[Advaita-l] Contradictions between Shankara and his disciples

S Jayanarayanan sjayana at yahoo.com
Thu Dec 25 23:41:06 CST 2003

I was just preparing this small write-up on the observations of swami
sachchidAnandendra sarasvatI (SSS) on the sub-commentaries on
Shankara's works, when there was a question asked on the very same
subject on this list. SSS is so logical and clear on his position that
his observations are beyond all doubt. 

The book "The Method of the Vedanta" by A.J.Alston, which is an English
translation of the Sanskrit "VedAnta prakriya pratibhiGYa" by SSS,
claims that there are several contradictions between advaita VedAnta
taught by Shankara and his disciples. Extracts follow from the first

In regard to shrI sureshvara AchArya, there can be no dispute that he
was a pupil of BhagavatpAda,...Nevertheless, there would always be the
possibility of his expressing his own views even where they
contradicted the commentary on which he was writing a VArttika...
the definition of a VArttika given by VyAsa in an untraced text in one
of the minor purANas, "The wise, who know what a VArttika is, bestow
that title on those works which open up reflection about what has been
said, left unsaid or wrongly said." And this possibility is clearly
actuated in certain verses of sureshvara's vArttikas in which he
refutes the commentary.

For example, we find in the BR^ihadaaraNyaka upanishhad (BU) commentary
an explanation of the following passage from the upanishad, namely,
"This human world is to be won through begetting a son and not through
any other act. The world of the ancestors is to be won through
ritualistic activity. And the world of the gods is to be won through
symbolic meditations" (BU. 1.5.16). The explanation given in shrI
shankara's commentary says, "This human world is to be won with the son
as the only means, ...not through ritualistic actibity or through
symbolic meditations. The world of the ancestors is to be won only
through ritualistic action..., not through a son or through symbolic
meditations. The world of the gods is to be won only through symbolic
meditations, not through a son or through ritualistic activity."

In his VArttika here, sureshvara maintains that the worlds of the
ancestors and the gods can be attained by other means, and that the
explanation in the commentary unwarrantably inserts the word 'only' and
is not correct. He writes: "...The word 'only' applies in the case of
the son alone, for we know from the Veda that the world of the
ancestors and the world of the gods can be attained by resort to more
than one means. This is the only correct explanation of the
upanishhadic text, and the other explanation (i.e. that given in shrI
Shankara's commentary) is faulty. Only this explanation is to be
accepted, and not the one that is seen to be faulty." (BVV 1.5.280-1).

Then there is the case of PadmapAda's panchapAdikA:

We find in Shankara's Brahma sUtra bhAshhya (BSB) the expressions "This
very superimposition, thus defined, the wise call 'Ignorance' (1.1.1,
introduction), and Name and Form (nAma-rUpa), imagined through
ignorance as if they were the true form of the Lord..."...
But in the PanchapAdikA we find it said that Ignorance 'is spoken of in
many different ways in the Vedas, smritis, Epics and PurANas, such as
Name and Form (nAma-rUpa)..."...
Here there is a clear contradiction between the commentary of the
BhagavatpAda and the PanchapAdikA. For, in the commentary, name and
form are said to be IMAGINED THROUGH Ignorance...But in the
PanchapAdikA they are said to BE Ignorance and mAyA [Emphases

There are more examples of contradictions between Shankara and his
disciples. SSS explains what can be done to resolve the contradictions:
"Where the commentary and the subsidiary explanation conflict, one must
resort to the verdict of the Veda and reasoning."



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