Consciousness in Gaudapada’s Mandukya-karika

by V. Sujata Raju | 2013 | 126,917 words

This page relates ‘Chapter 2: A Study of Mandukya Karika and its Origin’ of the study on Consciousness as presented by Gaudapada in his Mandukya-karika. Being a commentary on the Mandukya Upanishad, it investigates the nature of consciousness and the three states of experience (i.e., wakeful, dream and deep sleep) which it pervades. This essay shows how the Gaudapadakarika establishes the nature of Consciousness as the ultimate self-luminous principle.

Chapter 2: A Study of Māṇḍūkya Kārikā and its Origin

The present chapter presents a historical review of contemporary Indian scholarship on the text Gauḍapādakārikā, the chapter will focus on the two contrasting views offered by the orthodox traditionalist and the non-orthodox liberalists. I use the terms ‘orthodox’/‘traditional’ to denote those who subscribe to the ancient Upaniṣadic views and ‘non-orthodox’ and ‘liberal’ to those who accept Buddhist views. This usage is out of sheer convenience.

Both the positions are studied to arrive at a conclusion while taking into account the following options:

(1) there was a tremendous influence of Buddhism on Gauḍapāda,

(2) Gauḍapāda himself was a Buddhist who wrote the text to interpret Mahāyāna Buddhism

(3) the core teaching is based on the Upaniṣads like Bṛhadāraṇyaka and Chāndogya

(4) the author merely borrows the methodology of the Mahāyāna to elucidate and explain the Upaniṣadic teachings.

These are the following points worth considering before arriving at the conclusion that Gauḍapāda belongs to the Upaniṣadic tradition who freely used the Buddhist methods to expound the Advaita philosophy. It was and is not uncommon to ‘borrow’ or use the methodologies that served to clarify the author’s expositions. It may be improper to consider the author to be Buddhist scholar for the simple reason that he uses certain terminologies and methods belonging to a different camp. The total content discloses the identity of the author as an Advaitin.

To authenticate and deliberate on my position I begin this chapter by considering two prominent Indian scholars namely Vidhushekhara Bhattacharya and R. D. Karmarkar who offer two divergent views on the origin of Gauḍapādakārikā. Following these two scholars there are a number of eminent philosophers who have either accepted or rejected either of the views.

This study is based on the works of the following scholars belonging to two different camps:

(i) The traditional/orthodox interpretation of the Gauḍapādakārikā is represented by Swami Satchidanandendra Saraswati, R. D. Karmarkar, T.M.P. Mahadevan and S. Radhakrishnan. All these scholars have accepted a traditional understanding of the text. A traditionalist position believes that all the seminal ideas of the Gauḍapādakārikā are derived directly from the Upaniṣads. Further, all the four prakaraṇas of the Gauḍapādakārikā are seen to be closely interrelated to form one homogeneous treatise by a single author.

(ii) The scholars from the opposite camp represented by S. N. Dasgupta, Bhattacharya, and T.R.V.Murti hold the view that the text Gauḍapādakārika is not primarily inspired by the Upaniṣadic tradition. Even with some hesitation we were to accord the status of the text as Vedāntic, we cannot deny it being deeply influenced by the Mahāyāna Buddhist schools namely by doctrines of non-origination or emptiness and the method of dialectic of YogācāraVijñānavāda etc.

1) The traditional/orthodox interpretation of the Gauḍapādakārikā:

I first present the liberal viewpoints put forward by scholars namely Surendranath Dasgupta, Vidhushekhara Bhattacharya and T.R.V Murti and subsequently the traditionalist response to this interpretation.

Surendranath Dasgupta an excellent Sanskrit scholar, an erudite philosopher in various schools of Vedānta philosophy, gives his position on the Buddhist influence on the Gauḍapādakārikā. His analysis of Gauḍapāda’s philosophy appears in a brief section in volume II, of his five volume work, A History of Indian philosophy. This author interestingly devotes over 300 pages explaining the Śaṅkara school of Vedānta.

He states about Gauḍapāda’s philosophy in the beginning of volume II of his book A History of Indian Philosophy:

The treatment of the school of Śaṅkara Vedānta in the preceding chapter may be considered fairly sufficient for all ordinary purposes. But the reputation of this school of thought stands so high and so many people are interested in it, that it was pointed out to me that it would be desirable to go into a little more detailed study of it.[1]

Dasgupta clearly recognized that “the Brahmasūtras were first commented upon by some Vaishnava writers who held some form of modified dualism”.[2] Śaṅkara was the first and only among the many commentators on the Brahmasūtras to take a radically non-dualistic position, which he inherited from Gauḍapāda.

He further states,

“The dualistic interpretations of the Brahmasūtras were probably more faithful to the sūtras than the interpretations of Śaṅkara”.

Dasgupta undoubtedly clear about the primary role of Gauḍapāda in the development of Advaita:

I do not know of any Hindu writer previous to Gauḍapāda who attempted to give an exposition of the monistic doctrine (apart from the Upaniṣads), either by writing a commentary as did Śaṅkara or by writing an independent work as did Gauḍapāda. I am inclined to think, therefore, that as the pure monism of the Upaniṣads was not worked out in a coherent manner for the formulation of a monistic system, it was dealt with by people who had sympathies with some form of dualism which was already developing in the later days of the Upaniṣads, as evidenced by the dualistic tendencies of such Upaniṣads as the Śvet āś vatara, and the like[3].

Dasgupta continues,

“Gauḍapāda seems to be the most important man, after the Upaniṣad sages, who revived the monistic tendencies of the Upaniṣads in a bold and clear form and tried to formulate them in a systematic manner”[4].

Śaṅkara himself is of the opinion that the absolutist (Advaita) creed was recovered from the Vedas by Gauḍapāda.

Concerning the strong Buddhist influence of Gauḍapāda’s thought, Dasgupta remarks,

“There is sufficient evidence in the karikās for thinking that he (i.e., Gauḍapāda) was himself possibly a Buddhist”[5].

Gauḍapāda has flourished after all the great Buddhist teachers Aśvaghoṣa, Nāgārjuna, Asaṅga and Vasubandhu. Dasgupta offers various examples of Gauḍapāda’s use of Buddhist terminology with reference to Nāgārjuna and the Laṅkāvatāra-sūtra.

In a footnote to his five-page summary of the four prakarṇas of the Gaudapādakārikā, Dasgupta says:

“In my translation (i.e. of the kārikās) I have not followed Śaṅkara (i.e. the commentator on the kārikās) for he has I think tried his level best to explain away even most obvious references to Buddha and Buddhism in Gaudapāda’s kārikā. I have, therefore, drawn my meaning directly as Gauḍapāda’s kārikās seemed to indicate”.[6]

According to Dasgupta the Buddhist content in Gauḍapāda’s thinking was perfectly evident.

He says that:

“It is so obvious that these doctrines (i.e., of the Gauḍapādakārika) are borrowed from Madhyamika doctrines, as found in Nāgārjuna’s kārikās and the Vijñānavāda doctrines, as found in the Laṅkāvatārasūtra, that it is needless to attempt to prove it”[7].

Dasgupta makes what is probably one of the most appropriate general statements of the present study. This statement represents Dasgupta’s ability to cut through, all the traditional presuppositions and prejudices to which he was born. He says: “Gauḍapāda assimilated all the Buddhist Śūnyavāda and Vijñānavāda teachings, and thought that these held good for the ultimate truth preached by the Upaniṣads[8].

