Tradition, Truth - compatible???

Chandran, Nanda (NBC) Nanda.Chandran at NBC.COM
Tue Feb 17 15:57:07 CST 1998

We've been having this discussion from time immemorial under different
headers! Are the other foreign Non-dual philosphers recognized by the
Vedic tradition? Are foreigners right in taking the Vedic way? Plus
various instances that Nagi brought up etc etc

I heard this while in India. It seems Ramana Maharishi cremated his
mother in a way which wasn't stricly traditional and that Chandrashekara
Saraswati, then pontiff of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham, said that it was
wrong to do so. On being questioned by a devotee, Ramana said that there
was nothing wrong with the Shankaracharya's objection, since he was the
head of the Kanchi Matt and that it was his duty, as a religious leader
of a particular tradition, to do so. But Ramana, himself, didn't feel
there was anything wrong.

Initially I used to think that only truth mattered. That the Archaryas
would stand by it come what may. But when I read that Chandrashekara
Saraswati turned down Paul Brunton as a sishya, saying that since he was
a traditional head he had responsiblities and referred him to Ramana, I
understood the point. So I wasn't really surprised by Chandrashekara
Bharathi's statement that Westerners should use Christianity to achieve
the goal. The acharyas are the spiritual leaders of particular
traditions and have to stand by it's rules and regulations, irrespective
of logic, reason or personal beliefs and their views and statements
needn't necessarily be the whole truth.

I doubt if any of the philosophers that Miguel quoted, would have cared
two hoots about their Vedic counterparts opinion. Anyway how does it
matter to us what Vedic philosphers thought about their Sufi
counterparts? Again quoting Ramana, when a devotee asked him if Shankara
was merely an intellectual and not a jnani, Ramana said, "How does that
matter? All that matter is that you should try to become one!".

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>From  Tue Feb 17 16:08:12 1998
Message-Id: <TUE.17.FEB.1998.160812.0500.>
Date: Tue, 17 Feb 1998 16:08:12 -0500
Reply-To: chandran at
To: "Advaita (non-duality) with reverence" <ADVAITA-L at TAMU.EDU>
From: Ram Chandran <chandran at TIDALWAVE.NET>
Organization: Personal
Subject: mAyA - illusion - unreal
Comments: To: Advaita List <Advaita-L at>
Comments: cc: Gummuluru Murthy <gmurthy at>
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Gummuluru Murthy <gmurthy at> writes:

Greetings Murthygaru:

> The Upanishads, in Sanskrit, give us a glimpse of the Truth experienced
> by the sages. There are many words in Sanskrit which do not have an exact
> English equivalent word and hence, quite often, our understanding is
> distorted not only by our lack of understanding of the topic, but also
> because of the use of the incorrect word in another language.

> The word mAyA, so much a central theme of Advaita, is an example. Quite
>  often, the word illusion, or unreal is used as an equivalent of this; but
> illusion is not the right equivalent. As far as I understand, there is no
> equivalent word for mAyA in the English language. I like to expand on this
> by using the following Upanishhadic statements..........................

I agree with the essence of your statement  and assertions but I want to
clarify your viewpoint with some additional observations.  Last year, in
one of my Soc.Reiligion.Hindu postings,  I made a similar statement
about the pitfalls of translating Sanskrit words into English and one
person replied me that I am a fanatic!  I needed to sent several E-mails
to explain and clarify what I really meant!   To the extent, the same
word in any language does not mean the same at different contexts.  It
is a well-known fact that Biblical English, Elizabethan English,
Shakespearean English, English in England, US English and English spoken
in non-English countries are different.  Languages that are both written
and spoken differ in their usage and meaning across the time and across
geographical regions within and outside countries.  Sanskrit has some
additional difficulties.  The meaning of a Sanskrit word  depends more
on how it was spoken that how it was written.  Most of the English
translations are based on written texts of Sanskrit and are subject to
serious deficiency.  Sanskrit has a great oral tradition and the
meanings and interpretations were preserved and separated by the unique
mouth to ear communication media adopted by our ancestors.  But with the
modern technological revolution in the computers, exact translation can
become feasible in the near future.  However, I may have to agree with
your assertion about our limitation in understanding languages across
the culture and time. I also want to admit that the errors of the
translators are mostly unintentional.
    Again, I agree that Maayaa is one of the most misunderstood terms of
Advaita. Maayaa means that which is not absolutely real but which has
the power to appear as real.  The root word for Maayaa is maya (with
both vowels short), which has very much to do with magic.  Sankara
explains Maayaa as yaa maa saa Maayaa, meaning, ^Ñthat which is not is
Maayaa.'  According to Sankara, the world is a myth or a total dream.
The word illusion can give a misleading meaning for the reasons that you
have stated.
   Let us examine the word ^Ñdream.'  To whom is a dream a dream? A dream
is a dream only to a person who has awakened from the dream. A dream is
not a dream to the dreamer. So also the world is not a dream to you, me
and everyone else who are still dreaming! The world is as real as you
and I are - so long our mind exists. It has an empirical reality. When
Sankara says it is a myth and a dream, it is so from the absolute point
of view. His different orders of reality have to be understood well if
we want to give sensible meanings to statements like Brahman is the
Absolute Truth, the universe is a myth, Brahma Satyam, Jagat Mithyaa.
Once the mind merges itself in the infinite, when we have been awakened
by the Absolute Consciousness overpowering us, we are then no more in
the dreaming state and to such an awakened soul the world is indeed a
dream and myth!

Note: According to a story, King Janaka had a dream that he was a beggar
on the street.  He suddenly woke up and started wondering who he was?
He had two questions:
(1)  Which is the real dream - Janaka's life as the king or Janaka the
beggar in the dream?
(2)   Who is real - Janaka or beggar?
Both these questions are real with the existence of separate mind from
Atman. There can be debates, suggestions,  resolutions and additional
questions.  In absolute point of view, there can be neither questions
nor answers!
Ram Chandran
9374 Peter Roy Ct.
Burke, VA 22015
Ph: 703-912-5790

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