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

Sankaran Kartik Jayanarayanan kartik at ECE.UTEXAS.EDU
Mon May 22 18:52:37 CDT 2000

On Mon, 22 May 2000, Rajiv Malhotra wrote:

> This needs to be qualified. What is meant by an absolute? Does it mean a
> definable entity? If so, neither Madhyamika nor advaita can accept an
> ultimate that is linguistically definable. (Any definition is always is
> terms of other concepts. Hence, such an absolute would have to be similar to
> something else or be in defined in relation to something other than itself.)

"Absolute" is defined in the Webster's dictionary as:

4. Loosed from, or unconnected by, dependence on any other being;
self-existent; self-sufficing.

Note: In this sense God is called the Absolute by the Theist. The term is
also applied by the Pantheist to the universe, or the total of all
existence, as only capable of relations in its parts to each other and to
the whole, and as dependent for its existence and its phenomena on its
mutually depending forces and their laws.

5. Capable of being thought or conceived by itself alone; unconditioned;

Note: It is in dispute among philosophers whether
the term, in this sense, is not applied to a mere
logical fiction or abstraction, or whether the
absolute, as thus defined, can be known, as a
reality, by the human intellect.

Consult I've omitted from citing the other meanings
of the word that I thought weren't relevant to the discussion. But I think
the English word "absolute" can very well be used to "describe" Brahman,
though IT is of course defined only by "neti, neti."

> On the other hand, if absolute is undefinable, then Madhyamika certainly
> believes in it also.

Are you sure? Can you please provide a quote from Nagarjuna where he
affirms the existence of a Truth that is inexpressible by words? His
denial of the truthhood of a statement is acceptable IF he affirms an
ineffable Truth. In fact, this is the one and only reason Shankara finds
mAdhyamika incompatible with advaita and hence unacceptable.

> Otherwise, if there were no absolute, then what is that
> state upon release from samsara, since one is neither dead nor asleep?

According to Nagarjuna, saMsAra = nirvANa. He says in his kArikA, "There
is not the subtlest difference between saMsAra and nirvANa."

> Rajiv


bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam

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