However, in the next breath, Dasgupta reveals the limitations for his own thinking on the subject by remarking,

“It is immaterial whether he (Gauḍapāda) was a Hindu or a Buddhist, so long as we are sure that he had the highest respect for the Buddha[9]”.

This question is in no way immaterial. It is incumbent on any serious investigation of the Gauḍapādakārikā to ascertain from which side Buddhist or Vedic, this particular syncretism of Mahāyāna and Vedānta originated to explore in detail the specific balance of the two. Certainly Dasgupta speaks accurately about Gauḍapāda (i.e. his school of Adviata Vedānta) when he asserts that Gauḍapāda “laid the foundation of a revival of Upaniṣad studies on Buddhist lines”[10].

But this statement does not apply to the Śaṅkara school of Vedānta. Dasgupta says:

“How far the Upaniṣads guaranteed in detail the truth of Gauḍapāda’s views it was left for his disciple, the great Śaṅkara, to examine and explain”[11].

Vidhushekhara Bhattacharya in his introduction to Āgamaśāstra (1943) begins his study by saying Maṇdūkya Upaniṣad is composed not only of the twelve prose passages, but also twenty-nine kārikās of the āgama prakaraṇa. He points out the traditional view, at least as old as Madhva, the Dvaita Vedāntist of the thirteen century, that regards both the prose passages and the twenty-nine kārikās of the first prakaraṇa as a single body of Śruti or Upaniṣadic Scripture[12]. This view may even be as old as the eleventh century, as Rāmānuja seems to quote in his commentary on the Brahamsūtrasa kārikā from the first Prakaraṇa of the Gauḍapādakārikā as Śruti.[13]. Kūranārāyana, a commentator on the Māṇḍūkya Upaniṣad who belonged to the Rāmānuja school of Vedānta maintains this view also, taking the kārikās in Book One as mantras which, together with the prose passages, from the original Upaniṣad[14]. But scriptural status is extended by this tradition only to the āgama prakaraṇa of the Gauḍapādakārikā. The remaining three chapters are not commented on by these dvaita Vedāntins simply because the last three prakaraṇas (chapters) have no direct connection with the Upaniṣad.

The commentator Śaṅkara argues that each of the prakaraṇas of Gauḍapādakārikā is intimately, even rationally, connected with the following prakaraṇa. Śaṅkara in his commentary on the Gauḍapādakārikā dealt with the anomalies which arise from the disconnectedness of the last three namely: Vaitathya, Advaita and Alātaśānti Prakraṇas from the āgama prakaraṇa (as well as the disconnectedness of the last three chapters from each other) by arguing that each chapter of the Gauḍapādakārikā expounded a specific topic of the philosophy of Advaita (no-dualism). He says that each Prakaraṇa rationally presupposed the other, in order that the presentation be complete. He says that all four prakaraṇas are indeed a single, continuous treatise. Hence to see them as separate isolated parts is incorrect.

According to Bhattacharya the Upaniṣadic mantras are informally expanding on or taking off from the kārikās rather than vice versa, and this leads to suspicion that the Māṇdukya Upaniṣad may have been composed after the Gauḍapadakārikā had already been in existence. The prose passages may have been composed in an archaic vocabulary to make them seem Upaniṣadic in character. At the very least, we will have to admit that prose passages seven and twelve, both containing the phrase Gauḍapāda shares with Nāgārjuna, “prapañcopaśamaṃśivam”, are later editions, written with the Gauḍqapādakārikā clearly in mind.

Bhattacharya points out that different vocabulary is used by the kārikās (verses) than is used in the (prose passage) mantras of the Māṇdāukya Upaniṣad and difficult terms (like saptāṅga and ekonoviṃsati mukhaḥ) in the prose passages are often totally ignored by the kārikās of Gauḍapāda that are allegedly commenting on them.

He remarks:

“Book IV is an independent work in which the author has incorporated certain things that are already dealt with by him elsewhere (i.e. in the other prakaraṇas), while others are discussed again more elaborately or in a different way”[15]. Bhattacharya arrived at the conclusion by saying: “that these four Books are four independent treatises and are put together in a volume under the title of the Āgamaśāstra[16]. According to him, the attempt of the commentator, whom tradition identifies with Śaṅkara, to show the interconnection of the chapters is a miserable failure.

Bhattacharya also considers the possible incompleteness of the text, the Gauḍapādakārikā. In his preface he reports that he has examined eighteen manuscript edition of the Gauḍapādakārikā (none more than two hundred years old, since the physical preservation of manuscripts, is so problematic in India), and has prepared a useful list of variants. He suggests several places where kārikās appear to have been lost or their order reversed, and concludes that “the original text of the Āgamaśastra of Gauḍapāda underwent some serious changes”.[17]

Bhattacharya raises the question, “is the word Gauḍa his (i.e., Gauḍapāda’s) personal name or does it simply signify that he belongs to a country called Gauḍa”?

Stating that recent researches have shown that the country traditionally called Gauḍadesha is identical with what is now northern Bengal.[18]

He continues:

In Sureśvara’s Naiskaramyasiddhi (IV.44) there are two words, “Gauḍas” and “Drāvidas” which refer to Gauḍapāda, the author of the present work and the great Śaṅkara, the Bhāṣyakāra and the author of the Upadeśasāhasrī respectively. According to the commentator Jñānottama, it may be said that as Śaṅkara is referred to by a name related to his native country, Dravida (i.e., Kerala) and not by a personal name, so the case must have been the same with Gauḍapāda... he, too, must have been alluded to by a name connected with his country which is Gauḍa.[19]

Again Bhattacharya refers to the view of Walleser that “by the two words of Sureśvara, “Gauḍas” and “Drāvidas”, we are to understand two Vedāntic schools”[20]. “Drāvidas” would be the school founded by Śaṅkara in Malabar and “Gauḍas” would be a native Vedāntic school established in North India in the land of Gauḍas.

Bhattacharya, however, disagrees with Walleser’s view that the kārikās represent a collection of sayings from the Gauḍa School, and holds to his view that the four prakaraṇas are independent treatises composed by a single person.

The latest possible date for the composition of the Gauḍapādakārikā is fixed by Bhattacharya by the fact that the Buddhist philosopher, Bhāvaviveka, quoted four passages from the kārikās. Bhattacharya considers the date of Bhāvaviveka to be about A.D. 550. An interesting question is raised by these four quotations by Bhāvaviveka (who also quotes passages from such texts as the Chāndogya Upaniṣad), because only one of them is an exact quotation (Gauḍapādakārikā III:5) whereas the others have what Bhattacharya calls “the closest relationship” with the Gauḍapādakārikā[21].

Another Buddhist thinker who quoted the kārikās of Gauḍapāda was Śāntirakṣita (A.D. 705-762), and since he cites ten kārikās from the present version, we can hypothesize that by the mid-eighth century, at least, the present Gauḍapādakārikā had come into existence, although it may have existed at the time of Bhāvaviveka as well.

