In the late 1800s, fifty volumes of the Sacred Books of the East series were published in English. These whetted the appetite of the English-speaking world for the wisdom of the East. Since then, hundreds upon hundreds of English translations of Eastern sacred texts have been published.

We who study the Ancient and Ageless Wisdom today have many times more Eastern sacred texts available to us in English than were available to those who lived and worked in the 1800s. In order to help us take advantage of them, it is proposed to post many of the best and most important of these English translations here.

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The either/or way of thinking and perceiving things that humanity has followed for many centuries now, regarding Gaudapada as a Hindu as opposed to a Buddhist, may not have always been the way things were seen. Taking sides on whether Gaudapada was a Buddhist or an Advaita Vedantin also assumes that Buddhism and Advaita Vedanta existed in his time as two opposing schools. Can we assume this? That depends on his date. It was apparently true in the time period assigned to him by most modern scholars, both Indian and Western; namely, circa the sixth to seventh centuries C.E. It may not have been true in the time period assigned to him by traditional Advaita Vedantins and by the Theosophical teachers; namely the sixth to seventh centuries B.C.E.
To show that Gaudapada borrowed from the Madhyamaka Buddhist writer Nagarjuna and also from Vijnana-vada or Yogacara Buddhist writers, as some of these articles attempt to do, assumes that he lived after them. If he lived before them, then it would be they who borrowed from him. Again, this depends on his date. As shown in these articles, the parallel passages are certainly there. But who borrowed from who depends on our assumptions about their dates. These assumptions are based heavily on the date of Sankaracarya, since Gaudapada is traditionally regarded as being the guru of his guru, thus being two generations earlier.
Whether or not the extant commentary attributed to Sankaracarya correctly explains Gaudapada's Mandukya-karika depends on whether it was written by the original Sankaracarya or by a later Sankaracarya. The original or Adi Sankaracarya could hardly have been ignorant of Gaudapada's meaning. But a later Sankaracarya who lived long after Gaudapada, when the actual meaning of the terms used by him had been lost, could have been. The evidence of allegedly misunderstood terms provided in some of these articles supports the indication, made by both Theosophical and Suddha Dharma Mandala writers, that we do not have the commentaries of the original Sankaracarya. The extant commentaries would be by a much later Sankaracarya.
What would otherwise be a dry historical question, the date of Sankaracarya, now becomes a question of vital interest. Already in 1883 this question was regarded as important enough that the Theosophical Mahatmas asked T. Subba Row to write an article on it, published in the series, "Some Inquiries Suggested by Mr. Sinnett's Esoteric Buddhism." (H. P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, vol. 5). In his article, the true date of Sankaracarya's birth was given "from the historical information" in the possession of "Tibetan and Indian Initiates." This birth date is 510 B.C.E. It so happens that this date exactly matches the records of the two Mathams established by Sankaracarya that kept records going back to Adi Sankaracarya (allowing for a one-year discrepancy in figuring B.C.E. dates). But only diehard traditionalists accept this date of 509 B.C.E. any longer.
Subba Row's article is brief, and much new information has become available since then. This has been gathered by me and summarized in a 15-page article, with the detailed information placed in 27 pages of dense notes ( In brief, the defining works of the Sankaracarya known and studied and followed today are in fact from about the eighth century C.E., as scholars both Indian and Western hold. This, however, is not the original or Adi Sankaracarya. Some of the original Sankaracarya's works survive, such as the classic Viveka-cudamani, while his great commentaries are lost (or withdrawn). But the great work of his guru's guru, the Mandukya-karika by Gaudapada, is with us. This explains many things, including its unusual vocabulary, and the disconnect between it and the extant commentary on it attributed to Sankaracarya. It is a work of great importance to students of the Wisdom Tradition.
The date of Adi Sankaracarya's birth given in lineage lists preserved in two Mathas founded by him, and agreeing with the date from the historical information in the possession of the Theosophical Mahatmas, is 509 B.C.E. This places Gaudapada, traditionally regarded as the guru of the guru of Sankaracarya, around 600 B.C.E. The traditional dates of Gautama Buddha given in the "Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) chronology," and with one provision supported by the historical information in the possession of the Theosophical Mahatmas ("Sakya Muni's Place in History," BCW 5.241-259), despite the fact that these have been abandoned by modern scholars, are 623-543 (or 544) B.C.E. This would make Gaudapada and Gautama Buddha exact contemporaries. If this is so, our question would be whether Buddhism and Advaita Vedanta existed at that time as two opposing schools.
There is very little historical information from that period found in known sources. The multi-part article titled "Some Inquiries Suggested by Mr. Sinnett's Esoteric Buddhism" (H. P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, vol. 5) purports to give out some information from now inaccessible sources. It gives some information regarding how the Buddha was met by the Brahmans of that time, an idea that makes sense:
". . . the Brahmans (the initiates, at any rate) knew of the coming of him whom they regarded as an incarnation of divine wisdom [the Buddha]. . . . there had been a time when he was met by them as an Avatar." (BCW 5.256)
Is there any known evidence for this, an idea that, although logical, is contrary to what we have always heard and read? Balkrishna Govind Gokhale, Professor of History at Wake Forest University, U.S.A., went through the Pali Buddhist canon, the oldest source we have for information on the question of the relations between early Buddhists and Hindu Brahmans. As reported in his article, "Early Buddhism and the Brahmanas" (Studies in History of Buddhism, ed. A. K. Narain, Delhi, 1980, pp. 67-80, here attached), he found nothing to support the widely held assumption that Buddhism began as an anti-Brahmanical movement. On the contrary, he found that in the period of roughly 500-200 B.C.E. there were, for example, purohita upasakas; that is, Brahman priests (purohitas) who were also Buddhist laymen (upasaka). Clearly, Buddhism and Hinduism were not at that time existing as two opposing schools.
