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Re: SMS chari is in town

From: Mani Varadarajan (
Date: Mon Jul 10 1995 - 11:36:34 PDT

Krishna Kalale writes:
> incidentally he [S.M. Srinivasa Chari] is planning another
> text t00,, - Bramhasutras and a comparitive analysis of bhasyas of 
> Sankara Ramanuja and Madhva.  IT will be really great if he finishes that
> book. SS raghavachar wrote such a book but he feels that work has to be
> done more thoroughly since authors like THibaut have made powerful statements
> which are misleading - such as " the sutras seem to go towards Sri Ramanuja
> and the upanishads seem to side shankara" - this is quite a damaging statement
> both for advaita and visistadvaita!!.

I recently reread what George Thibaut says concerning this topic.
They occur in the course of his Introduction to his translation
of the Vedanta-Sutras, vol. 34 of the Sacred Books of the East
series, published at the turn of the century.

It seems to me that most Indians have misunderstood what Thibaut
has written.  He definitely says that an impartial analysis of 
the text of the Sutras will show that their philosophy is better
represented by Ramanuja's commentary than by Sankara's. He points
out several places where the latter's interpretations are
extremely forced.

Now to the Upanishads. Thibaut says that Sankara's doctrine
of maya and avidya cannot be found in the Upanishads at all.
He also thinks vivarta-vaada is also not found in the Upanishads,
whereas some form of pariNaama-vaada is, though not necessarily as 
presented by Ramanuja.

vivarta-vaada - the doctrine that the universe
                is a mere illusory superimposition on a unitive,
                non-differentiated Brahman

pariNaama-vaada - the universe is a real emanation of some
                  sort from Brahman

However, since he thinks that the Upanishads do not embody
one distinctive philosophy, an opinion shared by most Western
scholars, he thinks Sankara's distinction of a higher and lower
Brahman and two teachings is a most ingenious one and solves
many problems in Upanishadic interpretation.  In addition, he
thinks that Sankara's view of moksha, where the individuality
of the jIvaatma is lost in Brahman, better approaches the 
philosophy of the older Upanishads.  This latter argument is
powerfully presented and needs an adequate response from 

Note that it is only in these two respects that Sankara is
thought to be a better interpreter of the Upanishads. Moreover,
the first point is not a significant one, since Thibaut is
more impressed with Sankara as an original thinker than as
a faithful representative of Upanishadic philosophy.