RB (Ramakrishna Balasubrahmanian) continues to take SSS to task in the final two sections of his article: 5) ‘AVIDYA and MAYA’, and 6) ‘“COMPARATIVE BASHYA STUDIES” AND OTHER SUCH DISEASES’.
Under 5) RB sees an inconsistency in SSS, since the latter had previously stated that avidya and maya are not synonyms, while in another context he had stated that “To avoid confusion, we shall restrict the use of words avidy¯a and m¯ay¯a to denote ignorance and name and form respectively”. The author insists in the equivalence of both terms, as they occur in many texts: “… note that even in these passages avidy¯a is not a “subjective” ignorance, but something which transcends subjectiveness and objectiveness. Otherwise we will be placed in the absurd position of claiming that a subjective error, i.e., avidy¯a, is causing an objective reality, i.e., m¯ay¯a (name and form)”.
By ‘objective reality’ one understands, of course, phenomena, and this is nothing else than mithya, even though RB considers maya as both ontic and epistemic, unlike avidya. In this connection, SSS would agree with his statement: “While the terms are used to mean different things in some contexts, they can also mean the exactly same thing in some other contexts”.
Under section 6) (listed above), we read: “Brahmavidy¯a is a result of hearing and cogitating over ´sruti v¯akyas. Bh¯as. yas are merely meant to help understand some of the subtle points in the ´sruti, which we may overlook. One should not develop the disease of comparing different bh¯as. yas, and cataloguing every difference in their dotting of the i’s and crossing of the t’s. Such pedantic exercises merely serve to distract from the main thrust of the works, namely the advaita tattva. No doubt there are some differences found in the expositions of various authors. However, thinking that there is an “original and true” method to be found by such pedantic studies of various works is a mere chimera. It merely serves to reinforce the reality of Ambrose Bierces definition of learning as “the ignorance of the studious”.
Those are strong words (could they not be addressed to the author himself?), particularly when intended for such scholar and sage as Sri Satchidanandendra. Finding and making a painstaking exposition of an ‘original and true method’, which RB in a demeaning way calls ‘pedantic’, refers to the exhaustive work carried out by SSS throughout his whole career with respect of the traditional method accepted by Shankaracharia and based on the import of the sentence in the Bh.G. Bh. Xlll.13: ‘For there is the saying of those who know the true tradition, “That which cannot be expressed (in its true form directly) is expressed (indirectly) through false attribution and subsequent retraction”’.
In his Introduction to his monumental work, ‘The Method of the Vedanta’, SSS writes: “Efforts have also been made, within the limits of the author’s capacity, to bring out how the Veda and reason and immediate intuition co-operate together… [along with] an earnest seeker… and (how the Upanishads derive their authority) from their power to lead ultimately to a direct experience of the Self, arising from the cancellation of all play of the empirical means of knowledge with their objects”. Further: “Empty dialectic based on perception and inference alone (sushka-tarka) amount to nothing more than personal opinion, and has no place in this discipline. Here, the term ‘authoritative means of knowledge’ (pramana) is applied (not to the reasoning itself but) to that direct experience in which reasoning must invariably culminate if it is to be called upanishadic in the proper sense of the term”. There is the key.
[Though unnecessary for our purposes, it is worthwhile to complete the above quoted paragraph in SSS’s own words: “And the particular nature of direct experience as acknowledged in Vedanta has been explained as direct experience of the Self. This is what follows when the Self has been realized in its own true nature after all superimposition has been abolished through metaphysical knowledge (vidya). The purpose of this explanation is to rule out the teaching about ‘trance’ (samadhi) and so forth found in other schools.”]
Towards the end of the long article, RB goes into considerable detail concerning the ‘reaction’ of the ‘Tradition’ to SSS’s works, some in favour and some against. To explain why SSS ‘misunderstood’ Shankara, he lists 1) lack of formal training in Sampradayic subjects (nyaya and purva mimamsa), and 2) his (along with Krishnaswamy Iyer, his mentor) basic training was a Western education.
Before the Conclusion, RB ends with the statement: “No doubt SSS’s textual analysis skills are excellent, but the problem I see with SSS’s writings is his obsession with terminology, rather than philosophy. Indeed none of his works are about the philosophy of advaita, but are oriented almost exclusively towards contradicting previous commentators of ´Sa˙nkar¯ac¯arya”.
And in the Conclusion he adds: “I feel Padmap¯ad¯ac¯arya has been meted out a grave injustice by many authors, including SSS, who have largely misunderstood him. The difference between Padmap¯ada and SSS is that the former is a philosopher, while the latter is a textual analyst”(!).
Final comment: To try and make a competent and thorough defence of Swami Satchidananandendra as against the allegations or criticisms of him by Ramakrishna Balasubrahmanian contained in this article, would require an erudition and, presumably, a formal training in ‘Sampradayic subjects’ which this writer cannot presume to be in possession of.