Gaudapada, then, a leading Brahman teacher of the time, may well have met Gautama the Buddha as an expected avatara. Far from opposing his teaching, Gaudapada would have welcomed it. And he would have been there to receive it from Gautama the Buddha in person. Since the publication of Vidhushekhara Bhattacharya's translation of the Mandukya-karika (The Agamasastra of Gaudapada, 1943), the fact that its fourth chapter differs from its previous three chapters by its large amount of "Buddhist" vocabulary has become well known. By "Buddhist" vocabulary is meant terms and ideas that are now found, with few exceptions, only in Buddhist texts. This chapter also differs from the previous part of the book by having an opening invocation, an invocation to "the best of the two-footed" (dvi-padam varam), i.e., the best of men. This particular way of saying the best of men, "the best of the two-footed," is found frequently in Buddhist texts for the Buddha.
The implication of having an opening invocation for the fourth chapter is that perhaps Gaudapada added this chapter to his previous three chapters some time after the previous three were written. Some modern writers have speculated that this may have been after he met with the Buddhist teachings. We may speculate that this may have been after he met the Buddhist teacher, Gautama the Buddha in person. The predominance of "Buddhist" vocabulary and ideas in this fourth chapter would support either of these suppositions.
In chapters two and three of Gaudapada's Karika, however, we also find "Buddhist" vocabulary. The Theosophical writer T. Subba Row tells us that Buddhism already existed in the time of Gautama Buddha; he did not originate it (BCW 5.177-178). In fact, Buddhist texts are full of references to previous Buddhas. The idea that Gautama Buddha was the founder of Buddhism is something that has been adopted only in modern times, when no one wants to believe that anything but cave men existed in ages much earlier than the time of Gautama Buddha.
If we accept that Buddhism or Buddhist teaching existed prior to Gautama Buddha, and that this was not in that period opposed to Hinduism or Brahmanism, there will be nothing unusual in Gaudapada using in his second and third chapters what are now regarded as "Buddhist" terms. He would have been free to explain the teachings of the Hindu Upanishads with whatever terms were then in use. We see the same use of "Buddhist" terms to explain Vedanta ideas in the Yoga-Vasistha. So there are "Buddhist" terms in Gaudapada's earlier chapters, but they predominate in his fourth and last chapter. This chapter, as noted above, is separated from the earlier chapters by a new opening invocation.
There is something that supports Gaudapada's meeting with Buddhist ideas, or with the Buddha himself, that I do not recall reading in any of the books or articles about Gaudapada. In the first three chapters of his Mandukya-karika he uses the central Vedanta terms brahman and atman. In the fourth and last chapter, he does not use these terms. Instead his uses vijnana for the ultimate reality, and sometimes citta as a synonym. Yet the ideas in both parts of his text are the same. In the fourth chapter, he is saying about vijnana what he said about brahman and atman in the first three chapters. Vijnana, as a term for the ultimate, although not common, is found in both the Upanishads and in Buddhist texts.
Let us suppose that the great Brahmanical teacher Gaudapada met the avatara Gautama the Buddha. There was then no "you are a Buddhist" and "I am a Hindu." They were two great teachers meeting each other, both in search of the one same truth. Gaudapada had already written this truth in Vedanta terms, brahman and atman, in three chapters explaining the Mandukya Upanishad. Now, after meeting Gautama the Buddha, he added a fourth chapter, giving his respects to "the best of the two-footed" in a new opening invocation. Then he proceeded to write and expand the same truth, but now using "Buddhist" terms primarily. In the Mandukya-karika, then, we would have the most extraordinary synthesis of Hindu and Buddhist teachings to have come down to us. It would be the (re-)convergence of what are said to be the two oldest and therefore most primary streams of the Wisdom Tradition that we study today under the name Theosophy.
This is just how we would imagine two great teachers meeting each other, with mutual respect and admiration. We see this in our world today, with teachers like the Dalai Lama and Thomas Merton. This is possible. But the traditional view is that Gauḍapāda is saluting Nārāyaṇa in the opening invocation to his fourth chapter, not Gautama the Buddha, and that he specifically distinguishes his teaching from the Buddha's at the end of this chapter.
A widely quoted verse quarter found in the second to last verse of Gauḍapāda's Māṇḍūkya-kārikā reads: naitad buddhena bhāṣitam, "not (na) this (etad) was spoken (bhāṣitam) by the buddha (buddhena)." This short phrase from verse 99 of chapter 4, "this was not spoken by the Buddha," has conditioned the understanding of Gauḍapāda for at least 1200 years, and right up to the present. Based on the extant commentary attributed to Śaṅkarācārya, this phrase has been interpreted and translated in published translations of the Māṇḍūkya-kārikā as follows:
"This however is not the same as that which is held by the Bauddhas." (Manilal N. Dvivedi, Bombay, 1894)
"This is not the view of the Buddha." (Swami Nikhilananda, Mysore, 1936, and New York, 1952)
"This is not the view of the Buddha." (Swami Chinmayananda, Bombay, 1953)
"this has not been declared by Buddha." (Raghunath Damodar Karmarkar, 1953)
"This view was not expressed by Buddha." (Swami Gambhirananda, Calcutta, 1958)
"This has not been declared by the Buddha." (Jayantkrishna H. Dave, Bombay, 1990)
This phrase is cited again and again in books and articles to show that Gauḍapāda definitively distinguished his Hindu Advaita Vedānta teaching from the teaching of the Buddha. This understanding of this phrase was unquestioned until the first half of the 1900s, and is still widely taken for granted. In the articles posted here, we see that this phrase is frequently quoted to show that Gauḍapāda was giving Hindu teachings and not Buddhist teachings.
The 1951 article by Karmarkar that I have numbered 34, written as a rebuttal of Vidhushekhara Bhattacharya's views given in his 1943 translation (also found in his 1938 article here numbered 20), is based on this phrase: "We propose in this paper to confine ourselves to only IV. 99 which is admitted by all to refer to Buddha by name. . . . Gauḍapāda is obviously using Buddhistic philosophical terminology to combat the Buddhists on their own ground, by using their own weapons, so to speak" (p. 167). "We think that the kārikā in question is just a parting kick from Gauḍapāda administered to Buddhism" (p. 168). "We think IV. 99 definitely condemns Buddha and he could not have been referred to as dvipadāṃ vara by Gauḍapāda in IV. 1" (p. 169).
This last sentence also counters the idea put forth that "the best of the two-footed" (dvipadāṃ vara) saluted in verse 4.1 refers to Gautama Buddha. According to the extant commentary attributed to Śaṅkarācārya, the being referred to in 4.1 is Nārāyaṇa; that is, Īśvara or God as called Nārāyaṇa. Although this article was written from a staunchly Hindu standpoint, Karmarkar acknowledges that it may not be Nārāyaṇa who is saluted in 4.1, and proposes that it may instead be Gauḍapāda's guru, Śuka (p. 172-173). This does not change the fact that it is Gautama Buddha who is referred to in the phrase from verse 4.99.
