[Advaita-l] Re: Buddhism Related Discussions

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Wed Aug 16 11:24:05 CDT 2006

On Tue, 15 Aug 2006, Ramesh Krishnamurthy wrote:

> Did you notice the smileys at the end of that sentence I wrote?

Humorous or not, we have a lot of new members who were not present for the 
last time this discussion went on and might need a reminder of the 
acceptable parameters.

We the moderators don't want to pre-read and certify every post if for no 
other reason than we haven't got the time.  Instead we count on the 
readers to exercise some judgement.  For the most part it works well.

> I did not say anything about who influenced whom. I said that all the
> darSana-s sprang from  the same *culture*


> 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
> it.

So it would seem more profitable not to consider Indian (or South Asian, 
or Hindu or Eastern...) culture as a monolith.

Anyway as already mentioned that particular offshoot if you want to call 
it that withered away many centuries ago in most parts of India.

> Names like tathAgata and sa~NghamitrA have long been popular in Orissa
> and Bengal, and to a lesser extent in Bihar.

How long have they been popular?

Apart from perhaps the Tibetan influenced areas like Darjeeling and around 
Sikkim I doubt if you will find such names from between the 12th to 19th 
centuries (when interest in Buddhism revived due to western scholarship.)

There may be traces of influence or atleast sympathy.  One example I like 
to cite is the poet Jayadevas' Gita Govinda (approx 13th-14th century?) 
In the Dashavatara stuti, he portrays the Buddha avatar in a sympathetic 
way.  But he is clearly writing as a Vaishnava and knows nothing of 
Buddhist doctines.

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

Because we are all one culture? ;-)

> And of course, it is the buddha who is accepted as an avatAra of
> viShNu and not mahAvIra.

Even there it is not so clear cut.  Take a look at Vishnu Purana 3.18. 
The avatara appears as a shaven headed naked sadhu (like a Digambara Jain) 
carrying a broom of peacock feathers  (A Jain practice even today.) 
3.18.8-9 contains the Jain doctrine known as syadavada.  In 3.18.11 He 
refers to his new Daitya followers as Arhats (a term for Jain saints.)

Elsewhere in the story, Bauddha and even Charvaka doctrines are mentioned. 
An etymology of Buddha is given in 3.18.18 and as you say the avatar is 
referred to as  Buddha.  Yet reading this chapter it should be clear that 
a composite of all kinds of Nastikas is being portrayed not just Buddhists 
and certainly not the historical Buddha.

> 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
> bauddha-s.

For Nagarjuna shunyata is the ultimate.  For Advaitins, there is 
something beyond mithya--Brahman.

> 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.

No of course not.  Atma in common parlance merely means self.  In fact it 
is even used that way in Sanskrit.

> 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).

Yes that's right.  But they also didn't propose any positive entity beyond 
it (a "soul") while Samkhya, Vedanta, or even Jains did.

In fact in this regard the Buddhist view is even more extreme than the 
Charvakas who were atleast willing to admit atma = bodily self.  But the 
Buddhists think concepts such as self and consciousness are momentary 
(kshanika) This is why the karika refers to their view as "it does not 
exist, it does not exist"

> 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.

No it is the ground of knowledge.  When false knowledge is removed it 
becomes known without being an object.

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

You can say that about Shunyata if you like.  But Nagarjuna did not.  In 
comparison every Vedantin has said without equivocation that Brahman is 

> 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.

If one is determined to "appreciate" one difference over another there 
isn't much to argue about.  But such subjective opinions aren't very 
useful to other people.

> 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.

Actually I wouldn't say either unless the question was qualified better.

  In practical terms too, the various daSanAmI
> akhADA-s have much closer relationships with various Saiva-SAkta
> groups than with the vaiShNava-s.

If you say so.  A good many North Indian Vaishnavas have relationships 
with Dashanamis too.  But none of this helps in determining the 
relationship between Advaitins and Bauddhas for the simple reason that 
unlike Shaivas or Vaishnavas, the Bauddhas are not around anymore.

> In fact, Saiva/SAkta traditions are
> so intertwined with the advaitins that the two are actually
> inseparable. Sa~NkarAcArya was a consummate tAntrika too.

Yet that didn't stop him from opposing other consummate Tantrikas (which 
is what the Vajrayana Buddhists were too.) as is often mentioned in the 

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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