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The cover story takes us on a journey through time to discover a remarkable region in the Himalayas and how India got her name from the Sindhu River. This article is also augmented by an amazing photo spread of Ladakh by staff photographer Rammohan Paranjape.


  • Issue No.2

    Sindhu River How India Got Her Name

    The whereabouts of the Sindhu River is virtually unknown to people in western countries, but for the people of India it has great significance.

    page - 51

  • As soon as a single person will have conceived the sincere desire

    of undertaking the promulgation of the tidings of the Gaudiya

    literature to the peoples of the world, he is thereby enrolled among

    the agents of divine mercy with power to forward the fulfillment

    of this expressed wish of the Supreme Lord.

    (Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura)





  • Senior Editor

    Associate Editors

    Art Department

    Layout and Design



    Health Editor

    Science Editor

    Swami Narasingha

    Dominique Amendola


    Swami Vishnu

    Advaita Acharya Kirtanananda


    RammohanNila NewsomDustin EllisonSwami Giri Satyaraja Kirtanananda

    Swami Giri Swami Srirupa MadhavaPriyanana

  • Contents

    Words of Wisdom


    Culinary Magic

    Sri Guru TattvaSrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Prabhupada

    Heart of KrishnaSrila Bhakti Pramoda Puri Maharaja

    Opulence of BhagavanSwami Narasingha

    Mayavada & BuddhismSwami B.V. Giri

    Sindhu River - How India got her NameSwami Narasingha

    Indica - Photo spread

    The Story of NumbersSwami Vishnu

    True NatureDr. Mani Lal Bhaumik

    Struggle for ConsciousnessSwami Narasingha

    Swastika & CrossSwami Narasingha

    Rajasthani ArtDhira-lalita













    Got Raw Milk?Priyanana




  • G a u d i ya To u c h s t o n e

    Welcome to the Gaudiya Touchstone. In this issue we have an interesting selection of articles on traditional philosophical topics such as Sri Guru Tattva, The Heart of Krishna, Buddhism and Mayavada and more, as well as updates as scientists progress in their understanding of consciousness and discover in True Nature by Dr. B.M. Bhaumik the true nature of reality.

    The History of Numbers by Swami Vishnu tells us how contributions in Mathematics from India in

    ancient times make the world what it is today, and for the arts enthusiasts we have the story of the development of Rajasthani Art by Dhira-lalita chronicling art in Rajasthan.

    Our cover story takes us on a journey through time to discover a remarkable region in the Himalayas and how India got her name from the Sindhu River. This article is also augmented by an amazing photo spread of Ladakh by staff photographer Ram Mohan.

    We have packed a lot into this issue for our readers to digest in one sitting. And speaking of digesting we almost forgot to mention Got Raw Milk? If not then you certainly will after reading Priyananas informative health article, Got Raw Milk? And in Culinary Magic the Carr twins Bhakta-priya and Vraja Kishor share with us some of their secrets from the Vermont Kitchen.

    Lots of good things to digest in this issue of Gaudiya Touchstone spiritually, intellectually and physically. So please read on.

    OM TAT SAT,Swami Narasingha


  • Sri Guru Tattvaand the Secret of Diksha Part 1

    Questions and Answers with Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura Prabhupada

    (On the morning of Wednesday August 8th, Sriyukta Rajendranath Pal Chaudhuri Mahashaya, the famous zamindar of Louhajang, came to Sri Gaudiya Matha accompanied by one of his employees. Offering his humble dandavats at the lotus feet of Sri Srila Prabhupada, he expressed his desire to hear some words on Sri Guru-tattva and the secret of diksha etc. Srila Prabhupada obligingly gave a valuable discourse for two hours. Some brief excerpts from that talk are presented below. It has only been possible for us to publish this priceless gem by the help of Upadeshaka Pandita Sripada Pranavananda Pratnavidyalankara Mahadaya. Thus, we convey our sincere gratitude at his feet Nishikanta Sanyal)

    Rajen Babu Is it necessary for me to take diksha again if I have already taken diksha from a kula-guru (hereditary family guru)? He does not eat fish or meat; he studies the Bhagavatam, is the son of a Gosvami and is a householder.

    Prabhupada asat sanga tyaga ei vaishnava achara

    stri-sange eka asadhu krishnabhakta ara

    To discard the company of those who diminish ones resolve in krishna-bhakti (asat-sanga) is truly the natural conduct of a Vaishnava. And the most detrimental association of all is those who enjoy the company of women and the non-devotees. (Cc. Madhya. 22.087)

    From Dainik Nadiya Prakasa, Janmastami Edition, 1934

  • These two types of non-devotees can never become spiritual masters. They are not devotees of Krishna.

    kiba vipra kiba nyasi shudra kene naya yei krishna-tattva-vetta sei guru haya

    Whether one is a brahmana, a sannyasi, a shudra or whatever, if he is fully conversant with the science of Krishna, he is eligible to become a guru. (Cc. Madhya. 8.128)

    From this we understand that Sri Gurudeva must be a krishna-tattva-vetta (one who knows the science of Krishna). It is incorrect to assume that only those who are born in a high caste family, who have attained knowledge of the Absolute (brahma-jnana), or who are famous are entitled to be guru. Sri Gurudeva may externally be a brahmana, a sannyasi or a grihastha that is irrelevant. If the spiritual master is not a krishna-tattva-vetta, he should be abandoned.

    Sri Guru is sadachari one who correctly practices devotional principles. The question may be asked, What is achara? In reply it has been said, asat sanga tyaga ei vaishnava achara. Who is asat? Those who are addicted to illicit connections with women (stri-sangi) and those who are averse to Krishna (krishnabhakta) these are the two types of non-devotees. Their association must be abandoned. The general understanding of the term asat is that which is unreal. Sat is that which is unchangable, which is not transformable, which is not transmutable. The opposite state of sat is asat. There are two terms that householders may be known as, either grihastha or griha-vrata.. One who pays less attention to Krishna and is more attached to his wife, considering her to be the most cherished thing in his life, is known as yosit-sangi (one who is addicted to women). Such householders that are attached to matter, which is inferior to

    To discard the company of

    those who diminish ones

    resolve in krishna-bhakti

    (asat-sanga) is truly

    the natural conduct of a

    Vaishnava. And the most

    detrimental association of

    all is those who enjoy the

    company of women and

    the non-devotees.

    (Cc. Madhya. 22.087)


    G a u d i ya To u c h s t o n eG a u d i ya To u c h s t o n e

  • Krishna, are known as griha-vratas. Therefore a griha-vrata can never be a guru. Those who perform hari-bhajana whether they are grihasthas or sannyasis should be considered as most excellent. Otherwise even a sannyasi that does not perform hari-bhajana should be understood to be a non-devotee.

    vadanti tat tattva-vidas tattvam yaj jnanam advayam brahmeti paramatmeti bhagavan iti shabdyate

    The seers that know the Absolute Truth call this non-dual substance Brahman, Paramatma or Bhagavan. (Bhag. 1.2.11)

    One who sees Brahman and Paramatma as separate from Krishna, who is the advaya-jnana-tattva (the non-dual Absolute), cannot become a devotee of Krishna due to their ignorance of vastu-tattva (the science of Absolute Reality). Brahman is that conscience relating to a subject that is known to be devoid of material distinctions. The Vedanta-sutras aphorism athato brahma jijnasa explains about inquiring into Brahman.

    When one is deprived of the eternally blissful darshana of sacchidananda Bhagavan, and solely takes shelter of samvit-vritti (the cognitive faculty), which, although is a substance imbued with the divine lila of the Supreme, one experiences Brahman.

    And when one is deprived of the blissful darshana of sacchidananda Bhagavan, and only pursues sat-cit vritti (the faculty of eternity and cognition), which although is a substance imbued with the divine lila of the Supreme, one attains darshana only of Paramatma.

    Therefore, the spiritual effulgence of Bhagavans sacchidananda form is the impersonal Brahman that is without cit and vilasa. And when He is present in the mood of aishvarya that is Paramatma. In his Bhagavata-sandarbha, Srila Jiva Goswami states as follows:

    Whether one is a

    brahmana, a sannyasi, a

    sudra or whatever, if he is

    fully conversant with the

    science of Krishna, he is

    eligible to become a guru.

    (Cc. Madhya. 8.128)


    G a u d i ya To u c h s t o n e

  • tatha chaivam vishishtaye prapte purnavirbhavatvenakhanda-tattva-ruposau bhagavan/ brahma tu sphutam aprakatita-vaishishtya karatvena tasyevasamyag-avirbhava ity agatam /

    When the Supreme completely reveals Himself He is known as Bhagavan, and in comparison to this the Brahman feature, where the transcendental form of the Lord is not manifested, is only a partial manifestation of the Supreme. (Anuccheda 4.1)

    yena hetu-karta atmamsa-bhuta-jiva-pravehsana-dvara sanjivitani santi dehadini tad-upalkshanani pradhanadi-sarvany eva tattvani yenaiva preritayaiva charanti sva-sva karye pravartante tat paramatma rupam viddhi

    He enters the body of the jivas as the Paramatma and enlivens the body, senses, life-airs, and mental activities, and thus all the subtle and gross organs of the body begin their functions. (Anuccheda 4.4)

    jivasyatmatattvam tad-apekshaya tasya paramatvam ity atah paramatma-shabdena tat-sahayogi sa eva vyajyate iti

    The Paramatma feature of the Lord is then the constant companion of the conditioned souls, but He is always their super ior, and therefore He is called Paramatma, or the Supreme Soul. (Anuccheda 4.6)

    Bhagavan is akhanda-tattva-rupa (the form of all tattvas), as He possesses all potencies due to His complete manifestations. Yet Brahman, who does not manifest similar attributes, is but a part of Bhagavan, or an incomplete manifestation.