There is even an article written from a Buddhist standpoint, no. 41 by Kawada in 1961, that is based on this phrase. In this article, "Fundamental Difference between Buddhistic and Vedantic Philosophies," Kawada uses this phrase to distinguish the Buddhist teaching from Gauḍapāda's Hindu teaching. "Thus the view of the Vedāntins was not, as Gauḍapāda says, the view of the Buddha" (p. 405). A few more examples from the articles posted may be given:
18. Purohit, 1937, p. 380: "The straight meaning of the words, naitad Buddhena bhāṣitam, in IV, 99 would be that Buddha never taught that the Absolute was the final reality, . . ."
23. Suryanarayana Sastri, 1939, p. 101: ". . . the words 'naitad buddhena bhāṣitam' in the penultimate verse seem clearly to distinguish Gauḍapāda's doctrine from that of the Buddha; . . ."
25. Mahadevan, 1944, pp. 144-145: "And it is significant that Gauḍapāda . . . should have stated at the end 'naitad buddhena bhāṣitam' (This was not declared by the Buddha)." [p. 33 of the second printing]
36. Karmarkar, 1955, p. 304: "But what Gauḍapāda really wants to teach can be gathered from the significant expression naitad buddhena bhāṣitam (in IV.99) used by him."
39. A. D. Shastri, 1958, p. 53: "Gauḍapāda again suggests how he differs from the Buddhistic doctrines. . . . Gauḍapāda himself asserts at the end of the chapter: 'This has not been told by the Buddha'."
46. Aiyaswami Shastri, 1971, p. 43: "He now speaks aloud that this point has not been admitted by Buddha."
50. Kenge, 1985, p. 268: ". . . we feel that Gauḍapāda has intentionally stated at the end of his work that this is not spoken by Buddha, . . ."
57. Sundaram, 1998, p. 96: "This is what Gauḍapāda himself noticed, when he declared that the existence of Brahman, the Reality of the Upaniṣad-s, which was neither mind nor matter, but from which mind and matter took their rise as apparent projections, was not mentioned by the Buddha--naitad buddhena bhāṣitam."
But in spite of all these affirmations by all these writers, can we be sure that this is really what Gauḍapāda intended by these four Sanskrit words? Is it possible that such an "either/or" attitude could be something projected onto Gauḍapāda by these and past writers? Let us try to evaluate this for ourselves.
Gauḍapāda used the word buddha several times in his Māṇḍūkya-kārikā, and not only in the phrase from verse 4.99 here being discussed. We would therefore expect in these other occurrences to find Gauḍapāda similarly distancing himself from the teachings of the Buddha. But we do not. On the contrary, in these other occurrences the buddha or buddhas are invariably depicted by Gauḍapāda as teaching or supporting exactly what Gauḍapāda himself teaches. The term buddha as used by Gauḍapāda in these occurrences has wholly favorable connotations, with no trace of any negative connotations.
Since there are no capital letters in Sanskrit, we do not know if Gauḍapāda uses buddha as a proper noun or as a generic term. It can be either. The word buddha, meaning "enlightened" or "awakened," has been used as a title for the teacher named Gautama, also called Śākyamuni. Besides for Gautama Buddha, it has also been used for the previous buddhas taught in Buddhism, such as Dīpaṃkara Buddha. As a generic term, it may be used for a "wise" person in general, one who "knows" (budh). In the plural, it would have to refer to either the previous buddhas or to wise teachers in general.
Of the several times that Gauḍapāda uses the word buddha, all in chapter 4, in verses 4.92 and 4.98 it refers to dharmas rather than to a person or persons. In its six other occurrences in this text it refers to a person or persons. As already mentioned, these buddhas are shown by Gauḍapāda in these verses as teaching what he himself teaches. In order to show how these occurrences of the term buddha have been traditionally understood, we here give how they are glossed in the extant commentary attributed to Śaṅkarācārya: 
In verse 4.19 the instrumental plural buddhair, "by the buddhas," is glossed by Śaṅkarācārya as paṇḍitair, "by the wise." According to Gauḍapāda's verse, they teach ajāti, "no-birth," the same as Gauḍapāda teaches.
In verse 4.42 the instrumental plural buddhair, "by the buddhas," is glossed by Śaṅkarācārya as advaita-vādibhiḥ, "by speakers of Advaita"; i.e., teachers of the Advaita or non-dual Vedanta. According to Gauḍapāda's verse, they teach jāti, "birth," to those who are afraid of the teaching of ajāti, "no-birth."
In verse 4.80 the genitive plural buddhānām, "of the buddhas," is glossed by Śaṅkarācārya as paramārtha-darśinām, "of those who see the ultimate." According to Gauḍapāda's verse, they see the "unborn" (aja).
In verse 4.88 the instrumental plural buddhaiḥ, "by the buddhas," is glossed by Śaṅkarācārya as paramārtha-darśibhiḥ, "by those who see the ultimate," brahmavidbhiḥ, "by knowers of brahman." According to Gauḍapāda's verse, they teach what is knowledge (jñāna) and the object of knowledge (jñeya).
In verse 4.99, Gauḍapāda switches to the singular, and he uses the term buddha twice, once in each line. As we have seen, Śaṅkarācārya glosses buddha in the previous four occurrences in the plural as referring to wise men, in agreement with Gauḍapāda's usage of the term buddha as having wholly favorable connotations.
The first occurrence in verse 4.99, the genitive singular buddhasya, "of the buddha," is glossed by Śaṅkarācārya as paramārtha-darśinaḥ, "of he who sees the ultimate." This is the same gloss that he used in verses 80 and 88. It again refers to someone who is wise, someone who teaches what Gauḍapāda teaches, like all the previous occurrences of the word buddha.
The second occurrence in verse 4.99, the instrumental singular buddhena, "by the buddha," is not glossed by Śaṅkarācārya, but rather the whole phrase is explained. This is the famous phrase that we have been discussing, naitad buddhena bhāṣitam, "not (na) this (etad) was spoken (bhāṣitam) by the buddha (buddhena)." This phrase, and the word buddhena in it, is explained by Śaṅkarācārya in his commentary here as follows (as translated by Swami Nikhilananda):
"This knowledge regarding the Ultimate Reality, non-dual and characterised by the absence of perceiver, perception and the perceived, is not the same as that declared by the Buddha. The view of the Buddha, which rejects the existence of external objects and asserts the existence of ideas alone, is said to be similar to or very near the truth of non-dual Ātman. But this knowledge of non-duality which is the Ultimate Reality can be attained through Vedānta alone."
Here in the second half of verse 99, unlike all previous occurrences including even in the first half of this same verse, we are supposed to believe that all of a sudden buddha refers to someone who does not teach what Gauḍapāda teaches, so is not altogether wise, and that Gauḍapāda is here distinguishing his own teaching from the teaching of Gautama Buddha. We are expected to believe that while buddha hitherto in this text always referred to someone who teaches what Gauḍapāda teaches, and for Śaṅkarācārya always referred to a wise man, here it does not. Something this incongruous is believable to so many only because of the great authority of the commentator, Śaṅkarācārya, and the fact that similar rejections of Gautama Buddha's teachings are also found elsewhere in the writings of this Śaṅkarācārya.
