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Thread: Adi Sankaracharya's Abrahamic Tendencies

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    Adi Sankaracharya's Abrahamic Tendencies

    These comments are from the 9th chapter of shrI Adi shankarAchArya's bhagavad-gItA commentary. In them, Adi shankarAchArya states his view that those who worship other devas do so out of ignorance, because they do not know that Vishnu is the only master of all yagnas. He clearly distinguishes between the result of worshiping Vishnu vs the result of worship of the devas, the latter involving the Southern Path and eventual return to the world of material activity. No doubt the AchArya is speaking from the viewpoint of vyavahArika-sat, since Advaita holds that Brahman only is real. But it remains interesting that, contrary to the views of popular neo-advaita, the founder of Advaita philosophy would acknowledge any sort of distinction between the worship of Sri Krishna and other devas.

    Is it possible that Adi shankarAchArya was influenced by Abrahamic religions which hold the worship of one god to be better than other gods? The mind reels with the shocking possibilities....


    23. Even those who, being devoted to other deities and endowed with faith, worship (them), they also, O son of Kunti, worship Me alone (though) following the wrong method.

    Api, even; ye, those who; anya-devata-bhaktah, being devoted to tother deities; and anvitah sraddhaya, endowed with faith; yajante, worship (them), te api, they also; O son of Kunti, yajanti, worship; mam, Me; eva, alone; (though) avidhi-purvakam, following the wrong method. Avidhi implies ignorance. So the idea is that they worship (Me) ignorantly.

    'How it is that they worship (Me) ignorantly?' [i.e. the worshippers of other deities worship them knowingly, and hence, how can the question of their ignorance arise?] This is being answered: Because-

    24. I indeed am the enjoyer as also the Lord of all sacrifices; but they do not know Me in reality. Therefore they fall.

    As the Self of the deities (of the sacrifices), aham, I; hi, indeed; am the bhokta, enjoyer; ca eva, as also; the prabhuh, Lord; [The Lord: 'I being the indwelling Ruler of all.'] sarva-yajnanam, of all sacrifices enjoined by the Vedas and the Smrtis. A sacrifice is verily presided over by Me, for it has been said earlier, 'I Myself am the entity (called Visnu) that exists in the sacrifice in this body' (8.4). Tu, but; na abhi-jananti, they do not know; mam, Me as such; tattvena, in reality. And atah, therefore, by worshipping ignorantly; te, they; cyavanti, fall from the result of the sacrifice. ['Although they perform sacrifices with great diligence, still just because they do not know Me real nature and do not offer the fruits of their sacrifices to Me, they proceed to the worlds of the respective deities through the Southern Path (beginning with smoke; see 8.25). Then, after the exhaustion of the results of those sacrifices and the falling of the respective bodies (assumed in those worlds) they return to the human world for rembodiment.'-M.S. (See also 9.20-1.)]

    The result of a sacrifice is inevitable even for those who worship ignorantly out of their devotion to other deities. How?

    25. Votaries of the gods reach the gods; the votarites of the manes go to the manes; the worshippers of the Beings reach the Beings; and those who worship Me reach Me.

    Deva-vratah, votaries of the gods, those whose religious observances [Making offerings and presents, circumambulation, bowing down, etc.] and devotion are directed to the gods; yanti, reach, go to; devan, the gods. Pitr-vratah, the votaries of the manes, those who are occupied with such rites as obsequies etc., who are devoted to the manes; go pitrn, to the manes such as Agnisvatta and others. Bhutejyah, the Beings such as Vinayaka, the group of Sixteen (divine) Mothers, the Four Sisters, and others. And madyajinah, those who worship Me, those who are given to worshipping Me, the devotees of Visnu; reach mam, Me alone. Although the effort (involved) is the same, still owing to ingorance they do not worship Me exclusively. Thereby they attain lesser results. This is the meaning.

