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

Sankar Jayanarayanan kartik at ENG.AUBURN.EDU
Tue Dec 3 00:58:57 CST 1996

Vidyasankar Sundaresan wrote:

> On Sat, 30 Nov 1996, Kim Poulsen wrote:
> > Vidyasankar Sundaresan:


> I'm sorry if I conveyed the impression of putting the Karikas at the
> same level as some quotes in Puranas. However, I still maintain that the
> history of Brahmanical-Buddhist relations in India is quite complicated
> and mostly hostile. In particular, the non-acceptance of the Vedas as a
> valid source of knowledge is a vexed point between the two broad streams
> of Indian philosophical thought, viz. Brahmanic and Sramanic.

But still, there remains the fact that Buddha was accepted as an *avatar*,
not as a demon. The Bhagavata and Matsya Purana speak of him as no less than
an incarnation of Vishnu. (The Vishnu Purana says he was the "delusive power"
of Vishnu). Of course, you could argue that Buddha's doctrines were not
accepted as scripture, but why at all should Buddha be accepted as an avatar
in the first place and not simply as a demon?

In fact, even Kumarila Bhatta pays a tribute to Buddha in one of his works!
(I read this in Mahadevan's book "Invitation to Indian Philosophy").

And I find it hard to believe that the "Sambuddha, the greatest among the
bipeds" in the beginning of the fourth chapter of Gaudapada's Karika is not an
invocation to Buddha.

So the judgment is this: Buddha is acceptable as an incarnation, but Buddhism
is not. I wonder why that is so!

> > > I also find it difficult to believe that Gaudapada would say, "The Buddha
> >
> > >was born to reveal it" and that a century later, his grand-disciple,
> > Sankara,
> > >would find fault with the Buddha's teaching as being misleading.
> >

This is not so hard to understand at all. For example, Shankara does not
permit non-Brahmanas to take up sannyasa; in fact, I think he makes this point
twice in his upadeshasahasri. Why should Suresvera, one of Shankara's greatest
disciples, disagree with Shankara on this point?

> >    You completely misses my point here, I'm afraid: The Buddha did not
> > teach on certain subjects, hence the teaching is incomplete. Being
> > incomplete it will not give a full picture, - unless you *also* studies
> > vedanta. This is the only solution that can explain both the positive
> > and negative comments.

This is actually contradicted by Buddha's own words,"The Tathagata is not a
close-fisted teacher who holds some truths back." and then "I have taught you
all that I can" or something like that.

> >    Furthermore without this, the arising of Mahayana metaphysics would
> > be  incomprehensible, they would be innovations, had the Buddha not
> > worked from a framework which is often only alluded to in his sayings.
> There is a passage in Udana, which has often been quoted by Dr. Suzuki and
> other Mahayana scholars. Here the Buddha actually seems to affirm an
> absolute. But this then raises another question. Did the earlier
> Theravadins all completely miss the actual intention of the Buddha?

>From what I have read, I believed that Buddha was silent about the absolute.
I thought it was Nagarjuna who denied this. Could you please send me the exact
words spoken by Buddha? Thanks.

> This again goes to the core of the debate. The Atman in the waking state
> is necessarily the atman that all Buddhist schools deny the reality of, is
> it not?

AFAIK, yes.

> In the Vedanta, this Atman is seen as the foundation (adhishThAna)
> of all sense-experience. Does the madhyamaka affirm such a thing of say
> the "bodhicitta" or of "tathatA"?

Don't know for sure. Richard King has said something on this topic, I think.

> No, Sankara is not merely dismissing madhyamaka as nihilism. He finds it
> problematic that the madhyamaka does not affirm an absolute. Now, we may
> differ on whether madhyamaka does affirm an absolute or not, but I think
> Sankara is right. Nagarjuna's main intention seems to be to break down all
> talk of any absolute. Four centuries after Sankara, SrIharsha openly
> admits that his advaita dialectic is very similar to that of Nagarjuna's,
> except for the fact that he affirms an absolute where the madhyamaka
> school does not.

I believe this is exactly the same stance taken by Gaudapada when he says,
"These people, who while disputing thus and establishing birthlessness, are
really non-dualists...we do not dispute with them. Understand that this
philosophy is free from dispute." (paraphrased)


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