[Advaita-l] Is "Religious Propaganda" a Duty?

S Jayanarayanan sjayana at yahoo.com
Fri Jun 23 18:28:05 CDT 2006

Lest this posting be misunderstood, let me clarify at the outset that
I will not be presenting any of my opinions whatsoever on this
subject, but only those of His Holiness Chandrasekhara Bharati
Mahaswamigal of Sringeri and Shri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati
Swamigal of Kanchi.

Question: Is it the duty of the head of a Math to propagandize

The opinions of both Acharyas on this question have been published in
books, and I will simply quote from the authentic sources.


First opinion: Kanchi Acharya's

(The Kanchi Acharya assumed leadership of religious propaganda to be
his Duty as the head of a Math, as revealed by the following quotes.)

Book HinduDharma: The Vedas
Chapter: My Duty

"My duty is to impress upon you again and again that it is your
responsiblity to keep the Vedic tradition alive. Whether or not you
listen to me, whether or not I am capable of making you do what I
want you to do, so long as there is strength in me, I will keep
telling you tirelessly: "This is your work. This is your dharma. " It
is for the sake of the Vedas that the Acarya established this Matha.
So, no matter how I keep deceiving you in other ways, as one bearing
his name I should be guilty of a serious offence if I failed to carry
out with all sincerity at least the responsibility placed on my
shoulders of protecting the Vedic dharma. That is why I keep speaking
again and again, and again, not minding the tedium, about the need to
sustain this dharma."


"I have come here to beg of you for your help. If you think I am not
begging for your help, take it that I am issuing you a command to
serve the cause of the Vedas. However it be, the work I have
undertaken must be done."


"But I believe that, as the head of a Matha with the duty of
protecting dharma..."

Namo Namah (Part 4)
Reflections of Paramacharya
Courtesy: Sri Vishnu Sahasranama Satsangam

"Let me make it clear. I said sannyasi has no duties. His only duty
is Atma Vichara: released from duties to wife and children, he has no
duties to other people either. Therefore he should transmit the
namaskaras also to Narayana and leave it at that.
But we sannyasis, occupying a Gurupeetham, and exercising the
position as head of a Mutt, are the ones that I distinguish from
other sannyasis and refer to pass-mark sannyasis. If you ask me why,
the reply is that when we took, the GURU title, we also took up a
host of duties. There is a heavy duty towards people in general, the
human community. To consider the entire community as a body of
devotees and aspirants, and conduct them to the right path is our big


Second Opinion: Sringeri Acharya's

(The Sringeri Acharya did not believe that it was his duty to lead a
propaganda for the upliftment of dharma. Twice did a gentleman G
request HH to begin or lead a propaganda, and twice did HH refuse to
do so. HH would only lend his name to the propaganda begun by G if it
was preceded by the claim that the command for following Vedic dharma
came from God Himself. But on the question of whether such propaganda
was HH's **duty**, the answer was categorically in the negative.)

Book: "Dialogues with the Guru" by R. Krishnaswami Aiyar.

G: Anyhow, in the state of general ignorance of dharma now prevalent
in the country, some organised propaganda is necessary to dispel it. 

HH: What do you mean by organised propaganda?

[After a discussion of propaganda]

HH: If you feel so, do it.

G: But what is the use of my propaganda? It will be more effective if
it is initiated by Your Holiness. 

HH: I am sure it is the other way. If the Vaidikas (Brahmins) start
any such work, you yourself will say, "These people have to live by
their priestcraft. Therefore they want us to be religious so that we
may help them to get their livelihood. Their advice to us to be
religious is therefore with a view to serve their own selfish
interests, and on this reasoning you will begin to belittle the value
of their advice and will neglect it. If I begin to preach the same
thing, you will say to yourself "Occupying the position of an Acharya
(Teacher) as he does, he is simply carrying out his functions when he
asks me to be religious. His advice is a formal routine thing made
out to justify his position", and on this reasoning you will be
likely to ignore it. If however a purely loukika (worldly) gentleman
like yourself asks others to conform to dharma, they will think thus,
"The gentleman who is asking me to be religious does not stand to
gain at all by my being religious, for he is above want himself and
has no need to depend for his living on my being religious...He has
absolutely no personal motive in asking me to be religious and is not
a man likely to waste his words...," thus reasoning they will
certainly listen to you and be guided by you. Practically therefore
all propaganda, assuming it to be necessary, must come only from such
like you, if it has to be effective. 