Bhattacharya also points out several striking resemblances between lines of Gauḍapāda’s kārikās and the kārikās of Nāgārjuna, who lived in the third century A.D.[22] Now these particular kārikās which echo certain kārikās of Nāgārjuna could obviously not have been written before Nāgārjun, but if all the kārikās were not written in the same generation, but reflect the teaching of a school which extended over several generations, some writings of Gauḍapāda (or Gauḍa school) could conceivably pre-date Nāgārjuna. However, the very essence of the approach of the Gauḍapāda’s non-dualism lies in the syncretism of Vedānta with Mahāyāna Buddhist non-dualism, and since Buddhist non-dualism as a philosophical system originated with Nāgārjuna, it is reasonable to suppose that the Gauḍapādakārikā did not come into existence at least until after Nāgārjuna’s Madhyamika school had become broadly influential. Bhattacharya points out a strong parallel between one of the kārikās of Gauḍapāda and a verse from the Mahāyānasūtralankāra, a text of the Yogācāra school, from approximately A.D. 400[23], concluding that this proves that the Gauḍapādakārikā cannot be dated earlier than A.D. 400. Nāgārjuna, Āryadeva, Maitreyanātha or Asaṅga, and possibly Yaśomitra, would seem not only to have supplied Gauḍapāda with philosophic thoughts to adopt, but also with model verses to follow in his composition of the kārikā. This argument, again, rests on Bhattacharya’s presupposition of single authorship.

Śaṅkara’s writings and those of the Śaṅkara school are not the only sphere in which the tenets of the Gauḍapādakārikā were perpetuated. Bhattacharya mentions in this regard the Paramārthasāra, an early Vedāntic manual attributed to Śeṣa, pointing out eight mantras or verses of this work which correspond closely to certain kārikās in each of the four prakaraṇas of the Gauḍapādakārikā. According to the contemporary scholar and philosopher, S.S. Suryanarayana Śāṣtri, the Paramārthasāra was an earlier source on which Gauḍapāda drew his philosophy. Bhattacharya disagrees with this view.

He says that, Śeṣa, however, did not represent a pure Advaita, like Gauḍapāda’s position, for, as Bhattacharya points out,

“With reference to the creation of the world, Śeṣa in his work which deal with the Vedānta has effected a synthesis of the Sāṅkhya and the Vedānta systems”.[24]

He shows satisfactorily that Paramārthasāra does not pre-date the Gauḍapādakārika and he points out that “Śeṣa seems to have been well acquainted with the Vedāntic system maintained by Bhāskara,[25] one of the post Śaṅkara commentators on the Brahmasūtras from the ninth century A.D.

Bhattacharya considers other works which have been ascribed to Gauḍapāda, clearly stating what appears to us to be the truth of the matter, which is that the Gauḍapādakārikā is the only work which can be accepted with any certainty as the work of this author.[26] Concerning the commentary on the Sāṅkhyakārikā of ¬śvarakṛṣṇa, which is ascribed to a certain Gauḍapāda who is traditionally identified with the author of the Gauḍapādakārikā, Bhattacharya remarks that “there is no strong ground” for this identification, “nor is there anything of the nature that can decide the case otherwise”[27].

Bhattacharya’s attitude about the Upaniṣadic sources or roots of Gauḍapāda’s teaching is worth mentioning here. Since his liberal vision enabled him to perceive the profound indebtedness of the kārikās to the methods and doctrines of Madhyamika and Yogācāra philosophy, he was not nearly as dogmatic in his statement about the Upaniṣadic content of the kārikās.

For instance, in his annotation to his translation of the kārikās, Bhattacharya says:

“Many references to different Upaniṣads have been inserted in support of a point or points in the text, but which of them, if any, is in fact meant by the author in any particular case we cannot say definitely”.[28]

He quotes in his annotation a parallel passage from the Bhagavad Gita, but deferentially explains:

“We cannot be sure that this work is actually drawn on by our author, though it may elucidate the texts to some extent”.[29]

There is a contrast between this attitude and that of Karmarkar who makes dozens of references to the Bhagavad Gita in his annotation of the kārikās with complete confidence that the Gita was one of the central sources on which Gauḍapāda was drawing. Nevertheless, there appears to be in the approach of Bhattacharya a certain level of cultural conservatism concerning Gauḍapāda’s rootedness in the Upaniṣadic tradition.

Bhattacharya recognizes, for instance, that “no Upaniṣad is quoted or referred to by our author in his last book (i.e., the fourth alātaśānti prakaraṇa). There is nothing of the kind”[30]. Whereas, he notes that in the third (Advaita) prakaraṇa “in five places (III:12,24,25,26,36) passages from the Upaniṣads are expressly quoted”, while in two other verses (III:11,23) “the words ‘Taittiriya’ and ‘Śruti’ are actually mentioned”, and, in this same third book, three other (III:12,13,15) references to Upaniṣads are also very clear”.[31] He says that if a single author produced both these books, the style of writing would not have so different.

According to Bhattacharya:

“Book One of the Āgamaśāstra (i.e., Āgama prakaraṇa of Gauḍapādakārikā) is nothing but an epitome or essence of the Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad (IV:2-3) with some clear exposition and an addition of the Upāsanā ‘mediation’ of praṇava or aum. By writing the first book of the Āgamaśāstra Gauḍapāda has in reality made a key to that portion of the Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad, without which it would have been extremely difficult to understand its true significance.[32]

He is assuming too close a relationship between the purport of the old Upaniṣadic text and the much later Gauḍapāda’s doctrine of Turīya or the non-dual nature of Consciousness, whether in waking, dream or deep sleep.

Bhattacharya observes that,

“In Book IV (i.e. alātaśānti) Gauḍapāda has discussed nothing directly of Vedānta, as nothing Vedāntic will be found therein; even such words as Brahman and ātman are not to be found there”.[33]

T.R.V. Murti is not as liberal as Bhattacharya in recognizing Buddhist influences on the Gauḍapādakārikā. But his study of Nāgārjuna’s philosophy has made him particularly sensitive to the possible borrowing by Gauḍapāda of philosophical methods from the Madhyamika school, whereas Bhattacharya is more sensitive to the Vijñānavāda character of the Gauḍapādakārikā and hardly/barely makes mention of Madhyamika doctrine.

Murti remarks that, “we have undeniable evidence of Madhyamika and Yogācāra influence in the Mānḍūkyakārikās” and basically he appears to align himself with Bhattacharya by saying, “the whole problem has been ably and thoroughly treated by Bhattacharya in his Āgamaśāstra of Gauḍapāda.[34]

Murti even goes on to remark:

“With regard to the influence of the Mādhyamika on Vedānta we are on less sure ground. It is a matter of conjecture and presumption whether and to what extent there had been borrowing on either side”.[35]

We can only conclude that these contrasting statements reflect an inner tension in Murti’s viewpoint between the perhaps partially unconscious cultural presupposition of the fundamentally Upaniṣadic character of Advaita Vedānta, on the one hand, and the liberal scholar’s vision of the strong presence of Buddhist doctrines at the very base of Gauḍapāda’s philosophy. “The conclusion is irresistible”, states Murti in his liberal scholarly mood, “that Gauḍapāda is attempting an Advaitic interpretation of Vedānta in the light of Madhyamika and Yogācāra doctrines. He even freely quotes and appeals to them.”[36]

But then, in his mood of cultural conservatism, Murti comes to a remarkably far-fetched conclusion in his attempt to disassociate the Gauḍapādakārikā as root-text of Advaita Vedānta from the stigma of Buddhist influence:

“On internal evidence alone, we may treat the Alātaśānti (i.e. the fourth prakaraṇa) of the Māṇḍukyakārikā (i.e. Gauḍapādakārikā) as an independent work, written most probably by a Buddhist. Therefore, establishing a concordance between this part (Book IV) and Mahāyāna works proves little; for it is a concordance between two Buddhistic works, and not between a Vedānta treatise and Buddhism”.[37] Murti remarks in a footnote, “By what chance these independent works were brought together and were foisted upon one author is a matter of conjecture. The similarity of form (ajātivāda and advayavāda) might have been responsible for this accidental alliance”.[38] He even states: “It is our contention that there could not be acceptance of any doctrinal content by either side from the other, as each had a totally different background of tradition and conception of reality”.[39]

