Did Adi Shankaracharya defeat Buddhism?

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
Dinsdale
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Re: Did Adi Shankaracharya defeat Buddhism?

Post by Dinsdale » Tue Jun 18, 2019 2:06 pm

Bundokji wrote:
Tue Jun 18, 2019 1:57 pm
Dinsdale wrote:
Tue Jun 18, 2019 1:46 pm
Who is naming Atman as a self?
Do you find any meaningful difference between "soul" or "essence" and between "self"? If so, could you please highlight it?
Atman is more like an "internal" manifestation of Brahman (the underlying reality), so none of those terms describe it well.
I'm by no means an expert on Hindu philosophy, but I know enough to observe that Buddhist critiques often miss the point. In much the same way that Hindu critiques of Buddhist philosophy also often miss the point!

There tend to be a lot of :strawman:
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Bundokji
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Re: Did Adi Shankaracharya defeat Buddhism?

Post by Bundokji » Tue Jun 18, 2019 2:48 pm

Dinsdale wrote:
Tue Jun 18, 2019 2:06 pm
Atman is more like an "internal" manifestation of Brahman (the underlying reality), so none of those terms describe it well.
I'm not an expert on Hindu philosophy, but I know enough to observe that Buddhist critique often misses the point. In much the same way that Hindu critique of Buddhist philosophy often misses the point!
There tend to be a lot of :strawman:
I am not an expert in both :tongue: so i am not approaching this by comparing two philosophies, but i try to base my input on our tendency to find a law/trend/reality that endures time/change to adhere to, and how this seem to fail us a lot of the time and cause us much misery.

I find the idea of Anatta useful in countering this tendency, but it is not equally clear how believing in Atman (regardless of its precise meaning, but as a positive connotation) is useful from that perspective. In Buddhism, even the law of Kamma does not offer much predictability and presented as a law associated with suffering and this seem to be inline with my own observations of reality.

Even if we frame the debate as between nihilism (Buddhism) and Hinduism (eternalism) as the OP used the word "defeat", i think the odds that debates are won more easily by nihilists because they have less things to defend, at least publicly. Of course, that does not make them closer to the truth.
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"

This was the last word of the Tathagata.

Dinsdale
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Re: Did Adi Shankaracharya defeat Buddhism?

Post by Dinsdale » Tue Jun 18, 2019 3:07 pm

Bundokji wrote:
Tue Jun 18, 2019 2:48 pm
Dinsdale wrote:
Tue Jun 18, 2019 2:06 pm
Atman is more like an "internal" manifestation of Brahman (the underlying reality), so none of those terms describe it well.
I'm not an expert on Hindu philosophy, but I know enough to observe that Buddhist critique often misses the point. In much the same way that Hindu critique of Buddhist philosophy often misses the point!
There tend to be a lot of :strawman:
I am not an expert in both :tongue: so i am not approaching this by comparing two philosophies, but i try to base my input on our tendency to find a law/trend/reality that endures time/change to adhere to, and how this seem to fail us a lot of the time and cause us much misery.

I find the idea of Anatta useful in countering this tendency, but it is not equally clear how believing in Atman (regardless of its precise meaning, but as a positive connotation) is useful from that perspective. In Buddhism, even the law of Kamma does not offer much predictability and presented as a law associated with suffering and this seem to be inline with my own observations of reality.

Even if we frame the debate as between nihilism (Buddhism) and Hinduism (eternalism) as the OP used the word "defeat", i think the odds that debates are won more easily by nihilists because they have less things to defend, at least publicly. Of course, that does not make them closer to the truth.
Sure, and it's easier to observe an absence than a (difficult to see) presence. On the other hand, eternalism can appear more appealing than nihilism. ;) Though again, both labels are probably missing the point.
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binocular
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Re: Did Adi Shankaracharya defeat Buddhism?

Post by binocular » Tue Jun 18, 2019 3:20 pm

Bundokji wrote:
Tue Jun 18, 2019 2:48 pm
I am not an expert in both :tongue: so i am not approaching this by comparing two philosophies, but i try to base my input on our tendency to find a law/trend/reality that endures time/change to adhere to, and how this seem to fail us a lot of the time and cause us much misery.

