Thomas's Reviews > The Upanishads - Svetasvatara, Prasna, and Mandukya with Gaudapada'a Karika

The Upanishads - Svetasvatara, Prasna, and Mandukya with Gaud... by Swami Nikhilananda
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's review
Jun 01, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: eastern-classics, philosophy, religion

My copy has only the Mandukya Upanishad with Gaudapada's Karika. (Advaita Ashrama, 1995) The translation is very clear, and includes the very short but rich Mandukya Upanishad, with Gaudapada's very influential Karika, accompanied by Shankara's commentary, and finally, helpful footnotes. Despite all this meta-commentary the text actually flows and each subsequent commentary meshes well.

The Karika is divided into four parts. The first is a dissection of the Mandukya Up. itself (discussing the four "states" of consciousness as they correspond to the holy word "AUM".) The second deals with the phenomenal world and the nature of Illusion. The third examines the consequences that come from denying the phenomenal world's existence: non-dualism. And the last part is sort of a summary that goes into more detail, incorporating the previous parts and explaining the role of cognition and how to properly understand cause and effect. The last section is where the rubber meets the road philosophically.

Gaudapada is one of the earliest exponents of advaita vedanta, a form of non-dualism distinct from Madhyamika non-dualism in its assumption of Brahman as an Ultimate metaphysical substrate. The argumentation here is similar to Nagarjuna's (utilizing regression arguments in its denial of the phenomenal world) but it stops short of denying an Ultimate reality.

This summary is just the tip of the iceberg -- it's amazing that so much can be extrapolated in a structured and reasonable way from a scripture barely a page long.

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