Article: A Vedanta Toolkit Part 1

Anand Hudli 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
>commentators. [...]

 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
 said really.

 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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