Nagarjuna not an absolutist

Anand Hudli anandhudli at HOTMAIL.COM
Mon Jun 26 16:54:47 CDT 2000

On Mon, 26 Jun 2000 09:11:45 PDT, nanda chandran <vpcnk at HOTMAIL.COM> wrote:

>>If there was an influence, we should have seen some kind of a
>>non->committal, avoidance of absolutism, lack of a definite position in
>> >GauDapAda's kArikA. But where is it?
>Anand it is not as simple as this.
>You quote a lot of authors - predominently non-Indian - Chinese, American
>etc Most of them are agreed that Buddhism is the anti-thesis of Upanishadic
>But take a look at Indian authors - Radhakrishnan, TRV Murti, Chandradhar
>Sharma, Vidhushekara Bhattacharya, Ananda Coomaraswamy etc You'll find that
>almost without exception Indian authors outspokenly assert that Buddhism is
>complementary to the Upanishadic thought.
>Why is this?

 I think there is a fundamental difference between how you interpret
 the views of any system and how I interpret the same views. While
 looking for the views of any system I primarily depend on the how
 the views of that system are expressed by exponents of
 *the*living*tradition*. How do knowledgeable followers of the system
 interpret and *follow* the teachings of the system? This is how I
 approach the subject. I may consider views of other scholars, but
 this has only secondary importance.

 To be frank,  I do not have a lot of respect for views expressed by
 mere arm-chair philosophers, unless supported by the living tradition.
 And there is a reason for this. It is not expressing blind faith in
 tradition as one may carelessly conclude. More than anyone else, the
 followers of the living tradition are likely to be more intimately
 familiar with what their predecessors taught. These are the people
 who have been devoting their lives to the study and practice of their
 predecessors. They do not consider their philosophy something like a
 tenureship position, rather it is a way of life for them! As such,
 such people in the living tradition will know all the nuances, all
 the subtle positions of their tradition. On the other hand, those
 who study a system just for attaining some scholarship in it are
 likely to miss subtle but crucial points of the system. That is why
 I suggest that you study the mAdhyamika from the point of view of
 one who is following the living tradition.

 In the specific case of nAgArjuna's mAdhyamika, the living tradition
 of Gelukpa of Tibet (also represented by the current Dalai Lama) is
 what I consider, since we have a lack of nAgArjuna's tradition among
 native Indians as of today. Radhakrishnan, TRV Murti, and others may
 be scholars in philosophy but nothing matches words from the "horse's
 mouth" so to speak. When you want to climb a mountain peak in the
 Himalayas, whom would you consider as your guide - the
 mountaineering instructor in the local university OR an expert Sherpa
 who has spent his life in the Himalayas and knows all the secrets,
 pitfalls that the peak has hidden in itself? The choice is clear to me.

>The reason is that outside India, Buddhism is viewed as an independant
>entity. NAgArjuna, VAsubandhu, DignAga and DharmakIrti are studied within
>the Buddhist tradition.
>But in reality if you take a look at the development of Indian philosophy,
>Buddhism never developed independently. It developed along with the Astika
>schools. NAgArjuna's arguments are mainly against the SAmkhya, Vaishesika
>and the SarvAstivAda schools.

 I agree this may be true to some extent. But it was considered a
 nAstika or heterodox school back then and differed from VedAnta in
 its core teachings. nAgArjuna et al. knew that. And the meaning of
 nAstika as explained by Sri Abhinava Vidyateertha is that the nAstika
 only partially accepts the teachings in the Vedas, not the whole. This
 is the crux of the problem. So a nAstika system can never be
 equivalent to an Astika system.

>And if you look at MahAyAna, the works are predominently epistemological in
>nature - which as we all know was the speciality of the NyAya school.
>But if you take Indian scholars, they're able to appreciate Bauddha
>philosophy better, because of their knowledge of brahmanical philosophy.
>And most of them accept that Bauddha philosophy doesn't teach the opposite
>of the Brahmanical philosophy - it is only the negative *aspect* of what
> the
>brahmanical schools taught.

 But consider this. The views of Indian scholars who have this opinion are
 insignificant if you consider the fact of how Buddhism was developed,
 practised, transmitted and is being followed today. These Indian
 scholars should not be given more weightage than practitioners of
 the living tradition for the reasons I mentioned above.

 It is not a question of Indian vs. nonIndian scholars. The principle would
 be the same while studying any school.


bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam

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