The Pre-Śankara Advaita Tradition

Statement of the Problem
There is a misconception at the present that Advaita is the primary if not the sole comprehensive understanding of the Vedic system when Advaita rejects 95% of the Vedic texts. Advaita was an alien ideology that inserted itself into the Vedic tradition by producing unsolicited commentaries on the Vedic texts. Advaita also has a concocted guru parampara that includes Śukadeva, Vyāsa, and Parāśara, even as it disregards more than 95% of their works. The true history of Advaita is unknown and Śankarachārya is mostly treated as its beginning. But Advaita has a much longer history of opposition to the Vedic system that has to be uncovered through a deeper study to demonstrate how Advaita was an alien ideology that entered the Vedic system via unsolicted commentaries. Without it, adverse effects of Advaita on Indian society will continue.
Detailed Discussion and Proposal

In Vedic texts, the material world is described as the dream of Mahā-Viṣṇu. In the dream, the knower, knowing, and known are distinct. The known is the reality distinct from the knower, the knowing is the distinct power to perceive and conceive, and the knower is the controller of this power. However, when the dream ends and the dreamer goes into deep sleep, then the reality distinct from the knower and the power of knowing, merge back into the knower. Since the world is called the dream of Mahā-Viṣṇu, therefore, all personalities seen during the dream are also the creations of Mahā-Viṣṇu. It now follows that an individual personality has no real existence. It is rather a creation of Mahā-Viṣṇu and exists only so long as the dream continues.

But there is one additional important fact, namely, that during a dream, the dreamer only experiences one of the personalities that he considers himself. Even as he can see other personalities, he doesn’t experience the intentions, emotions, perceptions, thoughts, and judgments had by the other personalities. He is not threatened by a threat to lives of others in a dream. He just feels threatened by threats to his life. Even during a dream, there is a distinction between person and personality. The dreamer sees many personalities but doesn’t become those persons. He remains distinct. The suffering of all other personalities aren’t the suffering of the dreaming person.

The Advaita system equates the person with the personality and makes the dreamer all the persons seen in the dream because he has created all the personalities. The other Vedānta systems do not equate the personalities to the persons.

The Advaita system existed before Śankarachārya. He names Govinda Bhagavatpāda as his guru, who named Gaudapāda his guru, who names Śukadeva, Vyāsa, and Parāśara as the previous gurus, going all the way back to Brahma. And yet, they disregard the Bhāgavata Purāṇa as an authoritative text spoken by Śukadeva.

Advaita is a non-Vedic system of philosophy because it disregards the individuality of the ātma and equates the ātma to the Paramātma. According to this doctrine, the Paramātma is like the spider who has produced a web from itself and is then caught in the web. The Paramātma is the dreamer who has produced a dream to suffer in it.

These claims concide with several Vedic statements such as: (a) the Paramātma is all-pervading, (b) the world is māyā, (c) the world was created as a dream of Mahā-Viṣṇu, and (d) the ātma is a part of Paramātma. Hence, the Advaitin opportunistically uses the Vedic statements to claim that he is only saying what the Vedas are saying. But he disregards all Vedic statements that disagree with his claims such as (a) all individual ātma are eternal, (b) there is a transcendental world beyond the material world, (c) the ātma serves the Paramātma in the transcendental world, and (d) there are many eternal and individual forms of Paramātma even in the transcendental world.

If we do an objective evaluation of what Śankarachārya considered the principal truths of the Vedic system, and called them prasthān-trayi, they turn out to be less than 3% of the Vedic system. Within this 3%, there are many inconsistencies such as when (a) Bhagavad-Gita speaks unambiguously about Bhakti, (b) the Vedānta Sutra describes the Supreme Truth as a masculine-feminine couple, and (c) the Upaniśad talk about two birds sitting on the same branch of a tree. The Advaitin cannot factually resolve these contradictions. He just chooses to focus on those things that work for him. For instance, the Advaitin emphasizes the paths of knowledge and austerity, because they are discussed in Bhagavad-Gita, but disregards the ladder of yogic paths in which knowledge and austerity are explicitly described as lower types of practices.

From all these indications, we can conclude that Advaita doesn’t learn from the Vedic texts. It uses the Vedic texts to advance an ideology alien to the Vedic texts. However, it concocts a guru paramparā going back to Śukadeva, Vyāsa, and Parāśara to claim its legitimacy in explicit contradiction to the various claims of these preceptors. On the whole, Advaita is a system of deception that cherry-picks what suits its ends which is no more than 3% of the Vedic system, and then disregards numerous things within that 3%, to finally march on to claim that it is a representation of the Vedic system.