    He is known as Paramatma because He directs all the activities within the universe and makes the jivas, who are His parts and parcels, enter into the world and activates them and gives them the propensity to

    The inclination toward

    Krishna in the griha-vrata

    is never aroused, either by

    the instructions of others,

    by their own efforts, or

    by a combination of both.

    (Bhag. 7.5.30)


    G a u d i ya To u c h s t o n e

  • fulfill their minute independent desires. The jivas svarupa is the atma; one who by nature is superior to the jiva and the doer is known by the word Paramatma and He is the jivas eternal companion. (Cc. Adi 2.10 Anubhashya)

    Independence due to maya, or ignorance, results in voluntary subjection to duality. As a result of such secondary interests, a sense of discrimination arises in relation to the non-dual Absolute form of Vrajendra-nandana Krishna and His name, form, qualities and pastimes. Because of the fetters of material intelligence in relation to the form of Vishnu, and due to a continual lack of understanding of Bhagavans advaya-jnana, independent ideas such as jnana-yoga etc. are imagined to be different ways to attain Brahman and Paramatma. The jiva then retires from accepting topics concerning devotion to Bhagavan and having invoked various philosophical ideas, he is shackled to the jungle of this material world.

    When one is completely free from the desire for jnana, karma etc. and only performs activities that please Krishna, that is the sign of uttama-bhakti (pure devotion). Those who wish to differ even a fraction from this point or desire to pollute it with some alloy should be included amongst those who are abhaktas (non-devotees). They are unfit to be gurus.

    na te viduh svartha-gatim hi vishnum durasaya ye bahir-artha-maninah

    Because of their foolish activities and their belief that external sense objects are of great value, they are unaware that the ultimate goal of human life is to achieve Vishnu. (Bhag. 7.5.31)

    matir na krishne paratah svato va mitho bhipadyeta griha-vratanam

    The inclination toward Krishna in the griha-vrata is never aroused, either by the instructions of others, by their own efforts, or by a combination of both. (Bhag. 7.5.30)


    G a u d i ya To u c h s t o n e

  • The difference between a grihastha and a griha-vrata has been explained in these verses from Bhagavatam. A griha-vrata is one who cannot understand Krishna. Realization of Krishna cannot be achieved simply through the instructions of others, through ones own endeavors or by mutual discussions. This is because the activities of the senses never follow the complete, pure and eternally liberated direction of the Absolute. Attempts to follow the non-Absolute are the endeavors of the griha-vrati. The griha-vrati tries to enter that which is finite with a great deal of trouble. Anything within our sensuous jurisdiction cannot be Bhagavan. The good fortune to attain darshana of Krishna only arises when His maya potency is lifted. It is the dharma of the griha-vrati to always participate in discussions that neglect Krishna. Although externally they may seem the same, the difference between the grihastha who is a devotee of Bhagavan and the griha-vrati who is averse to Bhagavan is like the difference between heaven and hell. The exterior and interior of a house are not one.

    The grihastha devotee considers every object in his home as objects that are meant for serving Krishna and offers them to the transcendental senses of Krishna. But the non-devotee griha-medhi remains busy serving his own senses and ignores service to Krishna.

    The baddha-jiva has two tendencies the avarana of maya (which covers the souls natural spiritual knowledge) and vikshepatmika (that which overwhelms the soul with ideas that have nothing to do with the Absolute Truth). Such foreign things are considered as an impediment and obstruct the jivas natural instinct to serve. It bewilders the jivas understanding of that which is to be understood and mutilates it.

    Two or three years ago we delivered a lecture in Madras. There we spoke on guru-tattva and we explained that, The guru is not an impediment. If we pretend to be guru, and somewhere down the line we decide to eat those things that are meant for Sri Bhagavans enjoyment, then we will be completely ruined and our disciples will be totally finished. The shastra says


    G a u d i ya To u c h s t o n e

  • yo vyakti nyaya rahitam nyayena Srinoti yah tabubhau narakam ghoram vrajatah kalamakshayam

    The guru who speaks contrary to the conclusions of the revealed scriptures and the disciple who hears such distorted conclusions, will both fall into the darkest regions of hell. (Hari Bhakti Vilasa 1.101)

    The example of opaque glass and transparent glass may be discussed. An object cannot be seen through opaque glass. Some obstacles appear between my eyes and the object that is to be seen. I can see something through a transparent object. Similarly we cannot take darshana of the Absolute Truth (para-tattva) through the medium of an opaque guru, or guru-bruva. Rather than offering everything that is given to him by his disciples to the lotus feet of Bhagavan, the guru-bruva consumes everything himself. Thus, having surrendered to such an opaque guru, the disciple is deprived of attaining real spirituality. With the exception of a Vaishnava, one who is a non-Vaishnava or an anti-Vaishnava cannot become a guru. The shastra states

    If the guru becomes attached to sense grati f ication, loses his sense of duty, and fo l lows a degraded path, a path other than devotional service to the Lord, he should be re jected . (Mahabharata, Udyoga Parva 179.25)


    G a u d i ya To u c h s t o n e

  • avaishnavopadishtena mantrena nirayam vrajetpunas ca vidhina samyag grahayed vaishnavad guroh

    A mantra received from a non-Vaishnava transports one to hell. Thus one should again ask a Vaishnava guru to give the mantra in the proper manner. (Narada Pancharatra)

    Rajen Babu: Cant a kanistha Vaishnava become a guru?

    Prabhupada: Kanistha, madhyama and uttama are the gradations amongst Vaishnavas. In the kanistha stage of Vaishnavism, only non-Vaishnavism is absent this I shall explain in detail a little later. How can we deliberate upon adhikara and define who is a Vaishnava without taking shelter of a sad-guru? Only Gurudeva can explain adhikara. How can one who has never entered the domain of a devotee, who cannot himself understand anything, explain such things to others? If a non-Vaishnava sits on the seat of the guru, it amounts to sheer contempt of guru-tattva.

    guror apy avaliptasya karyakaryam ajanatah utpatha-pratipannasya parityago vidhiyate

    If the guru becomes attached to sense gratification, loses his sense of duty, and follows a degraded path, a path other than devotional service to the Lord, he should be rejected. (Mahabharata, Udyoga Parva 179.25)

    What is the point of approaching someone who instead of being guru (heavy) is laghu (light)? If you beat empty chaff with all your strength, will you be able to extract any grains? If my guide goes in the wrong direction, then I must retire from the journey. It is only proper to reject the shelter of such a guide. Srila Jiva Goswami Prabhu had said:

    vyavaharika-gurvadiparityagenapi paramartha-gurashrayo kartavyah

    A guru based upon mundane conventions should be rejected. One must accept a qualified spiritual master. (Bhakti-sandharba, Annucheda 210)

    Knowledge of a particular subject can only be obtained from one who has experience in that subject. If someone were given the position of a judge, how


    G a u d i ya To u c h s t o n e

  • One will never attain the

    mercy of Krishna if he tries

    to gratif y and serve his wife,

    friend, servant, etc., instead

    of Krishna. Just as we serve

    our faithful sons in order to

    receive service from them later,

    similarly if I serve Krishna

    with the same mentality in

    the hope of gaining something,

    then I dont offer myself as a

    servitor. Rather, we make that

    divine object our servant.

  • would he judge if he has not even elementary knowledge of justice? One who has no knowledge of mathematics cannot teach that subject. If one wants to know how to swim, he must go to a swimmer; if one wishes to learn how to be a smithy, one must go to a smith.

    There is a shop near a house where things are purchased regularly. However, at present the shop is in a deplorable state and its products have become substandard. Yet the shop next to it sells wholesome fresh goods. Then what will the customer do? Will he continue to purchase inferior goods simply to honor tradition or will he choose the fresh items? If an inexperienced family doctor is incapable of treating a patient properly, is it not proper to consult a more knowledgeable doctor? In such a situation, if a good doctor is found in Switzerland, then he is brought in. Just as when one expects to find wealth from a pauper or wisdom from a fool, similarly there is the rule, andhenaiva niyamana yathandha when a blind man leads another blind man, both will attain a dark destination and nothing more. Therefore one must approach a transparent guru. Such things demand cognitional activities and if an opaque guru comes in-between and creates an obstacle in achieving them, it becomes a matter of great misery. Thus, one must remember the Vaishnava principle of asat-sanga tyaga.

    A true Vaishnava does not make disciples. Where is the scope for him to lord over the world when he sees everything fully in the spirit of served and server (sevya-sevaka)? How is it possible for him to accept service offered by someone else? One who does not serve Bhagavan, but accepts anothers service on the pretext of serving others, is an atheist. Gurudeva is the messenger of the Para-tattva and a servant of the Absolute. One who steals the property of the Absolute is laghu (low), not guru (great).

    Taking from a disciple is indicative of laghutva. Accepting objects from a disciple is nothing more than accepting his stool and urine. It is the duty of the transparent guru to take all the service offered by the disciple to the lotus feet of Krishna.

    1 1

    G a u d i ya To u c h s t o n e

  • The opaque guru makes disciples out of his greed for wealth and instead of offering the items dedicated to serve Krishna, he enjoys them himself, and thus he continuously deceives the disciple.


    achara proper conduct

    aishvarya awe and reverence

    baddha-jiva the living entity who is bound to the material world by his karma

    griha-medhi a materialistic householder

    1 2

    G a u d i ya To u c h s t o n e

  • 1 3

    G a u d i ya To u c h s t o n e

  • 1 4

    G a u d i ya To u c h s t o n e

    S r i l a B h a k t i P r a m o d a P u r i M a h a r a j a

    H e a r t o f K r i s h n athe

  • 1 5

    G a u d i ya To u c h s t o n e

    T he Sanskrit word for offense (aparadha) is explained etymologically as radhad arthad aradhanad apagatah to be distanced from worship. Offenses committed at the lotus feet of Vaishnavas, the devotees, distance one from devotional service to the Supreme Lord. But in a higher sense, it means to be removed from the service of Sri Radha. All divine service to Krishna is being conducted under her direction. To offend her servitors is to make one unfit for her divine service. The whole aim of Krishna consciousness is radha-dasyam, the divine service of Sri Radha, and offenses at the lotus feet of Vaishnavas make one unfit for such service.

