ADMIN: Please stop discussions on Madhyamaka

nanda chandran vpcnk at HOTMAIL.COM
Wed Jun 28 16:34:06 CDT 2000

Jaladhar, I'm glad that you put a stop to this thread.

When I started this thread, I knew from past experience that I was
stirring up a hornet's nest. Yet, it was only in the interest of
Truth - with so many misconceptions about Advaita which abounds on
this list - that I ventured to put forth my views. Ofcourse, one
could very well ask, "what makes you so sure that you're right?".
It is a valid question and my only argument would be that all my
arguments would be based on solid reason and textual evidence.

Ofcourse, I do not know the Truth, for if I knew it I would not be
here debating and arguing on this list. Atbest, I can only say that
I know what is false - for what is false is invariably logically
inconsistent and the minimum requirement for the exposition of the
Truth would be logical consistency. But even this is only up to a
limit. What is beyond logic and intellect, I have no idea of.

A few people have said that I've asserted my views based on my
"spiritual" experiences. Please read my posts carefully - I've never
done so. I always argued based on reason and it is only as an aside,
since self enquiry and meditation are so vital a part of the process
and that which would enable better comprehension of vital philosophical
issues, that I've asked people to practice meditation etc. All my
experiments with meditation have at best given me a deeper psychological
awareness and a sense of one's own being, but this cannot in any way
be equated with spiritual experience. I would be the first person to
confirm that I've had no spiritual experiences so far nor have I
claimed any such. If I've given any such impression in my posts, it
was not my intention.

I'm well aware that I've little patience with people who've not done
their homework and argue pointlessly. It doesn't take long for me
to lose my temper and snap at them and it is usually me who's most
sorry for such discourtesy on my part. It really leaves a bad taste
in the mouth and is very disturbing for the mind. After every such
rebuke, I wanted to cease continuing my posts. But yet that I
should express what I know to clear up wrong views, is that which
sustained me. But now I know that I'm not the one who should teach.
I do not have the temperment for that.

Regarding Subramaniam's question as to what I want to finally prove :

Only that the truth is one and the wise express it in many ways. I
actually had a doubt that Advaita might infact differ from Buddhism
in one vital ultimate fact - that reality is something to be "known".
The MAdhyamaka school says that all knowledge has to cease before
reality takes over. But I was mistaken, for Advaita too says the same
thing - knowledge only removes ignorance. When ignorance is removed
reality shines forth. In short, whether Astika or nAstika, all
non-bhakti schools seem to be agreed on one thing - chitta vritti or
mental modifications is the ignorance and chitta vritti nirodha -
cessation of the mental modifications is what brings about liberation.
But I'm not sure whether this is really consistent with the Upanishads,
for there're so many instances in the Upanishads where it is taught
that reality is to be known - brahmavid brahmaiva bhavati. I leave it
for thinkers on this list to sort it out.

But I still stand by my assertion that knowledge of the MAdhyamaka
dialectic is invaluable in understanding Advaita theory - why the
world is anirvAchaniya. That is the knowledge - a higher dialectical
philosophical consciousness - which shows our ignorance and puts an
end to the endless questions of our ever curious mind. But that
which removes ignorance is to be obtained only by Atma VichAra.

Advaita VedAnta is definitely a philosphical advance over Buddhism.
Lots of VijnAnavAda misconceptions are corrected. But that doesn't
mean that Advaita VedAnta is totally devoid of Buddhist influence.
It is indebted to the MAdhyamaka for its dialectic and the
VijnAnavAda for its initial attempts towards bringing out the
implications of the shUnyavAda.

The extent of VedAntic influence upon Buddhism itself is not really
known. Ashvaghosa's ShradothpAda ShAstram reads like an Advaita manual
and he is said to have been a VedAnti. DT Suzuki in his translation of
the text cites many similar passages from the Gita itself. Ashvaghosa
as a VedAntin himself could have been the
turning point in Buddhism which steered it towards VedAnta. And when
the VijnAnavAda school initially surfaced, one of its earliest
MAdhyamika critics accuses of being too similar to the VedAnta. If
an absolutistic VedAnta was non-existent then, how could such an
accusation be made? Even the sphotavAdin Bhartrhari, who lived earlier
than GaudapAda confirms that mAyA was a VedAntic concept. So it
might be that there were Advaita VedAntins earlier but still they
could not logically reconcile Brahman with the phenomenal world.

