Saturday, May 20, 2006

Shoonyavada and Mayavaada - 1

Humble prostrations to all.

It has been long since typing of this mail was started – it is only today that am able to send it to the forum. Regret for the delay in coming up with this set of mails.

It would always be better if the criticisms that are raised against Advaita Vedanta are analyzed – this will clearly bring out the conclusion that the criticisms are based on wrong understandings of the very system of Advaita or those are knowingly-posed-criticisms (by knowingly stating the position of the advaitin wrongly). Hence here is a humble effort to analyze the criticisms of Shrisha Rao in the links that had been sent in the previous mail.

It is very well understood that everyone will be busy with work (hectic schedules) and hence going through the original article itself might not be possible so what to speak about the critical analysis of the article? But still here is a humble effort towards the same so that this limited intellect’s understanding (whether it is wrong or right) is known.

Will try to split the analysis of the five parts of the articles into at least 10 articles so that there is an interest to at least go through the analysis of the article (the human mind runs away when it sees some article very big or huge unless there is so strong desire to know the content).

The comments will be in black colour whereas the original article from the site will be in blue colour.

A starting point for such an inquiry might well be the `History of theDvaita School of Philosophy' by B.N.K. Sharma; specifically, pp. 144, etseq., of the second edition. Some quotes from there which may be ofinterest are:
First of all, B N K Sharma is neither Vachaspathi Mishra nor Appayya Dikshitar to have written works on all the various systems present during their times. Hence his view cannot be considered as an open minded approach towards a subject. It obviously is diluted and seen through the spectacle of Dvaita Vedanta and hence the verdict also has to be allied towards Dvaita Vedanta which is one of the many schools raising the criticism that Advaita and Buddhism are one and the same.

On the contrary, Sri Harsha, the author of Khandana Khanda Khadyam specifically devotes a section to show that Advaita is different from the Buddhist system of Madhyamaka or shoonyavada. This is very important because the work is mainly a refutation of the Nyaaya doctrines & hence it is only in this part of the work that the author concentrates on his own system of Advaita. He convincingly shows the difference between shoonyavaada and advaita there (if possible will try to get the exact translation in the author’s own words).

All the authors of Advaita clearly state that there is an ultimate reality which is one without a second – a VASTHU (vasthu is that which is existent and not essenceless like the shoonyam of madhyamaka school). They again and again assert the existence of the real VASTHU which is termed as Brahman or CHIT or ATMAN – hence equating this system with the system which says that everything ends up in shoonya is utter ignorance. Madhyamaka school says that when the differentiation or dualities vanish, there will be void or nothing present whereas Advaita clearly mentions that when dualities vanish, there will be the non-dual reality of Brahman existing (it cannot be said as either existing or non-existing because there is nothing apart from it to speak about existence & its very nature of existence). The non-dual existence state is experienced by all at the time of deep sleep. All scriptural statements that the dvaitin might raise to show that in deep sleep the Ishwara embraces the jeeva and that state is not non-dual is contradictory even to sruthi, yukthi and anubhava also.

Let us analyze this:
Brihadaranyaka clearly spends at least 8 slokas to show that in the state of deep sleep there is SEER present as non-dual but he doesn’t vanish. It clearly mentions “when there is no other thing, what to see”. The Upanishad says that “in that state, the Seer doesn’t cease to exist but he exists as the Seer never ceases to exist, the light of seeing or sight always is there for the seer”. Here light of seeing or sight can be traced back to mean as Consciousness – that which shines all other things. Sight becomes manifest only when there are objects but when objects are not there also, sight is there. This is what the scripture says that “the Seer doesn’t cease to exist nor his sight --- he doesn’t see anything because there is nothing other than him to see in that state”. The scriptural statement is pretty clear here & simple Sanskrit. Instead if it is twisted, then the fault lies with the wrong interpreters alone.

