New member introduction: Sanjay Srivastava

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Mon Aug 20 10:24:54 CDT 2001

On Thu, 2 Aug 2001, Sanjay Srivastava wrote:

> Thanks for your long and well thought out opinion.When I visited Kailash
> Ashram I was really surprised seeing Swami Vivekananda's name on the
> board of roll of honours- as I knew that he did not belong to upper three
> varnas. Now Kailash ashram is supposed to be a very traditional ashram
> which even in this day insists on a male brahmin for a student ( Though,
> I was told later that now this restriction is only for full time resident
> students. Otherwise their lectures are open to all. I myself saw several
> foreigners including women attending lectures regularly. I myself also
> did not face any restriction. But I am pretty sure this must be a modern
> compromise. A century ago, in the times of Swami Vivekananda-this would
> not be the case.) I asked a Swamiji how Vivekananda could be admitted as
> a student. His reply is the third solution than the other two you
> mentioned above. He clarified that in Sanatana Dharma it was expected
> that people of all the varnas who followed their varnashrama dharma would
> in time gain enough emotional maturity to enter into sannyaasa. Then they
> would renounce everything including caste. This must be the case with
> swami Vivekananda.

There is a sociologival explanation too.  As I mentioned in a previous
psot, Swami Vivekanada is an icon of modernity in Indian culture.  By
invoking his name, the ashram is telling its' audience, "Look we are
traditional but we are not backward."

> " Instead Advaita Vedanta has a better solution. Maharshi Veda Vyas, the
> earthly founder of Vedanta and the avatar of Bhagawan Himself, took the
> essence of the Vedas and compiled the Mahabharata (which incldes portions
> such as Bhagavadgita and Mokshadharma) and the 18 Puranas. Together with
> ither Smrtis such as Ramayana, Yogavasishta etc. written by Vedic Rshis,
> these are the means of knowledge for those who are outside the Vedas.
> So yes you can study Vedanta as can anyone who posesses the desire for
> liberation (Mumukshutva) But the process by which you do so will be
> different "
> Yes . In fact more than their refusal to teach, I was baffled by the
> attittude of these swamijis as they were not the least bit condescending
> or demeaning. Most of them were very kind and considerate and sincerely
> wanted to help me. One swamiji went to the extent of claiming that
> prakarana granthas and Brahma Sutras were more systemmatic and
> methodical.

I think he has a good point.  The upanishads and other mokshashastras
provide the raw material for Vedantic philosophy but through the process
of Mimamsa (debate, logical and linguistic analysis) it was refined and
systemized.  In the Brahmasutras, Maharshi Badarayana often quotes the
views of other Rshis.  However he doesn't always accept them as siddhanta.

> Hence learning Upanishads was not really necessary. When I
> persisted that if you consider a person good enough for Brahma Sutras you
> must consider him fit for Upanishads also. He replied that personally he
> did not find any objection in teaching me except that he had high regards
> for his tradition which forbade it.

I'm not satisfied with that answer.  Instead I would say the adhikara for
study of a particular shastra is a different subject from adhikara for
inquiry into Brahman.  One does not imply the other.  The reason one
should study the shastras is because we are under three debts, to the Devas
which we fulfill through puja etc., to the Pitrs which is fulfilled by
having children and continuing the family, and most pertinent in this
case, to the Rshis which is fulfilled by study.  The study of shastras, by
eliminating ignorance provides the condition in which it is possible to
know Brahman, however that knowledge is not *caused* by the shastras.

> This I don't understand. When lord himself gives us the option of
> dvividha nishtha how can any one else deny it ?

Has He though?  One of the major causes of confusion in interpretation of
the Bhagavadgita is that there are two teachings going on.  One is
Bhagawans message to humanity, universally valid for all times and
places.  And the second is His message to one particular person, Arjuna,
in one particular time and place, Kurukshetra on the eve of war.  Many
systems of ethics religious and secular come to grief by misjudging the
relationship between the universal and the particular.

At the beginning, it is Arjuna who is making all the right Vedantic
noises.  He is the one who wants to renounce fame and fortune.  But
Krishna Bhagawan knows this is more based on cowardice than a real feeling
of vairagya.  The beauty of the Gita is it not only explains how and when
to practice Vedanta but how and when *not* to practice it.  There are
situation when pravrtti is more important than nivrtti.  It is essential
to know exactly when.

>When I read ancient
> scriptures I find not one or two but scores of sages who were
> householders. I would say householder was a norm and sannyaasin an
> exception. It seems to be a very recent phenomena- may be after
> establishment of dasanami sampradaya by bhagavatpada that the balance
> tilted in favour of sannyaasins.

It is true that it is the Advaitins who are the most radical in rejection
of karma.  Other sampradayas combine karma and jnana to lesser or greater
extent.  But in a way we are saving karma from itself.  Actions have to be
done from time to time but when action becomes an end to itself, it has a
tendency to become harmful rather than good.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at>

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