The Self-Loop As Folk Tale


Here is a popular Folk-Tale more telling than any dissertation stored in a University Library.

A skeptical prince who was a pupil of Shankaracharya decided to test his teacher. Once when the illustrious scholar was walking up the royal pathway to the palace, the prince unleashed an elephant from the army stables directly onto Shankara’s path.

The Brahmin, not known for valor of this sort, proceeded to climb up the nearest tree. The prince approached the teacher, bowed respectfully and inquired as to why he had climbed the tree, since according to his own teaching all, including the approaching elephant, was illusion.

‘Indeed’ said Shankara ‘the elephant was unreal, but so was your presumption that there was a me, climbing a tree.’

Like Immanuel Kant later, Shankaracharya was clearly alert to the Self-Loop and it’s remorseless drive past all conventional sensibility. But he was unwilling to confront it head-on and in his formulation of Advaitha Vedantha he chooses instead to ignore it.

Where did Advaitha Vedantha go off-track? Yājñavalkya’s Rule has been kept linear. The self-scuttling disconnects before the final, fatal thrust.

All this is the unburnt remains of a modeled-world inadequately put to flame. The self-negation is incomplete. And the placement of ‘Being’, a steel spine, is needed to hold up the entire structure.

I wince when I  visit a Shankara Monastery, 1,500 years after its founding, and find bright, earnest Brahmin boys, whose role is the arrival and articulation of Brahman, perfecting instead the rounding of the rolled rice-ball.

Shankaracharya’s age saw a sharp rise in the popularity of the Buddha Dharma and to anyone familiar with the texts, it is certain that Nirguna-Brahman is a re-appropriation of a truant back into the orthodox fold of Vedic exegesis. Shankaracharya was right in his intuition but he was reclaiming it back for the wrong reason. The right reason would yield a proper rounding of Yājñavalkya’s Rule. And terminate at Shūnyam.