[Advaita-l] sampradAya

Ramakrishnan Balasubramanian rama.balasubramanian at gmail.com
Mon Oct 23 17:29:07 CDT 2006

Dear advaitins,

There seems to be great confusion regarding sampradAya, as is evident
to me from many mails on the SSS topic.

A sampradAya simply means a tradition of teachers, with an actual guru
to instruct a disciple (not books written by a putative brahma-j~naani
belonging to an equally putative sampradAya 1200 years beack). Some
people (like Sri Kathiresan) seem to be thinking I am "defensive", and
are speculating that it is so since I am a follower of Sringeri Matha.
Actually my point has absolutely nothing to do with any maTha.  Please
give me some credit for being objective. Just because I refute
something SSS says does not mean that I am not objective.

A sampradAya is powerful for the reason the teachers are well-versed
in the shAstras and also  established in j~naana. The guru makes sure
that the disciple is established in both. As bhagavAn says in the
gItA, the people of lesser intellects (like many of us, or at least
me) follow the great people. So we need j~naanis who also set an
example in good conduct. The good conduct is not for the j~naanis, who
are beyond duality, but for the ordinary people like many of us.

Sometimes j~naanis may behave in erratic ways as described in purANas.
But note that in these stories not one of these had a bunch of
disciples or were engaged in teaching!! It is not easy (actually
impossible) to truly distinguish a j~naani behaving erratically and a
mad man or a liscentious wretch. One can't behave as he pleases and
try to be a guru. It is just not acceptable. It is complete nonsense.

Sometimes, j~naana is obtained just by the fruits in previous births
(seemingly automatically). Sankara does point that out in his suutra
bhAShya. Note that Ramana may be classified in this category if one
wishes. Also note that Ramana, inspite of not taking up traditional
renunciation, used the general texts in the sampradAya like the
vivekacUDAmaNi, other works of Sankara, advaita bodha dIpikA, etc.
Also he was acknowledged by the sampradAya at that time as an
advaitin. But note that he too did not set up a sampradAya by himself.
A sampradAya does not start up suddenly from a single person. The
usefulness of a sampradAya is lost in that case, with any and everyone
having the ability to set up a "sampradAya" by claiming insight.

The case of SSS is quite different. He claims to be (at least
implcitly) in the same sampradAya as Sankara, who lived 1200 years
before he did. And he is indeed quite eager to point out in many
publications that Sankara talks about sampradAyavits who preceded him.
SSS also took up traditional sannyAsa and a dashanAmI suffx. He also
has disciples, who are dashanAmI sannyaasins. So it looks like he is
in the sampradAya. However, delving further, it is clear he considers
everyone in the sampradaaya (not just current advaitins, but everyone
1200 years before him) except himself, at best idiots (one of his
direct disciples calls padmapAda a crook). This is just a case of
wanting to "have your cake and eat it too". It is just logically
unacceptable to me. What is the meaning of sampradAya? Can anyone can
do textual analysis become a sampradAyavit then?


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