What constitutes a philosophy? What constitutes a critique? Are there sufficient common denominators on which one philosophy can critique another? Even if it is possible to critique, what could be the purpose of such a critique? Who could be the audience the critique is addressed to? What is a reasonable approach to critique?
Pursuit of truth is the most personal goal since it cannot be pursued for another's sake; every philosophy boasts of siddhas who have made it; yet, truth varies from being one non-dual entity, to being non-existent, to being many which are self- contradictory aJl at the same time. Could aJl the siddhas have made it, despite truth being different for everyone? Is siddhi independent of truth? If not, how to know what the real truth is?
All philosophies either arrived at and/or enumerated their conclusions based on popular worldly models. However, the advent of Science has challenged many such conclusions; Is there a need to upgrade the traditional narrative in the light of scientific discoveries? Would that result in truth itself being upgraded?
With these questions in my mind, I decided to research on them and used Sankaracarya's Critique of Non-Advaita Schools in Avirodhadhyaya of the Brahmasiitra as a vehicle for my research. In this research, the following topics are also dealt with;
1. Is Sankara's presentation of the opponent's philosophy pramanikam?
2. What are the samanyavyaptis used by Sankara?
3. Is it possible to present Non-Advaita Schools in a standardized format to make it easy for comparison?
4. What are the rebuttals to Sankara by Non- Advaita Schools and what are the rejoinders from Advaita. The author himself has raised additional questions and provided answers, thus far not dealt with in the sampradaya.
5. What are the general estimations about Non- Advaita Schools? What are the points of agreements and dichotomy? Is reconciliation with Advaita possible?
6. Could Upanisads have been the fountainhead of Non-Advaita Schools also?
7. What is the role of Philosophy?
8. What is the role of Reason in Epistemology?
9. Could Vedas be regarded as a valid Means of Knowledge?
This book is a valuable addition to the philosophical thought in general and to Indian Philosophy in particular; it is capable of propelling.
About the Author
Dr. Sugavanam Krishnan is a qualified Chartered and Cost Accountant. He worked in the corporate world, both in India and Abroad and also ran a successful Software and BPO company. In 2010, at the age of 47, he decided to call it quits on this professional life and pursue his passion, which is to know the truth. To this end, he pursued study of Sanskrit and completed his MA, M Phil and PhD.
Since 1980, Dr. Sugavanam Krishnan has been a student of Swami Dayananda sarasvati and Swami Paramarthananda Sarasvati, from whom he learnt the fundamental texts of Advaita Vedanta. presently he is learning advanced Advaita texts from Dr. Mani Dravid Sastrigal. He is a sampradayavit.
Dr. Sugavanam Krishnan has been teaching Vedanta for over 20 years now; recently he has started teaching Paniniya Vyakarana. He has submitted many papers in both National and International Seminars, a number of which have been published.
Indian philosophy, unlike many traditions which have been nearly forgotten due to the ravages of time, comprises of continuous thought development, of which dialogues, debates and critique form an integral part. Though traditionally darsanas are categorized into astika and nastika depending upon their acceptance of the Vedas, it would be appropriate to classify' them, for this research, into pramanika and speculative, depending upon whether they regarded Vedas as primary means of knowledge or not. Of the various darsanas, it is only Vedanta that regards Vedas as mula-pramana and therefore, can be regarded as pramanika. While other orthodox schools such as Nyaya, Vaisesika, Sankhya hold Vedas only as secondary pramana to support their independent speculation, heterodox schools are Carvaka, the Buddhist and the Jaina do not accept the validity of Vedas as a pramana at all, and, therefore, they are all to be grouped collectively as speculative philosophies. There are theistic sects such as Pasupata and Paficaratra, within the orthodox schools. which identify themselves separately due to distinction in their religious disciplines; however, they do not have an independent cosmology, ontology or epistemology. Philosophically, these systems span the entire spectrum from absolutistic idealism to realistic pluralism, and all other systems in between.
