[Advaita-l] 'End' not 'Means'

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Tue May 2 17:15:13 CDT 2006

Another long post consolidating responses...

On Sat, 29 Apr 2006, Ramesh Krishnamurthy wrote:

> This is probably the hundredth time Jaldhar has made this point since
> the start of the list and I must say its a load of bunkum. The Brahmo
> Samaj may be dead but that doesn't mean its effects are too. Calcutta
> society will no longer be scandalized if a woman reads from the
> Upanishads. In fact there would be quite a scandal if a worthy like
> Jaldhar says that women shouldnt read them. Who in Raja Rammohun Roy's
> time would have imagined that such days would come?

The Brahmo Samaj wasn't out to scandalize, it had a specific program of
spiritual ideas.  And as the organization is quite dead (as you agree) its
program is an abject failure.  But if its ideals lived on, the sky over
Calcutta should be thick with the smoke of agnihotra right?  In fact it is
a place with more atheists per capita than any other Indian city and
regularly elects communists.  Do you think that's what Mr Roy had in mind
for the future?

Having met a lot of reformer types over the years, I'm sure most of them
have a copy of the upanishads on their bookshelves (in translation,
Sanskrit is so outmoded don't you know?) but I doubt if many are actually
reading them and I'm sure even fewer are actually following them.  At best
they'll be mined for quotes to support whatever notion they've already
made up their minds about.

> As for the Arya Samaj, its far from being dead. And in many ways it
> has been quite successful too. It has one of the largest and best
> networks of schools operated by any Hindu organisation.

Ramesh, do you actually know what this Anarya Samaj believes in?

1. one invisible God.  No murtis in fact no Vishnu, Shiva, or Devi at all.
It's all medieval superstion.  And that God is not the Brahman of Vedanta
either.  That's also superstition and stops people from fighting Muslims
to boot.

2. The "Vedas" that they pay so much stock in, are only the Samhitas--no
brahmanas, aranyakas or upanishads are authoritative.  And of course no
smrtis, puranas, or itihasas though any of these  will be selectively
quoted when they conveniently support a right-wing view of Indian history.

3.  No pujas, no utsavas, no vratas.  Just a "havan" and some samskaras
which have no foundation in kalpasutras but were concocted by their  founder.

This is not saving Hinduism.  It is just replacing it with a new
religion that happens to have the same name.  What damn use is that to us?
(Actually it is not so bad but only because most Arya Samajists don't
really believe/follow what their founder taught.  Is that a mark of success?)

Just a quick aside:

> On 4/28/06, Subramanya hiriyannaiah <subramanyauh at gmail.com> wrote:

[Concerning Arya Samaja translations of the Vedas]

> I learnt that the translations are biased and carries the direct meaning and
> not the hidden meaning. It is for the Erudite to offer their opinion if
> anybody has gone through them.

On Fri, 28 Apr 2006, Abhishek RK wrote:

> I think they are translating Swami Dayananda's (not the present day founder
> of Arshavidya Gurukulam) "Veda-Bhashyas".

Yes this is the Vedarthaprakasha a fantastic tissue of lies from the
imagination of the founder of this organization.  It is not taken
seriously by any scholar, traditional or modern.

And btw. Sayana bhashyas are available in Sanskrit (and possibly
translations, I didn't look.) in Bangalore at Vedanta Book House.

...Back to the main topic:

On Sat, 29 Apr 2006, Ramesh Krishnamurthy wrote:

> Advaita-Vedanta is essentially a moksha-shaastra. So non-sannyaasis
> have to look beyond it at other aspects of the Hindu tradition when it
> comes to the details of dharma.

No it means looking at other aspects of the _Smarta_ tradition when it
comes to the details of Dharma.  The view of Advaitic thinkers on Dharma
is crystal clear.

> The primary impact of all these
> "reform" movements has been at the social level i.e. pertaining to
> dharma, and they have a legitimate and in fact crucial role here. The
> other option is to leave the field open to marxists, leftists,
> missionaries and misguided secularists who have no regard for Hinduism
> itself. In fact the last four have dominated independent India and
> people like me who live in India are facing the consequences.