    The Lord is overly protective of his devotees (bhakta-vatsala). He cannot tolerate any offenses against them. They have bhakti (devotion), and they can awaken it within us. Bhakti is the sole means to attract Krishna, who is a slave of devotion. The same is true of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. The Chaitanya-bhagavata states:

    A person can attain the shelter of Mahaprabhu only by the grace of a higher Vaishnava. Religious practices and even chanting the Holy Name without devotion are useless.

    I f a p e r s o n c o m m i t s a n o f f e n s e a t t h e l o t u s

    f e e t o f a Va i s h n a v a , e v e n t h o u g h h e m a y

    h a v e r e c e i v e d K r i s h n a s m e r c y , h e w i l l n e v e r

    a t t a i n d i v i n e l o v e , p r e m a .

  • 1 6

    G a u d i ya To u c h s t o n e

    Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Prabhupada writes in his commentary:

    Without developing a spirit of service, chanting the Holy Name is in vain. A natural desire to engage in service can only awaken in the heart when one receives the blessings of an unalloyed devotee.

    Here, a natural desire to engage in service is the definition of bhakti. In the following verse, Vrindavana Dasa Thakura goes on to say:

    If a person commits an offense at the lotus feet of a Vaishnava, even though he may have received Krishnas mercy, he will never attain divine love, prema.

    Srila Prabhupada writes:

    One who commits offenses to a Vaishnava becomes incapable of rendering pure devotion because he is committing offenses to the Holy Name. Although it may appear that such an offender is still being shown favor by the Lord as he continues to make a show of chanting without difficulty, the Lord is in fact very displeased with him because of his antagonism toward devotees. Therefore, in any discussion of namaparadha, it is always stressed that we must first give up sadhu-ninda or finding fault with devotees.

    Regarding the phrase krishna-krpa hoile-o (even though he may have received Krishnas mercy) in Vrindavana Dasas verse quoted above, it is apparent that Srila Saraswati Thakura considers that an offender to the Vaishnavas is only making a pretense of chanting. Seeing him, people may think the Lord still favors him, but they are wrong. The Lord is not even slightly moved by their sham devotion.

    The author of Chaitanya-bhagavata, Vrindavana Dasa Thakura, says that these statements are not his alone; they are the verdict of the Vedas. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura did not tolerate any disrespect towards genuine Vaishnavas. Similarly, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu also emphatically denounced any failure to show Vaishnava devotees the respect that is their due.

  • 1 7

    G a u d i ya To u c h s t o n e

    To understand the seriousness of Vaishnava aparadha, or offenses to devotees, one must grasp the multi-faceted, multi-dimensional nature of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Lord Chaitanya appears in six aspects. He himself is the source of all incarnations in Kali Yuga and the savior of all souls. He is Krishna, the son of Maharaja Nanda, fully enriched with the mood and radiance of Sri Radha. In the same way that Mahaprabhu is Krishna, Nityananda Prabhu is Balarama, Krishnas prakasha-vigraha. Balarama is the second member of the original catur-vyuha in Dvaraka (Vasudeva, Balarama, Pradyumna and Aniruddha), whose expansion in Vaikuntha is Sankarshana. Sankarshanas partial expansion is Maha-Vishnu, who lies in the causal ocean for the sake of Krishna. This Maha-Vishnu appears in chaitanya lila as Advaita Acharya. What is left of Sri Radhika after Krishna has plundered Her emotions and luster is Sri Gadadhara Pandita. Mahaprabhus energies are Sri Gadadhara Pandita, Svarupa-damodara, Ramananda Raya and others. His devotees are led by Srivasa Thakura, who is Sri Narada Muni

  • 1 8

    G a u d i ya To u c h s t o n e

    in krishna-lila. The final aspect of Chaitanya Mahaprabhus six-fold manifestation consists of the two kinds of spiritual masters the one who initiates the disciple in the spiritual path and the one who instructs him.

    The slightest disregard to any one of these six aspects of the Lord is equal to disregarding the Supreme Lord Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu himself. Therefore Srila Krishna Dasa Kaviraja Goswami offers prayers to all of these manifestations in the very first verse of the Chaitanya-charitamrta:

    vande gurun isha-bhaktanishan ishavatarakan

    tat-prakashams ca tac-chaktihkrishna-caitanya-samjnakam

    I offer my obeisances unto both the instructing and initiating spiritual masters, the devotees led by Srivasa, the Lords avatars led by Advaita Prabhu, his expansions like Nityananda, his shaktis (energies) led by Gadadhara Pandit, and the primeval lord himself, Sri Krishna Chaitanya. (Cc. Adi 1.1)

    In the beginning of the second chapter of the Antya-lila of the Sri Chaitanya-charitamrita, Srila Krishna Dasa Kaviraja offers the following invocatory prayers (mangalacharana) to the same six truths, as well as to Krishna along with his beloved Radha and her girlfriends led by Lalita and Vishakha. In so doing, he shows special veneration for the Vaishnavas:

    vandeham sri-guroh sri-yuta-pada-kamalamsri-gurun vaisnavamsh ca

    sri-rupam sagrajatam saha-gana-raghunathan vitam tam sa-jivam

    sadvaitam savadhutam parijana-sahitamkrishna-caitanya-devam

    sri-radha-krishna-padan saha-gana-lalita-sri-vishakhanvitamsh ca

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    G a u d i ya To u c h s t o n e

    I offer my obeisances unto the lotus feet of both my initiating and instructing spiritual masters, to all the preceptors in the disciplic succession and to all the Vaishnavas. I offer my obeisances to Sri Rupa Goswami, his elder brother Sanatana, his other associates headed by Sri Raghunatha Dasa, and Sri Jiva. I further offer my obeisances to Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu along with Advaita Acharya, Nityananda Avadhuta and all his other associates. And finally, I offer my obeisances to the lotus feet of Sri Radha and Sri Krishna, along with all the gopis headed by Lalita and Vishakha. (Cc. Antya-lila 2.1)

    Kaviraja Goswami writes further:

    Before beginning the narration of the pastimes of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, I invoke the benediction of Sri Guru, the Vaishnavas and the Divinity, simply by meditating on them. Such meditation destroys all detriments on the spiritual path, and helps one to fulfill all their desires. (Cc. Adi 11.10)

    We must note very carefully that the Vaishnavas have been included within the full conception of Divinity. Krishna Dasa Kaviraja not only invoked their blessings at the very beginning of his biography of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, but went on to glorify them throughout this master work. He describes the Vaishnavas extraordinary qualities and the spiritual benefit resulting from serving them. He also makes several warnings regarding the disastrous effects of Vaishnava aparadha, stating for example:

    If a devotee commits Vaishnava aparadha, his offense is like a mad elephant uprooting and trampling his creeper of devotion; afterwards the creepers leaves dry up and become lifeless. (Cc. Madhya 19.156)

    Krishna Dasa describes three categories of Vaishnavas kanistha (neophyte), madhyama (intermediate) and uttama (advanced). He further states that to gain shelter of a Vaishnava it is imperative to first receive the mercy of Nityananda Prabhu. In the following passage, he describes the characteristics of the uttama devotees that he personally knew:

  • Before beginning the

    narration of the pastimes of

    Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu,

    I invoke the benediction of

    Sri Guru, the Vaishnavas

    and the Divinity, simply by

    meditating on them. Such

    meditation destroys all

    detriments on the spiritual

    path, and helps one to fulfill

    all their desires.

    (Cc. Adi 11.10)

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    All of the Vaishnavas who live in Vrindavana are absorbed in singing the all-auspicious name of Sri Krishna. Sri Mahaprabhu and Nityananda are their life and soul. They know nothing but devotion to Sri Radha and Krishna. My shelter at the Vaishnavas lotus feet has been granted only by the mercy of Nityananda Prabhu. (Cc. Adi 5.228-30)

    Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Prabhupada highlights these characteristics in his Anubhashya:

    All the Vaishnavas living in the holy dhama of Sri Vrindavana are completely devoted to the all-auspicious holy name of Krishna and have taken shelter of the path of devotion, primarily by glorifying the Lord. Sriman Mahaprabhu and Nityananda are their life and soul. They accept no illegitimate forms of devotion; all they know is the eternal service of Sri Radha and Sri Krishna.

    Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, a nitya-siddha (eternal associate) of the Lord, instructs us to pray to Mahaprabhu in order to get the association of pure devotees. When we find shelter in the shade of a Vaishnavas lotus feet, we should shed tears of remorse with total humility, submitting to him the plight of our material existence, which is the result of turning away from Krishna. The Vaishnava is an ocean of compassion and feels the pain of others. When he pleads on our behalf to the Lord, Krishna responds and kindly accepts us as the followers of his favorites. Krishnas mercy descends only through the Vaishnavas.

    There is Krishna and there is karshna. Krishnas mercy is embodied in pure devotees, who are known as karshna. The lotus feet of a Vaishnava guru represent the mercy of the Lord. Krishna is the priceless treasure enthroned in Sri Gurus heart. The Lord can easily give this treasure to those who are surrendered to his devotees. There is no other way to receive Krishnas grace than to serve and take shelter at the lotus feet of a Vaishnava.

