[Advaita-l] किं श्रीमद्भागवतं प्रच्छन्नं बौद्धम् ?

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Thu Mar 31 12:57:57 CDT 2011

श्रीगुरभ्यो नमः
Is the shrImadbhAgavatam Buddhism in disguise?

Here is a quote from the English work 'srIdakshinAmUrtistotram' Vol.I p. 645
authored by Sri D.S. Subbaramaiya (published by the Sharada Peetham,

// The ShaDakSharIvyAkhyA says while referring to the YogAchAraa school of

विज्ञानवादिनस्तु क्षणिकविज्ञानप्रवाहाः आत्मेति वर्णयन्ति । ...उक्तं हि
’धीसन्ततिः स्फुरति निर्विषयोपरागाः’ इति । सन्तानो नाम नानाव्यक्तिषु
नैरन्तर्येण वर्तनम् । तच्चानुभवदशायां *’सैवं दीपज्वाला’ *इतिवदेकत्वेन
अनुभूयमानत्वम् ।

[The vijnAnavAdins, however, portray Atman as a santAna, a series of
momentary cognitions.  Even according to them, liberation is the rise of the
series of pure cognitions on the removal, by knowledge, of the afflictions
of the objects of parlance.  So has it been said 'The series of cognitions
manifests as free from the association of objects.'  By santAna is meant
non-intermittent series of individuals.  And that is the oneness that is
experienced as in  *'This is the same flame'...*..the attempt at proving its
momentary nature is to secure the establishing of the momentary nature of
external objects by having recourse to the inference 'that which exists is
momentary'....which is not invalidated by the falacy of inconstancy.] //

According to Buddhism, everything is relative and impermanent (Anitya) in
the empirical, conditioned world. It is pertinent here to remember the
statement of the Greek philosopher Heraclitus who said “*You* cannot *step*
*twice* *into* the *same* *river*, for fresh waters are ever flowing in upon
*you*”. This means that although I may continue to see the *same*
*river*externally from a gross point of view, the water molecules I am
seeing at a
particular location at any moment are different from the water molecules the
moment before and the moment after. One thing disappears, conditioning the
appearance of the next in a series of cause and effect. Everything is in a
state of becoming something else the next moment.


He says in these FRAGMENTS – again the notes of a Devageet, a disciple.
Heraclitus did not write.
There must be something, some reason why these people do not write, but of
that a little later.
Heraclitus says in the FRAGMENTS: ”You cannot step in the same river twice.”
And then he says:
”No, you cannot step in the same river even once....” This is tremendously
beautiful, and true too.
Everything is changing, and changing so fast that there is no way to step in
the same river twice;
you can’t even step in the same river once. The river is constantly flowing;
going, going, going to
the ocean, to the infinite, going to disappear into the unknown.

Heraclitus said this famous phrase, and it wasn't in reference to a
metaphorical river, but to an actual river.  Early philosophy was concerned
with explaining change and what it meant to our very ability to persist
through time.  When he said that you cannot step into the same river twice,
he meant quite literally that the river you step in is very different each
time you step in it (from a purely molecular level, this is true, as water
which was upstream is now down stream, and none of the water molecules are
where they were when you first stepped into it).

As for the discrepancy of perceptions (ie. "a person's experience compared
with another experience(s) can never be exactly the same, even if the
general experience is of the same nature"), a number of philosophers have
noted this, and it leaves one either accepting an Aristotelian theory of
forms in knowledge (i.e. the overarching form of the thing experienced
remains the same, so all knowers know the same thing by knowing its form, or
else a radical skepticism a la Quine and the other moderns who think you can
know nothing.).

End of the quotes from the internet.

Be that as it may, we are concerned with the Buddhist view that was
presented at the beginning of this study.  I am not presenting the exact
bauddha kArikaa in support of this.   Now, we shall see what Shankaracharya
says with respect to things:
In the bhashyam for the mantra परीक्ष्य लोकान् कर्मचितान् ..of the
mundakopanishat 1.2.12, giving a graphic account of the created world, He

//    ...लोकान् संसारगतिभूतान् अव्यक्तादिस्थावरान्तान्
व्याकृत-अव्याकृतलक्षणान् बीजाङ्कुरवत् इतरेतरोत्पत्तिनिमित्तान्
अनेकानर्थशतसहस्रसङ्कुलान् कदलीगर्भवदासारान्
*प्रतिक्षणप्रध्वंसान् *पृष्ठतः

//..the worlds -  in their essence from every point of view - the worlds
that exist as the goals of transmigration, ranging from the Unmanifested to
a motionless thing, whether evolved or involved; that are productive of one
another like the seed and the sprout; that are assailed with multifarious
troubles in their hundreds and thousands; that are devoid of substance like
the interior of a plantain tree; that appear like magic, water in a mirage,
or a city in space; and *that get destroyed at every turn -* that is to say,
turning one's back on the worlds earned ...//

