[Advaita-l] Skepticism in Advaita?

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Fri Aug 25 05:18:45 EDT 2017

On Thu, Aug 24, 2017 at 10:42 PM, Aditya Kumar via Advaita-l <
advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org> wrote:

> Namaste,
> Nasadiya Sukta is a well known portion of Rigveda which is an outright
> Skeptic outlook to philosophy. But Advaita is unaffected by Skepticism
> especially due to the genius of the likes of Shankara and Yajnavalkya who
> boldly established the siddhanta in very certain terms.
> But I am wondering if there is some scope for Skepticism in Advaita as
> well because of apparent inconsistencies within Vedanta. Here Skepticism
> means 'inconclusiveness' in terms of choosing one particular view over many
> alternate and sometimes, contradictory views.

There are and have been much better thinkers in Advaita sampradāya than the
asampradāyik thinking displayed above:

Sureswara Acharya pointed out in the Brhadaranyaka Vartika that ‘no one
size, as the saying goes, fits all’ towards that end. He writes,

*यया यया भवेत्पुंसां व्युत्पत्तिः प्रत्यगात्मनि ।सा सैव प्रक्रियेह स्यात्
साध्वी सा चानवस्थिता ॥*

(Meaning: By whatever means the knowledge of the inner Self arises in
seekers, that construct itself is appropriate here; it is not absolutely

Shankara has said: 'he who has arrived at a view not based on sampradāya is
to be rejected as a fool.'

> Further later Advaitins like Appayya Dikshita not only gave legitimacy to
> all sub-schools within Advaita by tagging them all under the pretext of
> 'Vyavaharic reality'

There is no basis for the above thinking. It is Sureshwaracharya's above
logic that Sri Appayya Dikshita has appreciated and followed. At the
beginning of his 'siddhāntaleśasangraha', a work that collects the myriad
views in Advaita, Sri Appayya Dikshita says in that verse:

Just as the Ganga that issued forth from Vishnu's feet came down to the
earth and branched out in myriad forms, so too, the nectarine bhāṣya that
issued forth from the mouth of Shankaracharya, came down and has given
occasion to very many views. It is only these views, all of which have
their origin in Shankara's bhāṣya-s, that is collected in this work. He
further says: The apparent differences between views is not a fault but
only an adornment. In his Kalpataru-Parimala Dikshitar gives an analogy:
Just as there are differences among the various non-Arundhati stars that
people first point to, with a view to arrive at the identification of the
real Arundhati star, is not a fault.  The various views collected by him,
all of them aim at arriving at the Advaita tattva and not anything else.

> but also attempted to give Advaita a Shaiva hue in contrast to Vaishnava
> schools of Vedanta(indicating that many irreconcilable tenets are
> immaterial).

The above is completely baseless. That he gave a 'Shaiva hue' is also far
from truth.

Sri Appayya Dikshitar  has made the unnegatable statement:

  // viShNurvA shankaro vA shruti-shikhara-girAmastu tAtparya-bhUmiH
na-asmAkam tatra vAdaH prasarati kimapi spaShTam-advaita-bhAjAm |
kintu-Isha-dveSha-gADhAnala-kalita-hRRidAm durmatInAm duruktIH
bhanktum yatno mama-ayam nahi bhavatu tato viShNu-vidveSha-shankAm ||

The meaning of the above beautiful verse is:

'I have not the slightest objection, to anyone coming to any conclusion,
that the spirit of the Vedas and the Vedantas, declare either Vishnu or
Shiva as the First God. I am a follower of the Advaita doctrine. I have no
difference between Shiva and VishNu. But if in order to establish Vishnu as
the main God, if somebody starts abusing Shiva or hates him, I cannot bear
it. (There are as many proofs or pramanas in the Vedas, Vedantas, Puranas
and Agamas to establish that Shiva is a mighty God, as there are to prove
that Vishnu is a powerful one.) However, I am propagating my religion and
indulging in debate and disputation, only to persuade everyone not to hate
Shiva. Let no one have the slightest doubt that I either hate or wish to
denigrate Lord Vishnu simply because I praise the grace and greatness of
Lord Shiva.'

The sublime devotion of Dikshita to Lord Vishnu is fully seen from his
great work 'Varadaraja stava' where he has sung in ecstatic poetry about
Lord Varadaraja of Kanchipuram. Vaishnavas declare that Vishnu is the
supreme being and that Shiva has a lower status, being a mere jiva. Sri
Dikshita however proves in his 'Ratna-traya-parIkShA' that Shiva, Vishnu,
Ambika, all the three are the same, viz., the supreme reality,(*) and
proves it with the pramanas taken from the puranas, vedas and agamas. //

At the beginning of his 'nyāyarakṣāmaṇi' he inovokes the blessings of both
'Mukunda' and 'Shiva.'

Also there is no rule that the Vedantin should comply with the Vaishnava
theological schools.

> In contrast to this, even though falling under the bracket of phenomenal
> reality, Advaitins like Shankara and Vachaspati went to great lengths to
> establish a proper cause-effect  relation, thus putting a strong
> foundation. However later Advaitins seem to be : (1) dismissing the need to
> ascertain such a proper epistemology or ontology within 'Vyavahara' (2)
> admitting mutually contradictory views as valid ultimately (3) Re-defining
> concepts by assuming special conditions (Idiosyncrasies) clubbed with point
> (1) - all this seems to suggest that there is a lot of Skepticism within
> contemporary Advaita.

All these misunderstandings are born of resorting to self-study by
discarding and dishonoring the traditional method of study of the bhāṣyas.


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