Let’s take logic now to show that even though there are no objects, the Subject can exist. One objection which the site mentions is that Consciousness cannot exist without any objects --- this is what Ramanuja also says many times in his Sri Bhashya on Brahma Sutra. But this is wrong. Let’s take the example of a lamp to prove this. The Lamp always exist – even when there are no objects to illumine, the lamp exists. Isn’t this so???? This is what the Advaitin says. But on the contrary, what Dvaitin says is that “when objects are not there, Consciousness also doesn’t exist” – this is equivalent to saying that “when there are no objects to illumine, there is no light” – “when there are no objects on earth, the Sun doesn’t exist or doesn’t express its shine”. Doesn’t this simple logic itself prove that the dvaitin is completely wrong over here.

Let’s take experience or anubhava now: we all experience our own existence in deep sleep. We also experience the absence of any object in that state. The Dvaitin will raise objection here that “ishwara exists in that state embracing the jeeva”. This is foolishness and wrong because if there is ishwara, one should experience him. It is as good as telling that there is the computer in front of me but I don’t see it!!!! Isn’t it foolishness??? Experience clearly shows that there is nothing other than one’s own existence in deep sleep – because if there are anything else present then it would be seen or experienced.

Putting this into an inference or anumaana
There is nothing other than Existence or Consciousness in deep sleep
Because if there was something, it would have been experienced
as a pot (is experienced)

This clearly shows that there is no Ishwara in deep sleep who is apart from the jeeva or Atman or Self. The Sruthi cannot prove this point here because previously itself sruthi has been shown to have supported the view that there is no duality in deep sleep (the Brihadaranyaka 4.3.23 – 4.3.30 clearly mention this).

Thus sruthi, yukthi and anubhava clearly show that Consciousness can exist without any objects. If this is so, then all the major objections of the Dvaitin that Brahman of Advaita is Shoonyam of Madhyamaka vanishes

Long before Madhva, the Advaitins had been suspected of inward sympathies and leanings towards Buddhism. Advaita was openly denounced as Buddhism in disguise by such early writers as Bhaskara, Parthasarathi Misra, Yadavaprakasa, and Ramanuja. From early days, Advaitins have been vehemently protesting that theirs was certainly _not_ a Buddhism. The prejudice and antipathy to[wards] Advaita was very strong in Madhva's days.
It is not to be wondered if he chose to exploit this prevailing antipathy of his times, to the Advaita, both in learned quarters and among the people to further the interests of his new system. What is _important_, however, is that unlike most of his predecessors, he took it upon himself to substantiate his criticism against Advaita, in this respect, _with chapter and verse_, in his Tattvodyota and to a lesser extent, elsewhere. (pp. 144-145, emphases as shown; many footnotes in original not shown)

Always there is prone to be allegations from rival quarters. Bhaskara formulated the bheda abhedha school of Vedanta and Ramanuja propounded the Vishista Advaita school. Their school would have been invalid or not used by people unless there is some strong criticism of the already existing and strengthened Advaita Vedanta school. Therefore this criticism of calling Advaita as PRACCHHANNA BAUDHA or veiled budhist is completely out of selfish motive of establishing one’s own system.

The same allegation can be directed against both Madhva and Ramanuja by stating that they are pracchanna tarkikas or veiled logicians. This becomes very clear when it is remembered that Sri Bhashya spends a lot of effort in trying to prove Sankara’s system is wrong through strong logic. This high-end logic or hair-splitting logic as per the Navya Nyaaya system is also used by Madhva and his followers of Jaya Teertha and Vyaasa Teertha instead of directly taking resort to sruthi or scriptural statements. This is very well known by the ATAT TVAM ASI interpretation of the Chandogya Mahavakya TAT TVAM ASI when all the prior acharyas to Madhva have taken the wording to be TAT TVAM ASI only and not ATAT TVAM ASI.

And this ATAT TVAM ASI is proved through grammar and logic (again logic) as the upanishadic statement says “Sah Atmaa tat tvam asi” --- Atmaatat tvam asi can be interpreted as Atma tat tvam asi or atma atat tvam asi.

and: Until their (Madhva's and Jayatiirtha's) arguments are convincingly refuted, no philosophical value could be attached to mere sentimental protests against the equation of Advaita and Buddhism, by ancient or modern scholars. (footnote 2, p. 145)

There is nothing more to prove here as Sankara and others have clearly mentioned this in their works. When Sri Harsha has clearly shown the difference, Vidyaranya has shown and Madhusudana Saraswathi has shown, still if it is maintained that it is not shown, then it can be only that “the final verdict has been laid and reasons are put forth to prove that verdict”

Any seeker who is open minded can go through the explanations of various acharyas by studying both the systems and he will come to the conclusion that there is a vast difference between both madhyamaka and Advaita Vedanta. Any seeker open minded can go through the below analysis & then determine the right view is on whose part.