What, then, would Gauḍapāda have really meant by the phrase from verse 4.99, naitad buddhena bhāṣitam, "this was not spoken by the Buddha"? According to Vidhushekhara Bhattacharya and a number of other modern scholars agreeing with him, this phrase does indeed refer to Gautama Buddha, but not as distinguishing his teachings from those of Gaudapada. It means that this highest truth was not spoken by the Buddha because it is inexpressible; therefore he did not speak it. There are many statements found throughout the Buddhist texts "showing that the Buddha has never said a word" for this very reason. Several of these statements from Buddhist texts are gathered and quoted in Sanskrit by Vidhushekhara Bhattacharya in his 1943 translation, The Agamasastra of Gaudapada, pp. 212-217, and these are also found in his 1938 article titled, "Gaudapada," which I have numbered 20.
Bhattacharya translates this verse 4.99 as follows (1943, p. 212):
"According to the Buddha who instructs the way known to him (tayin), jnana does not approach the dharmas (i.e., it does not relate itself to the objects). But all dharmas as well as jnana -- this has not been said by the Buddha."
Bhattacharya had earlier given the same interpretation in his 1923 article that I have numbered 3, p. 449, along with a couple of the same Sanskrit quotations from the Buddhist texts in support of it. Here is a translation of the relevant line of the first of these (Nagarjuna'a Mula-madhyamaka-karika, chapter 25, verse 24, wrongly given by him in all three publications as chapter 20, verse 25):
"Not any dharma was taught by the Buddha to anyone anywhere."
Apparently unknown to Bhattacharya at the time he made his interpretation in 1919 (see p. 439 of his 1923 article), Louis de la Vallee Poussin had said the same thing in 1910, although without elaboration or supporting quotations (article no. 1, p. 140):
"As a matter of fact, this knowledge, without 'knowable-knower-knowledge', is the knowledge of a Buddha, according to the Mahayana. And a Buddhist may say naitad buddhena bhāṣitam, 'This doctrine has not been taught by Buddha,' for Buddha does not teach anything."
The understanding of this verse by Bhattacharya, et al., has been accepted by a number of modern scholars. In agreement with it, Sengaku Mayeda comments on this verse (article no. 42, p. 89), and gives a reference to a fuller explanation in Japanese by Hajime Nakamura. Nakamura's major work on Vedanta in Japanese has now been translated into English as A History of Early Vedanta Philosophy, where this verse is discussed in volume 2 (2004), pp. 252-253. Nakamura also gives the several references from Buddhist texts that were given by Bhattacharya in support of this understanding.
This understanding provides an interpretation that: (1) is consistent with the meaning of the previous occurrences of the term "buddha" in this text as a wise person who teaches what Gaudapada teaches; (2) is consistent with the acknowledged use of Buddhist terms and ideas in this chapter; (3) is consistent with its opening invocation to "the best of the two-footed" as Gautama Buddha; and (4) is consistent with what Gaudapada said in this opening verse (4.1) about jnana and dharmas.
Nonetheless, I do not find it convincing, for much the same reason that I did not find the traditional interpretation convincing. For the traditional interpretation, that Gaudapada here distances himself from the teachings of the Buddha, there is no precedent in the rest of his text. Likewise, for this interpretation that the Buddha never said a word, there is no precedent in the rest of Gaudapada's text. There is no previous mention of the silence of the wise, or of the buddhas, by Gaudapada. It is therefore incongruous here at the end.
There must be an interpretation of the extraordinarily influential phrase from Māṇḍūkya-kārikā verse 4.99, naitad buddhena bhāṣitam, "this was not spoken by the Buddha," that is not out of keeping with the rest of Gauḍapāda's text. If we cannot accept either of the two interpretations offered today because of being too incongruous, what are we left with? We are left with the simple and natural interpretation tucked quietly away in Surendranath Dasgupta's monumental History of Indian Philosophy (Cambridge, vol. 1, 1922, p. 424, see attachment): "It was not said by the Buddha that all appearances (dharma) were knowledge."
Dasgupta is here giving an explanation of verse 4.99, not a direct translation of it, but his explanation follows the Sanskrit text more closely and naturally than do the other two interpretations offered to us. Also, although Dasgupta is inclined to accept that Gautama Buddha is here being referred to, his understanding of this phrase does not require acceptance of this; it could just as well refer to a generic wise person. That all phenomenal appearances (dharmas) are not knowledge (jñāna), the ultimate, is what Gauḍapāda has been teaching all along. A statement summarizing this is just what we would expect here at the end of his book.
As may be seen, the construal of concise Sanskrit verses is no simple matter. It is not the case that all who are fluent in Sanskrit will understand them the same way. We have looked at three interpretations of Gauḍapāda's verse 4.99, all by competent Sanskritists. What commends the last one is its consistency with what Gauḍapāda wrote earlier in this text. Following this interpretation, the second line of verse 4.99 would be construed and literally translated as follows:
sarve dharmās tathā jñānaṃ naitad buddhena bhāṣitam
"Thus (tathā) all (sarve) phenomena (dharmās) are wisdom (jñānam); not (na) this (etad) was said (bhāṣitam) by the enlightened one (buddhena)." 
To get a more idiomatic English translation, we just have to move a few words to better positions, and change the translation of the pronoun "this" to "that": 
"Thus (tathā), that (etad) all (sarve) phenomena (dharmās) are wisdom (jñānam) was not (na) said (bhāṣitam) by the enlightened one (buddhena)." 
There are many thousands of excellent Sanskrit pandits in India, and there always have been. What has prevented this interpretation from being promulgated is the great dominance of the extant commentary attributed to Śaṅkarācārya. Not only does he take the famous last half of this line differently, he also glosses the word "dharmas" in the first half as "ātmans." Taking dharmas in this meaning, this interpretation would not make sense. But this is exactly the point of scholars like Vidhushekhara Bhattacharya: to take dharmas as ātmans does not make sense in Gauḍapāda's text. Once the Sanskrit Buddhist writings began to be recovered and made available again, where the term dharma is found everywhere, its long lost (in India) meaning of the elements of existence that make up the phenomenal world was restored. For those who were not committed to the interpretation found in the extant commentary attributed to Śaṅkarācārya, this meaning of dharma made much more sense in Gauḍapāda's text.
