[Advaita-l] Shankaracharya

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Sun Jan 17 03:14:58 CST 2016


A friend sent me this message:

One has to consider a hypothetical situation of Hinduism if Shankara had
not taken birth. Is it not true that the vedic religion would not be
existing today in India?
  In his famous commentaries on the Brahmasutras, the Upanishads and the
Bhagavadgita, he constructed a system of philosophy which is a monument of
intellectual subtlety as well as spiritual insight. Millions of Hindus
today accept Shankara's interpretation of the Upanishats as the most
correct interpretation and formulate their faith in terms of his philosophy
and call themselves Advaitins. Thousands of scholars all over the world
regard his system as one of the grandest ever conceived by the mind of man.
  There appears to be a misconception that Shankara taught that the world
is unreal and illusory like in a dream. He never taught such a doctrine. On
the contrary, he contradicted it as a part of Buddhist heresy. He refers to
three orders of being- Pratibhasika, Vyavaharika and Paramarthika
(illusory, empirical and transcendental).
Shankara's contention is that our everyday experience of the world is not
transcendental. We see diversity where there is unity, separateness where
there is integrity and many where there is but one.The imperfect experience
is relative to our finite minds. When we emancipate ourselves from our
minds and transcend in spirit the conditions of time and space , we have
perfect experience of the Reality, the Absolute as it verily is.  There is
a large volume of literature that has grown around this.

The modern science has proved beyond doubt that what Shankara has preached
is the most scientific of the thoughts ever given by any teacher in the
world.  But Shankara's thoughts are not easily comprehended by those who
have no adhikara or qualification.(adhikari bheda concept).  A child in the
primary school may not understand what is taught in the university.
Kumarilabhatta fought Buddhism on the ground of karma and Shankara on Jnana.The
vaishnavite and Shaivite saints of South India fought it on the ground of
Bhakti. All of them together vanquished it. There is an interesting story
of an extraordinary meeting between the Shaivite saint Jnanasambandar and
the Vaishnavite saint Tirumangai Alwar. One was opposing the Jains and the
other the Buddhists. This indicates that the Alwars and the Nayanmars had
laboured together in the past. It is against the anti Vedic heresy that
there was no common mission of Shaivism and Vaishnavism in south India. One
must remember that Hinduism learnt a few things from Buddhism and
of animal life- rejection of animal sacrifices. 2.Monostic institutions and
ecclesiastical discipline. 3. Development of logic. etc.,
Shankara (who accepted the guru in Govinda bhagavatpada who was himself a
disciple of Goudapada) was both a great champion of the orthodox and an
ardent reformer.    He not only opposed the doctrines of Buddhism, but also
the soulless ritualism of the Meemamsakas, the atheistic dualism of the
sankhyas and all the erroneous interpretations of the vedanta.   While
encouraging the purer forms of popular worship, he put down some of the
grosser forms of Shaktism and Shaivism.
He constructed a system of philosophy which is monumental of intellectual
subtlety and spiritual insight.

Thibaut who translated both Shankara's and Ramanuja's  commentaries on
Brahmasutras said, ".....Shankaras interpretation is.......the most
important and interesting one which has arisem from Indian soil.
Neither those forms of Vedanta which diverge from his view nor any non
Vedantic systems can be compared  with his version in boldness, depth and
subtlety of speculation."   Millions of Hindus accept Shankara's
interpretation of the Upanishads and thousands of scholars all over the
world regard his system  as the grandest ever conceived by the mind of man.

Ramanuja considers that Brahman (God) has all good qualities and has
demonstrable shape and face. Shankara considers that He is both SEEN and
UNSEEN.  According to Ramanuja World cannot be separated from God.  So,
Creation is also an ultimate truth.  As per Shankara, World is only
Praatibhaasika satya and a vyaavahaarika satya.  It is true as long as the
Atma is covered with maaya.  Jeeva or individual Atma is parama satya for
Ramanja.   Since Brahman exists everywhere, He  exists in Atma also.  But
Atma is permanently seperated from Brahman.
But Shankara asserts that Atma is different from Brahman only as long as
Atma is bound by Upaadhis.   Ramanuja considers that moksha is liberation
from the world and bhakti is the means to it.   Karma and Jnaana are
helpful to achieve Bhakti.  Shankara does not consider liberation from
world as moksha but only by shedding the separate existence through Jnaana
(knowledge of the identity of Atma with Brahman) Moksha is possible. Karma
and Bhakti are the means to Jnaana. //

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