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The Heritage of Sankara
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From the Jacket

This work is a study in Comparative Philosophy and Indian Metaphysics. Its starting-point is an inquiry into the validity of a charge against the heritage of Sankara-the charge that Sankara is a crypto-Buddhist. For giving the lie to this indictment of Sankara's heritage, the author has disentangled the essentials of Advaitism from the principles that determine the constitution of the Buddhist Absolute, in the traditions of Vijnana and Sunya. Possible evidences, in favour of the misconceived equation of Advayavada with the Vedantic Non-dualism, have been considered, and disposed of. A full-fledged account of the legacy of Gaudapada, and a still fuller account of Sankara, in most of the relevant aspects, justifies the title of this essay. A lively and brisk delineation of the symbolic usage of language in the Advaitavada of Sankara and his followers, helps in a considerable manner to distinguish the Advaitic heritage from the dialectic-centred philosophy of the Madhyamikas, and the unreflecting monism of some schools of Vedanta. The author has brought out very clearly the nature and status of he Dialectic in the Advaitic system of thought. Without identifying Advaitism with Buddhist Absolutism, he is prone to thinking that the dialectic of the Buddhists is a necessary link in the development of Indian philosophical consciousness. Even if the post-Sankara Advaitins look like the Madhyamikas, in respect of the art of philosophical disputation, they have, by their logical acumen, successfully reconstructed in theoretic consciousness, a Vision of the Absolute, only broadly indicated by Sankara But apart from dispelling certain erroneous notions about the Advaitic heritage, of which Sankara is the architect, the author presents a delectably plausible diagnosis of the present-day allergy to metaphysics and metaphysical thinking. And he uses the Philosophy of Language itself, for showing a way out of the contemporary whirl-pool of anti-metaphysical bias. Yet, more remarkable than all this, is the way in which he attempts to stratify. Ideologically, the different trends of Indian philosophical thought, and knit them together in an architectonical unity, the keystone of which is the Value-oriented Advaita. This value is Freedom. Its formulations in different systems of Indian Philosophy, are supported on different logics, built in different metaphysical moulds. They portray, in varying degrees of clarity and distinctness, the negation of the object-seeking attitude-a negation, which finds its ideal fulfillment, not in the replacement of one object by another, gross or subtle, but in the transcendence of the attitude itself, which alone is Freedom. Finally and convincingly too the author shows how this Advaita, synonymous as it is with Freedom, is the "Criterion-Concept" of Indian Culture at its meridian, functioning as the undeviating norm of our finer sensibility, expressed in our larger life, conduct and thought.

Preface to the Second Edition

A Demand for the second edition of The Heritage of Sankara from all quarters during the last ten years has indeed been as pressing as it has been gratifying. It evinces so much of interest in the book still left.

In writing this Preface, however, I have to seek no justification for the book in apologetic terms. Yet, I could not ascribe a demand for its republication only to the way I had argued, in the earlier edition, the case for Sankara against his adversaries, all too intent on demolishing his thought by condemning it as the Buddhist dogma in disguise. No doubt, I had only tried, as best I could, to defend the heritage of Sankara against the envy of his rivals; and on that account, I feel at least as satisfied as do some of the very exacting reviewers of this book. But, in my opinion, the sustained interest of the reader in it, has largely been due to the enduring freshness of the advaita itself. The advaita is none other than the timeless truth-at once suprapersonal and ahistorical in character. What redounds to the credit of Sankara is the flawless reception by him of its revelation, aided by the persuasive texture of his argument.