Another strange thing in Indian philosophy is that the history of
VedAnta itself seems to be shrouded from mystery. Between BAdarAyana
and GaudapAda, there's no available text. What texts that we know
of in this period seems to be mainly from later VedAntic authors. Rival
schools don't seem to have been really aware of VedAntic doctrines.
For e.g, in the JainA work "Saddarshana Samuccaya" of Haribhadra Suri,
there's no mention of VedAnta at all.

One of the reasons for this might have been in that VedAnta represents
orthodox Vedic thought. Upanishads normally was considered "rahasya"
or secret doctrines, which was taught only to qualified aspirants and
probably predominently only inside Brahmanical circles (Shankara also
is very particular about the qualifications of the aspirant). Plus it
might also have been that since the school was heavily based on the
shruti, the VedAntins like the Buddha were more inclined towards a
practical way to liberation, than metaphysical speculation. So it is
quite possible that they were not the technical/theoretical philosphers.
They might have just believed in Advaita based on the shruti and
practiced it, without bothering about the logical consistency.

So when NAgArjuna comes out with his world denying dialectic the
VedAntins might have simply adopted it, since it fitted quite well with
their doctrine. And NAgArjuna himself might only have built on VedAntic
ideas to develop his dialectic (the philosophical gap between NAgArjuna
and his Bauddha predecessors - the HinayAnists - is too wide to support
the claim that NAgArjuna was building only on Bauddha thought. Without
external influence, the leap in thought - non-dual absolutism - is not
too convincing). GaudapAda endorsing NAgArjuna's dialectic itself might
signal the VedAntin's acceptance of the dialectic since it provided
logical base to his theory, which was only derived from the Upanishads.

Plus the fact that most of the Buddhist philosophers came from a
Brahmanical background, lends support to the Brahmanical influence
on Buddhism.

But again Advaita only means non-dualism - that man in his essence
is not different from reality itself. It is a spiritual experience
as taught in the Upanishads. And it is not really necessary to read
either the MAdhyamaka dialectic or Advaita VedAnta theoretical
philosphy to attain liberation. Else YAgnavalkya and UddhAlaka Aruni
would not have been jnAnis. What is essential is inward search which
brings true knowledge. Advaita VedAnta as a theoretical philosophy is
basically reconciliation of such experience with reason. But however
great might one's understanding of Advaita theory be, still it cannot
effect liberation. You still have to probe inward and know yourself -
for that is higher knowledge which the jnAnis posessed. Shankara
himself confirms this when says all the philosophies and the shruti
are only lower knowledge and knowledge of the Self - Atman JnAnam -
alone is the highest.

So when Shankara says that the Upanishadic Rishis taught Advaita,
he only means that they taught that truth was non-dual and can
be spiritually experienced. As I explained in my "Understanding
MAdhyamaka" posts, till NAgArjuna nobody was able to come out
with a logically consistent absolutistic vision. Even in him, it
is only implied. Advaita VedAnta just uses his dialectic to
produce a full fledged absolutism from the Upanishads.

Advaita only means non-dual spiritual experience which is very
clearly taught in some Upanishadic passages - YAgnavalkya/Maitreyi
dialogue, UddhAlaka/Shvetaketu dialogue etc. So Advaita VedAnta is
firmly rooted in the Upanishads in its main tenet that reality is
non-dual, but it is indebted to the MAdhyamaka for its dialectic
which provides philosophical support for its non-dual philosophy.

