Jaldhar H. Vyas
jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Sun Sep 29 22:03:45 CDT 2002
On Thu, 26 Sep 2002, Jaldhar H. Vyas wrote:
> On Mon, 23 Sep 2002, Ashish Chandra wrote:
> > Take the word "Buddhist". To almost everyone, it means the follower of
> > Buddha. But within Buddhists, there are several types and it is only evident
> > to those who know that Buddhism is not a monolithic sect that it is made out
> > to be. So even though we accept that "Buddhist" means a follower of Buddha,
> > we do recognize that it is not just one huge blanket covering the
> > Kshanikvaadins and the Madhyamikas.
That would be acceptable if you were comparing Buddhist to Vedantin
because they are sufficiently pluralistic terms. But even then only
careless people say "Buddhist" in a monolithic sense just as only careless
people use "Vedantin" to mean Advaitin.
> > In the present context, what it implies is that even though we accept
> > Advaita (when used as a noun) to widely imply Advaita Vedanta of Adi
> > Shankara, we know (or should know), that there are several other
> > teachings of realized souls who may not have agreed with Adi Shankara
> > entirely but who still maintain, due to their direct experience, that
> > Brahman is One only and that it is everything.
In none of your posts have you established any kind of criteria as to who
is a realized soul. So we can say very little about the content of their
teachings if any.
> > It is another issue as to where those teachings exist and why they are
> > not formalized into a tradition so the Advaitavaada of Adi Shankara
> > can argue with the Advaitavaada of say, Rishi Aurobindo, who, I might
> > add, I am barely familiar with but know that he disagreed with Adi
> > Shankara.
Hemant who is a member of this list and a follower of Aurobindo discussed
this with us a while back. This is a good example of someone who was
actually coming from a different place (traditional Bengali tantrism) and
only adopted advaita terminology because of the intellectual climate of
his time and place. (19th century Bengal.)
> > But it does not mean that a different meaning could not be construed or
> > implied at all.
Sure all kinds of meanings can be construed. I'm sure some construe
Advaita as "the demonic ideology of the hell-bound enemies of the one true
God." It doesn't mean such a construction is worthy of any attention
though. Why bother with hypotheticals when there is a concrete,
historical, existent, well-accepted construction which is available right
here and now?
> When someone says "This is the doctrine of Advaita or
> > Aikyataa" after a discourse, it does not automatically mean that the school
> > of Adi Shankara is meant. What the discourse may contain is that Brahman (or
> > Bhagwan) is niraakaar, nirguna, gunaatita, sarvasampanna etc which would
> > tell you exactly what the Upanishads say, but it might not be the same as
> > what Adi Shankara might have to say about what they mean and imply.
If they truly are novel thinkers why didn't they say "this is the doctrine
of Ein Sof" or "adsefgbyt" or something else? They choose to use Advaita
Vedantic terminology because they have been influenced by Advaita Vedanta
ideas. That is the source of their understanding of mystical experiences
whether they admit it or not.
> > You are directly relating the "knowledge of Brahman or what it is" with
> > Advaita Vedanta and implying that they are mutually exclusive. But they are
> > not. To one who has never had anything to do with the school of Adi
> > Shankara, the knowledge of what Brahman is has come from some other lineage,
> > or perhaps, it came of itself.
The very way the idea is presented: "knowledge of Brahman" indicates an
origin in Vedanta. Why didn't the Aztecs speak of Brahman? Or the Chinese
or the Eskimos? Because this is simply not part of their
intellectual/conceptual environment. Even in India e.g. Nyaya doesn't use
terminology like Brahman except where it is influenced by Vedanta.
Now amongst Vedantins there are different stripes with different views to
choose from so there is some doubt as to which one is correct. But if you
have already decided that Brahman and the atma is one, there is only one
Vedantic choice--Advaita Vedanta.
> If what you say is taken to be a fact, no
> > realized person could have existed before Adi Shankara or that their
> > knowledge was somehow not perfect.
I thought we'd disposed of this argument before but ok here goes. We are
not talking about those who came before Shankaracharya but *today*
September 26, 2002. Those who know advaitam *today* owe it to
Shankaracharya. What people long ago thought is irrelevant because it no
longer exists in our time.
> But that would be absurd. Even you
> > recognize that what Adi Shankara formalized was, perhaps, a non-formal
> > tradition, maybe even a hidden tradition that he made famous.
No I've already documented that it was an existing formal tradition long
before Shankaracharya. What he did was popularize it yes and *improve* it
in the sense that he made it clear and removed any doubts and opposition.
The proof of his success is that the older thinkers fell by the wayside
and their views were not propogated to succeeding generations. There are
no other lineages. There may have been once but not anymore.
> > tradition, if we are to believe even what the Shankaracharyas say, has
> > always been existent in the form of the Guru-Shishya parampara.
