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Shankara* (788-820 AD)

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  1. 12/19/05 Shankara*(788-820 AD) Commentary on the Vedanta Sutras (Brahmasutra-Bhashya) *Sankara, Sancara, Shamkara Text, 229-250

  2. Shankara

  3. Background India & Hinduism

  4. Hinduism • Basic Beliefs • Sacred Literature • The Raja Yoga System See Notes on Hinduism

  5. Outline of the Text • Self (Atman) & Non-Self -- the problem of superimposition (229-230) • The Desire to Know Brahman(230-233) • Knowing Brahman (230-231) • Brahman as the cause of the world (not in text) • The relationship between Brahman and Self (Atman) -- identity (231-233) • Critique of Other Philosophical Systems (233-250)

  6. 3 Critique of Other Philosophical Systems, cont’d • Vedanta vs. Samkhya (233-241) • Brahman as the cause of the world’s existence • The Vedanta critique of Samkhya metaphysics (the purusha-prakriti theory) • The Samkhya critique of Vedantic non-dualism • Vedanta vs. Vaisheshika (atomism) (241-245) • Brahman as the material cause of the world • Critique of Vaisheshika atomism • Critique of the Vaisheshika theory of categories (Continued on next slide)

  7. 3 Critique of Other Philosophical Systems, cont’d • Vedanta vs. Buddhist Philosophy (245-250) • Shankara’s non-dualism vs. Buddhist Realism, Idealism, & Voidism -- Editor’s Comment • Critique of Buddhist Realism -- interdependent causation & momentariness • Critique of Buddhist Idealism -- consciousness-only • Critique of Buddhist Voidism -- emptiness = nothingness (?) • General assessment of Buddhist philosophy

  8. 1 Self & Not-Self (subject & object) • The mistake of superimposition • How is objectification of the Self possible, since it is not an object of sense perception? • First, Self is not absolutely a non-object. It is the object [reference] of the word “I,” & it is known to have real (objective) existence through direct intuition (“I am”) [Descartes: “I think; therefore I am”]. • Second, objectification of things that are not objects of sense perception takes place (e.g., the dark blue color of the ether). • Ignorance (avidya) as opposed to knowledge (vidya) as the basis of superimposition. • Examples of ignorant objectification of the Self . • The path to knowledge of the Self: study of the Vedanta Sutras.

  9. 2. The Desire to Know Brahman Knowing Brahman • Prerequisites to knowledge of Brahman • Knowledge of Brahman as the highest good • Is Brahman known or not known? • Brahman (“the greatest”) [“that than which nothing greater can be conceived”?] is known to exist & is the universal Self (Atman). • Also, the Self is known to exist [because it is impossible for anyone to think “I am not”? (Descartes again)]. However,

  10. since there are many conflicting views of the nature of the Self (231) & of its relationship with Brahman, it is necessary to inquire further into the nature of Brahman & of the Self & into the relationship between them (231). (Why is it necessary?)

  11. The origin, subsistence, & dissolution of the world must (each) be caused. (Why?) The cause cannot be non-intelligent matter (prakriti), nor atoms, nor non-being, nor the world itself. (Why not?) Brahman (omniscient & omnipotent) is the only possible cause of the world’s origin, subsistence, & dissolution. (Why?) 2. The Desire to Know Brahman, cont’d Brahman as cause of the world (Not in Text)

  12. Description of Brahman: eternal, all-knowing, absolutely self-sufficient, ever pure, intelligent, free, pure knowledge, absolute bliss, omnipresent, immutable, non-composite (one), self-illuminating. Description of Self: permanent, unitary, eternally unchanging, present in everything, imperishable, eternally pure & free. 2. The Desire to Know Brahman, cont’d The relationship between Brahman & Self (231-3) Brahman & Self are . . .

  13. one, i.e., identical, & knowledge of this identity is moksha (final release & experience of the union of Self & Brahman). Knowledge & realization of the identity of Atman & Brahman also result in freedom from the transmigratory world (samsara), whereas ignorance (avidya) of the “supreme identity” binds us to that world.