In the Kathopanishat bhashyam for the mantra ऊर्ध्वमूलोऽवाक्शाखः...(2.3.1)
He says about the manifest world:

// जन्मजरामरणशोकाद्यनेकानर्थात्मकः *प्रतिक्षणमन्यथास्वभावो
दृष्टनष्टस्वरूपत्वादवसाने च वृक्षवदभावात्मकः कदलीस्तम्भवन्निःस्सारः...//

//It consists of many evils, such as birth, old age, death, sorrow,
etc.,*it changes itself every moment, inasmuch as no sooner is it seen
than its
nature is destroyed* like magic, water in a mirage, a city in the sky, etc.
and it ceases to exist ultimately like a tree; it is without any heart-wood
like the stem of a plantain tree....//

One can easily see that just as the Buddhistic view of the world that is
'kShaNika', Shankara too describes the world to be momentary, that is
changing every moment.

This is a typical instance for the non-advaitins to dub Advaita as Buddhism
in disguise or 'Buddhism presented in Upanishadic phraseology' as Dr.B N K
Sharma (BNK) puts it in his works.  The reasoning is: if there is a
similarity/close similarity between Buddhism and Advaita, then the latter is
a replication of the former.


On page 27:
//Advaita has a threefold classification of reality which has its parallel
in the Abhidharmasamuccaya of Asanga (310-390 A-D) (Edited by V. V. Gokhale
JRAS 1947). The differences are purely terminological. //

On page 14:

//The words used in the text such as Mithyaatarka,
*drstantas*, kuhakendrajala have a *close family resemblance with the terms
of the Mithyattvanumana of Advaita and its Drstantas *like shell-silver,
snake in the rope and Dvaitendrajala used by Suresvara and especially the
phrase Vaidikesu paristhatum icchanti which are all tell tale. They deserve
to be compared with the outspoken denunciations by early writers like
Bhaskara : Vigitam Vicchinnamulam *mahayanikam Bauddha gathitam
mayavadam *vyavarnayantah
lokan Vyamohayanti. Parthasarathi Misra writes Tadvaram mayavadan
Mahayanikam and Yadavaprakasa observes
Yuyam ca Baudhasca samana sampadah.//

 BNK says that the term प्रच्छन्नबौद्धः with reference to the Advaitin  was
not used by Sri Madhvacharya or Sri Jayatirtha but only came to be seen in
other/later works of Vedantadeshika and others.  Of course, the infamous
PadmapurANic verse too uses it.

Now by extending the logic adopted by BNK (and the non-advaitic schools) and
applying it to the srImadbhAgavatam we can easily conclude that the
BhAgavatam, too, is प्रच्छन्नं बौद्धम् in as much as it shares this common
trait of describing the objects of the world as क्षणिक, दृष्टनष्ट : -

नित्यदा ह्यङ्ग भूतानि भवन्ति न भवन्ति च |
कालेनालक्ष्यवेगेन सूक्ष्मत्वात्तन्न दृश्यते || (17.42)

My, friend, through the imperceptible march
of Time creatures are being *constantly born
and dying. * But this is not observed because
of its subtlety. (The Lord refers unasked to the
constant molecular change in the body to
stimulate the spirit of dispassion.)
यथार्चिषां स्रोतसां च फलानां वा वनस्पतेः |
तथैव सर्वभूतानां वयोऽवस्थादयः कृताः || 17.43

As in the case of flames, or streams, or the fruits
of a tree, even so are the conditions of age etc.
brought about (by Time).

*सोऽयं दीपोऽर्चिषां यद्वत्स्रोतसां तदिदं जलम्*
सोऽयं पुमानिति नृणां मृषा गीर्धीर्मृषायुषाम्  (uddhavagItA 17.44)

As in the case of flames the idea and the
statement that '*this is that very lamp'*, or
in the case of streams that 'this is that very
water', are false (the recognition being merely
based on a semblance), so also are the idea
and the statement that 'this is that very man'
with reference to men whose lives are vain
(because they are enveloped in ignorance).

The close resemblance of the srImadbhAgavatam
verses and vijnAnavAda doctrine of Buddhism
is obvious through the admitting of the same
analogy 'This is the same flame' by both the
srImadbhaagavatam and the vijnAnavaadin. (Recall the
statement of BNK about the similarity of
dRstAnta-s (analogies) between two schools being
sufficient reason to dub them identical)  to establish
the same characteristic pertaining to the momentariness
of the (objects of) the world.
While there are two analogies (flame and river water)
that are available to us from the vijnAnavAdin, we have several
to prove the momentariness of objects, kShaNikatvam
as taught in the uddhavagItaa verses we have
cited.  Thus, there is a strong case to hold
that the srImadbhAgavatam is 'प्रच्छन्नं बौद्धम्’ going by
the reasoning: there is a close similarity between
the two, the similarity between Advaita (as
is obvious from the sample quotes from Shankara's
commentaries) and the srImadbhAgavatam notwithstanding.

Om Tat Sat

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