Authenticity of the Upanishads.

Vivek Anand Ganesan v_ganesan at YAHOO.COM
Mon Jun 1 19:24:47 CDT 1998


   I have seen some dissenting views about the antiquity of some of
the upanishads.  Are all 108 of them accepted in the Advaitic
tradition?  Why did SrI ShankarAcharya choose only a handful of them
to comment on?  Are there any later additions to this corpus?  Swami
Nikhilanada has mentioned of atleast one - AllahOpanishad, written
during Mughal times.  What criterion, if any, is used in determining
the authenticity?



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>From  Mon Jun  1 20:44:15 1998
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Date: Mon, 1 Jun 1998 20:44:15 -0400
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From: Ramakrishnan Balasubramanian <ramakris at EROLS.COM>
Subject: Theories of creation - their place in advaita
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[Apologies for the long post]

About a year ago, we had the discussion on various theories of creation,
in which I specifically mentioned the two theories of creation presented
in advaita texts, namely sR^ishhTi-dR^ishhTi vAda (SDV) and
dR^ishhTi-sR^ishhTi vAda (DSV). The former supports creation as prior to
cognition, while the latter holds that creation is contemporaneous with
cognition. I made the point that the latter is definitely acceptable to
advaitins. This essay will hopefully make that clear. I have preferred
to give the extensive quotations as footnotes to improve readability,
whenever possible.

I. A brief note on the views of various scholars:

A popular misconception is that the DSV was advocated first by shrI
prakAshAnanda in his vedAnta siddhAnta muktAvali [1]. There are earlier
authors who advocate some form or other of DSV. Some important authors

1. shrI gauDapAda: In his gauDapAda kArikA-s, his arguments are very
similar to what is given by shrI prakAshAnanda.

2. shrI sha.nkarabhagavatpAda: The kArikA bhAshhya can be quoted in this
regard [2] as also portions of the upadeshasAhasrI [3].

3. shrI Anandagiri: In his TikA to the kArikA bhAshhya by shrI
sha.nkara, he makes very convincing arguments that existence of objects
is contemporaneous with cognition [2].

4. shrI vidyAraNya: In his anubhUti prakAsha, he upholds the DSV [4].

5. shrI madhusUdana sarasvatI: In his commentary to the dashashlokI
composed by shrI sha.nkara, known as siddhAnta bindu, he makes the
comment that DSV is `mukhya vedAnta siddhAnta' [5].

Here I will present the comments of two scholars on this issue. The
first is that of shrI madhusUdana sarasvatI and the second is that of
H.H shrI abhinava vidyAtIrtha mahAsvAmigaL.

II. The view of shrI madhusUdanasarasvatI

In the commentary to the dashashlokI (1), he outlines the various views,
AbhAsa vAda, pratibimbavAda, avachchheda vAda and DSV [6]. It should be
noted that he calls the last one only as mukhyavedAnta siddhAnta (main
vedAnta doctrine). Here the disciple objects saying that these are
conflicting viewpoints. In reply, the author says that the main doctrine
is that of identity of Atman and brahman and the rest (various vAda-s)
are only mentioned because they are helpful in understanding this truth.
He points out shrI sureshvara's statement:

yayA yayA bhavetpu.nsAM vyutpattiH pratyagAtmani |
sA saiva prakriyA GYeyA sAdhvI sA chAnavastithA  ||

Whatever are the means by which the inner-self is realized by men, those
should be regarded as flawless, and they are endless - translation by K.
N. Subramanian, Siddhantabindu, page 33, Rishi Publications, Varanasi.

III. Explanation by recent Advaitins:

The following dialog is to be found in `The Jagatguru Replies', pp. 167-
168 (The jagatguru here refers to H.H. shrI abhinava vidyAtIrtha
mahAsvAmigaL, known as mahAsannidhAnam, the 35th pontiff of the Sringeri

D: We see differing views in advaitic texts themselves. For example, I
have learnt from the pa.nchadashI that the jIva is a reflection in the
chaitanya in avidyA. In some other texts brahman seen through avidyA is
termed as jIva. Some books contend the presence of many jIva-s. Some
other say there is only one jIva. What is the reason for such differing

A: Just as the Ganges is seen branching severally before merging with
the ocean, advaita which comes from shAstra-s and shrI sha.nkara
bhagavatpAda differs widely. But all describe the supreme being in the
same way because the shastra-s themselves say -

yato vAcho nivartante |

[From which speech recoils]

Though there is no variation in the supreme being, there are certain
differences in the ways of attaining it. **Variegated views are seen in
describing the world** (emphasis mine). All advaitins say in unequivocal
terms -

brahmasatyaM jaganmithyA jIvobrahmaiva nAparaH |

[Brahman is real, the world is unreal and jIva is verily the brahman,
being no different from it]

Further all advaitins agree that GYAna is alone the cause of moxa. If to
a person who is highly competent and capable of fixing the mind on the
supreme being is said that the world is like a dream, the tattva is
grasped easily. To that person eka jIva vAda concept (the concept of one
jIva) is appropriate. This is what is said by the shastra-s also.
Difficulty may arise if others are also taught in the said fashion. So,
for them multi- jIva concept alone is suitable. It is only to suit the
widely varying capacity of the aspirants, but not to impress that the
GYAna attained is different that there are different schools of thought.
shrI sureshvarAchArya himself has clarified this. Thus, by whatever
means one gets the knowledge of the inner self, that has to be
considered proper. The means by which it can be attained are
innumerable. Hence the advaita tattva is unique but different AchArya-s
have interpreted the tattva in different ways with a view to preach it
to the seekers in a manner that suits them. This is all about this.