Murti then develops his well-known description of the borrowing from Mahāyāna sources which did take place in the Gauḍapādakārikā as a “borrowing of technique and not of tenets”.[40]

He writes:

“We can only expect the Vedāntin to have profited by the technique or method of the Mādhyamika. He had before him the Mādhyamika distinction of paramārtha and saṃvṛti, of texts into nitārtha and neyārtha, his reaching the real by the method of negating the unreal appearance etc.. The Mādhyamika and Yogācāra also had a theory of illusion to account for the emergence of appearance. Knowledge of this turn in Buddhism must have sent the Vedāntic back to his own texts and enabled him to perceive the truer meaning of the Upaniṣads in Advaitism. Presumably, there has been borrowing of technique and not of tenets”.[41]

Murti’s own cultural motivation for his treatment of this subject is clearly attested to by his own statement:

“our explanation of similarity between Mahāyāna and Advaita Vedānta of method and technique.... preserves the doctrinal originality of the Vedānta”.[42]

The liberal scholars such as Bhattacharya and Murti tries to preserve the “doctrinal originality” of Advaita Vedānta in the face of evidence, largely admitted by themselves that Mahāyāna Buddhism provided the basic inspiration for the philosophy of Gauḍapādakārikā.

2) The second group of philosophers:

Now the traditional views represented by the second group of philosophers need special mention:

I begin with Swami Satchidanandendra Saraswati, a traditionalist, who has studied the work of S.N. Dasgupta and Vidhusekhara Bhattacharya. Swami Saraswati has engaged in conversation with T.R.V. Murti in an attempt to familiarize himself with modern academic findings in the study of the Gauḍapādakārikā. His reaction against the contemporary academic findings probably reflects much the same reaction (like) if Śaṅkara, the commentator of Gauḍpādakārikā had been confronted with the arguments of Vidhusekhara Bhattacharya and others.

Saraswati begins the English introduction to his Sanskrit commentary on the Gauḍapādakārikā by saying:

“In my Sanskrit commentary intended for the orthodox section of the earnest students of Advaita Vedānta, who have no misgivings whatever about most of these matters (such as possible Buddhist influence in the Gauḍapādakārikā) I have generally proceeded on the principle that unless and until the universally accepted tradition has been finally proved to be baseless, there is no reason to trouble ourselves about the various incompatible opinions of theorists”.[43]

Saraswati’s arguments are all based on the validity of tradition. For instance, Bhattacharya’s textual considerations concerning the probable posteriority of the Māṇḍūkya Upaniṣad to the Gauḍapādakārikā are held by him by quoting a verse from Śuresvara, the direct disciple of Śaṅkara, which speaks of the Māṇḍūkya Upaniṣad as Śruti or scripture. Swamiji concludes that this verse “should suffice to set aside the conjecture of Vidhusekhara Bhattacharya (AS p. xii) that the Māṇḍūkya must be posterior to the kārikās.[44]

For the thematic unity of the four chapters (prakavaṇas) of the Gauḍapādakārikā. Saraswati writes:

“I beg of my readers to refer to the Sanskrit commentary... where a sustained effort is made to bring out the unity of the whole teaching as well as to show how the several chapters act in perfect unison”.[45]

Again, regarding the statements made by both Dasgupta and Bhattacharya that they could understand the kārikās more clearly by approaching them directly, without the support of the traditional commentary by Śaṅkara, Saraswati writes:

Is it too much to believe that he who thus owes his allegiance to Gauḍapāda and is so proximately and intimately connected with the tradition (i.e. the commentator) has a better claim to understand the teachings of that author than modern scholars who can entertain only vague speculations about them?[46]

Concerning, for instance, the clear leaning towards the subjective idealism of Buddhist Vijñānavāda appeared in the Gauḍapādakārikā, Swamiji observes:

“I feel it difficult to conceive how, on this view, Śaṅkara, Sureśvara as well as a host of other brilliant Advaitic minds, have thought it consistent to demonstrate a sustained hostility to Vijñānavāda and at the same time to venerate Gauḍapāda, supposedly an avowed Vijñānavādin, as one who knows the right tradition of Vedantic teaching”.[47]

Swami Satchidanandendra Saraswati’s scholarship, though focused through his traditional presuppositions, is very considerable and one can benefit a great deal from it. For instance, the knowledge of the various schools of Advaita prior to and contemporary with that of Śaṅkara is limited.

Saraswati quotes Sureśvarācarya’s Bṛhadāraṇyaka Bhāṣya Vartikā and Sambandha Vartikā (Sambandha Vārtika) in this regard, concerning early non-dualistic schools which taught:

(1) Bheda vilaya (Sambandha Vārtika. p. 116) or prapañcavilaya, dissolving the universe to attain unity of Brahman;

(2) VāsanāNirodha (Sambandha Vārtika. p. 112), or destruction of the haunting impression of the reality of the three states, waking, dream and deep sleep;

(3) Jñānavidhi (Sambandha Vārtika. p.141), or vedic injunction of knowledge,

(4) Prasaṅkhyānavidhi (Sambandha Vārtika. p. 211) or injunction of continued practice of right knowledge supported by ratiocination, in order to make the knowledge of the non-dual ātman strong enough to resist avidyā;

(5) Sākṣātkāra jñāna (Br. V. 1168) or continued practice of indirect knowledge gained through scripture in order to materialise it into realisation”.[48]

The schools of Prapañcavilaya and Vāsanānirodha appear to have been related to the Gauḍapāda’s philosophy as expressions of Vedānta in terms of Mahāyāna, ‘prapañca upasama’ being a term which was used in the Madhyamika school and ‘vāsanā‘being a term which was used in the Yogācāra school, though both terms are used freely by later Vedāntists. In raising, the possibility of Upaniṣadic influence on the Mahāyāna school, Swami Satchidanandendra Saraswati makes the following statement:

Most of the eminent Mahayanist philosophers including Nāgārjuna were Brahmins who had no doubt imbibed the Upaniṣadic teaching which reiterated the negation of the reality of the phenomenal world in no uncertain terms.[49]

The very words which Saraswati uses, ‘negation of the reality of the phenomenal world’, (probably) reflect the Vedāntic understanding of ‘prapañcopasama’, which appears in the writings of Nāgārjuna, based on the Prajñāpāramitā school. However, from Saraswati’s point of view this historical analysis is not acceptable. His view is that the conviction that everything in the canonical texts is fundamentally true. He says that the rejection of a single detail would be tantamount to a rejection of the entire body of revelation.

The following may be cited as fair specimens of the wholesale condemnation of Śaṅkara the commentator on Māṇḍūkya, by scholars influenced by stereotyped opinion prepossessed by Buddhistic bias:

(1) ‘In my translation I have not followed Śaṅkara, for he has, I think, tried his level best to explain away the most obvious reference to Buddha and Buddhism in the Gauḍapādakārikā‘(Dasgupta).

(2) “Not being satisfied with the interpretations offered by Śaṅkara and his followers or some other teachers, I have attempted in the following pages to present to the reader my own interpretation of the work as I have understood (Bhattacharya)”.[50]

Concerning Gauḍapāda, Swami Satchidanandendra Saraswati speaks of “his source is that one fountainhead of knowledge to every devout Hindu, the Upaniṣads themselves.[51] According to Murti, and even Bhattacharya and Dasgupta, the role of the ‘devout Hindu’ is effaced, no doubt, but still present in subtle and unconscious ways.

