[Advaita-l] Modern science and Vedanta.

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Thu Jul 21 12:55:21 CDT 2011

> > RV: On the face of it, it looks like MS is criticizing Sankara's
> > translation. In fact, a Hindi translator of Madhusudana apologetically says
> > that the author is only differing with Sankara in linguistic expression and
> > does not deviate from philosophy. However, I dont think that Madhusudana
> > differs from Sankara and here is the reason why. If you the commentary of
> > Ramanuja, Sridhara etc., they are take yatra to refer to a state of mind
> > whereas Sankara takes it as point in time. Ananda Giri in his sub-commentary
> > to Sankara talks about states of mind but also uses tasmin kale to indicate
> > that it is a point in time.

MS is indeed offering a critical comment on the SAnkara bhAshya. He may be
right or wrong in the content of his criticism, but as far as I am concerned,
there is nothing wrong with the fact that he chooses to offer a critical comment.
This is precisely why I wrote that MS boldly differs from Sankara in some of his
interpretations. In any case, there is no rule within the advaita tradition that
Sankara's words are to be blindly accepted without any critical reflection on
them. Neither Sankara bhagavatpAda nor any of his successors claimed that
every single word of theirs should be accepted as unquestionable dogma. They
never claimed to be infallible, unlike say the doctrines of dogma and infallibility
in the highly organized Roman Catholic Church.
If you think the Hindi translator is offering an apologetic comment about no
deviation in philosophy between Sankara and MS, I fail to see how your own
take on this is not apologetic. Rather, it seems to ne that you take SrIdhara,
rAmAnuja and madhusUdana sarasvatI as all taking one kind of view of the
word yatra, which is distinctly different from the view taken by Sankara. How
is it that you claim that MS does not differ from Sankara then? You cannot
have your cake and eat it too.
As for Anandagiri's comments on the SAnkara bhAshya, he talks about states
of mind because Sankara himself also talks of states of mind. And Sankara
talks about states of mind, because the gItA verse in question itself talks of
states of mind. The only bone of contention then is whether the word "yatra",
by itself, indicates a state of mind, a mano'vasthA viSesha or the kAla when
that state of mind is attained.
> > Now, the main difference in reading between Sankara and other acharyas
> > including Madhusudana is that Sankara takes 6.20 as a complete sentence and
> > 6.21 as another complete sentence. So, there is no defect in his taking
> > yatra to mean that point in time. If any one points out a defect in
> > Sankara's usage, they have to do it with reference to Panini not
> > arbitrarily. (There are some scholars who have pointed out
> > grammatical mistakes in the works of Gitacharya and Sankaracharya but dont
> > have time to discuss their arguments because my research is focussed on
> > bhakti in advaita). But most other acharyas including Madhusudana reads
> > this differently taking 6.20 and 6.21 as one complex sentence with four
> > clauses. When you read like this, Madhusudana is obliged to explain why he
> > is unable to take yatra to mean at the point in time as per the tradition,

Actually, if you read the SAnkara bhAshya carefully, you can see that 6.20, 6.21 and 
6.22 are all to be taken together. There are two yatra-s in 6.20 and a third yatra in
6.21. In all three instances, for Sankara, yatra = yasmin kAle, and you have to read
his comments on 6.21 together with 6.20, or else a full sentence is not obtained. The
commentary on these two verses is short enough, so let me quote it in full. Here, I
have identified the words original to the gItA verses separately from the words offered
in explanation. Read each line continuously and re-read together the portions within (),
[] and {} in the verse and comments respectively.
Gita verse words                   Sankara's explanatory words
----------------                   ---------------------------
yatra                              yasmin kAle
uparamate cittam                   uparatiM gacchati
niruddhaM                          sarvato nivArita pracAraM
yogasevayA                         yogAnushThAnena
yatra caiva                        yasmiMS ca kAle
AtmanA                             samAdhi pariSuddhena antaHkaraNena
AtmAnaM                            paraM caitanyaM jyotiH-svarUpaM
paSyann                            upalabhamAnaH sve eva
Atmani tushyati                    tushTiM bhajate

                                   kiM ca

(sukham) AtyantikaM                atyantam eva bhavati ity Atyantikam anantam ityarthaH
(yat tad) buddhigrAhyam            buddhyA eva indriya-nirapekshayA gRhyata iti buddhigrAhyam
atIndriyam                         indriya-gocarAtItam avishaya-janitam ityarthaH
vetti                              (tad IdRSaM sukham) anubhavati
yatra                              yasmin kAle
[na ca eva] ayaM                   vidvAn AtmasvarUpe
                                   {tasmAn} [na eva]
calati {tattvataH}                 {tattva-svarUpAn} na pracyavata ityarthaH
                                   kiM ca

And the commentary continues to connect the sense of 6.22 also, with a conclusion,
"yatroparamata (6.20) ityAdyArabhya ... yoga uktaH" at the end of verse 6.22. Clearly,
Sankara bhagavatpAda means to read all three verses 6.20-22 together. And if you look
at the grammar of his comments on 6.20-21, it is clear that he means, "yasmin kAle ...
uparatiM gacchati, yasmin kAle ...  tushTiM bhajate (6.20), yasmin kAle ... sukham
anubhavati, (tasmin kAle - as pointed out by Anandagiri) tattva-svarUpAn na pracyavate."
Therefore, verses 6.20 and 6.21 are connected syntactically in Sankara bhagavatpAda's
commentary also. If one claims that Sankara sees 6.20 as one sentence and 6.21 as a
second sentence, one would be quite wrong. Grammatically, there seems to be no need
to connect the word "tat" in 6.21 to the three yatra-s in 6.20-21, because there is already
a corresponding "yat" in verse 6.21 - yat (sukham Atyantikam atIndriyaM buddhigrAhyaM)
tat (vetti). So, within my understanding of the language and the philosophy, personally
speaking, I don't think MS's critical comment, "tac chabda ananvayAt" is fully valid, but
he is perfectly within his rights to offer his own thinking regarding the word yatra. That
is what a commentator's job is, by definition, and there is no binding commitment on him
to parrot Sankara's comments.
However, it should be obvious that except for the difference in interpreting this one word,
MS and Sankara are saying the same thing. The difference is that MS seems to expect
that an explanation for the word "tat" in 6.21 should be included in any interpretation of the
word "yatra" in both verses, whereas Sankara's reading of the yat-tat pair in verse 6.21 is
very straightforward and does not link it to the word "yatra" in either verse. And as Br.
Pranipata Caitanya pointed out, if a "tasmin kAle" has to be implicitly understood in
Sankara's comments, a "tasminn avasthA viSeshe" has to be implicitly understood in MS's
comments too.
And there is a good reason why Sankara bhagavatpAda chooses to see a kAla aspect
to the word yatra in verses 6.20-21. It is because verse 6.18 of the gItA explicitly uses
yadA and tadA in the context of the cittam Atmany eva avatishThate, while verse 6.19
gives a comparison with a steadily burning lamp.
So, to sum up, the difference in interpretation offered by our two authors is not merely
a result of pATha bheda. BOTH of them take verses 6.20 and 6.21 together. The gItA
itself connects the two verses through its usage of the word yatra twice in the former
verse and once in the latter verse and no commentator can afford to ignore that. Both
authors have the SAME pATha of the source text, but their interpretation of a word "yatra"
differs. In the larger picture, the difference in interpretation is of minor consequence, but
it is nevertheless there. One cannot pin it down to pATha bheda, nor can one brush it
away with a claim that MS does not differ from Sankara, because MS most definitely
does differ from Sankara in his interpretation and explicitly so.  
Best regards,

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