Jaldhar H. Vyas
jaldhar at braincells.com
Tue Jun 10 18:36:55 CDT 2008
On Fri, 6 Jun 2008, Ananta Bhagwat wrote:
> Conscience differentiates good from bad. It is not whims and fancies of
> an individual but his deep rooted value system based on his saMskArs,
> family traditions, surroundings and many other things. SAstra can play a
> part too if he reads them as a part of his upbringing.
In several of your messages I've seen you assume that by shastras we mean
written books and then you contrast them with traditions or history.
Actually its almost completely the other way around. Historically, the
vast majority of Hindus have been illiterate. Even amongst the Brahmanas,
books were an aid to the memory of the expert practitioner who was the
real authority not the book. The name "smrti" (remembered) for the
dharmashastras indicates this. Why is the conscience of mahatmas such as
Manu, Yajnavalkya, Parashara, etc. any different from any other conscience
just because it happens to be accessed in a written form by this
Despite not being written in a fixed form we find that different classes
amongst those that are called Hindus have very fixed, consistent ideas of
how one is supposed to act. This is their dharma.
There is no fixed
> procedure, however for formation of conscience.
Then it is not a pramana i.e an objective measure. Anyone can invoke
"conscience" for whatever reason and there is no rational measure by which
you can determine if it is valid or not. Any discussion of this
"conscience" will end up as a shouting match because it only one persons
word against another.
> To use modern
> terminology it is not Turing computational.
Hmm if you know who Turing is you most probably know who Goedel is.
It comes to the fore (that
> is conscience is raised) at appropriate times if such a value system is
> in place. The raised conscience enables one to undertake a sequence of
> actions including corrective steps.
> <Mimamsa is about actions. What good is ethics if they don't result in
> Precisely; but the actions should not cause injury to innocents.
Who defines "injury" and "innocence"? In the case of the himsaka yajnas
it is believed that the sacrificial pashu goes to heaven. Since a goat
cannot read the Ramayana or fast on ekadashi, this is in fact the only way
it can go to heaven. What kind of selfish wicked person would deny them
that? (In other words it is a matter of perspective.)
> According to pUrva mImAMsA dharma consists in obedience to Vedic
> Injunctions. However, without getting into Sabda-chala (Vedic or
> Dharmic) it is clear that many injunctions of shruti (whether they are
> animal sacrifices for evil purpose or for secular gains) and smRti
> (whether they are punishments to sUdra-s or constraining the women) are
> simply not in tune with the spirit of gItA.
No it is not clear at all. I deny your very premise and if you intend to
assert it, you need to back it up with some facts.
> I do not want to give a list
> of such injunctions and do hair splitting about their validity.
The devil is as they say in the details. If you don't want to back up
your arguments, drop them we can't take them seriously.
> Raised conscience enables one to evolve a sequence of actions including
> corrective steps based on inputs. Its ethical purport is to be seen
> holistically. Arjuna, who wanted to run away from his duty due to
> delusion, changed his mind after hearing Krishna's upadeSa and decided
> to fight for Dharma. His conscience was clouded temporarily, but was
> cleared (raised) by Krishna's discourse. His aim was not to slaughter
> his cousins but to perform his duty as a warrior and regain his rights.
... which required slaughtering his cousins.
> I do not see any contradiction here.
The contradiction is this. You say that Arjuna causing the deaths of over
one million people including his teachers, elders, and other family
members for the sake of artha (a kingdom) is dharma but a somayaji killing
one goat for the sake of artha (heaven) is not.
> We assume that shruti, smRti, purANa give a unified clear message all
> through which is universal and all-time.
Yes indeed we do. Actually with one qualification: there are two unified
clear messages. One is how to pursue dharma, artha, and kama for limited
rewards in a finite world. The other is how to pursue moksha which is
eternal and infinite.
> Perhaps, one has to be
> jIvanmukta to see such a message. At our level (that is at vyavahAra)
> you will see contradictions, obscurity, and even positions which are
> contrary to modern sensibilities.
As others have pointed out, modern sensibilities permit the slaughter of
animals on a vast scale. Even if you restrict the picture to religious
rituals, animals sacrifices are going on all over India this very day.
True most of these are tantrokta rather than vedokta but even the latter are
not unknown. (And what about halal or kosher sacrifices? Those are
practiced by modern people whose consciences are apparently untroubled)
So by "modern sensibilities" it seems you mean "my sensibilities" Which
is ok except you said conscience is more than the "whims and fancies of an
> One's conscience comes into picture in
> such cases. For example in our family, few generations back the widows
> returned to their parental Bhagwata house with full respect and were
> consulted in all family decisions. This could be common now but not in
> tune with manusmRti or the traditions of early 20th century.
It was the same in my family including the early 20th century. So where
are you getting the idea that is is not in tune with the manusmrti?
> familiy's collective conscience prevailed over SAstric position.
It will not do to pick out lines from here and there and then say it is
the "Shastric position." One has to look at historical practice too. I
think you will find the number of families that treated women badly then
are not that different than the number that treat them badly now.
> Veda (particularly liturgical Veda) is a sacrificial religion including
> animal sacrifices for individual gains. gItA places them at inferior
To be precise it is the sacrifice for individual gain which is inferior.
Whether it involves an animal or a spoon full of ghee is irrelevant. What
makes it inferior is that the results obtained by it (upto and including
heaven) are finite. After enjoying there fruits you are left at square
one again with nothing.
However even an inferior, finite result can still be worth pursuing
according to the spirit of the Gita.
tasmAttvamuttiShTha yasho labhasva jitva shatrUnbhu~NkShva rAjyaM
Therefore get up and seek fame. Defeat the enemy and enjoy the prosperous
In gItA sacrifices (yajna) is elevated to higher plane. Yajna
> is seen as man's duty and a link in the nature's cycle. gItA advocates
> yajna to maintain harmony of the this cycle. It is for public good and
> not for selfish motive. gItA no where talks about killing or injuring
> living beings except when one is fighting for his Dharma, a just cause.
Or for ones enjoyment as you can see above. The rest of the shloka is
mayaivaite nihatA.h pUrvameva nimittamAtraM bhava savyasAchin ||
They have already been killed by me. Be merely the instrument
Savyasachin! [Arjuna] (11.33b)
Unlike the life-denying Shramanic movements before it, Advaita Vedanta
does not consider rituals to be inferior because there is something wrong
in pursuing worldly pleasure or power. These are also given by Bhagavan
and we are only the instruments. Even when done for selfish ends, such
things can lead to public good. Perhaps a modern parallel can be how
capitalist countries are more prosperous than socialist ones even though
capitalism is selfish and socialism is not.
The case for moksha versus dharma is the simple observation that the
fruits of dharma are limited and fleeting. If one values power then what
kingdom can compare to all that is? if one values pleasure then what
enjoyment can compare to the pure and unending bliss of Brahman?
> So, gItA's value system is different than mImAMsA value system.
Actually, you're right it does. But not for the reasons you state.
The Vedantic (including Gita) value system is an extrapolation and
continuation of the Mimamsa value system not a radical break with it.
Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>
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