(nibbana) = (Nirguna Brahman) ?

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Thu Oct 2 00:42:32 CDT 1997

On Wed, 1 Oct 1997 un824 at FREENET.VICTORIA.BC.CA wrote:

> Namaste,
> Jaldhar replies to my post:
> >>
> >> IMO, the astika shastras would be arguably wrong if they really were
> >> equating buddhist nirvana with nothingness.
> >
> >You can argue.  But at some point you ought to show evidence :-)
> >
> In the 22 discourse of the Majjhima Nikaya, the Buddha says:
> "And monks, against me, thus teaching and preaching, many ascetics and
> brahmins falsely, groundlessly, untruly, in defiance of fact, bring
> accusation thus: 'A nihilist is this ascetic Gotama. He preaches the
> cutting off, the nullification of the present living being.' But for what I
> am not, for what I say not, for that these good ascetics and brahmins thus
> falsely, groundlessly, untruly, in defiance of fact impeach me. For, O
> monks, as before so also now, I preach only Suffering and the cessation of
> Suffering."
> Personally, I no longer care what vedantins think of Buddhism, I'm happy to
> drop the topic and simply disagree (along with the Buddha) about the
> vedantin criticism of him.

Well bear in mind it is not a criticism of _him_ (there are other examples
of that) but a criticism of Buddhism.  By the time of Shankaracharya there
had been at least a thousand years of development of Buddhist thought and
there were many different schools all claiming to represent their masters
true teaching.  Partly the problem is as the passage you quote suggests,
the Buddha was not a systematic philosopher in either the Indian or the
Western sense.

>What interests me more is the vedantin criterion
> of truth and your following comments (in response to my post) were
> helpful... thanks.
> So what is the source of the vedas according to vedantins?
> Do vedantins really think the vedas are "coeval with the universe"?

Vedantins and Mimamsaks believe the Vedas are eternal and uncreated.

> Do vedantins think the vedas are"infallible"? In what sense are they
> considered to be infallible if the vedas are allowed to be wrong about the
> physical world, etc.?  How could the "cosmic blueprint" contradict the cosmos
> of which it is the blueprint?
> How wrong can the vedas be about little things (like the creation
> of the world for instance) and still be "a valid source of knowledge"?
> If they can be wrong about anything, how do we *know* they are not wrong
> about almost everything? In a court case when a witness gets several facts
> wrong, the facts he may have right are thrown into doubt and necessarily
> so. Those facts he *may* have right must be subsequently established by some
> other testimony or means. Somehow this common sense approach does not seem
> to apply to the vedas and I'd like to know why that is so...

The mistake is in assuming the Vedas are discussing "little subjects" in
the first place.  The karma kanda of the Vedas discusses Dharma and Dharma
alone.  Dharma consists of actions.  Accordingly the Mimamsakas divide it
into Vidhis (injunctions), nishedhas (prohibitions) and arthavada
(everything else.)  this arthavada has a legitimate place in the Vedas
because it is there to explain the or urge the performance or
non-performance of actions.  For instance the Purusha sukta which Anand
mentioned is there to extol the virtue of the sacrifice called
Purushamedha.  That it also describes the creation of the universe is an
incidental detail.  Similiarly the Jnana kanda of the Vedas describes
Brahman.  Any other information it may give on the way is incidental.

Let me give an example.  You are no doubt familiar with algebra problems
from school that went along the lines of "If a train is heading west from
Clevelend at 50 mph and a train is heading east from San Francisco at 60
miles an hour when do they meet?" You need the information to solve the
problem but does it affect the method in any way to know there is no train
line between Cleveland and San Francisco or trains travel at different
speeds in real life?

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>
I got engaged! See the pictures ==> http://www.braincells.com/jaldhar/sagpan

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