One such scholar was Surendranath Dasgupta, and he wrote his explanation of this verse, quoted above, before the interpretation of it given by Vidhushekhara Bhattacharya became widely known. Dasgupta writes in a footnote on p. 424:
"In my translation I have not followed Śaṅkara, for he has I think tried his level best to explain away even the most obvious references to Buddha and Buddhism in Gauḍapāda's kārikā. I have, therefore, drawn my meaning directly as Gauḍapāda's kārikās seemed to indicate."
Freed from the necessity of taking the second half of this line as Gauḍapāda distancing himself from what the Buddha taught, and freed from the necessity of taking dharmas as ātmans in the first half of this line, Dasgupta was able to give us its natural and unforced interpretation.
Neither Dasgupta nor Bhattacharya nor Poussin were the first to find the interpretation given by Śaṅkarācārya of the last half of this line, "this was not spoken by the Buddha," to be incongruous with the rest of Gauḍapāda's text. The commentator Upaniṣad-brahma-yogin, whose commentaries on all the 108 major and minor Upaniṣads were published by the Adyar Library between 1920 and 1936, also did not accept this interpretation. He took the word "buddha" in both lines of this verse 4.99 to refer to one who sees the ultimate (Daśopanishads, vol. 1, 1935, p. 321, paramārtha-darśinā for buddhena in the second line). This is all the more striking, because he was an Advaita Vedāntin who elsewhere in his commentaries mostly followed the earlier commentaries of Śaṅkarācārya. But writing long after Buddhism had disappeared in India, and well before Sanskrit Buddhist texts were recovered and published, he had little choice but to accept that dharma meant ātman. So his interpretation is not the same as Dasgupta's.
Swami Satyananda in the first half of the 1900s had also independently come to reject the interpretation given by Śaṅkarācārya of the last half of this line, as reported by Jnanendralal Majumdar (article no. 33, last part, p. 23). This may be seen in Majumdar's translation (article no. 29, last part, p. 84), "This has been said by the Buddha," and in his comment thereon (article no. 33, last part, p. 12). They interpret the word "not" (na) as going with the first half of this line, rather than with the last half: "Similarly, the Dharmas all do not attain jñāna." Again, this interpretation of this part is not the same as Dasgupta's.
The jñāna that is here being distinguished from the dharmas, and taken as ultimate by Dasgupta, Upaniṣad-brahma-yogin, Swami Satyananda/Jnanendralal Majumdar, and also by Śaṅkarācārya, is an unchanging ultimate like brahman. Although it is also called vijñāna or pure consciousness by Gauḍapāda, it is not the same as the Buddhist Yogācāra vijñāna that it has been compared to by Bhattacharya and others. This Yogācāra vijñāna, although also considered by many to be an ultimate, as in "consciousness only" or "mind only," is momentary and changing. This is perhaps why Bhattacharya gave the interpretation that he did, that neither jñāna nor dharmas were spoken by the Buddha.
But in the Buddhist texts that have more recently become available, the Buddhist tantras, the ultimate non-dual jñāna is sharply distinguished from the momentary vijñāna consciousness. In these texts, the Buddha certainly did teach primordial jñāna, and he certainly did distinguish this from the evanescent dharmas, now often translated as phenomena. This would indeed be in agreement with Gauḍapāda's line as understood by Dasgupta, which can be translated as:
"Thus, that all phenomena (dharmas) are [ultimate] wisdom (jñāna) was not said by the enlightened one."
Here in this forum on English translations, I assume that most readers are interested in the Wisdom Tradition that we call Theosophy, so my comments on these translations follow this interest. In the forum on the Sanskrit texts in Sanskrit, readers may or may not be interested in this, so my descriptions of texts given there carefully avoid any reference to Theosophical ideas. Here in trying to indicate why Gauḍapāda's Māṇḍūkya-kārikā would be of interest to students of Theosophy, I hope that the evidence provided is sufficient to show that a Theosophically-oriented understanding is no less plausible than any other understanding. That Gauḍapāda may not have been trying to differentiate his Advaita Vedānta teachings from those of Buddhism, but that he may have accepted a number of teachings shared by these two traditions, has been acknowledged by many in the last ninety years. In addition to this, there is evidence that Gauḍapāda may have been a contemporary of Gautama Buddha, and thus that later Buddhist writers such as Nāgārjuna and Asaṅga would have drawn upon Gauḍapāda's text rather than vice versa, as is now widely supposed.
What I regard as a major breakthrough in tracing Theosophical teachings to eastern texts came when we learned in 2007 that the so-called "Great Madhyamaka" tradition traces its origin to Maitreya. We had always known that HPB in The Secret Doctrine uses Yogācāra terms and favors Yogācāra ideas, and that in a private letter to A. P. Sinnett she even associates the Book of Dzyan with the Secret Book of Maitreya Buddha. But the known books of Maitreya, and of his pupil Asaṅga, and of Asaṅga's brother Vasubandhu, which comprise the Yogācāra texts, are regarded as being Vijñānavāda; that is, as teaching vijñāpti-mātra, "consciousness only," or cittamātra, "mind only." This is not the teaching of The Secret Doctrine, which postulates an "omnipresent, eternal, boundless, and immutable principle." Then as knowledge of the tradition known as "Great Madhyamaka" emerged in recent years, we saw that this tradition sharply distinguished the momentary and ever-changing vijñāna, "consciousness," from the non-dual jñāna, "primordial wisdom." It used the same Yogācāra texts, but understood them differently, as "Great Madhyamaka" rather than as Vijñānavāda. Very significantly to us, this tradition traced its origin, its lineage, back to Maitreya (for more information on this, see:
Just as there is a little-known "Great Madhyamaka" tradition in Buddhism, based on the same Yogācāra texts that others take as teaching cittamātra, "mind-only," and tracing its origin to Maitreya, so it would be possible to think of what we might analogously call a "Great Vedānta" tradition in Hinduism. There is no evidence that any such tradition exists, and I am not suggesting that it does. But we are free to see in Gauḍapāda's Māṇḍūkya-kārikā a core text of an old Vedānta tradition that is in complete agreement with the teachings of The Secret Doctrine, that includes Yogācāra-like teachings not found in later Vedānta, and that predates Maitreya. Moreover, there are at least two other extant texts found in the Vedānta tradition that are similar to Gauḍapāda's text in this way, and would therefore be part of what we can call the "Great Vedānta" tradition. These are the brief Paramārtha-sāra of Ādi-Śeṣa in 85 verses, and the huge Yoga-vāsiṣṭha. These would be texts of much interest to students of the Wisdom Tradition that we call Theosophy.

