The story of my experiments with truth

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Tue Dec 2 23:26:36 CST 1997

Once again, I must apologize for droppig the ball in this conversation.

On Sun, 16 Nov 1997, Greg Goode wrote:

> This means either that according to a Vedantin, either (a) there are no
> duties in non-Vedic cultures, or (b) all proper duties in all cultures have
> their source in the Vedas.  Do you mean something like (a) or (b)?

Like I said mostly the question was ignored.  But for those who thought
about it, the answer is nearer to b though they did not consider a
non-Vedic culture a culture at all.  Instead they would say all people
are bound to obey the sadharana dharmas or common duties and foreigners
don't because they are incorrigible barbarians.

> What about to a non-traditionalist?  To a traditionalist, what caste am I a
> member of?
> >> Every society has some notion of duty, the notion being contingent
> >> upon the society.
> >
> >This is a modern notion.
> Yes, we are modern people, using a modern means of communication,
> discussing the relevance of ancient ideas to our modern lives.  We are
> using modern languages and dialectic.  (Ghandiji was a modern man too.)

One can use the tools of modernism without neceessarily believing in its
cultural underpinnings.  One reason the Colonial conquest of India took so
long was because the rajas armies' were pretty evenly matched with the
Europeans.  (It was internal political squabbling that did them in in the
end.)  Or take the Hindi film industry, the first Bombay film was made
barely five years after the invention of cinema.  To be sure modernism has
had an impact in places but hardly everywhere.

> All of our discussion seems to pile more and more evidence in favor of the
> generalizability of this marvelous scripture.  My subject here is not
> Ghandi as Gita expositor; rather I'm arguing against a culturally,
> temporally or literalistically narrow view of the Gita as being the only
> valid view.  Time and history will prove that there are other valid, wider
> views.

Naturally, noone knows for sure what the future will hold but perhaps we
can extrapolate.  Modern Hinduism is typically said to begin with Rammohan
Roy.  (Also incidentally the first ideologue of modern Vedanta.)  Today
his philosophy is practically forgotten.  I bet even Bengalis would be
hard pressed to tell you what he actually taught.  Meanwhile, over on the
other side of India, the Swami Sahajananda we mentioned earlier was
writing in Sanskrit and preaching traditional beliefs.  Today, his
followers number in the 10's of millions.

Or what about the RK mission?  Vivekananda is quoted by a bewildering
variety of people to promote all sorts of things nowadays but as an
institution, the RK mission is moribund.

Whether or not tradition can escape the weeds that have grown around it
depends on education.  If I seem vehemant in my denunciation of certain
trends it's because I don't want to see innocent people hoodwinked by them
before they've had a chance to see what Dharma is really about.  I may be
wrong but I'm pretty optimistic that i'm not.

> >Prior to the modern era, it wouldn't have
> >occured to anyone anywere to compare societies in such a relativistic
> >manner.  For the pre-modern person, there was their own society and there
> >were the unbelievers.  Sometimes the unbelievers were hated, sometimes
> >feared, but mostly they were ignored.
> Cultural relativism IS a modern notion, so?

So anyone who seriously claims to practice Vedanta must value the truth
above all else.  The intention is not to replace one illusion by another
but to get rid of them all.  The ideology of the Gita and those who have
followed its teaching through the centuries wasn't modern and to claim
otherwise is a lie.  Simple as that.

I was born in England and have lived all my life in the West.  My parents
immigrated in their 20's too but I've never felt the need to bother much
with any of these modernists at all.  I hadn't heard of Ramana before I
joined this list and I still don't accept Nisargadatta, Balshekhar etc as
Advaitins at all.

You see, for me this is not a matter of theory or
book-learning but part of a vibrant living tradition. Which I have every
intention of keeping and passing on to my future children and
grand-children. And I'm willing to bet that if my kai. Grandfather were
able to visit those grandchildren he would barely notice the difference
between their religious beliefs and his.

> And yes, pre-modern societies
> all did have the notion of "our own" and then the unbelievers/barbarians.
> How does this relate to the discussion of the Gita?  Are you saying that
> because the Gita was written under the pre-modern mind-set, it must even
> NOW be taken in a way that ignores all cultures it wasn't written under?


> Can't Krishna's karma yoga explanations be relevant to the modern corporate
> warrior, on the eve of a hostile takeover transaction??

Speaking as a corporate warrior myself, I'd be wary of applying any of the
tenets of Vedanta to my life.  (Not that "Karma Yoga" has much to do with
Vedanta at all.)  Vedanta is not just about getting beyond dukha but sukha
as well.  It is impossible for someone living a worldly life to unmesh
himself from that.  That's why Shankaracharya stresses the importance of

> >> This is partly why the Gita is such a profound book.
> >> Though emanating from one culture, it is relevant for all.
> >>
> >
> >Maybe.  But your culturally translated Gita is different from _the_ Gita.
> Precisely!  You see, the very fact that it withstands cultural, temporal
> and linguistic translation is even more evidence of its profundity and
> greatness for all.

Again, if you say so.  But if this profundity is wholly your own product,
why bother with the Gita at all?  That's the part I'm having difficulty
understanding.  You could just call your beliefs Goodism and include
whatever you like in them.

> OM!
> --Greg Goode

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at>

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