Buddhism and Advaita

Andrew Nicholson andrew.nicholson at STONYBROOK.EDU
Mon Mar 15 01:19:55 UTC 2010

Three resources on the topic of Buddhism and Vedanta:

Richard King, Early Advaita Vedanta and Buddhism: The Mahayana Context of
the Gaudapada-Karika (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995).  A
thoughtful discussion of the ways in which Advaita Vedanta, particularly
Sankara's teacher's teacher Gaudapada, was influenced by and reconfigured
the ideas of Madhyamaka Buddhism.

Hajime Nakamura, A History of Early Vedanta Philosophy: Part One, pp.
131-265 (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1983).  Contains a review of Buddhist
accounts of Vedanta, incl. summaries of Bhavaviveka, Santaraksita, and

Sankara's Brahma Sutra Bhasya, sections 2.2.19-32, where he attacks 3 types
of Buddhism he calls Sarvastivada, Vijnanavada, and Sunyavada.  A useful
summary appears in Eliot Deutsch (ed.), The Essential Vedanta: A New Source
Book of Advaita Vedanta, pp. 126-39 (Bloomington: World Wisdom, 2004).

Prof. Staal's point bears repeating--Sankara's Advaita Vedanta had little
if any role to play in the decline of Buddhism in India.  The idea that
Sankara somehow singlehandedly defeated the Buddhists is a fantasy
expressed in late medieval hagiographies.  Historical evidence suggests
that he was a relatively minor player on the Indian intellectual scene
during his lifetime, and only achieved the type of popularity he enjoys
today after the Buddhists were no longer present.

With best wishes,
Andrew J. Nicholson
Assistant Professor
Department of Asian and Asian American Studies
Stony Brook University
Stony Brook, NY 11794-5343 USA
Tel: (631) 632-4030  Fax: (631) 632-4098

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