    'Not only do My devotees get the everlasting result in the form of non-return (to this world), but My worship also is easy.'
    Philosoraptor

    "Wise men speak because they have something to say. Fools speak because they have to say something." - Plato

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    Re: Adi Sankaracharya's Abrahamic Tendencies

    Quote Originally Posted by philosoraptor View Post
    These comments are from the 9th chapter of shrI Adi shankarAchArya's bhagavad-gItA commentary. In them, Adi shankarAchArya states his view that those who worship other devas do so out of ignorance, because they do not know that Vishnu is the only master of all yagnas. He clearly distinguishes between the result of worshiping Vishnu vs the result of worship of the devas, the latter involving the Southern Path and eventual return to the world of material activity. No doubt the AchArya is speaking from the viewpoint of vyavahArika-sat, since Advaita holds that Brahman only is real. But it remains interesting that, contrary to the views of popular neo-advaita, the founder of Advaita philosophy would acknowledge any sort of distinction between the worship of Sri Krishna and other devas.

    Is it possible that Adi shankarAchArya was influenced by Abrahamic religions which hold the worship of one god to be better than other gods? The mind reels with the shocking possibilities....
    those who worship Me, those who are given to worshipping Me, the devotees of Visnu; reach mam, Me alone. Although the effort (involved) is the same, still owing to ingorance they do not worship Me exclusively. Thereby they attain lesser results. This is the meaning.
    Namaste,

    The words marked in blue are skeptical. though you are quoting that is quoted by Swami Gambhirananda, the english translation is a bit tempered.

    Since Shankaracharya would not have commented in English , we should also check for translation errors. Another reason why I do not like to read shastras in English.

    I have downloaded a copy in sanskrit to check the word whether Vishnu is written in sanskrit in either verses 9:23 and 9:24

    source:

    http://archive.org/details/SrimadBha...es-WlsPansikar

    EDIT: Go to page 441 - 442. (The actual page no printed is 432 and 433, but that page in pdf file is 441-442)
    EDIT2: For those interested, the file is 84.1 MB, PDF with Text. (My downloaded size is 88 MB. But it's working)

    I also checked hindi commentaries (of shankar bhasya) by some saints like Swami Ramsukhdasji (who was worshipper of bhagavan Ram), Sri Harikrishandas Goenka, Swami Chinmayananda, Swami Tejomayananda

    source: http://202.3.77.102/acquia/?q=node/27


    I did not find the name 'Vishnu'. but then, I do not know sanskrit, so it would be for the one who know them. I feel that in doubt, one should go to basics.

    Another catch is the word, 'other devatas'. As I understand, it means demi-gods and not Ishwara like Shiva, Brahma or Narayana. If you move to next verse 9:25, it may make things clear.

    The word Krushna is taken as implied, as Upadesha has been given by Krushna, but everytime, it says, Shri Bhagavan-uvacha and not Krushna-upvacha. In other Gita's like guru Gita, it says, Mahadevovacha (mahadev-uvacha) and parvatyovacha (parvati-upvacha).

    Again, 'Me', may be taken as Brahman, formless attribute of God and not Krushna, since it is advaita. Just like there is nothing wrong is saying that everything is going to Krushna, so there is nothing wrong (of Advaita POV) that everything is going to Brahman.

    Unless and until we accept both sides of coin, we will not be in peace.

    Both formless (nirguna) and god with form (saguna) brahman has to be accepted. Accepting one and rejecting other will be like wanting fire but not it's warmth and vice versa.

    The only difference in approach is that only one is stressed, other has to be experienced.

    e.g.
    Brahma Satya Jagat Mithya
    sarvam khalu-idam-brahman

    idam = this i.e. what ever you see.

    So everything you see is also brahman.

    the only thing is that one may not see Krushna (as person) everywhere, but maya or energy, and may realize that all forms of Ishwara are manifestations of same divinity. So, to me, dis-respecting any form of Ishwara is out of question.

    I am not a sanskrit scholar. So these views are from my limited understanding.

    As i am living in society, I feel it is better to respect all faith and all approaches, as they lead to God, but practice only one, as decided by your guru.