Dear David, I came across this thread from 2012 just the other day, and I just wish to convey my gratitude for your enlightening investigation into the matter of Gaudapada, his understanding of Vedanta and it's relationship to Mahayana. The collection of articles presented by you is in itself an invaluable contribution for further research. I myself have a background of studies of these very texts, both from within the traditions and critically, I am delighted to have found  an understanding of Gaudapada that is so close to my own. I have come to look upon Gaudapada as something of a spiritual, philosophical and cultural hero who took upon himself to establish Advaita or Non-Duality, and it's unique method of Asparshayoga - devoid of debate and discord, Avivada and Aviruddha. In the prakaranas of the Mandukya Karika he did so in what seems to be four interrelated ways. The first relying on Shruti or revelation, giving the vedic approach; the second relying on supportive independent logic, sensitive to experience (especially of the avasthaa-traya, adding investigative logic to the revelation of the upanishad), sliding into the third, which is basically the idealistic Vijnanavada, and finally the fourth relying essentially on the Madhyamaka method. They overlap and echo through eachother, but either way, Non-Duality stands confirmed. The multiple approach solves problems on several levels and are all important in their own right. The very features that have been considered problematic in his work are thus rather indicative of his genius! The aim stands above the methods or means who are themselves no more than pointers to the same moon. These are what we call "prakriyas", and they are choosen in reliance on the needs, obstacles and capacity of the "adhikari". The Madyamaka and Alatashanti being reserved for the most capable students. It is really a wonderful position, and it is probably from a period when the aim was in clearer view, and secterianism - even on this supreme level - was less of a problem.  Most probably Gaudapada was among the pioneers to read the upanishads or vedantas in this way, and probably they did take their que from the great Buddhist Acharyas, (or bauddha brahmanas, as they may be called), Nagarjuna and Asanga. All that is open to discussion, but the fact that the text indeed carries this gentle conviction of indisputable, non-conflicting, Non-Duality throughout, cannot be easily ignored. Thank you for providing confidence for such a reading! 