Sankara's philosophy is not a formulation of an ad hoc nature, fashioned in the interests of a way of life and thought, that, like a fascinating vogue, rules the day and then is seen no more. So long as the thinking mankind has the urge to value the thing enduring (nitya vastu) against the thing ephemeral and perishable (anitya vastu), the advaita has no fear of becoming stale or otiose. And as long as man shows the inclination to work, think and pray for peace and the cessation of strife and discord among his kind, the appeal of the advaita to his head and heart will remain undiminished. This is so because of, what Betty Heimann describes as "the inclusive ambivalence" of the advaita. The advaita absorbs and transcends all antinomies and antagonisms. It is very much the matrix of the opposites, which, without clashing, coexist in perfect unison therein. Disputes and antinomies, everywhere, will be found to have their ground only in an outlook that differentiates. The advaita being innately trans-differential in temper, all plurality and pluralizing get exhausted in it. All limited things unfold themselves as being in travail for their merger in the advaita (the non-dual Absolute). As all-fulfilling and self-fulfilled, the advaita has been described as the supreme good (sivam) and tranquility par excellence (santam). It is the very quientessence of Indian thought-its life-breath itself. It beats vigilantly like a pulse in its cultural consciousness. This pulse-beat can sometimes show signs of distemper and be easily mistaken for a beat of another kind. But such a distemper is only a case of superimposition of one kind of consciousness on another. Like a shadow of mischance, it could, for a while cut the fiery highway of the advaita, without substantially staining its boundless effulgence and self-luminosity.

A whole chapter, under the title "Advaita as the Criterion-Concept of Indian Culture" has been added to the contents of this edition of the book. In this Chapter it has been shown that the term "culture" is valuational in its import, and the value which inspires it with meaning is "freedom." This figures as the highest among the values (purusarthas) recognized in Indian Axiology. It emancipates man from the snares of the world, conceived in the acquiescent attitude of unquestioning belief. It is distinguishable from what one seeks and cherishes in his unreflective workaday consciousness. It has been termed as moksa, mukti, kaivalya or nirvana. It stands out in contrast to the trivarga, or the network of three mundane values, which are artha (wealth), kama (joy) and dharma (order or righteousness). What characterizes the trivarga is its grounding in the relational consciousness of man. Such a consciousness is not original. It is consequent on the subject-object relation. The contrast between moksa (freedom) and the trivarga lies in the transcendence of moksa to all relativity. This transcendence ensures self-completeness (purnatva) to freedom (moksa), which is lacking in the trivarga. The values constituting the trivarga relate to a consciousness girt round with 'limit'. 'Limit' is symptomatic of want. Want generates a sense of incompleteness and lack of satiety. It demands fulfillment through an act devised and done for this purpose. The spirit in man, however, on the advaitic account, is constitutionally wantless. Its wantlessness is coextensive with its self-completeness. All striving, therefore, for the removal of its wantful plight must be due to ignorance only. And the ignorance under mention is one's forgetfulness of his immeasureable fullness. Indian thought, at its most exalted eminence, identifies the advaita with the true destiny of man. But this destiny is no deferred goal, intended to be achieved through technological devices and organizational media. A situation of this order takes us to a very significant distinction between "culture" and "technology". "Culture" is one's saturation is the recognition of his self-fulfilled destiny-a destiny, which can neither be diminished nor augmented by all we do or refrain from doing at the level of technological thinking. "Culture" calls for self-knowledge-the unclouded awareness of one's unconditioned fullness. An awareness of this kind, at any rate, is plea for finding bliss in inaction; for, at the dawn of self-knowledge one cannot remain inactive. Every act done by one, so enlightened, will have on it the stamp of morality, order and righteousness.

The Western mind, by and large, oriented to the cherishing of "limit"-ward thinking of the West is not a mere hypothesis, framed by us, for supporting our views concerning "culture." It has been a recurring trait of the Western thought from Plato and Aristotle, down to Kant and the present day Existentialists and Phenomenologists. An unbiased study of the history of Western Thought should be bearing us out on this point.

Lest I should be misunderstood, a few words by way of clarification may not be out of place. My claim, that the advaita is the criterion-concept of Indian Culture, should not be understood as implying that Indian Culture, as a process in history, has ever been as perfect as the advaita itself. The advaita, in this context, should only be understood as functioning in the office of a norm, deviations from which are quite natural. Further, the distinction drawn by us between "culture" and "technology" does not entail their mutual incompatibility. All we mean is that they could be taken as complementing each other in the total ethos of a people, without being allowed to overlap or get irretrievably mixed up. Besides, we should not also be understood as maintaining that Indian Philosophy, in all its rich variety, is unqualifiedly advaitic in character. We do not dispute the individuality and independent status of the several systems of Indian Philosophy. We only mean to suggest that in the advaita the extremes of Indian Philosophy could be seen as meeting. The advaita, for this reason, could plausibly be visualized as that keystone, which invests the total structure of Indian philosophy with an architectonical unity.

