Antiquity of Advaita Vedanta (was Re: An Open Letter to All)

Anand Hudli anandhudli at HOTMAIL.COM
Thu May 18 12:00:22 CDT 2000

On Thu, 18 May 2000 07:02:36 PDT, nanda chandran <vpcnk at HOTMAIL.COM> wrote:

>ParamArtha is the truth. Even if one really understands the logic of the
>MAdhyamaka ShAstram or Aryadeva's Catuh ShAtaka, we can understand why the
>world is shUnyam as NAgArjuna meant it. So it is not necessary to be
>ParamArtha to understand shUnyam.
>shUnyam. But other than saying there's a higher level of truth and it is
>quiesence of plurality, NAgArjuna doesn't say anything beyond that.
>If you say the reality of both schools are different, given the nature of
>the schools realities, then believing in one's reality automatically
>excludes the other's reality. Being different, they would be mutually
>exclusive and  to believe in one of them is to deny the other.
>>further accentuated with the MAdhyamika's exclusive concentration on >the
>>unintelligibility (shunya) of the phenomenal world. NirvAna is >used by
>>NAgArjuna only as the *conception of reality* and that like >other
>>conceptions are shunya. ParamArtha is what he refers to as >reality and
>>it's the thing in itself beyond human conception.

>>>The correct Buddhist answer to this would be, "To say that paramArtha
>>>exists, as a thing in itself, beyond human conception, is itself a
>This is what is meant by logical quibbling. So to be logically perfect the
>MAdhyamika prefers silence. But by implication and by being a Bauddha he
>endorses the reality.

>Which all the MAdhyamikas have profusely denied being. So by implication,
>they agree with the VedAntin. If you read the MAdhyamaka ShAstram, all of
>NAgArjuna's dialectic is only to prove that nothing is intelligible. But
>that doesn't mean that it isn't. But again he will not say it is, because
>existance itself is a human conception. It's just taking logic to absurd
>levels. But by being a bauddha, by accepting a higher level of reality and
>to even make his logic coherent, he implicitly accepts a higher reality
>(which ofcourse cannot be called existence because only this world -
>- exists! Oh! NAgArjuna is maddening!).

 There is a fundamental difference between the advaita and Bauddha
 approaches here. Whenever an advaitin negates something, such as the
 world, he/she *has* to specify a substratum with respect to which the
 negation takes place. The only exception to this is when one is negated
 an obviously fictitious thing, a chimera, such as a hare's horns. When
 you say "there is no pot", the advaitin will ask "In what substratum do
 you negate the pot?" The answer could be "on the ground", "the table", etc.
 So it is essential to understand that the advaitin's view of negation
 *requires* that a substratum, a basis, be specified whenever something
 is negated, except of course in the trivial case when one is talking
 about a chimera.

 Remember what we read in the advaita siddhi:

 pratipannopAdhau traikAlikanishhedhapratiyogitvaM vA mithyAtvam.h |

 Alternatively, mithyAtva (unreality) of something is that which is the
 counter-positive or absential adjunct (pratiyogin) of an absolute negation
 (a negation for all three periods of time, past, present, and future) in
 the very substratum where it (the thing) is cognized.

 Now, the moment the Bauddha says that the world is unreal, we have to
 ask the question "In what substratum do you negate the world?" Failure
 to directly specify an absolutely real substratum where the world is
 negated will lead to the conclusion that the world is a chimera, a trivial,
 fictitious thing, such as a man's horns. It does not matter if the Bauddha
 remains silent or he says that the substratum is beyond conception, etc.
 As long as he does NOT specifically say the substratum is absolutely real,
 there will be a conclusion that says that the world is a chimera. For,
 if the substratum is not specifically stated as being unsublatable, we
 can question the reality of the substratum itself "What is the substratum
 of the (first) substratum, if there is one?", and so on. Ultimately, the
 Baudhha will be in the same situation. His view will be taken to mean
 that world is a chimera, nothing more.

 On the contrary, the advaita view holds that the world is NOT a chimera.
 The world is negated in the substratum, Brahman which is the absolute
 reality. In other words, the world is not imagined without a basis;
 there has to be a real basis to the unreal world and it is the
 absolutely real Brahman.

 Note also that this view is not one invented by later advaitins due to the
 influence of nyAya. It has a direct basis in the adhyAropa-apavAda
 principle of Shankara himself. Whenever something is spoken of as a
 superimposition (adhyAropa), it is equally important to specify the thing
 on which the superimposition happens. Without such a basis, the
 superimposition can never occur! A chimera, which needs no basis, cannot
 describe the ontological status of the world. The whole of Shankara's
 advaita requires that a basis for the superimposition be specified.

 Sometimes, an attempt is made to show that Shankara's teachings are somehow
 vastly different from what later advaitins said. This belittles the advaita
 tradition. We can never claim to understand Shankara's teachings more
 than other eminent advaitins of his school. We have to give credit to them
 for elaborating on what Shankara taught.


bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam

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