    Srila Kaviraja Goswami discusses the importance of honoring the Vaishnavas remnants, using the example of Sri Kali Dasa, the uncle of Raghunatha Dasa Goswami:

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    G a u d i ya To u c h s t o n e

    Taking the food remnants of Vaishnavas is so potent it forced Mahaprabhu to shower His mercy upon Kali Dasa. Dont hesitate. Eat the Vaishnavas remnants and you will fulfill your hearts desire.

    Food offered to Krishna is called maha-prasada. After maha-prasada has been taken by a devotee, his remnants are glorified as maha-maha-prasada. The dust of a pure devotees feet, the water of his foot-bath and his food remnants are three extremely potent spiritual substances. By honoring these three, one will be filled with ecstatic love for Krishna. All the scriptures declare this again and

    again. My dear devotees! Please hear me: believe in these three and honor them in a mood of service, and you will achieve the purpose of your existence ecstatic love of Krishna. This is the greatest mercy of Krishna, and Kali Dasa is living proof. (Cc. Antya 16.57-63)

    Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura has also written:

    When will Mahaprabhu shower His mercy upon me so I may have shelter in the shade of the Vaishnavas lotus feet? I will humbly stand before him, giving up all pretension. Holding a straw between my teeth and weeping, I will tell him of my miserable existence. I will admit that my life is one never-ending misery and beg him to put an end to all of my suffering. The kind Vaishnava will beg Sri Krishna with all his might. Then Krishna, moved by the Vaishnavas sincerity, will shower me with His divine grace. (Kalyana-kalpa-taru)

    In another song, Srila Bhaktivinoda writes:

    O Vaishnava Thakura, you are an ocean of mercy. Please shower your compassion upon me. Give me the shade of your lotus feet and purify my

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    polluted heart. Sri Krishna is yours and you have the power to give Him to me! Knowing this, I am following you like a beggar, appealing for your mercy. (Sharanagati)

    Narottama Dasa Thakura glorifies the Vaishnavas with great enthusiasm in both his Prarthana and Prema-bhakti-candrika:

    I am so sinful; how can I possibly serve the Lord? I have no love for either my guru or the devotees. Constantly deluded by the unlimited illusory energy, I have not developed the least bit of affection for the Vaishnavas. Day and night, I am blinded by my desire for sense objects. The witch Maya is waiting to hang a noose around my neck. I have no power to resist her on my own. I am helpless without your mercy. I know that you never see the faults of anyone, so I am begging you please save me. (Prarthana)

    Narottamas songs are filled with wonderful glorification of Vaishnavas. All devotees treasure them as priceless instructions for increasing ones devotion. From his childhood, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Prabhupada chose Narottamas songbook as his constant companion on the path of devotion.

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  • VERSE 1sanjaya uvaca

    tam tatha kripayavishtam ashru-purnakulekshanam vishidantam idam vakyam uvaca madhusudanah

    Sanjaya said: Sri Krishna then spoke the following words to Arjuna whose heart was overwhelmed with pity and whose eyes were filled with tears.

    The Opulence of Bhagavan

    Excerpted from Chapter

    Two of Bhagavad gita,

    with the Anuvrtti

    Commentary of

    Swami Narasingha

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  • VERSE 2sri bhagavan uvaca

    kutas tva kashmalam idam vishame samupasthitamanarya-jushtam asvargyam akirti-karam arjuna

    Bhagavan Sri Krishna said: Arjuna, how has such illusion overcome you at this crucial moment? This is not appropriate for an honorable man, nor does it lead to higher planets. It is the cause of infamy.

    VERSE 3klaibyam ma sma gamah partha naitat tvayy-upapadyatekshudram hridaya-daurbalyam tyaktvottishtha parantapa

    O Partha, give up this unmanliness. It does not befit you. O chastiser of enemies, get up and do not yield to this petty weakness of heart.

    VERSE 4arjuna uvaca

    katham bhishmam aham sankhye dronam ca madhusudanaishubhih pratiyotsyami pujarhav-arisudana

    Arjuna replied: How can I counterattack such persons as Bhishma and Drona in battle, firing arrows at those who are worthy of my respect, O Madhusudana?

    VERSE 5gurun ahatva hi mahanubhavan

    shreyo bhoktum bhaikshyam apiha lokehatvartha kamamstu gurun ihaiva

    bhunjiya bhogan rudhira-pradigdhan

    It is better to live in this world by begging than killing our respectable superiors. Otherwise, the wealth and property that we enjoy here in this world will be tainted with their blood.

    Excerpted from Chapter

    Two of Bhagavad gita,

    with the Anuvrtti

    Commentary of

    Swami Narasingha

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  • VERSE 6na caitad vidmah kataranno gariyoyadva jayema yadi va no jayeyuh

    yan eva hatva na jijivishamastevasthitah pramukhe dhartarashtrah

    I do not know what is better for us to conquer them or be conquered by them. If we slay the sons of Dhritarashtra who are assembled here before us, I have no desire to live.

    VERSE 7karpanya-doshopahata-svabhavah

    prichhami tvam dharma-sammudhachetahyachhreyah syan nishcitam bruhi tan me

    shishyasteham shadhi mam tvam prapannam

    My natural propensity as a warrior is weakening and I am bewildered as to what is righteousness. Kindly tell me what is most beneficial for me. I am your disciple, surrendered unto You. Please instruct me.

    VERSE 8na hi prapashyami mamapanudyad

    yac chokam ucchoshanam indriyanamavapya bhumav-asapatnam riddham

    rajyam suranam api cadhipatyam

    Even if I gain a substantial kingdom beyond compare and the power of the demigods, I see nothing that can remove this grief that is eroding my senses.

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  • This second chapter is where the Bhagavad-gita truly begins. Bhagavad-gita literally means the Song of Bhagavan and Bhagavan means the Absolute Truth. Here for the first time in Bhagavad-gita, Sri Krishna is addressed as Bhagavan. According to Vedic scholars such as Parasara Muni, Bhagavan means one who possesses all wealth, strength, fame, beauty, knowledge and renunciation.

    aishvaryasya samagrasya viryasya yashasah shriyah jnana vairagyayos caiva shannah bhaga itingana

    He that possesses the attributes of sovereignty, potency, fame, wealth, knowledge and renunciation in full is known as Bhagavan. (Vishnu Purana 6.5.47)


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  • Additionally, Jiva Goswami, the 16th century Vaishnava philosopher, says that Bhagavan is bhajaniya guna ca ananta ca nityah He that possesses all adorable qualities and whose all-attractive nature is such that He attracts our feelings of affection and adoration.

    In contemporary society there is much debate as to whether God exists or not. First it is necessary to define what we mean by God before His existence can be determined or dismissed. Accordingly, the seers of the truth in ancient India have concluded that if there is a God, then God must necessarily be the owner and proprietor of everything; He must be all powerful, the most famous, the most beautiful, the possessor of all knowledge and at the same time, detached or renounced. After careful analysis, those seers of truth concluded that only Sri Krishna could be and is the ultimate fountainhead of Reality, the Absolute Truth. These findings have been corroborated by many sages through the ages (from before 10,000 BCE) and are dealt with extensively throughout Vedic literatures such as the Vedas, Upanishads, Puranas, Ramayana, Mahabharata, Vedanta-sutra, Srimad Bhagavatam and Brahma-samhita etc.

    ishvarah paramah krishnah sac-cid-ananda vigrahah anadir adir govindah sarva-karana-karanam

    Krishna is the Supreme Controller. His form is made of bliss, knowledge and eternity. He is the origin of all. He is the Master

    Krishna is the Supreme Controller. His form is made of bliss, knowledge and eternity. He is the origin of all. He is the Master of the cows and the senses. He has no other origin and He is the primeval cause of all causes. (Brahma-samhita 5.1)

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  • of the cows and the senses. He has no other origin and He is the primeval cause of all causes. (Brahma-samhita 5.1)

    ete camsha kalah pumsah krishnas tu bhagavan svayam indrari vyakulam lokam mridayanti yuge yuge

    The various avataras are either plenary expansions or parts of plenary expansions. But Krishna is the original source of all avataras. When impious elements disturb His devotees, He manifests age after age in order to protect them. (Srimad Bhagavatam 1.3.28)

    harir eva sadaradhyam sarva-deveshvareshvaram itare brahma-rudradya navaj-eyam kadacana

    Only Sri Hari (Krishna) should be worshiped as the Master of the entire universe. Brahma, Siva and all other demigods never violate this principle at any time. (Padma Purana)

    yatravatirnam krishnakhyam param brahma narakritim

    When the Supreme Person descends in His human-like form, He is Krishna, the Supreme Brahman. (Vishnu Purana 4.11.2)

    tasmat krishna eva paro devas tam dhyayet tam raset tam bhajet tam yajet

    Thus Krishna is the Supreme Person. One should meditate on Him. One should delight in Him. One should worship Him and make offerings to Him. (Gopala-tapani Upanishad 1.54)

    krishir bhu-vacakah shabdo nash ca nirvritti-vacakahtayor aikyam param brahma krishna ityabhidhiyate

    The syllable krish refers to the all-attractive quality of Krishna, and the syllable na refers to His spiritual bliss. When the verb krish is added to the affix na, it becomes the word Krishna, indicating the Supreme Truth. (Mahabharata, Udyoga-parva 71.4)

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  • Arjuna has become overwhelmed with compassion for those who are about to die on the battlefield. In fact, such is his grief that he himself is prepared to die rather than kill his enemies. But Arjuna is a warrior and from a noble family, therefore Krishna advises Arjuna against his weakness of heart. If one is a warrior it is ones duty to face the enemy and not cower away. Fighting is indeed a nasty business, but when duty calls, such fighting may be unavoidable. In ancient times, acts of aggression were abhorred and strictly forbidden in society and between nations. When such aggression did occur, retaliation and war were acceptable. According to the great sage Vasishtha, there are six types of aggressors and according to Manu-samhita these aggressors are to be met with lethal response.

    agnido garadash caiva shastra-panir dhanapahah kshetra-darapahari ca shad ete hyatatayinah

    The arsonist who sets fire to ones house, one who administers poison, one who attacks with deadly weapons, one who usurps a nations resources, one who invades and occupies a sovereign country and one who kidnaps ones family members - all should be considered as aggressors. (Vasishtha-smriti 3.19)

    atatayinam ayantam hanyad eva vicarayan natatayi-vadhe dosho hantur bhavati kashcana

    Without hesitation a warrior should destroy aggressors, as there is no bad reaction in slaying them. (Manu-samhita 8.350)

    These verses are according to the rules given in the artha-shastra (laws of society). Yet the dharma-shastra (laws of dharma), which are superior to the artha-shastra, state that one should never inflict harm on any living being (ma himsyat sarva-bhutani) what to say of ones family members and superiors?

