[Advaita-l] Modern science and Vedanta.

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Tue Jul 19 12:02:18 CDT 2011

> I saw a post from you that Madhusudana differs from Sankara but could not
> trace your mail - hence unable to quote it. You were referring to Advaita
> Siddhi without specific references where you allege that Madhusudana differs
> from Sankara. Scholars come up with such views and it is unforuntately
> posted by Sri Vidyasankar also on his site also. As far as I have seen, true
> to his word, he has exposited on the commentary of Sankara throwing light on
> the meanings inherent in the works of the acharya. The apparent
> contradictions are either different readings admissibile within the
> tradition or a misreading by the scholars. Madhusudana, who is revered as a
> jivan mukta by his disciple, considers himself to be like gunja and Sankara
> to be like gold - incomparable. Of course, the gold, that is Madhusudana,
> can be tested for his loyalty to his tradition.
> Why dont you please post with specific references why you say Madhusudana
> differs from Sankara?

In response, let me quote from your post of June 14, 2011 (emphasis added),
>A "traditional" advaitin would argue that atma jnana is the only path. All
>others, including bhakti, will lead to citta suddhi and culminate in jnana.
>Madhusudana Saraswati argues that bhakti is an independent spiritual path
>with no quest for liberation through jnana!

I asked for references about this specific point, but haven't got one. Be that as it
may, if it is (or was?) indeed your view that MS views bhakti is an independent path,
with no regard to jnAna for liberation, then your view is (or was?) that MS deviates
from Sankara bhagavatpAda on at least this count. It is well known, and I am sure
you would agree, that the dictum "jnAnAd eva kaivalyam" is upheld by Sankara, and
quite uncompromisingly so. Where the bhagavatpAda talks of bhakti, it is something
that along with yoga, helps transition from karma to naishkarmya, and is ultimately
non-different from jnAna. It is NOT an independent path or goal with no quest for
liberation through jnAna. Certainly not in Sankara bhagavatpAda's teaching.

Now, if that is the case, then you would have to agree with what I wrote about fifteen
years ago, that MS does not blindly repeat what Sankara bhagavatpAda said, and that
he boldly differed in certain particulars. It seems you have changed your views on this
matter, in the space of one month, and you are now certain that MS does not deviate
from Sankara bhagavatpAda on any issue whatsoever. In which case, you need to get
off your high horse in this discussion about bhakti vs jnAna, and agree with a number
of others on this list that it is not really a "vs" at all, because the highest bhakta is a
jnAnin. So it should not matter at all to you that while you prefer to focus on the word
bhakti, others focus on the word jnAna! I do not see that this is the case and you seem
to want to keep bringing up the so-called devaluing of bhakti that jnAna-oriented folks
are accused of doing. It is unclear to me and I daresay, to many others on this list,
what exactly is your point.

It is entirely possible that I was mistaken ten years ago, when I wrote that MS differs
in certain points from Sankara. I do not claim to be an expert on the works of MS and
I rely on a vast variety of secondary sources, in addition to the primary works. Even with
my limited knowledge of MS's works, I can see how and where his style, emphases and
sometimes content differ from those of Sankara bhagavatpAda. I am willing to stand
corrected, if it can be shown to me exactly why I am wrong. In the process, I expect
the same attitude and some reciprocity out of you. Otherwise, there is no productive
discussion and no learning happens. If MS does not differ from Sankara bhagavatpAda
on fundamentals, then he clearly cannot have described bhakti as a path/goal that is
independent of a discourse on jnAna in the context of liberation. On the other hand,
MS could have still differed from Sankara on certain particulars, even if he did not
distinguish between bhakti and jnAna as starkly as you presented it to the list, just a
month ago. 

That said, if you think that I, or "traditional" advaitins in general, value the writings of
MS any less, just because he may have differed in some particulars from Sankara
bhagavatpAda, you are quite mistaken. Within the advaita tradition, there is vast room
for articulation of multiple viewpoints. As you seem to have understood, yes, these
sometimes arise from variant allowable readings of a text within one tradition. It can
also arise from differing historical contexts, different personal backgrounds of the
authors concerned, different audiences being addressed in a given commentary, etc.
In my opinion, this is a major strength, not at all a weakness, of the advaita vedAnta
tradition. The strong agreement is on the fundamentals, while the variations are on
particularities and incidentals. To note the variant incidentals and to acknowledge them
as such is not at all a negative evaluation of anything or anybody.
ps. Of late, I have been able to follow list postings only sporadically and have therefore
been delayed in responding. That situation is going to continue for a while. Just FYI.  		 	   		  

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