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In this lecture, Swami Paramarthananda, an Advaitin, discusses Adi Shankaracharya's refutation of Yogachara Buddhism in his Brahma Sutra Bhashya. He says that Yogachara Buddhism and Advaita may seem similar in that they both think that the external world is unreal, but the difference is that Yogachara Buddhists consider the external world to be a projection of the mind, whereas Advaitins consider the external world to be a projection of the Atma.

But he says that this sometimes gets confusing, because sometimes Advaitins also say the external world is a projection of the mind, thereby blurring the Advaita-Buddhism distinction. As an example he cites verse 4.72 of Gaudapada's Mandukya Karika:

cittaspandikamevedaṃ grāhyagrāhakavaddvayam |
cittaṃ nirviṣayaṃ nityamasaṃgaṃ tena kīrtitam ||

The world of duality, which is perceived to exist and is characterized by the subject—object relationship, is verily a movement of the mind. The mind, again, from the standpoint of Reality has no contact with any object. Hence it is declared to be eternal and unattached.

But he says that one commentator reconciles this by interpreting the word Chitta, which ordinarily refers to the mind, as Chaitanya or consciousness. My question is, which commentator on the Mandukya Karika is Swami Paramarthananda referring to?

You can see what Adi Shankaracharya's Mandukya Karika Bhashya and Anandagiri's Tika say about this verse here; neither of them mention Chaitanya. So I assume it must be some later commentator.

  • The English translation you reference is copied word for word from Swami Nikhilananda's translation of the Karika. It doesn't make sense without Nikhilananda's additional English commentary where he states that "The mind in reality is Atman." In Swami Gambhirananda's translation, he uses the phrase 'vibration of Consciousness' instead of 'movement of the mind'. I will prepare a more complete answer also. – Swami Vishwananda Dec 21 '17 at 11:21
  • @SwamiVishwananda So was Swami Gambhirananda the first one to say "Chitta = Chaitanya" in this verse, or are there earlier commentators on the Mandukya Karika who have said that? – Keshav Srinivasan Dec 21 '17 at 11:27
  • Nikhilananda's translation is a looser translation and not word for word as he tries to put the meaning of the verses into a more easier English free-style to make it easier for first time readers in the West. Gambhirananda's translation is more exact -and more awkward to read if not familiar with the terms as he does a word for word translation. The verse says 'cittaspanditam eva' which he translates as 'surely a vibration of consciousness'. I doubt anyone else uses Nikhilananda's convention. – Swami Vishwananda Dec 22 '17 at 5:30
  • @SwamiVishwananda OK, I'm not really interested in Nikhilananda's translation as such. I just want to know who was the first person who explicitly said that Chitta = Chaitanya in this verse. Was it Swami Gambhirananda, or someone earlier than him? – Keshav Srinivasan Dec 22 '17 at 6:44
  • btw, your statement in your question is misleading. The statement "...sometimes Advaitins also say that the external world is a projection of the mind" is not true. You have made a statement that many unfamiliar with Adviata claim falsely. This is never claimed. You should edit your question to be more precise in what you are asking and remove the editorialization. – Swami Vishwananda Dec 24 '17 at 4:57

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