For the views expressed in this dissertation I claim no infallibility. I am open to correction, and shall gladly acknowledge my indebtedness to the reader for making me aware of any inadequacy there in. I, however, could not help seeking his pardon for the printing mistakes, which, in spite of my steady carefulness, might have escaped my notice at the stage of correcting the final proof.

For bringing out this edition of The Heritage of Sankara I am grateful to Dr. S.L. Pandey, my successor to Professorship in the Philosophy Department of the University of Allahabad. He placed me in contact with Mr. Devendra Jain Director of Munshiram Manoharlal, Publishers Private Ltd., New Delhi, who gladly agreed to publish the second edition of the book. Mr. Jain has earned my gratitude for having undertaken the publication of this work with meticulous care and admirable patience.

I am further indebted to my younger brother, Mr. Rama Kant Roy, for helping me in comparing the corrected proof of the book with the manuscript, and to my former University colleagues, Km. Shanti Joshi (Reader in Philosophy) and Dr. R.S. Bhatnagar (Lecturer in Philosophy) for having checked up the references cited in this book. Dr. Paras Nath Tiwari Reader in Hindi, University of Allahabad and Dr. Meera Rai Head of the Department of Philosophy, C.M.P. Degree College, Allahabad have greatly helped me in the difficult task of preparing the Index of the book. I thank them cordially for having rendered me this assistance.

 

CONTENTS

 

Preface to the Second Edition ix
Preface to the First edition xiii
Chapter I
The Indictment of Sankara's Heritage
1
Chapter II
The Alternative Interpretations of the Upanisads
41
Chapter III
The Legacy of Gaudapada : A Reassessment
47
Chapter IV
A Re-Examination of Sankara's Heritage
63
Chapter V
The Criteriological Reaction Against Realism
112
Chapter VI
The Heritage of Sankara : A Meeting of Extremes
143
Chapter VII
Advaita as the Criterion-Concept of India Culture
188
Bibliography 223
Index 233

 

Sample Pages

















The Heritage of Sankara

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From the Jacket

This work is a study in Comparative Philosophy and Indian Metaphysics. Its starting-point is an inquiry into the validity of a charge against the heritage of Sankara-the charge that Sankara is a crypto-Buddhist. For giving the lie to this indictment of Sankara's heritage, the author has disentangled the essentials of Advaitism from the principles that determine the constitution of the Buddhist Absolute, in the traditions of Vijnana and Sunya. Possible evidences, in favour of the misconceived equation of Advayavada with the Vedantic Non-dualism, have been considered, and disposed of. A full-fledged account of the legacy of Gaudapada, and a still fuller account of Sankara, in most of the relevant aspects, justifies the title of this essay. A lively and brisk delineation of the symbolic usage of language in the Advaitavada of Sankara and his followers, helps in a considerable manner to distinguish the Advaitic heritage from the dialectic-centred philosophy of the Madhyamikas, and the unreflecting monism of some schools of Vedanta. The author has brought out very clearly the nature and status of he Dialectic in the Advaitic system of thought. Without identifying Advaitism with Buddhist Absolutism, he is prone to thinking that the dialectic of the Buddhists is a necessary link in the development of Indian philosophical consciousness. Even if the post-Sankara Advaitins look like the Madhyamikas, in respect of the art of philosophical disputation, they have, by their logical acumen, successfully reconstructed in theoretic consciousness, a Vision of the Absolute, only broadly indicated by Sankara But apart from dispelling certain erroneous notions about the Advaitic heritage, of which Sankara is the architect, the author presents a delectably plausible diagnosis of the present-day allergy to metaphysics and metaphysical thinking. And he uses the Philosophy of Language itself, for showing a way out of the contemporary whirl-pool of anti-metaphysical bias. Yet, more remarkable than all this, is the way in which he attempts to stratify. Ideologically, the different trends of Indian philosophical thought, and knit them together in an architectonical unity, the keystone of which is the Value-oriented Advaita. This value is Freedom. Its formulations in different systems of Indian Philosophy, are supported on different logics, built in different metaphysical moulds. They portray, in varying degrees of clarity and distinctness, the negation of the object-seeking attitude-a negation, which finds its ideal fulfillment, not in the replacement of one object by another, gross or subtle, but in the transcendence of the attitude itself, which alone is Freedom. Finally and convincingly too the author shows how this Advaita, synonymous as it is with Freedom, is the "Criterion-Concept" of Indian Culture at its meridian, functioning as the undeviating norm of our finer sensibility, expressed in our larger life, conduct and thought.

