[Advaita-l] Re: Buddhism Related Discussions

Ramesh Krishnamurthy rkmurthy at gmail.com
Tue Aug 15 05:44:23 CDT 2006

On 11/08/06, Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com> wrote:
> 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.

Did you notice the smileys at the end of that sentence I wrote? What
you have written above is absolutely & totally unwarranted.

You would do well as a headmaster in a government school in India. No
teacher would dare to absent himself :)

> 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.

Can you point out a single instance where I have focused exclusively
on the "internal doctrines" of any group apart from the advaitins?
Whenever I have referred to any other group, it has always been in the
context of the said group's similarities and differences with respect
to advaita-vedAnta.

> > 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.

I did not say anything about who influenced whom. I said that all the
darSana-s sprang from  the same *culture* and thats an unalterable
fact. Whether that saMskR^iti & sabhyatA mean anything to you, I don't
know, but they mean a lot to me. I have travelled across bhArtavarSha
from Lahaul (trans-Himalayan region in Himachal Pradesh) to
Kanyakumari and Dvaraka to Bhutan. I feel it in my skin and bones.

On the jaina-s, what you say is probably true of Gujarat, but people
from Bengal, Orissa & Bihar would not agree (even though Bihar was the
birthplace of mahavIra jina), and a Nepali would emphatically reject

Names like tathAgata and sa~NghamitrA have long been popular in Orissa
and Bengal, and to a lesser extent in Bihar. And the people who keep
these names are well aware that these names have bauddha connections.
And I am not even talking about more popular names like siddhArtha or

In Nepal, the bauddha-s and the Astika-s are as closely knit as the
jaina-s & the Astika-s are in Gujarat.

As a southerner, why should I bother about your views anymore than
those of a Bengali or a Nepali?

And of course, it is the buddha who is accepted as an avatAra of
viShNu and not mahAvIra. Yes, I know that the story says that his
doctrine was meant only to delude the demons and so forth. Though this
view is not very charitable, the fact still remains that the buddha is
accepted as an avatAra and not as a negative personality. Many
vaiShNava-s hold similar views about Sa~NkarAcArya.

> 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 ||

If the similarities were so superficial, there would be no need for
debate by scores of scholars, ancient and modern.

I have read the MK. Instead of speculating about gauDapAda's leanings
(pl note that I never claimed anything regarding any AcArya's
leanings) or about who influenced who, let us analyse the concepts and
frameworks used by the two schools and see where they are similar and
where they differ.

I had provided a link to an article by Swami Dayananda Saraswati, one
of the most respected advaitin AcArya-s of today. The article talks a
lot about mithyA, and as Rishi Lamichhane said, the concept of mithyA
as described in the article seems to be similar to the shUnyatA of the

You have said nothing about this. You have said nothing about the
points raised by Kartik. Instead, you have gone off on a tangent. I
dont mind that, but who is making the discussion random?

> 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.

What is the concept of the soul? Let us use the word 'Atman'. In
common parlance, the word refers to an "entity" within each
individual, which is unaffected by death, which changes bodies like a
person changes clothes, etc. Therefore, when a person dies, they say
in Hindi "Ishvar uski AtmA ko shAnti de" (may ISvara give peace to his
AtmA). There is an implicit understanding here that each individual
has a separate Atman. Note the usage "uski AtmA", meaning "his AtmA".
What is the "his" here? The sentence indicates that there is a "he"
that "possesses" the Atman! This is clearly not the advaitic
understanding of the Atman.

IMO, it is this common understanding of Atman (as a separate entity
within each individual) that the bauddha-s rejected as a manifestation
of the ego and emphasized the idea of anatta (anAtman).

But is the advaitic Atman the same as what is mentioned above? Is
there such a thing as Ramesh's Atman, Jaldhar's Atman, Kartik's Atman,
etc? There isn't. The Atman is non-dual. Atman/brahman is not an
entity that exists. It is that which lends existence to all entities,
be it the computer, the table or the jIva. It is existence itself.
What is, is Atman/brahman.

> 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?

I don't. I am not saying that there is no difference, but what you
have mentioned above is insufficient.

To say that brahman is "knowable" is a reflection of the limitations
of language. There is no-one and no-thing apart from brahman that can
"know" it. brahman is not an object of knowledge.

And if brahman can be said to be "knowable", so can shUnyatA. How does
that help us?

> 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.

And it was the theistic vedAntins who referred to the advaitins as
pracanna bauddha-s. Commonalities of vaidika pramANa, etc
notwithstanding, it is much easier to appreciate the difference
between the advaitins and (say) the mAdhva-s, than the difference
between the advaitins and the bauddha-s.

Have you ever heard of a scholar claiming that the views of the
mAdhva-s and the advaitins are the same? At least I haven't. But the
relationship between the advaitins and the mAdhyamaka/yogAcAra
bauddha-s is more nuanced.

Tell me one thing. Are the advaitins closer to the mAdhva-s or to the
Saiva-s of Kashmir (the pratyabhij~na school)? You would probably say
the former as the mAdhva school also bases itself on commentaries to
the prasthAnatrayI. But I would clearly say the latter as it is also a
non-dual tradition. In practical terms too, the various daSanAmI
akhADA-s have much closer relationships with various Saiva-SAkta
groups than with the vaiShNava-s. In fact, Saiva/SAkta traditions are
so intertwined with the advaitins that the two are actually
inseparable. Sa~NkarAcArya was a consummate tAntrika too.


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