[Advaita-l] Paul Hacker on Avidya

Michael Chandra Cohen michaelchandra108 at gmail.com
Sun Dec 11 18:12:14 EST 2022

Sundar Rajan writes: >>
I was surprised to see Paul Hacker being considered a sound resource person
for discussions on avidyA being (yatkincit) bhAvarUpA etc. The reason is
that Hacker completely dismisses GaudapAda and also Shankara's commentaries
on mANDUkya and the rest. He only cherry-picks passages from BSB that suit
his agenda and considers Advaita as Buddhism in disguise. So much for his
extensive study of BSB.

We observe that

1.  there are several passages from shankara bhAShya attesting to the
identity of mAyA and avidyA

2. There are passages distinguishing them.

Paul Hacker leans towards the second viewpoint even though it is contrary
to the hundreds of texts and acharyas who have expounded AV over the last
thousand years and taught the *reconciliation of passages of type 1 and
type 2 by taking the former to subsume the latter.*

Unless the living tradition of Advaita pedagogy is considered, two people
can just keep going around in circles quoting typing 1 and type 2 passages
over and over again and whoever has the last quote might feel his view has
the upper hand. It becomes an inconclusive wild goose chase.

Paul Hacker arbitrarily chooses to privilege the second type over the first
and so he has to do something illogical viz., he has to ignore GaudapAda
and Sri Shankara's other works which clearly assert that avidyA has an
ontological aspect too. To do this Hacker has to say that GaudapAda is
irrelevant or wrong and that the entire vedanta tradition after Shankara
has diverged from ShAnkara vedAnta. By thus "digesting" and dismissing the
entire later tradition of teaching Advaita, then Shankara alone can be
"dealt with" to show the ultimate superiority of Hacker's passionate
adherence to Christian theology in his thinking.

Blessed Self Sri Sundar Rajan ji namaste and pranam

Paul Hacker's paper translated as Chapter 4, "Distinctive Features of the
Doctrine and Terminology of Sankara: Avtdya, Namarupa, Maya, isvara"
is intended as the title reads to distinguish him from later
sub-commentators who often invoke characteristics of Vedanta that do not
appear in Sankara's commentary on the Brahma Sutras. Hacker does not intend
to represent all of prasthanatraya bhasya as you dismiss him for excluding.
Hacker's thesis is simply that you can observe all the occurences of these
4 terms as they are used and defined in the bhasya of the Brahma Sutras and
recognize nuance that later vyakhanayakara's deviate from. Some of his
findings are astounding.
His student, Sengaku Mayeda, has performed a similar analysis with similar
results using Sankara's Upadesa Sahasri.

It is uninformed to think Hacker "cherry picks" his examples or is
'arbitrary' in his choices. Hacker is an eminent scholar and his study is
exhaustive and unbiased and has been well peer reviewed.  Kindly study the
text before dismissing it off handedly. Further, to accuse him of adherence
to Christian theology and thus invalidating chapter 4 is simply a
deflective defensive strategy. If you wish to refute Hacker or SSSS for
that matter, you will have to attack their specific arguments.

That said, I would appreciate to hear how you think Gaudapada is supportive
of you first listed option relating to the identity of avidyA and mAyA.

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