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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The soteriology of Gaudāpada’s Māndūkya Kārikā Cole, Colin A.


The purpose of this thesis is to investigate the nature of the soteriology of Advaita Vedānta. While Advaita can be studied either as a system of philosophy or as a religious discipline, it is usually treated academically as a systematic philosophy or metaphysic with a religious aspect. The religio-spiritual dimensions of the system are ignored or neglected to a large degree and seldom is an author or a text presented from such a perspective. The enquiry restricts itself to a concrete example of this tradition to illustrate the problem. Gaudapāda and his teachings as set forth in the Māndūkya Karika are presented using this latter approach. Gaudapada's teachings are thus described, analyzed and interpreted in light of his essential soteriological concern. There are two major areas explored in this study. The first involves the inter-relation and inter-dependence of philosophy and religion. Gaudapāda and his text are used to illustrate the synthesis of these two aspects within Advaita Vedānta. They are found to be inter-twined and mutually influence each other. The more precise categorizations of metaphysics, philosophy, epistemology, psychology, religion and spiritual discipline are also seen to be integrally united through the soteriological purpose which underlies them. Each category or perspective is systematically presented separately and its relationship to the other components is indicated. Secondly, the religio-spiritual dimensions of Gaudapāda's Māndūkya Kārikā in both its theoretical and practical levels are given prominance. The specific religio-spiritual quest detailed in the text is focused on in an attempt to clarify the nature of Gaudapāda's teachings as well as to fulfill the need for a complete description of both the theoretical and the pragmatic religious material presented in the text. This analysis and description is found to be necessary so as to interpret his thought thoroughly and accurately. Gaudapāda is presented herein more as a religious preceptor than as a systematic philosopher. The Māndūkya Kārikā is also examined as a teaching text from this perspective. Gaudapāda's use of scripture and reasoning are explored to understand the synthesis of philosophy and religion inherent in the teachings. His use of various teaching devices are found to support the view that Gaudapāda's teachings are essentially religious or spiritual. Even his systematic metaphysic is found to have a soteriological orientation. His analysis of experience reveals a working psychology which brings together the philosophical and religious aspects of his total system. It is upon this background that Gaudapāda is able to elaborate his religio-spiritual quest. He first presents a theoretical understanding of man's spiritual situation and the goal of liberation. Then he describes the actual practices prescribed to achieve this goal experientially and indicates the results which are said to accrue from them. Thus the religio-spiritual dimension of Gaudapāda's teachings are documented in terms of its theoretical and practical levels. The teachings as a whole are schematically presented to indicate the essential soteriological perspective and concern of Gaudapāda as found in his Māndūkya Kārikā exposition of Advaita Vedānta.

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