Bhattacharya’s argument that Gauḍapāda’s analysis of waking and dream is somehow founded on the teaching of the Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad is not much less naive than Swami Saraswati’s contention that the Upaniṣadic passage, “awake, arise, go to the wise and know the truth”,[52] may have provided Gauḍapāda with the basic suggestion that the world is a dream, rather than his acquaintance with the articulated dreamwaking analysis pursued by the great Buddhist thinker, Vasubandhu.

Rationalizing Śaṅkara’s traditionalism whom Swamiji considers to be none other than Śaṅkara, the author of the Brahmasūtrabhāsya, he remarks: Vedanta, unlike Buddhism, is not a whole-sale condemnation of all Karma. It only teaches how karma instead of being considered as an end in itself, can be sublimated into a valuable means to Brahmavidyā. Looked at from this view-point, the Upaniṣad may be said to fulfill rather than destroy the ritualistic portion of the Veda.[53]

Kumārila had argued that those who accorded no reality to external things or believed that they were only saṃvṛti-satya, were not entitled to have any voice in the investigation of Dharma or religious works could never be maintained to be efficacious without entailing belief in the reality of external objects...

The Mahāyānist could easily get over the difficulty by restoring that saṃvṛti satya is only conventional truth, and thus really no truth at all. But this solution is not open to the Vedāntin who is an anxious to maintain the validity of the Veda along with other pramāṇas as Mīmāṃsaka himself.[54]

Swamiji concludes that there are not sufficient grounds to disturb the traditional opinion that the Māṇḍūkya is a genuine Upaniṣad and that Gauḍapāda is the author of all the four chapters of the kārikās attributed to him. The credit of having brought to the notice of philosophers, the value of its all-comprehensive method revealed in the Upaniṣads and of having successfully built an impregnable system on that solid basis, will ever belong to Gauḍapāda.

Raghunath Damodar Karmarkar is a contemporary academic scholar, and his translation of the Gauḍapādakārikā is published in the government oriental series by the prestigious Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute in the year 1953.

In the opening paragraph of his preface he says:

“Vidhusekhar Bhattacharya published his edition of the Gauḍapādakārikā or Āgamaśāstra some years ago. A closed perusal of that edition clearly showed that Bhattacharya had allowed himself to be carried a little too far by his leanings toward Buddhism…. and hence some of his interpretations appeared clearly to be biased and forced... the present edition is intended to show how Bhattacharya’s Buddhist interpretations of the kārikās are not acceptable.”[55]

Karmarkar speaks of the “Commentary on the Gauḍapādakārikā that goes under the name of Śaṅkara”.[56]

He tells us that,

“In the traditional salutation formula repeated daily by the follower of Śaṅkarācārya, Gauḍapāda stands as the grand preceptor (paramaguru) of Śaṅkarācārya”.[57]

He goes on to report that, according to this traditional lineage connecting Śaṅkara and Nārāyaṇa,

“If Gauḍapāda was a direct pupil of Suka as tradition asserts, the date of Gauḍapāda would not be earlier than 1000 B.C., and then Śaṅkaracārya who was the pupil of the pupil of Gauḍapāda would have to be taken as having lived something between 2900 B.C. and 900 B.C.. Tradition tries to avoid such a conclusion by assigning a long life of thousands of years to Suka as well as to Gauḍapāda”.[58]

Karmarkar goes on to remark that,

“There is no reason to doubt the historicity of Gauḍapāda, on the strength of the above traditional account which could not have possibly invented him”.[59]

As to whether there existed an historical figure named Gauḍapāda around him the Gauḍa school gathered, or whether Gauḍapāda was a quasi-mythological figure like Sūka and Vyāsa who are no more than symbols for the process of compilation by which any ancient text grows, there is no evidence to support or to disprove.

Karmarkar himself admits that,

“Gauḍapāda seems to be a nickname and not a proper name, pāda being used to show respect; and Gauḍa apparently refers to the Gauḍa territory where the kārikās were written”.[60]

According to Karmarkar Gauḍapāda is a traditional Vedāntist and that he takes particular care to show now and then that his philosophy differs from that of Buddhists.

Karmarkar’s attitude toward tradition is strong. This stance is clearly established in his acceptance of the Bhāṣya on the Sāṅkhyakārikā as being a work by the same Gauḍapāda who composed the Gauḍapādakārikā.

He states that:

“Besides the kārikās, the following works are known traditionally to have come from Gauḍapāda. No definite evidence is available on this point, but it would not be wrong generally to believe in tradition unless there is evidence to the contrary”.[61]

Swami Satchidanandendra Saraswati in his Māṇḍūkya Rahasya Vivṛiti rejects the traditionally held Gauḍapāda’s authorship of the Sāṅkyakārikābhāsya and the Uttaragitabhāṣya:

“We have no positive evidence to show that they are his genuine works. Nor does a comparison of the style of writing in these works with that of the kārikās betray anything to the purpose. We have therefore to rest satisfied with the impression that they are most probably not the production of the author of the Māṇḍūkyakārikās”.[62]

Karmarkar justifies the possible Gauḍapāda’s authorship of the Sāṅkhyakārikābhāsya, explaining away the stylistic dissimilarities with the worn out argument, “perhaps it was his first work when he was attracted to the tenets of the Sāṅkhya Philosophy”.[63]

From the statement, “we have no positive evidence to show that they are his genuine works”, quoted above, Karmarkar moves to the following position:

“There is a strong probability that Gauḍapāda wrote a commentary on the Sāṅkhyakārikā and called his own independent work ‘Kārikās’ as well”.[64]

Karmarkar assumes a close connection of Gauḍapādakārikā with the Sāṅkhyakārikā than with the Madhyamakakārikās of Nagarjuna. Karmarkar also supports the traditionally held Gauḍapāda authorship of the Uttaragita as well as its commentary:

“It is not unlikely that Gauḍapāda, who seems to be indebted to the Bhagavadgita for many ideas in his kārikās may have thought of emphasizing the Yoga element in the Gita by writing a supplement to it. The Uttaragita... gives a detailed description of the Nāḍis, Kundalini, etc”.[65]

Karmarkar even claims that this one, single, apparently omnipresent Gauḍapāda has composed various minor tantric works as well. He, then, presents a lengthy theoretical explanation of how Gauḍapāda composed all these various works during different periods of his interest and development.

Karmarkar comments the basic spirit of Dasgupta’s and Bhattacharya’s critical academic approach.

He states that,

“The two professors have chosen to ignore some basic facts in their enthusiasm for glorifying Buddhism”.[66]

He considers Bhattacharya’s study simply an attempt “to prove that Gauḍapāda was merely reproducing Buddhist philosophical ideas in his work and no more”.[67]

Karmarkar, concerning the traditional verses, which celebrate Gauḍapāda as the paramaguru of Śaṅkara states that:

“It is simply unthinkable that, if Gauḍapāda were a Buddhist, he would have been so solemnly selected every day in the Sankarapithas that undoubtedly stand for the traditional Hinduism. Traditions are often, it is true, not quite trustworthy, but traditions involving daily practice cannot be ignored”. Śaṅkara in his Sūtrabhāṣya, “refers to Gauḍapāda, most respectfully as a great ācārya who knows the traditional Vedānta teachings. Such a reference would be quite out of order, if Gauḍapāda had been a Buddhist”.

