Antiquity of Advaita Vedanta (was Re: An Open Letter to All)

Sankaran Kartik Jayanarayanan kartik at ECE.UTEXAS.EDU
Thu Jun 8 17:25:16 CDT 2000

On Mon, 5 Jun 2000, nanda chandran wrote:

> Vidhya writes :
> >??? It is Nagarjuna himself who says that SUnyatA is SUnya.
> Only in the conceptual sense and not in the ontological sense. The sole
> reason why many people misunderstand NAgArjuna is that they do not
> distinguish between ontology and epistemology. Not only NAgArjuna, one can
> say the whole MahAyAna tradition almost exclusively concentrates on
> epistemology. They concentrate on the subject of the validity of the
> pramAnas - the means of knowing. An ontological reading on these texts
> naturally winds up in wholescale misinterpretation.
> >And equally well, to say that by being a Bauddha, Nagarjuna presumes an
> >absolute state is to indulge in speculation about the ontological >basis of
> >the Madhyamaka. Something that Nagarjuna avoids totally.
> The MulamAdhyamaka KArika is a purely epistemological treatise. Hence the
> conclusion that everything is shUnyam. If one bases NAgArjuna's teachings on
> this text alone, there's a chance that one can come to the conclusion that
> there's no ontological basis for the MAdhyamika.

Wittgenstein says pretty much the same thing you're trying to read into
Nagarjuna. W says in his book, Tractatus, "My propositions serve as
elucidations in the following way: anyone who understands me eventually
recognises them as nonsensical, when he has used them - as steps - to
climb up beyond them. He must, so to speak, throw away the ladder after he
has climbed up it...Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent."

So does W sound advaitic to you? Hardly. W is quite content to accept a
world which contains "multiple categories." He never disputes the idea
that the world contains diversity.

Therefore, EVEN IF Nagarjuna does not accept words as an expression of
Truth, he need not be an advaitin.

BTW, there are several books that  compare Wittgenstein with Nagarjuna.
Some passages from Nagarjuna's treatises seem to parallel W's, it's almost
as if they thought alike.



bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam

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