Preface to the Second Edition

A Demand for the second edition of The Heritage of Sankara from all quarters during the last ten years has indeed been as pressing as it has been gratifying. It evinces so much of interest in the book still left.

In writing this Preface, however, I have to seek no justification for the book in apologetic terms. Yet, I could not ascribe a demand for its republication only to the way I had argued, in the earlier edition, the case for Sankara against his adversaries, all too intent on demolishing his thought by condemning it as the Buddhist dogma in disguise. No doubt, I had only tried, as best I could, to defend the heritage of Sankara against the envy of his rivals; and on that account, I feel at least as satisfied as do some of the very exacting reviewers of this book. But, in my opinion, the sustained interest of the reader in it, has largely been due to the enduring freshness of the advaita itself. The advaita is none other than the timeless truth-at once suprapersonal and ahistorical in character. What redounds to the credit of Sankara is the flawless reception by him of its revelation, aided by the persuasive texture of his argument.

Sankara's philosophy is not a formulation of an ad hoc nature, fashioned in the interests of a way of life and thought, that, like a fascinating vogue, rules the day and then is seen no more. So long as the thinking mankind has the urge to value the thing enduring (nitya vastu) against the thing ephemeral and perishable (anitya vastu), the advaita has no fear of becoming stale or otiose. And as long as man shows the inclination to work, think and pray for peace and the cessation of strife and discord among his kind, the appeal of the advaita to his head and heart will remain undiminished. This is so because of, what Betty Heimann describes as "the inclusive ambivalence" of the advaita. The advaita absorbs and transcends all antinomies and antagonisms. It is very much the matrix of the opposites, which, without clashing, coexist in perfect unison therein. Disputes and antinomies, everywhere, will be found to have their ground only in an outlook that differentiates. The advaita being innately trans-differential in temper, all plurality and pluralizing get exhausted in it. All limited things unfold themselves as being in travail for their merger in the advaita (the non-dual Absolute). As all-fulfilling and self-fulfilled, the advaita has been described as the supreme good (sivam) and tranquility par excellence (santam). It is the very quientessence of Indian thought-its life-breath itself. It beats vigilantly like a pulse in its cultural consciousness. This pulse-beat can sometimes show signs of distemper and be easily mistaken for a beat of another kind. But such a distemper is only a case of superimposition of one kind of consciousness on another. Like a shadow of mischance, it could, for a while cut the fiery highway of the advaita, without substantially staining its boundless effulgence and self-luminosity.

A whole chapter, under the title "Advaita as the Criterion-Concept of Indian Culture" has been added to the contents of this edition of the book. In this Chapter it has been shown that the term "culture" is valuational in its import, and the value which inspires it with meaning is "freedom." This figures as the highest among the values (purusarthas) recognized in Indian Axiology. It emancipates man from the snares of the world, conceived in the acquiescent attitude of unquestioning belief. It is distinguishable from what one seeks and cherishes in his unreflective workaday consciousness. It has been termed as moksa, mukti, kaivalya or nirvana. It stands out in contrast to the trivarga, or the network of three mundane values, which are artha (wealth), kama (joy) and dharma (order or righteousness). What characterizes the trivarga is its grounding in the relational consciousness of man. Such a consciousness is not original. It is consequent on the subject-object relation. The contrast between moksa (freedom) and the trivarga lies in the transcendence of moksa to all relativity. This transcendence ensures self-completeness (purnatva) to freedom (moksa), which is lacking in the trivarga. The values constituting the trivarga relate to a consciousness girt round with 'limit'. 'Limit' is symptomatic of want. Want generates a sense of incompleteness and lack of satiety. It demands fulfillment through an act devised and done for this purpose. The spirit in man, however, on the advaitic account, is constitutionally wantless. Its wantlessness is coextensive with its self-completeness. All striving, therefore, for the removal of its wantful plight must be due to ignorance only. And the ignorance under mention is one's forgetfulness of his immeasureable fullness. Indian thought, at its most exalted eminence, identifies the advaita with the true destiny of man. But this destiny is no deferred goal, intended to be achieved through technological devices and organizational media. A situation of this order takes us to a very significant distinction between "culture" and "technology". "Culture" is one's saturation is the recognition of his self-fulfilled destiny-a destiny, which can neither be diminished nor augmented by all we do or refrain from doing at the level of technological thinking. "Culture" calls for self-knowledge-the unclouded awareness of one's unconditioned fullness. An awareness of this kind, at any rate, is plea for finding bliss in inaction; for, at the dawn of self-knowledge one cannot remain inactive. Every act done by one, so enlightened, will have on it the stamp of morality, order and righteousness.

