[Advaita-l] "Spades" and "All religions are [not] one"

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Mon Feb 23 23:26:34 CST 2004

On Mon, 23 Feb 2004, Sanjay Verma wrote:

> Pranam to all,
> Last week, two comments were made on this list (don't have the original
> email so the comments are paraphrased below):
> 1) All religions are not one, and Adi Shankaracharya would criticize
>    even Hindus whose practices are against Vedic injunction.

That was my comment

> 2) We should dispense with pseudo-secularism and call a spade a spade.

And Ranjeet said that so I won't speak for him.

> A) Excerpts from: The Problems of Spiritual Life by Swami Krishnananda,
> The Divine Life Society (available as a free download online):
> “The whole point about the religions is that they are like many roads
> leading to one peak of a mountaintop, where they will all merge into one
> single spot. If this is accepted, there will be fraternity and brotherly
> feeling among the religions in the world.

Fraternity and brotherly feeling are all well and good but not at the
expense of truth.  If you believe that non-violence is the higher
spiritual path then, say, sacrificing a goat on Eid is not leading down
the same road, it is going backwards.  (and vice-versa.)  Fraternity may
mean you find things in Islam worth admiring but fraternity also means
informing your brother when they are harming themselves does it not?

> But there is an isolated
> tendency to assert each religion as a complete presentation of reality
> in itself, which has also the tendency to reject other approaches. Then
> comes clash and communal skirmish leading to social and political
> catastrophe.

This is where modern thinkers part ways with traditionalists in every
religion,  Traditionalists certainly view their faiths as being "complete
presentations of reality."  No doubt this may cause clashes but looking at
for example the Indian scene the real story is not there is "communal
skirmish" but that for every 1 incident there are a 1000 incidents of
people with different beliefs living side by side.  But if one claims there
is no truth or we can only partially know the truth, then any belief no
matter how crackpot it may be has to be accepted.  One can make a case
that the lack of critical thinking and ensuing woollyheadedness caused by
this approach make people more vulnerable to being misled by unscrupulous

> Like many rays of the sun are the many religions in the
> world. If one ray of the sun were competing with another ray, what would
> it be like?

False analogy.

> You have not only to tolerate the validity of another
> person's approach, but also accept the justifiability of that effort.
> Merely tolerating in a condescending manner is no good. You are not
> reluctantly tolerating the viewpoint of some person. That would make you
> place yourself in a position of superiority. There is validity in the
> approach
>  of all.

If one believes in the biblical commandment Thou shalt not kill, is it
wrong for them to treat the murderer as inferior.  Must they accept poison
in their tea as "a valid approach"?

>  You cannot say that a child is just blabbering nonsense. Rather, it is
>  asking for something that is absolutely necessary for it in the
>  condition in which it is placed at that time. It does not mean that a
>  child is inferior to a genius; comparison is always odious. Never
>  compare anything and contrast anything. Take everything for what it
>  is.”

The ironic thing is comparing and contrasting is precisely what Swami
Krshnananda is doing here.  "Take everything for what it is" is fine
rhetoric but I challenge you to find one person who actually behaves that

> “You cannot love God by hating someone else. The whole point in religion
> is misconstrued. Love God and hate the world. Then, why not love the
> world and hate God? Even that is good enough for some. There are people
> who feel that way. There are stages of approach in religion: the
> transcendental approach, the mystical approach, and the universal
> approach, to which everything has to tend one day or the other. The
> study of comparative religions is very good and necessary.”

"compare"-ative religions Swami Krishnananda?
> B) Lest one think that such neo-Advaita ideology is not consistent with
> Advaita as taught by Adi Shankaracharya:
> BGB 9:23 - 24
> "Those also who are the devotes of other divinities, who worship them
> with faith, are worshipping Me only, Arjuna! but not according to Vedic
> injunctions."

Shankaracharya glosses shraddhayA (with faith) as:

shraddhayA Astikyabuddhaya

"with faith means with astika intelligence" I don't know quite how to
translate astika into English.  Orthodox?  Positive?  But the point is he
is making a value judgement, a potentially exclusive one.

He glosses avidhih (not according to the Vedic injunction or method) as:

avidhiH ajnAnaM tatpUrvakam ajnAnapUrvakaM yajante ityarthaH

not according to the Vedic method means without sacrificing without

> "I indeed am the enjoyer and mater of all sacrifices; but they do not
> recognize Me in truth. Therefore they lapse"

He glosses sarvayajnanam ("of all sacrifices") as:

sarvayajnAnAM shrautAnAM smArtAnAM cha

Of all sacrifices = of all based on Shruti and Smrti

> The Acharya himself clarifies verse 24 with the following commentary:
> "Inevitably the fruit of sacrifices accrues even to them, who, prompted
> by devotion to other divinities, offer sacrifices, violating
> injunctions."

That karma bears fruit even without knowledge we have recently seen is a
basic Mimamsaka doctrine.  However elsewhere in the Gita and in we see
that although such worship bears some fruit, it is inferior compared to
jnana and karmayoga.  See also B.G. 9.25 and 17.4 and the bhashya
thereon for other examples of gradation of divinities and methods of

> So, whether or not Adi Shankaracharya would accept that "all religions
> are one" or be in favor of pseudo-secularism seems to be missing the
> mark (i.e., the higher objective in one’s spiritual practice). Yes, the
> Acharya was very critical of other paths and outright rejected the
> validity of many of their presuppositions (the entire 2nd section of
> chapter 2 of the BS is devoted to refutation of other viewpoints).
> However, refutation of such views from the point of Advaita is different
> than saying such paths will not lead to the Absolute (completely or
> incompletely). No less an authority than Sri Krishna Himself asserts
> that all paths (if practiced with devotion) lead to Him.

I hope the explanations above have satisfactorily shown you that
Shankaracharya is quite consistent in considering non-vedic paths to be
inferior (though perhaps useful to varying degrees) to vedic paths and
vedic paths based on karma to be inferior to those based on jnana.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>
It's a girl! See the pictures - http://www.braincells.com/shailaja/

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