  14. Tat tvam asi!* This means “That thou art!” The “That” refers to Brahman; the “thou” refers to the Self (Atman). *From the Chandogya Upanishad, VI, 8, 7

  15. Brahman as other than the Self, qualified by limiting conditions (definable characteristics), an object of religious devotion. This view is based on ignorance (avidya). Brahman as one (identical) with the Self, free from all limiting conditions (having no definable qualities or characteristics), notanobject of religious devotion [because notother than the Self]. This view is based on knowledge (vidya). 2. The Desire to Know Brahman, cont’d Two experiences of Brahman

  16. 2. The Desire to Know Brahman, cont’d How the Self gets confused with the Not-Self & how the individual soul awakens to its true identity as the universal Self (Atman) through critical thought & reflection Dream states & waking states The rope-snake analogy

  17. The orthodox schools Samkhya & Yoga Nyaya & Vaisheshika Mimamsa & Vedanta The unorthodox schools Buddhism Jainism Carvaka 3 Critique of Other Philosophical Systems (See Text, 233, fn 1)

  18. Vedanta vs. Samkhya (& Yoga) (Text, 233-241)

  19. Samkhya-Yoga Cosmology (metaphysical dualism) Purusha Consciousness, Self, Subject (no real interaction) Origin, Subsistence, & Dissolution of Worlds Disruption of Equilibrium -- Intermingling of Gunas Equilibrium of the Three Gunas (sattva, rajas, tamas) Prakriti Matter, Not-Self, Object

  20. Purusha Subsistence Generation Dissolution (Mahat) Prakriti Disequilibrium Return to . . . Equilibrium (light & pleasure; activity & pain; inertia & numbness)

  21. Shankara’s Cosmology Reality is "not-two" & "not-many" (anti-dualism & anti-pluralism). “Non-Dualism” (Advaita) Brahman-Atman alone is real. The world is merely an appearance of Brahman-Atman. The Brahman-Atman & the world are "not-two." (Rope) (Snake)

  22. The issues addressed in Shankara’s treatment of Samkhya-Yoga philosophy • The efficient & material causation of the world’s existence • How can the pradhana (prakriti) be active or activated? • The Samkhya-Yoga critique of Shankara’s non-dualism

  23. Material causation The material cause of an entity (e.g., a clay pot) is the matter or substance of which the entity is made or composed or constructed (e.g., clay). Efficient causation The efficient cause of an entity or event is the active agent that produces the entity or event (e.g., a potter molds clay to form a clay pot). Causation of the World’s Existence Two kinds of causation Shankara & the Samkhya-Yoga philosophers agree that Brahman(purusha) is the efficient cause of the world’s existence. They disagree about the material causation of the world.

  24. For Shankara, Brahman is the material cause of the world. The world is an appearance of Brahman projected from & by Brahman through the power of maya. For Samkhya-Yoga, the pradhana (prakriti) is the material cause of the world. The world is other than Brahman (purusha), which is the efficient but not the material cause of the world. The disagreement: (Non-Dualism vs. Dualism again)

  25. Causation of the World’s Existence The arguments • Why & how does Samkhya-Yoga argue that Brahman cannot be the material cause of the world? • How does Shankara respond to the S-Y position on this matter? How does he argue that Brahman is both the efficient and the material cause of the world? (233-237)

  26. pp. 233-237 Samkhya-Yoga: An effect cannot have qualities different from the qualities of its material cause. The world is non-intelligent (non-conscious), composed of parts, and impure (a mixture of pleasure, pain, & numbness). Brahman (purusha) is intelligent (conscious), one (not composed of parts), and pure (not a mixture of qualities). Therefore, Brahman (purusha) cannot be the material cause of the world. Vedanta (Shankara): (1) Some effects have qualities different from the qualities of their material causes (humans [intelligent, conscious] growing hair & nails; cow dung [non-intelligent, non-living] giving rise to scorpions & similar animals. (2) Originally, there was nothing but Brahman. If the material from which the world is made is other than Brahman, then that material must emerge from Brahman. (3) In fact, the whole world is intelligent (or a manifestation of intelligence).