G: I quite see the significance of Your Holiness' words, but still I
cannot help thinking that, even for any work to be done by us,
lending of Your Holiness' name will go very far with the ordinary

HH: The Lord Himself has given us His commands in the shape of the
eternal Vedas, still the people are prepared to disobey Him. The
ancient sages have formulated the Smritis for the guidance of the
people, still the latter persist in disobeying them. How then do you
expect that people will obey them simply because my name also is

G: The almighty God and the Rishis (Sages) are not visible now, but
you in whom the people repose confidence are present before them in
flesh and blood; and they naturally will pay more attention to your
words than to the religious dictates embodies in books. 

HH: Be it as you like. Wherever you go, tell the people, "The Vedas,
the divine commands of the Lord, have enjoined on you these duties.
The Smritis of the Sages also enjoin the same duties. Perform them
properly and reap their benefit. The Acharya also wants you to do the
same." Let not the people continue in adharma for want of a word from
me in support of the authority of the Vedas and the Smritis. You may
tell them that the Vedas and the Smritis have my emphatic support and
that I also enjoin on them the duty to obey them, as you seem to
think my injunction specially valuable. 

G: That may not be enough. It will be well if Your Holiness yourself
leads a movement for the propagation of dharma. 

HH: I have already told you that no such movement can influence the
people who persist in adharma fully knowing it to be adharma and that
such a movement, if any, to be practically useful must really be led
by worldly persons like you enjoying high positions in life and not
by persons like me whose 'business' is religion. *****Further, I do
not see why you cast any special duty upon me.***** I am not
conscious of ever leading a movement for the propagation of adharma;
if I had at any time done so, it may be now my duty to see that the
mischief caused by me is remedied. On the other hand, it seems to me
that it is the special duty of such as you, who misled the people
away from the path of religion by showing them the glamour of worldly
possessions, to lead them to the right path, now that you have
realised the supreme value of dharma. The ordinary people look up to
you as the highest in the land, and as the Lord has said in the Gita,
"Whatever the highest person does, that alone is done by others."


Third opinion: Kanchi Math's

(The Kanchi Math believed that the Sringeri Acharya cannot be
"blamed" for His inaction on the "duty of religious propaganda" due
to His being at a "higher plane".)

The Chandrasekhara of Kanchi and The Chandrasekhara of Sringeri
Ra. Ganapati

For the fourth issue of Arya Dharmam of the year Dundhubi (1922), Sri
M.N. Subrahmanai Sastri had sent an article in which he had lauded
the active spirit of Kanchi Periyaval in going to every nook and
corner of the land and giving new life to the Vedic traditions
thereby. He had also written that others in the same position had not
cared to exert themselves similarly. It was evident that he meant the
Sringeri Acharya. The Editor asked Periyaval whether the portions
relating to his good work done by him alone be retained, deleting the
aside on the other Acharya.

The reply he got took him by surprise. Periyaval said that the
portion praising his work must be deleted and the critical
observation published.

While the Editor was wondering whether it was really Periyaval who
was saying so, Periyaval continued with a `mischievous' smile, "If
one person has expressed such a view in writing, there may be lot of
others holding the same view in mind. So we should publish it, along
with our reply".

Not knowing the reply and how to incorporate it in the article the
Editor left it to Periyaval to do the needful.

Periyaval went through the article. He came to the Passage, "if only
all the Heads of Maths follow this (i.e. Periyaval's example) our
reformist leaders (condemning the scriptural way to life and values)
would vanish into thin air". Here Periyaval himself added: "But as
the Divine will is not such, they are going into nishta (absorption

There are two salient features in that pithy addition, One is that
such happenings take place due to the Divine Will, not understood by
us humans, and, no one should be blamed therefor. The second point is
that the inaction of the person who was blamed was not due to inertia
or inability but due to nishta which belongs to a plane higher than




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