ADVAITA-L Digest - 28 Jul 2001 to 29 Jul 2001 (#2001-16)

nanda chandran vpcnk at HOTMAIL.COM
Mon Jul 30 10:16:47 CDT 2001

>1. Those who assert the atman exists. This refers to schools such as
>Samkhya/Yoga and Nyaya/Vaisheshika who believe in souls *as seperate
>entities*. This is obviously dualistic and unacceptable to >Advaita
>Vedanta. If the souls are eternally seperate how did they >ever get > into
>bondage? How will they ever get out?

>    2. Those who assert the atman does not exist. This refers to >those
>Buddhists who believe that consciousness is only momentary and >does
>exists  only for a moment. A succession of such moments >creates >the
>illusion of a soul just as a succession of still frames >in a >movie
>projector causes the illusion of a moving picture. The >Advaitins argue
>that if consciousness is really so momentary and >unconnected, , why is the
>world so remarkably consistent? One minute >the sky should be green, the
>next minute elephants should fly through >it etc.

But apart from these Buddhists there're other Buddhists too. Shankara
himself notes that there're Buddhists of three mutually contradictory
doctrines. If this is one, what's the other two?

>3. Those who assert it exists and doesn't exist. This refers to the views
>of the Digambars ("naked ones" i.e. Jains) that there is no >such thing as
>truth and all views are equally relative and valid. If >that is  true, why
>be a Jain and practice ahimsa etc? Not being a >Jain and practicing himsa
>is equally valid.

Somewhat true. The Jainas don't say that there's no such thing as the truth
- but that all expressions are relative - syaadvaada : the doctrine of
relativity. They deny absolutism and stick rigidly to relativity. The
problem here is you cannot have relativity without an absolute.

    4. Those who assert is doesn't exist, it doesn't exist. These are
    Buddhists  but unlike 2,

Wrong. This view referred initially to Sanjaya the sceptic who argued with
the Buddha. This is also traditionally referred to as the Chaaravaaka

If "neither self nor non-self" was a Buddhist position then how would they
ever accomodate nirvaana/paramaartha - the end of suffering, calm and bliss?
The middle way - the maadhyama pratipad - is not so easy to

>    they say such a thing as atman never existed and never will. The
>ultimate reality is void or zero (shunya) and can never be known.

Er, whose view is this? Buddha's? Nagarjuna's? I think not.

"Those Kaashyapa who misapprehend shunyata as a negative fact, I consider
them the forlorn, the irrevocably lost ... better it is to entertain the
substance view of the magnitude of mount Sumeru than the shunyataa view of
the nihilist. Why is it so? Of all theories, Kaashyapa, shunyata is the
antidote. Him I call incurable who mistakes shunyata itself as a theory. It
is as if a drug administered to cure a patient were to remove all his
disorders but were itself to foul the stomach by remaining therein. Would
you, Kaashyapa, consider the patient cured? Likewise Kaashyapa, shunyataa is
the antidote for all dogmatic views; but him I declare incurable who
misapprehends shunyataa itself as a theory"

- the Buddha in Kaashyapa Parivarta, Ratnakoota Sutra.

A negative teaching doesn't mean there's there's no real. Try to  understand
what Nagarjuna means by shunya :

"tan mrshaa moshadharma yad yadi kim tatra mushyate
etat tooktam bhagavataa shoonyataa paridiipakam".

So what's reality?

"aparapratyayam shaantam prapancair aprapancitam
nirvikalpam anaanaartham etat tattvasya lakshanam"
- Madhyamika Kaarikaa Ch. 18, verse 9.

Does the above verse in anyway indicate that Naagaarjuna was a nihilist or
that he taught neither Self nor non-Self.

As I said first study and understand what is and isn't Buddhist. Yes,
Advaita has something to teach over and beyond Buddhism - that's what
Gaudapaada means when he says : "this wasn't taught by the Buddha". (note
that he didn't say that the Buddha didn't know it; but merely says that the
Buddha didn't teach it - also why of all the numerous references to the
Buddha which is interpreted as salutations to Lord Narayana, why one
negative sentence alone should be interpreted as directed towards the
compassionate one is beyond me!). But for that we needn't misinterpret
Buddhism for what it isn't. Rather unless you've the openess of mind to
understand what Buddhism is, you're not going to understand what Gaudapaada
meant by "naitad buddhena baashitam".

BTW, the fourfold negation of Gaudapaada - neither self. nor non-self, nor
both, nor neither - is the classic Maadhyamika chatushkoti - historically
always acknowledged in Indian philosophical circles as their stance on

"That things are unchanging (nitya), this Kaashyapa, is one end; that they
are changing is another; that reality is substance (Atmeti) is one end; that
it's only modal (nairaatmayam iti) is another end; the middle between these
two extremes of the Atman and the nairaatmaya is the intangible, the
incomparable, non appearing, not comprehensible, without any position; that
verily is the Middle Path - the vision of the Real in its true form."

- the Buddha in Kaashyapa Parivartha, Rathnakoota Sutra

So the classic Bauddha stance is not "neither Self nor non-Self", but that
all views are false and only - silence/maunam - is the best expression of
the truth (the relativity of the Jainaas and Maadhyamikas should be clearly
distinguished here - for the Jainas all views are relatively true; so they
try to make an absolute out of relativity itself and hence the fundamental
contradiction in their doctrine - but for the Madhyamikas no view has any
truth to it and is only a hindrace in the effort towards nirvaana). For as
Buddha tells the wandering ascetic Vacchagotta (brahmana of the vatsa
gotram) when asked by the latter as to which view he supports - whether self
or no-self, absolutism or nihilism, permanence or impermenance etc : "The
Buddha has no views. For all views are a jungle, a hindrance ... and don't
lead to peace, calm and nirvaana". That's the reason Nagarjuna says at the
end of his Maadhyamika Kaarikaas that the Buddha never taught any dharma at
anytime at all! The teachings are only relative and not absolute.

In reference to a previous post on "unity of all", when Brahman is the
changeless eternal and "when you're all there is, to whom would you ...",
how can brahman say "aham brahmaasmi"? Does brahman have a mind to think?
Does brahman have a mouth? Does it have a language to voice such a thought?
All of which will mean duality.

All philosophy is only apara vidhya - lower knowledge. Philosophy atbest is
an attempt to express the inexpressible. Thoughts and words - however subtle
- is not reality - the thing in itself. Wheter Vedaanta or Buddhist
philosophy, it is ultimately only lower knowledge and is not the truth
itself. The validity of such teachings is atbest to give the most direct
route to the truth. So the difference between one philosophy and another is
atbest only in the levels of ignorance - who's the least ignorant - for he's
the closest to the truth. For those who'd make philosophy itself reality,
remember the warning in Isha Upanishad : those who love knowledge for itself
will go to worlds of even more blinding darkness than those who reject

"Aham Brahmaasmi" is a psychological expression of a realized person through
the instrument of the mind and body should not be confused with the
metaphysical stance of Advaita. Such an interpretation will only lead to the
ego imagining "all in itself and itself in all".

It can be pretty useful to develop an understanding of the distinction
between four major categories in philosophy : 1. metaphysics, 2. psychology,
3. epistemology and 4. ontology. Without a clear understanding of each
category and interpreting the teachings from related perspectives, there'll
only be misinterpretation galore.

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