[Advaita-l] Re: yoga and vedanta

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Mon Aug 1 12:23:06 CDT 2005

>Is the R Balasubramanian mentioned here the same as the Ramakrishnan
>Balasubramanian who wrote this post? If so, I am going to smile all

Actually, no :). R. Balasubramanian, who has researched sureSvara's 
sambandha vArttika extensively, is an elderly gentleman, who used to be in 
Chennai, and is now in Delhi, I believe. Ramakrishnan Balasubramanian, who 
is a member of our list, is a young man, living in the US.

That aside, I find much of the questioning about padmapAda to be futile. For 
one thing, we will never know from internal textual references alone, who 
was whose disciple. Only tradition tells us such details, and much of this 
tradition is orally handed down. One can take it or leave it.

Two, if pancapAdiKA was written much later than Sankara's times, then that 
makes the bhAmatI the earliest sub-commentary on the brahmasUtra bhAshya. 
Now, we know for a fact that the bhAmatI author, vAcaspati miSra, differs 
from Sankara in more than a few places too. So, if we are to say that we 
should go back to the original bhAshya because it has been distorted by the 
subcommentaries, this means that no one among the earliest readers of the 
bhAshya understood it right. On the other hand, how do we retrieve the 
original text of the bhAshya? Through the very same tradition that produced 
the subcommentaries. We cannot assume that the tradition has transmitted the 
text of the bhAshya faithfully and simultaneously assume that the same 
tradition has distorted the meaning of the bhAshya in the subcommentaries. 
This "going back to the original text" while decrying the tradition that has 
been responsible for textual transmission is not useful.

Three, it is clear to most readers that madhusUdana sarasvatI exalts bhakti 
much more than Sankara does. Not that Sankara rejects bhakti, but the fact 
is that he does not give it as much prominence as madhusUdana does. It is 
another thing to equate the para-jnAna with para-bhakti when understanding 
Sankara's texts, but if we were to look at it purely textually, the number 
of instances where Sankara refers to bhakti is actually very small, 
comparatively speaking. If we are still to say that Sankara does accept 
bhakti, by the same token, we should also note that Sankara also accepts 
yoga in a qualified manner, in the same texts. Indeed, the references to 
yoga far outnumber those to bhakti (and I mean yoga in the specific sense of 
the yoga theory and practice associated with the school of that name). We 
cannot stridently state that Sankara rejects anything to do with yoga, 
lock-stock-and-barrel, and in the same breath, try to explain away the 
sparser references to bhakti in the gItAbhAshya. This approach is not true 
to the text itself.

Fourth, yes, for all of us Sankara is the guru, but nowhere in the tradition 
is it said that Sankara is the only guru. As a matter of guru-bhakti, it is 
well and good to regard his vacana as equivalent to veda-vAk, but at a 
philosophical level, we always have to remember that veda is Sruti, while 
Sankara's bhAshyas are not. Indeed, neither Sankara himself, nor any of the 
later representatives of the tradition, have claimed that his bhAshyas are 
Sruti. It is because of this self-critical attitude internal to the 
tradition that sureSvara is able to say, without hesitation, "bhAshyaM 
viruddhyate" when discussing who is eligible for saMnyAsa. Moreover, 
thinking that we can keep only the bhAshya and reject all the others in the 
tradition who have handed it down for more than a millenium, is at some 
level, unwarranted hubris.


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