An important thing to be remembered here is that “there is neither question nor answer in Advaita” as everything is one alone. All these analysis are ways of removing the doubts so that the seeker can progress to realize the ultimate reality of non-dual Consciousness.

As Swayamprakaasha yathi says in his Rasa abhivyanjika commentary on Advaita Makarandam
Nityam nirantharaanandam chitghanam brahma nirbhayam
Sruthyaa tarkaanubhootibhyaam aham asmi advayam sadaa

That which is eternal, blissful, Conscious, Brahman and without any fear (as there is nothing apart from it to fear) – that non-dual Self I am who is proved as non-dual by scriptures, logic and experience at all times.

Dr. Sharma appears to feel that there exists no possibility of asubstantive (serious and non-sentimental) rebuttal to the charge ofcrypto-Buddhism, and for what it is worth, I myself have failed to comeacross any Advaitic works that defend that doctrine from it (if someoneknows of such, I'd be very grateful to receive the information).

Is it so???? When SriHarsha has clearly denied it in Khandana Khanda Khadyam and when Vidyaranya clearly refutes the shoonyavadins, how is it right to state that “I haven’t come across any Advaitic works that defend that doctrine from it”? It only shows the narrow mind and not wanting to really accept that Advaita is different from Shoonyavaada.

Just to mention here, advaita acharyas never use sentimentalism while refuting other systems – neither do they use abusive language. Instead there can be quotes directly from Dr. Sharma’s books about sentimentalism. For example, in the book “Advaita Siddhi vs Nyaayaamrita” of B N K Sharma, Sharma says that advaitic syllabus has been used in many universities in India whereas dvaitic works are not part of the syllabus – he goes on to say that the university people should look into this matter seriously and include dvaita also in the syllabus….. Now, with an open-mind, doesn’t this statement clearly show sentimentalism??? J This is just a single instance & there can be many other quotes which will show that it is dvaitins who take resort to sentimentalism whereas Advaitins starting from Gaudapada and Sankara & other acharyas have never used sentimentalism in their works --- and the answering of the rival critics that Advaita is the same as shoonyavada, various acharyas have resorted to logical analysis and sruthi analysis rather than sentimentalism – a person if he reads the Kanchi acharyal’s words on the same issue from site will clearly understand this.

Another statement of Sharma is “Advaita only creates more problems than it can ever think or claim of solving” – this statement is made in the same book of Sharma quoted in the above paragraph. This statement first shows the respect that Sharma gives for other philosophies. Secondly it shows that he is not at all open-minded but instead he already has the impression or decision that “advaita is wrong”. Thirdly, I have read many advaita books --- original Sanskrit works as well as translations (the total number of books would range around 300-400 or even more) – but I have never ever come across any advaitin making a similar claim towards dvaita or vishista advaita or any other philosophy for that matter. Instead advaita accepts all other philosophies in the plane of empirical reality. This itself is more than sufficient to show that Sharma is not open-minded and hence his view cannot be accepted with any authority or even respect for that matter (Give respect, take respect – this has been the Vedic stand).


PS: am trying to make the analysis into small parts so that everyone is able to at least go through it & if time permits, analyze it, bring forth doubts & discuss over the issues.

Let a moment not pass by without remembering God


At 10:21 PM, Blogger Shrisha Rao said...

It would have been more honest and
sincere if you had given a link to
the original article(s) that you
seek to refute, rather than just
quoting from them selectively.

Here is the first one:

(all that on one line).

As a point of information, neither Sriharsha, whom you mention, nor any other Advaitin has offered any thorough analyses and criticisms of the points mentioned.


Shrisha Rao


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