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

Vidyasankar Sundaresan vsundaresan at HOTMAIL.COM
Thu May 25 19:24:15 CDT 2000

nanda chandran <vpcnk at HOTMAIL.COM> wrote:

>To indulge in speculation about the ontological basis of the MAdhyamaka -
>like many modern interpreters of MAdhyamaka do - "shUnyatA of shUnyatA" etc
>- itself is something that NAgArjuna would have wished to avoid.

??? It is Nagarjuna himself who says that SUnyatA is SUnya.

And equally well, to say that by being a Bauddha, Nagarjuna presumes an
absolute state is to indulge in speculation about the ontological basis of
the Madhyamaka. Something that Nagarjuna avoids totally.

>This is the essential teaching of the MAdhyamika both logically consistent
>as well as well within the warnings of NAgArjuna. To distort this as
>"paramArtha itself is shunya or there's no ontological basis for the
>MAdhyamaka", will mean logical inconsistency, going against NAgArjuna's
>caveats and also make the life of the Buddha who taught a way out of

Logical inconsistency within the framework of the logic of Advaita. Think of
Nagarjuna's dialectic and Sriharsha's dialectic as formal axiomatic systems.
Both can easily be put in such terms. The presence or absence of an axiom
makes a huge difference to each. To ignore this is like assuming that the
acceptance or rejection of Euclid's fifth postulate makes no big difference
to non-Euclidean geometries, and that they are saying the same things as
Euclidean geometry, because ultimately, they are all geometries. To hang on
to the word "geometry" and to ignore the fundamental postulates behind them
results in misunderstanding both kinds of geometry.

>He has no thesis about the *nature* of reality. If he thought there was no
>reality, then how could he be a Bauddha - a follower of SAkhyamuni who
>forty years teaching the dharma?

How does this matter? You are ignoring the flip side of having no thesis
about the nature of reality, and that is the idea of pratItya-samutpAda, or
the codependent origination of all dharmas. The two go hand in hand.

>Insteach He would have been JayarAshi
>Bhatta's guru!

No, Jayarasi Bhatta does not wish to deny the validity of *all* pramANas.
Perception (pratyaksha) always remains valid for him. Not so for Nagarjuna.

>>>I'm quite aware that Nagarjuna uses the term prapancopaSama. But the
>>>question is, does Madhyamaka imply anything ontologically at all?
>>>you thrusting a Vedantic ontology upon him?
>Unless you want to condemn him for being absurd.

Not so. My argument is all about the basic axioms of his logic. Given his
axioms, Nagarjuna is highly rigorous. What the Vedanta accepts and Nagarjuna
doesn't is an axiom. That is what it boils down to. You want to read this
axiom as an unstated corollary into his system, which is what our argument
is all about.

>GaudapAdAchArya didn't think so. If he thought both schools taught
>realities why would he even try to reconcile Advaita with Buddhism? The

Does he? He is clearly well read in Nagarjuna's dialectic, but does he
really try to reconcile Buddhism with Advaita? Or does he propound Advaita
through a dialectic that had been used earlier by the Buddhist?

>>>No, I don't say that I believe "in" both of the realities. But I can
>>> >>respect a reality that I don't believe in, even if I believe that it
>>> >>is different from the one that I do believe in, and even if the
>>> >>actual difference between them is only a matter of my belief that
>>> >>they are different.
>How that can be is beyond me. I salute your aptitude!

Well, here is how it is. Do I respect the Christian reality of believing in
Christ as the only savior of all mankind? Yes, I respect their belief, and I
respect their right to their belief. Do I myself believe "in" Christ as the
only savior of all mankind? No, I don't. I don't believe that I am condemned
to hell if I don't believe in Christ. I believe the Christian reality is
different from mine, and it may be that this difference is only a matter of
my belief, and that in essence, some common ground is possible. I don't know
that yet, and I doubt if there is any common ground possible. In the
meantime, I respect their reality nonetheless, although it has no value for
my personal belief. Similarly with any other religious system too.

>>>If the wise express it in many ways, that hardly amounts to their
>>>the same thing. My statement about the modern dogma does not >>deny that
>>>Truth is one. The Truth can be one, but whether everybody >>sees it that
>>>way is a big question.
>With this you've totally confounded me! I thought your initial argument was
>that the realities (and not how they perceived it) of the two schools were
>different. If we're agreed in that the end reality is the same for both
>schools, I've no argument with you.

No, we are not, really. Every school talks of its end reality as salvation
or liberation. How they conceive of this end reality is not the same. At
least, I'm prepared not to equate the two specific cases we are talking of
here, till it is conclusively proved otherwise. And I don't think there ever
will be such conclusive proof. So, we can agree to disagree, without having
to argue about it.


bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam

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