Balaji Hebbar bhebbar at EROLS.COM
Sun Feb 21 02:15:09 UTC 1999

"It's well accepted among Indological scholars that though the
upanishads do not present one consistent system of thought, sha.nkra's
writings are closer to what they say. At least the main ones like the
BRhadAraNyaka. Nakamura has written some penetrating analyses between
Upanishadic thoughts, early and sha.nkara VedAnta.  Similarly it is
also accepted that Ramanuja's thoughts are closer to that of the
brahma sUtra-s. Of course, there some dubious "upanishads" quoted by
AnadatIrtha aka "Madhva" which lend some support to his theories."

        Firstly,  I  agree  that  a  prima  facie  reading  of  some  of  the
Upanishads  give  an  Advaitic  bent  and  this  is  what  most
Indological  scholars  are  refering  to.  But  the  problem  is  much
deeper.  The  traditional  paNDit  community  however  talks  about
things  like  upakrama,  upasamhAra  etc.  in  the  interpretation  of
texts.  Very  often  a  debate  not  only  involves  the  VedAntic
paNDits  but  also  the  tarka,  vyAkarNa  and  alankAra  paNDits  who
will  have  a  sidebar  argument  on  the  interpretation  of  certain
words  and  terms  etc.  It  is  this  tradition  that  most  modern
Indological  scholars  overlook  and  merely  take  the  prima  facie
interpretation.  I  have  yet  to  see  both  these  scholarships
integrated  to  get  the  true  picture.  The  Indological  scholars
(Western  style  academic  training)  have  a  keen  sense  of  history,
critical  analysis  of  texts  etc.  The  Traditional  PaNDit  community
on  the  other  hand  (PAtHshAla,  vidyapITha  trained)  have  no  sense
of  modern  historical  criticism  of  texts  etc.,  but  their
knowledge  of  tarka,  vyAkarNa  etc.  are  superb.  So  this  is  the
problem!  Until  the  two  cradles  of  scholarship  are  put  together,
this  problem  is  going  to  remain. (BNH)

As  regards,  Madhva,  let  me  tell  you  this.  He  is  the  only
major  VedAntic  AcArya,  besides  Shankara,  to  have  written  a
detailed  line-by-line  commentary  on  the  Prinipal  UpaniShads.  Even
RAmAnuja  did  not  do  this!!!  Madhva's  commentaries  provide  a
breath  of  fresh  air  in  UpaniShadic  thought.  Many  ignorant
scholars  dub  Madhva's  thought  as  being  influenced  by
Christianity.  ABSOLUTE  NONESENSE!!!  Let  me  give  you  an  example:
the  doctrine  of  VAyu  as  the  mediator  between  God  and  Man  (is
supposed  to  have  a  Christian  touch)  No!  The  evidence  is  there
in  the  TaittirIyopaniShad  I:1:1  "Namo  brahmaNe  namaste  VAyo
tvamevam  pratyakSham  brahmAsi"  etc.  (BNH)

"As for prachAnna bauddha I wonder if you know of a certain Buddhist
writer called bhavya. He disputes allegations that the mahAyAna theory
was prachAnna vedAnta! He was before sha.nkara (~500s). Take a look at
"The Vedanta Philosophy Described by Bhavya in his MadhyamakahRdaya",
V.V.Gokhale,  IIJ-2, 1958, pp.165-180. So bhAskara's writings which
came much later do not prove that Buddhist theories were absorbed into
advaita just at the time of sha.nkara or so. Certainly, there was much
influence of the Buddhist school on advaita. Why, is that a problem?"

I  have  absolutely  no  problem  with  this.  In  fact,  though
personally  I  am  a  theistic  realist,  I  am  quite  respectful  of
both  the  Advaita  as  well  as  the  Buddhist  traditions.  In  fact,
I  am  one  of  the  executive  committee  members  of  the
International  VesAk  festival  in  the  Washington  DC  area. I  have
Buddhist  monks  of  all  three  groups  (TheravAda,  MahAyAna  and
VajraYAna)  as  my  personal  friends.  In  fact,  I  am  ALL  for  the
revival  of  BUDDHISM  in  INDIA  AGAIN!!!  I  think  we  Indians  have
lost  a  magnificent  heritage.  Its  time  to  have  it  back! Also,  I
regulary  used  to  visit  the  tarka  tutor  of  the  current  junior
ShankarAcArya  at  KAnci  to  discuss  SriharSa  and  Citsukha.  But  if
you  were  to  ask  me  will  you  accept  their  teachings,  I  will
say,  NO!  Nor  will  I  impose  my  views  on  them!  This  is  the
beauty  of  our  Indian  tradition.  It  has  been  the  source  of  our
tolerance  for  centuries.  Sure  there  were  one  or  two  black
sheep  in  our  religious  history  who  were  bigoted,  but  by  and
large  the  Indians  can  be  proud  of  their  heritage.  Sorry  for
the  sermon,  but  I  had  to  make  my  position  clear!  Therefore,  I
accept  that  Shankara's  interpretations  of  the  Upanishads  are  a
possibility  but  I  will  not  accept  it  as  the  "official"  and
"best"  possible  interpretation.  Therefore,  Shankara  is  a
pracchanna  MahAyAnika  but  that  doesn't  mean  to  say  I  have  have
no  respect  for  him. (BNH)

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