Being: Śaṅkarācārya And Vedantha

‘Being’ is at the heart of ‘Advaitha Vedantha‘.


[Advaitha] Vedantha  is arguably the most influential school within the vast campus of the ‘Mother-Tradition’ [Hinduism] going back 1,500 years. There are others, but none with such an illustrious, lengthy lineage.

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.

But it was Śaṅkarācārya [around 700 CE] 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’, the dominant school of Intellectual Hinduism.

Śaṅkarācārya’s language was transparent in its sources, its intellectual roots planted firmly in Yājñavalkya the founding sage’s articulation of Atman. To anyone familiar with the Texts, it is certain that Nirguna-Brahman is a renaming of Shūnyam.

In the layout of Vedantha this terminus becomes a ‘Witnessing Being’. The ‘Original Inner, Immaculate ‘Self”.

So it is that Śaṅkarācārya 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‘.

Śaṅkarācārya’s Brahman is an ‘Inner Controller’, over-laid in multiple obscuring illusory sheaths [Koshas]. And this ‘True Self’ becomes the central truth of Vedanthic inquiry.

Śaṅkarācārya’s age saw a sharp rise in the popularity of the Buddha Dharma and his Nirguna-Brahman is a re-appropriation of a truant back into the orthodox fold of Vedic exegesis.

Śaṅkarācārya 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.

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