[Advaita-l] Modern science and Vedanta.

Rajaram Venkataramani rajaramvenk at gmail.com
Tue Jul 19 13:26:48 CDT 2011

On Tue, Jul 19, 2011 at 6:02 PM, Vidyasankar Sundaresan <
svidyasankar at hotmail.com> wrote:

>  >
> > 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.

RV: I responded  on June 14 itself. Pl. note that I did not change my
position (as yet) that Madhusudana does not deviate from Sankara though the
reading is different (pata bhedha). That is why I put "traditional" within
quotes to emphasis that "traditionalists" who give a lower status to bhakti
as some in this forum do may not be representing the tradition which
Madhusudana does. I laboriously analyzed each of the "deviations" reported
by academic scholars and am (so far) convinced that they either dont get
Sankara or Madhusudana or both. It is not some vain statement because I
cannot publish my research without either evolving a consensus with them or
exhausting their arguments. I have heard very nice things about you but I
disagree with the your act publishing on your website parrotting the views
of academic scholars on this issue. It shows gross misunderstanding of
Madhusudana whose syncretic mind reconciled bhamati, vivarana, abasa and
other points of view. Coming from you, it will sound as if it is a
well-considered position but as you admit yourself later in this mail, it is
not. I am reposting from my post on Madhusudana in response to your question
on 14 June itself.

"Bhakti is a supreme independent goal but *mutually exclusive to jnana*
because bhakti is Isvara svarUpa and so is jnAna. That moksha is
paramapurushartha and Isvara is jnana svarupam is something we all agree.
But it is the lower status of bhakti as only a means to citta suddhi or mere
mano-vrtti not Isvara svarupa that I counter based on what Madhusudana says.

Madhusudana talks of bhakti as a parama purushartha like moksha and that it
is Isvara Svarupa. There are countless citations in Gudartha Dipika and
Bhakti Rasayana both were written after Siddhanta Bindhu and Vedanta Kalpa
Latika, leaving no room for argument, if it may arise, that Madhusudana
started off as a bhakti and then matured in to an advaitin.  But it is
important to show that he states that bhakti is a parama purushartha
apparently (I stress apparently) contradicting statements such as "moksha
eva parama purushartha:" in Vedanta Paribhasha -  "paramam purushartham
vadanta rasajnah" (BhR Ch.1). Pl. note that he does not add a fifth
purushartha like the gaudiya vaishnavas do nor does he say bhakti is same as
moksha because there are statements in bhagavatham that devotees dont care
for moksha though they get it. Here is the genius of the acharya. He says
that dharma arthadi vishayams are purusharthas because they produce bliss
"tajjanyasukhasyaiva purusarthatve" (BhR Ch.1). Then he defines
paramapurushartha as bliss that is devoid of duhkha - "dukhasambhinnasukham˙
hi paramahpurushartha iti" (BhR Ch.1). Then he establishes that bliss by
itself is a purushartha "sukhañ ca tad eva svatantrah. purus. ¯arthah" (BhR
Ch. 1). Then he says that "bliss alone is the purushartha" - "sukhamatram
purusarthah" (BhR Ch.1). If you go with him logically until here, you are
down with him on the roller coaster."bhagavadbhaktiyogasyapi duhkha
sambhinnasukhatvenaiva paramapurusarthatvam" meaning "Since it is nothing
more than bliss unmixed with suffering, the yoga of devotion to the Blessed
Lord is also the parama-purusartha". Why does he use api (also)? That is
because he has already established that mokasha is a purushartha -
"mokshasya  parama nandarupatvena tu tasya purus.arthatvam˙ vedantavadino

Bhakti Rasa, Madhusudana says, is Isvara himself. In addition to nyaya, he
uses "Raso vai Sah" to give scriptural justification but dont fail to spend
time on his logic. He builds a fort of nyaya to preserve the treasure of
bhakti in our hearts. I mean, in our pratyagatman!"

> 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.
> RV: My position is that highest bhakti and jnana are non-different. As to
whether bhakti yoga and jnana yoga are two distinct paths leading to
ultimate goal of advaita siddhi, I am (so far) convinced that they are
according both Sankara and Madhusudana.  I have earlier posted referenced to
Ch. 12 and 18. Pl. read both of Sankara's commentary and Madhusudana's
exposition side by side in addition to his references to BhR. If you
disagree, please do so with specific quotes. I respect people but by now you
know that I dont have fear of established order.

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
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.
RV: While bhakti and jnana are equivalent, Madhusudana (based on Sankara's
commentary) exposits that they are also different from the practitioner's
point of view. In short, the gnosis of brahman leads to a mental state
characterized by equanimity preceding advaita siddhi whereas bhakti as a
soteriological goal leads to ecstacy and "effort" on the part of Isvara in
liberating the bhakta.
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
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
discussion and no learning happens.
RV: Instead of lecturing me on my attitude, please go by evidence. Sri
Subrahmanian argued that nyaya and tarka are synonymous. And when I realized
that he is right, I admitted. I am hear to learn to progress my research and
it cannot be done through close mindedness. It cannot also be done through
blind submission to incorrect views.
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
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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