[Advaita-l] General Comments on Philosophical Discourse

Ramakrishnan Balasubramanian rama.balasubramanian at gmail.com
Wed May 9 14:41:03 CDT 2007

A quick mail based on discussions so far. I have written about this
before, but it seems this is unclear to many people. There are
multiple things involved in philosophical discourse. Let's look at it
from the advaitic-centric point of view:

1. Discussion with schools which do not accept all the pramaaNas used
by advaita, e.g, Buddhism, Jainism, etc.
2. Discussion with schools which accept the pramaaNas used by advaita,
but with some differences. E.g., nyAya-vaishShika considers the veda
subsidiary to logic
3. Discussion with schools which accept the pramANas used by advaita,
but disagree with the method of examination, e.g, bhedAbheda-vaada

In the discussion with the schools above, the first thing to see is if
they are self-consistent. What we mean by this is do they suffer from
logical defects like circular logic, infinite regress, etc. This is an
accepted fact in all schools, be they orthodox or non-orthodox.
Discussions of it can be found in some nyAya sUtras, and these are
accepted in toto by all schools. The fact is that these are nothing
more than simple common sense. So this is not even discussed by
shankara, or for that matter Ramanuja, etc. These are elementary
school stuff as far as these philosophers are concerned.

When shankara criticizes the vij~naanavaadins, he develops an
intricate argument showing that the momentariness of consciousness
leads inevitably to the problem of infinite regress. Note that there
is no mention of the veda, anubhava, or anything at all. The point is
simple: the system suffers from infinite regress, so it has to be
discarded. QED.

When shankara discusses with the logician, he being shankara, clearly
knows that *if* the fundamental premises of the logician hold, then
the logician is correct. So he goes straight to the heart of the
matter, viz. the fundamental premises. Do you accept the fundamental
premises/tarka of men, be they as renown as kaNAda or gautama, or do
you accept the fundamental premises/tarka of the veda? The veda wins,
at least in Shankaras view. This tarka wins purely because it is given
by the veda, and by that reason alone. The logic may use anubhava or
whatever, but the logic derives its legitimacy purely from the
attestation of the vedas.

The discussion with the third category above also includes what kind
of tarka can be used, but also includes other techniques such as
consistent interpretation of shruti passages. We need not go into
those details here.

The first thing is we cannot dismiss the vij~naanavaadins by using the
defect of circular logic, infinite regress, etc., and have the same
problem ourselves. So, unless we agree in this fundamental point,
there is no need to have any discourse.

Suppose, we agree that circular logic is evil. Coming back to the
paper, claim 1 is pretty simple: "avidyA cannot be due to the mind
superimposing the notions of pramAtR^i, pramANa and prameya on the
self, because the system which accepts this suffers from circular

There are the following possibilities:

1. Shankara accepts the avidyA is epistemic
2. Shankara does not accept avidyA is epistemic.

Let us assume 1 is true (just for the heck of it) and that I am a
dvaitin. First, prove to me that avidyA being epsitemic and still
following the description in claim 1, does not suffer from circular

My paper shows a) avidyA being epsitemic is circular logic and b)
Shankara does not accept avidyA is epsitemic. To disprove my pratij~nA
you have to disprove *both*. Disproving part a) of my pratij~nA
requires a hetu, and it's not good enough quoting random passages out
of context.


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