Govind Rengarajan govind at ISC.TAMU.EDU
Sat Feb 14 10:34:25 CST 1998

This turned out to be a long mail. Please excuse me.

On Sat, 14 Feb 1998, Miguel Angel Carrasco wrote:

> historical perspective. My intention was (and is) to find the common,
> essential core in non-dual jnanis from any religion or philosophy.

This is fine. In as much as one obtains information about these
jnAnis from books and writings, he/she should consider seriously
what the direct tradition (his followers) of a particular jnAni

> Not so long ago, the Catholic church held that outside it there was no
> salvation. I hope you (my dear friends from the Hindu tradition) will not
> hold the same position. Then, you^Òll admit that there have been jnanis (or
> muktas) in other traditions.
> The question is then: Do you consider the best sages of other traditions,
> like Buddha (and others like Meister Eckhardt, Ibn El'Arabi, Jalal ad-Din
> ar-Rumi, etc) as jnanis, muktas, or only Vedic enlightened ones have a
> right to be recognized as jnanis?

The situation with the Catholic church is not quite the same as in
the "Hindu" tradition, as I am sure, you will agree. With respect to
the "Hindu" tradition, there are two kinds of people - people who
are _born_ into the tradition, and people who are not. The
underlying philosophy is indeed universal, and there have many a
great sages around the world. Most people who are not born into
the "Hindu" tradition, study the world's religions and
teachings and try to find an underlying unity (or even assimilate it
all in one big cup) to convince themselves of the "truth". Indeed,
this is particularly true with the western world.

Now this situtation is akin to a circular corridor with zillion
doors. You are free to open all of them and find out perhaps that
all of them lead to the same thing, but perhaps not. But assuming
each door marks a tradition, a jnAni created the door, his followers
know the path behind the door better than anybody else. As
Vidyasankar has said several times, it is downright arrogant to
second guess the jnAni over his followers (I am not saying you did

As for as the "Hindu" tradition is concerned, being *born* into the
tradition, one has the opportunity to follow a specific path - a
door - laid out by his AcAryAs (gurus) and elders. A "Hindu" does
not go around asking everybody to follow his path claiming
redemption only if they do so. A "Hindu" recognizes that his
religion and studies can grant him/her the "mOkshA". He/She follows
his AcAryA (guru). In the process, one learns that the immediate
followers of a tradition are in a far better position to teach.

So, in summary, to answer your question, a person born into the
Vedic tradition has a well laid path to follow and will follow the
jnAnis in his/her tradition. This definitely does not mean that
other traditons cannot have jnAnis. Interestingly, in "Dialogues
with a guru", H.H. Sri Chandrasekhara Bharati, the then pontiff of
Sringeri Mutt, advices a Christian man who wants to convert (to
Hinduism) to go back and find the truth through Christianity.

> This is a point over which I^Òve puzzled for decades. Even as a child I
> wondered - Why do the saints say such different things? Haven^Òt they seen
> the truth? How is it then that they don^Òt agree with each other?
This is another reason why the faith in the tradition or a guru is
important. Sometimes, glimpses of truth are not only difficult and
"impossible" to comprehend, but also frightening if not guided
properly. An AcAryA might deliberately lead a follower based on
certain things, and in the process, the student might hear
completely contradictory statements over a period of time. It is not
that the AcAryA is senile or any such thing, but the maturity of the
student, an important parameter, drives the whole teaching
process. The Vedic tradition, in fact, believes in a step-by-step
process, and a student does not learn the upanishads until such
time as his AcAryA thinks he is fit for it.


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