Occasionally Karmarkar makes what appear to be remarks of Bhattacharya, for instance, “there need be no hesitation in admitting that Gauḍapāda has borrowed several ideas from his predecessors, both Buddhists and Vedantins”.[68]

His rejection of Śaṅkara’s authorship of the commentary on the Gauḍapādakārikā is strange.

He states,

“We have described the bhāṣya on the Kārikās, attributed to Śaṅkaracharya, as K-bhāṣya, as we are of the opinion that the bhāṣya could not have been written by the great Śaṅkara”.[69]

He does not reveal the line of reasoning which led him to this conclusion.

And yet, practically in the next breath, Karmarkar falls back into the traditionalism by arguing that Gauḍapāda could not have composed the Māṇḍūkya Upaniṣad because, in his words:

“The Upaniṣads being Śruti are supposed to be apauruṣeya (not composed by any human agency) and it would be going against all tradition to make Gauḍapāda, who was after all a human being (even though a great yogin), the author of a Śruti work.... It is unnecessary to pursue this topic further, for nothing can upset the traditional view of the Upaniṣads being without any known human author, and so Gauḍapāda could not be regarded as the author of the Māṇḍūkya Upaniṣad proper”.[70]

At the next moment, however, Karmarkar takes with the viewpoint of Bhattacharya, to which Satchidanandendra Saraswati would object:

“Bhattacharya has rightly pointed out how Gauḍapāda’s kārikās can in no way be regarded as a commentary on the prose portion of the Māṇḍūkya. In fact, the matter is so obvious as not to require any elaborate attempt to support it. The kārikās refer to matters not mentioned in the Upaniṣad, fail to explain important terms therein, enumerate several views about creation which matter is not even hinted at in the Upaniṣad and so on.[71]

Karmarkar, of course, cannot go along with Bhattacharya’s conclusion that the prose Upaniṣad post-dates the kārikās, simply because the Māṇḍūkhya Upaniṣad “could not have under any circumstances any human author”.[72]

Another liberal viewpoint in Karmarkar is his admission that: the Fourth prakaraṇa, unlike the first three prakaraṇas, can have some claim to being regarded as a distinct piece of work, though related to the first three prakaraṇas.[73] This attitude would be unthinkable from the extremely traditional perspective of Satchidanandendra Saraswathi.

Karmarkar even states that,

“Gauḍapāda was obsessed by Buddhistic ideas which he has taught in the fourth prakaraṇa”.[74]

Karmarkar goes on to reverse this expression and states that:

“Gauḍapāda perhaps feels sorry that the Buddhist philosophers, having come so near the truth of Ajāti or oneness of ātman, by preaching the Vijñānavada or Sunyavada, were not bold or rationalists enough to understand the Vedantic Nirvāṇa and hence missed their bus”.[75]

Karmarkar, in his six-page list of passages (i.e. the sources of Gauḍapāda-karikā) from other sources which are parallel to passages in the Gauḍapākārikā, notes at least 37 passages from the Bhagavadgita, whereas no passages at all are mentioned from the Madhyamakakārikā of Nāgarjuna.[76]

Karmarkar quotes some lines form the late Mahāmahopādhyāya Vasudeva Shāstri Abhyankar (in the introduction to his edition of Siddhāntabindu) to illustrate his views about the relationships between these two (Śaṅkara and Gauḍapāda) schools of Advaita Vedānta:

“Whatever Gauḍapāda intended to say in his Kārikās, Śaṅkarācārya has hinted in his Bhāṣya.

Whatever Gauḍapāda merely hinted, Śaṅkarācārya propounded, whatever Gauḍapāda propounded, Śaṅkarācārya proved by reasoning.

Whatever Gauḍapāda proved, Śaṅkarācārya established firmly.

Whatever Gauḍapāda hinted as worthless, Śaṅkarācārya treated with contempt.

Whatever Gauḍapāda treated with contempt, Śaṅkarācārya condemned outright.

Whatever Gauḍapāda condemned outright, Śaṅkara brushed aside unceremoniously.

Whatever Gauḍapāda brushed aside, Śaṅkara threw overboard mercilessly.

Whatever Gauḍapāda threw overboard, Śaṅkara destroyed, lock, stock and barrel.

In short, Śaṅkarācārya, the spiritual successor of Gauḍapāda, not only propounded the Māyāvāda adumbrated by his ‘paramaguru’ Gauḍapāda, but expounded, promulgated, framed and established the same by his acute intellectual powers, unparalleled expository skill, and relentless logical reasoning”.[77]

T.M.P. Mahadevan is the only scholar, as far as our information goes, who has written a book-length study of Gauḍapāda.[78] Mahadevan’s book contains an elaborate response to the arguments put forward by Bhattacharya for Buddhist influence on the Gauḍapādakārikā. He gives a much more highly reasoned response than that of R.D. Karmarkar. He writes in a balanced, scholarly tone and does not always reveal the full extent of his traditionalism as frankly or as blatantly as Karmarkar does.

Mahadevan begins his remarks by quoting Louis de La Vallee poussin (scholar of Buddhism):

“One cannot read the Gauḍapādakārikās without being struck by the Buddhist character of the leading ideas and of the wording itself. The author seems to have used Buddhist works or sayings and to have adjusted them to his Vedāntic design”.[79]

Mahadevan cannot perceive, or even conceive, the deep process of Buddhist–Hindu syncretism reflected by the Gauḍapādakārikā, although he frankly admits textual borrowing from Buddhism.

He says:

“These striking resemblances between the Gauḍapādakārikā and Bauddha works... cannot accidental. Since Gauḍapāda is well acquainted with the Madhyamika thought, he must have lived latter than Nāgārjuna... we must assume that Gauḍapāda fashioned some of his kārikās after the passages found in the works of Nāgārjuna, Aryadeva, and Aaṅga.[80]

This perception certainly indicates a greater liberalism on the part of Mahadevan than the traditionalist such as Swami Satchidanandendra Saraswati, but the liberalism does not go very deep, because Mahadevan, no less than the Swami Saraswati thinks that no fundamental transformation of Upaniṣadic transmission occurs in the Gauḍapādakārikā, regardless of borrowings from Buddhism. Even the hyper liberal Bhattacharya attempts to argue (as I have discussed) that the Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad is the main source and inspiration of Gauḍapāda’s thought. Mahadevan says about Gauḍapāda that he is to be regarded as a lineal descendent of sages like Yājñavalkya and not of Bauddha teachers like Nāgārjuna and Asaṅga.

According to Mahadevan, Gauḍapāda is simply borrowing some terms from some systems which were originally based on the Upaniṣads in order to expound the inner meaning of the Upaniṣads. He says that Gauḍapāda’s main object in the kārikā is to expound the philosophy of the Upanisads. It is true that in accomplishing this object he presses into service some of the arguments of the Bauddha idealists and even their terminology. But that does not prove his Bauddha leanings or agreement with the conclusions of Buddhism. In the first place, it must be remembered that those teachers of Buddhism who came after Gauḍapāda and who refer to his kārikā, do not regard him as a Bauddha or as having been influenced by Buddhism. Śāntirakṣita quotes in his Madhyamakālaṅkāra-Kārikā verses from Gauḍapādakārikā, while discussing the view of the Aaupaniṣadas. Kamalaśila refers to the Kārikā in his Pañjikā as an Upaniṣad śāstra. No one denies a certain measure of similarity between Advaita and the idealistic schools of Buddhism, especially in the matter of their negative logic. Śaṅkara, the commentator himself says that the kārikās IV:25-27 employ the arguments of the Vijñānavādins for the purpose of refuting the views of those who maintain the reality of external objects.

