[Advaita-l] Pratyavaaya paapam
Jaldhar H. Vyas
jaldhar at braincells.com
Mon Oct 27 23:59:02 CDT 2008
On Sun, 26 Oct 2008, Ramanathan P wrote:
> On this topic, it would be useful to make clear what the nityakarmas,
> etc. of non-Brahmanas are.
This is an interesting question. For kshatriyas and Vaishyas they are
more or less the same as for Brahmanas. In practice very few actually
even did that much. As an example I give Mahatma Gandhi's biography where
he (a Gujarati Vaishya) got yajnopavita as a boy and wore it for a few
years but then just lost interest and stopped. Others, particularly kings
"outsourced" duties like agnihotra to their purohits. This has led some
dharmashastra nibhandhakaras (i.e. Kamalakara Bhatta) to say that in the
Kaliyuga there are only Brahmanas and Shudras, the other varnas have
ceased to exist in their true form. Others (i.e. Nathurama Sharma) hotly
contest this notion.
For the Shudras (which for the purposes of this discussion also includes
the many castes whose position in a 4-varna scheme is unclear.) there is
also a difference of opinion. Many nibandhakaras gloss over this topic
altogether. Of the ones that do, some postulate an equivalent set of
nityakarmas only based on puranas and tantras. So for example there is a
tantrokta sandhya, tantrokta tarpana etc. Others suggest they fulfill
their nityakarma by performing whatever is their family occupation.
Since I take it that the Brahmanas are
> primarily discussing here, and have in mind their duties, it should be
> one of their 'duties' to tell others how they fit, if at all, in the
> orthodox view of such things. If the discussion does not apply to them,
> for this is primarily about ritualistic duties relevant to Brahmanas,
> then that should be made clear. The reason is that we are linking a
> universal philosophy with particular dharmas of the individuals.
The specific details may differ but the general principle has to apply to
all because the problem of avidya caused by ego-directed action is one
faced by all.
> Are those from foreign countries who are trying to learn Advaita here relevant to this discussion?
In the case of Shudras we are alteast dealing with people who share the
concepts of Vedic religion; what of those who are apparently completely
outside that sphere? This is not a new issue, as parts of India have been
ruled or settled by foreign invaders for quite some time. Again there is
a difference of opinion. Some have suggested if e.g. Christians and
Muslims faithfully practice their religion (minus the bigoted aspects and
of course with study of vedanta) then despite being dualistic it will
still prepare one for jnana just as the dualism of shaivas and vaishnavas
etc. can eventually lead to jnana. Others have counseled adopting "Hindu"
The problem with the first approach is that the God of the monotheist is
a jealous one who in fact denies the existence of other Gods or other
forms of worship. This is quite different from our case where the
Narayana of the Advaitins is not different from the Narayana of the
Vaishnavas only the approach is different. Furthermore what people they
have had who could be considered jnanis have instead been reviled and
persecuted by them as heretics.
The problem with the second approach is that it does not address the issue
of obligation. How can something just taken up on one persons advice be
"nitya" enough to counteract the pratyavaya papa?
I would like to suggest a third way. It has been my observation from
living in the UK and USA that much of "Christian" culture is just a thin
veneer over practices far more ancient. Take the upcoming holiday of
Halloween. The church calls it All Hallows Eve. For most people it is
observed by small children dressing up as witches and ghosts and going
door to door to beg for sweets. Buts its origins are in a Celtic rite in
honor of their dead (in other words their pitrs) similiarly Christmas
celebrates the sun and Easter a fertility Goddess. If Westerners were to
dig more deeply into these matters, it would provide them with an
authentic 'tradition' which combined with Vedanta philosophy can prepare
them for jnana. That is what I advise people who ask me anyway.
> Another point in this regard: if the duties of the Brahmanas are
> different from others, and yet is a necessary svadharma for them alone,
> then what exactly is the basis? To be logical, must we not insist that
> we are born Brahmanas, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, Shudras due to specific
> prarabdha karma and with tendencies that makes us best fit in that
Yes. I am sorry to say that this whole "mental attitude" argument seems
rather self-serving to me.
> It has more to do with Ishvara's decision (on our
> work-tendencies, hence our birth) that was presumably seen and made
> into shastras by our sages, than with the idea that the sages thought
> this approach works best for society. In the latter case, the
> individual is free to take up another's work by rejecting the
> psychological insinuations: it is possible depending on adhikara
> (Drona, for instance); in the former case,
Note that according to the Mahabharata, Drona did not give up his Brahmana
duties (for instance in the gitaparvan he and Kripa are depicted as
performing sandhyavandana) despite his "non-traditional" occupation.
Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>
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