Aurobindo about Advaita

Edwin Bryant ebryant at FAS.HARVARD.EDU
Tue Jun 15 18:43:59 UTC 1999

On Mon, 14 Jun 1999, Ramakrishnan Balasubramanian wrote:

> I agree that sha.nkara's system has been studied disproportionately
> more than the other systems. However, I think the early British had an
> important reason for studying sha.nkara more than others. The systems
> of Ramanuja and Madhva are more or less restricted to Tamil Nadu and
> Karnataka respectively (with some small strongholds elsewhere).

Yes, but they had significant influence on other,
visistha/dvaitadvaita/bhedabheda/suddhadvaita type ontological expressions
such as those that surfaced in the Bengal/Vrindavan Gaudiya school
(Bengal/Orissa/Assam), the Nimbarki's of Vraj, the Ramanandi's (who are
very visible up North, especially in UP), the Pusti Marga continuation of
Visnusavami (GUjarat/Rajasthan/Bombay), and even later sects such as the
Swami Narayana's (who are very active in Gujarat and the diaspora).

All in all, in addition to the Tamil Nadu and Karnataka of Ramanuja and
Madhva, permutations and variations of saguna Brahman belief systems (who
were very consciously opposed to Sankara)  manifested over almost the
entire subcontinent. So philosophical (as opposed to popular) Vaishnavism
is just as widespread as advaita and neo-advaita.  And then, of course,
there are the Saiva schools which, with one or two exceptions, were less
concerned with alligning themselves with the Up/Gita/Vedantic commentarial
traditions but were by no means all in line with advaitavad: saiva
Siddhanta is obviously relevant, but even the Siva/Shakti monism of Kasmir
Saivism seems to have more in common with the ontologies of the above
Vaisnavite sects than with the radical monism of Sankara.....

Sri Vidyasankara's point that all these groups had to define themselves to
a great extent viz-a-viz Sankara is well taken; one can certainly not
minimize or by-pass the tremendous influence of the man himself.  Yet
there are surely other factors at play in the *EXCESSIVE* prioritization
of his system (and the later neo-systems it spawned) in modern
representations of Indic Philosophy to the almost total neglect of the
other Vedantic systems.  These systems were by no means just localized or
regionalized expressions if taken together as a basic category of saguna
Brahman (with lots of subcategories).  Edwin Bryant

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