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  • This was Arjunas dilemma. Being a softhearted devotee of Sri Krishna, Arjuna was disinclined to take up arms against his family members, but being a warrior he had to face his destiny. In this state of bewilderment, Arjuna decided to put aside his casual relationship with Krishna as a friend and accept Sri Krishna as his guru (spiritual master). Thus Krishna accepted Arjuna as a disciple.

    According to Vedic knowledge there are numerous planets and parallel universes wherein life can be found. Some of these planets and universes have higher standards of living than we experience on earth and some are lower. If one performs ones prescribed duties in this life then accordingly, one is elevated to higher planets. However, if one neglects his duty then only infamy and descending to lower planets awaits one in the next life.

    Krishna has used the word anarya meaning non-aryan to describe Arjunas disinclination to follow his prescribed Vedic duties. For centuries there has been much controversy about who is aryan and where the aryans came from. For the most part, all such considerations have been based upon bodily designations in order to establish one race of people as superior to another. But in Bhagavad-gita, according to the words of Sri Krishna, the aryans are those who carry out their duties in accordance with the Vedic injunctions. Thus it is understood that the word aryan does not pertain to a particular race of people, but to a conception of life and a way of living.

    Knowledge of the eternal existence of infinite consciousness (Krishna) and the finite individual unit of consciousness (atma or the self) is the key to all Vedic wisdom.

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  • MAYAVADA AND BUDDHISMA r e T h e y O n e a n d t h e S a m e ?

    S w a m i B . V . G i r i

    In the Padma Purana, there is a famous verse wherein Shiva tells Parvati that he will appear in the age of Kali as a brahmana to preach asat-shastra:

    mayavadam asat-shastram pracchanam-baudham ucyatemayaiva kalpitam devim kalau brahmana rupinah

    O goddess, in the age of Kali, I will appear in the form of a brahmana to preach the false doctrine of Mayavada which is simply covered Buddhism. (Padma Purana 6.236.7)

    Indisputably, the brahmana mentioned in the verse is none other than the great Indian philosopher of monistic Vedanta, Adi Shankara. A few verses later Shiva continues:

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  • vedarthan maha-shastram mayavadam avaidikammayaiva kathitam devi jagatam nashakaranat

    This powerful doctrine of Mayavada resembles the Vedas, but is by nature non-Vedic. O goddess, I propagate this philosophy in order to destroy the world. (Padma Purana 6.236.11)

    The term Mayavada refers to the Advaitic theory that the appearance of this world and the duality within it is due to maya the illusory power of Brahman. This world is unreal and is a vivarta, or a modification through maya. Brahman is the only reality. There are various reasons why this theory is untenable, but that is not the topic of this article.

    Mayavada is an expression that is rarely used by Advaitins in referring to themselves or their doctrine as it carries with it a derogatory implication. Adi Shankara himself referred to his philosophy as abheda-darshana (the theory of non-difference) or as dvaitavada-pratishedha (the denial of dualism). However, amongst scholars his philosophy is generally known as kevaladvaita-vada (the theory of absolute non-dualism) or simply Advaita.

    From the above verses from Padma Purana it is clear that even before its actual inception, Advaita philosophy was considered to be covered Buddhism. Shankaras opponents such as Madhva, Ramanuja, Partha-sarathi Mishra and

    O goddess, in the age of Kali, I will

    appear in the form of a brahmana

    to preach the false doctrine of

    Mayavada which is simply covered

    Buddhism. (Padma Purana 6.236.7)

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  • Bhaskara associated his teachings with Buddhism mainly due to his theory of nirguna Brahman and his concept of maya. Such accusations have always incensed the Mayavadis and they have strongly protested against such parallels and made great efforts to distance themselves from Buddhism, condemning it as absolute nihilism.


    Bhaskara (9th Century CE), the propounder of bhedabheda-siddhanta was one of the earliest Indian philosophers to attack Mayavada. In his commentary on Vedanta-sutra, Bhaskara does not mention Shankara by name, nor does he mention the name of his philosophy. However by reviewing his arguments against the monistic doctrine of maya and the Advaitic concept of anirvachaniya, it is obvious who and what he is alluding to.

    Bhaskara is positively vitriolic when writing about the Advaitins concept of maya, referring to its adherents as bauddha-mata-valambin (those that cling to Buddhist ideology) and goes on to say that their philosophy reeks of Buddhism (bauddha-gandhin). Bhaskara concludes that, No one but a drunkard could hold such theories and that Mayavada is subversive of all shastrika knowledge:

    vigitam vicchinna-mulam mahayanika-bauddhagathitam mayavadam vyavarnayanto lokan vyamohayanti

    Expanding on the contradictory and baseless philosophy of maya propagated by the Mahayanika Buddhists, the Mayavadis have misled the whole world. (Bhaskaras Brahma-sutra-bhashya 1.4.25)

    In his Siddha-traya, the Vaishnava philosopher Yamunacharya (9171042 CE) stated that Buddhism and Mayavada was essentially the same thing. The only difference he could see was that while one was openly Buddhist (prakata-saugata), the other was simply covered (pracchana-saugata).

    Following on from Yamunacharya, his disciple Sri Ramanuja (1017-1137 CE) also concurred that Mayavada was another form of Buddhism. In his Sri Bhashya

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  • commentary on the Vedanta-sutras, Ramanuja says that to claim that non-differentiated consciousness is real and all else is false is the same as the Buddhist concept of universal void. Furthermore, Ramanuja states that the concepts of such crypto-Buddhists make a mockery of the teachings of the Vedas (veda-vadacchadma pracchana-bauddha).

    Another acharya in the line of Ramanuja, Vedanta Deshika (12691370) wrote his famous Shata-dushini, a text expounding one hundred flaws found in Mayavada. In

    that work he refers to Shankara as a rahu-mimamsaka (one who obscures the true meaning of Vedanta), a bhrama-bhikshu (a confused beggar), a chadmavesha-dhari one who is disguised in false garb, and goes on to assert that, By memorizing the arguments of the Shata-dushini like a parrot, one would be victorious over the crypto-Buddhists.

    In another work, Paramata-bhangam, Vedanta Deshika refers to Shankara as, One who studied the Vedas in the shop of a Madhyamika Buddhist (referring to Shankaras parama-guru Gaudapada of who, we will speak of later in this article).

    Later philosophers also declared Mayavada to be crypto-Buddhism. The Sankhya philosopher Vijnana-bhikshu (15501600 CE) tried to reconcile Vedanta with Sankhya philosophy and synthesize all theistic schools of Indian thought into a philosophy that he called Avibhagadvaita (indistinguishable non-dualism). He was an impartial writer who analyzed both the merits and problems of the various doctrines that he encountered. Concerning Shankaras philosophy, Vijnana-bhikshu states in his Sankhya Pravachana Bhashya:

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  • brahma-mimamsayam kenapi sutrenavidya-matrato bandhasyanuktatat. avibhago vacanaditya-sutrair-brahma-mimamsaya abhipretas-yavibhaga-lakshanadraitasy-avidyadivastavatvepyavirodhaccha. yat tu vedanta-bruvanamadhunikasya mayavadas-yatra lingam drshyate tat teshamapi vijnanavadyeka-deshitaya yuktameva.

    There is not a single Brahma-sutra in which bondage is declared to be a mere deception. As to the novel theory of maya propounded by vedanta-bruva (those who claim to be Vedantists), it is only another type of Buddhist of the Vijnanavada school (vijnana-vadyekadeshin). This theory has nothing to do with Vedanta and it should be understood that this doctrine of these new Buddhists, who assert the theory of maya and reduce our bondage to mere illusion is in this way refuted. (Sankhya Pravachana Bhashya 1.22)

    At this point in his work, Vijnana-bhikshu also quotes the famous verse from Padma Purana (mayavadam asat-chastram). Vijnana-bhikshu considered Buddhism to be nastikavada, or atheism, as it was opposed to Vedic thought. Thus, in effect, he was declaring Mayavadis to be out and out atheists.

    Amongst all acharyas and philosophers, Sri Madhvacharya was certainly the most hostile towards Shankara. Throughout his campaign to establish his philosophy of Dvaitavada, Madhva continuously attacked Mayavada, which he considered to be the worst kind of heresy. In his Anu-vyakhyana, Brhad-bhashya and Tattvodyota, Madhva also makes the claim that the Advaitins are crypto-Buddhists na ca shunyavadinah sakashad vailakshanyam mayavadinah (there is no doctrinal difference between Buddhism and Mayavada). He even quotes Buddhist texts and compares them to Advaitin works to prove his point.

    At this point it would only be fair to see what Shankara himself has to say about Buddhism.

