[Advaita-l] The Evolution of Advaita from Sankara till Date

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Fri May 16 00:57:28 CDT 2008

On Thu, 15 May 2008, sivaramakrishnan muthuswamy wrote:

> Jaldarji, it is the most unfortunate comment i have ever heard from you. 
> I couldn't even believe it was you writing it.  What I see a vehement 
> opposition to Swami Vivekananda (mostly out of hatered)

???? hatred where?  I've mentioned the positive aspects of 
Ramakrishna/Vivekananda as well as the negatives.  I think the negatives 
outweigh the positives but that hardly qualifies as "hatred."

> Swami Vivekananda is a 
> product of various schools.

Thankyou.  So when i say he is not an advaitin, you agree with me, right?

>  His teacher in spiritual path is Sri 
> Ramakrishna (no doubt) but Adi Shankaracharya's influence in his life is 
> immense.

Sorry but that is not good enough.  Take another discussion we've been 
having recently.  Gaudapadacharya takes some terminology and (more 
debatedly) some ideas from Buddhism.  But he clearly rejects the marga set 
forth by Shakyamuni.  You could perhaps call him Buddhist-influenced but 
you certainly could _not_ call him a Buddhist.

If you say Vivekananda was partially influenced by Advaita Vedanta I 
believe you.  But that does not make him an Advaitin.

> The last pages of Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna will stand for it. 
> Let us face it.  Can I say Shankaracharya is a south indian and possibly 
> he is influenced by south Saiva siddanta school and that's why all the 
> peetams are asked to worship Shiva?  This is ridiculous.

For a start the analogy is incorrect because there is no evidence 
Shankaracharya was influenced by Shaiva Siddhanta and the pithas are asked 
to worship Devi, Vishnu, Surya, and Ganapati as well as Shiva.

> The cultural impact is basically kept aside when the theological 
> standpoint is analyzed.

I believe I did acknowledge the cultural impact.  But "cultural impact"
is not an excuse for ignoring the theological standpoint.

> I am not clear what you want "Vedantic" point of view. 
> Look, the important point is to obtain the "jnana" and not "Vedantic 
> textual knowledge".

See this is a good example of how one can talk Vedantic without actually 
being Vedantic.  Yes you are absolutely right that the supreme goal is to 
achieve jnana which is the sole cause of mukti.  But what you have omitted 
to mention is that only the sannyasi can obtain jnana.  (To head off one 
particular argument let me make clear that by sannyasi is meant one who 
has completely renounced the material world not just the ochre-robed 
carrier of the danda.)  For the non-sannyasi, vyavaharic dharma (which 
includes "Vedantic textual knowledge") is of the highest importance.  No 
advaitin would dismiss it which is why it is the Advaitins who 
historically have been the best amongst the textual scholars as well as 
the jnanis.

This reinterpretation can also be explained in historical terms.  The 
Bengalis of that time were certainly proud to be Hindu and Indian but they 
also craved the rewards of colonial service.  By stressing jnana, they 
could jettison the onerous demands of the karmakanda and read a few 
books and attend some lectures instead while still maintaining a 
guilt-free conscience.

> You claim that Swami Vivekananda idea freezed the growth of hindu 
> thoughts in modern india.

Not quite.  I'm saying that thanks to him (not just him but he is the 
major figure) the Hindu idea of what it means to be "modern" has been 
frozen in the 19th century.

> Let me tell you not even a fraction of India's 
> population reads any spiritual book - leave alone Vivekananda's.

The influence of a great man extends far beyond his immediate students. 
What I am saying is that Vivekananda set the course of "modern" Hinduism. 
I acknowledge that I'm just saying that that particular variety of 
modernity has outlived its usefulness.

> I bet you have no Idea abt. the works of Swami Vivekananda.  He is one 
> true sanyasin who's heart was bleeding for the poor's comfort.  He never 
> sat in a corner to do tapas nor he collected some money and designed 
> "Courses" for western people.  Nook and corner of India - he and his 
> sanyasin brothers established hospitals, schools, and charity halls to 
> alleviate the suffering.  That was their Tapas.

And here is another example of deviation and reinterpretation of Advaita 
Vedanta.  The whole point of being a "true" sannyasin is to sit in a 
corner doing tapa.  Really that's it!  A sannyasi is "useless," he has 
renounced society and all its pairs of opposites such as poor and rich. 
It doesn't mean there shouldn't be a social conscience, only that it is 
the responsibility of the grhastha to give dana etc.  Not the sannyasi. 
His only job is to get mukti.

So where did this idea come from?  Does it require great scholarly insight 
to see he was only aping the Christian padres who were busy establishing 
"hospitals, schools, and charity halls" at this time?  (Why do you think 
it is called the Ramakrishna _Mission_?)

> You say the books are available in plenty.  Do you know how.  Apart from 
> some private publications it is Sri Ramakrishna ashram's personal effort 
> so many books are available.

And I acknowledge this and even recommend RK mission books where 
appropriate.  But as you yourself say, the availability of books is not 
translating into _reading_ of the books and _acting_ upon them.  Why is 

When a person learns about Vedanta through Vivekananda or any modern 
interpreter they are getting a second-hand view.  Sometimes this may be 
necessary and then it is not a problem.  But obviously if you can go 
directly to the tradition it is better.  If anyone asks my opinion I will 
always recommend original sources and only fall back to second-hand ones 
if there is no alternative.

> You say the nature of West has changed.  Let me ask you who did it 
> first? It is Swami Vivekananda.

The reasons for changes in Western outlook are complicated and beyond the 
scope of this list to discuss but the important point to note is that it 
is changing in different directions from the ones Vivekananda emphasized.

>  If you dont have the capacity to show 
> gratitude, that is alright but don't throw mud at others because first 
> it contaminates your hand. Jaladarji, you come across as a learned man. 
> Please dont harbor shallow thoughts.

If I come across as learned why do you think my thoughts are shallow? I am 
not unbiased.  I will cheerfully admit that I am an unabashed partisan of 
Advaita Vedanta.  This is the lense I am viewing the legacy of Vivekananda 
through.  Nevertheless I have tried to be even-handed and sober in my 
assessment.  That is not mud-slinging.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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