And the Vaishnava criticism of Advaita as prachanna bauddham,
is also only directed at this. They complain only about the concept
of MAyA in Advaita. Ofcourse, that itself is the linchpin of
Advaita philosophy - for without mAyA the world would be real.
If the world is real then where would Brahman be? Since Brahman
made the world out of himself, we could only have either Brahman or
the world - nirvAna or samsAra.  To have both Brahman and the world
would be like having darkness and light together - logically

Hence the dialectic which shows us the world is not what we think
it is. This is the driving logic behind mAyA and non-dual absolutism.

If this is understood, we'll have no confusion whether Advaita is
prachanna bauddham or not. And Shankara doesn't merely use the
dialectic to bring out the non-dual absolutism of the Upanishads.
There are some very subtle metaphysical speculations about the
implications of shUnyatA or anirvAchaniya as Advaita calls it. One
has to really understand both systems to appreciate the significance
of Shankara's contribution to Indian philosophy. At a higher level,
philosophical innovations and advances cannot be measured in leaps
and bounds, but only in extremely small measures - because at that
level there's not too much room to speculate and the thought
involved is very subtle.

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bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam

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>From ADVAITA-L at LISTS.ADVAITA-VEDANTA.ORG Thu Jun 29 00:22:57 2000
Message-Id: <THU.29.JUN.2000.002257.0000.ADVAITAL at LISTS.ADVAITAVEDANTA.ORG>
Date: Thu, 29 Jun 2000 00:22:57 +0000
Reply-To: List for advaita vedanta as taught by Shri Shankara
To: List for advaita vedanta as taught by Shri Shankara
From: Vidyasankar Sundaresan <vsundaresan at HOTMAIL.COM>
Subject: Liberation and citta vRtti nirodha

There is a lot of confusion about meditation, liberation, Advaita, Yoga and
their mutual relationships. This confusion extends to both academic
treatments of the philosophy and practice-wise for many people.

With respect to this subject, one should read Sankaracarya's commentary on
bRhadAraNyaka upanishad 1. 4. 7, and the related vArttika by Suresvaracarya.
I provide the Sanskrit text of the relevant portion, requesting translation
and comments by other list members who know Sanskrit well. The reason is
that I would myself like a fresh translation, to compare with how I have
understood the text, and this will benefit other members who do not know
Sanskrit very well. I have split the text into constituent words where

The text being explained in the bhAshya is AtmA ity eva upAsIta. The
comments would apply equally well, in the context of AtmA vA are Srotavyo
drashTavyo mantavyo nididhyAsitavyaH, or tajjalAn ity upAsIta.

pUrvapaksha (opponent's thesis) -

nirodhas tarhy arthAntaram iti cet. atha api syAc citta-vRtti-nirodhasya
veda-vAkya-janita-Atma-vijnAnAd arthAntaratvAt. tantrAntareshu ca
kartavyatA avagatatvAd vidheyam iti cet.

Sankaracarya's response -

na. moksha-sAdhanatvena anavagamAt. na hi vedAnteshu brahma-Atma-vijnAnAd
anyat parama-purushArtha-sAdhanatvena avagamyate. abhyupagamya idam uktam.
na tu brahma-vijnAna-vyatirekeNa anyan moksha-sAdhanam avagamyate.

A few lines later,

ananya-sAdhanatvAc ca nirodhasya. na hy Atma-vijnAna-tat-smRti-saMtAna-
vyatirekeNa citta-vRtti-nirodhasya sAdhanam asti.

Further down in the same passage in the bhAshya, as part of Sankaracarya's

samyag-jnAna-prAptAv-apy avaSyaM-bhAvinI-pravRttir vAN^g-manaH-kAyAnAm.
  .........   tasmAt tyAga-vairAgyAdi-sAdhana-bala-avalambena
Atma-vijnAna-smRti-saMtatir niyantavyA bhavati.

Best wishes,

ps. To read about a perfect, recent example of an embodiment of the above
Advaita position, check the following -

Yoga, enlightenment, and perfection of Abhinava Vidyatheertha Mahaswamigal,
[ed] by R.M. Umesh. 1st ed. Chennai: Sri Vidyatheertha Foundation, 1999.

bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam

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