[Advaita-l] A note on some recent discussions

S Venkatachalam chalam at thehindu.co.in
Tue Aug 29 07:18:08 CDT 2006

A wonderful note. Hope, this will lead us to a better path.
S. Venkatachalam

-----Original Message-----
From: advaita-l-bounces at lists.advaita-vedanta.org
[mailto:advaita-l-bounces at lists.advaita-vedanta.org]On Behalf Of
Vidyasankar Sundaresan
Sent: Sunday, August 27, 2006 9:42 PM
To: advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org
Subject: [Advaita-l] A note on some recent discussions

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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