have a choice because
 he could not perhaps find a better tool to counter the nyAya theories.
 And the utility of Buddhist logic today, with the development of
 formal (western) logic is questionable. It may be of historical
 interest, certainly not of much use to advaitins. It is not necessary.

>>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
 Yes, I have read the kArikA. But I am amazed at your distortion again.
 First you said GauDapAda salutes Buddha repeatedly. Now we are led
 to  believe there is an opening salute and numerous direct *references*
 to Buddha. To this I reply as follows:

 The word "God" is a sacred word in all of Bible. It appears numerous
 times. Now, almost any non-Christian religious literature translated
 into English will contain the word "God" in numerous places, may be
 even thousands of times. For example,  "bhagavAn" in Sanskrit or
 Hindi becomes "God" in translation. Fast forward in time. Someone
 finds a translated version of a text of what is now a nonchristian
 religion, 500 years from now. Let us say he finds a translated gItA.
 That person also has  the Bible. Looking at the translated version of
 the gItA  and comparing it with the Bible he sees that the gItA makes
 numerous references to "God". So he concludes the gItA was deeply
 influenced by Christianity! Beautiful conclusion, isn't it?
 Now come back to the present. The word "Buddha" means "a wise person",
 "an intelligent person" etc. Maybe due to the strong influence of
 Buddhism on Indian culture (after all it had political backing for
 quite some time), the word "Buddha" came to be used very commonly
 among all religions, including writings in the Sanskrit language.
 I am not saying it was introduced into Sanskrit. It just became
 more commonly used in Sanskrit as a common noun to indicate a wise
 person. It is in this sense we must take the word "Buddha" , the wise,
 as used by AchArya GauDapAda. Otherwise, we will be guilty of the same
 mistake that our fellow human being may make in the future when he
 looks at the gItA. When PrabhupAda declares Krishna to be the Supreme
 Personality of Godhead, we cannot accuse him of preaching Christianity
 in disguise because he repeated uses the words "God", "Godhead",
 "heaven", and so on.

 GauDapAda uses the word "Buddha", but as Shankara's commentary shows
 it is to be taken as a common noun, "Buddha", not the person Buddha,
 just as we do not consider the word "God" to stand for the God of
 the Christians alone but God in general in any religion.

>>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
>>   "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,
>don't think we should even talk about the subject.

 I would let other more familiar with the Kanchi Math to verify this.
 All the Swami means is that we should respect Buddha, as a
 great person, or perhaps as an avatar, since that is the Hindu stand on
 Buddha. I agree to this. We should respect a lot of other
 people like KaNAda, Gautama, MahAvIra, George Washington, etc.
 It does NOT mean that we should accept everything that these great
 people said without critical analysis and without examining the
 utility of their sayings to us.
>>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
>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
>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.
>Shankara's main criticism is against the distorted versions of the new
>schools and not of the original authors themselves.

 No, that is not true. Shankara's refutation is of the WHOLE of
 Buddhism, including Buddha, his followers, and the various systems
 that had started from the Buddha upto the time of Shankara himself.

 So basically you are refuting Shankara himself without any basis.
 Seldom have I seen such arrogance on this list.

>Even in your posting from Advaita Siddhi, where it is said that
>endorse momentariness, it is a plain misreading of the MAdhyamaka position.
>Nowhere does NAgArjuna even endorse momentariness, infact he specifically
>refutes the theory.
 Again, I have to ask the question: Whom are we to believe as the
 correct interpretation of MAdhyamika? You or MadhusUdana/BrahmAnanda?

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

 Sure.  Stop making personal attacks on GauDapAda, Shankara, and
 the other AchAryas. Stop presenting your views as their views. Is this
 too much to ask for?


bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam

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