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    Shankara has long been glorified as being the principle architect behind Buddhisms eventual decline in India. We do not know whether or not Shankara personally debated with Buddhist scholars since all the traditional hagiographies about him were written much later between the 14th and 17th Centuries and are an inextricable combination of legend and history.

    What is certain is that by the time Shankara came to prominence, Buddhism was already on the wane in India. Buddhist scholars coming from China lamented the collapse

    of the Buddhist sanga due to Muslim assaults and the invasion of the White Hunas (Shveta Hunas or Turushkas) in Northern India during the 6th Century CE. During this period there was a resurgence of Vedic thought due to the patronage of such royal dynasties as the Guptas. Thus Shankara cannot be fully credited with the fall of Indian Buddhism.

    During the time of Shankara there were three main schools of Buddhism Vijnanavada (subjective idealism), Bahyarthavada (representationalism) and Madhyamika or Shunyavada (voidism). In his commentaries on the Upanishads, Shankaras arguments against Buddhism are rather tame. However, when it comes to his refutations in his Brahma-sutra-bhashya, Shankara is quite derogatory and pens a vitriolic character assassination of Buddha:

    api ca bahyartha vijnana shunyavada trayam itaretara viruddham upadishata sugatena spandikritam atmano sambandha pralapitvam, pradvesho va prajasu viruddhartha-pratipattya vimuhyeyurimah praja iti.

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  • Thus by inventing three contradictory systems the reality of the world, the reality of knowledge and total voidism it is clear that Buddha was either a man who simply made delirious statements, or else he had a hatred for mankind that induced him to create such a stupid philosophy so that they would become confused. (Sharirka-bhashya 2.2.32)

    Shankara indeed made efforts to refute some of the Buddhist concepts found in Vijnanavada and Bahyarthavada, but made no strong attempts to defeat Shunyavada. Shankara writes in his Saririka-bhasya:

    shunyavadi-pakshastu sarvapramanavipratishiddha iti tannirakaranaya nadarah kriyate. nahyayam sarvapramanaprasiddho lokavyavaharonyattattvamanadhigamya shakyate pahnotumapavadabhava utsarga-prasiddheh

    The third type of Buddhist doctrine that states that everything is void is contradicted by all means of right knowledge and thus requires no special refutation. This apparent world, whose existence is guaranteed by all means of knowledge, cannot be denied unless someone should discover some new truth (based on which he could impugn its existence) for a general principle is proved by the absence of contrary instances. (Sharirka-bhashya 2.2.31)

    Shankara dismisses Shunyavada as nihilism as it does not accept a higher reality after rejecting the phenomenal world. However, this accusation of Shankaras is false since Shunyavada endorses the higher reality of the present moment directly experienced here and now. This is the only real criticism that Shankara makes of Shunyavada. Ultimately Shankara simply dismisses Shunyavada as being unworthy of criticism.

    It is obvious from his commentary that Shankara attempted to distance himself from Buddhism. Yet his casual dismissal of Shunyavada and his gross misinterpretation of its doctrine are suspicious and need to be analyzed further.

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    It would be unreasonable to simply accuse Shankara of being a crypto-Buddhist simply on the basis of what his opponents have said without further examining the reasons for such accusations.

    Throughout history, Mayavadis themselves recognized certain similarities between Buddhism and Advaitavada and have even complimented Buddhist ideology. The Advaitin scholar, Vimuktatman (9th Century CE) agrees with Shankara that Shunyavada Buddhism is nihilism, but admits in his famous work Ishta-siddhi that if the Buddhists mean maya when they use the term asat, then their position is similar to that of the Vedantin.

    Similarly, Sadananda Yogindra states that if the Buddhists define shunya as, That which is beyond the intellect, then the Buddhist is actually a Vedantist.

    Although the Advaitin Sriharsha accepts some differences between Advaita and Buddhism, he considers both schools of thought to be similar. Later, Sriharshas commentator Chitsukha even comes to the rescue of the Shunyavada Buddhists by fending off the Vedic Mimamsakas when they attack the Buddhist concept of ignorance (samvritti).

    The Advaitin scholar Vachaspati Mishra (900-980 CE) shows appreciation for the Buddhists when he states in his Bhamati commentary that the Buddhists of the Shunyavada school were advanced in thought (prakristamati).

    If imitation is the highest form of flattery, then it certainly must have been true when Shankara plagiarized the famous Buddhist scholar Dharmakirti by directly lifting verses from Dharmakirtis Pramana-vinishchaya and using them in his Upadesha-sahasri. One example is the following:

    abhinnopi hi buddhyatma viparyasitadarshanaihgrahya-grahaka-samittir bhedavan iva lakshyate

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  • The intellect itself, though indivisible, is looked upon by deluded people as consisting of the divisions of the knower, knowing and the known. (Upadesha-sahasri.18.142)


    Shankaras doctrine of maya has been one of the principle reasons that he has been accused of being a closet Buddhist. Yet it was actually Shankaras parama-guru, Gaudapada who posited the idea of maya or ajativada in his famous Mandukya-karika.

    Ajativada refers to the theory of non-creation. In his karika Gaudapada claims that the world of appearances is actually maya and does not factually exist. So this theory of maya/ajativada does not originate with Shankara.

    However, it does not originate with Gaudapada either

    Prior to Gaudapada, it was Nagarjuna that first postulated the concept of ajativada in his Madhyamika-karikas. In his Mandukya-karika, Gaudapada writes:

    khyapyamanamajatim tairanumodamahe vayamvivadamo na taih sardhamavivadam nibodhata

    We approve of the ajati declared by them (the Buddhists). We do not quarrel with them. (Mandukya-karika 4.5)

    It is even affirmed by Shankara himself that Gaudapada accepted the arguments of the Buddhists regarding ajativada:

    vijnanavadino bauddhasya vacanam bahyarthavadi-paksha-pratishedha-param acaryena anumoditam

    The acharya (Gaudapada) has accepted the words of the Vijnanavada Buddhist (Nagarjuna) to prove the unreality of external things. (Shankaras commentary on Gaudapadas Karika 4.27)

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  • Gaudapadas affiliation with Buddhism does not stop there. Gaudapada also gives arguments that are akin to those of the Buddhist scholar Vasubandhu in order to prove that the phenomenal world is unreal by equating the dream state with the waking state.

    Furthermore, the two illustrations of the city of the Gandharvas (gandharva-nagara) and the magic elephant (maya-hasti) that Gaudapada uses in his karika to prove the illusory nature of the world are both found in Mahayana Buddhist literature.

    In the fourth chapter of Mandukya-karika a case of similar terminology is found between Gaudapada and Nagarjuna. Gaudapada writes in his karika (4.7):

    prakriter anyathabhavo na katham cid bhavishyati

    And we find a similar verse in Nagarjunas Madhyamaka-karika (15.8):

    prakriter anyathabhavo na hi jatupapadyate

    The title of the fourth chapter of his karika is Alatashanti (circle of fire) which is a word commonly found in Buddhist texts. But probably the biggest give-away is in the fourth chapter of the karika:

    nivrittasyapravrittasya nishcala hi tada sthitihvishayah sa hi buddhanam tatsamyamajamadvayam

    Thus, the mind freed from attachment and undistracted attains a state of immutability. Being realized by the wise, it is undifferentiated, birthless and non-dual. (Mandukya-karika 4.80)

    The concept of two

    truths did not originate

    with Shankara but with

    the Buddhist scholar


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  • upalambhatsamacaradastivastutvavadinamjatistu deshita buddhaih ajatestrasata sada

    For those who, from their own experience and right conduct, believe in the existence of substantiality, and who are ever afraid of the birthless, instruction regarding birth has been imparted by the wise. (Mandukya-karika 4.42)

    The Sanskrit word Gaudapada has chosen to refer to the wise is buddha!

    Scholars have pointed out that Gaudapadas method of dialectical analysis almost mirrors that of Nagarjuna, thus it is

    obvious that Mahayana Buddhism heavily influenced Shankaras parama-guru. Despite glaring proof to the contrary, Gaudapada still tried to distance himself from Buddhism by writing at the end of the fourth Chapter of his work, naitad buddhena bhasitam My views are not the views held by Buddha.

    Indeed, Gaudapadas karika is permeated so much with Madhyanika Buddhist thought that some scholars have suggested that he may have previously been a follower of Nagarjuna.


    We will now examine other examples where Buddhism has infiltrated Mayavada philosophy.

    Two Truths

    Shankara postulates that there are two ways of looking at the world. There is a conventional perspective (vyavaharika-satya) where the world appears to be

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  • pluralistic, and there is the higher perspective (paramarthika satya) where one realizes that all duality is simply illusory and everything is Brahman.

    However, this concept of two truths did not originate with Shankara but with the Buddhist scholar Nagarjuna. Nagarjuna refers to these two truths as samvritti-satta and paramartha-satta. Nagarjunas theory was enthusiastically taken up by Shankara in order to explain higher and lower fields of knowledge.

    The Non-Existence of the Universe

    Buddhism states that the universe is unreal (asat). Since its origin is shunya and it ends in shunya, logically, its interim must also be shunya. Thus they conclude that ultimately the element of time also does not exist. This means that the sum-total of everything in the universe is shunya.

    Shankara also posits the same idea when he states jagat-mithya the universe is false. Shankara rejects all three phases of time (past, present and future) when he writes in his Dasha-shloki:

    na jagran na me svapnako va sushuptir

    I do not experience the waking state, the dream state nor the state of deep sleep. (Dasha-shloki 6)

    If one dissolves all states of being that we experience (waking, dreaming and deep sleep), then naturally this eliminates time itself and the only property remaining is void, or shunya.

