Re: Ancient Hindu Philosophy ( The Ultimate Truth )
Subject: Re: Ancient Hindu Philosophy ( The Ultimate Truth )
From: email@example.com (Vidyasankar Sundaresan)
Date: 12 May 1994 03:16:36 GMT
Organization: California Institute of Technology, Pasadena
In article <firstname.lastname@example.org> email@example.com (Mani
> In article <firstname.lastname@example.org> email@example.com
(Bhaskar Iyer) writes:
> > But what all these three preach is that man's sole purpose in life is
> > to attain and apprehend the vision of the Supreme, i.e, Tatva Darsana
> > (apprehension of the Truth) but not to remain content with merely
> > Jnana (intellectual conception of truth).
> For Advaita, this is not true. Advaita itself preaches that
> "Tattva Jnanam" yields liberation, and defines such "jnanam" as
> mere intellectual realization of the Truth. This sharply
> distinguishes it from the other schools of Vedanta.
Admittedly so, but then the intellectual realization of the Truth is not
so "mere" as one would believe. It is necessary to understand Advaita
terminology properly before criticizing it. Advaita defines Brahman as the
only Real - "Brahman Satyam". This Brahman is the only Truth, the Real,
therefore "sarvam khalvidam brahma", therefore "aham brahmasmi" and "tat
tvam asi". Just knowing this superficially, based on reading various books
and actually "knowing" it in one's own experience are tow entirely
different things. Advaita stresses the latter, the former is the "mere",
the latter is vastly more difficult than "mere".
> Secondly, while all three preach that the Truth is what is to
> be attained, the difference in how Advaita defines "Truth" compared
> to how the other two do so is so vast that Bhaskar's statement that
> "all these three preach this..." implies a false unity of purpose.
Agreed, but then Vishistadvaita also defines the Highest Truth as the
Brahman. However, because Truth is defined differently from Advaita,
Brahman now has to be defined as "satyasya satyam", which is just another
way of stating what Advaita says in the first place! In any case, all
three Vedanta philosophies surely define moksha as their purpose, though
they differ on details of how to attain this moksha.
> > As regards the nature of the ultimate Reality, the propounders of the
> > three systems were all Brahmavadins, though Sri Ramanuja, the exponent
> > Visishtadvaita identifies this Reality with Vishnu, Sri Madhwacharya,
> > the propounder of Dvaita phylosophy identifies it with Hari, and
> > Sri Sankara, the propounder of Advaita, identifies it with
> > Brahman, the One without a Second. Any way, these three refer to the
> > same supreme Being.
> Not at all. While Madhva and Ramanuja essentially agree, Sankara's
> conception of the supreme Being is entirely different, and is in the
> opinion of the other two, completely wrong! In addition, by saying
> that only Sankara identifies the ultimate Reality with "Brahman,
> the One without a Second", you are once again implying that Ramanuja
> is not doing so. Ramanuja's Brahman also follows the Upanishadic
> dictum, "ekam eva advitiyam." In fact, his conception of the Vedanta
> is far more coherent with scripture than those of the other two.
If Sankara is completely wrong, then Ramanuja and Madhwa should hold that
Yagnavalkya of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad is also completely wrong, if
they want to be consistent. Isn't Yagnavalkya essentially stating the
Advaita position when he defines Brahman as 'Neti, neti" - not this, not
this? In fact in the following verses, Yagnyavalkya is explicitly stating
the Advaita concept of the Supreme Being.
"Therefore he who thus knows that he is Brahman, becomes all this, and
even the Devas cannot prevent it, for he himself is their Self." (I. 4,
"As a mass of salt has neither outside nor inside, but is altogether a
mass of taste, thus indeed has that Self neither outside nor inside, but
is altogether a mass of knowledge...." (IV. 5, 13)
Isn't this exactly 'nirvisesa, cin maatram Brahma'?
Sankara's conception of the Vedanta is in fact more coherent with
scripture than Ramnuja's or Madhwa's. The Upanishads abound in passages
which talk of Brahman as without any attributes, and at the same time,
there are Upanishads like the Svetasvatara which talk of a specific set of
attributes. It is only the Advaita concepts of Nirguna and Saguna Brahman
that capture the spirit of the Upanishads in its totality. Dvaita
definitely distorts most Upanishadic statements to fit its own world view,
while Visishtadvaita necessarily has to interpret some Upanishadic
statements in its own terms. Ramnauja interprets 'ekameva advitiyam" in
his own way, but then in practical terms, his followers resort to a
hierarchy of gods in which Vishnu is the most superior. Nowhere in the
Upanishads is it stated that Vishnu is superior to Siva or vice versa.
Advaita therefore refuses to hierarchize this way, and followers of
Advaita are true to this.
> > ADVAITA :-
> > ~~~~~~~~~
> > Sankara looks upon Brahman as Nirguna. Ramanuja and Madhwa conceive
> > Brahman as Saguna. How does Sankara define Nirguna? Nirguna
> > to him means "free from the three gunas (the attributes of Prakriti
> > 'inherent nature')".i.e, Satva (mode of goodness), Rajas (mode
> > passion) and Tamas (mode of ignorance).
> I must disagree once again. This definition of Nirguna is how Ramanuja
> uses the term -- free from the Three Worldly Gunas. On the other hand,
> Sankara's Brahman is "nirvisesa, cin maatram Brahma". One without *any*
> qualities whatsoever.
Guna as Sankara uses it is a general term, not just sattva, rajas and
tamas. In Sankara's terminology, any attribute is a guna - thus one can
talk of the gunas of space, time, colour, etc. Also there is an important
Advaita concept to be understood - Brahman is nirvisesa, not just because
It is "One without *any* qualities whatsoever", but because It transcends
all these qualities. This is because Advaita is again being most
consistent. Pick any quality, I can cite an opposite quality. Since
Brahman is "ekameva advitiyam" there is nothing real outside Brahman. This
Brahman therefore necessarily has to transcend all qualities; It is not
just simply devoid of any qualities whatsoever. Accusing Sankara like this
is deliberately misinterpreting him and casting him in a Buddhist mould,
which he most definitely isn't.
Also, if Ramanuja defines Nirguna as "free from the three gunas of tamas,
rajas, and sattva" and also identifies this Nirguna Brahman with Vishnu,
he is throwing overboard the following statements of the Maitrayani
"That part of him which belongs to rajas, that, O students, is he that is
called Brahma. That part of him which belongs to tamas, is he who is
called Rudra, and that part of him which belongs to sattva, is he who is
called Vishnu." (V. 2)
Just before this verse in the same Upanishad,
"The Valakhilyas said, ' O Saint, ........ Agni, Vayu, Aditya, kala,
prana, Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra, thus do some meditate on one, some on
another. Say which is the best for us.' (IV. 5)
He said unto them, 'These are but the chief manifestations of the highest,
the immortal, the incorporeal Brahman. He who is devoted to one, rejoices
here in his world. Brahman indeed is all this, and a man may meditate on,
worship, or discard also those which are its chief manifestations. With
this deities he proceeds to higher and higher worlds, and when all things
perish, he becomes one with the Purusha." (IV. 6)
If this is not exactly the message of Sankara's Advaita, what is it?
> > all systems are equally valid from
> > their respective standpoints, depending on the spritual stage of
> > of the Sadhaka.
> This is rather patronizing, isn't it? Effectively, you are saying,
> "Advaita is the best, but Visistadvaita is okay for you people whose
> consciousness is less evolved." What a great insult to Ramanuja and
Well, Ramanuja and Madhwa and their respective followers have been
insulting Sankara all along, haven't they? Namely, "Advaita is okay for
some, though it is completely wrong, therefore Visishtadvaita is the best
for people whose consciousness is truly evolved!"
> > It can be said that
> > "Advaita is for Adarsa (goal/ideal ), while
> > Dvaita is for Acharana (for practice)".
> Same comment applies here. Please, lets not be artificial and say,
> "All paths lead to the same goal, but Advaita is the best." That
> is simply offensive to those of us who don't hold that Sankara's
> thought is the ultimate truth. It ain't.
Whether it ain't or not is an opinion. Anyone is entitled to his opinion,
but then there can be only one Ultimate Truth. When this becomes a matter
of belief, there is no way one can have a meaningful discussion. For all
you know, Christianity or Islam may be the ultimate truth, and we as
Hindus will never accept that. However, if the Upanishads are the ultimate
truth and are to be viewed as a whole, then Advaita is the most definitely
the message of the Upanishads!