Gauḍapāda is faithful throughout to the Upaniṣads. Even in the Alātaśānti-Prakaraṇa where he employs Buddha terminology to a great extent, he does not cut himself away from the Upaniṣadic moorings. It is not true to say that there is no reference to Upaniṣadic passages in the fourth chapter. As Dr. Belvalkar has pointed out, familiar Upaniṣadic expressions are employed in IV: 78, 80, 85 and 92. That these expressions are used by Bauddha writers also can only show that they were borrowed by them, from the Upaniṣads. And it is significant that Gauḍapāda should have used such expression as ‘brāhmanyam padam’, and ‘amṛtatva’ in the concluding portion of his work, and that he should have stated at the end ‘naitad buddhena bhāṣitam’ (This was not declared by the Buddha).

Mahadevan says:

“It will not be wrong, therefore, to suggest that probably Gauḍapāda wrote his work on the analogy of Nāgārjuna’s Mulamadhyamakakārikā with a view to make it occupy a position in Advaita similar to that of the latter in the Madhyamika system”.[81]

He even proposes a hypothesis about the nature of the cultural situation which brought about this relationship between Vedānta and Mahāyāna.

He further states:

“Gauḍapāda lived and taught in an age when Mahayanism was having a great hold on the minds of people. The task of a teacher of Vedānta at such a time would naturally be twofold, to convince the followers of the Upaniṣads that their path was sound, and to spread the knowledge of the Vedānta among the Bauddhas themselves”.[82]

To secure this twofold objective, it would seem, Gauḍapāda adopted the logical method of expounding the Vedānta and the Bauddha modes of expression and argumentation.

He says that,

“The texts of the Upaniṣads are no doubt invoked. But it is well to remember that they are cited not too often, nor in a dogmatic manner”.[83]

Thus it will be clear that Gauḍapāda’s kārikā is essentially a work on Vedānta inspired by the Upaniṣads. The exigencies of his time must have made him employ Bauddha terminology, even as the Hindu monks who preach Vedānta in the countries of the west today feel the necessity for clothing their thoughts in Christian expression.[84]

It would appear that Bhattacharya agrees with the view to a large extent when he says,

“It goes without saying that our teacher, Gauḍapāda, is a Vedāntist and he mainly deals with the Vedānta in the present work declaring its conclusion”.

“And among the Vedāntists Gauḍapāda is an Advaitist, the highest truth to him being Advaita ‘nonduality’.[85] Bhattacharya even grants in one place that “Gauḍapāda though much influenced by the Buddhist thoughts, maintains his position as a Vedantist”.[86]

S. Radhakrishnan is among the more liberal Hindu scholars in his attitude toward the Buddhistic content of the Gauḍapādakārikā, but, there is a strong cultural conservatism operating in his philosophical thought. He sometimes speaks as though Gauḍapāda’s thought were fundamentally Upaniṣadic and brahminical, regardless of how much ‘borrowing’ from Buddhism is admitted.

At other times, he speaks in a much more radical way out the Buddhistic content of the Gauḍapādakārikā.

He writes:

Gauḍapāda lived at a time when Buddhism was widely prevalent. Naturally he was familiar with Buddhistic doctrines, which he accepted when they were not in conflict with his own Advaita…. His liberal views enabled him to accept doctrines associated with Buddhism and adjust them to the Advaita design.[87]

The obvious presupposition here is that Gauḍapāda had developed ‘his own Advaita philosophy’ before he became aware of these ‘Buddhistic doctrines’, and it is this presupposition which has permeated all contemporary scholarship on the Gauḍapādakārikā. Radhakrishnan himself appears to have perceived something of the radical penetration of Mahāyāna into the language and thought of the Gauḍapādakārikā.

“In language and thought the kārikā of Gauḍapāda bears a striking resemblance to the Mādhyamika writings and contains many illustrations used in them”.[88]

Radhakrishnan also seems to have a basically accurate perception of one of the key differences between Gauḍapāda’s Advaya Vedānta and Śaṅkara’s Advaita Vedānta.

This makes him almost unique among scholars, who all seem to stress the continuity between Gauḍapāda and Śaṅkara schools.

“The mental world is as much objective or unreal as the material; for the only subject or reality is the ātman. While both Gauḍapāda and Śaṅkara advocate this view, Śaṅkara takes special care to distinguish the dream world from the waking one. While Śaṅkara insists that the two worlds, mental and material are not of the same kind or order... Gauḍapāda is liable to the charge of subjectivism.... since he uses the arguments which the Buddhist Vijñānavāda employs to prove the unreality of external objects of perception and traces them to ideas of mind... Gauḍapāda reduces all reality to mental impressions, and declares that the latter have no objective causes”.[89]

This observation by Radhakrishnan would be heresy from the point of view of Swami Satchidanandendra Saraswati or even T.M.P. Mahadevan, because the absolute doctrinal continuity between Gauḍapāda and Śaṅkara is a cornerstone of the traditionalist view, and it is to support of this continuity that the traditional commentary, on the Gauḍapādakārikā has been ascribed to the Śaṅkara of the Brahmasūtrabhaśya and that the latter Śaṅkara is regarded as the spiritual grandson of Gauḍapāda. Traditional scholars have attempted to show that Gauḍapāda simply made use of Vijñānavādin arguments to refute realism and then turned around and refuted the idealist position as well, presumably from the hypothetically distinctive viewpoint of Advaita Vedānta.

Radhakrishnan sees this particular issue in the following manner:

“Even the theory of a real flow of ideas is repugnant to Gauḍapāda. He refutes the central position of the Vijñānavāda, viz., the reality of citta. Therefore mind (citta) does not originate nor do objects cognized by the mind originate. Those who pretend to recognise the origination of them seem to see only marks in the air” (Gauḍapādakārikā IV:28)[90].

The doctrine of non-origination does not contradict the fact of a flow of phenomenal appearance which is, in fact, simply mind in motion (manaspandana). But the important point to notice here is that Radhakrishnan appears to perceive that the Gauḍapādakārikā in contrast with the Śaṅkara school, philosophized primarily from the absolute standpoint, not stressing at all the difference between waking and dream or between true and false perception.

As Radhakrishnan remarks:

“If the whole experience is only apparent, what is the distinction between true and false perception? From the standpoint of the absolute, there is none at all. The perception of the rope as rope is as vicious as the perception of the rope as snake”.[91]

Radhakrishnan, in his brief chapter on Gauḍapāda and Buddhism remarks in a unique way which is very significant for the present debate. I would like to quote here in full the view of Radhakrishnan.