    Best is to start walking then just keep talking.

    fighting over an issue like bhakti is supreme and jnana is supreme will not result into the victory of either bhakti or Jnana, it will be the victory of Ego (mine or yours). In that case, for me, it is the death of (my) spirituality.

    Incase of doubt, I contact my Guru and strongly pray to God to show correct path.

    Aum
    Indiaspirituality
    Last edited by Amrut; 26 February 2013 at 09:14 AM.
    Only God Is Truth, Everything Else Is Illusion - Ramakrishna
    Total Surrender of Ego to SELF is Real Bhakti - Ramana Maharshi

    Silence is the study of the scruptures. Meditation is the continuous thinking of Brahman which is to be meditated upon. The complete negation of both by knowledge is the vision of truth – sadAcAra-14 of Adi SankarAcArya

    namah SivAya vishnurUpAya viShNave SivarUpiNe, MBh, vanaparva, 3.39.76

    Sanskrit Dict | MW Dict | Gita Super Site | Hindu Dharma

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    Re: Adi Sankaracharya's Abrahamic Tendencies

    Namaste Phil,

    Let me share a few things here on this issue :

    a) Saying that Vishnu is Brahman is not being Abrahimic but saying that all other forms/names e,g, Shiva who are worshipped as God are demi-god and inferior God or a false God is. He doesn't say that "Shiva, Durga, Ganesha" etc. are those "anya devatAs which is referred to in these verses.

    b) I have Sanskrit version of Bhagwad Gita Bhasya written by Shankara published by Gita Press. It doesn’t mention Vishnu at all. In fact, the translation that you have quoted is somewhat different from the exact version of Shankara. I suggest that as you are yourself a great Sanskrit scholar (as you indirectly claim), there is no point in reading second hand translations available on the Internet.

    c) I have no objection, if you feel that Shankaracharya was actually a Vaishnava. By doing so, you will not be attacking him any more. A great respite for this great saint. However, we cannot ignore what Shankara means by the words Vishnu and NArAyaNa and also in what context this has been stated :

    i) For Shankara all adjuncts are unreal and imposed on Self. For him, NArAyaNa is Self (please see Sanskrit version of previous verse i.e. BG 9.22). So, worshipping Narayana is akin to worshipping Self/Brahman. In fact, Shankara describes in another place, the meaning of the word, "Vishnu" as "The Power of the Supreme Being that has entered the universe. The root viś means 'enter into" ... so, that who has entered into everything is Vishnu”.

    ii) While accepting NArAyANa as the Self, he nowhere says that other devatAs like Shiva etc. who are worshipped as Supreme God are actually demi-Gods.

    iii) The correct translation of Sanskrit version of BG 9.23-24 Shankara is given below :

    “ Whosoever bhaktAs of other devAs, having bhakti towards other devAs, with proper devotion, with Astikya Buddhi worship them, O’ Kaunteya, they worship me alone avidhipurvakam. Avidhi means “AjnAnam” i.e. ignorance and therefore they worship me with AjnAna. That is the meaning.”9.23

    “How is their worship “avidhipurvakam” ? For that He (God) says – I alone am bhoktA and Lord of all Yajnas performed by the SmArtAs and the ShrautAs as the Self of all devatAs of Yajnas. I alone am the Lord of all Yajnas has been stated in the verse “AdhiyajnoahamevAtra” too. However, those ignorant ones don’t know me exactly as I am. Therefore, by doing worship avidhipurvakam, they fall from the real result of the Yajnas i.e. they fall.” BG 9.24

    ===> Let’s mark here that Avidhi has been explained by Shankara as “AjnAna” i.e. lack of knowledge of the reality. The reality as taught by Shankara is that Brahman alone is real and all names and forms are mithya. So, if Brahman/Self is worshipped without that JnAna it is avidhipurvakam. Moreover, NArAyANa has been already described by Shankara as the Self and also Self of the celestial beings i.e. devatAs. Not seeing God in this way is AjnAna.

