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The Mandukya Upanisad And The Agama Sastra: An Investigation Into the Meaning of The Vedanta


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The Mandukya Upanisad And The Agama Sastra: An Investigation Into the Meaning of The Vedanta

The Mandukya Upanisad And The Agama Sastra: An Investigation Into the Meaning of The Vedanta

Código del Artículo: NAC100

por Thomas E. Wood

Hardcover (Edición: 1992)

Motilal Banarsidass Publishers
ISBN 8120809300

Tamaño: 9.0 inch X 5.5 inch
Páginas: 254
Weight of the Book: 400 gms

Precio: Euro 15.25

From the Jacket

The mandukya Upanisad and the agama Sastra are two of India’s most important philosophical and religious texts. The present monograph challenges many of present monograph challenges many of the interpretations of these texts which have been favored by the Samkara school and by most modern scholarship.

According to the commonly accepted view the Mandukya asserts that the world is unreal. Furthermore it is generally held that the agama Sastra the first chapter of which is the oldest extent commentary on the Mandukya was written in its entirety by Gaudpada tradition who was the first teacher in the Vedantic tradition to unequivocally endorse the illusionstic (Mayavada) Interpretation of the Upanisads.

The author contends that a careful analysis of the Mandukya and the earlier and later Upanisads does not for the most part support the Mayavada interpretation of the Mandukya. Furthermore virtually every element of the commonly accepted interpretation of the agama sastra is challenged in this work as well.

The monograph concludes with a philosophical analysis of the Mandukyua. Dr. Wood argues that the Mandukya and the verses which can be attributed to Gaudapada on the basis of the oldest and best authenticated texts support a non dualist interpretation but one in which the world is real rather than unreal.

About the Author

Thomas Wood received his B.A. and Ph.D. in philosophy from the university of California of Berkeley.

He has taught western and Eastern philosophy at the California state University at Fresno and at the state University of New York at New Paltz. He is currently an adjunct professor at the California institute of integral Studies San Francisco.

He is also the author of Mind Only A philosophical and doctrinal analysis of the vijnanavada (University of Hawaii Press 1991).


The Upanisads are the concluding texts of the body of religious literature in india called the Vedas. They are the root texts of the Vedanta which literally means the end or culmination of the Vedas.

The Mandukya Upanisad itself is one of the classical (pre samkara) Upanisads. It is not known when or by whom it was written but since it predates Samkara it must have been written sometime before the latter part of the 8th century C.E. or even before the 7th century C.E. depending on how one dates Samkara himself.

Despite its exceptional brevity the Mandukya is an important Upanisad because it is a compendium of the teachings of some of the classical Upanisads that predate it. It is also important because it has played a very important role in the history of the Samkara or nondual (Advaita) school of the Vedanta. To a large extent this is due to the close connection that has existed historically between the Mandukya and another work known as the Agama sastra also called the verses of Gaudapada (Gaudapadiya-karika) after the man about whom we know very little who is though to have been its author.

Although it can be shown that the Mandukya is an independent text it is not unusually found as an independent text in the Sanskrit manuscripts themselves. In most cases the Mandukya is found embedded within twenty nine memorial verses which form a commentary on it a fact which considerably complicates the task of purposely interpreting the Mandukya itself. To complicate matters further the Mandukya and these twenty nine karias are often found in the manuscripts as merely the first of four prakaranas (treatises chapters) of the aforementioned work the Agama sastra. When the Mandukya and the twenty nine commentarial verses are associated with these other three treatises or chapters they are often referred to together as the Agama prakarana i.e. as the agamic chapter or treatise of the work called the agama sastra.

The Samkara school includes Gaudapada the reputed author of the Agama Sastra in its lineage of teachers. According to its traditions Gaudapada was the teacher of a man named Govindapadacarya who in turn was the guru of Samkara. These traditions also assert that the Agama-sastra—vivarana, the oldest and most important commentary on the Agama-sastra - was writ-ten by Adi Samkara himself.

For the most part, modern scholarship has accepted both parts of this tradition. It has also accepted, by and large, the Samkara school’s interpretation of the Mandukya and the Agama-sastra.

According to the Samkara or advaita school of the Vedanta, the world is an illusion (maya), and only the non dual absolute (Brahman) is real. This school draws a sharp distinction, not only between Brahman and the world, but also between Brahman and God (isvara). According to Samkara, God is just as real as the world itself is but no more: i.e., God is phenomenally real but ultimately unreal. This school does not reject the theism of the Vedas and the Vedanta, but it holds that isvara belongs only to the purely phenomenal realm (prapanca). Consequently, the doctrine of the Samkara school can be said to be a theistic one only at the level of phenomenal or relative truth.

