[Advaita-l] Multiple levels of reality

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Thu Mar 1 23:55:14 CST 2012

On Sun, 19 Feb 2012, Kalyan K wrote:

> Even if there may be advaitins before gauDapAda and after buddha, (I say
> after buddha because yagnavalkya, for example, was a pre-buddhistic
> advaitin), there is absolutely no evidence to show that they were talking
> of multiple realities. If you have any, then you may present it.

There was a book on Google Books which dealt extensively with the topic of 
pre-Shankaran advaitins but I've been searching and searching and for the 
life of me I can't remember the title.

> "All available evidence" indicates that nAgArjuna was the first person to
> use the doctrine of multiple truths and the idea of using "lost
> manuscripts", "invasions" etc. is looking like an artificial attempt to
> deny this.

I am operating under the principle that the acharyas of my sampradaya are 
not liars.  If they say their doctrines were not derived from the 
Buddhists then I am inclined to believe them.  Now perhaps my trust is 
misplaced but to me _that_ is the extraordinary claim which requires 

Also bear in mind that nearly all dates of ancient Indian authors are 
tentative so hedging like "all available evidence" is not evasion but the 
skepticism an intellectually honest person should adopt in this area.

Sundara Pandya is one of those early advaitins who is known to historians 
of Advaita Vedanta if not the general public.

Shankaracharya quotes him at the end of the adhyasabhashya (note the 
significance of the location.)

apichAhuH |
"and it is said"[1]

[1] Shankaracharya does not explicitly name Sundara Pandya as the author 
of these shlokas but his tikakaras do.  Furthermore there is corroboration 
from outside the Vedantic tradition as the purva mimamsaka Kumarila Bhatta 
quotes these same shlokas in his tantravarttika and he does directly name 
SP as the author.

gauNamithyAtmano.asatve putradehAdibAdhanAt |
sadbrahmAtmAhamityevaM bodhi kAryaM kathaM bhavet ||

"When there has arisen the knowledge, 'I am Brahman which is my own self,' 
and when the negation of the conceptions of body, sons etc. makes the 
false cognition of the conventional Self come to an end how can the effect 
[of the false cognition] exist any longer?"

anveShTavyAtmaviGYAnAtprAkpramAtR^itvamAtmanaH |
anviShTaH syAtpramAtaiva pApmadoShAdivarjitaH ||

"As long as the knowledge of the Self, which the shastras tell us to 
search after has not arisen so long the Self is knowing subject; but that 
same subject is that which is searched after, [the self] free from 
all sin and defect."

dehAtmapratyayo yadvatpramANatvena kalpitaH |
laukikaM tadvadevedaM pramANaM tva.AtmanishchayAt ||

"Just as the idea of the Self being the body is assumed to be valid 
conventionally, so all pramANas are valid only until the Self becomes 

There you go.  Multiple levels of reality.

But was SP earlier than Nagarjuna?

His name suggests he was related to the emperors of Madurai.  (Many 
medieval kings of that area had the same name though this one is 
definitely much earlier.)  Supposedly an inscription of the Pandyan king 
Arikesarin dated to 750AD hails SP as a distant ancestor who was an 
accomplished scholar in all shastras.

Furthermore shlokas attributed to SP are quoted in Shabaraswami's bhashya 
on the purva mimamsa sutras.  Shabaraswami is usually dated to the 2nd-3rd 
centuries AD and if he quotes SP than SP is prior to him.  So while we 
cannot be certain, it is entirely possible that SP was a contemporary or 
even before Nagarjuna.

Also note that purvamimamsakas like Kumarila and Shabaraswami are quoting 
him.  Many early Vedantins wrote on both purva and uttara mimamsa which is 
another reason the karmakanda and its commentorial tradition must also be 
taken into account in this subject.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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