Yes and each generation clarifies the teachings of the previous generation
for the benefit of the next. This is not to say they were less
enlightened in former times but that the presentation was improved.
After Shankaracharya, Sureshvaracharya did with his vartikas (part of the
definition of vartika is that which provides what is missing in the
original.) Later on Vachaspati Mishra did that and so did Shriharsha,
Swami Madhusudan Saraswati, and Appaya Dikshita etc. This way Advaita
Vedanta has built itself up over time becoming better and better.
Now if you are claiming some modern fellow thinks they understood Shruti
better than Shankaracharya or any of the other people I mentioned, by all
means lets put them to the test. If they are right we will go over to
their way of thinking and be better for it. But the onus is on them to
> > I am remineded of a paragraph I read in the "Autobiography of a Yogi" [
> > http://www.crystalclarity.com/yogananda/chap33/chap33.html ]. In this
> > chapter, Paramhansa Yogananda is talking of his Param Paramguru, Mahavtar
> > Babaji. PY met Mahavtar Babaji and Babaji is said to have said (maybe to PY
> > or someone else) that he gave Adi Shankara initiation to Kriya Yoga
> > (although Yoga is mentioned, Kriya Yoga is implied).
Well in the Autobiography of Jaldhar it says that I gave initiation into
C++ to Mahavtar Babaji so there. :) Stories are worthless unless backed
up with fact.
> > Only when the said horse is *seen* to be running or some such other implied
> > association that makes the relation of Red with Horse unambiguous exists,
> > can we say that Red is running implies Red Horse is running. So without
> > saying the word Vedanta when Advaita is said, unless one is sitting in the
> > company of those discussing Vedanta or Adi Shankara, no such presumption can
> > be made if we are to be true to the meaning and definition of the word.
If direct perception was the only means of knowledge, human knowledge
would be meagre indeed. Luckily it isn't.
> > Ravi has said in his email that without a commentary on the Prasthaan Trayi,
> > no tradition or teaching is recognized as a formal line of Vedanta. But who
> > is doing the recognizing - those who are part of one such tradition itself.
Well sure. Who else should be doing the recognizing. Aztecs? Eskimos?
Martians? We were here first. Finders keepers. If the
johnny-come-latelys want to join in, let them follow the conventions or
justify why they want to diverge.
Incidently the importance of the prasthana trayi is high enough that even
the Gaudiya Vaishnavas who believed very much as you do eventually had to
do it. (Baladeva Vidyabhushana, a couple of centuries after Chaitanya.)
They realized they just wouldn't be taken seriously by the Dharmic public
> > Those who have not formalized their teaching cannot be considered by, say,
> > followers of Adi Shankara. But why should they not be recognized as Gurus as
> > well (here I use the word Guru in exactly the way the Upanishad defines it
> > Gu-Ru) who have taught about the reality of God as being everywhere and
> > everything i.e. Advaitam?
Because such a Guru is pretty useless in the long run. Formalization
didn't occur just for the love of pedantry. One must organize ones
thoughts to defeat doubt and confusion. And with every passing year our
world grows more confusing don't you think?
I have never suggested that these lesser gurus aren't useful. They can
be. But they cannot take you all the way.
> > What you are saying is not incorrect. However, it is incomplete. Pavaka is
> > an adjective.
No it's a noun. Look it up. You're thinking of pavana or pavitra. Or
perhaps Hindi usage has diverged from Sanskrit.
>It is also a name for Agni. But Pavaka can be used by saying
> > "pavaka jal". Similarly, as you have indicated, Vipra means sage but is used
> > in almost every case to indicate Brahmana. So what about the exceptions to
> > the ordinary usage? And who decides?
In some cases there is a formal body like the Academy Francaise for the
French language. In other cases it is the dominant political or economic
elite. (e.g. "the Queens' English") In Sanskrit we can say it is the
consensus of learned people.
> When I started to respond to this
> > thread, I had used the word Advaita only in the sense that it implied the
> > teaching that Brahman is one and that It is everything. Now we are
> > discussing the correct usage of it. When Advaita is used, what if Advaita
> > Vedanta of Adi Shankara is not being referred to? So would such usage be
> > wrong keeping in mind that Advaita is used in the context of describing
> > Brahman and not the school of Adi Shankara?
My point is that this question is badly put because there is no
"non-Shankaran brand of Advaita."
> > But Pavaka *means* Agni - I think even the dicitionaries mention that it
> > *means* Agni. Saying Pavaka is Ganga Jal is equally valid as long as Ganga
> > Jal is somehow implied. But the meaning of Pavaka itself makes it possible
> > to say that it is Agni being referred to, when it is used alone, and not
> > Ganga Jal. Does such a clear meaning exist for Advaita (adj.) or Advaitam
> > (n) meaning or implying Vedanta?
