Questions on Buddhism (was Re: [Advaita-l] Re: gauDapAda and Sankara)

Sylvain elisabeth-sylvain at
Tue Aug 1 06:22:06 CDT 2006

Namaste Kartik

i think your questions are very interesting.  I suggest you to post the same 
message in a few buddhist lists to see different points of view.


----- Original Message ----- 
From: "S Jayanarayanan" <sjayana at>
To: <advaita-l at>
Sent: Monday, July 31, 2006 10:25 PM
Subject: Questions on Buddhism (was Re: [Advaita-l] Re: gauDapAda and 

> As no one has followed up Vidya's posting, I would like to point out
> what in my opinion is missing in discussions on this topic.
> --- Vidyasankar Sundaresan <svidyasankar at> wrote:
> [..]
>> A
>> search of our
>> list archives for threads on Buddhism and Advaita should pull up
>> all the
>> relevant older material. Our list has a much wider membership base
>> now, so
>> rather than revisit an old discussion with a former member of this
>> list, I
>> would look forward to reading fresh perspectives from some of our
>> newer list
>> members.
> I personally would be very interested in *serious* comparisons
> between Buddhism and advaita. This is something everyone wonders
> about after reading the GauDapAdIya kArikA and the striking
> similarity it bears to Nagarjuna's Mula-Madhayamaka-Karika (MMK).
> There are two camps - one suggesting that the two schools are the
> same, the other suggesting that GauDapAda is refuting Buddha. Neither
> seems very convincing for various reasons.
> But the real deficiency in such comparisons overlooks the fact that
> Nagarjuna's philosophy has been virtually dead for centuries now, and
> understanding Nagarjuna is not easy. The Tibetan or Sri Lankan
> Buddhists do not study Nagarjuna in depth, and it is all very
> peripheral to their religion anyway. It is also false to state that
> someone who says he is following Nagarjuna must indeed be
> representing Nagarjuna accurately. Dvaitins will claim to represent
> Krishna in the Gita accurately, but advaitins cannot accept that
> claim. So just because someone claims he is following Nagarjuna does
> not automatically make him the authority on that philosophy. I don't
> have time to go into it in detail, but many scholars -- David
> Kalupahana in particular -- seem to twist many of Nagarjuna's verses
> to suit their own perspective rather than present the case
> objectively. The fact that Kalupahana is a Sri Lankan does not imply
> that he has the final word on Buddhism.
> Here are some fundamental questions that absolutely need to be
> answered before anyone begins to compare Buddhism and advaita:
> 1) Buddhists use a "foud-fold logical system". This consists of the
> four categories of being, non-being, neither-being-nor-non-being, and
> both-being-and-non-being.
> Question: Why don't Buddhists use the dual logic of "being and
> non-being"? In other words, why not the straightforward two-fold
> logical system instead of a contrived four-fold one?
> Some modern logicians have experimented with three-fold and
> higher-fold logic, but the practical usefulness of such logical
> systems remains undemonstrated, and such systems are purely for
> theoretical purposes. Unless there is some clarification on such
> seemingly absurd positions as "both being and non-being", the
> philosophy cannot be taken seriously.
> I'm certain that there is a good reason for Buddhists to introduce
> such a four-fold logical system rather than a two-fold system, for
> even GauDapAda specifically mentions the four-fold system. If the
> Buddhists were fools to introduce such a system, would GauDapAda have
> taken pains to present advaita in terms of (or transcending) this
> four-fold system?
> 2) Right in the middle of his MMK, Nagarjuna says:
> Shunyata = Pratitya Samutpada = Madhyamika
> Question: What does this (apparently incongruous) equation represent?
> This is by far the strangest equation in the MMK if not in all of
> Buddhism. It is saying that the VOID, which is usually equated with
> non-existence in common parlance, is "dependent arising", which is
> exactly the same as the "middle way". Why should the word "VOID" be
> used to represent something totally different -- "dependent arising"
> -- which is not non-existence? Prima facie, this seems like a
> nonsensical choice of words: why should "VOID" be connected with
> "arising"?
> The basic expectation for the answer to the above question is that it
> should not be speculative (any child can offer speculation); rather
> it should explain clearly how and why Nagarjuna arrives at that
> equation. Unlike most statements by Nagarjuna that are negative in
> nature, the above equation is one of the few statements that are
> positive, and it is in need of a great deal of explanation.
> (One explanation, provided by TMP Mahadevan, is that Nagarjuna is
> describing change -- when an entity changes, it is no longer the
> entity it was, and has therefore lost its self-nature, making it a
> void. This may be so, but Nagarjuna's own shlokas don't directly give
> that argument, it is Mahadevan's interpretation of it.)
> 3) Seldom does Nagarjuna actually refer to the Buddha's own words in
> the MMK, but scores of Buddhists claim that the MMK correctly
> represents Buddha. This is in complete contrast to other schools
> which provide definite references to authority. For example, when
> Kumarila Bhatta claims that he follows the Vedas, he freely quotes
> from it, and the general tendency of any person is to quote the
> authority that he or she follows. The lack of any quotes from the
> Buddha's own words makes Nagarjuna's claims of representing Buddha
> very dubious.
> Question: Is there some good reason to believe that Nagarjuna is
> correctly representing Buddha? If so, why are there virtually no
> references or quotes to the Buddha in the MMK to justify that claim?
> (There are a couple of references to the personage of Buddha, but no
> quotes from any of Buddha's sermons).
> Without providing crystal clear answers to the above questions,
> discussions on comparative studies between Buddhism and advaita
> cannot proceed.
> Thanks,
> Kartik
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