Similar explanations can be found in `Talks with Ramana Maharshi' also.
He says, page 255:

"The statements on creation differ considerably. There is mentioned
yugapatsR^ishhTi (simultaneous creation) and kramasR^ishhTi (gradual
creation). The significance is not on creation but on the original

IV. I'll state some of my reflections (pun intended :-)) on the above
(for whatever it's worth!). A caveat which comes to my mind is that the
statement by mahAsannidhAnam, about eka jIva vAda being suitable for
advanced aspirants, must not be perverted. What I mean is that people
shouldn't adopt this point of view thinking that it somehow elevates
them into the company of advanced aspirants. That only serves to
strengthen the ego. As shrI sureshvara has clarified, the methods are
endless and _all_ of them are to be regarded as flawless. The
flawlessness of all methods is due to the fact that different people
understand the fundamental tenets using different theories of creation.

It is actually quite natural that we have differing theories of
creation. The world is anirvachanIya and descriptions of it are based on
the assumption of its reality and also causality. Since these
fundamental assumptions are flawed, conflicting theories abound. Thus,
as shrI gauDapAda shows in a different context, ajAti vAda is only
avivAda and aviruddha (free from dispute and non-contradictory).

The main points of advaita vedAnta are jIva-brahma aikya, the world is
mithyA and that GYAna alone gives moxa. Whatever theory: eka jIva,
bimba-pratibimba, AbhAsa vAda etc is found the most satisfying to help
understand these main points of advaita, can be adopted by the sAdhaka.
In this the advaita school is unique and reflects the broad outlook of
the smArta-s also. For a scholarly analysis of this kind of smArta
outlook in a different context see [7]. All other schools insist that
everyone follow the writings of their major scholar, to the last detail.
In contrast only the main points are given importance in advaita vedAnta
(and they are few!), and in the secondary points like theories of
creation, considerable leeway is given. Thus we can see widely differing
theories given by shrI sha.nkara's followers, while maintaining the
fundamental tenets. In fact, the freedom is so much, that on the
secondary issues, later advaitins have given explanations different from
that of even shrI sha.nkara. As has been shown by shrI madhusUdana
sarasvatI, this methodology has the approval of shrI sureshvarAchArya


[1] The main source for this confusion seems to be the book `A source
book of Advaita Vedanta', by Eliot Deutsch and J. A. Van Buitenen. This
book says that shrI prakAshAnanda himself claims to have been the first
to expound DSV. This puzzled me, since others had already expounded this
doctrine much earlier. I referred to the siddhAnta muktAvali and did not
find any such claim. He merely states, that he "has declared every
essence of vedAnta unknown to men of the present day":
vedAntasArasarvasvam etc in the auto-commentary to verse 58. The authors
seem to have misunderstood shrI prakAshAnanda.

[2] The kArikA bhAshhya for 4-67 states:

na hi ghaTamatiM pratyAkhyAya ghaTo gR^ihyate nApi ghaTaM pratyAkhyAya
ghaTamatiH | nahi tatra pramANaprameyabhedaH shakyate
kalpayitumityabhiprAyaH |

[One cannot experience a jar without the cognition of the jar, nor can
one have cognition of the jar without the jar. In the case of the jar
and the cognition of the jar, it is not possible to conceive the
distinction between the instrument of knowledge and the object of

On the TikA for the kArikAbhAshhya for kArikA 4-67, shrI Anandagiri

ghaTe kiM pramANamityukte GYAnamityanuttaraM atiprasa.ngAt.h nApi
ghaTaGYAnaM anyonyAshrayaprasa.ngAt.h atao na
ghaTatajGYAnayormAnameyabhAvaH sa.nbhavatItyarthaH |

[If it be asked as to what the proof is in respect of the jar, the
answer cannot be knowledge as it is in unwarranted. Nor can the answer
be that it is the `knowledge of the jar' because of the reciprocal
dependence involved. Therefore, there is no possibility of the
relationship of the revealed and the revealer between the (so called)
jar and cognition thereof]

>From ShrIdaxiNAmUrtistotram, A study based on the mAnasollAsa and the
tattvasudhA, by D. S. Subbaramaiya, published by the Dakshinamnaya Sri
Sharada Peetham, Volume I, page 249.

