Realism of Ramanuja

nanda chandran vpcnk at HOTMAIL.COM
Mon Feb 8 17:52:50 UTC 1999

Balaji writes :

>Idealistic  Systems  of  Indian  thought:
>ShunyavAda  school  of  MahAyAna  Buddhism

I don't think the MAdhyamika would fall in that category. The
VaibhAshikas and SautrAntikas are the realists who insist on the
existence of the outside world independent of consciousness. For the
former only the underlying elements of existence (dharma) is real. The
latter insist everything including the dharmas are momentary. The
Yogacarins (VijnAnavAdins) deny the empirical world and insist that
consciousness is all (sarvam buddhimayam jagat). The MAdhyamikas or the
ShUnyavAdins deny ultimate reality to both the empirical world and the
consciousness, which perceives it, since both exist only in relation to
each other. They are as their name indicates - the Middle Way.

The MAdhyamikas have no theory of their own. Their four fold negation of
reality - Neither Being, nor Non Being, neither nor both, is
deliberately taken by their opponents as their conception of Reality and
then refuted. What the Madhyamika really means by the four fold negation
is that none of the existing views are correct - Being : AtmavAda (most
brAhmanical schools), Non Being - NairAtmayavAda (NAgasena, Buddhaghosa,
earlier Vasubandhu and YAshomitra), both Being and Non-Being - JainA
(who accept unity with difference) and neither Being nor non Being - the
nihilistic brAhmanical school of  CAravAka. The MAdhyamika analyzes each
view and exposes the inner contradictions inherent in them. But their
official line is not to give a theory of their own. (BhAvavikeka of the
Svatantra MAdhyamika school is an exception. But he is severely
criticized by ChandrakIrti for breaking the no-theory rule).

But No-Theory doesn't mean No-Reality. The MAdhyamika way to reality is
to transcend conceptual knowledge and to ascend to prAjnApAramitA -
inspired, intuitive non-dual wisdom.

>Advaita  VedAnta  (hence  the  nomenclature  "pracchanna  Bauddha"  for
>Shankara,  really  it  must  have  been  "pracchanna  MahAyAnika")

If from the pluralistic materialism of the SaravAstivAdins the Bauddhas
could develop absolutistic systems, it would have been that much easier
for the Upanishadic schools which was from the beginning "spiritual".
Pre Gaudapada Vedanta even if not advaitic was definitely monistic,
accepting unity with difference. The germs of vivartavAda (appearance)
is already present in the SAmkhya - Yoga darshanas. The Upanishads also
decry all difference. So if these theories are taken to their logical
conclusion, we have Advaitam, which insists BrAhman alone is real and
all difference is unreal (mithyam).

It should also be noted that Shankara speaks of an advaitic tradition
prior to GaudapAda, though it may not have been the dominant VedAnta

So it may be that it's actually VijnAnavAda, which is prachanna VedAnta
and not the other way around.

Get Your Private, Free Email at

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list