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

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Fri May 19 09:07:01 CDT 2000

On Thu, 18 May 2000, Rajiv Malhotra wrote:

> Comment on Sri Ganesan's remark:
> It could also be that each spiritual leader on either side based his claims
> on ORIGINAL direct experience. Hence, the original experience itself was not
> appropriated by anyone.

Well Shankaracharya wants to position himself not as the promulgator of
new and original ideas but the rescuer of eternal truths which had for
various reasons become obscured.  I don't know if Buddha felt the same way
but later Buddhhist cosmology makes Shakyamuni just one historical
instance of an eternal and ahistorical line of Buddhas.  Originality is
not something that is prized in pre-modern cultures.   In fact many times
you see authors bend over backwards to show how unoriginal they are.

> The experience itself is beyond description, and the description of one's
> direct experience is CONSTRUCTED after the experience itself. So what got
> appropriated (by whosoever) was the framework in which to describe.

What are the Vedas if not the recorded experiences of the Rshis?  The
Brahmasutras and other interpretative works fit your definition of
framework but the Buddhists did not just reject (or ignore) that but the
Vedic experience itself.

> Ramana Maharshi does not use any classical textual framework to describe his
> direct experience; he has his own framework to describe. That does not make
> it a different experience.

Actually members of this list have mentioned sayings of his which show
considerable knowledge of classical Advaita Vedanta.  I haven't read him
myself so I can't comment on the veracity of that.

> Nisargadatta Maharaj has extremely simple ways to describe, devoid of any
> classical text references whatsoever.

1. Why is a textual framework any less of a direct experience than
anything else?

2. One should not confuse any old vague mystical notions with Advaita
Vedanta.  In fact mysticism need not imply non-dualism at all.

> So the fight could be over the framework for description: vedic verses
> non-vedic. This has socio-political consequences of control, and does not
> reflect differences of the experiences.

Such a theory might have some merit if it could be shown that the
socio-politifical effects of Buddhism were any different from that of
Hinduism but there is little evidence of that.  Far from being the
proto-socialists of modern Indian mythology, they were probably more
elitist than anyone else.  Caste was not an issue for them because lay
life itself was irrelevant albeit accepted grudgingly as a necessary evil
to support the sangha.  (Later Buddhist movements gave more scope to
laymen but this was after the Indian period.)  Concentrated in large
viharas under royal patronage, they could not survive the Muslim
invasions.  Hindu movements were also affected but were able to rebound
due to their base of popular support.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at>

bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam

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