[Advaita-l] My Questions and My Mails

Siva Senani Nori sivasenani at yahoo.com
Mon Mar 20 05:37:51 CST 2006

--- Santhosh  Nair <santhosh_twin at rediffmail.com> wrote:
> -Alcohol/meat-now this is one thing for which I got a variety of different
> answers. And this is exactly why I am confused. Because whoever
> supports/opposses this has a source to attach the idea to. Which of these
> in some other castes (I think what Shri Senaniji meant by "Sadhaka" is a
> priest, which would mean that the Sadhaka is from the Brahmana community. IS
> this correct. Or have I gone wrong again??) 

sAdhaka is one who sets out to achieve. Achieve what? brahmaj~nAnam, in our
case. The rUdhi, or established, meaning is "practitioner". It does not mean a
brahmin in the sense put by you, but then a brahmin is supposed to be one who
seeks brahman. My point was that a practitioner is directed to control his
desire, anger, arrogance etc. and that for a person seeking to increase his
control, alcohol which is a means of escaping even the basic control mechanism,
is not required.

> I sincerely thank all of you who have replied to my messages. I will try to
> learn more. The problem then is, I don't know what to read. Yes, Bhagawat
> Gita could be a good option. 

I am not so sure! Briefly, start with the upanishats if possible. If not, go
ahead and study the gItA. Now the long version:

The vedAnta school names three works called the prasthAnatrayI - namely the
upanishats, brahmasUtras, and the bhagavadgItA - which take a sAdhaka to his
goal. In modern parlance, the upanishats are the basic textbooks which explain
what brahman is, what jeeva is, what this world is, how this world was created
etc. Out of the 108 upanishats, 10 upanishats commented upon by Sri
Sa~NkarAchArya are considered the principal ones. The upanishats approach the
topic at hand - the description of Reality - from different angles using
different analogies, and different terms. This could be confusing with
sometimes the upanishats seemingly contradicting each other. The brahmasUtras
(or bAdarAyaNasUtras or vedAntasUtras), also called the nyAyaprasthAna or the
deciding work, clarify the meanings of the upanishats and reconcile the seeming
contradictions in different upanishats. In that sense, they are like a critical
study of the upanishats. Finally, the bhagavadgItA is like a case study wherein
the teaching of Reality is brought to bear upon a problem at hand: Arjuna's
next course of action. This is like a case study because, Lord Krishna preaches
Arjuna to fight by analysing his problem using different frameworks, and
pointing out that whichever way he looks at it, the decision is clear: that
Arjuna ought to fight with his full vigour.

Normally, when one studies a new subject - say Shakespeare, or Business Process
Re-engineering - the proper course of study would be to study the basic texts
first, then the criticism or commentaries on those texts and finally the
application of those to a given situation. In the case of vedAnta, then, the
proper course to follow would be the upanishats, brahmasUtras, and then finally
the gItA.

The upanishats, both in samskrit and in English translation, are freely
available on the web (http://sanskrit.gde.to and www.sacred-texts.com, to name
but two sources), if you want to start with them. Many find them too dry and
not gripping enough and give up. I hope you will not. But, if you come to such
a pass, reading the gItA is definitely better than not reading anything.
Whichever way, if you reread the gItA after finishing the basic texts and the
nyAyaprasthAna, I believe a new and fuller understanding would emerge.

> And what Senaniji has mentioned: Gautama,Apastamba (I, 5, 17.21),Manu (V,
> 56): I don't even know what these are. Can these be learned? Are these text
> books like Bhagawad Gita?

Gautama, Apastamba, and Manu (and many others) all wrote dharmasUtras, which
explain what is dharma and what is not. As not everybody was in a position to
know the vedas and live accordingly, these great men wrote these sacred-law
books answering many questions regarding many minute matters of daily life.
Since we have the word of these great men that their law books are based on the
vedas, the practice has been to look up these books and depend on them. These
books are not of mere academic interest. Till recently, Indian courts (for the
last 200 years) followed a dharma-SAstra text called mitAxari to decide on
matters of inheritance in Hindu families. The numbers in paranthesis refer to
the divisions such as prasna or adhyAya within the law book. These are also
available online.


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