Dasa Avatars

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Wed Apr 30 22:53:57 CDT 2003

On Fri, 25 Apr 2003, B. Shankar wrote:

> I understand of course that there is a long-standing practice including
> Buddha as an Avatar and I can appreciate that there may have been pragmatic
> historical reasons for the development of such a tradition. However, and
> with all respect to those who propound and adhere to such a view, I cannot
> personally understand its logic.

Perhaps it is not based on logic :-)

> Nastika philosophies were rejected by as
> heretical from the outset and the logic of continuing to consecrate Buddha
> as an Avatar is (for me) highly dubious. He, after all, rejects the primacy
> of the Vedas and denies their Revelatory status or intent and rejects the
> notion of Atma. Though I can understand that the Madhyamika, under specific
> interpretations, leads to a measure of intellectual convergence with
> Advaita, I fail to see how even such syncretism warrants Buddha’s elevation
> to an Avatar.

Well the Puranic story is that He was out to confuse the Daityas and
the heretical teachings only 'accidently' leaked out to Humanity.  Of
course this raises as many questions as it answers.

I think the basic problem is that people assume that philosophy flows
'top-down' when in fact ideas bubble up from popular culture and only then
are systemized by philosophers.  They continue to exist at multiple
levels.  In this way it is not inconsistent to say Shakyamuni is highly
venerable yet in many cases quite wrong!

For a contemporary example look at how most people treat sannyasis.  If it
is just a question of saying 'jaya-jaya' and draping garlands on them does
it matter if they wear a tripundra or urdhvapundra or have one danda or
three or none?  But if one were chosing a Guru one would be more careful.

This is the tack taken with ostensibly 'Hindu' heretics too.  In the
Brahmasutras one of the questions is shouldn't the 'Kapilasmrti'
(Samkhya/Yoga) be treated as authoritative as they are also of hoary
antiquity and the product of a highly respected Rshi.  Yet the siddhanta
according to Shankaracharya is that they should not because however
respectable their origins, they are contrary to the teachings of the Vedas
(i.e. Advaita Vedanta.)

> The problem is compounded by the fact that, in my opinion, even a
> perfunctory exegesis of the Puranas reveals that the Sri Balarama tradition
> as an Avatar is also exposed to a degree of logical disquiet. There are
> many specific points for concern but I raise three for illustration:
> Firstly, what is the rationale for having two concurrent Avatars? This does
> not seem logical.

If you look at the list I posted from the Bhagavata (and that isn't an
exhaustive list) actually multiple concurrent avatars are common.  Is it
logical?  Are four arms logical?  Are 1000 heads logical?  why not two
bodies?  (or four in the case of Sanatkumars?)

> Secondly, to my view of thinking, it obviates some natural dichotomies
> in the Puranas and the Mahabharata in particular– Bhagavan Narayana –
> Sage Narada - Sri Rama- Lakshman  Bhagavan
> Krishna-Arjuna. That is to say it does not seem consistent.

Why does it need to be consistent?

> Thirdly, there are obvious difficulties in the Mahabharata with such a
> view – Sri Balarama was particularly close to his pupil Duryodhana,
> rejected the war and took no part in it. If He had taken up arms, there was
> every prospect that He would have fought for Duryodhana and it required
> Bhagavan Krishna’s ingenuity to ensure His elder brother’s absence during
> the period of the war. Balarama is also Duryodhana’s teacher (the mace).

I've not read the whole thing but from the parts of the original -- or
rather uncondensed -- Mahabharata, it is a bit more sympathetic to the
Kauravas then the versions we normally read.  Perhaps Bhagavan did
partially agree with the Kaurava cause.  That's why Kurukshetra was a

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>
It's a girl! See the pictures - http://www.braincells.com/shailaja/
>From ADVAITA-L at LISTS.ADVAITA-VEDANTA.ORG Thu May  1 00:00:19 2003
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Reply-To: List for advaita vedanta as taught by Shri Shankara
To: List for advaita vedanta as taught by Shri Shankara
From: "Jaldhar H. Vyas" <jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM>
Subject: Re: Creation theories (was Re: What is the exact meaning/signific
        ance of this?)
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On Fri, 25 Apr 2003, Kotekal, Srinivas wrote:

> It seems from the above writing that there are two view points(or satya) in
> Advaita; 1.Paramarthika and 2.Vyavaharika.


> I have some questions ;
> 1. How did we (humans) come to know the fact that there are two kinds of
> satyas exist in the first place? What pramaNa is there to support this ?

Vyavaharika satya needs no other pramana than the evidence of our own
senses.  Brahman is self-illuminating.  It is like the lamp that is
covered yet some of the light still leaks through.

> 2. Is this concept of "Vyavaharika Satya" real in absolute sense or not ?

A better way of thinking about it is as a difference in scale.  How
many pounds in an inch?  The correct answer is you cannot say.  What
Advaita Vedanta is trying to achieve is to shift the scale of our
perceptions to the greatest magnitude possible.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>
It's a girl! See the pictures - http://www.braincells.com/shailaja/

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