[Advaita-l] A note on some recent discussions

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Sun Aug 27 11:12:16 CDT 2006

Dear Sri Devanathan,

I admire the fact that although born into a background of viSishTAdvaita in a SrIvaishNava family (?), you have a great affinity
for advaita vedAnta.

However, both as an advaitin in general and as a moderator of this list in particular, I must ask you to note the following.

1. Whether appayya dIkshita was a Saiva or an advaitin is not something we are going to judge and decide on this list. It is my
sincere opinion, as well as that of many others, that it is possible to be both. Just as it is possible to be a vaishNava and also an
advaitin. The only caveat is that if one is an advaitin, the terms Saiva, vaishNava and SAkta lose their sectarian meanings and 
become references to one's ishTa-devatA. As bhagavAn says in the gItA, "ye yathA mAm prapadyante tAns tathaiva bhajAmyaham."
In appayya dIkshita's case, many things are explained if one takes the historical background of fierce rivalry among 

2. Yes, certain statements in the gItAbhAshya may lead one to think that Sankara bhagavatpAda advocates worship of vishNu
over that of Siva or other devatA-s. However, if one understands his overall position well, it should be clear that this is not quite
the case. What we advaitins advocate is worship of the parabrahman with the clear understanding that it is One brahman who is
the sarvAtmA, sarvAntaryAmI and advaita.

If one worships vishNu with only the understanding that He is four-armed, lying on AdiSesha, husband of lakshmI, then one does
not have the correct and full understanding of vishNu.

If one worships Siva with only the understanding that He is armed with a bow (pinAka), sitting on kailAsa, husband of pArvatI, then
one does not have the correct and full understanding of Siva.

This idea is clearly brought out in bhagavatpAda's kenopanishad bhAshya on the verses ending "nedaM yad idam upAsate."

3. For advaitins, Sruti is a central pramANa and we must note that it is the same upanishat (mahAnArAyaNa) that tells us both

viSvaM nArAyaNaM devam aksharam paramam padaM ... nArayaNa param brahma tattvaM nArAyaNaH paraH ...

as also 

sarvo vai rudras tasmai rudrAya namo astu ... yo rudro agnau yo apsu ya oshadhIshu yo rudra viSvA bhuvanA viveSa tasmai
rudrAya namo astu...

We even have a mantra "namo rudrAya vishNave mRtyur me pAhi."

Please also note that Sankara bhagavatpAda often quotes the mahAnArayaNa upanishat, although he has not directly commented
upon it. To sum up what can be a very long discussion, advaitins approach Siva and vishNu with the clear understanding that these
are two of the forms of the same One parabrahman and are therefore non-different in essence.

4. It is really far-fetched to claim that true advaitins used to wear only gopI-candana and that bhasma-dhAraNa is a much more
recent development, after the times of appayya dIkshita. If one wants to get into cultural and anthropological discussions of what
marks were worn by different traditions and what times in history, that is not a relevant topic of discussion for this list. In fact, if one
looks at practices today, in south India, even smArtas who sometimes wear gopI-candana wear only bhasma during special ritual
occasions. Only mAdhvas wear gopI-candana exclusively. In north India, advaita sannyAsins are seen wearing either bhasma or
candana (not gopI-candana), in horizontal lines on the forehead (tripuNDra), not in the vertical fashion (UrdhvapuNDra). However, 
on this list, we try to keep away from these outward differences and concentrate on the philosophy.

Keeping all the above in mind, the moderators as well as the vast majority of readers of this list, would very much appreciate it if you
could wind up the current threads on Sankara, appayya dIkshita, Siva and vishNu, concentrating instead on weightier topics in advaita.
Please do not interpret this mail as an attempt to muzzle freedom of expression, but understand that it is our way of ensuring that the list
discussions stay focused.

Vidyasankar Sundaresan
On behalf of the moderator team
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