The Western mind, by and large, oriented to the cherishing of "limit"-ward thinking of the West is not a mere hypothesis, framed by us, for supporting our views concerning "culture." It has been a recurring trait of the Western thought from Plato and Aristotle, down to Kant and the present day Existentialists and Phenomenologists. An unbiased study of the history of Western Thought should be bearing us out on this point.

Lest I should be misunderstood, a few words by way of clarification may not be out of place. My claim, that the advaita is the criterion-concept of Indian Culture, should not be understood as implying that Indian Culture, as a process in history, has ever been as perfect as the advaita itself. The advaita, in this context, should only be understood as functioning in the office of a norm, deviations from which are quite natural. Further, the distinction drawn by us between "culture" and "technology" does not entail their mutual incompatibility. All we mean is that they could be taken as complementing each other in the total ethos of a people, without being allowed to overlap or get irretrievably mixed up. Besides, we should not also be understood as maintaining that Indian Philosophy, in all its rich variety, is unqualifiedly advaitic in character. We do not dispute the individuality and independent status of the several systems of Indian Philosophy. We only mean to suggest that in the advaita the extremes of Indian Philosophy could be seen as meeting. The advaita, for this reason, could plausibly be visualized as that keystone, which invests the total structure of Indian philosophy with an architectonical unity.

For the views expressed in this dissertation I claim no infallibility. I am open to correction, and shall gladly acknowledge my indebtedness to the reader for making me aware of any inadequacy there in. I, however, could not help seeking his pardon for the printing mistakes, which, in spite of my steady carefulness, might have escaped my notice at the stage of correcting the final proof.

For bringing out this edition of The Heritage of Sankara I am grateful to Dr. S.L. Pandey, my successor to Professorship in the Philosophy Department of the University of Allahabad. He placed me in contact with Mr. Devendra Jain Director of Munshiram Manoharlal, Publishers Private Ltd., New Delhi, who gladly agreed to publish the second edition of the book. Mr. Jain has earned my gratitude for having undertaken the publication of this work with meticulous care and admirable patience.

I am further indebted to my younger brother, Mr. Rama Kant Roy, for helping me in comparing the corrected proof of the book with the manuscript, and to my former University colleagues, Km. Shanti Joshi (Reader in Philosophy) and Dr. R.S. Bhatnagar (Lecturer in Philosophy) for having checked up the references cited in this book. Dr. Paras Nath Tiwari Reader in Hindi, University of Allahabad and Dr. Meera Rai Head of the Department of Philosophy, C.M.P. Degree College, Allahabad have greatly helped me in the difficult task of preparing the Index of the book. I thank them cordially for having rendered me this assistance.

 

CONTENTS

 

Preface to the Second Edition ix
Preface to the First edition xiii
Chapter I
The Indictment of Sankara's Heritage
1
Chapter II
The Alternative Interpretations of the Upanisads
41
Chapter III
The Legacy of Gaudapada : A Reassessment
47
Chapter IV
A Re-Examination of Sankara's Heritage
63
Chapter V
The Criteriological Reaction Against Realism
112
Chapter VI
The Heritage of Sankara : A Meeting of Extremes
143
Chapter VII
Advaita as the Criterion-Concept of India Culture
188
Bibliography 223
Index 233

 

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