[Advaita-l] article by Coman

MC1 at aol.com MC1 at aol.com
Thu Jun 14 16:25:33 CDT 2007

Dear Sri Sundaresanji and other members of the list,
    Humbled again. By now, if I had any sense, it would  be more than obvious 
that I need to listen more and speak less on advaita-l.  Though tempted, by 
vanity as much as truth seeking to defend  my previous praise of Paul Hacker, I 
must admit that I have not so  thorougly studied his work nor am I able to 
put in the time it takes  to pose a more thoughtful contribution to this august 
forum. It is  likely in making my previous comments that I had fallen prey to  
"star status" and given more authority to Hacker's ideas than  they deserve 
(if for no other reason than that Halbfass, a most  worthy scholar in his own 
right, respected Hacker's insights  sufficiently to invest the time to 
translate and publish a 370  page anthology of Hacker's work). I do appreciate Hacker 
however for  requiring a "careful read," as Sri Sundaresan acknowledges. For 
the  Advaitins among us who do not have the benefit of a subtle sanskrit  
methodology, a careful read in English is often a valuable prize ... and,  it 
appears, more careful yet. -mc
Message: 3
Date: Thu, 14 Jun 2007 12:23:42 -0400
From: "Sundaresan,  Vidyasankar (GE Infra,    Water)"
<vidyasankar.sundaresan at ge.com>
Subject: Re: [Advaita-l] article by  Coman
To:  <advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org>
<B36E5920133AA24F8148E68B8836484B060639BE at CINMLVEM23.e2k.ad.ge.com>
Content-Type:  text/plain;    charset="US-ASCII"

>Anyone interested in  investigating further the idea of Sankara as a
>prior to Advaita  may be well advised to consult Paul Hacker  (selected
>translations from the original German may be found  in, Philology and
>Confrontation, ed.: W. Halbfass). For those unfamiliar,  Hacker is a
seminal and
>insightful academic who has provided some  interesting analysis of
>Notwithstanding and possibly because  of the occasional critique, Hacker
is a good
>read for any serious  student of Advaita. 

Yes, Hacker has many important points to make, which  must be read
carefully. However, for some reason, Paul Hacker gets more  attention
than many other academics who have contributed very interesting  analyses
on Sankara and advaita vedAnta, Hajime Nakamura, Tillmann  Vetter,
Madeleine Biardeau, Daniel Ingalls and Sengaku Mayeda, to name a  few.
Vetter and Biardeau have not been as influential as Hacker. They  mostly
wrote in Dutch and French respectively, but unlike Hacker, they did  not
concentrate only on Sankara, advaita vedAnta and neo-Vedanta.  Readers
will also notice a couple of Japanese names in the above list. In  fact,
Japanese scholars have been producing some excellent research work  on
advaita vedAnta. Shoun Hino, who has been extensively  studying
sureSvarAcArya's vArttikas, comes to mind.

Returning to  Hacker, specifically in the case of Sankara bhagavatpAda's
stance on yoga, I  think he has completely missed the point. I have tried
to address some of  this in my postings on Yoga and Advaita Vedanta on
this list.

(As an  aside, to those who have asked about continuing that series, the
last two  posts are archived  at
.html  and
html.  I have not been able to post anything on this thread after January
2007, but  hope to resume by the end of July.)

In Hacker's analysis of Sankara,  everything goes back to a central
question, "which works traditionally  attributed to Sankara can be
considered genuine?" The brahmasUtra bhAshya is  considered the key text,
and is therefore genuine, by definition. Now, there  are many other
important texts that are undoubtedly genuine, but which don't  seem to
fit with the assumptions that he has made about authorship. This  problem
appears in its keenest form when yoga related discussions are found  in
the texts. Hacker now modifies the above central question and asks,  "was
this text, no doubt genuine, written by Sankara when he was a  mature
philosopher or was it written when he was a student?" The presumption  is
that the same person would have more likely made mistakes  and/or
contradicted himself when he was a young student as compared to when  he
matured as a philosopher. The problem of authenticity of a text  is
thereby converted to a problem of internal chronology in  Sankara's
career as an author of vedAnta texts. This then leads Hacker  to
speculate (and it is nothing more than speculation, in my opinion),  that
Sankara was a vaishNava attached to the gItA, and originally a  yogin
with affinity to the system of pAtanjala yoga, who later became  an
advaita vedAntin, via exposure to gauDapAda's asparSa yoga, and  thus
rejected yoga altogether (as seen in sUtrabhAshya 2.1.3 - etena  yogaH

I find this kind of argument to be merely  self-fulfilling, in that it
allows Hacker to never question his initial  assumption(s). He comes to
his final conclusions by making more assumptions  as he goes along. It is
amazing to read the number of times he uses phrases  like "must have
been", "may have led to", "tentatively" etc. when initially  exploring an
idea. By the end of the same essay, these have given way to  "clearly"
and "definitely" and "obviously" in restating the same idea as  a
conclusion, with very slight modifications in a handful of cases. When  a
second scholar quotes Hacker and a third scholar refers to the  second,
the same idea now gets reiterated and cited as if it has been  proved
beyond all doubt and as if that is the only possible academic  conclusion
about these texts and the tradition. What is often overlooked is  that
Tillmann Vetter and Madeleine Biardeau each have come to very  different
conclusions about the order in which Sankara presumably wrote  the
various texts. Daniel Ingalls raises a cautionary note about  pivoting
everything around the brahmasUtra bhAshya and he considers  the
bRhadAraNyaka bhAshya to be the more original text.

Wilhelm  Halbfass makes a highly important point, which we would do well
to remember  -

"It requires extreme caution to identify "inconsistencies"  and
"contradictions" which would be illegitimate in Sankara's own  horizon
and which would provide reliablem unambiguous clues for actual  changes
in his thought and for a development from earlier to later  positions."
(Studies in Kumarila and Sankara, Studien zur Indologie und  Iranistik,
Monograph 9, Reinbek, ed. Inge Wezler, 1983)

I think this  one statement captures the basic problem that various
people have when it  comes to yoga and how Sankara and the advaita
vedAnta tradition treat  it.


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