[Advaita-l] Re: bhAgavata purANa

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Tue Aug 22 20:33:55 CDT 2006

> -- Jaldharji, if we accept Wendy Doniger's dates, many of the purANas were> penned down later to shaN^kara, and hence their number could not have been> 18 during shaN^kara's time. Please note though that this does not mean that> the stories/ideas themselves were not known.
Even if the dates of the purANa texts as we currently know them are post-Sankara, it doesn't follow that their number was different in earlier times. The Indian tradition is quite strong in remembering and transmitting these kinds of numbers. We need to free our minds from the tyranny of the written word and look at the purANa-s as orally transmitted texts that were relatively more elastic in their scope and therefore subject to change over time.
> > I have a few further questions on vyAsa, bhAgavata purANa vis-a-vis advaita> vEdAnta.> > -- Is vyAsa considered to be an incarnation of nArAyaNa in advaita vEdAnta?> Is it more like a later-day belief like shaN^kara being an incarnation of> shiva, or is it justified on the basis of shAstra pramANa like the purANas?
As far as advaita is concerned, there is no particular advantage or disadvantage conferred by taking a position on whether vyAsa is considered an incarnation of nArAyaNa or not. 
> > -- What is the status of purANas in advaita vEdAnta? Do they form part of> the shabda pramANa? If so, why haven't they been used much in the> commentaries of shaN^kara? For example, in the bhAgavata purANa, the> "AtmAvasyamidaM" verse occurs while detailing how the IshAvAsya has been> revealed. Thus, in the interpretation of the IshAvAsya upaniShat.h, the> relevant context in the bhAgavata would have been immensely useful. How come> shaN^kara never chooses to use such context at all?
itihAsa-purANa is definitely considered as part of SAstra. See for example, various references in brahmasUtra and bhagavadgItA bhAshya-s.
However, in the vedAnta tradition, purANas were never considered to be commentaries on the veda and there was never any school that needed to interpret the vedAnta according to purANic references. To describe the bhAgavata as a commentary on the upanishats and to interpret accordingly are relatively very recent trends in some schools. 
> > -- Right from the times of rAmAnuja, it seems the purANas have been> classified into sAttvika, rAjasika and tAmasika. And when two purANas> conflict, the sAttvika purANa prevails over the other etc. Is this> acceptable to the advaitins? What is also the opinion of shaivite advaitic> commentators like srIkanTha, appaya dIkShita etc. on this issue?> 
It would be interesting to know the SAstra pramANa for classifying the purANa-s thus. I don't know whether a scholar like appayya dIkshita ever felt the need to address this classification.
> -- Is there any difference between uttara mImAMsa and vEdAnta? It seems that> uttara mImAMsa concerns itself mostly with the appropriate interpretation of> the upaniShats, while vEdAnta also admits other shAstras like the> mahAbhArata, the purANas etc. Is this a correct distinction to maintain?
No. vedAnta = uttara mImAMsA. There are three starting points (prasthAna-s) for vedAnta: revelation (Sruti - upanishats), remembered traditions, (smRti - gItA, primarily, but also yogaSAstra texts, Apastambha/ASvalAyana/baudhAyana/ ... sUtra-s, manusmRti etc.) and logic (nyAya - brahmasUtra-s). Please note that the gItA is part of the mahAbhArata, the primary itihAsa text. Numerous sUtras in the brahmasUtra read, "api ca smaryate," "smaranti ca" etc. Most of the times, the reference is to the gItA. Inasmuch as the brahmasUtra is the primary sUtra of uttara mImAMsA, we have to note that the interpretation is not only of upanishat texts, but also of the gItA and affiliated texts. 
> > -- Irrespective of whether vyAsa is considered an incarnation of nArAyaNa or> not, given that vyAsa is included in the guru paraMpara, his other writings> like the mahAbhArata and the purANas should have been given special> attention to understand what he is trying to convey. But there doesn't seem> to be any authoritative commentary on the mahAbhArata, for example, from the> advaita vEdAnta school (or are there some standard commentaries?). Any> particular reason for this?
Perhaps this was because in the historical prime of the advaita tradition, the purANas were considered to be simple enough to not require further commentaries on them. In upadeSasAhasrI, Sankara specifically says the sAdhaka should study vyAsamata (the thought of vyAsa) and the upanishat-s. This has to be a reference to primarily the gItA and secondarily the mahAbhArata itself.
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