    It has to be understood that we cannot interpret Shankara by reading one verse-bhasya in isolation. We must consider what he says elsewhere. Moreover, the context in which something is being said has to be kept in mind. Bhagwad Gita is Lord Krishna’s scripture where He alone is the supreme and therefore, it has to be interpreted keeping that context in mind. However, in spite of that Shankara has already said what NArAyaNa (Krishna) means to him.

    The devatAs has been described by Advaitins as celestial beings who have super natural powers for running the world. However, when one sees a particular form of devatA as Supreme God, he doesn’t see Him in that way i.e. he sees that form/name as supreme ... because name and form are superimposed adjuncts on the reality. For doing a vidhipurvak worship, he must have JnAna i.e. the knowledge of the reality. This is what Shankara means.

    OM
    "Om Namo Bhagvate Vaasudevaye"

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    Re: Adi Sankaracharya's Abrahamic Tendencies

    Quote Originally Posted by devotee View Post

    ===> Let’s mark here that Avidhi has been explained by Shankara as “AjnAna” i.e. lack of knowledge of the reality. The reality as taught by Shankara is that Brahman alone is real and all names and forms are mithya. So, if Brahman/Self is worshipped without that JnAna it is avidhipurvakam. Moreover, NArAyANa has been already described by Shankara as the Self and also Self of the celestial beings i.e. devatAs. Not seeing God in this way is AjnAna.
    The devatAs has been described by Advaitins as celestial beings who have super natural powers for running the world. However, when one sees a particular form of devatA as Supreme God, he doesn’t see Him in that way i.e. he sees that form/name as supreme ... because name and form are superimposed adjuncts on the reality. For doing a vidhipurvak worship, he must have JnAna i.e. the knowledge of the reality. This is what Shankara means.
    As I understand, devas (demi-Gods) are higher race than human race. i.e. there is dev-yoni. It is like saying that to see the formless into a form, just like we are told to see God inside Idol, and do not treat it just as an idol. We try to superimpose jada over chaiyanta (chetan tatva), whereas opposite should be done. Just like we can see God in everything, so why not in human and even Devas. One only sees Brahman in Jnana-DruShTi (DriShTi), as everything is made of Brahman. by the power of Brahman


    It has to be understood that we cannot interpret Shankara by reading one verse-bhasya in isolation. We must consider what he says elsewhere. Moreover, the context in which something is being said has to be kept in mind. Bhagwad Gita is Lord Krishna’s scripture where He alone is the supreme and therefore, it has to be interpreted keeping that context in mind. However, in spite of that Shankara has already said what NArAyaNa (Krishna) means to him.
    This is an important point. I feel this point should be considered while understanding scriptures.

    Aum
    Indiaspirituality
    Only God Is Truth, Everything Else Is Illusion - Ramakrishna
    Total Surrender of Ego to SELF is Real Bhakti - Ramana Maharshi

    Silence is the study of the scruptures. Meditation is the continuous thinking of Brahman which is to be meditated upon. The complete negation of both by knowledge is the vision of truth – sadAcAra-14 of Adi SankarAcArya

    namah SivAya vishnurUpAya viShNave SivarUpiNe, MBh, vanaparva, 3.39.76

    Sanskrit Dict | MW Dict | Gita Super Site | Hindu Dharma

  5. #5

    Re: Adi Sankaracharya's Abrahamic Tendencies

    Quote Originally Posted by Indiaspirituality View Post
    Namaste,

    The words marked in blue are skeptical. though you are quoting that is quoted by Swami Gambhirananda, the english translation is a bit tempered.
    Pranams. Swami Gambhirananda belongs to the Advaita Ashram, and so I do not think one can accuse him of sectarian bias, if one believes Advaita to be non-sectarian.

    Since Shankaracharya would not have commented in English , we should also check for translation errors. Another reason why I do not like to read shastras in English.

