The story of my experiments with truth

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Sun Dec 14 20:39:24 CST 1997

On Wed, 3 Dec 1997, Greg Goode wrote:

> I agree there!!
> >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.
> What are his dates?

Both Rammohan Roy and Swami Sahajanand where active around the turn of the
18th century.

> I agree about the RK mission, but is that about modernism?   I used to
> attend services at two of their centers, and have my own ideas about why
> they are not more popular.  Don't think it has too much to do with
> modernism vs. traditionalism.  Or do you mean the RK mission in India?

Perhaps more in India but anywhere, to the Hindu in the street, the RK
mission has stood for modernism.  See my reply to Vidyashankar.

> >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.
> Wrong about what?

Wrong that tradition will not be able to survive and compete with the
weeds.  I think it can.

> Most people would love it if other people were not
> deluded.  How do you know that other traditions, paths, trends, etc., are
> false.

Because I know that what I have learnt is what my Grandfather knew and his
Grandfather and so on through the ages.  Because I know the history of the
modern sects and how little they have to do with the Advaita tradition.

> Not all non-Vedanta trends are hoodwinking.
> You argue for the
> cultural purity/integrity of Advaita Vedanta.

More the integrity than the purity.  Vedanta did not occur in a vacuum and
I'm prepared to accept the impact of, say Dvaita polemics, on the system.
But it is precisely because I'm aware of the history and tradition of
Advaita that I can recognize deviations.

>This is not a path for
> everyone, especially people from other cultures.  This is why there are a
> multiplicity of paths.  This prompts me to ask you:  what is your personal
> opinion of people like me, an American, strongly drawn to Vedanta?  I'm
> drawn both to the orthodox kind, the kind with the long, continuous
> guru-disciple tradition, AS WELL as the non-orthodox kind taught by Ramana
> Maharshi, Nisargadatta, Ramesh Balsekar (who you mention below), and
> others.

Since you asked, I think you've contributed much to this list
with your questions and conversation.  However if you were to announce
tomorrow that you're joining the Jehovah's Witnesses, it wouldn't bother
me a bit.  Basically I think of non-Hindus as tourists.  While you're here
there's no sense in being rude but if you're not here, no big deal.  After
I get married and start teaching children, it will Indians only. (Probably
Gujaratis only.)

> You might say that my intereset in the non-orthodox kind is that
> I'm being hoodwinked.  But if I am culturally not Indian and don't see
> things through the same historical/cultural filter that an orthodox Indian
> Vedantist does, then how did my interest happen??

It's perfectly natural to be interested in other cultures.  I can
understand that.  What I don't get is why you feel the need to be a
participant instead of an observer?  For instance I'm interested in
Orthodox Judaism.  Living in the New York area, I've had colleagues of
that faith and Kosher dairy restaurants have often helped me out with
reliable vegetarian food.  And I think there are some interesting
parallels between some of their practices and ours.  But I've never felt
the need to go to a synagogue or even to talk to Jews about this.

>  Am I doomed?   I
> remember hearing once on another mail-list that the best hope for an
> American according to one orthodox writer was to be reborn in India!

That is certainly a popular view.

> Or is what you are saying that you don't like other trends masquerading as
> Vedanta when they're not Vedanta?  I can agree with you there.  A friend of
> mine made a quip about Advaita being as trendy as "Tao" was a few years
> ago.  We'll see books on "The Advaita of Business," "The Advaita of
> Relationships," "The Advaita of Getting What you Want," etc.

Unfortunately you're probably right.

> >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.
> Interesting.  Have you read them?

>From what I've heard on this list there wouldn't be any point. It's enough
of a struggle to keep up with my proper studies without going off on
useless tangents.

> >You see, for me this is not a matter of theory or
> >book-learning but part of a vibrant living tradition.
> I know what you are talking about, and Ramana, Nisargadatta are NOT part of
> this tradition.  I had looked for instances of this tradition in the U.S.,
> and it's sort of hard to find.  Swamis Chinmayananda and Swami Dayananda do
> have a presence on the East coast.  Are they part of this tradition?

Neither of these two have much of a following amongst Gujaratis but I've
met some South Indian followers of Chinmayanands.  If they have a fault,
it is that
some of them over-Vedantize everything.  I remember onetime I was doing
Ganapati puja at some persons house and they had a person giving a speech
on the "Vedantic symbolism of Ganesh Bhagawan."  He seemed rather put out
when I told him there wasn't any such thing.  As for Swami Dayanand, I've
heard of him but not much about him which is actually a good thing IMO.
An ascetic isn't supposed to be a social worker or a religious leader, he
is supposed to be off in the mountains somewhere inquiring into Brahman.
The less contact with society the better.

> Could you give an example here of how Vedanta doesn't apply to your
> corporate life?  Is mentally chanting OM not applying Vedanta?  Cannot this
> be done during a business meeting?

Sannyasa is an indispensible requirement for the serious sadhaka.  I know
this is one of the perennial topics on the list and people will give
instances of householders who are jnanis but realisticly, the person who
is enmeshed in worldly actions such as making money and wheeling and
dealing cannot expect to make any progress.

As for chanting Om during a meeting, i'd fire you if you're mind wandered
off in one of my meetings :-)

> You are arguing here something like both A and B:
> A: Greg says (a) that the Gita is profound and transcends culture.  This
> view, (a), is probably Greg's personal creation.
> B: Jaldhar says (b) that the Gita must be understood only in the same way
> it was at the time and in the culture in which it was written.  This view,
> (b), is not Jaldhar's personal creation, but something more absolute.
> Propositions (A) and (B) don't really go together.  Of course everything
> that appears, any view, all nama-rupa is an appearance in consciousness and
> ultimately not a personal thing at all.  But even speaking from within the
> world of maya and relativity, it is known that literary, religious,
> aesthetic views are influenced by one's time, place, background,
> conditioning, education, etc.  If you agree to this, then views (a) and (b)
> are also both influenced by these same factors!

Yes, I'm arguing for the supremacy of a certain time, place, background
etc.  And yes it is in some ways arbitrary.  It could have been
interpreted in some other way.  But that's hypothetical.  It _was_
interpreted in the way I'm suggesting.  Maybe the original interpreters of
Advaita Vedanta made a collosal mistake.  But I'm the inheritor of that
collossal mistake not a different one. :-)

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at>

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