The reason that India is to put it bluntly such an intellectually backward
country is because too many of its citizens think they only have these two
options.  Luckily its not all of them.  On my last trip to Bangalore I met
both people who combined fidelity to Dharma with knowledge of advanced
modern thought and people who considered themselves modern and secularist
but were nevertheless well-informed about what Dharma is all about.  The
reformists give you the worst of both worlds.  A parody of science and
modernism and a fantasy vision of Dharma.

Certainly we should learn from outside sources in India and outside.  The
challenge is to integrate it into _our_ culture and beliefs.  And we
should see the good in other religions for if nothing else, they too are
striving to know truth.  But again _we_ define what is good.

> The irony here is that a person born and brought up in a foreign land,
> where people eat beef and use toilet paper instead of water, is
> pretending to be "orthodox". He has no qualms in crossing the seas and
> shaking hands with beef-eaters.

Raghavendra made a similiar point:

On Sat, 29 Apr 2006, Raghavendra N Kalyan wrote:

> Interestingly, most of these honourable members
> also happen to be brahmanas who crossed the ocean - something which
> leads them to lose their dharma according to the same tradition.

Quick note: It makes them ashuddha.  losing dharma is a non-sequiter.  You
may think this is nitpicking, but how you frame the question helps
determine the answer.

> But
> dont be under the impression that this will create a problem for them.
> Because people always have ways to get around "inconvenient" situations
> like this. They might/will argue - "Well in olden days the injunction on
> crossing oceans was valid because blah blah blah. Now a days we can
> cross the oceans because blah blah blah." (Trust me. You will get many
> creative blah blah blahs here). Of course, for these people, such
> arguments are selectively applicable. Should you be really concerned
> about the opinions of people who adopt such double standards? You decide
> for yourself.

I suppose now would be a bad time to mention my research into the dharmic
prohibitions on crossing the ocean. :-)  But I can't help but mention that
having been born outside India, I never actually did "cross the ocean."

Back to the point, are you gentlemen seriously arguing that if one doesn't
practice dharma 100% it is ok to practice 0%?  I must be misunderstanding
your point here because that would be dumb beyond belief.  I will freely
admit I haven't yet reached my own ideals of behavior but I'm working
towards it.  I think I can safely claim that I'm getting better, making
progress with each year.  On the other hand, Women who learn Vedas are not
more virtuous or spiritual than women who do not.  They are off on a
different tangent altogether.

On Sat, 29 Apr 2006, Ramesh Krishnamurthy wrote:

> All these things are of course trivial
> superstitions that our ancestors had. But when it comes to matters
> that impact people's self-respect, reform is a four-letter word.

I've mentioned my daughters babysitter before.  A woman who didn't get
much education and has had to work hard to live a comfortable life.  Yet
she managed to raise wonderful children in a foreign land.  She knows
all the Sundarakanda of Tulsikrt Ramayana by heart.  She spends allher
spare time and money (of which there is not a lot) on Dharmic
activities.  My daughter knows about God largely because of her and I
consider her a role model of saintly behaviour myself.  Yet she is always
telling me "oh I'm not educated.  I don't know as much as you."  Now who
do you think is responsible for her lack of self-esteem?  Me?  The
Muslims?  Perhaps Marxists?  Or is it YOU and all the other people who
embrace the utterly sexist notion that God did not give women their own
traditions and practices and that they should follow an alien path

In Eastern Europe, MarXists were drummed out of town, in good part because
of religious fanatics of the Christian persuasion.  They had the courage
of their convictions.  You are still plagued by them because you
(collectively) don't have yours.  May I suggest beginning by not referring
to the Dharma of your ancestors as "trivial superstitions?"

> I too want to preserve and practise traditional Hinduism. I am more
> traditional than most other people of my age. But certain things are
> just not acceptable.

Oddly enough it is acceptable to my wife and it is acceptable to my mother
(both of which are quite capable of learning Vedas if they wished.)  It is
acceptable to a great many women.  So you don't need to accept it.  You
can get on with learning your own traditions.

> By the way, what about the Paasupata-s, Kapalika-s, and a whole lot of
> other Hindu groups that disappeared over the long course of our
> history? Where are the Saankhya-s today?

What about them?  "Hinduism" is a term of convenience.   Smartas have no
more in common with Pashupatas then they do with Roman Catholics so I
don't care if one fails anymore than the other.

> Were they all reformers bound
> to fail?

