[Advaita-l] Seeking God

Ram Garib garib_ram at yahoo.co.in
Wed Mar 8 17:05:07 CST 2006

Sri Santosh Nair wrote:

[How should one live according to Advaita? Whom should
one pray to? Is someone allowed to have nonveg and
alcohol? Are there any specific rules regarding
praying, like how many times to pray or when to pray?]

Santosh. I am not very knowledgeable about vedic
religion. Here I am giving my own understanding for
getting clarifications from learned members. Take my
observations with pinch of salt.

The question of how to live ones life has not been
dealt in advaita vedanta to the same details as in
other sects of vedic religion. In advaita vedanta,
this subject is touched only in passing reference. It
will therefore be more relevant to see how this issue
is addressed in the general scheme of vedic religion.

A vedic person is supposed to live his life as per the
dictates of his caste and station in life with a view
to repay the three principal debts. Caste issue has
been discussed on this forum in detail few days back
and I will not reopen it. Ones station in life
(ashrama) is pretty straightforward concept and
uncontroversial (well,. not completely uncontroversial
but largely so). The aim of these duties is to pay
back the three principal debts viz. debt to gods, debt
to forefathers and debt to sages. Let us see how this
concept translates into the life of a vedic person:

1) Debt to gods: Debt to gods regulates "dharma"
portion of life and is governed mainly by the
karma-kaanda section of vedas and smritis. The debt is
repaid through performance of sacrifices, ritual
worships and prescribed nitya-karma-s. I have burnt my
fingers with nitya-karma-s. They should ideally be
picked from ones father. If father has lost nitya
karmas, then from relatives, other community members,
and teacher in that order. They  should not be picked
from books.

2) Debt to forefathers: Debt to forefathers regulates
"artha" and "kaama" portions of life (More
specifically, occupation and marriage) and is largely
governed by shishtachara. This debt is repaid by
continuing ones family line and family traditions as
per shsishtachara. Shistachara is generally accepted
rules of behaviour considered appropriate for a
particular varna and ashrama. Artha and kaama form the
most significant part of our day-to-day life. General
questions about lifestyle such as eating, sleeping
etc. fall into this sphere. Sri Makwana has given
quotations from smriti prescribing eating regulations,
but as per my understanding vedic religion gives more
emphasis to continuing ones hereditary practices in
these matters. I do not know if alcohol is accepted as
shishtachara in any community, but meat eating
certainly is-- even in some brahmin communities.

3) Debt to sages: Debt to sages regulates moxa portion
of life and is governed by the gyan kanda of vedas.
This debt is repaid by the study of scriptures under
the guidance of a teacher. In advaita vedanta, teacher
is not a nice-to-have advantage but an indispensable
necessity. It is because in advita vedanta, the true
meaning of shruti is supposed to be revealed only
through a method of superimposition and negation. This
technique can only be applied by a living teacher,
hence the indispensability.

With regards,
Ram Garib

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