I find the idea of Anatta useful in countering this tendency, but it is not equally clear how believing in Atman (regardless of its precise meaning, but as a positive connotation) is useful from that perspective. In Buddhism, even the law of Kamma does not offer much predictability and presented as a law associated with suffering and this seem to be inline with my own observations of reality.
Consider a narrative like this:
"There is a you, the True You, that is eternal, blissful. One that is not bound by this body, by the confines of material existence. At present, you don't know who you really are, this is why you're confused and why you suffer in life. You're not sure what to do with your life, nothing really gives you satisfaction. So you should become self-realized, you should realize who you really are, and then your life will truly begin to make sense and you won't needlessly suffer anymore."

This is a selling point found in some monotheisms (and also some pop-psychology).

Even if we frame the debate as between nihilism (Buddhism) and Hinduism (eternalism) as the OP used the word "defeat", i think the odds that debates are won more easily by nihilists because they have less things to defend, at least publicly. Of course, that does not make them closer to the truth.
When there's a debate, there has to be a judge. So who's the judge in this one, and why should this particular judge be so relevant ...
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Bundokji
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Re: Did Adi Shankaracharya defeat Buddhism?

Post by Bundokji » Tue Jun 18, 2019 4:21 pm

binocular wrote:
Tue Jun 18, 2019 3:20 pm
Consider a narrative like this:
"There is a you, the True You, that is eternal, blissful. One that is not bound by this body, by the confines of material existence. At present, you don't know who you really are, this is why you're confused and why you suffer in life. You're not sure what to do with your life, nothing really gives you satisfaction. So you should become self-realized, you should realize who you really are, and then your life will truly begin to make sense and you won't needlessly suffer anymore."

This is a selling point found in some monotheisms (and also some pop-psychology).
I understand your point, but i would not say that what you are describing is completely baseless. Practicing Buddhism changed an old habit of mine about judging success and failure. For example, one can fail in a job that highlights his weaknesses and does not capitalize on his strengths, and vice versa.

It is not completely wrong to say that people can find themselves in some situations more than others if they stop short from calling it "real me" :tongue:
When there's a debate, there has to be a judge. So who's the judge in this one, and why should this particular judge be so relevant ...
Sometimes the judge does not have to be external, but the criteria is who being more convincing. Most eternalists accepted the common narrative without much questioning, and most nihilists learned about the flaws of the common narrative (most likely through second hand knowledge and without much contemplation of their own), so the nihilist begins debunking the eternalist and feels good about it. Naive realism, in its simplest form, is more likely be an eternalism that does not have much understanding of its own position and unable to rationally defend itself (hence many aternalists can become very easily defensive), or easily convinced by the assertions of the nihilist and having little ability of seeing that the nihilist is using the same assumptions/flaws that he is blaming them for using.

Everything else being equal, the nihilst sees what are the assumptions being used by the eternalist's belief and there where he attacks.
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"

This was the last word of the Tathagata.

binocular
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Re: Did Adi Shankaracharya defeat Buddhism?

Post by binocular » Tue Jun 18, 2019 5:07 pm

Bundokji wrote:
Tue Jun 18, 2019 4:21 pm
I understand your point, but i would not say that what you are describing is completely baseless.
You said:
Bundokji wrote:
Tue Jun 18, 2019 2:48 pm
I find the idea of Anatta useful in countering this tendency, but it is not equally clear how believing in Atman (regardless of its precise meaning, but as a positive connotation) is useful from that perspective.
I gave you an example of believing in atman and how it can be useful.
Sometimes the judge does not have to be external, but the criteria is who being more convincing.
Still, those criteria are someone's criteria. If convincingness would be an inherent quality of statements, then humans would be redundant, no discussion or debate ever needed, and the ideas would sort themselves out on their own.
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SarathW
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Re: Did Adi Shankaracharya defeat Buddhism?

Post by SarathW » Tue Jun 18, 2019 8:59 pm

Perhaps they don’t regard form or feeling or perception or choices or consciousness as self. Nor do they have such a view: ‘The self and the cosmos are one and the same. After passing away I will be permanent, everlasting, eternal, and imperishable.’ Still, they have such a view: ‘I might not be, and it might not be mine. I will not be, and it will not be mine.’ But that annihilationist view is just a conditioned phenomenon. And what’s the source of that conditioned phenomenon? … That’s how you should know and see in order to end the defilements in the present life.