Yes. I believe for any educated person advaita means Advaita vedanta.
Nevertheless they should try and be clearer for the sake of the
> > Misinterpretation, as you mention it, is a loaded word. Misinterpreted
> > in the eyes of whom? A follower of Adi Shankara's school or a follower
> > of Rishi Audobindo? I get the feeling that we are veering more and
> > more towards
> > 1) Saints have attained Brahmanhood and so they cannot be wrong when they
> > talk of Brahman
> > 2) Why do saints (apparently or not) disagree with one another and
> > 3) Who is finally right and who is wrong, if there be such a distinction.
> > It seems to me that agreement exists when Brahman is being described.
> > However, most of the conflicting statements pop up when the Sansara is
> > brought up. What is it, what is it's nature etc. is where I have, so far,
> > seen disagreement. Even Bhamati and Vivarana disagreed not on what Brahman
> > is but what is Maya and what is its relation to Brahman etc.
Yes I would agree with this assessment. The reason these arguments are
important is being in maya ourselves, we cannot simply assume Brahman and
work backwards. We have to rely on the means of knowledge we have
> > That is because son does not mean one. But Advaita means that which is one
> > only, or that which has the property of advayatva. To what else can this
> > epithet apply?
Apte gave an example from Bhavabhuti. Shri Rama is described as treating
sukha and dukha as one. The adjective advaita could be applied to any
relationship between two equal things.
> We have seen the Buddhist definition of Advaya and how they
> > say that it is not Advaita of Adi Shankara because Brahman is whatever there
> > is and Advaya refers to the understanding that the illusion of the world is
> > not-two but one, and that it is *not a thing* all the same. What would
> > Advaita Vedantins of Adi Shankara's lineage have to say to that: not that
> > what is being referred to is dvaya(dual) but that its true nature is not
> > being understood (as *being* and not *not being*). I guess the closest
> > example I can think of is someone looking at a block of ice and calling it
> > "cold water". The adjective "cold" is correct but the noun "water" is not.
> > So, advayatva, as described by Adi Shankara, exists in Brahman, and
> > advayatva as described by Madhyamikas exists in the illusion of sansara.
Advayatva as mentioned previously is a relationship between two
things--the atma and brahman. So we can provisionally say advayatva is in
Brahman. but we can just as easily say it is in the atma. At the dawn of
jnana both notions disapear.
The Buddhist idea, frankly doesn't make any sense to me.
> > If you mean Advaita Vedanta of Adi Shankara, then yes. If you mean teaching
> > that the Upanishads (Vedanta) say that Brahman is One and is everything,
> > then it is fairly common today to come across saints who say the same thing
> > in different way and they may or may not belong to Adi Shankara's tradition.
How did that come to happen? Do those people really not belong to
Shankaracharyas' tradition (in its widest sense by which I mean
intellectual and cultural influence.) or are they simply unaware of it?
This is why we look to history as well as just books.
> > I want to make a correction -
> > "Dvaita Vedanta: Doctrine concluding the teachings of Vedanta conclude a
> > duality in Brahman"
> > should actually be "Dvaita Vedanta: Doctrine concluding the teachings of
> > Vedanta conclude a difference between Brahman and Jiva and hold them to be
> > eternally separate."
> > That is why I said that you are judging the usage being a student of Advaita
> > Vedanta yourself. When I used it on Advaita-l, I used it as I understood the
> > teachings I have come across to mean. I did not know Advaita was an
> > adjective but now that I know, I can also say that even though Advaita is
> > generally a qualification of Adi Shankara's school of Vedanta, it can also
> > qualify, in another setting perhaps, reference to, say, Sri Ramakrishna's
> > teachings about Brahman.
Perhaps you could but why do so when there are more precise descriptive
terms available? You could use transport to mean camel because in some
places camels are used as transport but generally people would more likely
to be thinking of cars or bicycles. "desert animal" would be more likely
to make people think of camel.
> > Ok. I should not use Advaita alone because it is an adjective and it might
> > be confusing to say what I mean when I use it. But then neither should you
> > (use it to imply Advaita Vedanta). So to say that "this is not Advaita"
> > would not make any sense as saying "this is not Advaita Vedanta of Shri
> > Shankara" would.
I agree. Although I occasionally slip up I do be careful and try and say
Advaita Vedanta. I think adding "of Shri Shankara" is redundant because
that is the only kind there is now. And I think in the context of
philosophy for educated people at least, advaita as shorthand for advaita
vedanta is sufficiently clear but as there is some room for doubt amongst
the ignorant we have to be more precise.
The teachings of saints that you disagree with (Sri
> > Ramakrishna) can be qualified with "Advaita" but they may not exactly be
> > what Shri Shankara taught. [Note: I am presuming that the teachings of Sri
> > Ramakrishna and Shri Shankara differ only due to the discussions on the list
> > and not because I have made any in-depth study of both].
