SAmkhya and VedAnta

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Thu Feb 18 22:55:01 CST 1999

On Mon, 15 Feb 1999, Harsha (Dr. Harsh K. Luthar) wrote:

> Harsha: Although I am not a scholar, it seems that Shri Shankracharya is
> clearly the most prominent Indian Philosopher/Saint on Advaita Vedanta. His
> works are of overwhelming beauty.  Ramana Maharshi spontaneously translated
> (somewhat freely) many of Shankra's works from Sanskrit to Tamil emphasizing
> his affinity with Sri Shankra. Having said that, it is also obvious that Sri
> Shankra did not expound his philosophy in isolation and that He is embedded in
> a larger context of Indian philosophy. Therefore his views probably owe some
> debt to the Sages who went before him. In that context, Nanda Ji's view and
> Jay Ji's comments appear reasonable.

I agree.  Shankaracharya himself acknowledges several teachers who came
before him.  (We posess a single work by those predecessors, the
Mandukyakarikas of his paramaguru Gaudapadacharya but several others are
known by name.)  However, the question was does Shankaracharya and Advaita
Vedanta specifically owe a debt to Samkhya, is it "evolved" from Samkhya?
This is rather dubious.  The apparent similiarities IMO are superficial
and are more to do with the common basis of both systems in the Vedic and
Puranic literature.  The differences on the other hand are quite striking.

Note I'm only talking about the "classical" Samkhya darshan.  In later
times there was a conscious effort to integrate Samkhya with Vedanta.
Needless to say this is post-Shankaracharya and thus couldn't have been an
influence on him.

>  Also, I would say that the vitality of
> Advaita Vedanta depends on Direct Experience of the Self. So Advaita Sages of
> every generation must Renew and Realize in their Own Heart the Truth that Sri
> Shankra spoke of.

Again I agree but I should point out that if Advaita Vedanta teaches
anything, it is that experience can often be deceiving.  Take for example
the eclipse.  To primitive people it caused sheer terror.  For us who know
it is a conjunction of the Sun and Moon, the experience may be just as
moving but in a different way.  Only the power of our intellect can dispel
ignorance and reveal our experiences for what they really are.  Rigorous
analysis of both ones own thoughts and those presented by others cannot be
simply dismissed as "dogmatism"  Rather it is the sine qua non of
sucessful sadhana.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at>

"bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam"
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