He writes:

The general idea pervading Gauḍapāda’s work, that bondage and liberation, the individual soul and the world, are all unreal, makes the caustic critic observe that the theory which has nothing better to say than that an unreal soul is trying to escape from an unreal bondage in an unreal world to accomplish an unreal supreme good, may itself be an unreality.[92] It is one thing to say that the secret of existence, how the unchangeable reality expresses itself in the changing universe without forfeiting its nature, is a mystery (this is Radhakrishnan’s statement of Śaṅkara’s position), and another to dismiss the whole changing universe as a mere mirage. If we have to play the game of life, we cannot do so with the conviction that the play is a show and all the prizes in it mere blanks. No philosophy can consistently hold such a view and be at rest with itself. The greatest condemnation of such a theory is that we are obliged to occupy ourselves with objects, the existence and value of which we are continually denying in theory. The fact of the world may be mysterious and inexplicable. It only shows that there is something else which includes and transcends the world; but it does not imply that the world is a dream. Later Buddhism is responsible for this exaggeration in Gauḍapāda’s theory.[93]

Now Radhakrishnan explicitly reveals himself as the ‘caustic critic’ of the foregoing passage. He states:

Both Bā darā yaṇa and Śaṅkara strongly urge that there is a genuine difference between dream impressions and waking ones, and that the latter are not independent of existing objects. Gauḍapāda, however, links the two, wakeful and dream, experiences together. While Śaṅkara is anxious to free his system from the subjectivism associated with Vijñā navā da, Gauḍapāda welcomes it. Unwilling to accept the Vijñā navā da as final, he declares that even the subject is as unreal as the object, and thus comes perilously near the nihilist position. In common with Nā gā rjuna, he denies the validity of causation and the possibility of change. The kārikā of Gauḍapāda is an attempt to combine in one whole the negative logic of the Mādhyamikas with the positive idealism of the Upaniṣads. In Gauḍapāda, the negative tendency is more prominent, than the positive. In Śaṅkara we have a more balanced outlook.[94]

It is thus evident from the above discussed views that Gauḍapādakārikā is essentially a work on Vedānta inspired by the Upaniṣads. It is true that in accomplishing the object of expounding the philosophy of Upaniṣads, Gauḍapāda has considered some of the arguments of the Buddhist idealists and even their terminology. This does not prove his agreement with the conclusions of Buddhism.

Even those teachers of Buddhism who referred his kārikās in the period after Gauḍapāda never claimed that Gauḍapāda was influenced by Buddhism. Śantirakṣita an eminent Buddhist scholar quotes from Madhyamakalaṅkāra-kārikā verses from Gauḍapādakārikā, while discussing the essence of Upaniṣads. Kamalasila also refers to the text Gauḍapādakārikā in his Pañjikā as an Upaniṣadic text. No one can refute a certain measure of similarity between Advaita and the idealistic schools of Buddhism, especially in the matter of their negative logic. While making use of logical reasoning and the dialectical method, Gauḍapāda does not deviate from the teachings of the Upaniṣads. There are textual evidences to establish the point that Gauḍapāda was an earliest systematic Advaitin. One can also take into account that in each prakaraṇa of Gaudapādakarika, Upanisadic sources are quoted, for example Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad is quoted 62 times, Chāndogya Upaniṣad 37 times, Muṇḍka Upaniṣad 14 times, Taittirīya Upaniṣad 10 times etc. Even where he employs Buddhist terminology, he takes care to point out that his Advaitic standpoint should not be mistaken with Buddhism. While denying absolute reality to the world, he is firm in proclaiming that the non-dual Self is the Ultimate truth. Gauḍapāda has no objection with any system of philosophy, as all systems if properly understood are indicator to non-dual reality. When the dualists oppose one another, the doctrine of non-duality does not conflict with them.

In conclusion, I take this position that the text Gauḍapādakārikā is a single work of Gauḍapāda which is the quintessence of Vedānta, the philosophy of the Upaniṣads. Thus, there is no concrete evidence to disturb the opinion that Gauḍapādakārikās all-comprehensive method revealed in the Upaniṣads successfully establishes an impregnable system on that substantial ground that will ever belong to Gauḍapāda. His Advaita philosophy is free from contradiction. Without strong textual evidence and historical understanding of the influence of one system of thought on another, comparison between them will produce only unverified and potentially misleading abstractions.

Footnotes and references:


Surendranath Dasgupta, A History of Indian Philosophy, Vol. II, (London: Cambridge University Press, 1932), 1.


Ibid., 420.


Ibid., 422.


Ibid., 422.


Ibid., 423.


Ibid., 424, fn.


Ibid., 429










Vidhushekara Bhattachārya, Āgama śāstra of Gauḍapāda, (Calcutta: University of Calcutta, 1943), XXXii..




Ibid. fn.


Bhattacharya, Āgama śāstra, IVii.




Bhattacharya, Āgama śāstra, 1ix.


Ibid., 1xiv, fn.


Ibid., 1xiv and 1xv.




Ibid., 1xxv.


Ibid., 1xxvii.




Bhattacharya, Āgama śāstra, 1xxxiv.


Ibid, 1xxxv.


Ibid., 1xxxix.




Ibid., 1xxxxi.


Ibid., 1xxxxii.


Ibid., 1xxxxiii.


Ibid., 1xxxxii-iii.


Ibid., 1xxxxiv.


Ibid., cxliv.


T.R.V. Murti, The Central Philosophy of Buddhism, A Study of Madhyamika System, (New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 2006), 113.


Ibid., 109.


Ibid., 114.


Ibid., 115.


ibid., 115. fn.


Ibid,. 116.




T.R.V. Murti, The Central Philosophy of Buddhism, 116-117.


Ibid., 117.


Satchidanandendrasaraswati, Māṇḍūkya Rahasya Vivṛti, (Holenarsipur: Adhyatma Prakash Karyalaya Press, 2011), 18-19.


Ibid., 20


Ibid., 24.


Ibid., 25.


Ibid., 29.


Māṇḍūkya Rahasya Vivṛiti, 36.


Ibid., 38.


Māṇḍūkya Rahasya Vivṛiti, 46 fn.


Ibid., 49.


Māṇḍūkya Rahasya Vivṛtti, 62.


Ibid., 85.


R.D. Karmarkar, trans., and ed. Gauḍapāda-Kārikā, (Poona: Oriental Research Institute, 1973), 12.


Ibid., ii.


Ibid., i.


Ibid., ii.


Gaudapāda, Kārikā, iii.


Ibid., iv.


Ibid., v.


Māṇdūkya Rahasya Vivṛiti, 52.


Karmarkar, Gauḍapāda Kārikā, v-vi.


Ibid., vii.


Ibid., ix.


Ibid., xxii.


Ibid., xxiii.


Karmarkar, Gauḍapāda Kārikā, xxvi.


Ibid,, xxviii, fn.


Ibid., xxix-xxx.


Ibid., xxxi.


Ibid., xxxii.


Ibid., xxxvi.


Ibid., xxxix.




Ibid., xLi-xLvi.


R.D Karmarkar, Gauḍapādakārikā, xLviii.


T.M.P. Mahadevan, Gauḍapāda: A Study in Early Advaita, (Madras: University of Madras, 1975).


Ibid., 190.


Ibid., 15.


Gauḍapāda, 248.






T.M.P. Mahadevan, “Some problems of the Māṇḍūkya-Kārika”, Journal of the Madras University (1943): 145.


Āgama śāstra, cxxvii -cxxviii.


Ibid., cxxxii.


S. Radhakrishna, Indian Philosophy, Vol.2, (New Delhi: Blackie and Son Publishers Pvt. Ltd., 1985), 453.


Ibid., 453, fn.


Ibid., 456.


Ibid., 457.




It perhaps the most condensed expression of the teaching of the text Gauḍapādakārikā to which Radhakrishnan refers here is karikā 3:32: “There is no cessation nor origination; no bondage and no spiritual practitioner. There is no one who desires liberation, nor is there anyone who is liberated. This is the ultimate truth.”


Radhakrishnan, Indian Philosophy, 463.


Ibid., 464-65.

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