[Advaita-l] Paul Hacker's erroneous view

Raghav Kumar raghavkumar00 at gmail.com
Sat Sep 3 11:50:52 CDT 2016

I am taking the liberty of sending a part of an old post by Vidyashankarji
pointing out some fairly serious logical problems  in Hacker's somewhat
innocent ideas of how Shankara was a initially Vaishnava who was committed
to gItA with some affinity for pAtanjala yoga and finally accepted the
asparsa yoga of gauDapAda wheteupon he rejects pAtanjala yoga altogether.
(somewhat akin to a modern academic slowly evolving his theories and
refining his understanding over time.) It gives some idea about Hackers
limited understanding of the place of yoga sAdhana in vedanta.

Quote begins -
Hacker has many important points to make, which must be read carefully.
However, for some reason, Paul Hacker gets more attention than many other
academics who have contributed very interesting analyses on Sankara and
advaita vedAnta, Hajime Nakamura, Tillmann Vetter, Madeleine Biardeau,
Daniel Ingalls and Sengaku Mayeda, to name a few. Vetter and Biardeau have
not been as influential as Hacker. They mostly wrote in Dutch and French
respectively, but unlike Hacker, they did not concentrate only on Sankara,
advaita vedAnta and neo-Vedanta. Readers will also notice a couple of
Japanese names in the above list. In fact, Japanese scholars have been
producing some excellent research work on advaita vedAnta. Shoun Hino, who
has been extensively studying sureSvarAcArya's vArttikas, comes to mind.
Returning to Hacker, specifically in the case of Sankara bhagavatpAda's
stance on yoga, I think he has completely missed the point. I have tried to
address some of this in my postings on Yoga and Advaita Vedanta on this
list. (As an aside, to those who have asked about continuing that series,
the last two posts are archived at
.html and
html. I have not been able to post anything on this thread after January
2007, but hope to resume by the end of July.) In Hacker's analysis of
Sankara, everything goes back to a central question, "which works
traditionally attributed to Sankara can be considered genuine?" The
brahmasUtra bhAshya is considered the key text, and is therefore genuine,
by definition. Now, there are many other important texts that are
undoubtedly genuine, but which don't seem to fit with the assumptions that
he has made about authorship. This problem appears in its keenest form when
yoga related discussions are found in the texts.

Hacker now modifies the above central question and asks, "was this text, no
doubt genuine, written by Sankara when he was a mature philosopher or was
it written when he was a student?" The presumption is that the same person
would have more likely made mistakes and/or contradicted himself when he
was a young student as compared to when he matured as a philosopher.

The problem of authenticity of a text is thereby converted to a problem of
internal chronology in Sankara's career as an author of vedAnta texts. This
then leads Hacker to speculate (and it is nothing more than speculation, in
my opinion), that Sankara was a vaishNava attached to the gItA, and
originally a yogin with affinity to the system of pAtanjala yoga, who later
became an advaita vedAntin, via exposure to gauDapAda's asparSa yoga, and
thus rejected yoga altogether (as seen in sUtrabhAshya 2.1.3 - etena yogaH

I find this kind of argument to be merely self-fulfilling, in that it
allows Hacker to never question his initial assumption(s). He comes to his
final conclusions by making more assumptions as he goes along. It is
amazing to read the number of times he uses phrases like "must have been",
"may have led to", "tentatively" etc. when initially exploring an idea. By
the end of the same essay, these have given way to "clearly" and
"definitely" and "obviously" in restating the same idea as a conclusion,
with very slight modifications in a handful of cases. When a second scholar
quotes Hacker and a third scholar refers to the second, the same idea now
gets reiterated and cited as if it has been proved beyond all doubt and as
if that is the only possible academic conclusion about these texts and the
On 03-Sep-2016 5:07 pm, "V Subrahmanian via Advaita-l" <
advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org> wrote:

> On p.27 of the book 'Philology and Confrontation' P makes a bold statement:
> //Shankara's direct disciples Sureshwara and Padmapada show no awareness of
> Shankara's Shiva incarnation.//
> But the fact of Padmapada's invocation to the Panchapadika disproves P's
> claim.
> P's view that Shankara came from a Vaishnava background and the reasons he
> gives for that also smacks of his poor understanding of the Bhashyas in a
> global perspective. With such prejudiced and imperfect understanding of the
> Advaita Bhashya, P does not rise to be the figure that he is made out to
> be. Any traditional scholar of Advaita bhashyas with a proper study thereof
> can easily prove P's ideas/conclusions wrong.
> The above are just samples.
> regards
> vs
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