[Advaita-l] Reform, etc

Ramakrishnan Balasubramanian rama.balasubramanian at gmail.com
Thu May 4 15:24:14 CDT 2006

Some good commentary by Ramesh below, but not that I necessarily agree
with all of it. I'll add in a few observations.

Regarding the paashupatas, equating them to catholics is extreme. A
whole chapter is devoted in the brahma-suutra to contrasting the
vedaantic school with other schools popular among the orthodox
practitioners - paashupata, nyaaya, vaisheshhika and paa~ncaraatra.
The reason these are taken especially is revealed in a commentary (now
lost, but quoted by a vishishhTaadvatic commentator). The commentator
says that there are aspects of these such as worship of shiva,
vishhNu, etc which are acceptable. But some other aspects are not. I
have previously quoted a paper by Gerhard Oberhammer (a long time
back). See that for details. Further it is well known and that the
paashupatas consisted of brahmins and was confined to them alone.
Shankara also points out the problems with these sects, but admits
that aspects of these are acceptable.

I see mainly two groups: people either affirming that whatever is
"traditional" is correct, everything's good, no need to change
anything, and the other group out to "reform" based on modern science.
Actually the issues are more complicated than that (IMHO). Take for
example crossing oceans. Apparently it is forbidden because throwing
urine and faeces into the ocean is against shaastra (shaayana
bhaaShya). Sri Ganesh Prasad of shrouta list provided this
information. If that is indeed the case, pretty much everyone in
Madras, including ghaNapaaTis and agnihotris, must be equivalent to
ocean-crossing-sinners, without even crossing the ocean. As is well
known to Madras-vaasis, all garbage ends in the coovam (a Madras
term), which finally goes into the ocean. Claiming people who cross
oceans are sinners without understanding facts seems incorrect to me.
As a matter of fact, in the US all these things are filtered out and
then thrown into the ocean. So perhaps it's time for rethinking
things, *without* throwing out tradition, namely the idea that
throwing garbage into the sea is sin, but *applying the same tradition
to the current scheme of things*. I don't see anyone in positions of
responsiblity doing this.

Also complicating things is the difference of opinion among people -
even great shiShTas. The late Puri Shankaracharya, who visited the US,
conducted debates in Kashi with pundits to show the acceptability of
crossing oceans. But even now the Shankaracharya of Sringeri forbids
that (as reported by someone in the shrouta list, who asked a **direct
question** to Sri Bharati Tirtha). "Tradition" is not unanimous in
supporting or denouncing many things, that's the fact. Claiming the
support of "tradition" for doing or denouncing X, Y or Z is simplistic
at best. Further, in many matters, there is the attitude among many
(most?) religious heads, "do as I say not as I do", as the Roman
philosopher Seneca is reported to have said. We may shrug these off.
But not everyone will. I, for one, cannot blindly accept such things!

Re: social aspects. I am of the opinion maThas should stay out of all
this and concentrate on advaita, dvaita or whatever. Getting into
running management schools, engineering schools and hospitals, and
even worse politics, seems pointless. My father-in-law (a dean in a
management school in Kerala)  was telling me about the shenanigans in
a maTha run management school. While I believe the maTha head has
absolutely no idea of all these things, it's finally his
responsibility. He authorized the building of the school, did he not?!
As my father-in-law observed "Business ethics is an oxymoron, if
maThas get into it they will be influenced badly by the bad business
ethics rather than the other way around!". I'll not go into more
details here.

Finally regarding the Kanchi arrests, I don't think laziness or
tradition has anything to do with it. The staunch disciples of Kanchi
have set up web-sites, etc., to proclaim his innocence. Other people
prefer to believe otherwise, so they wouldn't do anything. The vast
majority doesn't care. They didn't care before, so why should they
now? In any case, this has nothing to do with reform of tradition or


On 5/4/06, Ramesh Krishnamurthy <rkmurthy at gmail.com> wrote:
> Namaste,

[ ... ]

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