[Advaita-l] SAstra, fundamentals, and tradition of advaita

Ananta Bhagwat ananta14 at yahoo.com
Wed May 21 11:25:13 CDT 2008

On Fri, 16 May 2008, Siva Senani Nori wrote:

> Sri Jaladhar Vyas, a few years back, very evocatively captured this 
> difference by saying that he was a fundamentalist (not in a broad sense, 
> but in a narrow sticking-to-what-the-SAstra-says sense); if I am less 
> fundamentalist, and you even lesser so, I think we should not be 
> apologetic. For instance it is my considered stance that if a woman is 
> truly interested in learning the vedas, and is sincere about it, she 
> should be taught.

1/ I want to address this issue because I find it important. Those who stick to what SAstra-s (supposedly) say are SAstrI - Pundits and not necessarily upholders of fundamentals; what is fundamental is brahman = Atman unity and not SAstra-s.

2/ There are cases when such SAstrI-s by rigidly and narrowly interpreting SAstra ostracized seer like jnAneSvara (13th century Marathi sage and well known commentator of gItA) and refused to give him any place in Dharma. Today no one remembers those SAstri-s, but jnAneSvara has a permanent place in the spiritual and bhakti tradition of Maharashtra.

3/ jnAneSvari is written in local language Marathi and its flavor is not at all SAstrik; still it preaches the unity of ALL. jnAneSvara was local in tradition but universal in content. I would not like to label jnAneSvara, though he has inspired millions by his message of fundamental unity of beings.

4/ Some may believe that rigid interpretation of SAstra is the only way towards moxa (to realize brahman = Self). Rigorous interpretation of SAstra has its place in sAdhanA at initial stages and in some other situations. But there is also the danger of sAdhaka falling in love with his own image of 'learned SAstrI' and forget the true meaning of Knowledge (see gItA 2.42-44). There is also the danger of this type of 'narrow fundamentalism' escalating into 'bigger fundamentalism'. Fortunately, the basic theme of advaita-vedanta as well as Hinduism is Unity (though not homogenization) and hence this threat is minimal. Further, vedAnta (gItA) propels arjuna to fight for dharma (just cause) against adharma (injustice) without hatred or rancor.

5/ If self-less actions (nishkAma karma) is the starting point as well as basis of sAdhanA, then I do not see any reason why self-less service to others can not be part of that sAdhana. This tradition can be traced to gItA (3.13, 3.20, 3.25 etc). In modern times if (any one says) this tradition is revived due to Christain influence then so be it. 

6/ I am not apologetic about my stand - women and SUdra-s (for that matter ALL) should have, in principle, equal access to Knowledge (frankly, how many of us irrespective of cast and class will be willing to avail of this access is a mute question); if it is not acceptable to SAstra then that part of SAstra is not acceptable to me. This stand is not radical but practical (and for me moral too). By doing this I am not disowning the SAstra-s (they are part of my tradition any way), but 'am asserting my right to uphold my Hindu (advaita-vedanta) fundamentals.



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