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Cameron Noyd-Nidros


May 5, 2017

Wijitha Bandara

Final Paper

Buddhism and Vedanta

Buddhism and Vedanta have lived side-by-side with each other for over a millennia it

would be indubitable that they have influenced each other through the years. Since both were

born on the same land and matured together they share some similar ideas with each other. Both

believe in a cycle of reincarnation affected and bound by the causality of our actions at its core.

Both renounce and meditate to gradually gain a knowledge to achieve a blissful state of


If one were to pick out a concept that all the philosophical schools in India share, it would

be salvation from the cycle of rebirth or samsara and how the role in understanding the nature of

the self is considered in this process. This subject alone has spurred philosophical debate

between buddhism and Hinduism for centuries. Whether a conscious entity (soul) or something

that serves as the foundation for consciousness is required to sustain the combined physical and

mental experiences in context of samsara. Buddhists not only view this idea of self as

unnecessary in defining conscious in terms of liberation of samsara but also such a belief in itself

would only further exacerbate the condition of samsara. Each Buddhist and Hindu philosophical

school teach their iteration of atman and anatman, as a result the atmavada and anatmavada

debate paints a multilinear conflict rather than a confrontation between two fundamental

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The main obstacle in early Buddhist text to enlightenment was the illusory self.

Dispelling this self illusion is the goal of the buddhist path, as well as achieving nirvana through

the expulsion of clinging (upadana). The relationship between these two is that the self illusion is

the conscious manifestation of upadana. This gives insight into why the teaching of atman

(anatta) is always presented in a meditative practice. Understanding is not enough to dispel the

anatta doctrine, it is by erasing upadana that anatta is dispelled. Consciousness of the enlightened

is a conditioned conscious centered on the illusion of I, I myself am a being of this world

because my conscious has been conditioned by my body's senses. Buddhism teaches that the

existence of my conscious is not bound to my body but that that of a different being that came

before and will come again. This cycle of birth, death and rebirth (samsara) will continue forever.

The key to being released from this existence is to understand why my consciousness is being

conditioned, that is because I cling to this being. However, clinging is such a deeply rooted

impulse that once one is destroyed the consciousness is instantly attracted to another starting a

new existence. If one were to eradicate upadana then the cycle would stop leading to an

unconditioned consciousness and that is called nirvana.

As for Vedanta, it is primarily concerned with the realization of Brahman. Brahman is a

state of pure being not categorized by the concepts of It, He, She or God. However,

Vedanta poorly explains what Brahman is because Brahman is the primal source of all and since

Brahman was first it becomes impossible to describe. The explanations on what Brahman is

are vague, the Upanishads describe Brahman as not this, not this or being-consciousness-

bliss but since not this denies the existence of Brahman it would be impossible to realize

Brahman. And since bliss is a quality of man's love for Brahman that cannot be so either. All

thoughts, emotions and ones identity must be shed before one can be with Brahman since it is
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pure being. Consciousness then becomes self-awareness in itself, unmanifested yet unawareness

of anything.

Vedanta talk of Brahman without and with form (nirguna and saguna), since Brahman can

not have form Saguna then must refer to the inferior while meditating. Saguna then becomes

relative and a subjective interpretation of the absolute. This creates a problem for Vedanta and

Brahman with relation to the world. The Upanishads answer to this is that Brahman is one

without a second or Brahman surpasses all, including the self, god or creation. This leaves the

question of creation unanswered, Brahman pre-existed and then becomes Ishvara which conflicts

with the teachings of not self.

Buddhism and Advaita Vedanta despite their core themes being different contain striking

similarities. Such as their concept of self, the self is interpreted the same however, their concept

of reality differ, Buddhist consider reality sunyata and Advaita refer it as purnata. Buddhist

would say that the sugar dissolved in the coffee becomes zero or no sugar while Advaita would

say the sugar has become the coffee due to it being homogeneously mixed.
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Works cited

Davis, Leesa S. Advaita Vedanta and Zen Buddhism : Deconstructive Modes of Spiritual Inquiry.
Continuum, 2010. Continuum Studies in Eastern Philosophies. EBSCOhost,

Fink, Charles K. "Clinging to Nothing: The Phenomenology and Metaphysics of Updna in

Early Buddhism." Asian Philosophy, vol. 25, no. 1, Feb. 2015, pp. 15-33. EBSCOhost,

Kuznetsova, Irina. "Utpaladeva's Conception of Self in the Context of the tmavda-

Antmavada Debate and in Comparison with Western Theological Idealism." Philosophy East &
West, vol. 62, no. 3, July 2012, pp. 339-358. EBSCOhost,