mani at mani at
Mon Jul 10 03:28:24 UTC 1995

 Prof. Daud Ali writes:
 > I am wondering why such
 > inordinate attention is payed to Sankara's Advaita Vedanta. 

Someone once said, "In the context of Indian philosophy,
you can argue for Advaita or against Advaita, but you 
cannot argue without Advaita." I think this statement
proves to be historically true.  Both Ramanuja and
Madhva, the two most important post-Sankara 
philosophers, are forced to first prove the invalidity
the Advaita conception of reality before they can proceed
with propounding their own.  Ramanuja's unusally long
commentary on the first sutra of the Brahma-sutras 
is essentially dedicated to destroying Advaita on logical
and exegetical grounds, serving thereby as a testament 
to the grip the Sankarite philosophy had on the mind of 
Vedic intellectuals of his time.

That having been said, I agree that far too little
attention has been paid to the other Vedantic traditions
of India, so much so that Advaita is used as a synonym
of Vedanta in some monographs.  The error is particularly
heinous in many scholars' uncritical acceptance of
Sankara's interpretation of Vedanta, mentioning others
as a footnote or not at all.  This has been remedied
somewhat in recent times as Christian scholars, intrigued
by the parallels in the philosophies of Ramanuja et al
and their own faith, have investigated alternatives to
Sankara, but for most others, Advaita still reigns supreme.

I think that Mr. Vidyasankar's point considering the
neo-Vedantist preoccupation with Advaita is well taken
in this respect.  The Ramakrishna and Chinmaya Missions
propagate a version of Sankara's Advaita, leaving room
for Ramanuja only as a lesser intermediate step to the 
"pure" philosophy of the Upanishads. Of course, Dvaita
is usually derided as a Dualism not worth spending much
time on.  Since most Westerners (and Indians) today
are introduced to Indian philosophy either indirectly
or directly through neo-Vedantist eyes, it is not 
surprising that Visistadvaita or Dvaita are barely 
touched, the few scant references found usually 
profoundly erroneous in conception.

I am sure Schopenhauer and a few other Germans are
also partly to blame.


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