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 5.10 - Nagarjuna and Gaudapada (Summary)

There is no doubt about the fact that there arelarge similarities between Gaudapada and Nagarjuna. In addition to all that I have discussed above, I would like to state that Gaudapada was a votary of Buddhism and had been influenced by the Buddha in many ways in the composition of his karikas. In the Alathashanthi-prakarana of his karika Gaudapada has employed a number of Buddhist terms viz. dharma, sarighata, advaya, adhvan, kritaka, prajnapati, samklesa, samvriti, nimitta, dharmadhatu, suddha, laukita, lokattara, ksanti, nirvana and tayim which are specifically used in Buddhist works. There are striking resemblances between many karikas of Gaudapada and passages found in the Buddhist works. The first half of the karika iv.22 svato va parato vapi na kinciditi vastu jayate, is paralleled by Nagarjuna's words: na svato jayate bhavah parato nails jayate (Mulamadhyamikarika xxxi. 13). A line which appears in two verses of karika, iv. 7 and 29: prakrteranyathabhavo na kathancid bhavisyati is substantially the same as the following half verse from the Mandukya-karika (xv. 8): prakrteranyathabhavo na hi jatupapadyate.

Many other similarities between the karika and some Buddhist works may also be found, suggesting the influence of Buddhism on Gaudapada.

Gaudapada refers to three kinds of knowledge in karikas, iv, 8788:

  1. laukika (mundane)
  2. suddha laukika (pure mundane) and
  3. lokattara (extraordinary) to explain the three states of self in Buddhist terminology.

At the end of the third prakarana and at the beginning of the fourth, he speaks of asparsayoga which appears to correspond to the Sanjnaveditanirodha meditation found frequently in the Buddhist texts. In the beginning of the fourth prakarana, Gaudapada pays homage to dvipadam varam (the foremost among men), which may refer to the Buddha. Towards the end of this prakarana he says 'naitad buddhena bhasitam’. This may be unterpreted as the declaration that the Buddha said naitad i.e 'nothing'.

The Yogacara view appears to be expounded in the karikas, iii.11 (manodrshyamidam dvaitam) and iv.72 (cittaspanditamevedam). Because of the above-mentioned reasons scholars like Surendranath Das and Professor Vidhushekar Bhattacharya believe that Gaudapada was under the influence of Buddhism. Dasgupta says that there is sufficient evidence in the karikas for think that Gaudapada was possibly a Buddhist and considered that the teaching of the Upanishads tallied with those of Buddha (1) In his opinion: "Gaudapada assimilated all the Buddhist Sunyavada and vijnanavada teaching that these held good of the ultimate truth preached by the Upanishads (2) Professor Bhattacharya also subscribes to the belief that Gaudapada has accepted or approved of the Bauddha doctrines and advocated them throughout the karika (3). According to these and many other critics Gaudapada is a pseudo-Buddhist.

Let us examine the reasons set forth above for Gaudapada's acceptance or approval of the Bauddha doctrines.

With regard to the Buddhist words employed by Gaudapada in the karika and resemblances in his karikas and the karikas of Mula-Madhyamika-karika and other Buddhist works, it may be pointed out that it is true that he has borrowed expressions from Buddha terminology, but they have been used purely in Advaitic contexts. The three kinds of knowledge viz. laukika etc are undoubtedly of Yogacara origin. But Gaudapada's borrowing of these terms is restricted to teach the Upanishadic doctrine of the three states (avastha's) of the self. The Asparsayoga may be the ninth dhyana in Buddhism, but in the karika, it is used to describe the concept of yoga which is certainly prebuddhistic. The karika containing the word ‘dvipadam varam’, according to Shankara, is not for paying homage to the Buddha, but for making obeisance to Narayana who is best of persons. By the word 'this' (ettat) in phrase: naitad buddhena bhasitam, Gaudapada means 'supra-relational state of the wise one' and it is nihilism. As Professor Mahadevan observes: Gaudapada has purposely employed Buddhist terminology in the Alathashanthi-prakarana and there is every chance of the unwary student mistaking what is taught there for the Bauddha doctrine. And so, to safeguard himself agonist such a possible misconception, he says 'not this was spoken by the Buddha'. The citta of Gaudapada is not the mind of Yogacara, but the supreme consciousness. It is evident from the above explanation that Gaudapada's philosophy is. It Buddhist, but purely Upanishadic 'why, then, it may be asked, should he have adopted Buddhistic expression at all? The answer is that the exigencies of his time must have made him use Bauddha terminology, even as the Hindu monks who preach Vedanta in the countries of the west today feel the necessity of clothing their thoughts in Christian expressions

This chapter having the basic character of comparison dealt with the basic concepts of philosophies of Gaudapada and Nagarjuna discussing the ideals of the nature of the self, nature of the Absolute, that of knowledge and liberation. One of the most disputed questions namely, whether Gaudapada is Buddhist or not also is discussed in detail. From the analysis it has become clear that Gaudapada basically an Advaita teacher used and infused the Buddhist ideologies to suit the purpose of AtmanBrahman identity of the non-dual nature of Ultimate reality that is dealt in the Upanishads.

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