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Jaldhar Vyas writes:
> On the contrary, Shankaracharya is the only Acharya who bases his
> teachings on the actual teachings of the Brahma Sutra and not the
> teaching of the Sutras as filtered through the Vaishnava and
> Shaiva tantras.
This is as false a statement as Manish Tandon's original arguments
setting forth the "crystal-clear" nature of the Brahma-Sutras.
Ramanuja, the other major expositor of the Sutras, certainly
cannot be accused of "filtering" the text through the Vaishnava
tantras. The sole foundational texts for his understanding of the
Sutras are the Upanishads, and secondarily the Gita and Vishnu
Purana (texts used by Sankara himself). If you can show me where
in his Sri Bhashya Ramanuja departs from these exegetical principles,
I will wear the ashes of an Advaitin forthwith!
In fact, it is Sankara who must twist the intent of Brahma-Sutras, so
much so that he views the majority of its teaching as concerning the
lower knowledge (apara-vidya) of the "SaguNa Brahman". It is indeed
ironic that even in his interpretation, the Sutras, which purport to be
an "inquiry into Brahman" (1st sutra), conclude *not* with a statement
of the non-duality of the pure Advaitic Brahman, but instead conclude
magnificently with a statement of eternal communion with the SaguNa
Now, concerning the Vaishnavism or Shaivism of Sankara, you write:
> He also said "Tat pranamami Sadashiva Lingam" and "Bhavani Stotum Tvam"
> which you neglect to mention. Do I take it you consider yourself to be a
Setting aside the above quotations, as well as those of Manish, let
as examine the undisputed works of Sankara and his immediate
disciples. As Vidya and I discussed in this forum before, there was
and is a strong Vedic predilection towards Vaishnavism. Setting all
emotional attachments to particular deities aside, let's look at the
facts: whenever Sankara or Sureshvara refer to their conception of
SaguNa Brahman, they refer to Narayana/Vishnu/Hari. Sankara does this
on several occasions in his commentary on the Sutras, definitely does
it in his commentary on the Gita (for which, admittedly, there are
other reasons as well), and Sureshvara does it in a number of crucial
contexts in his Naishkarmya-Siddhi. There is no mention of Siva/Rudra
as the SaguNa Brahman anywhere in these works.
Therefore, while it is clear that Sankara's Saguna Brahman was
not the Ultimate, when it comes to personal worship, his undisputed
works leave little doubt that he was a Vaishnava.
> While he certainly thought Bhakti was good, In no way did he consider it
> to be the best. Bhakti can secure many material and spiritual benefits.
> However only Jnana can give Moksha. While worshipping God can help you
> get Jnana it cannot cause it.
This is an uninformed opinion. Once again, let's go to the source,
where Sankara discusses bhakti.
In his own words, the "essential import of the entire Gita shastra" (1)
is contained in verse 11.55:
Whoso does My works, makes Me his supreme goal, becomes
my devotee, rid of all attachments, is free from malice
towards all beings, will come to Me, O Pandava!
He is My devotee, as he worships me in all possible ways,
with all his heart --- with total enthusiasm. He is free
from attachment to wealth, children, friends, wife, and
relations. Such attachment is due to pleasure or affection,
and he is devoid of it. Free from malice towards all
beings, free from all feelings of enmity even towards those
who have wronged him the most. He who answers to this
description comes to Me, I being his supreme goal. (2)
Since Gita 11.55 is the essence of Bhakti-yoga, and such a
Bhakti-yogin definitely attains Moksha, how can we say that this
mode of Bhakti is not the yoga par excellence? What we should
say is that for Sankara, jnaana *is* simply this Bhakti:
He (the Supreme Self) may be won through devotion
characterized by knowledge, and which is unswerving, i.e.,
solely directed to the Self. (3)
Take another example, where Sankara goes far beyond the text in
extolling Bhakti. Krishna simply says
Arjuna, I know the beings past, present, and future;
but none knows Me. (Gita 7.26).
This could simply mean the unknowability of Brahman, which fits
quite easily into Sankara's system of thought. However, Sankara
goes out of his way and writes:
None knows Me except My devotee who has sought refuge
in Me. (4)
Finally, the kicker, in his comments on 18.65:
Set your mind on Me; be My devotee, love Me. Sacrifice
unto me habitually. Prostrate before Me, worship Me
alone. Leading your life in this manner, i.e., seeing
Vasudeva as the exclusive means, end, and goal, you
will attain Me, you will come to Me. I promise you
this ... for you are dear to Me. The idea is that,
knowing the Lord's promise to be certainly true and
the fruit of liberation sure to follow, one should
dedicate oneself exclusively to the Lord. (5)
> Everything can be truth if Bhagavan is everything. However the
> true understanding of this fact is only possible to a few great
> men. For those who are less advanced Bhakti is recommended.
Unless Sankara was a lousy teacher, it can hardly be argued that
Bhakti is only for the "less advanced", in light of his comments
above. I think we can see that the highest form of Jnaana *is*
Bhakti, which directly leads to salvation. The only question here
is, how is the jump from SaguNa Brahman to NirguNa Brahman achieved?
Perhaps that is what, in Advaitic terminology, is 'anirvacanIya',
(1) "sarvasya gItaaSaastrasya saarabhUtaH arthaH ... ucyate".
Introduction to Sankara's comment on Gita 11.55
(2) Comment on 11.55. I will provide the Sanskrit upon request.
(3) "sa bhaktyaa labhyas tu jnaanalakShaNayaa ananyayaa aatma-
viShayayaa". Comment on 8.22.
(4) "maam tu veda na kaScana madbhaktam maccharanam ekam muktvaa".
Comment on 7.26.
(5) Comment on 18.65. Sanskrit available upon request.