[Advaita-l] Question on Mayavada

Antharyami sathvatha at gmail.com
Sun Nov 14 20:34:31 CST 2010

Hari OM~

Sri Rajaram ji,

I feel it is my dharma to record my views to the issue being raised by you
on the Padma Purana reference to ‘maya vada’ being attributed to Sankara and
Advaita Vedata. I am refuting this position via this post.

There have been numerous compelling interpretative turns in the treatment of
Maya in the History of Vedanta. History of Vedanta records that the first
elaborate criticism of Advaita’s doctrine of Maya – Avidya was given by
Bhaskara in his commentary to BS while he systematized the Bhedabheda
doctrine of thought. Following Bhaskara, Yamunacarya (916-1036 CE) was first
among the Visistadvaitins who attempted an elaborate criticism of Advaitic
position on Maya, followed by Ramanuja in the 12th CE. Ramanuja’s 140 pg
introduction to Sri Bhasya circulates around this key metaphysical concept
of Maya-Avidya were he discusses Maya’s svarupa, its characteristic
features, Maya’s ontological position, it’s locus and so on. Now the issue
of our concern here is about the label ‘Maya vada’ – the Doctrine of Maya;
who propounded it ? How legitimate is it to attribute the label ‘Maya Vada’
to Advaita Vedata ? these are some questions I will follow in my writing

First of all, starting from Bhaskara, followed by Ramanuja, Desika, Madhva
and all commentators of Brahma Sutra claim the antiquity of their own
respective parampara-s. Ramanuja while criticizing the Advaitic position of
Maya, makes his claim that his theory on Maya alone is correct and that it
is maintained by his predecessors in his parampara. It is clear that
Ramanuja wants us to subscribe to his argument on Maya to be right !
Employing Abhyupagama, if Ramanuja’s contention on Maya alone, as he claims,
is right, then he is the true ‘Maya vadin’; in which case Visistadvaita
eventually becomes the true Maya Vada. If this is true, then Sankara’s Maya
Vada is apparentely false. Now, we need to decide whether Padma Purana
refers to the false Maya Vada or the true Maya Vada as asat Sastra. If it is
to the true Maya Vada, then it directly refers to Ramanuja’s doctrine which
earns the name ‘asat Sastra’. Padma Purana cannot refer to a ‘false’ Maya
vada which is an unwelcome supposition to the very Puranic credibility. At
any rate, both cases do not apply to Sankara’s theory of Maya. Moreover,
Maya according to Ramanuja’s philosophy is Real ontological category while
for Sankara it is inexplicable and for the fact that Brahman alone is real,
Maya is ultimately unreal, which augments my argument here that Ramanuja is
the ‘real Maya vadin’ while Sankara is not.

Further, Padma Purana reference to Maya-Vada cannot be attributed Sankara,
for Sankara did NOT propund it but merely systematized it. The contextuality
of Padma Purana clearly indicates that it is referring to the ‘propunder’ of
Maya vada, which categorically rules out Sankara. Now again, Ramanuja who
revers Yamuna as his preceptor must have initiated him to the ‘true Maya
Vada’. According to the Ramanuja’s sampradaya, it is Bodhayana who expounded
their Tradition who wrote a vrtti on the Brahma Sutra-s. Logically it should
be Bodhayana who must have expounded the ‘true Maya Vada’, which Padma
Purana refers to Asat Sastra. We know nothing about Bodhayana’s life. In the
welter of your postulations on the Padma Purana reference to Maya Vada as
Asat Sastra - why should we not assume that Bodhayana as the re-incarnation
of Shiva who was born as a Brahmana in the Kali who expounded this

Bellumkonda Ramaraya Kavi, (1875 – 1814 CE) a prolific Vedantin, a
visistadvaitin turned Advaitin, in his SankaraSankara Bhasya vimarsini,
gives some critical comments on Ramanuja where he says ‘Ramanuja is born as
a representation of Tamas – as a messenger of Kali in this Yuga who was born
as a Brahmana, to delude people with his misinterpretation of the Vedanta
tenets and to present a (asat) Sastra for the Dull-witted carrying out the
mission of Bodhayana who expounded it. I want to suspend my
historico-logical postulations to validate this theory which might fall in
perfect coalition with my above contentions.  Ramaraya himself cites many
Puranic references for a samanvaya to this.

On a concluding note, Advaita Vedanta is known as ‘ParamAdvaita’ by its
followers. According to ParamAdvaita, Brahman alone is Real which means its
Brahma vada. Murky imagination to label Advaita Vedanta as ‘maya vada’ does
not have any logical validation and cannot be endorsed with historical
evidence at any level. In the absence of any higher criticisms on the
critical editions of Padma Purana we cannot arrive at any postulations on
the intra-textual ambiguities and I recommend writers not to isolate
spurious contents and munch it over with freelance speculations.

With Narayana Smrti,
Doctoral Student,
Centre for the Study of Religion,
Jackman Humanities Building,
170 St. George Street, floor 3,
Toronto, Ontario M5R 2M8.

29 Doddington Dr
Toronto, ON
M8Y 1S3
Phone - 416-543-4585

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