    I have downloaded a copy in sanskrit to check the word whether Vishnu is written in sanskrit in either verses 9:23 and 9:24

    source:

    http://archive.org/details/SrimadBha...es-WlsPansikar

    EDIT: Go to page 441 - 442. (The actual page no printed is 432 and 433, but that page in pdf file is 441-442)
    The pdf is not loading, probably because of its size. However, I can tell you that A.G. Warrier translates his commentary in the same way. By the way, I have a translation of the commentary of madhusUdhana sarasvatI, also an advaitin, and Swami Gambhirananda translates it the same way.

    Whether "devotees of Vishnu" is there or some pronoun indicating the same, it does not change the fact that he/they are clearly distinguishing between devotees of the gItA's speaker, and devotees of other devas, as the gItA itself is doing. Krishna is clearly stated to be the enjoyer of all sacrifices, while such a claim is explicitly denied for other devas. Hence - "Abrahamic" fanaticism, as per the guidelines spelled out by certain learned members of this forum.

    I also checked hindi commentaries (of shankar bhasya) by some saints like Swami Ramsukhdasji (who was worshipper of bhagavan Ram), Sri Harikrishandas Goenka, Swami Chinmayananda, Swami Tejomayananda
    All of whom are of course, biased in favor of Neo-Advaitic paradigms of thinking, and thus not exactly reliable in this context. In particular, I have noticed a tendency of some like Chinmayananda to comment on the gItA in manner quite different from Adi shankarAchArya.

    Another catch is the word, 'other devatas'. As I understand, it means demi-gods and not Ishwara like Shiva, Brahma or Narayana. If you move to next verse 9:25, it may make things clear.
    That may be your opinion, and it possibly might be Adi shankara's as well, but he does not say that here, and so without any explicit confirmation we have no proof. In any case, even if we grant that shankara equates nArAyaNa to shiva and brahmA, he still clearly does not equate any of them to other devas like indra, agni, and so on. Hence, Abrahamic exclusivism. After all, devotees of indra, agni, et. al. will feel offended, and rightly so. Don't you agree?

    The word Krushna is taken as implied, as Upadesha has been given by Krushna, but everytime, it says, Shri Bhagavan-uvacha and not Krushna-upvacha. In other Gita's like guru Gita, it says, Mahadevovacha (mahadev-uvacha) and parvatyovacha (parvati-upvacha).
    "mahAdeva" is not an epithet exclusive to shiva. But even if it were, your argument is irrelevant. There is no evidence in the bhagavad-gItA to suggest that the speaker is anyone other than shrI kRiShNa, so to argue that kRiShNa = shiva because you believe it to be so is ipse dixit logic.

    Again, 'Me', may be taken as Brahman, formless attribute of God and not Krushna, since it is advaita. Just like there is nothing wrong is saying that everything is going to Krushna, so there is nothing wrong (of Advaita POV) that everything is going to Brahman.
    But that still does not explain why Krishna differentiates His worship from worship of the devas. If your point of view is correct, then worship of any deva should get the same result. This would have been the place for Adi shankarAchArya to comment in that way, but he does not do so. In conclusion, you may believe that, but Adi shankarAchArya does not. Hence, he is one of those troublesome exclusivists who, in the learned words of another forum member, might be "more fit for Abrahamic religions."

    The rest of your comments deleted, as the subject here is what Adi shankarAchArya has written, and not what you believe him to have written.

    regards,
    Philosoraptor

    "Wise men speak because they have something to say. Fools speak because they have to say something." - Plato

  6. #6

    Re: Adi Sankaracharya's Abrahamic Tendencies

    pranams,

    I would now like to post shrI Adi shankarAchArya's comments on kenopaniShad, specifically the third section in which the devas are shown to be dependent on brahman.

    In mantra 3.1: "The Brahman won a victory of the Devas in that victory of the Brahman the Devas attained glory. They thought 'the victory is ours and this glory is ours alone.'"

