Was ShrI Shankara a Vaishnava?

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Tue Aug 17 23:22:50 CDT 1999

On Mon, 16 Aug 1999, Venkataraman wrote:

> > This is the correct position.  Therefore, discussing whether Sankara
> was a vaishnavite, or was Ramanuja influenced by Christianity, etc is
> a waste of time.  I think it is more useful
> to analyse   advaita, dvaita, and vishishtaadvaita,   identify the
> commonalities and understand  the specific points of difference in the
> views of the three acharyas -- After all, all three of them seem to
> claim authority from the same source viz Vedanta.  They all accept the
> authority of the Vedas unlike Buddha who seems to reject the Vedas as
> authority.

First let me say I am not the best qualified person to explain the
intricacies of the other schools.  For that it is better to let them
explain in their own words. http://www.ramanuja.org/ and
http://www.dvaita.org/ are two web sites which deal with Vishishtadvaita
and Dvaita Vedanta respectively.

> To begin with, can you kindly elucidate the following as Question
no > 1.  Further questions can be taken up by and by.
> All three viz Advaita (A), Dvaita (D), and Vishishtaadvaita (VA), seem
> to accept the concept of an ultimate reality which is also the source,
> sustainer and sink, of the universe.  They also accept an Isvara , who
> is SaguNa, and encourage worship of Isvara.
> Is there any difference of opinion among the three as to
> (1)  which is the ultimate-- Isvara or Brahman ?

I think they might object to the very formulation of this question as
being too "advaitocentric"!

> (2)  whether Brahman is Nirguna or not ?

I don't think either of them would accept the idea of Nirguna Brahman.
Vishnu Bhagawan the personal God is also the supreme reality and not an
ultimately illusionary superimposition on Brahman as Ishwar is in our

> If there are differences, what are the arguments on which such
> differences are based ?

The Dvaitins in particular took a very logical approach.  I believe the
central argument comes down to how we can come to know something that is
without qualities.  Anand is posting excerpts from the Advaitasiddhi of
Swami Madhusudan Saraswati, the chief rejoinder from our camp against
these arguments.

As for the Vishishtadvaitins, their famous scholar Venkatanath known as
Vedanta Deshika wrote a work called Shatdushani (100 faults [of the
Advaita school])  In the early part of this century their was a famous
scholar Mahamahopadhyaya N.S. Anantakrishna Shastri who wrote a rejoinder
called Shatabhushani (100 merits)  I recently acquired this book but I've
yet to really sit down and read it.  I'll see if I can post a summary of
the various topics discussed.

> Books of Hare Krishna Movement decry *Mayavada*
> which is the term they use to refer to A , on both the above counts.
> Only assertions are made, no logic is discussed.

They seem to be of the opinion that debates are won by the person who
shouts the loudest.

Maya definitely seems to have been seen as a weak spot in Advaita Vedanta
by its opponents.  The problem is if the jiva is completely enveloped by
ignorance, how can it ever gain knowledge?  And if it not, then why
doesn't it already have knowledge?

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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