[3] shrI sha.nkarabhagavatpAda does not make known his preference on
theories of creation. However, there are verses in the upadeshasAhasrI
which do support DSV. The following verse XIV.8, is impossible to
reasonably interpret in any way other than DSV:

karaNaM karma kartA cha kriyA svapne phalaM cha dhIH |
jAgratyevaM yato dR^ishhTA drashhTA tasmAdato.anyathA ||

[Instrument, action, doer, religious action and fruit,
   the intellect  (is seen as) in the dream state,
 What is seen in waking state also [is similar],
   the seer thus is different from this]

In verse XIV.6 he asserts that the meaning of the statement that the
intellect is an illuminator is only that intellect is seen in the guise
of objects. In fact, we can say that XIV.6 and XIV.8 state DSV in a
nutshell. In XIV.5 he adopts a new line of argument. The method employed
by shrI gauDapAda in the vaitathya prakaraNa is well known. Here shrI
sha.nkara argues that the intellect was seen in the form of objects in
the dream. It must be so in the waking state also since the seer would
not see the intellect assuming the forms of objects (in the dream)
otherwise (XIV.5).

[4] "Our author further maintains that the theory of only one individual
soul (eka jIva vAda), according to which the world does not exist
independently of being perceived by the one soul, (dR^ishhTi-sR^ishhTi
vAda) has its basis in the upanishhads", page lix, Introduction to
Critical edition and translation of the anubhUtiprakAsha of vidyAraNya,
with notes by Godabarisha Misra, Published by University of Madras.

[5] The mutual chronology of the authors shrI madhusUdana sarasvatI and
shrI prakaAshAnanda is difficult to determine exactly due to the paucity
of historical details about the latter author, which is a common
situation for most Indian authors. But there is enough evidence to
suggest that they lived around the same time, give or take a century.
But, all the other authors quoted, lived prior to shrI prakAshAnanda. It
is also interesting to note that shrI madhusUdana sarasvatI had the
apellation sarva-tantra-svatantra, a title not obtained easily!

[6] AbhAsa vAda was employed by shrI sureshvarAchArya. bimba-pratibimba
vAda was employed by shrI prakAshAtman and also by shrI vidyAraNya.
avachchheda vAda was given by shrI vAchaspati mishra, the versatile
scholar who has written texts on all darshana-s, nyAya, yoga, etc. He
also has the rare distinction of obtaining the title

[7] `Questions about the "Rememberers": smArta brAhmaNas as Renewers of
Tradition,' Tyagaraja and the Renewal of Tradition: Translations and
Reflections, pp. 207-229, William J. Jackson, Motilal Banarsidass, New
Delhi, 1994.

>From  Mon Jun  1 21:01:51 1998
Message-Id: <MON.1.JUN.1998.210151.0400.>
Date: Mon, 1 Jun 1998 21:01:51 -0400
Reply-To: ramakris at
To: List for advaita vedanta as taught by Shri Shankara
        <ADVAITA-L at TAMU.EDU>
From: Ramakrishnan Balasubramanian <ramakris at EROLS.COM>
Subject: Re: Authenticity of the Upanishads.
Comments: To: List for advaita vedanta as taught by Shri Shankara
        <ADVAITA-L at TAMU.EDU>
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Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii
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Vivek Anand Ganesan wrote:

>    I have seen some dissenting views about the antiquity of some of
> the upanishads.  Are all 108 of them accepted in the Advaitic
> tradition?  Why did SrI ShankarAcharya choose only a handful of them
> to comment on?  Are there any later additions to this corpus?  Swami
> Nikhilanada has mentioned of atleast one - AllahOpanishad, written
> during Mughal times.  What criterion, if any, is used in determining
> the authenticity?

Tradition is the only criterion. The tradition accepted by the
authoritative commentator upanishhad brahma yogin has been accepted by
the traditional maTha-s in India. He has commented on all 108
upanishhad-s. That shrI sha.nkara used it or not cannot be used to
determine the "genuine-ness" of an upanishhad. shrI Anadagiri himself in
his TIkA to the mANDUkya kArikA says that though there are many
upanishhad-s, shrI sha.nkara stuck to only the few used by bAdarAyaNa

For eg, western scholars think that the upanishhad-s were accepted as
shruti much later since bhratR^ihari, a scholar prior to shrI sha.nkara,
usually sticks to the brAhmaNa portions of veda-s. Their claim is that
many upanishhad-s came just around bhratR^ihari's time and had not
gained acceptance as shruti yet. This is all of not any use to
advaitins. What authoritative scholars like brahma yogin say is the only

In fact there is no use accepting anything other than tradition. Eg, the
gaNapati upanishhad, which has been classified as a "late" upanishhad is
taught with svara-s in the maTha at Sringeri. It also has a recitation
tradition at piLLaiyArpaTTi, where a magnificient temple for Lord
Ganesha exists (As an aside, I strongly recommend a visit to this
place). I have heard the chanting of this upanishhad by the most
traditional brAhmaNa-s there. However, such is not the case even for
most "principal" upanishhad-s, like the mANDUkya, shvetAshvatara etc.


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