Perhaps they don’t regard form or feeling or perception or choices or consciousness as self. Nor do they have such a view: ‘The self and the cosmos are one and the same. After passing away I will be permanent, everlasting, eternal, and imperishable.’ Nor do they have such a view: ‘I might not be, and it might not be mine. I will not be, and it will not be mine.’ Still, they have doubts and uncertainties. They’re undecided about the true teaching. That doubt and uncertainty, the indecision about the true teaching, is just a conditioned phenomenon. And what’s the source of that conditioned phenomenon? When an uneducated ordinary person is struck by feelings born of contact with ignorance, craving arises. That conditioned phenomenon is born from that. So that conditioned phenomenon is impermanent, conditioned, and dependently originated. And that craving, that feeling, that contact, and that ignorance are also impermanent, conditioned, and dependently originated. That’s how you should know and see in order to end the defilements in the present life.”

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Re: Did Adi Shankaracharya defeat Buddhism?

Post by DooDoot » Tue Jun 18, 2019 9:04 pm

Dinsdale wrote:
Tue Jun 18, 2019 12:46 pm
Though if not self means not personal, then that probably applies to Atman too. Atman isnt really a "soul", it's more like a reflection of Brahman, which is said to be the underling reality. I'm not suggesting that Atman is the same as Nibbana, just that both can be viewed as non personal, not "me" or "mine". And of course anatta does also negate Atman.
To me, "Atman" merely sounds like a word or label labeling something that is completely unrelated to the "thing" it is labeling.

For example, the word "consciousness" literally means consciousness or cognising. The word "Nibbana" literally means "blow out" or "cool" or whatever.

But "Atman" originally means "Self" or "Soul" but appears later used by Hindus to refer to something else.

Personally, it sounds like a residue of clinging/attachment to me. I think the realised mind would use the label "The Unconditioned" to label the unconditioned, as the Buddha did; or "The All" to refer to The All.

"Atman" sounds like the typical theistic anthropomorphism, such as the Koran, below, where a "He" appears illogically imputed upon that which "neither begets nor is born":
Say, "He is Allah, [who is] One,
Allah, the Eternal Refuge.
He neither begets nor is born,
Nor is there to Him any equivalent."
:smile:
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Sam Vara
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Re: Did Adi Shankaracharya defeat Buddhism?

Post by Sam Vara » Tue Jun 18, 2019 9:40 pm

I've had a look at Shankaracharya's entry in Wikipedia, and it's not much help in answering the question. If he did "defeat" Buddhism, i.e., his teaching was instrumental in people giving up whatever version of the Dhamma was being practiced at the time and turning towards practice based upon his version of Advaita Vedanta, it doesn't explain how that process took place. It said that he formulated the difference between the two traditions:
He also explained the key difference between Hinduism and Buddhism, stating that Hinduism asserts "Atman (Soul, Self) exists", while Buddhism asserts that there is "no Soul, no Self".
But there isn't any argument as to why the former position might be more acceptable. The foundations of his reasoning seem to be a mixture of reliance on the upanishads, and direct realisation of the truth due to spiritual practices. These are both beyond the realm of comparison and argument. There is some discussion of whether Shankara's teaching was influenced by Mahayana Buddhism, and the similarities between the via negative approaches to both Brahman and sunya. As to the issue of why he thought that the anatta doctrine was wrong, there isn't really anything to go on.

Some scholars even doubt that his teaching had much of an impact upon Hinduism, and that his influence has been exaggerated by later Hindus. If he did teach at a time when Buddhism was declining, then it's difficult to be certain that the two were causally related. And even if they were, there isn't much evidence as to the source of his persuasiveness, and virtually nothing in doctrinal terms. Personal charisma, maybe, or good organisation (he founded monasteries) or a teaching that resonated better for reasons we can no longer access.

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Re: Did Adi Shankaracharya defeat Buddhism?

Post by binocular » Wed Jun 19, 2019 3:28 pm

As for "defeating Buddhism":

Buddhism seems to me like the easiest religion/teaching/path/etc. to defeat. Simply because it has no selling points.
There is nothing in Buddhism that an ordinary run-of-the-mill person would be interested in or find value in (apart from a few general teachings on morality that can be found in many other religions/paths anyway).