    Shankara describes the ultimate cause of the universe as avidya (ignorance). It has no past, present and future. However, conveniently, Shankara explains that this avidya cannot be fully explained philosophically because of its immense propensity thus he calls it anirvachaniya (inexplicable). Both the asat of the Buddhist and the anirvachaniya of the Mayavadi accept the momentary reality of the universe (vyavaharika-satya), its ultimate falsity (paramarthika-satya) and its incomprehensible nature thus asat and anirvachaniya are one and the same thing.

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  • Whereas Buddhists refer to the phenomenal universe as an impression (samskara), Shankara says that it is like a dream (svapna). However, this is just a matter of semantics both dreams and impressions are in essence the same thing since they only occur on the mental platform.


    Both the Mayavadi and the Buddhist agree that ignorance is the cause of suffering. The Mayavadi calls this avidya and the Buddhist refers to this as samvritti. The Mayavadis go to great lengths to make differentiations between the two. However, the Buddhist scholar Chandrakirti gives the following etymological meaning of samvritti:

    Samvritti is not knowing, caused by the veil of avidya, common to all. (Prasannapada 24.8.492.10)

    Thus we conclude that the two terms are actually non-different.


    The Mayavadi claims that the method of achieving moksha is realization of the non-difference between the atma and Brahman. The Buddhist says that realization that everything is ultimately shunya is the sadhana to attain liberation. Shankara defines moksha thus:

    brahma bhinnatva-vijnanam bhava-mokshasya karanamyenadvitiyam anandam brahma sampadyate budhaih

    The realization of ones inseparable oneness with Brahman is the means of liberation from temporal existence, by which the wise person achieves the non-dual, blissful nature of Brahman. (Viveka-chudamani 223)

    This theory is identical with the Buddhist concept of prajna. In Buddhism, when the causes of bondage are eliminated one attains realization of shunya which leads to liberation. This realization is known as prajna.

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  • Moksha and Nirvana

    Advaita defines moksha as the removal of avidya. Buddhists say that by the removal of samvritti, one attains nirvana. Both conceptions of liberation are identical.

    Brahman and Shunya

    Once again, the Mayavadis go to great lengths to prove that their concept of Brahman and the Buddhist concept of shunya are totally different. The Mayavadis argue that by attaining Brahman one achieves ananda, but there is no ananda in shunya. However, the great Dvaita scholar Raghuttama Tirtha has shown that there is no distinction between the two:

    You Mayavadis desire to become Brahman or to become bliss. You do not say, We want to experience bliss. You say, We want to become bliss. When one becomes bliss, according to you, one has no consciousness of bliss. One does not enjoy bliss because you dont believe that there is any consciousness of any enjoyment in that condition because you say the Self cannot become the object of Self-consciousness. According to you, Brahman is merely bliss and light. This cannot be the highest end. It is a state of inertness. It is thus like saying, I do not want to taste sugar, or its sweetness but I wish to become sugar. What is the good of ones becoming sugar, if one has no consciousness of its sweetness? The lack of consciousness cannot be the highest end of man; in fact, there is no difference in this unconscious brahma-bhava of the Mayavadi, and the shunya-bhava of the Buddhists. (Bhava-bodha sub-commentary of the Brihad-bhashya)

    According to the Advaitin conception, Brahman is nirguna (without any qualities). But logically speaking, something that is without any attributes whatsoever is as good as nothing (shunya). If something has eternal existence (as the Mayavadis claim Brahman has) then it must have attributes, otherwise it is nothing. Since the Mayavadis Brahman and the Buddhists shunya both have no attributes, they must be identical.

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  • Conclusion

    The concepts of maya, avidya, vyayaharika-satya and paramarthika-satya, advaya, prajna, the unreality of the universe and time and the attributeless Brahman are all Buddhist contributions, without which there would be no Advaita philosophy. It thus becomes obvious why Shankara was disinclined to launch an all out attack upon Shunyavada Buddhism when he and his predecessor Gaudapada had appropriated so much from that doctrine.

    In conclusion, by carefully analyzing the above points it would seem that Shankaras detractors were correct in assessing that his philosophy was crypto-Buddhism. It can clearly be observed that Shankara and Gaudapada attempted to amalgamate Buddhist epistemology and psychology with the metaphysics of the Upanishads and Vedanta. Thus, from an orthodox standpoint, this automatically disqualifies Advaitavada as a traditional school of Vedic thought.

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  • www. g o s a i . c o m

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    Sindhu Riverhow india got her name

    The Sindhu River is one of the great holy rivers of India, from which the name of India is derived. Unlike other holy rivers in India such as the Ganga, Yamuna and Sarasvati, the Sindhu is masculine.

    The Sindhu is virtually unknown to people in western countries, but for the people of India it has great significance. Indeed, the Sindhu gave birth to the earliest of Indias civilizations known as the Indus Valley Civilization. For those readers who know their history, then the names of ancient cities and archaeological digs at places like Harappa and Mohenjo-daro will be familiar the land of the Aryan Invasion a topic of much debate, even after more than 200 years of research and scholarly studies.

    But one fact is for sure human civilization along the banks of the Sindhu River has been present since hoary antiquity. Archaeological evidence shows human habitation along the Sindhu for at least the past 17,000 years. In truth, the name Sindhu is older than civilization itself and is mentioned in the classical histories of ancient India such as the Rig Veda (170 times), the Puranas and in the Iranic Zend Avesta. On modern world maps the Sindhu is marked as the Indus. Lake Manasarovar

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    Beginning at Lake Manasarovara, at the base of Mount Kailasa (the mountain sacred to Shiva) on the eastern side of the Himalayas in what is now western China (old Tibet), the Sindhu/Indus flows westward crossing into India into the Ladakh district of Jammu and Kashmir. The Sindhu then takes a southerly route, traverses the plains of Pakistan and merges into the Arabian Sea near the port of Karachi a journey of 3,180 kilometers (1,980 miles).

    According to the Mahabharata (Bhishma-parva, ch.6, Verse 48) the spiritual sometimes considered mythical origin of the Sindhu River is stated as being due to the austerities of King Bhagiratha in Satya-yuga. Bhagiratha was attempting to free his ancestors from bad karma and their suffering in the lower planetary systems of Patala-loka. After performing his penance Bhagiratha summoned the sacred River Ganges to Earth. The Ganges descended from the heavenly planets and thereafter formed six separate rivers three flowing to the east (the Hladini, Pavani and Nalini), and three flowing to the west (the Suchakshus, Sita and Sindhu). The seventh branch, the Ganga, then flowed from the Himalayas to Ganga-sagara, entering the Bay of Bengal, and then down to Patala-loka.

    If not mythical, then the story of King Bhagiratha and the Sindhu is certainly mystical and no doubt took place a long time ago when the world was quite different.

    Mount Kailasa

    By Swami Naras i ngha

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    Indeed, the etymology of the name of India takes us on a journey back in time and is also closely associated with famous personalities in western history such as King Darius of Persia, Alexander the Great, Megasthenes and others.

    In bygone days, the people living east of the Sindhu commonly referred to themselves as Aryans a term originating from the Sanskrit word arya, a self-designation meaning honorable, respectable and noble. But for the Arabs, west of the Sindhu, they were the al-Hindus, and for the Persians they were the Hindus.

    It only came to pass, after centuries of use, that the word Hindu came to designate a people with particular religious beliefs. In the beginning Hindu was simply a general designation for anyone living east of, or along the banks of the Sindhu. It also came to pass that the word Hindu became Sanskritized and the land of the Hindus became known as Hindustan, meaning land of the Hindus a name that is still in use today in India. Thousands of years ago the people living between the Sindhu and the Himalayas called their land Bharata-varsa, the land ruled by Maharaja Bharata (in Treta-yuga), a character of great repute who is mentioned repeatedly throughout the Puranas. Prior to the reign of Maharaja Bharata, the land of Bharata-varsa and for that matter the entire planet Earth was referred to by the Aryans as Ajanabha (thus indicating a One World Culture once upon a time).

    West of the Sindhu was the empire of Persia an empire so vast that it stretched from the Sindhu to the Mediterranean Sea. Though originally part of Bharata-varsa, Persias ancestors had lost their connection to Aryan culture

    Alexander the Great

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    in Bharata-varsa, and well before the time of the Mahabharata War in 3138 BCE they had become known amongst the Aryans as Yavanas. Yavana is derived from the Pali word Yona, also used to identify the Greeks. These Yavanas were also sometimes referred to as Mlecchas.

    In Bharata-varsa lived two half-brothers, Vasistha Muni and Jarutha (circa 6000 BCE). The brothers quarreled over theistic issues and afterwards Jarutha traveled west of the Sindhu to present day Iran in search of converts, eventually converting a king named Vistaspa. Jarutha had a philosophy of his own liking, quite different from that found in the traditional Aryan (Vedic) literature, but in the kingdom of Vistaspa, Jarutha found acceptance. Thus began the religion of the Zoroastrians and its founder, Jarutha, became known as Zarathustra or Zoroaster.


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    Incidentally, for the people of China during the early period, the land between the Himalayas and the Sindhu was called Yin Du and for the people of Japan, pre-modern India was known as Tenjiku meaning the Heavenly Center of the World.

    In his book Indica, while recounting the exploits of Alexander the Great, the Greek writer Megasthenes calls the mighty Sindhu the Indus (the name still retained today). Thus Indus is a Hellenic derivative of the Persian and Arab word Hindu, from the Sanskrit Sindhu.

    Greeks also called the land east of the Indus Indike or Indica. And from the Greek we finally arrive at the English spelling India first used by King Alfred (circa 9th Century) in his translation of the writings of Paulus Orosius, a Christian apologist (circa 375) who wrote in defense of the Pagan idea that the Roman Empire had declined due to its acceptance of Christianity.

    Thus a modern nation attained her name India beginning with the Sanskrit Sindhu, to the Persian Hindu, to the Hellenic Indu and Indica, to the English, the name of India and a nationality of people was born.