At the outset, it is to be decided whether Vedas are also to be regarded as speculative until one gains the experience of one's true self. Such a view would be akin to putting the cart before the horse, since pramana-buddhi in Vedas is a prerequisite for one to know one's true self as vouched by Bhagavad Gita when it says श्रध्दावान् लभते ज्ञानम् and by Chandogya Upanisad when it advises श्रद्धत्स्व सौम्य. Sraddha is one of the six-fold qualifications that an adhikari for self-knowledge must possess, and sraddha is defined as 'mula-pramana svatah-pramanya-jnanam sraddha - sraddha is that awareness by which it is known that primary pramana is intrinsically valid'. So, Vedas are not to be regarded as speculative, since it depends upon such a view for its efficacy to function as a pramana. The next question is, even if one has sraddha in Vedas as a mula-pramana, whether what the Veda-pramana reveals, is it as clear as blue sky in broad day light. The unfortunate but straight forward answer to this question is that the revelations of the Vedas can at best be described as abstruse, confirmed by the fact that there are at least 3 major schools within Vedanta, viz., Advaita, Visistadvaita, and Dvaita, which have arrived at the purport of the Vedas differently. It is said that when Vedas appear to contradict themselves recourse to reason is to be sought to decide the purport'; one may also resort to the sadlingas to establish the purport. Despite this, there are differences on the purport of the Vedas and such differences are getting accentuated with every debate. This proves that even tarka and the sadlingas cannot assist in conclusively arriving at the purport of the Vedas. Whether tarka can be held as absolute and objective, or should it be regarded as relative and subjective is another question that begs serious consideration.
These two factors have had an overbearing effect on this study. Consequently, though the topic of research is 'Critique of Non-Advaita Schools', the research problems being addressed and the approach to it is atypical of what is generally seen for a textual study. A detailed examination Sankara's critique of pradhanakaranavada and satkaryavada of the Sankhya, paramanukaranavada and asatkaryavada of the Vaisesikas, his refutations of non-orthodox Buddhists and Jainas, and criticism of theistic Pancaratra and Pasupata followed by refutations and rejoinders from both parties has been done as part of the research. However, despite plenty of thought being exchanged back and forth on the subject in the form of discussions, debates and critique, it is seen historically that neither parties have endorsed the other side's arguments. The critiques, debates and arguments have not served the cause of reconciliation, instead they have aggravated the differences and, if anything, it has given clarity on fundamental conceptions of each philosophy due to which reconciliation may not be possible. Therefore, this research has refocused itself from being a classical textual study of Sankara's critique and instead used it as a vehicle to find answers to fundamental questions about critiquing, which questions are contemporary, relevant and probably the need of the hour, considering the universally growing religious intolerance.
This research intends to deliberate upon the following topics:
1. Pursuit of philosophical goals for self-liberation is totally personal, for no one can attain liberation for the sake of another, as even as one cannot eat to quench another's hunger. Every darsana boasts of liberated souls, and claims that following their path leads to liberation. Are all conceptions of liberation the same, if not which one is ultimate liberation? Are there common denominators that exist based on which an objective critique and mutual evaluation becomes possible? What purpose is achieved by the critique? To whom should the critique be addressed to?
2. From one's own standpoint, every other darsana which differs from it will appear to be wrong; from the other's standpoint, they would appear to be correct. Yet, if one goes ahead with the critique, what should be the most reasonable approach and process in making the critique?.
3. While there are many types of philosophies, amongst those that addresses self-liberation, some remain as abstract thoughts without becoming a way of life and put into day to day practice. There are religions which lack an underlying philosophy, and just remain as a matter of belief. There are cultures which are independent and do not have any fundamental religion or philosophy as their substratum. Lastly, there are ethics which are driven by common-sense without any philosophical, religious or cultural base. While all of them grant social benefits when pursued, can they independently lead to attaining the ultimate goal of life? If not, should they be regarded as a darsana? In other words, what are the essential features that constitute a darsana?
