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A History of Indian Philosophy, Volume 1

But with regard to the S'unyavada


The

above is only a list of some of the most important Vedanta works on which the present chapter has been based.

Vedanta in Gau@dapada.

It is useless I think to attempt to bring out the meaning of the Vedanta thought as contained in the _Brahma-sutras_ without making any reference to the commentary of S'a@nkara or any other commentator. There is reason to believe that the _Brahma-sutras_ were first commented upon by some Vai@s@nava writers who held some form of modified dualism [Footnote ref 1]. There have been more than a half dozen Vai@s@nava commentators of the _Brahma-sutras_ who not only differed from S'a@nkara's interpretation, but also differed largely amongst themselves in accordance with the different degrees of stress they laid on the different aspects of their dualistic creeds. Every one of them claimed that his interpretation was the only one that was faithful to the sutras and to

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[Footnote 1: This point will be dealt with in the 2nd volume, when I shall deal with the systems expounded by the Vai@s@nava commentators of the _Brahma-sutras_.]

421

the Upani@sads. Should I attempt to give an interpretation myself and claim that to be the right one, it would be only

just one additional view. But however that may be, I am myself inclined to believe that the dualistic interpretations of the _Brahma-sutras_ were probably more faithful to the sutras than the interpretations of S'ankara.

The _S'rimadbhagavadgita_, which itself was a work of the Ekanti (singularistic) Vai@s@navas, mentions the _Brahma-sutras_ as having the same purport as its own, giving cogent reasons [Footnote ref 1]. Professor Jacobi in discussing the date of the philosophical sutras of the Hindus has shown that the references to Buddhism found in the _Brahma-sutras_ are not with regard to the Vijnana-vada of Vasubandhu, but with regard to the S'unyavada, but he regards the composition of the _Brahma-sutras_ to be later than Nagarjuna. I agree with the late Dr S.C. Vidyabhu@shana in holding that both the Yogacara system and the system of Nagarjuna evolved from the _Prajnaparamita_ [Footnote ref 2]. Nagarjuna's merit consisted in the dialectical form of his arguments in support of S'unyavada; but so far as the essentials of S'unyavada are concerned I believe that the Tathata philosophy of As'vagho@sa and the philosophy of the _Prajnaparamita_ contained no less. There is no reason to suppose that the works of Nagarjuna were better known to the Hindu writers than the _Mahayana sutras_. Even in such later times as that of Vacaspati Mis'ra, we find him quoting a passage of the _S'alistambha sutra_ to give an account of the Buddhist doctrine of pratityasamutpada [Footnote ref 3]. We could interpret any reference to S'unyavada as pointing to Nagarjuna only if his special phraseology or dialectical methods were referred to in any way. On the other hand, the reference in the _Bhagavadgita_ to the _Brahma-sutras_ clearly points out a date prior to that of Nagarjuna; though we may be slow to believe such an early date as has been assigned to the _Bhagavadgita_ by Telang, yet I suppose that its date could safely be placed so far back as the first half of the first century B.C. or the last part of the second century B.C. The _Brahma-sutras_ could thus be placed slightly earlier than the date of the _Bhagavadgita_.

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[Footnote 1: "Brahmasutrapadais'caiva hetumadbhirvinis'cita@h" _Bhagavadgita_. The proofs in support of the view that the _Bhagavadgita_ is a Vai@s@nava work will be discussed in the 2nd volume of the present work in the section on _Bhagavadgita_ and its philosophy.]


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