Ramakrishnan Balasubramanian rbalasub at ECN.PURDUE.EDU
Tue Sep 2 12:36:30 CDT 1997

Allan Curry wrote:

>What I was trying to say was that any "Atman" that can be thought about
>is a concept. As long as we cling to concepts *about* Atman, we are still
>dealing with fiction.  What is the  case in the abscence of thought is my

Well, the confusion was using the term Atman and giving it the same
reality as mAyA and intellect. Further you said "In the abscence of
conceptual distinctions, is there any "Atman" as opposed to "maya"?",
which was very confusing. Advaita says, yes there is! As Ramana Maharshi
succintly put it "What _is_ is Atman" when someone asked him what Atman

Egodust further wrote:

>Concur.  This also is the import behind the ajatavada doctrine of advaita,

Whether it is ajAtivAda or otherwise, _every_ advaitin says that Atman
is beyond words. So that has nothing to do with ajAtivAda per se.
ajAtivAda is that causality does not make sense (as proved clearly by
shrI gauDapAdaa) and hence Atman is unborn.

>as well as what Buddha was attempting to convey in his silence in response
>to questions re the idea [and *not* the nature] of atman

Unfortunately, the spoken word of Buddha contradicts this. The pali
canon is considered to be genuinely Buddha's words and in the kacchAyana
gotta sutta, his disciple asks him about reality. He replies that "some
say asti (is)" and some say "na asti" (is not), clearly references to
vedAntins and materialists respectively. He further says he has examined
all doctrines and found none of them sufficient and expounds his way,
viz, the middle path. It would be a great mis-understanding to claim
that Buddha was saying Atman is beyond words by this. The upanishhad-s
already said so and Buddha claimed that these were not sufficient.
Buddha very clearly said that there is no substratum behind the
illusion. It is very convenient to interpret the "void" as Atman, but
Buddha makes it clear that is not what he means.

All advaitins, including our Ramana Maharshi (as shown by my quote)
clearly belong to the "asti" bandwagon and not otherwise. There is no
need to include the Buddha in the advaitic band-wagon. It is neither
necessary nor is advaita validated just because the Buddha said so
(which he clearly did not). Not only that it would make shrI gauDapAda
and shrI sha.nkara complete ignoramuses for trying to prove the
fallacies of Buddhism and shrI gauDapAda makes it _very_ clear that he
was refuting Buddha. Instead they could have merely waved hands and
claimed that the Buddha was an advaitin, just because he was silent on
some questions. Not only that, it would make complete idiots out of that
great philosopher nAgArjuna and his commentators dharmakIrti and also
vasubandhu for spending much of their time proving no substratum is
required (as opposed to vedAnta). Even a cursory examination of
nAgArjuna's works will clearly show how it is opposed to vedAnta. Try,
"The philosophy of the middle way", by David Kalupahana, SUNY press. My
studies in the mAdhyamikA are hardly complete, but I believe what I said
is not incorrect.


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