[Advaita-l] New Book on Advaita (and Buddhism)

S Jayanarayanan sjayana at yahoo.com
Wed Aug 11 14:21:31 CDT 2004

Would anyone have access to this new book by O.N.Krishnan? I think most
modern scholarship on advaita overlooks the fact that Shankara
presupposes a thorough grounding in the study and practice of Ethics
prior to enquiry into the nature of the Self. It would be interesting
to see if Krishnan has taken the effort to point this out in his
discussion on the topic of "Ethics in Shankara's teachings".



The Hindu
Online edition of India's National Newspaper
Tuesday, Aug 10, 2004

Book Review

Advaita and Buddhism 


O. N. Krishnan; Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Pvt. Ltd., 41, U.A.
Bunglow Road, Jawahar Nagar, Delhi-110007. Rs. 595. 

THE BOOK under review is an attempt to understand Indian philosophy in
the backdrop of the Upanishadic, Buddhistic and the Advaitic
traditions. The author says that it is a layman's journey through
Indian philosophy and he has undertaken this philosophical journey to
know and interpret the great traditions for which he has to be

Philosophical concepts 

In 18 chapters, divided into six parts, he deals with the Vedic ideas,
the Upanishads, Buddhism, early Advaita, Advaita of Sankara and the
Ultimate Reality. The fundamental philosophical concepts like the
nature of God, soul and the world are necessary to the understanding of
the Ultimate Reality. Polytheism and sacrificial rites are dealt with
in the first chapter and also the concept of immortality examined from
the Vedic and the Upanishadic standpoints. 

The basic ideas of the Upanishads are presented with sincerity and
conviction. The nature of the individual Self, relation between the
universe and the Self, doctrine of Karma and rebirth form the crux of
the chapter on the Upanishads. 

Early Buddhism 

A study of early Buddhism is made in part three. The author compares
Buddhism and the Katha Upanishad and shows the differences between
them— the Upanishad postulates Atman as the ultimate underlying and
unchanging Reality, which has the characteristics of Sat (existence)
Cit (consciousness) and Ananda (bliss), whereas for the Buddha the
hallmarks of existence are, Anitam (impermanence), Anatta (no Self) and
Dukkha (suffering). A chapter on Abhidhamma has a discourse on Dharma.
It aims at the classification and codification of the Dharmas.
Similarly, a study on the Prajnaparamita movement, which rejects the
Abhidharmic ideas, shows how both the Self and things are empty. 

Pre-Sankara Advaita 

The early Advaita Vedanta is discussed from the Gaudapada Karika. He
discusses the influence of the Madhyamika and the Yogacharya schools of
Buddhism on this text. The author claims that the theories of
non-origination and comparison of the waking and dream states examined
in the Karika are all drawn from Buddhism. He compares concepts like
Atman and Vijnana with the Karika and Buddhism. But scholars like
T.M.P. Mahadevan have shown how the Karika is different from Buddhism
and how Gaudapada is very much original in his approach. Though there
are certain doctrines common to both Buddhism and the Karika, the
similarity is only an apparent one, according to Mahadevan. It is not
known whether the author is aware of this important point. 

The author examines the Advaita of Sankara wherein he deals with
concepts like Maya, Atman and contrasts them with Buddhism. Towards the
end of this chapter, there is a discussion on the ethics of Sankara.
The issue has been debated both by Indian and Western scholars. Some
like Rudolf Otto argued that Sankara's philosophy lacks ethics whereas
thinkers like Radhakrishnan have shown ethics in Sankara's teachings. 

Though the author claims that this book is a work on Indian philosophy,
he has restricted himself only to two schools, namely, Buddhism and
Advaita. For those who are interested in knowing the basics of Advaita
and Buddhism, this book will serve as a good introduction. 


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