[Advaita-l] Re: Buddhism Related Discussions

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Fri Aug 11 01:03:19 CDT 2006

On Tue, 8 Aug 2006, Ramesh Krishnamurthy wrote:

> Maybe I should use "bauddham" or "arya dhamma" or some such term to
> bypass the moderator :))

That's a sure fire way of getting yourself banned.  We moderators try not 
to use a heavy hand but we aim to keep this list focused on Advaita 
Vedanta and Smarta sampradaya and not random "discussions."  Sometimes 
we even disagree amongst ourselves where exactly to draw the line and if 
you would like to persuade us to draw it differently do so, but please no 
silly games.

No culture exists in a vacuum so it is important to study even opponents 
when they have been formative influences but even there, the focus should 
only be on how they have interacted with us not their internal doctrines.

> But bauddham is an
> important element of our philosophic tradition and a part of the same
> culture as vedAnta and the other darSana-s.

Of the Nastika darshans, Jainism has had a longer-lasting and more 
profound influence on our tradition IMO and even that is not very much. 
By Shankaracharyas time, Buddhism had already begun to decline in India.

The purported closeness between Buddhism and Advaita Vedanta is as 
superficial as that of a fish and a whale.  Take for example the supposed 
Buddhist leanings of Gaudapadacharya.  One of the main pieces of evidence 
offered as support for that view is MK 4.83.

asti nAstyasti nAstIti nAsti nAstitIti vA punaH |
chalasthirobhayAbhAvairAvrNotyeva bAlishaH || 83 ||

repeatedly saying "It exists", "it does not exist", "it exists and does 
not exist", and "it never existed" the fool and his notions of 
changeablility and unchangeability, both, and neither, do cover it up.

It refers to the atman. This is the classic Chatushkoti as expressed by 
Nagarjuna in Mula Madhyamaka Karikas.  His point is to emphasize that 
the idea of atma is semantically null (shunya)  It is impossible to say 
anything about it.

But look at the next shloka:

koTyashchatasra etAstu grahairyAsAM sadA'vrtaH |
bhagavAnAbhirasprShTo yena drShTaH sa sarvadrk || 84 ||

By holding these four theories, Bhagavan always remains covered.  But he 
who sees Him as untouched by these, sees in all directions [i.e. is 

Btw, the holders of the four theories are:
1. Samkhya/Yoga which holds that the atmas are seperate, eternal entities.
2. Charvaka and other materialists who don't believe in a soul only the body.
3. Jains, who provisionally accept the idea of a soul but not eternally.
4. Shunyavadi Buddhists who think the concept of a soul is an illusion.

In other words there is something beyond the conceptions of the individual 
atma called Bhagavan (significantly, not Brahman.  Bhagavan is a much more 
loaded term.) Nagarjuna is the consummate agnostic.  Gaudapada explicitly 
asserts a positive, knowable, ultimate reality.  See the difference?

For all the arguments between the Advaitins and theistic Vedantins, they 
are much closer together in their beliefs than any of them are to Buddhists.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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