Gaudapāda Analysis


Gaudapāda (goh-dah-PAH-dah) wrote a commentary on Sāmkhya (an orthodox system of Hindu philosophy that influenced the Buddha, who later influenced Sāmkhya philosophy) in which he set forth the principles of advaita, a doctrine of monism (nondualism) that teaches that only the ultimate principle is integral, whole, and unsplit and that it alone has real existence; all other phenomena are either ephemeral or illusive. Gaudapāda was deeply influenced by Buddhism, especially Yogācara philosophy.


Gaudapāda was a very strict monist, denying the possibility of change, causation, creation, destruction, bondage, or liberation. He argued the doctrine of ajātivāda, which held that the Absolute, a being self-existent, is neither a creator nor a destroyer and is changeless. Therefore, neither was the world created nor will it be destroyed. If the Absolute did not exist at the beginning or the end, it did not exist in the middle.

Life, he argued, was like a torch, which when it is rapidly moved around, creates the illusion of a ring of fire. The purpose of philosophy, he maintained, was to quench the flame. The Vedantic philosopher Śankara was strongly influenced by Gaudapāda.

Additional Resources

Mahadevan, T., ed. Gaudapada: A Study of Early Advaita. 2d ed. Madras, India: University of Madras, 1954.

Sarma, Candradhara. The Advaita Tradition in Indian Philosophy: The Study of Advaita in Buddhism, Vandanta, and Kashmari Shaivism. Delhi, India: Motilal Banarsidass, 1996.

Walker, Benjamin. Hindu World: An Encyclopedic Survey of Hinduism. London: George Allen and Unwin, 1968.