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 4.11 - Reality in Advaita (a): The Sources of Gaudapada’s Philosophy

From a historical view point, the philosophy of the Vedanta School, is yet to be critically analyzed and examined. The School of Vedanta is the representation of the Vedas, Upanishads and the Bhagavatgita. The origin of the Vedantic ideas are embedded in the Sharirakasutras of Badrayana Vyasa. B.S. is also called Vedantasutra that brings out the central teaching of Upanishads is the basic work of all the Schools of the Vedanta including Advaita. Upanishads represents Shruti, Bhagavatgita represents Smriti, B.S represents Tarka. Hence, Advaita is based and supported by Shruti, Smriti and Tarka.[1] As the Vedantic teachers and interpreters are many so the Vedantic schools also are many. The Advaita Vedanta culminates or come into its full bloom in Shankara’s works, especially in the Brahma Sutra Bhashya (BSB). Brahmasutra Bhashya logically expounds the theories of all these schools prevailed in India. Shankara refutes them with a strong dialectic, in his own way and with the aid of Shrutis.

If we do not examine the history of Vedanta before Shankara, one won’t be able to comprehend the modern and contemporary Indian thought, because Vedanta occupies an important place in Indian Philosophy of its past and present. In the study of pre-Shankara Vedanta there are several schools of thought. In this background Shankara’s philosophy and dialectics are deeply rooted in the Gaudapada-Karika (Gaudapadiya-karika). During 8th century AD, Gaudapada wrote a commentary in verse on the Mandukyopanishad called Mandukyakarika. In it he tries to establish the Advatic doctrine of identity of jiva and Brahman.[2]

Philosophy in the Gaudapadakarika is an interpretation of the totality of human experiences. He resounds the religious mysticism and life as a whole. Gaudapada’sphilosophy is essentially based on the Upanishads. The main source is Mandukyopanishad (Mandukya Upanishad). This the most comprehensive upanishad which has twelve mantras. According to him deep study of Mandukya Upanishad alone is sufficient for moksha. In fact the Mandukyopanishad and the Advaita Vedanta are practically synonymous.[3] The other sources of Agamashastra are Brihdaranyakopanishad and Candogyopanishad. Gaudapada has drawn many advaitic thoughts also from the Bhagavatgita.

The very notable and critical point is that Gaudapada might have been influenced by Buddhist writers like Nagarjuna and Vasubandhu. Mahayana Madhyamika Buddhism is one of the intellectual sources of the Agamashastra;especially the forth chapter. Vidhu Sekhara Bhattacarya argues that on several points there are similarities between the Mahayana Buddhism and Agamashastra. This claim is supported by many other Indian thinkers. For instance, Chandrasekhar Sharma opines, ‘the Upanishadic seed of idealism is developed into the present form of Agamashastra by Gaudapada under the influence of Buddhism.’[4] Agamashastra’s commentary by Shankara is called AgamashastraVivarana.

Footnotes and references:


R. Balasubramanian, Advaita an Overview, Perspectives of Theism and Absolutism in Indian Philosophy, Dept. of Philosophy, R.K.M. Vivekananda College, Madras, 1998, p. 43.


Sisupala Parickar. V, Vedanta Kalpa Latika, Madhusudana Saraswathi A Study, Sri Garibdoss Oriental Series No.188, Sri Satguru Publications, Indian Book Centre, Delhi, 1995, p. XVIII.


Ananta Krishna Sastri Brahma Sutra Shankara Bhashya, Celantta Series, p. 7.


Chandrasekhar Sharma, A critical Survey of Indian Philosophy, MLBD, 2013, p.241.

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: