[Advaita-l] Paul Hacker on Avidya

Balasubramanian Ramakrishnan rama.balasubramanian at gmail.com
Wed Dec 14 09:59:29 EST 2022

Dear Michael Cohen

Your name suggests a Jewish heritage. Paul Hacker was *literally* a card
carrying member of the Nazi party. Do you really think we Indians need to
listen to Nazis about our traditional vidyA?


On Sun, Dec 11, 2022 at 6:13 PM Michael Chandra Cohen via Advaita-l <
advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org> wrote:

> Sundar Rajan writes: >>
> Namaste
> 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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