The hypocrisy of Advaita is abundantly seen in its narrative about māyā. Since the whole world is māyā (or as Śankarachārya called it mithya or a myth), therefore, even the Vedic texts must be māyā or myths rather than truths because they are parts of the world. How can any part of the Vedic system be truth when they are parts of the world all of which is māyā? Advaita thus undercuts the foundation on which it stands.

It is no longer just 3% that is truth. Rather, there can be no truth at all. Even that which is spoken by a guru must be a myth, because it is a part of the world. Even selected portions of the 3% that the Advaitin likes, must be mythical. If the ultimate truth is devoid of all qualities, then words are qualities too. How can the ultimate truth be described using words? The best path toward truth would be complete silence. The contradictions of Advaita are too many to enumerate. These are just samples.

But, of course, the Advaitin cites the problem of temporality to say that what is temporary cannot be true. Since the world is temporary, therfore, it cannot be true. By the same measure, if the Vedic texts are temporary, they too cannot be true. Even incarnations of the Lord appear temporarily. Hence, they cannot be true.

The problem here is the false equivalence between truth and existence. The truth can appear temporarily in the material world, but for it to be true, it must exist outside the material world eternally. If everything in the material world is false because it exists temporarily, then even Vedic texts and gurus will be false because they are temporary. Therefore, we can either equate truth to existence and deny all truths. Or, we have to accept that truth exists eternally outside the temporary world but appears in this world temporarily (which is why it is called an incarnation). Books can be truthful only if they exist outside the material world eternally. Otherwise, nothing will be true.

The truth is eternal and the eternal is necessarily truth. The false is temporary but the temporary is not necessarily false. One inversion is permitted but the other is not. Three out of four claims are correct. The fourth claim is incorrect. However, if we insist on inverting the forbidden inversion then we get no truth. If we insist that all four statements are correct, then we get no truth. And yet, Advaita relies on inverting the forbidden inversion, the fourth statement, but pretends there is no problem.

Precisely as a result of Advaita doctrines, people abandoned their dharmic duties. If the killers and killed are both myths, then neither killing nor being killed should be problematic. If the father and son are both myths, then neither doing the duty nor not doing the duty should be problematic. If the rulers and the subjects are both myths, then neither doing their duties nor not doing those duties should be problematic. When people abandon their duties, then society starts disintegrating slowly. At that juncture, people are involved in adharma and yet they keep calling it the highest dharma. Every adharma can be justified as the highest dharma because everything is a myth.

The carcinogenic effects of Advaita were seen within 300 years of the commentary by Śankarachārya: India was conquered by invaders who called war their duty. Buddhists met the same fate as they too were destroyed by the invaders. A civilization that had persisted for millions of years prior fell to a novice civilization within a few centuries. Advaitins cannot resolve this paradox, just like their numerous other paradoxes.

The question arises: What is Advaita really? Where did it come from? Who were Govinda Bhagavatpāda and Gaudapāda that Śankarachārya cited as predecessors? What were they doing apart from selectively cherry-picking Vedic statements? How did the dream analogy become respectable when it is contrary to ordinary experience? What were the broader motivations of equating the ātma to the Paramātma? How did the neglect of dharma come to be seen as the highest and truest form of dharma?

The pre-Śankarachārya history of Advaita is largely obscure, although there are texts such as Gaudapāda-Karikā available today. In these texts, we see the simultaneous love and hate for the Vedic system as they cite it selectively and reject it mostly. This hypocrisy of Advaita has to be exposed if India doesn’t want to repeat its history of colonization. It cannot be exposed simply with the above cited problems. We have to go deeper into history to understand the pre-Śankarachārya mission of Advaitins to understand the causes of their duality of love and hate for the Vedic system.

The general principle of such duality is that it arises from shame and jealousy. Those operating under shame and jealousy want the presige of something superior while calling it inferior. They claim to be protecting the real thing while they keep destroying the real thing. They overplay their role in protecting dharma while they are its chief destructors. They are the Trojan Horses that enter a fort in the name of being a blessing and then kill the inhabitants living in the fort. Unless this deception is exposed and destroyed, India is sure to repeat its history of colonization.