This is the second part of the Buddha and Shankara series in the light of Sri Aurobindo. The first part is here.

Shankara & Buddha’s view of the world

Buddha and Shankara supposed the world to be radically false and miserable; therefore escape from the world was to them the only wisdom. But this world is Brahman, the world is God, the world is Satyam, the world is Ananda; it is our misreading of the world through mental egoism that is a falsehood and our wrong relation with God in the world that is a misery. There is no other falsity and no other cause of sorrow.

God created the world in Himself through Maya; but the Vedic meaning of Maya is not illusion, it is wisdom, knowledge, capacity, wide extension in consciousness.

प्रवृत्तिः प्रसृता पुराणी | pravṛttiḥ prasṛtā purāṇī (listen)

Omnipotent Wisdom created the world, it is not the organised blunder of some Infinite Dreamer; omniscient Power manifests or conceals it in Itself or Its own delight, it is not a bondage imposed by His own ignorance on the free and absolute Brahman.

Essays Divine & Human, p96 – “The Object of our Yoga” | Full article

In the excerpt below, Sri Aurobindo suggests how significantly Buddhism influenced Hinduism:

Ancient pre-Buddhistic Hinduism vs post-Buddhistic Hinduism

“One thing at least is certain about Hinduism religious or social, that its whole outlook is Godward, its whole search and business is the discovery of God and our fulfilment in God. But God is everywhere and universal.

Where did Hinduism seek Him?

Ancient or preBuddhistic Hinduism sought him both in the world and outside it; it took its stand on the strength & beauty & joy of the Veda, unlike

modern or postBuddhistic Hinduism which is oppressed with Buddha’s sense of universal sorrow and Shankara’s sense of universal illusion, – Shankara who was the better able to destroy Buddhism because he was himself half a Buddhist.

Ancient Hinduism aimed socially at our fulfilment in God in life, modern Hinduism at the escape from life to God.

The more modern ideal is fruitful of a noble and ascetic spirituality, but has a chilling and hostile effect on social soundness and development, social life under its shadow stagnates for want of belief and delight, sraddha and ananda.

If we are to make our society perfect and the nation is to live again, then we must revert to the earlier and fuller truth.

We must not make life a waiting for renunciation, but renunciation a preparation for life; instead of running from God in the town to God in the forest, we must rather plunge into the mountain solitude in our own souls for knowledge & joy & spiritual energy to sustain any part that may be given to us by the master of the Lila. If we get that strength, any society we build up must be full of the instinct of immortal life and move inevitably towards perfection.”

Essays Divine & Human, p58 – “Social Reform” | Full article

Later Indian spirituality: accepted & combined Buddha + Shankara

“…the dominant sense of our later Indian spirituality has been with the conclusion of Shankara and against the conclusion of the early, the inspired, the suprarational Vedanta.
The reason for this preference is obvious. Bondage & sorrow in the world are a fact of our daily experience, withdrawal from life an obvious and logical escape; freedom & bliss in the world are only a statement of Scripture, an experience abnormal to ordinary humanity and if eternally existent, then existent in our supraliminal self and not in our waking consciousness.

Therefore India failing in the ancient power of Vedic tapasya has inertly accepted & combined the Buddhist Law of Karma & Rebirth & Shankara’s gospel of cosmic Illusion & actionless Peace.”

Isha Upanishad, pg 501 – “The Life Divine” (draft B) | Full article