Article: A Vedanta Toolkit Part 1
anandhudli at HOTMAIL.COM
Tue Sep 15 15:41:24 CDT 1998
I must congratulate you for putting together a nice introduction
to Shankara's techniques. The different views of post Shankaran
authors bothered me too for a while -- until I found a pretty
good reconciliation in MadhusUdana SarasvatI's siddhanta-bindu.
>Post Shankara commentators have often ignored this basic tenet in
>interpreting Shankara, and indulge in dialectics that stretch
>Shankara's true interpretation.
>It is important here to be clear what Shankara does NOT say avidya is,
>but has been presumed to say by later commentators:
>- Shankara never equates avidya and mAyA, unlike later
It is true that post Shankaran commentators introduced different
views (vAdas) such as the avachchhedaka vAda, the pratibimba vAda,
and the AbhAsavAda. But there is something that can be said in
their defense and to show that they did not distort what Shankara
Perhaps one of the best defenses of advaita against all kinds of
attacks from opponents who came after Shankara and Sureshvara,
including the dvaitins, has been laid out by MadhusUdana SarasvatI.
In his monumental advaita-siddhi he defends successfully advaita
against the dvaitins. In a less known and short work called the
siddhAnta-bindu, a commentary on the dasha-shlokI of Shankara, he
has addressed your concerns about the divergence of views within
advaita very well, in my opinion.
Briefly, the argument MadhusUdana makes against the objection that
all these different views, such as the avachchhedaka vAda of
VAchaspati Mishra, etc., cannot all be valid, is this. The main
teaching of advaita is "advitIya-Atma-tattvam.h", the reality of
the Self, without a second with which all advaitins agree,
regardless of the vAda they subscribe to. The scripture (shAstra)
talks of God (Ishvara), the soul (jIva), etc. because they are
useful in understanding the reality (tattva-jnAna-upayogitvAt.h).
Even if such concepts are merely established in illusion (like
proving something in a dream), the utility of all this lies in
aiding the main result as per the nyAya of "phalavatsAnnidhAvaphalaM
tadaN^gam.h", ie. in the proximity of the fruitful the unfruitful
should be considered to be auxiliary (or aiding the fruitful).
Finally, MadhusUdana gets the seal of approval from the vArtikakAra,
Sureshvara himself who says:
yayA yayA bhavetpuMso vyupattiH pratyagAtmani |
sA saiva prakriyA GYeyA sAdhvI sA chAnavasthitA ||
Whatever method (based on VedAnta) a person (uses to) attain the
Inner Self, is to be known as a virtuous method, but it is not
In the same breath, MadhusUdana remarks "shrutitAtparyavishhayI-
bhUtArthaviruddhaM cha heyamiti shatasha udghoshhitamasmAbhiH|
tasmAnna kiJNchidetat.h" - " We have proclaimed hundreds of times
that what is opposed to the purport of the summary of the shruti
is to be rejected. Therefore, this (divergence of views among
advaitins in interpreting the shruti) is nothing (significant)."
Thereby he implies that all these different views are in accordance
with the conclusions of the shruti.
So the prakriyA's of later advaitins, such as those of the vivaraNa
and bhAmati schools, are as valid as Shankara's prakriyA since they
have the same result, ie. the Reality of the Nondual Self.
As a rough analogy to modern science, the same result may be
discovered by different scientists working in different labs. This
does not mean a less known scientist is wrong just because he/she
used a different method than the famous one who discovered the same
All this is not intended, of course, to deny the fact that Shankara
was the greatest teacher of advaita. But there were some fine
teachers among later advaitins too. A reading of the more popular
works such as the PanchadashI, the dR^igdR^ishyaviveka (attributed
to VidyAraNya, certainly cannot be Shankara's), VedAntasAra of
SadAnanda, etc., will show this.
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