No they were Nastikas bound to fail :-)

> Though these schools are not extant today, the philosophies,
> practices and traditions of these groups had a long term impact on
> Hinduism.  So it is with the "modernists".

Smartaism or traditional Hinduism or whatever one wishes to term it has
maintained its vitality and longevity by by being able to absorb new
ideas.  This means saying no to unthinking rejection but also no to
unthinking acceptance.  Instead of looking to reformers to do our thinking
for us, we can do it ourselves and we can probably do a better job.

You will notice that advaita-l has female members.  We have never rejected
a new member for not being a male Brahmana.  I myself am quite ready to
help in any way I can any girl or woman to increase her spiritual growth
and any questions she has on that topic.  However learning Vedas will
never be an answer.

> And what about the Advaitins themselves? By saying that a person
> without access to the Veda could still achieve moksha, the Advaitins
> would surely have ruffled a lot of orthodox feathers. The case of
> Bhatta Bhaskara has already been cited on this list. So are the
> Advaitins, being reformers, bound to fail too?

For one thing, Bhatta Bhaskara lived after (or was a close contemporary)
of Shankaracharya.  Secondly, his type were the anomalies not the
mainstream.  It is significant that he left no parampara and his works are
only available today in fragments.

On Fri, 28 Apr 2006, Siva Senani Nori wrote:

> Ah, this is interesting territory. What happened after the advent of
> Prophet Mohammed, starting with Sind, and then spreading to the rest of
> India? Why did not our prayers of avatu maam, paahi maam work? Forget
> ordinary people. Somnath?

I don't know why people keep bringing up this example.  It actually
illustrates the opposite of what they are trying to argue.  Every time
the Somanatha mandir got destroyed, we built it up again.  Today it is an
important and popular place of pilgrimage.  So how is that a failure?

>  We have a mosque in every major temple today.

If by every you mean 2 or 3.  Otherwise this is severe hyperbole.

> In what ways is the fate of Brahmo- and Arya- samajs different from the
> above mentioned? Would the same reasons offered for SishtarakshaNam not
> happening for the last thousand years not apply to the decline of
> Brahmo- and Ayra- samajs?

Our own shastras tell us that as the Kaliyuga goes on, Dharma will be
diminished.  This is talking about quantity not quality.  Today, the
quality of our Vedic scholars is just as good if not in some ways better
than in the past but the number is fewer.  Adopting reformist ways would only
lower the quality (or change it but definitely not raise it) and it is
dubious that it would do anything for the quantity either.

On Sat, 29 Apr 2006, Raghavendra N Kalyan wrote:

>  Let me also tell you that some of the old practices are no longer
> relevant today. (I already see some eye brows raised).

More like some eyes rolling.  You're not saying anything which hasn't been
said 10,000 times before.

> This is not my personal opinion. Consider this for example -you must be
> knowing that shudras were not allowed to even hear veda-s in the past.
> Now a days, vedic chanting is done loudly (i.e., audible via loud
> speakers) in many puNya kshetrams like Tirupati etc. If you have been to
> Tirupati, you will of course know that many shudras come to take darshan
> of the Lord. Surely they will hear the vedas when they are chanted.

If there is such a rule, then seeing as the Vedas give two specific
instances where Shudras can perform Yajnas (in the case of the Rathakara
and the Naishada King) the general rule must have specific exceptions.
There is definitely a rule and it has no such exception in the case of
Vedic study for women.  Also, it was mentioned in one of the earliest
responses in this thread that in any Astika Brahmana household it is
probable that anadhikaris will be be able to hear chanting.  It's not an
issue.  In this thread we have been talking about Vedic study so your
example is not relevant.

In closing (phew!)

On Sat, 29 Apr 2006, Ramesh Krishnamurthy wrote:

> What I find problematic is his bitter opposition to any kind of
> reinterpretation or reform, which I believe is because he views the
> tradition from afar.

My opposition is based on several on several factors:

1. This is not some dusty museum "tradition" which I view from afar but
the way I actually live my life as do many others.

2. The reinterpretations are the product of people I have no confidence in
who I don't think even know the original interpretations.

3. Given the dismal track record of this idea the last few times its been
tried, I have no confidence it is going to help advance Dharma this time

4. In fact it is not a method of advancing Dharma at all but an attempt to
replace it with alien ideologies.

5. And therefore It does nothing to improve the spiritual life of women in
any way.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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