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.
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!