  27. Causation of the World’s Existence Let’s go over pp. 237 in detail. This is the section entitled, “(2) The primal cause of the world must be intelligent”.

  28. How can the pradhana (prakriti) be active or activated? (237-8) According to Shankara, S-Y’s dualistic cosmology makes activity & motion (& therefore the existence of the world) impossible. How does he explain & back up this criticism?

  29. S-Y dualism negates motion. • How can the pradhana be activated by purusha? How does the disequilibrium of the gunas originate? How does the Mahat arise? (237-8) • How can the pradhana serve any purposes of purusha? (238) • Can (or how can) purusha move the pradhana? (239) • The activity of the pradhana is impossible (or unintelligible) on S-Y assumptions (239).

  30. The S-Y critique of Shankara’s Non-Dualism (239-240) • Non-Dualism destroys the distinction between sufferer & cause of suffering, between the desiring person & the object desired, between the non-desiring person & the object not desired (the object of aversion). • Non-Dualism also makes final release from suffering impossible [because suffering would then belong to the essence of the Self], contrary to Scripture, whereas Dualism makes final release possible [because suffering would then be distinct from the Self]. Major points???

  31. How does Shankara respond to the S-Y critique of his Non-Dualism? How does he explain the relationship between sufferer & cause of suffering? All subject-object dualities are phenomenal (apparent) only; they are not “really real”; there is no duality in the Brahman-Atman. Release from suffering results from the realization that suffering is not “really real,” & that realization comes with knowledge of Brahman-Atman. Text, 240-241

  32. Perhaps neither S-Y Dualism nor Shankara’s Non-Dualistic Vedanta can do justice to the subject-object distinction. What do you think? (See fn 1 on p. 241)

  33. (Text, 241-244) * Vedanta vs. Vaisheshika (Atomism) * (I.e., Nyaya-Vaisheshika)

  34. The issues addressed in Shankara’s treatment of Nyaya-Vaisheshika atomism • The material causation of the world (Can an intelligent cause produce effects that do not possess intelligence?) • Problems with atomism: • The problem of initial atomic motion • The indivisibility & immutability of atoms • The N-V categories of the understanding (substance, quality, motion, generality, particularity, inherence)

  35. (Text, 244-250) * Vedanta vs. Buddhist Philosophy * Buddhist Realism (Sautrantika & Vaibhashika) Buddhist Idealism (Yogacara) Buddhist Voidism (Madhyamaka)

  36. Shankara vs. Buddhist Realism • The chain of interdependent causation - cannot explain the material & mental aggregations that are governed by the Wheel of Becoming • The Buddhist doctrine of momentariness • undermines the principle of causality (168-9) • is inconsistent with the phenomenon of remembrance

  37. The 12. 1. Aging & Dying Ignorance 2. Wheel of 11. Impulse to Exist Birth Heaven 3. 10. Con- scious- ness Human Realm Demon Realm Becom- ing Greed Delusion Hatred Bhavachakra 4. 9. Hungry Ghost Realm Animal Realm Mind- Body Cling- ing Becoming 8. 5. Six Senses Hell Craving 6. 7. Sensations Contact

  38. Shankara vs. Buddhist (Yogacara) Idealism • 5 arguments in support of Yogacara idealism (248) • Shankara’s general response (including rejections of the five arguments for idealism) (248-250) • The external world is given as a phenomenon in consciousness & is experienced as external. • The existence of the external world is confirmed by all the standard means of knowledge (pramanas). [See next slide] • Although consciousness is always accompanied by an object, there is a distinction between consciousness & object (i.e., they are not identical). • Examples of dreams, illusions, & mirages do not prove the truth of idealism. • The Yogacara explanation of the variety of ideas implies an infinite regress [see fn 3 on p. 250].

  39. The Standard Means of Knowledge (pramanas): • Perception • Inference • Verbal testimony (scripture) • Comparison (analogy) • Postulation • Valid non-perception Fn 1, p. 249

  40. Shankara vs. Buddhist Voidism Voidism is negated by all of the standard means of knowledge (pramanas). Text, 250

  41. Shankara’s final assessment of Buddhist philosophy Text, 250

  42. The End