There are also similar attempts from roughly the same period among the buddhist scholars to harmonise the two rivalling Mahayana Schools of Madhyamaka and Yogacara, as for example in the Alokamala of Kambalapada. Even Bhavya gives generous comments to the Vedantins and actually uses some brahmanical terms in connection to his exposition of the highest truth - "idam tat paramam brahma", Madhyamakahridayakarika 3.289). I shall not detain you much further, David, but I would like to give additional support to your reading of the famous phrase "naitad buddhena bhaashitam". Let us look at your final reading where you follow Dasgupta, but construct the "anvaya" slightly differently. I propose reading the phrase as a common relative construction with the relative pronoun elided, thus:

(yathaa) sarve dharmaas tathaa jnaanam (iti) naitad buddhena bhaashitam.

This is a very common practise, and it needs no grammatical innovation. We get, in stages: yathaa sarve dharmaah - in which way all dharmas exist, i.e. as mere appearances, imputations, fluctuations of consciousness, tathaa jnaanam -  thus is also jnaanam, gnosis, awareness, i.e. that awareness itself would partake of such a nature, as the surface nature of the dharmas, na etad buddhena bhashitam: THIS was not declared by the Buddha. Buddha did not declare that Jnaanam or Non-Dual Gnosis, Awareness, was of such a nature. On the contrary. (And thence he moves on to the final contemplation and salutation to this Sublime Truth in IV.100)

