Refutation or dialogue? Śaṃkara’s treatment of the Bhāgavatas

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Abstract

The second pāda of the second adhyāya of the Brahma-sūtras is primarily concerned with the refutation of opponents to Vedānta, in the views of most commentators. In his Advaitin commentary, Śaṃkara c.700 A.D., makes this crystal clear in his vocabulary of rejection, invalidity and so forth. Even where he accepts that some of the opponent’s views may be acceptable, he is categorical in his rejection of what is incompatible with his Advaitin view. Under such circumstances, is it even possible to consider these arguments as ‘dialogues’? In this paper, I re-examine Śaṃkara’s approach to the Bhāgavatas in the light of work on Pāncarātra texts by Colas, Rastelli, Bock-Raming and others. Beginning with Brahma-sūtra-bhāṣya 2.2.42-45, but considering this material in
the light of Śaṃkara’s broader corpus too, I argue that Śaṃkara is indeed
conducting a dialogue with different Vaiṣṇavas, not simply refuting them, in the context of contemporary brahminical repositionings. I go on to identify the group he addresses as akin to the brahminical Sātvatas mentioned in the Jayākhyā-Saṃhitā and suggest a pedagogical reason for his unusual engagement with them. Finally I suggest on the basis of a career's study of Śaṃkara why it was that he, an Advaitin, counter-intuitively included the Bhagavad Gītā in the so-called triple canon on which subsequent Vedāntins were required to comment.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIn Dialogue with Classical Indian Traditions
Subtitle of host publicationEncounter, transformation and interpretation
EditorsBrian Black, Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad
Place of PublicationNew York & London
PublisherRoutledge
Chapter3
Pages51-65
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-351-01113-6
ISBN (Print)978-1-138-54139-9
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Publication series

NameRoutledge Dialogues in South Asian Traditions: Religion, Philosophy, Literature and History series
PublisherRoutledge USA and UK