[Advaita-l] mleccha-s not eligible to take Hinduism??

ravi chandrasekhara vadhula at yahoo.com
Thu Jul 12 14:13:10 CDT 2012

Dear all,

Analyzing dharma seems very confusing and complex. How do we know what is correct ? With regards to strictness; is taking food in non-madi/achara form the same as or"as worse" as giving yagnopaveeta to a person whose father is European and mother a Brahmin ? Where do we draw the line ? 

Ravi Chandrasekhara

 From: Vidyasankar Sundaresan <svidyasankar at hotmail.com>
To: Advaita List <advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org> 
Sent: Thursday, July 12, 2012 1:50 PM
Subject: Re: [Advaita-l] mleccha-s not eligible to take Hinduism??

> If there are cases of exceptions with regards to upanayana, then why don't
> we have even a single shudra anywhere in india who is initiated? If learned
> brahmanas support the view of exception, then i feel that shudras have been
> discriminated from a very long time since they don't seem to know about
> this rule of exception.

The question about exception and SUdra-s is ill-posed. There are only two
possibilities: either there are exceptions or there are none at all. In either
case, an exception is not a rule in itself. The rule applies to most cases
that satisfy general criteria. An exception is made only when some special
and specific circumstance or attribute dictates that the general rule be set

The "conservative" view is that the rules are all totally rigid and admit of
no exceptions whatsoever. The "liberal" view is that the rules exist, but
exceptions also can be made by appropriate authorities in appropriate
instances. However, exceptions, by their very nature, are small in number
and pertain to specific individuals, not for whole groups of poeple. If an
exception was made in the past for a specific individual from a SUdra
grouping, then it follows that he as well as his descendants gave up their
SUdra classification and changed to another varNa a long time ago. By
definition, therefore, you will not see a SUdra who is initiated (I assume
you mean the upanayana saMskAra)!

Sri Lalitalalita is correct that upanishad stories are AkhyAyikas meant for
instruction and should not be taken historically. My reference to the story
of satyakAma jAbAla was also for a specific illustrative purpose, not to
argue for the historicity of the upanishadic account.

My illustrative purpse is this - if there is someone like satyakAma jAbAla
today, most of those who are anxious about dharma would hold his
unknown parentage against him. But there could also be someone like
a gautama hAridrumata today who decides otherwise, based on some
quality, like truthfulness. If such a thing happens, then the majority do
have a right to find out from the hypothetical gautama why he did what
he did in accepting the hypothetical satyakAma as a disciple. But nobody
has the right to tell the hypothetical satyakAma to act other than what
his own guru has advised. The most that others can do is to refuse to
intermarry with him and his family and to refuse to eat a meal together
with him - things like that, which indicate a level of social ostracism, to
mark their displeasure. 

Now, replace satyakAma with a non-Indian first name, unknown parentage
with European/American/African/Australian parentage and gautama with
the name of a contemporary brAhmaNa guru who accepts this person
and initiates him. I hope my argument is clear. Now, if any of us on this
list wants to be very strict about rules and vehement about allowing no
exceptions, then the first thing that person and his family should do is to
give up eating at restaurants and office cafetaria with work colleagues
and friends who are not brAhmaNa-s. The second thing to do would be
to refuse to attend and recognize any interreligious wedding, even if it
involves close family members and friends. Is this going to be possible?
Living in the United States, I know of very observant brAhmaNa families
whose sons-in-law or daughters-in-law are of European extraction and
the wedding is conducted as per vaidika rites, complete with pANigrahaNa,
saptapadI and lAja homa. I know of cases where the son of an Indian
brAhmaNa mother and American father has been given the yajnopavIta
with the maternal grandfather doing the brahmopadeSa. And in such
rituals in this country, the priests who officiate are well qualified and
trained from some of the best and most orthodox institutions in India.

In effect, I am drawing attention to the fact that brAhmaNa society has
changed so much and so rapidly, we can ill-afford to tell the contemporary
satyakAma jAbAla and gautama hAridrumata what they should do or not
do for the sake of dharma. Something about glass houses and stones
comes to mind, as also the egend where Jesus said only he who has never
sinned should cast the first stone. (I believe this is the first time I quote
Christ on this list, but somehow it oddly seems appropriate here.)

The historical argument I made was separate, by citing the example of the
Maratha rulers of south India. Were they SUdra or kshatriya? If the former,
they had no upanayana adhikAra and could not be crowned kings. If the
latter, they did have adhikAra and could be made kings. As I mentioned,
in Maharashtra, there was quite some controversy about it and in Tamil
Nadu, there wasn't any. In both places, the end result was that Marathas
were crowned kings. And it is also obvious why such controversies came
up in the first place, if you think about the ground realities of monarchies
and the feudal societies over which they ruled. Population shifts between
SUdra-s and kshatriya-s would have been very common, but nobody really
wants to talk about it. Not every child born in a king's harem was born to
the king. Not every woman in a king's harem was a kshatriya princess.
And it is not as if only a son of a kshatriya princess became king in every
kingdom throughout Indian history.

And if you read the accounts of caste status compiled within the last two
centuries, you will see that almost every jAti that is considered SUdra
has actually claimed descent from kshatriya-s and said they had lost their
status because of historical events. e.g. More than a 1000 years ago, the
Pandyas in Tamil Nadu lost power and today there are many jAti-s that
claim descent from them. Throughout northern India, are the various
Yadavs SUdra or kshatriya? At different times, different answers were
given. And today, when there are no longer any kings and we all live in
elective democracies, it is easy to overlook the importance of the varNa
called kshatriya for deciding issues about dharma and to pretend as if
it is all about brAhmaNa and non-brAhmaNa. It isn't, for the simple
reason that the latter cannot all be lumped together. For that matter,
even brAhmaNa communities cannot all be grouped together.

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