Mahayana Buddhism and Early Advaita Vedanta (Study)

by Asokan N. | 2018 | 48,955 words

This thesis is called: Mahayana Buddhism And Early Advaita Vedanta A Critical Study. It shows how Buddhism (especially Mahayana) was assimilated into Vedantic theorisation in due course of time. Philosophical distance between Mahayana Buddhism and Advaita-Vedanta became minimal with the advent of Gaudapada and Shankaracharya, who were both harbinge...

Chapter 3.2 - A Comprehensive Analysis of the philosophy of Gaudapadiya-karika

This analysis reveals the very essence of Gaudapada’s teaching. This can be summarised into two important philosophical terms. They are ajati or non-origination and Asparsha yoga, the yoga of non-touch. Along with these two important tenets of Advaita Vedanta, we should consider the following principles discussed and emphasized elaborately in the karika.

Mandukya Upanishad is one of the principal upanishads and it is the shortest of all upanishads. It deals with pranavopasana and the sadhana for yogic development. It is the essence of moksha sadhana. According to some, the teachings of Mandukya Upanishad are enough for the moksha. It explains the states and stages which are interwoven in physical, mental and spiritual constructions of human being.

Mandukya Upanishad gives a comprehensive view of non-dual-self. ‘Om’ or pranava is the unmanifest cause of all. ‘Om’ is the symbol of all inanimate and animate worlds. ‘Om’ is the symbol of Brahman. The supreme reality, that the seeker must be realized. It has four states and matras-syllables. A, U, M, and the unsound amatra, that is the silence. The fourth is told as Turiya state, which is undying, unchanging the ultimate state the bliss absolute.

Already we have spoken of as three states, which are:

  1. waking (jagrat—the worldly experiences, the mundane world of day-to-day experiences),
  2. dreaming, that which is made up by mental stuff and memories by the past worldly experiences, and
  3. deep sleep state which is known in Sanskrit as sushupti, which cannot grasped by ordinary mind and the sense organs.

In the world of deep sleep, one experiences nothing but an awareness which is unknown and inexplicable by words or sense faculties. Then extinguishes all sense and sense experiences and the atman or so called soul undergoes in an ecstasy which cannot be pronounced by ordinary mind. Then the mind goes beyond gender and sense organs and there he experiences a state of painless and sorrow-less bliss. It is the gate way to the immortal summit of Joy or Ananda.

In the second syllable ‘U’ represents or symbolizes the dream state. This state experiences the world of images and memories and actions that are deposited in the sub-conscious sphere; the impressions of what happened and experienced in the waking life of the daily world experiences. In the waking from the dreamy state all what have happened in the dreams which are dissolved and nothing is left out, except of memory. This memory is known as memory mind. It was made and composed by large and different modes of past karma and sensations. These are becoming to the samskaras or vasanas. It will direct our future perspectives and later becomes to its destiny. The memory mind is a riddle to modern psychology. The karma theory also depends on the actions. So the ‘U’ represents the dream state but it occupies between the waking and sleep state of our consciousness.

The third is represented by ‘M’, which is deep sleep. In the sushupti state no dreams, no desires or anything of the waking world exists. This deep sleep state, the self or conscious being merges with the unknown self. Here there is no distinction between the seer and the seen. In the deep sleep state we do not know anything, but we know ‘we slept well’ and it is the mystic knowledge of the self behind the self. In this state of deep sleep the self is merging with inner soul, that is bliss.

These three psycho-mental states again designated as Vaishvanara, which is jagrat or waking. Then the Taijasa, the dream as it is. And the Prajna which is the sleep, it is also the Turiya, the reality of the unknown nature of being. The fourth or Turiya is the real self, that is beyond waking (jagrat), dreaming (svapna) and sleeping (sushupti) states of existence. It is said in the Vedantic literature as invisible, ungraspable, unanalysable, unidentifiable and unthinkable. This state of mystery is spoken by the knowers of truth is negative phrases in Madhyamika and Advaita philosophies also. It is the essence of consciousness (citta-matrata). It is the tranquil bliss, which s non-dual Advaita. The Mandukya Upanishad expresses the secret of the Vedanta. Gaudapada’s Mandukya-karika eulogises or explains or exposes this secret of the nature of the self.

The Brihadaranyaka, Chandogya, and Taittiriya upanishads elaborately explains the nature of Vaishvanara, Prajna and Turiya.[1] Chandogya speaks on the formation of the instruments of the physical body and its vital airs. The 19 elements including all the pancakosha’s constitute the subtle body (sukshma sharira) of the individual soul. One should identify the individual soul with the cosmic soul. This mental and physical interpreted phenomena of human existence (being) is elaborately discussed in various upanishads. Gaudapada hints at the Brihadaranyaka Upanishadic mantras and ideas which are apt and agreeable with the sub conscious mind of the self. The dream experiences of objects of hungry delights, wishes and mercy making have no need for dependence on external organs. It enjoys and illuminates in a fanciful way without any outside materials other than the faculty of mind. In the dream state, the self is not really experiences; it means the real self is unattached.

The experiences in Taijasa (dream) Mandukya Upanishad says,

“the enjoyments in the dream state is the conscious of what is within the (antaprajna) mind only”.

In the sleep, all other distinctions vanish. Sleeper attains temporary union with prajna atman (sushupti) but he is unaware of the self. In the sleep state, the enjoyer is beyond the desires, free from evil, fearless entirely distinctless about the phenomenal and the worldliness. In that state, he tastes a little of the original self-bliss, but not aware of the full bliss, that is absolute knowledge of the Brahman, according to Gaudapada.[2] In this state of sleep, self merges in the universal consciousness. That self experiences the non-dual (A-dvaita) selfconscious of the supreme. The Chandogya and Prashna Upanishads also describes about the experiences in the deep sleep state. In deep sleep Taijasa is overpowered by Turiya and does not see dreams but enjoy bliss and ecstasy. Here prana and manas subside. The individual experiences the undivided self-consciousness.

Again Mandukya-karika says self in the sleep identifies with Ishvara or Turiya, the lord of the universe. This is the lord of all, knower of all; It is the inner ruler.[3] In these three states they differ radically from one another. But the self thaty underlies is unaffected by the three states. The ‘I’ is the same in the wake, in the dream and in the deep sleep. This state of undesirable consciousness (prajna) is ungraspable by ordinary mind and distinct from world knowledge. It is beyond thought and word ‘Acintya’ and unutterable. That is ekanta-pratyaya-sara. It is described in Mahayana literature and Vedantic texts as ‘prapancopasama’, Shanta, Shiva Advaita, non-dual. The fourth pada is to be attained by ardent practices and selfknowledge. This Turiya is the non-dual Advaita and in Vedanta also it is moksha. Mandukya Upanishad and its importance in the Vedanta literature are admissible by all schools of Indian philosophy. It deals with the Pranavopasana and it culminates the non-duality (i.e.) nothing but Asparsha yoga and sadhana for yogic practices.

Footnotes and references:


Vaishvanara is the self. It is the knowledge of the self. It is to be meditated upon as the whole. It is the self of all. This Vaishvanara is the waking conscious state. The individual soul resides in the physical body and experiences through the senses.


He is unknowingly experiences a little bliss, that are not full.


K. Venkata Ramanan, ‘Nagarjuna’s Philosophy (As presented in the Maha-

Prajnaparamita -shastra)’, Bharatiya Vidya Prakashan, Varanasi, 1971, p. 96

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