    In contemporary times the sentiment of many Indians is to change the Europeanized names of their cities back to their original names. Bombay has changed to Mumbai, Madras to Chennai, Bangalore to Bengaluru, Mangalore to Mangaluru and so on. One wonders then if India will eventually return to her original Sanskrit name of Bharata-varsa? *1-foot note

    Pangong Lake

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    I recently took a trip to Ladakh primarily to have a darshan of the Sindhu River and to complete my having visited all the main holy rivers of India, namely the Ganga, Yamuna, Godavari, Sarasvati, Narmada, Kaveri and Sindhu. It was a rewarding experience in all respects, and as for the landscape in and around the Sindhu Valley, it was absolutely stunning snow capped peaks, glaciers, rivers, an inland salt-water sea (Pangong Lake) and rugged mountain people of Tibetan Buddhist descent.

    Travelers such as myself have been coming to Ladakh for a very long time. Legend has it that Jesus of Nazareth traveled to India/Ladakh in his

    youth to study the teachings of the great Buddha. In the 19th Century, Nicolas Notovitch, a Russian aristocrat traveling in Ladakh, reportedly happened upon a remote mountain valley and visited the monastery of Hemis, belonging to the Drukpa lineage of Buddhism. There, Notovitch claims to have discovered an ancient manuscript/gospel that described Jesus (Issa) as having come to Ladakh and studied with Buddhist monks. Notovitch claimed that at the monastery of Hemis he discovered the Gospel of the Life of Saint Issa, Best of the Sons of Men. His story was published in French in 1894 and was later translated

    Nicolas Notovitch

    Hemis Monestary

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    into German, English, Spanish and Italian a popular book for the public, but one that created quite a stir in scholarly communities.

    As far-fetched as Notovitchs story may sound to many of us, it is plausible that Jesus may have come to India at one time or another. The Third Century Christian prophet Mani (founder of Manichaeism) is well documented as having come to India and studied Buddhism something that he later introduced into Gnostic Christianity and which flourished between the Third and Seventh Centuries. At its height Manichaeism was one of the most widespread religions in the world. Manichaean churches and scriptures existed as far east as China and as far west as the Roman Empire. So if Mani did it, why not Jesus?

    Christian Gnostic Gospels also account the story of Jesus sending his disciple Thomas to India to preach the word of God, so it may not be absurd at all to entertain the idea that Jesus may have come to India and even to Ladakh.

    Swami Narasingha talking to Monk at Hemis Monestary

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    Notovitchs story intrigued me, so I decided to visit Hemis Monastery to see if I could get verification. The monastery was very old, in a secluded valley, well maintained and the monks were friendly and accommodating. When asking the monks if they had any books, records or information about the Christian messiah (Issa/Jesus) ever having come to Hemis to study Buddhism, they looked curiously at each other and laughed. Then a senior monk respectfully and with folded hands replied that many western people have come to Hemis with the same question, but that there are no such books or records in their monastery that could verify the story of Notovitch.

    It seems Nicolas Notovitch was either a trickster, a man with a wild imagination or both. In any case, I wasnt able to find suitable proof for Notovitchs story.

    Incidentally, I found out later that shortly after the publication of Notovitchs book in 1894, the head lama of the Hemis Monastery signed a document stating that Notovitchs story was a complete hoax.

    But if you are looking for a place to visit, rich in culture and history, with fantastic landscapes and a photographers dream come true then you definitely should visit Ladakh. And while you are there, have a darshan of the Sindhu River.

    *1-footnote: The first Article of the Constitution of India (1949) states that, India, that is Bharat, shall be a union of states. Thus, India and Bharat are equally official short names for the Republic of India. Indians commonly refer to their country as Bharat, India, or Hindustan, depending on the context and language of conversation. This is even printed on their money.

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    Tiksey Monestary

    Pangong Loke

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    Snowcapped Mountains -1

    Snowcapped Mountains -2

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    Buddha Statue at Tiksey

    Hemis Scripture

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    Hemis Monk at Prayer


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    Prayer Flags

    Stupas - 2

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    Stupas - 1


  • Ladakh is one of the most exhilarating places on the planet, bound by some of the world's biggest mountain ranges such as Himalayas, Karakoram and Zanskar. Ladakh is a high altitude desert ranging from 2750 m (9,000 ft) to 7637 m (25,170 ft). It consists of some of the worlds highest mountain passes, extremely elevated snow capped peaks and is home to some of the largest glaciers in the world. This makes Ladakh one of the most extreme inhabited regions in the world.

    Ladakh is sparsely populated and most of the villages are restricted to narrow strips of valleys next to the flowing rivers coming down from the mountain glaciers. The culture of Ladakh contrasts greatly with the rest of India, since it is largely influenced by Tibetan Buddhism and home to many nomadic mountain tribes and their culture.

    Ladakh is dotted with many ancient Buddhist monasteries called gompas, where Buddhist monks and nuns live, study and practice their beliefs and way of life. These gompas belong to different sects of Buddhism. Annually one can witness many fairs and festivals performed at these monasteries which depict the culture of the Ladakhi people.

    The River Indus, which was originally known as "Sindhu" (one of the 7 holy rivers mentioned in the Vedas), flows through Ladakh alongside monasteries and village settlements.

    From times immemorial, Ladakh has attracted many intrepid travelers, explorers, pilgrims, tradesmen, mountaineers, adventurists and in the recent times, photography enthusiasts. Here is how Ram Mohan saw Ladakh thru the lens.

    The India Stock Photography Resource

  • End of the Wheel

    End of the Wheel

  • Monastery Wall

    Rustic Monk

  • Hilltop Monastery

    Pashmina Goats

  • Stupas in Himalayas

    Leh Palace

  • Rough Rally

    Prayers in the wind

  • Snow Peaks

    Himalayan Peaks

  • Pangong Lake

    Wall Murals

  • Thicksey Monastery

    Serene Mountains

  • The India Stock Photography Resource


  • The History of Numbers

    Swami Vishnu

  • N umbers and counting have become an integral part of our everyday life, especially when we take into account the modern computer. These words you are reading have been recorded on a computer using a code of ones and zeros. It is an interesting story how these digits have come to dominate our world.

    Numbers Around the World

    Presently, the earliest known archaeological evidence of any form of writing or counting are scratch marks on a bone from 150,000 years ago. But the first really solid evidence of counting, in the form of the number one, is from a mere twenty-thousand years ago. An ishango bone was found in the Congo with two identical markings of sixty scratches each and equally numbered groups on the back. These markings are a certain indication of counting and they mark a defining moment in western civilization.1

    Zoologists tell us that mammals other than humans are only able to count up to three or four, while our early ancestors were able to count further. They believed that the necessity for numbers became more apparent when humans started to build their own houses, as opposed to living in caves and the like.

    Anthropologists tell us that in Suma, in about 4,000 BCE, Sumerians used tokens to represent numbers, an improvement over notches in a stick or bone. A very important development from using tokens to represent numbers was that in addition to adding tokens you can also take away, giving birth to arithmetic, an event of major significance. The Sumerians tokens made possible the arithmetic required for them to assess wealth, calculate profit and loss and even more importantly, to collect taxes, as well as keep permanent records. The

  • standard belief is that in this way numbers became the worlds first writings and thus accounting was born.

    More primitive societies, such as the Wiligree of Central Australia, never used numbers, nor felt the need for them. We may ask, why then did the Sumerians on the other side of the world feel the need for simple mathematics? The answer of course, was because they lived in cities which required organizing. For example, grain needed to be stored and determining how much each citizen received required arithmetic.

    Egyptians loved all big things, such as big buildings, big statues and big armies. They developed numbers of drudgery for everyday labor and large numbers for aristocrats, such as a thousand, ten thousand and even a million. The Egyptians transformation of using one from counting things to measuring things was of great significance.

    Their enthusiasm for building required accurate measurements so they defined their own version of one. A cubit was defined as the length of a mans arm

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  • from elbow to finger tips plus the width of his palm. Using this standardized measure of one the Egyptians completed vast construction projects, such as their great pyramids, with astonishing accuracy.

    Two and a half thousand years ago, in 520 BCE, Pythagorus founded his vegetarian school of math in Greece. Pythagorus was intrigued by whole numbers, noticing that pleasing harmonies are combinations of whole numbers. Convinced that the number one was the basis of the universe, he tried to make all three sides of a triangle an exact number of units, a feat which he was not able to accomplish. He was thus defeated by his own favorite geometrical shape, one for which he would be forever famous.

    His Pythagorean theorem has been credited to him, even though ancient Indian texts, the Sulva Sutras (800 BCE) and the Shatapatha Brahmana (8th to 6th centuries BCE) prove that this theorem was known in India some two thousand years before his birth.

    Later in the third century BCE, Archimedes, the renowned Greek scientist, who loved to play games with numbers, entered the realm of the unimaginable, trying to calculate such things as how many grains of sand would fill the entire universe. Some of these intellectual exercises proved to be useful, such as turning a sphere into a cylinder. His formula was later used to take a globe and turn it into a flat map.

    Romans invading Greece were interested in power, not abstract mathematics. They killed Archimedes in 212 BCE and thereby impeded the development of mathematics. Their system of Roman numerals was too complicated for calculating, so actual counting had to be done on a counting board, an early form of the abacus.

    Although the usage of the Roman numeral system spread all over Europe and remained the dominant numeral system for more than five hundred years, not a single Roman mathematician is celebrated today. The Romans were more interested in using numbers to record their conquests and count dead bodies.

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  • Numbers in Early India

    In India, emphasis was not on military organization but in finding enlightenment. Indians, as early as 500 BCE, devised a system of different symbols for every number from one to nine, a system that came to be called Arabic numerals, because they spread first t