Buddhism -- the core part about the complete cessation of suffering -- is appealing only to people who "have little dust in their eyes". Every normal run-of-the-mill person, already once they hear about anatta, runs for the hills. Maybe not literally, but at least builds up a mental fence toward the idea.
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Re: Did Adi Shankaracharya defeat Buddhism?

Post by Caodemarte » Wed Jun 19, 2019 4:43 pm

The decline and disappearance of Buddhism in India had many historical causes, but there is little to no reason to claim that ideological defeat (apparently invisible to historians and contemporaries) was a significant factor. The most common theory is that Buddhism became functionally indistinguishable from what became known as “ Hinduism” at the folk religion/village level and was absorbed at its popular roots. At the same time it became increasingly monk centered, dependent on religious ritual specialists, and thus more and more based on monasteries and other religious institutions as well as royal patronage. When these were destroyed by rival “Hindu” kings and invasions from outside India under the banner of Islam, Buddhism lacked the strength to recover. Hinduism did because it retained popular support and Islamic conquerors were definitely not interested in encouraging conversion (which would have made subjects theoretically equal) and more interested in loot from the big institutions.

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Re: Did Adi Shankaracharya defeat Buddhism?

Post by tamdrin » Wed Jun 19, 2019 6:38 pm

Vipassana meditation is for the abandonment of views. Self is one view, non-self is another view. Views depend on ones karma and habitual tendencies but for someone practicing samatha/vipassana meditation they are just thoughts.

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Re: Did Adi Shankaracharya defeat Buddhism?

Post by DooDoot » Wed Jun 19, 2019 11:30 pm

binocular wrote:
Wed Jun 19, 2019 3:28 pm
Buddhism seems to me like the easiest religion/teaching/path/etc. to defeat. Simply because it has no selling points.
There is nothing in Buddhism that an ordinary run-of-the-mill person would be interested in or find value in (apart from a few general teachings on morality that can be found in many other religions/paths anyway).

Buddhism -- the core part about the complete cessation of suffering -- is appealing only to people who "have little dust in their eyes". Every normal run-of-the-mill person, already once they hear about anatta, runs for the hills. Maybe not literally, but at least builds up a mental fence toward the idea.
Adi Shankaracharya born 788 CE. Buddhism did last for at least 1,000 years in India. Therefore, what did it offer apart from basic morality & anatta to last so long? Thanks :shrug:
There is always an official executioner. If you try to take his place, It is like trying to be a master carpenter and cutting wood. If you try to cut wood like a master carpenter, you will only hurt your hand.

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binocular
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Re: Did Adi Shankaracharya defeat Buddhism?

Post by binocular » Thu Jun 20, 2019 2:21 pm

DooDoot wrote:
Wed Jun 19, 2019 11:30 pm
Adi Shankaracharya born 788 CE. Buddhism did last for at least 1,000 years in India. Therefore, what did it offer apart from basic morality & anatta to last so long?
I just go with the standard narrative that says that back then, there were many people "with little dust in their eyes". When they died, there was noone to replace them in the lineage, so their religion became obsolete in the area where they lived.
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Caodemarte
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Re: Did Adi Shankaracharya defeat Buddhism?

Post by Caodemarte » Thu Jun 20, 2019 4:31 pm

binocular wrote:
Thu Jun 20, 2019 2:21 pm
DooDoot wrote:
Wed Jun 19, 2019 11:30 pm
Adi Shankaracharya born 788 CE. Buddhism did last for at least 1,000 years in India. Therefore, what did it offer apart from basic morality & anatta to last so long?
I just go with the standard narrative that says that back then, there were many people "with little dust in their eyes". When they died, there was noone to replace them in the lineage, so their religion became obsolete in the area where they lived.
What narrative is this? Are you referring to the widespread idea, especially in East Asia, that we live in an era of the inevitable “decay of the law,” before a future Buddha and new era?

It is difficult to argue to people attracted to Buddhism that Buddhism has very little attractive to it. Clearly many people in ancient times did find it attractive, making it a major religion that spread globally although it died out in the region of its birth.

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