[Advaita-l] Advaita and Bauddha Dharma

vinayaka ns brahmavadin at gmail.com
Thu Feb 28 05:54:10 CST 2013

On Wed, Feb 27, 2013 at 11:30 PM, Daniel <dnllce at yahoo.fr> wrote:

> Namaste
> Could (or would) anybody answer Venkatesh Murthy’question regarding
> Advaita and Bauddha Dharma ?


Here are some related excerpts from the book "Bhagavan Buddha and our
Heritage" published by Advaita Ashrama. Hope it is of relevance to your

"Coming close upon the age of the Upanishads, wherein the foundations
of the subsequent developments of culture and religion in India had
been laid, Buddha stands closest to the spirit of the Upanishads. In
fact, it is not possible to appreciate the life and teachings of
Buddha adequately without understanding the spirit of the upanishads.
There are at least a few western scholars who appreciate this fact. A
large number of western scholars who have written books on Buddha
have been unduly harsh on the prevailing Vedic religion, often
confusing their estimates of it with post Buddhistic developments. It
looks as if they sought the growth of the plant of the Buddha
movement at the cost of the soil in which it was raised and reared,
to trace its life development outside that soil and climate. But
there have been , as I said, a few western scholars who have realised
that Buddha could not be understood except in the context of the
spiritual soil and philosophical climate provided by the sages of the

One such author whom i would like to quote, one who has made a
sympathetic study of Buddha, is Edmund Holmes. In his book, The Creed
of Buddha. The understanding the Upanishads is absolutely
essential, for it is against that Himalayan thought background that
we can realise the significance of the new advances that Buddha made
in the thought and practice of that great philosophy. Writes Edmund
Holmes at the commencement of his fifth chapter entitled 'A
Misreading of Buddha' page no 98


' Those who have followed me thus far will, I think, admit that
Buddha's scheme of life coincides, at all its vital points, with the
scheme that I worked out by drawing practical deductions from the
master ideas of that deeply spiritual philosophy which found its
highest expression in the upanishads'

Again page no 102-103..

'The cumulative evidence afforded by these facts, added to the
internal evidence which has already been set forth in detail, seems
to point with irresistible force to one conclusion, namely, that
Buddha accepted the idealistic teaching of the upanisads-accepted it
at its highest level and in its purest form and took upon himself as
his life's mission to fill the obvious gap in it. In other words, to
make the spiritual ideas, which had hitherto been the exclusive
possession of mankind. If this conclusion is correct, we shall see in
Buddhism, not a revolt against the "Brahminic" philosophy as such,
but an ethical interpretation of the leading ideas of that
a following out of those ideas, not into the word-built systems of
(so called) thought which the metaphysicians of the day were
constructing with fatal facility, but into their practical
consequences in the inner life of man.'

(End of Quote)

There are few points in the teachings of Buddha which have always been
points of controversy, wherein great interpreters have differed from
one another. The most important of these are two: first, the well-
known anatta doctrine, the teaching that there is no permant soul;
this teaching is so pervasive of Buddhism that we can taken it as
part and parcel of the original Buddhism. In the second discourse
delivered by Buddha at the very beginning of his public ministration
at sarnath, entitled the anattalakkhana sutta, we have an exposition
of this anatta doctrine; so that it is necessary for us to understand
what Buddha meant by this anatta or Anatma doctrine, which apparently
represents a fundamental point of departure from the great teachings
of the Upanishads on the subject of the true nature of individuality.
The second is with regard to the nature of the ultimate reality. When
man attains nirvana, what does he realise and what happens to him?
Does he attain something positive or something negative? On this
subject the language of the Upanishads is clear, in spite of all the
prefaces with which they have expounded it, stating that the ultimate
truth is that from which speech and thought recoil, that it
transcends all specification. In spite of this kind of reservation,
the upanishads leave us in no doubt that the ultimate truth is 'yes'
and not 'no'. It is a positive something and not a negative nothing;
the upanisads speak of it as brahman, the one without a second, the
self of all, beyond sense and thought, the Impersonal, the
Transcendent as well as the immanent. Even though it transcends
specifications by speech and thought, yet it is a positive reality.
The katha Upanishad Says

Naiva vaca na manasa praptum sakyo na caksusa
Astiti bruvatonyatra katham tad upalabhyate

The self cannot be reached through the organs of speech or thought or
sight. How can it be realised except through one who says "It is"

Asti ityeva upalabhavyah

It must be comprehended as "is"( and not as "is not").

The last category of thought can only be a position and not a
negation according to the upanishadic thought. On this basis when we
proceed, we do not see in the teachings of Budddha any clear reference
to the reality of a changeless being behind the fluctuations of
becoming. As in the case of the soul, it is something composite,
impermanent, and ultimately substantial, so in the case of the world,
it is also impermanent and insubstantial; but with regard to the
ultimate reality realised in nirvana, Buddha did not say that it also
is impermanent and insubstantial. He did not say anything about it at
all. He was silent about it, as he was also silent about the nature
of the individual in the state of nirvana, and evaded giving direct
answers to questions relating to them. That is a point which we
shall have to discuss, the meaning of this silence of his on the
subject of the ultimate reality in man and in the universe, and to
determine his position in the great philosophical tradition of the

The author of the book, Swami Ranganathananda met at least two buddhists
who had no problems with the advaita-vedanta. One is D.T. Suzuki
a popular preacher of Zen buddhism, who opined that Buddism
should be seen in the light of vedanta to get its real understanding.
Another was a simhalese buddhist monk whose had nothing against the brahman
of the upanishads.

However, it should be noted that all may subscribe to this view.

Best Wishes,


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