Buddhist and Brahmanical truths

L.S.Cousins selwyn at NTLWORLD.COM
Sat Dec 23 11:06:48 UTC 2000

[I have changed the name of the thread as this is not really the same
topic as the issue of idealism]

Vidyasankar Sundaresan writes:
>[Aside, for Steve Farmer and Lance Cousins -
>Other early upanishadic texts that lend themselves to the
>Vedantic theory of two truths (or even multiple levels
>of truth) are 6th and 7th chapters of chAndogya upanishad,
>and the mUNDaka and prazna upanishad references to parA
>vidyA vs. aparA vidyA. In the upanishads themselves, these
>theories don't arise because of attempting to reconcile
>irreconcilable elements in prior texts. There is a clear
>consciousness that these are new texts, different from
>the earlier Vedic samhitA-s. Exegesis is not yet central,
>although new ideas are presented in terms of old ritual

There are several issues here:

1. I would have no doubt that Gau.dapaada shows strong influence from
Madhyamaka sources.

2. That does not mean that what he says is identical to what they are saying.

3. I would assume that there was probably sufficient variation in
both Mahaayaana thought and Vedaantin thought that some thinkers from
each tradition would be quite close, others rather far apart.

4. It is quite clear that for the latter part of the first millennium
A.D. there was considerable debate and influence going both ways
between  various Buddhist, Jain and Brahmanical traditions. We should
therefore suspect that the same was the case earlier too (when we
have much less evidence).

5. The terminology of the Madhyamaka version of the distinction
between paramaartha and sa.mv.rti is clearly derived from abhidharma

6. The original distinction in abhidha(r)mma between sammuti and
paramattha is partly based on exegetical issues. It is not of such a
kind that influence from the Upani.sads is probable. (Other
influences are however quite possible.)

7. In the Madhyamaka paramaartha is interpreted to mean 'ultimate' in
a 'philosophical' sense. The content (or absence of content!) now
given to the concept could be influenced by ideas from the Upani.sads
or mediated though early Vedaantin and/or Saa.mkhya thinkers.

8. Buddhism in its beginnings in any case inherited much from the
same background as the Upani.sads. It is not impossible that
less-developed ideas along these lines were present in Buddhist
circles from the beginning.

9. Both of these may be the case.

>It is only after 5th century CE that exegetical
>concerns become important, taking these very upanishads
>as the texts that need exegesis. In terms of temporal
>priority, chAndogya and bRhadAraNyaka are clearly pre-
>Buddhist, but how one wants to date Buddhist abhidharma
>texts relative to the muNDaka upanishad is debatable.


>So also with respect to the sAMkhya-yoga elements in the
>Mahabharata, which are derived from the early upanishads.]
Well, that is more debatable. I think there is strong Buddhist influence there.

Lance Cousins

selwyn at ntlworld.com

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