Vidyasankar Sundaresan vidya at CCO.CALTECH.EDU
Fri Oct 3 15:50:11 CDT 1997

On Fri, 3 Oct 1997, Jonathan Bricklin wrote:

> > ps. Eliot Deutsch says that karma is a convenient fiction in advaita, but
> > he misstates the issue. The entire universe is a "convenient fiction,"
> > which disappears when the unitary brahman is known. In one understanding
> > of advaita, the universe is perceived only so that its basis may be
> known.
> > However, given the universe, with all its variety, karma stands.
> Even before Brahman is known there are, for the Advaitin, "means of valid
> knowledge."  Deutsch has done an able job of showing that Karma does not
> fit any of them.  "Given the universe, with all its variety," only variety
> stands.  You can't get from there to Karma.

Deutsch's reconstruction of advaita is quite different from how advaita
authors themselves treat karma. In standard advaita thought, the "means of
valid knowledge" include Sruti (again, here come the vedas), which inform
you of karma. Moreover, an postulation (arthApatti - another standard
means of knowledge) supported by an inferential argument (anumAna) will
also suffice, to take you from the universe with its variety to karma.

> >If karma is all as convenient a
> > fiction as Deutsch holds, the entire motivation for moksha is lost, and
> > the import of advaitic teaching is lost.
> I don't see how  the import of any of the great sayings, such as tat tvam
> asi, get lost by seeing karma as a convenient fiction.  The description of
> ultimate reality remains intact.  If you stay focused on the description
> you don't need the prescription.  In fact, it could be argued that the
> import of the description is compromised _by_ the prescription.  I have the
> same problem in understanding the 8 fold path.  It gets in the way of the
> Buddha's deepest insight into the nature of reality.

Not necessarily. You need one diamond to cut another. The paths taught
have a pedagogical value, which does not compromise the description of
the ultimate reality. You teach a three-year old kid about the commonly
used numerical system, and you don't talk about formal axiomatic theory at
that level. You teach a ten-year old kid that atoms are indestructible,
and at a later stage you negate that earlier teaching, by informing him
about protons, neutrons and electrons. Thus, you peel away the layers
stage by stage. A very similar approach is taken in advaita vedAnta, and
this applies to Buddhist teaching too.


More information about the Advaita-l mailing list