Questions on Indian idealism

Tue Dec 19 01:40:30 UTC 2000

Satya Upadhya wrote:

I cannot answer all your questions but would like to draw your
attention to a few potential problems:

> 1. Am i correct in believing that the Advaita Vedanta has much in
common with the two idealistic schools of Mahayana Budhism (soonyavada
and vijnaanvada) so much so that there is very little difference
between the Advaita and the two idealistic schools of Budhism?
1.    The `suunya-vaada of Maadyamika can hardly be characterized as
"idealism" -- the whole point is that they are any kind of "--ism".
2.    The sirtuation with Yogacara (Vij~aana-vaada) is very complex.
It is now increasing recognized that mush of Yogacara, especially the
early period works of maitreya, Asa`nga and Vasubandhu are *not*
idealism at all in any sense understood by the term in Western
philosophy.  Dan Lusthaus has written an interesting paper available
from his website - sorry don't have URL to hand but i's easy to
find -- entitled something like "What Yogacara is not".  If you can't
find it I could email it as an attachment to you.  Later Yogacara
(Dharmapaala and after) divides into two trends, one of which does
seem open to idealistic interpretatiosn but even this is not clear
since most Western language access to this is based on Xuang-zang's
Chinese version which is often but unncessarily translated (by Lamotte
et al) with an predetermined idealistic slant.  Maadyamika accounts of
Yogacara mostly seem to misrepresent the latter - perhaps because they
were polemical opponents -- and ignore clear indications that Yogacara
is *not* idealism.

> 3. Am i correct in assuming that the Advaita Vedantists
surreptiously borrowed ideas from the Mahayana Budhists (in particular
the idea of making a distinction between truth at the provisional
practical level of life ("samvriti satya" or "vyahvarika satya") , and
the higher metaphysical ultimate truth ("parmarthik satya")

I have not looked into this in detail -- just understanding Yogacara
alone is hard enough.   One pointbto note is that one must determine
first whether one thinks that Buddhists use the terms
"" and "paramaartha-satya" ontologically or
epistemologically -- the latter seems to be the preferred
understanding among the classical Buddhist Mahayana scholars.  It is
often rumoured that Gaudapada was a crypto-Buddhist but I do not know
how valid this is.  It is also said that the Yoga-va`si.s.ta borrowed
considerbaly from Mahayana (Yogacara) ideology but again I have not
looked into this in detail despite the fact that the Yoga-vi`si.s.ta
is a wonderful work that I would study if I had more time.  I would,
however, imagine that some scholars have studied the parallels.

Hope this helps a little.

Best wishes,
Stephen Hodge

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