Questions on Indian idealism

Vidyasankar Sundaresan vsundaresan at HOTMAIL.COM
Thu Dec 21 00:36:02 UTC 2000

>Thus the food you eat exists at
>the level of "vyahvarika satya", but at the higher metaphysical level
>("parmarthika satya") it is just a phantom conjured up by mortal
>illusion, according to both the Advaita Vedantists and the Mahayana

Sorry, you have completely misunderstood Advaita Vedantists.
At the paramArtha level, there is no you, there is no food,
there is no eating, there is no phantom, there is no mortal,
there is no illusion and there is no conjuring. I will keep
quiet about whether you have properly understood Mahayana
Buddhists in this regard, as I see more competent Buddhism
scholars responding in this thread. I hope your interest in
comparison goes a little beyond the most superficial of such
judgments. Also, please be a wee bit careful with words like
mortal, phantom and illusion. Both advaita and madhyamaka
have a lot to say about appearance and reality, and they
don't always say the same things, no matter how big an army
of 19th-20th century scholars says otherwise.

In another post, you refer to Dasgupta, Chattopadhyaya, B. N.
K. Sharma, S. Radhakrishnan and others. Radhakrishnan was a
very great scholar, but in my opinion, he is mistaken in his
descriptions of Mahayana schools as accepting an Absolutism.
I think a number of more up to date scholars would agree with
me here. He is also sometimes over-eager in wanting to see
the same thing in every thinker, from Socrates to Hegel and
Marx in the West, and from Yajnavalkya and Lao-Tzu to Madhva
in the East. B. N. K. Sharma is also a great scholar, but he
is only interested in proving at every turn that Madhva was
right and all others were wrong. He is hardly fair towards
either Advaita or Buddhism. Dasgupta and Chattopadhyaya have
their own biases. I know I can't get rid of all my biases,
and you can't get rid of yours, but I don't see why we should
inherit and hold on to the biases of everyone from the past.
A good book to renew one's acquaintance with these traditions
is J. N. Mohanty's _Classical Indian Philosophy_, Rowman and
Littlefield Publishers, Lanham, Maryland, 2000 (Indian author,
but writing in the USA, cf. my comment about quality).

I join you in hoping that Hindu schools from Carvaka to Navya-
Nyaya are treated fairly, and not just Advaita Vedanta. The
first step towards this would be to fearlessly question our
predecessors, no matter how eminent they may have been. I
agree these issues are worth investigating, but I would hope
that conclusions are drawn *after* careful comparisons of the
sources. We live in democracies, but I think philosophical
questions are not decided by majority vote. And I can only
say that in the 21st century, one need not rely solely on
Thibaut's translation of Sankara and Muller's translation
of the Upanishads. There is much to be said for revisiting
the original texts. Otherwise, you are stuck with 19th cent.
judgments of texts from the 2nd to 10th centuries. While we
still have the originals, why not examine them afresh?

>1. Vijananabhikshu, who coins the phrase "pracchanna baudha" to
>2. Madhva on Brahma Sutra ii.2.29, when he says that the Brahman of
>3. Parthasarathi Mishra [the famous commentator on Kumarila] in
>Sastra-dipika, Nir.ed. pg. 111; and Jayanta Bhatta in Nyayamanjari,

The Madhyamaka and the Advaita Vedanta both stand alone in
their respective traditions, but that does not mean the two
always stand together, no matter what other authors say as
part of polemics. Unlike a large number of recent Indian
scholars who see Vedanta in Buddhism, these older authors
see Buddhism in Advaita Vedanta. I challenge both kinds of
views. One of the authors you name is a Samkhya-Yoga-Vedanta
syncretist, another is a Dvaita Vedantin, a third a Mimamsaka
and the fourth a Naiyayika. Each one has a different reason.

English off, Sanskrit on -

eteshu kim AptavacanaM bhavate? kim anena saMkhyA-gauraveNa

>4. From the Advaita point of view, Sriharsa frankly acknowledges his
>indebtedness to the sunyavadis [Madhyamikas].

zrIharshasya vitaNDA-vAdaM tu nAgArjuna-vAdam iva bhAtIti
zrIharsheNaiva svIkRtam | yady apy evaM, tathApi nAgArjuna-
mate param ekam advaitaM brahma sarvapratyayAdhishThAnam
na siddham iti sa eva zriharsho vadatIti na vismartavyam |

tataH kim? gauDapAdA api vadanti, "vijneyAny agrayANata" iti
(kArikA 4. 90) | "paramatam apratishiddham anumatam bhavati"
iti brahmasUtra-bhAshyakArasya nyAyaH (BS 2. 4. 12) | advaita
-vedAnta-dRshTyA tu paramatam yenAMzena na virudhyate tena
ishTam eva bhavati (BS 2. 1. 3) | sAMkhya-yoga-smRtIn praty
eva, na madhyamaka-mataM praty ayam nyAya iti cen na | aMzena-
abhyupagamane tu sarvAn paramatAn prati samAna-nyAyas sAdhuH |
vijnAnavAdaM-praty advaita-vedAntoktir bhagavad-gItA-bhAshye
(BG 18. 50) spashTam | yatra virodhAbhAvas tatra bhedAbhAva
iva bhavati | yatra tu virodho 'sty eva, tatraikAtmyaM katham?


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