the "Buddha" in the GK (was Re: Antiquity of ...)

Sankaran Kartik Jayanarayanan kartik at ECE.UTEXAS.EDU
Fri Jun 23 16:14:59 CDT 2000

Since the thread "Antiquity of advaita vedanta" has taken a wild turn, I
have changed the subject-line of this posting so that it better reflects
the topic I'm interested in discussing.

On Wed, 21 Jun 2000, Vidyasankar Sundaresan wrote:

> Sankaran Kartik Jayanarayanan <kartik at ECE.UTEXAS.EDU> wrote:
> >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*.
> Let us go back to GK 4. 1-2.
> jnAnena AkASa-kalpena dharmAn yo gagana-upamAn |
> jneya-abhinnena saMbuddhas taM vande dvipadAM varam ||
> asparSa-yogo vai nAma sarva-sattva-sukho hitaH |
> avivAdo 'viruddhaS ca deSitas tam namAmyahaM ||
> 1. The first verse salutes him who is "saMbuddha." The knowledge of this
> saMbuddha is further described as AkASakalpa, jneyAbhinna, and the objects
> of this knowledge are also gaganopama. Compare with AkASakalpa.
> 2. The second verse salutes asparSa-yoga, which is avivAda and aviruddha.
> 3. The taM in the first verse refers to the one who is saMbuddha. The taM in
> the second verse refers to the asparSa-yoga.
> 4. The word deSita does not refer to scripture directly here. It is common
> to call the teacher as deSika, that which is taught is deSita. The clearest
> and most unstrained reading of the text would suggest that the saMbuddha in
> the first verse is the deSika intended to be saluted, and the asparSa-yoga
> is the corresponding deSita. Any reference to sripture will come indiretly,
> inasmuch as the deSika teaches in accordance with Sruti. It should be
> obvious that the person who is saluted in the first verse taught
> asparSa-yoga.

But Shankara himself takes the word "deshitaH" to mean "instructed by

I only have Swami Gambhirananda's translation with me, not the original.
Anyway, the translation of Shankara's commentary goes: "...The Yoga of
this kind that has been deshitaH, instructed, by the scripture; taM, to
that; ahaM namAmi, I make my salutation, i.e, I bow down..."

Of course, your point that the Buddha-alias-nArAyaNa is first being
saluted as the teacher of non-dualism is also made by Shankara.


> 9. Therefore, when Sankaracharya says that the salutation is to nArAyaNa, it
> need not mean that it is to Buddha as an incarnation of Vishnu. Rather, it
> could be to Krishna as an incarnation of Vishnu. When a commentator says
> something, it is because he has intimate knowledge of the teaching, the
> texts and the teachers. We should give due weightage to it, especially those
> of us who consciously place ourselves within the tradition. Any sort of
> appeal to Buddhists may be on the lines of the following - "Buddha is an
> incarnation of Vishnu, but Krishna is also an incarnation of Vishnu, and
> here is Krishna's teaching, presented through topics familiar to Buddhist
> discourse."

The frequency of the use of the word "Buddha" in GK4 as a reference to the
GYAnii is rather unusual (more than 10 times within a hundred verses), and
I find it difficult to convince myself that the concluding shloka GK4.99
refers to two entirely different Buddhas (it first speaks of "Buddha's
GYAna" and then that which is "taught by the Buddha"). Shankara could've
easily recognized the confusion likely to be created in making the word
ambiguous and so expressly declared that the Buddha being praised is NOT
the historical one. He doesn't do so.

> >Moreover, if you see Nagarjuna's mUla madhyamaka kArikA, the invocation
> >reads:
> >
> >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
> >teachings.
> What we know for sure is that GK is *stylistically* referring to MMK. In
> light of the above, it seems rather unlikely that the "saMbuddha" in the two
> texts is the same historial Buddha.

I think the similarity in the styles is quite striking. They are the first
invocatory verse of the MMK and GK4 respectively.

> Regards,
> Vidyasankar



bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam

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