‘Being’ is the spine that holds-up Advaitha Vedantha.
Advaitha Vedantha and C’han-Zen both go back actively at least 1,500 years. There are others, but none with such illustrious, lengthy lineages.
Vedantha is arguably the most influential school within the vast campus of the ‘Mother-Tradition’ [Hinduism].
Prasthana Traya, literally, ‘the three origins’ [of formal Dharmic doctrine] is reference to the Upaniṣads, the Bhagavad-Gita, and Badarayana’s Brahma-Sutra. Any serious commentary was expected to cover all three as a display of expressive virtuosity and comprehension depth.
Vedantha’s formal origins are in the Ajātivāda of Gaudapada itself drawn from the Prajna-Paramitha texts in which Gaudapada was schooled. And the determining influence of the emerging Buddhist Teachings is evident in his opus, the Gaudapada Karika:
‘Uttama Satya [the highest truth] is …[the realization] that there is neither dissolution nor creation, neither bondage nor liberation, no one seeking liberation, no one attaining liberation.‘
Gaudapada’s immediate disciple is listed as Govindapada who is considered the direct teacher of Shankaracharya who in his famously lucid Sanskrit reformulated the idea of Brahman and its articulation for the then modern ear as Advaitha-Vedantha, the ‘Doctrine of the Non-Dual’, a term embedded in Yājñavalkya’s Dialogues.
Shankaracharya plants his intellectual roots firmly in Yājñavalkya the founding sage, and his awakening to the ‘Inner-Controller’ [Atman].
And from there he traces down through the dominant scholar-scribes of the mainstream tradition. Asmarathya and Kasakrtsna, the scholar Badarayana [who authored the Brahma-Sutras, circa 200 BCE] and Upavarsha.
Shankaracharya’s language, descended in the direct lineage of Gaudapada, and Govindapada, was transparent in displaying its intellectual roots.
To anyone familiar with the Texts, it is certain that Nirguna-Brahman is a renaming of Śūnyathā. A re-appropriation of a truant back into the orthodox fold of Vedic exegesis. The very title to the tradition [Advaitha, Advayadharma] has it’s roots in the wide usage given it in the Prajna-Paramita commentaries.
Shankaracharya never explored the dimensions of this newly discovered land. In fact he chose not to visit it. He kept the divide of Purusha-Prakriti, firmly in place but had it significantly slimmed down.
Brahman, from the root ‘Brh‘, ‘to pour forth’, is a principal posit of the Vedas, synonymous with Ātman and ‘That’. And it had over the centuries, and in true and feisty Hindu spirit, accumulated a plethora of new garments, capricious add-ons and convenient re-sizings.
In the layout of Advaitha Vedantha this ‘Inner Controller’ terminus becomes the ‘Original Inner, Immaculate ‘Self”. A ‘Witnessing Being’.
So it is that Shankaracharya would declare in his seminal Gita Bhashya: ‘Atman is the ‘Knower of the Field’ [Kshetragnana]: the Witness of the three states of Waking, Dreaming and Sleep.’
And in his Vivekachudamani: ‘A liberated Being is one who sees himself as single and the witness…of the world of things…the substratum of all‘.
Shankaracharya’s Brahman as an ‘Inner Controller’, the ‘Substratum of all’. itself over-laid in multiple obscuring illusory sheaths [Koshas]. Man is already Fallen and must find his fulfillment in Release [Moksha].
The circle is yet to be rounded. The self-scuttle is stopped-short. Shūnyam remains unsighted.