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

Kim Poulsen poulsen at DK-ONLINE.DK
Wed Dec 4 18:30:40 CST 1996

>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.

Agreed, and I hold this state to have been mostly unecessary. My interest
is primarily the conflict/compatibility between the source writings.

>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?

If it is the passage I recall it may arise from a confusion in translation
between the terms avyakta and akshara (which gave me the same
impression. You may refer to another passage, I'm not aware of the

>> includes Atman and its four quarters, etc. - or something looking
>> like a desciption of the upanishad content.
>>    This gives me a definite impression of "filling in the blanks."

>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? 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"?

The differences are rather subtle and my view difficult to explain,
the buddhist  emphasises that it is not atman which is really
an opinion which is fully supported by the upanishads. There is but one,
the only one - paramaatman,  all other being effects - states, force, life,
   Especially the early buddhists concentrates on the human situation and
the lack of a permanent,individual self, and treats of the manifesting
force -
ahamkara (known under a variety of names, delusions of self, etc.).
   A full analysis of the buddhist anatma concept is, I think, larger than
my time and this medium permits - but extremely interesting.

>> Not their allegiance, rather their attittude. And this rejection is
>> no-different from that demonstrated by their brahminical counterparts..
>> Fundamentalism is ever popular, demanding little intellectual effort.

>I think it goes beyong attitude. The brahminical attitude towards the
>Vedas is as a valid source of knowledge, whether in the mImAm.sA system or
>the vedAnta system. They also affirm the Vedas to be beyond human
>composition. In contrast, the Buddhists would have seemed to them as
>trying to substitute the Vedas with alternative scripture, which was
>spoken by a human being, even if that human was the Sakyamuni. Note that
>the Brahminical view of scripture does not accord the Gita the same status
>as the Vedas, because the Gita was spoken by a human being, although the
>human was Krishna, an avatAra. There is more than blind fundamentalism
>involved in this.

  (The buddhists of course operate with their own transcendental source,
and the canon of remembered sayings of the Buddha). I understand well many
of the reasons involved in the historic friction, the most important being
the attack on the caste system by the Buddha. Another is some not very
polite sayings (one of which is quoted in my other post.)

   >No, Sankara is not merely dismissing madhyamaka as nihilism. He finds
>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.

  Please understand that I never identify a founder of a doctrine with the
general ideas of the followers. Neither does Shankara necessarily
(or the author of this bhashya), he simply comments that the difference
between Theravada, Madhyamika and Yogacharya may have originated
from the Buddha changing his mind 3 times or the different intellectual
capacity of his audience (a joke.)
  I must say that I'm not certain whether Adi-shankara wrote this bhashya
(notwithstanding the views of certain scholars), with its casual style and
lack of similarity with other works.
   But -  the author is a philosopher, he knows the voidness to be the
not the homogenous foundation of a world,  (the svabhava prakriti), but the
mahaakasha, universal space (2.2.22). Not the water in the jar, but the
ocean. This is what is ment by parama and para in other philosophies.
  "All these worlds are contained within THAT." (mokshadharmaparva)

>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.

   No, Nagarjuna treats his void as an absolute, refuting everything else.
But showing that three states are manifested from this. They are
the specific terms for the universal correspondences to the 4 general
terms of the ManNDuukya, so to speak.
   Buddhists in the thousands are nihilists (having missed a few finer
points) and their views are refuted by Shankara, Nagarjuna's view
cannot be refuted (as I recall). There is little point in discussing
Nagarjuna's meaning, however, it is a matter of interpretation.
  In these cases I always remember the words of Vyaasa, something
like this (on the Yoga and SaN^khya systems) - "which are dissimilar
if the speaker chooses to represent them as such."

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