If the followers of Ramakrishna claimed their teaching was advaita tantra
or something it might be acceptable but actually they describe it as
advaita vedanta and it is on those grounds I object.
> > ...to one who has exhaustively studied and compared anyone and everyone who
> > has talked of the Aikyata of Brahman and It being everything. Given that one
> > is spared this immense effort by simply referring to a tradition that has
> > done so over a period of time, it would be helpful to know if the formal
> > tradition of Adi Shankaracharya considers it it's view that what, for
> > example, Sri Ramakrishna taught was not advaitam or for that matter the
> > disagreements with Adi Shankara that Sri Swami Krishnananda of the Divine
> > Life Society has talked about have been discussed and clarified.
The Shankaracharyas are not like the pope. They cannot simply
excommunicate someone who is judged outside the Advaitic pale.
Neither do their followers look to them to do the thinking for them.
Their method has always been to provide the facts and let their followers
use their intelligence to draw the right conclusions.
As to the disagreements of Swami Krishnananda with Shankaracharya, I'd
like to know what they are. Do you have references?
> > Even if they use jivanmukti (which I have not come across so far except
> > maybe in Sri Swami Krishnananda's writings), do they have to formally relate
> > to the school of Adi Shankara? If jivanmukti *means* liberated while living,
> > does it matter where it came from? It is not that the concept of
> > it(jivanmukti) was known post-Gaudapada or post-Adi Shankara.
It matters if there is doubt about its meaning.
> > And might I add that no such need exists, at least in my opinion. Only
> > references that need be made are in terms of affirmation of statements like
> > "I am Brahman" and "You are that" and what they truly mean.
The "true meaning" is exactly the crux of the matter here. If there are
doubts or divergence about the true meanings they have to be investigated
and history is one of the means of doing so. You seemed to object to the
idea that what saints say needs to be put to the test. I say you have to
do this otherwise doubts will just fester.
> > Teacher of Advaita Vedanta of Adi Shankara or the teacher of the knowledge
> > that Brahman is One and is everything?
Both actually. Historically these Babajis never even went that far into
doctrine. Theirs is a very simple message of love and faith.
> > I would doubt you would come across anyone who feels ashamed to say that the
> > Baba they follow is not good enough and that somehow, a connection has to be
> > made to something more "respectable". Such a person is insulting the Baba
> > and his own faith in him.
I think so too. Nevertheless this is what is going on.
> > Historically, this question did not exist. Only when some Westerners studied
> > Sanskrit and then read our religious texts and Shankara's commentaries did
> > they shout about Advaita Vedanta from the rooftops. A good catalyst of this
> > was Sri Swami Vivekananda who introduced the West to Advaita Vedanta of Adi
> > Shankara. [Although it is said that philosophers like Kant were familiar
> > with the Upanishads].
Yes (Though Schopenhauer was the one who really emphasized it not Kant.)
The reason Vivekananda was invited to the west in the first place was
because there was already sufficient interest in it to make people want to
hear from a representative. His fame is due to his ability to put these
ideas into terms the western public could understand.
> > The person feeling this way needs to learn a lot of things. Following Babas
> > sincerely means going past the banana peel. It is a sad sad thing if you
> > know people who think like this. Chances are you will not but if you do,
> > maybe you can tell them to be sincere to their Baba instead of trying to win
> > them over.
Telling people won't achieve much. I consider blindly following me to
only be a marginal improvement over blindly following someone else. What
I'm trying to win people over to is the idea of thinking critically. Last
weeks excerpt from "Hindu Dharma" was very apropos I think.
> > There is a difference between saying "We are followers of ABC who says the
> > same thing as Adi Shankara so we are followers of the Shankarite tradition"
> > and saying "We are followers of ABC who says that God is One and that there
> > is nothing apart from him that exists (the concept of Advaitam)".
I've been maintaining all along that there isn't much of a difference.
> > More often than not, the "my Guru said" is either misquoted, mis-stated or
> > misinterpreted. However, without first understanding what the Guru said, a
> > discussion is not even possible.
So it follows that a Guru who is more understandable is better (i.e. more
useful) than one who isn't.
> > That is where I completely disagree. The "all the way" is very very
> > subjective and differs for each individual. It is not possible to make Mango
> > lassi out of an unripe mango meant for mango pickle. For such a mango, only
> > being suitable for picklehood is taught. The link between the preceptor and
> > the disciple, once established and formalized, goes on till the disciple
> > needs no more instruction. Considering this, it does not matter if a saint
> > asks someone to never touch the Bhagvat Gita but always work in a communal
> > kitchen all his/her life.
Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>
It's a girl! See the pictures - http://www.braincells.com/shailaja/
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