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

Anand Hudli anandhudli at HOTMAIL.COM
Wed Jun 21 11:29:27 CDT 2000

On Tue, 20 Jun 2000 11:13:42 -0500, Sankaran Kartik Jayanarayanan
<kartik at ECE.UTEXAS.EDU> wrote:

>Yes. There is absolutely no mention in GauDapaada's kArikA of key mahAyAna
>concepts like shUnyata, pratItya samutpAda, etc., which establishes that
>this was not meant to be a mAdhyamika text at all, but only a vedAntic
>text. But I do disagree with the notion that the "Buddha" mentioned here
>is NOT the historical Buddha, but a generic awakened one.
>Actually, the first two verses don't claim that the Buddha taught asparsha
>yoga. The second verse says that asparsha yoga is "deshitaH taM," that
>which is *obtained from scripture*.
>Moreover, if you see Nagarjuna's mUla madhyamaka kArikA, the invocation
>deshayAmAsa saMbuddhastaM vande vadatAM varaM .
>"I bow down to the Buddha... the greatest among the teachers."
>The GK 4.1 reads:
>GYeyAbhinnena saMbuddhastaM vande dvipadAM varaM .
>"I bow down to the Buddha (whose knowledge is non-different from the
>object of knowledge), the greatest among the bipeds."
>They are both praising the saMbuddha, but in a different way. GauDapAda
>praises the Buddha, but is very careful not to praise the Buddha's

It does not make sense to implicitly suspect Shankara of misinterpreting
(or even distorting) the salutation in the first verse as being that to
nArAyaNa, instead of the Buddha. Shankara clearly says the salutation
is to nArAyaNa. For a second opinion, we can listen to what VidvAn
Lakshmipuram Srinivasacharya, a shrIvaiShNava, is said to have written
in his book darshanodaya:

 tathaiva teShAM bhagavatpAdAnAM paramAchAryo .api ityatra AnandagirIyaM
 vachanamudAharAmaH | mANDUkyakArikAyAm-alAtashAntiprakaraNAraMbhe
 AchAryo hi purA badarikAshrame nara-nArAyaNAdhishhThite nArAyaNaM
 bhagavantamabhipretya tapo mahadatapyata| tato bhagavAnatiprasannaH
 tasmai vidyAM pradAditi prasiddhaM paramagurutva parameshvare iti
 bhAvaH |

 Similarly (as Shankara bhagavatpAda showed bhakti), his Paramaguru
 GauDapAdAchArya too (showed bhakti to ViShNu). Here we cite the
 words of Anandagiri. At the beginning of the alAta-shAnti-prakaraNa
 of the mANDUkya-kArikA, (Anandagiri comments that) GauDapAdAchArya
 performed great austerities (tapas) at BadarikAshrama, where nara
 and nArAyaNa are established, meant to (please) BhagavAn nArAyaNa.
 BhagavAn, being extremely pleased with that, bestowed the (Brahma)vidyA
 on GauDapAda. This being well-known, it means that GauDapAda's
 supreme Guru was Parameshvara (God) Himself.

Now, given the fact that shrIvaiShNavas have often characterized advaitins
as prachchhanna-bauddhas, one would expect Srinivasacharya to jump into
the prachchhanna-bauddha bandwagon upon reading the alAta-shAnti-prakaraNa,
and say "This is precisely the evidence of the Buddhist influence we were
talking about all along!" But he does not do that. He accepts the
explanation of Shankara and his commentator Anandagiri.

Suspecting Shankara and Anandagiri of misinterpreting GauDapAda, as
has been happening in this issue, makes one naive, superficial, and
perhaps un-scientific. After all, we cannot be sure that Shankara and
Anandagiri did not have access to more historical information, access
to more relevant literature,  than what we can today. There have been
too many instances of works being completely lost for ever in Indian
history. Under these circumstances, second-guessing well-known authorities
is very risky at best. At worst, it can represent some kind of a rabid
fanaticism to somehow force Buddhist influence into advaita to justify
one's personal beliefs.

>Again, the verse GK 4.99 reads:
>kramate na hi buddhasya GYaanaM dharmeshhu taayi naH .
>sarve dharmaastathaa GYaanaM naitadbuddhena bhaashhitaM ..
>"The knowledge of the Buddha, who is all light, is ever untouched by
>objects. All the entities as well as knowledge are also ever untouched by
>any object. This was not taught by the Buddha."
>Though Shankara interprets the first Buddha to mean nArAyaNa and the
>second to mean the historical Buddha, it still doesn't mean that
the>historical buddha is NOT being saluted in the first line. It could
> simply
>mean that the historical Buddha can be venerated (or the *knowledge of
>the Buddha* can be venerated) as nArAyaNa without necessarily accepting
>his teachings.

 One thing has to be clear. Nowhere does Shankara deny that GauDapAda
 was not even aware of Buddha's teaching. To the contrary, GauDapAda,
 and Shankara too, had a good grasp of the views of all systems at the
 time, including Buddhism, Jainism, nyAya-vaisheShika, sAnkhya-yoga,
 mImAMsA, etc. Being knowledgeable about a system is quite different
 from an endorsement, either overt or covert, of that system.

As far as GauDapAda's usage of similar words in the first verse as
the mUlamAdhyamika-kArikA of nAgArjuna, it should not be given too
much weightage. The Bible, for example, begins with the famous words,
"In the beginning". Just because these words have a certain popularity
attached to them, someone may use the very same first words in a different
book, not necessarily having to do with religion. For example, a book
on the Internet might start: "In the beginning there was Mosaic." Now,
to assume the contents of the book are similar to those of the Bible would
be a stretch of imagination. It is quite likely that nAgArjuna's work was
well-known, not just among Buddhists, but also among others such as the
logicians, mImAMsakas, etc. It is hardly a surprise if we say GauDapAda was
aware of nAgArjuna's kArikA. GauDapAda likely was knowledgeable
on nAgArjuna, the nyAya-vaisheshhika and other systems.


bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam

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