    Commentary of Adi shankarAchArya, translated by S. Sitarama Sastry:

    "the subsequent passages clearly show the folly of thinking that that Brahman, who is controller of all in every way, even superior to all Devas, Lord over lords, not easily known, the cause of the victory of the Devas and of the defeat of the Asuras does not exist. Or (it is related) for eulogising the knowledge of Brahman. How? By showing that it was, indeed, by the knowledge of the Brahman that Agni, etc. attained pre-eminence among the Devas; and Indra specially more than the rest. Or, it shows how difficult it is to know Brahman, because even Agni, etc with all their great powers, and even Indra, lord of the Devas knew the Brahman only with considerable difficulty. It may be that the whole Upanishad to follow is intended to lay down an injunction (to know the Brahman) or the story may have been intended to show the fallacious nature of the notion of doer, etc., found in all living beings, by contrasting it with the knowledge of the Brahman - fallacious like the notion of the Devas that the victory was theirs. The Brahman already defined won a victory for the benefit of the Devas; i.e. the Brahman in a battle between the Devas and the Asuras defeated the Asuras, the enemies of the world and the violaters of the limitations imposed by the Lord and gave the benefit of the victory to the Devas for the preservation of the world. In this victory of Brahman, the Devas, Agni, etc, attained glory, and not knowing that the victory and glory belonged to the Paramatman, seated in their own Atman, the witness of all perceptions, Lord of the universe, omniscient, the dispenser of the fruits of all Karma, omnipotent, and desirous of securing the safety of the world, looked upon the victgory and the glory, as achieved by themselves - the Atman enclosed with the limitations of their own forms, Agni, etc; that the glory - their being Agni, Vayu, Indra and the like, resulting from the victory - was theirs and that neither the victory nor the glory belonged to the Lord, over all the Atman within them. So they cherished this false notion."

    Analysis: Here, Adi shankarAchArya makes comments that will likely be offensive to devotees of Indra, Agni, or Vayu. He differentiates these devas from Brahman by saying that the Brahman is the Paramatma within the Atma-s who are the devas. He also indicates that these devas could not have achieved their victory without Brahman, and criticizes the notion that they could have done so as fallacious. Adi shankara may not be aware that in "Hinduism," we accept all devas and Brahman as EQUAL. There is no difference between worship of one deva or another deva, and trying to argue that any deva is not Brahman is going to be offensive to followers of that deva. It appears, once again, that Adi shankarAchArya is, in the words of some learned members, more fit for an "Abrahamic religion."
    Philosoraptor

    "Wise men speak because they have something to say. Fools speak because they have to say something." - Plato

  7. #7

    Re: Adi Sankaracharya's Abrahamic Tendencies

    Philosoraptor

    why don't you compose a verse on the likes of Bhaja Govindam and then bestow us with the gyaan you have obtained by yourself? And not by reading some Abrahamic's commentaries.

    We wait with bated breath. All the best!
    Last edited by ShriBala; 25 February 2013 at 12:17 PM.

  8. #8

    Re: Adi Sankaracharya's Abrahamic Tendencies

    Quote Originally Posted by ShriBala View Post
    Philosoraptor


    why don't you compose a verse on the likes of Bhaja Govindam and then bestow us with the gyaan you have obtained?

    Until then, you are less worthy than the dust stepped on by Shri Ramanuja, Shri Shankara and other great acharyas.
    A statement uncalled for. He is simply pointing out inconsistencies in some people's understanding of Advaita and there is nothing wrong with that.
    http://lokayata.info
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  9. #9

    Re: Adi Sankaracharya's Abrahamic Tendencies

    The way he is pointing it out is plain rabble rousing. There's everything wrong with that.

  10. #10
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    Re: Adi Sankaracharya's Abrahamic Tendencies

    why don't you compose a verse on the likes of Bhaja Govindam and then bestow us with the gyaan you have obtained by yourself? And not by reading some Abrahamic's commentaries.

    Until then, you are less worthy than the dust stepped on by Shri Ramanuja, Shri Shankara and other great acharyas.
    There have been devotees who wanted to be the Lord's stepping stone in his altar (for devotees to step on) so there is nothing wrong with that.

    Scholarship might evolve into great and dedicated bhakti too..
    jai hanuman gyan gun sagar jai kapis tihu lok ujagar

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