Perhaps the gloss of a pandita to the phrase would run something like this:

sarve dharmas tathaa jnaanam naitad buddhena bhaashitam

yathaa sarve vyaavahaarikaa  kalpitasamvritisvabhaavaa dharmaa bhavanti , tathaiva tatsvabhaavakam jnaanam advayam parinishpannabodhaatmakam api bhavati iti - naitad buddhena bhagavataa bhaashitam tattvato deshitam. tasya nishprapancasya prakritiparishuddhasyaadvayajnaanasya trikaalaabadhitatvaat svatahsiddhatvaac ca paramaarthasadbhavatvam iti.

 I think there is nothing difficult in reading IV.99 in this way. It had troubled me a lot over the years, but I will now rest with my reading, or possibly Dasguptas, at least as the ideas are presented here in Mandukya Karika. In other places, like in MK 25.24 "(na) dharmo buddhena deshitah", we deal with another level of discourse. 

We may also find support for this anxiety about the status of non-dual awareness itself among certain vijnanavadins, like for example in Sthiramati's commentary to the Trimshika 

"vijneyavad vijnaanam api samvritita eva, na paramaarthata ity anye .. ity ekaantavaadasya pratishedhaartham prakaranaarambhah". 

"According to some the vijnana itself should be considered to be illusory or relative, just like the vijneya, the objects of cogningtion... It is to refute such a view that this treatise is commenced."

We also have the well known reflection of Vasubandhu himself in his elucidation of Vimshatika 10: 

"yo baalair dharmaanaam svabhaavo graahyagraahakaadih parikalpitas tena kalpitenaatmanaa teshaam nairaatmyam na tv anabhilaapyenaatmanaa yo buddhaanaam vishaya iti."

"It is by that imagined nature of the dharmas in the form of grasper and grasped that is imputed by the ignorant, that their selflessness is to be understood, not through the Inexpressible Self that is the object of the Buddhas."

 A passage that clearly differentiates between the status of the imputed self or entity of the imagined multitude, that is the object of negation here, and on the other hand the un-negatable or inexpressible self or entity that is the object of the Buddhas.

Thus, "that the Ultimate Gnosis would be of the same status as the multitude of dharmas, this was never declared by the Buddha" seems to be a fitting translation of the phrase in this context. 

We could even see this as a contribution of Gaudapada to the ongoing debate among Yogacarins on the topic, perhaps sensing a more nihilistic trend in some quarters, giving a clear statement from his own side as to the nature of the non-dual principle he has proposed. And, as you observed, Upanishadbrahmayogi's commentary suffers only from a lack of comprehension of the vocabulary, he saw no reason to read this as a condemnation of the Buddha - a very odd way to end a treatise that aims at Avivaada or Non-Controversy anyway, picking up a quarrel with the Buddha in the very last lines!

Bhavya, or Bhavaviveka, himself an erudite brahmana of South India, (perhaps joining in in this very debate! it all depends on dating the texts) favourably comments on the position of the Vedanta with what almost looks like an answer to IV.99 (note the choice of buddhabhaashitam) -

"vedante hi yat suuktam tat sarvam buddhabhaashitam"

"Whatever is well said in the Vedanta, that has all been declared by the Buddha"

(Bhavaviveka, Madhyamakahridayakarika 4.56)

On that note, I conclude. Best wishes, and again thank you for your work and contributions to this matter, it has been most enlightening!

Mats Lindberg


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