The radical nature of this teaching is nowhere more apparent than when it is applied to the Mandukya. This Upanisad is essentially an epitome or compendium of the teachings of the earlier Upanisads, expressed in terms of the doctrine of the four states of the self: waking, dreaming, sleeping and an absolute state of the self which is called simply the fourth (caturtha).

Where would God fit into this Upanisadic doctrine of the four states of the self? Since the Samkara school holds that God has only a phenomenal reality, it cannot assign God (isvara) to the fourth or absolute state of the self. Instead, it associates isvara with the third (triiya) state of the self, i.e. with the state of deep sleep, which is held to be a state of ignorance, or rather the very root of ignorance.(Since the Samkara school’s interpretation of the Mandukya associates the trtiya, or third state of the self, with isvara, I refer to it as the TI interpretation.) The TI interpretation of the Mandukya is in sharp contrast with another possible interpretation of the Upanisad, which associates isvara with the fourth (caturtha) or absolute state of the self (and which I therefore call the IC interpretation of the Mandukya).

The Samkara school’s interpretation of the Mandukya raises some serious philosophical questions (some of which I address in the last chapter of the present work), but it also raises interpretational and historical problems as well.

One of the problems, as I argue in Chapters 1 and 2 of Part I, is that the Agama-prakarana (the first part of the Agama-sastra) and the Upanisads which postdate the Mandukya do not unequivocally support the TI interpretation of the four states of the self. The same point is made in Chapter 3 about a number of other medieval commentaries and treatises which have something to say, directly or indirectly, about the interpretation of the Mandukya.

The strongest evidence against the TI interpretation, however, is found in Upanisads that predate the Mandukya or were roughly contemporaneous with it. Chapters 4 and 5 show that earlier Upanisads clearly favor the IC interpretation of the Mandukya, and Chapter 6 makes the same point about the Maitri Upanisad, a late classical Upanisad which was probably written about the same time as the Mandukya.

These results raise a number of historical, textual and doctrinal problems connected with the authorship of the Agamasastra and its most important commentary, the Agama—sastra—vivarana. The chapters of Part II focus more directly on these problems. My conclusions on these matters are largely opposed to the prevailing scholarly views and the traditions of the Samkara school.

First, I argue that the Agamasastra itself is a quartet of treatises, rather than a single work in four chapters (Chapter 9).Secondly, I argue that the Agamasastra (including the Agama—prakarana) was probably not written by the paramaguru of Samkara (Chapters 7-8, 11-12). Thirdly, I argue that Samkara was not the author of the Agama-sastra-vivarana (Chapter 10). Chapter13 then presents a new theory about the authorship of the Agama-sastra, the Agamasastra-vivarana and the history of the TI interpretation of the Mandukya which I feel is more plausible than the traditional and commonly received view.

I conclude the monograph in Chapter 14 of Part III with a discussion of the philosophy which I believe underlies the Mandukya. My interpretation of the philosophy of the Mandukya is based on the IC interpretation of the Upanisad. I do not attempt to defend this philosophical doctrine directly, but I do argue that it is a different doctrine — and philosophically a more tenable doctrine than the maya doctrine of the Samkara school which has been superimposed on it.

The Appendix contains translations of the Mandukya and the four Prakaranas of the Agama sastra the Agama Prakarana the Vaitathya prakarana the Advaita prakarana and the Alata Santi Prakarana. A glossary of some important Sanskrit terms has also been provided.



Introduction xiii

Part I

IThe Mandukya and the Agama Sastra1
IIThe Mandukya and the later Upanisads 41
IIITwo Conflicting interpretations of the Mandukya in some medieval treatises 47
IVThe Mandukya and the Chandogya Upanisad57
VThe Mandukya and the Brhad Aranyaka Upanisad 61
VIThe Mandukya and the Maitri Upanisad 67

Part II

VIIThe Alata Santi Prakarana of the Agama sastra71
VIIIThe Alata santi prakarana and the traditions of the samkara school concerning the agama sastra83
IXThe Agama Sastra as a quartet of independent treatises 89
XWas Samkara the author of the Agama sastra vivarana97
XIWhat we Know about Gaudapada from the Oldest available sources 113
XIIOther textual evidence which has been adduceded in support of the Samkara school’s traditions about Gaudapada 127
XIIIA New theory about Gaudapada and the author ship of the Agama Sastra and the Agama sastra Vivarana 137
XIVThe Philosophy of the Mandukya 149

Appendixes(Transliterated Sanskrit texts)

Mandukyopanisad 165

Agama Prakarana 167

Vaitathya Prakarana 171

Advaita Prakarana 175

Alata Santi Prakarana 181

Notes 193

Glossary 223

Bibliography 231

Index 241


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