gaudapaada and buddha (was Re: brahman by ...)

Vidyasankar Sundaresan vidya at CCO.CALTECH.EDU
Mon Dec 2 19:14:01 CST 1996

On Fri, 29 Nov 1996, Kim Poulsen wrote:

> Vidyasankar Sundaresan:
> >and this in turn is
> >related to their respective views on own-nature (svabhAva) and
> >other-nature (parabhAva).


> and Shankara, we can examine the ideas of Nagarjuna (I have to be brief,
> unfortunately, this is after all advaita-l)..

If we are to examine the views of Nagarjuna, we have to stick to the
mUla-madhyamaka kArikA and other compositions of Nagarjuna himself,
without bringing in later Tibetan conceptions. The Tibetan school of
Buddhism is, by its own admission, a mixture of the yogAcAra school and
the madhyamaka school. If you read Nagarjuna and his faithful commentator,
Candrakirti carefully, they find fault with the yogAcAra school for
affirming an absolute.

>      bodhicittavivaraNa  28. "The three natures, viz. the imagined
> (parikalpita),
> the dependant (paratantra) and the parinishhpanna have only one
> nature of their own: emptiness. They are the imaginations (kalpanaa) of
> mind (citta)".

Nagarjuna is quite clear that what he means by SUnyatA is that all
entities are empty in that they have no "own-nature". It is not his
intention to set this "emptiness" as an absolute itself.

>    parikalpita is our D), it is the subjective, the subtle state, while
> paratantra
> is our C), etc. In G.K IV these terms are also employed frequently by G.
> He starts his treatise by using the maNDuukya terms and ends it using the
> mahayana terms. The commentators fills in other terms for the same
> principles. Shankara is very clear about the almost identicality of
> buddhism
> and Vedanta.
>    The two major differences are
> 1) while the Vedanta philosopher by a positive statement will affirm his
> essential
> with A) (brahman and paramaatman) Nagarjuna by a series of denials and
> negative statements will deny the reality of anything else. He even denies
> the
> ultimate reality of a non-conditioned state like svabhaava, there is but
> the
> absolute, it is the "svabhaava" of the other states .

This is not Nagarjuna's contention, but that of the vijnAnavAda school.
The vijnAna of the vijnAnavAda school can be interpreted as being an
absolute, but equating SUnyatA to an absolute does not do justice to
Nagarjuna's position, in my opinion.

>   It is this philosophy which cannot be refuted (being based on solid
> ground),
> but may have a problem with its attittude, so to speak.
> 2) By terming their absolute shhuunyata, the buddhists seems to be
> protesting
> against unfounded ideas about Brahman, but the mutual terms akshara, para
> and
> parama are found far more often in both cases

In the vajrAyana school, yes, SUnyatA is an absolute. But I beg to differ
as regards the madhyamaka. Now, the question remains, "Does gauDapAda
interpret the SUnyatA of the madhyamaka as an absolute?" I think not.
Nowhere in the GK does he equate SUnyatA with the Atman, nor does he say
that the Atman is SUnya. Also, I feel that if he did equate the SUnyatA to
an absolute, something of this acceptance would have filtered down to his
grand-disciple, Sankara. I find it difficult to believe that Sankara would
refuse to accept that the SUnyatA of the madhyamaka is a higher reality,
if gauDapAda had accepted it to be so.


More information about the Advaita-l mailing list