[Advaita-l] Karl H. Potter - Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies - Vol III: Advaita Vedanta upto Samkara and his pupils

Siva Senani Nori sivasenani at yahoo.com
Mon Feb 7 20:13:25 CST 2011

I don't know if this is a bit silly after all these years, but then I thought I 
saw a new framework, or a fresh schematic, in which some of the things that were 
discussed on this forum have been presented - including the merits or otherwise 
of asatkAryavAda, satkAryavAda and ajAtivAda; sannyAsa; jñAnakarmasamuccaya; 
jñAnakANDa vs. karmakANDa; jIvanmukti vs. videhamukti, abhihitAnvayavAda and 
anvitAbhidAnavAda etc. To be sure, it is only that I was reading afresh a 
birds-eye-view-account (as opposed to a particular text) after a considerable 
time and the newness is more about me since both the topics and the book have 
been around for a while; but since we are all old friends here, I thought there 
is no harm if I share some of what I read. 

The book mentioned in the subject line is published by MLBD in 1981. Potter's 
general scheme is to survey the particular branch of philosophy and then given 
abridged translations of the most works. What first attracted me to this series 
was a series of works on NyAya given in pages 9 - 12 of Volume II (Tradition of 
Nyaya Vaiseshika upto Gangesa) and a hope that similar list on Advaita would be 
given (it is not, but that is not a big issue). The distinct advantage that I 
saw was that concise summaries of most of those works are given.

I will share a series of emails on the more interesting aspects. Here are 
excertps from page 7 and 8 (Chapter 1: Historical Resume). The context is that 
the theoretical tenets of Advaita Vedanta are set out in 12 points and then the 
author tackles some 'practical' propositions.

"13. Since all distinctions are the product of ignorance, any positive account 
of a path to liberation, involving distinctions, must be ultimately false.
14. However, some false views are less misleading than others. By criticizing 
worse views one arrives by stages at better ones.
15. For example, the view that effects are different from their causes 
(asatkAryavAda) is worse than the view that the effect is essentially identical 
with its cause (satkAryavAda); within the latter, the view that the cause 
transforms itself into its effect (pariNAmavAda) is worse than the view that it 
manifests its appearance as effect without itself changing in so doing 
(vivartavAda); still, all views that take causation seriously are inferior to 
nonorigination (ajAtivAda), since causal relations, as any relations, involve 
differences and are thus tinged with ignorance.
16. Or, for example, the view that one needs a distinct judgment to verify or 
justify true knowledge (paratahprAmANyavAda) is worse than the view that true 
knowledge justifies itself (svatahprAmANya); however, both these views are 
ultimately inferior to the view that truth is not to be found in judgments, that 
therefore one cannot attain ultimate understanding of truth through the 
pramANas, or 'instrument of knowledge.'
17. Or, again, atheism and agnosticism are worse views than theism; within 
theism, again, monotheism is preferable to polytheism; but ultimately preferable 
to all theisms is monism.
18. Or, again, the skeptical of materialist view (cArvAka or lokAyata) is 
inferior to those view which accept the authority of scripture; among the 
latter, those views (Buddhism, Jainism etc.) which accept as authority 
scriptures other than Vedas as authoritative; among the latter, the view that 
holds only the injunctive sections (karmakANDa)  of scripture are authoritative 
(or that scripture is exhausted in injunctions) is inferior to that which holds 
that both the injunctive and declarative (jñAnakANDa) sections are 
authoritative; within this last, those who think that both sections speak of 
liberation - that both actions enjoined and knowledge conveyed in scripture are 
directly relevant to gaining liberation - hold an inferior view compared to 
those who believe that the two sections speak to different ends - injunctions 
leading one to heaven, declarations to liberation, Ultimately, however, 
scripture can provide no positive key to liberation, because the key lies in 
removing ignorance, a negative step; so the highest view of all is that of 
apavAda, that reality is "not this, not this" (neti, neti).

The 'dialectical' aspects of these last four examples of stages along the way 
toward understanding explain why so many apparent contradictions - paradoxes, if 
you will - are apparently condoned and indeed frequently celebrated in 

More, later.



More information about the Advaita-l mailing list