On Brahmasutras and VisishtAdvaita

Vidyasankar Sundaresan vidya at CCO.CALTECH.EDU
Wed Oct 1 12:35:56 CDT 1997

On Wed, 1 Oct 1997, sadananda wrote:


> Shankara appears to deviate quite a lot from the import of Brahmasutra in
> order to fit into the adviatic tenants. He may be justified from the
> advaitic theory but not from the direct word by word meaning of the sutras.

I beg to disagree. The most important differences between Sankara and
rAmAnuja, in their interpretation of the brahmasUtras, occur when
discussing the teachings of ASmarathya, auDulomi and kASakrtsna, with
respect to the individual soul and the absolute. The brahmasUtras
themselves do not agree with the first two teachers. The correct opinion,
that of kASakrtsna, is presented in one word - avasthiteH. Both Sankara
and rAmAnuja give consistent interpretations of this sUtra, given their
individual assumptions about the import of scripture. Therefore, I don't
think that word by word meanings would bear out the above opinion,
especially where the sUtra in question itself consists of a single word.

Moreover, it is important to remember that often one presupposes duality
when one looks for word by word meanings. If so, it is not fair to judge
a non-dual teaching on this count.

> Ramanuja's criticism of Shankara's appears to be valid.  I recommend every
> advaitic seeker to read the criticism of Sri Ramanuja particularly on
> avidya.  Ramanuja's model has to be taken as granted whether logically
> sound or not since scripture says so.  But shaastra pramana implies that
> too.  Here I do have big problem as shaastra pramana and I am still

Yes, rAmAnuja's model has to be accepted, but Sankara's logic has to be
accepted too. The main criticism against avidyA is that it cannot inhere
in brahman, and therefore it cannot exist at all. Also, the nature of
avidyA is said to be opposed to that of brahman, so that the advaita
theory is held to be logically invalid. However, as SAstra is pramANa for
both Sankara and rAmAnuja, one has to look at the taittirIya statement,
"satyam cAnrtam ca satyam abhavat" - which says that the One Truth itself
became the true and the untrue.

Now, you know that the words sat and satya most often refer to brahman. If
SAstra says as above, then there is no problem in Sankara's saying that
brahman is the locus of avidyA.

Another criticism made by many viSishTAdvaitins against Sankara is that
his technique of adhyAropa-apavAda is not the right way to interpret
scripture. I'm not sure if rAmAnuja himself makes this criticism, but many
contemporary scholars of viSishTAdvaita do so. But then, if we look at
the paingala upanishad, (which is quoted by Sankara in his bhAshya),
yAjnavalkya teaches his disciple exactly in terms of adhyAropa-apavAda.
Now this is also SAstra, and has to be accepted by all traditional
teachers of vedAnta. Again, the criticism against advaita amounts to

> thinking on this to resolve in my own mind before I respond to Anand and
> Vidyas' ascertains about shaastra as pramana.

The only issue in SAstra-pramANatva is this. If we do not admit it at all,
then all the vedAnta schools are pointless. If we do, then we have to
interpret it according to certain commonly agreed upon canons of

Given that Sankara and rAmAnuja both accept the same SAstra as pramANa,
any valid comparison of their doctrines has to take that SAstra into


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