Jaldhar H. Vyas
jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Thu Nov 13 23:38:05 CST 1997
On Thu, 13 Nov 1997, Allan Curry wrote:
> Mahatma Gandhi tells us all religions have the same root
> and advaita tells us that root has never been separate
> from our own self, nor could it ever become separate.
> Is this a fair appraisal?
No. At least not the second part. Advaita Vedanta bases itself on the
Vedas and the Vedas only. Let's look at the facts.
Kerala where Shankaracharya was born was the most cosmopolitan part of
India at that time. (If we accept the dates 788-820) Trade with the West
had gone on for centuries. (Roman coins have been discovered there.)
There is evidence of trade with China too. During that time there were
flourishing Jewish and Christian communities. There were also Muslims
though they may not have had settled communities at that time. Is there
any mention of this in any of Shankaracharya's works? Not a single
letter. True he is considered the founder of the panchayat puja in which
the five major Hindu Gods are worshipped together which I suppose is a
sign of ecumenism but all the traditional biographies also show him as
being opposed to other "Hindu" philosophies. We have already discussed on
this list how he was an implacable foe of Buddhism and other heretical
schools. In his philosophical works he attempts to refute astika schools
The next period of Indian history where there was a mingling of religions
was in the Mughal empire particularly under Akhbar. there is a list of 12
eminent Hindu scholars of Akhbars court. Only two of them are
recognizable as Advaitins. One of them was the great Swami Madhusudan
Saraswati. But once again you would search in vain in his writings to
find any evidence that such a thing as Islam existed. Akhbars son Dara
Shikoh was responsible for translating some of the Upanishads into Persian
which was probably done by Advaitins but any incipient efforts in that
quarter were crushed by the time of the fanatic Mughal Aurangzeb.
There were many syncretistic Hindu movements since then but almost none of
them owed anything to Vedanta.
It is only when you get to the 19th century that there is any attempt to
link Advaita with any sort of multiculturalism. This was done by marginal
figures and is based more on wishful thinking than anything else.
Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>
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