4. Every darsana has a view about reality which functions as the foundation upon which speculations are advanced about cosmology, ontology, epistemology and the likes. Some darsanas base their view of reality on sruti- pramana, though admittedly there are differences about what is reality is according to sruti, Then there are those darsanas that are based on speculative texts written by their founders who are proclaimed to be omniscient and for that reason, regarded as valid. Reality as envisioned by all of them are unique and different from each other. Attaining reality is held as the highest of goals by all of them, for which they demand dedicated pursuit of one’s entire life, to the exclusion of all other pursuits. Unless it is known which of the reality is real, pursuits run the risk of becoming effete. In this situation, howto know what is really real?
India is the fountainhead of the earliest known philosophical compositions of the world. There are several traditions of philosophical thought that originated in India, all of which are collectively known as Indian Philosophy. Indian philosophy is not merely the earliest, but also boasts of the longest history of continuous thought development, as compared to any other philosophical tradition. It also comprises of a wide variety of darsanas, schools of thought, some of which are nastika, orthodox, and some others are nastika, heterodox. Philosophically, these systems span the entire spectrum from absolutistic idealism to realistic pluralism, and everything in between. But the common theme across all schools of Indian philosophy is that all of them are not merely theoretical, but also practical in that, every philosophy is inseparably intertwined with religion, culture and ethics, which means all Indian Philosophy are applied philosophy. So, Indian Philosophies are all both view and way of life, with its goal being to improve life.
Indian philosophical systems provide every imaginable version of truth - on the one side is the Advaita Vedanta, which holds atma as one among every being, the only substance that there is, and the only reality. Advaita Vedanta talks of orders of reality to explain plurality which is experienced, of which the paramarthika is the only reality that there is, which is absolute and one, while the entire transactional world, all its substances and modes, are included in vyavaharika, and which is denied the status of being an independent reality. Sankhya also holds reality as substantial, permanent and universal, but they don't venture as far as the Advaita Vedanta in holding reality to be only the absolute. Nyaya- Vaisesika tones their philosophy down even further, and holds empirical plurality as reality and holds modes and substance on equal stature. All these systems accept existence of atma, which becomes the fulcrum on which their metaphysics, ontology, epistemology and ethics are developed. All these systems admit bondage because of ignorance of the atma, and the consequent confusion with anatma, and thus, atma-jnanam becomes the means for liberation. Existence of atma is the basis on which knowledge and memory, rebirth, etc. are explained.
On the other end of the spectrum are the Buddhist who deny existence of any substance, or a permanent reality. They say everything is in a state of flux, existence is only ksanika momentary, svalaksana unique, and dharmamatra - unitary. The very concept of 'self' is dismissed as illusory, on the basis that the idea of a permanent self is a figment of imagination caused by ignorance of the truth. Consequently, they developed their epistemology based on nairatmyavada, and have made courageous attempts to explain how knowledge, memory, rebirth etc. happen despite absence of an abiding permanent self. They also talk of prajna - wisdom, by which liberation is gained, only their knowledge is not of the self, but about its illusory nature of existence.
The Jaina tried to find a unique middle ground; they observed the fact that philosophers either tried to view the world as dravyarthika - substantial, or paryayarthika - modal, and concluded that both views are contrary to each other, and in their extremes, as is the case of the Advaita Vedantin and Buddhist, they denied the reality of the other. Having observed thus, they tried to reconcile both these extreme views by according equal status to both substantial and the modal views. They observed that there is no substance without modes, and no modes without substance. They held that द्रव्यपर्यायातंन्क वस्तु प्रमेयम् on which basis they concluded that reality is anekantatmaka. They did not want to take either side, and were of the view that it is better to characterize reality as not of one nature, instead they characterized as unitive and different, universal and particular, permanent and changing. According to their definition of reality, they propounded the syadvada as their epistemology. So Jaina can be considered as the middle path between atmavada and anatmavada. However, what the Jaina proposed could not find acceptance with either the atmavadin or the anatmavadin, for their proposal of a changing atma was unacceptable to the former, while their proposal of a permanent, albeit changing being, was not acceptable to the latter. So, instead of becoming a compromise settlement between the two philosophical views, it became a third independent view.
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