Mathadhipatis and "propagation of dharma" (was Re: [Advaita-l] jnAna-vijnAna ...)

S Jayanarayanan sjayana at
Thu Mar 15 21:09:11 CDT 2007

--- jagannathan mahadevan <jagannathan.mahadevan at> wrote:

> Dear Kartik,
> I suppose you are trying to categorize your analysis of RG's
> article
> into your own classification of what it may have meant. Are you
> saying
> that the whole article was only about leadership to spread dharma?
> Were there not other details on what RG felt about the two sages
> and
> their outlook? (The note on Sri JBS is only apparent after the
> sringeri matha followers, in this list, made efforts to point to it
> and it still is not the main focus of the article!)

Jagan, I have little doubt that JBS was in his own way trying to make
peace between the Sringeri and Kanchi Maths, but the fact is that the
whole article makes the implicit assumption that it is the duty of
the Mathadhipati to propagate dharma, which the Sringeri Acharya does
not agree with.

In other words:

Kanchi: "It the Mathadhipati's duty to propagate dharma."
Sringeri: "It is NOT the Mathadhipati's duty to propagate dharma."

The above fundamental schism in the views of the Maths has not been
recognized by RG, which makes the article somewhat ineffective.

Therefore, instead of writing:

"...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

RG should have concluded:

"The Sringeri Acharya cannot be blamed for his inaction because it is
not the duty of the Mathadhipati to propagate dharma."

> <quote>
> 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.
> <unquote>
> Even if the editor were claimed to be ignorant it does not affect
> the
> main theme of RG's article. I guess that the "offending" parts are
> obvious only to the people who put themselves deliberately in a
> particular camp and view the article through the eyes of history
> (Sri
> JBS's reference).
> The editor in question, may really not have come across the fact
> that
> HH did not believe that his duty was to lead a propaganda. What do
> you
> expect periyavAl to instruct the editor? To belabor the point that
> HH
> did not believe that it was not his duty to "lead" an effort? or to
> simply state that HH had a different and probably greater
> predisposition as the head of an orthodox school! Also the critical
> claim was not periyavAL's but that of the writer/editor who
> probably
> feels the same as the questioner in the quote you had provided
> about
> HH (portion reproduced below).
> HH's views are not necessarily generic to sringeri given that the
> past
> heads have been involved in different levels of activism such as
> vidyAranya swaminah whose political acumen and involvement as a
> kingmaker is well known. Besides, the quote on HH you had provided,
> and reproduced below, never says that HH did "not support" such
> activity to encourage people to uphold dharma.

HH did support activism of dharma -- but he would not begin any such
movement, nor did he believe that it was *duty* to begin such a
movement, even though he was a Mathadhipati.

> There are several heads of institutions today, including those that
> claim traditional scholarship of advaita vedanta, that are leading
> large movements to create awareness of hindu dharma. What would you
> tell of them? Would you tell that they are wrong in their actions
> because they disagree with HH's own personal belief?

I have no comment on the above, but will point out one possible
misunderstanding below:

> <quote>
> 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.
> <unquote>

Note that the Sringeri Acharya would only lend his name in support of
a movement if it were begun by someone else, but never did he
consider the propagation of dharma to be his duty.

The more pressing question is -- does it mean that the common man
does not have to know dharma? Hardly, for the Sringeri Acharya made
it crystal clear that it was the *duty* of everyone to learn dharma!

G: Does Your Holiness mean then that it is better for them to remain

HH: Certainly not. It is their duty to learn, as I have pointed out
before. It is not for them to say that they remain in ignorance
because somebody else does not teach them.

Besides, the reason that HH did not propagate dharma is clear --
because HH strongly believed that if there is no desire to learn
dharma, there is no point teaching it:

G: Ordinarily it may be so. But learning of Dharma is not so simple. 

HH: Why not? Even now the intelligence which you have inherited from
a long line of saints and seers (sages) is sharp enough to grasp the
subtlest conceptions; even now your parents perform for you the
sacred ceremony of initiation (sometime between the ages of eight and
sixteen, when a Brahmin child begins to understand right from wrong,
he is initiated into Brahminical Dharma); even now there exist
innumerable works dealing with dharma in all its aspects; and even
now there exist a large number of competent teachers who will teach
you, if only you ask them to do so. What excuse then have you for
continuing in ignorance?

G: It may be, we have none, if only our attention is drawn to our
duty to learn; but is there not a corresponding duty on those who
know to teach?

HH: There is no such absolute duty. Those who know are bound to teach
only those who do not know, but seek to know. If they prefer to
remain in ignorance, the teachers are not to blame at all for not
attempting to teach them. 

G: There may still be persons who are ignorant not because they
prefer to be so but because they do not know at all that there is
something to learn. How many, for instance, know what an agnihotra or
a soma yaga is (couple of Brahminical rituals)? There are many who
have not even heard of these terms. Is it not the duty of the
Brahmins to tell them that there are such things to be performed by
the Brahmins?

HH: Have those persons even cared to ascertain what are the duties of
the Brahmins, the community to which they profess to belong? They say
that they are Brahmins and still want other Brahmins to tell them
what a Brahmin ought to do. Is that reasonable, especially when they
do not make the slightest attempt to know?

HH simply did not believe that teaching a person his/her dharma will
help if the person did not wish to learn about dharma. OTOH, if a
person really did seek to learn, then it is the duty of the teacher
to teach dharma.

> It will be best if we shed the baggage of history when interacting
> on
> this list, which is and should be for advaita vedanta. All of us
> appreciate the role of different institutions and the heads and
> there
> ends the matter.
> In any case I am not sure if you ever got to post
> brahmagyana and jivanmukti-#6. I was away for several days in the
> past
> and might have missed it.

I have not yet done this, but will do so soon.


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