Vaidya N. Sundaram sundaram at ECN.PURDUE.EDU
Tue Jul 14 01:00:06 CDT 1998

On Mon, 13 Jul 1998, Ramakrishnan Balasubramanian wrote:

> No we can't assert that it is the sole reason. However we do know that
> smR^iti talks about harmful effects due to performance of a karma
> wrongly. So if the karma is _not_ performed, then those bad effects
> cannot occur. Unless of course, the karma happens to be enjoined.

 Agreed. There has to be a reason for a certain rule to be there. And the
rule to follow a karma in a certain fashion is that, performance in an
other fashion has some other effect, likely to be the opposite, or at
least, different from the intended objective. That much, I agree.

> > questions may be irrelevant, not ALL. And as long as you know that you do
> > not know if (i.e whether) you have followed ALL the rules, you have some
> > defect that you have to be guilty of. (A complex sentence construct i
> > tried to avoid, but could not. Sorry!!)
> The above is quite irrelevant in my opinion.

 I fail to see their lack of relevance. Surely you do not assume that you
know how important it is to purify your place of worship and so make do
with just a sweep of your vacuum cleaner, or even just mopping with a wet
 For as the example I quoted makes it abundantly clear that proper
cleaning of the place of worship is of supreme relevance. And the Ramayana
also explains how it is that a place of worship is to be purified.
 Surely you do not assume that milk from out a carton is the same as
Go-ksheram (pasu-m paal in Tamil).

 Kindly explain to me how they become irrelevant. I am willing to learn.

>  Eg, we do not know the
> exact ratio of carbohydrates, proteins and fats which we should take to
> live the most optimum life. But we can certainly do our best based on
> the knowledge we can get from current literature. Would you say that
> since the optimum ratios are not known exactly we can eat just icecream
> instead?

 The point is, I believe, not what should be eaten, but how much, or how
should it be eaten, or with what, or when etc. We have already decided on
a karma we wish to perform. We then go about determining how it is to be
 The fact being, this particular karma is to be performed in this
particular manner. The next question is, are we sure is this all there is
to it. And is any leeway available. The leeway is always there, in the
prayaschittam. How much can you stretch the law and still say we have not
broken it?

> I made my point very clear. When we know for ourselves that our
> knowledge of how to perform something is not 100% we should make a
> genuine effort to learn. Saying that I can't possibly know exactly every
> rule, so I will do whatever I feel, is sheer laziness.

 On the contrary, performance of a karma, has implicit in it, an effort.
Laziness is not the point here. Effort to perform has already been made.
And performing means, you know something of how it is to be performed. Do
you start? or do you wait till you are sure?

> >  I stand by my point (for what it is worth!) that: if you wait till you
> > can learn all the rules governing the performance of one specified karma,
> > you will never do it (the karma you wish to).
> OTOH, the rules for many karmas are not so complex at all. This is not
> some ashvamedha yAgam we are talking about here. I can assure you that
> it takes only some effort. I stand by my point: If you adopt this
> attitude you'll never learn the rules.

 Again, as an example, when you first learnt how to do write a computer
program, did you wait till you learnt all of the syntax, of C for ex., or
did you start? Did you write some software, and build on it, or do you go
for the end?  A journey of a thousand miles, begins with a single step.
 I do not say, just do what you can and make up for what you dont know by
saying 'Jeez, I'm sorry!!'. Do it. Then do it with greater rigour.
 When you first learnt the Rudram for example, did you always say it
right? Or did you keep repeating it, and correcting yourself as mistakes
are made obvious?

> smR^iti). Hence, my statement. This does NOT mean you coolly escape the
> consequences of wrong performance.

 Not at all. I have made as much clear above.

> case, his injunctions on karma have to be followed strictly.

[ ... ]

> gAyatrI (Note that learning the rules properly and doing it is not an
> option here).

 It is plain to me that the point in contention is: Do I do it right or
not at all OR Do it. Are you doing it right ? If not, correct yourself,
but continue to do it. Go to step one.

 Simplistic as my arguments seem, I have not found any obvious flaw in it.
As you say, I know that HH of kanchi emphasize the rule of Law, Law being
what Shastra say. He has also said in his book Vedas, that everyone must
do some puja or another everyday. Must offer flowers to Her. Must do
neivedhyam. The simple solution being, you make rice for yourself to eat.
Do that as neivedhyam (offering) to Her and then, you yourself eat.
 But if the intention is to perform some special pUja, and that requires,
a special dish to be made, do it. But with all this additional
requirements, come some fringe requirements; where do you draw the line
and say this is a fringe requirement and not so important, where as this
is ....?

 Let me give another case here, albeit a very real one.
 As a Brahmachari, I have to do the SamidhadhAnam. No questions. And, I
have been taught a certain set of rules. One of them is, i have to pick my
own samith (the twig). Another second level rule: the samith should be the
length of anywhere from the length of my index finger to the length of my
index finger plus the length of my thumb. Next, the samith should not have
any forks etc etc.
 Another first level rule, I must not blow at the Agni. I must use a
tharbai (grass) to blow at Agni. Next, the samith should be placed east -
west etc. etc.

 All this is fine. But where do I go for samith in this country, and how
am I supposed to light a fire in my house without setting the fire and
smoke alarms off!!!! What is the approximation here? Is an approximation
allowed in the first place? You must agree with me that performance of
SamidhaDhanam is as much a nitya karma as the Gayatri. Now what do I do?
Blissfully do it with certain approximations, or not do it?

 So you see, my point is never that it is ok if rules are not followed.
There is no laziness to learn the rules. There is no absence of effort.
What would you do in such a case? (I believe you are a Brahmachari too.
*-) What is that you infact do?)


                      Vaidya N. Sundaram
 The place, time, objects and their knower etc., projected in a dream
during sleep are all mithyA (an illusion/false). So too, here. in the
waking state, the world that is seen is a projection by one's own
ignorance. Likewise, this body, the senses, the breath, the ego etc.,
are all unreal. Therefore, That thou art, the peaceful, defectless,
supreme, non-dual Brahman.  -- Adi Shankara in VivekacUdAmani.

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