[Advaita-l] Fw: Sankara Mutt

Sundaresan, Vidyasankar (GE Infra, Water) vidyasankar.sundaresan at ge.com
Thu Sep 18 18:31:20 CDT 2008

This topic is going to be a feistily argued debate, I can see. Rather
than getting into an emotional diatribe and painting everyone
unfavorably with broad strokes (e.g. greedy Brahmanas, etc.), I suggest
one should observe and reflect a bit.

There are different aspects of discussion that have already come up -
knowledge of Sanskrit, translations of Vedas, role of the Sankara maThas
in the modern world, maTha-s not being able to make even their followers
follow brAhmaNa dharma, etc. Here are my 2 cents on this.

1. It is not the job of the Sankara maThas to make available online
versions of Veda translations. Nor is it the job of other old
traditional institutions belonging to other vedAnta traditions. It is
also not the job of newer and perhaps richer institutions like Maharishi
TM and Sai Baba to do so.

2. If available translations appear unsatisfactory, it is not that
difficult to make some effort and figure out why it is so. One should
already know a little bit about the original, in order to say that a
translation is not good. The onus then lies on the reader to explore it
further and study the original more carefully. Unless one is living in
interior Africa or south America, finding some guidance from a more
learned person is also not all that difficult. In the USA or Europe, you
cannot always expect the local temple priest to guide you beyond a
point, but you can certainly find help from a host of other sources. At
the very least, if specific questions are asked on this forum, there is
no dearth of very helpful scholars here, young and old, who will

3. How the maTha-s function can be easily seen by anyone who follows the
news in India. Throughout the year, there is a wide variety of scholarly
and religious activity that goes on. For most of the well-known maTha-s,
their followers and well-wishers come from all castes and communities.
It is silly to think that only brAhmaNa-s are followers of the
traditional maTha-s.

4. How many people in a maTha converse amongst themselves in Sanskrit?
Well, you can hardly expect the man in charge of stocking groceries in
the maTha kitchen or the manager of its guest houses to speak Sanskrit.
If you make the effort and talk in Sanskrit to the priests and paNDitas
associated with the maTha, they will talk to you in Sanskrit. Their
basic assumption, which is very valid, is that the general visitor to
the maTha cannot speak Sanskrit. So, they will speak to you in other
languages, and in your presence, will not speak to each other in
Sanskrit. It would be incredibly rude to an infrequent visitor, if the
maTha people conversed amongst themselves in a language that is not
understood. There is an entire culture of appropriate behavior that
needs to be understood and appreciated, rather than imposing your value
judgements upon them.

5. The maTha-s do not exist in order for a sannyasi to secure high
approval ratings from the general mass of people. They also do not exist
to construct hospitals or do social work. However, when people start
pouring in money as donations, what is one to do with the surplus? Why
not take it for what it is - a modern form of institutionalized charity?
It is not the sannyasi who is doing social work; it is the institution
that supports the sannyasi, which is also doing some social work. There
is absolutely nothing wrong in that. 

6. Srikrishna, I would like to know whom you have in mind in the
following statement.

>Just because their depth of Sanskrit scholarship takes them
>only to the level of Upanishad commentaries, and they do
>not have the guts to study and practice the other rituals
>mentioned in the earlier portions of the texts, having taken
>to other studies and jobs, utterly disregard others rights to
>know Veda in the medium of their understanding. 

Are you talking of the renunciates who are learning upanishads from
their gurus and who are not members of this list, or are you talking of
people on this list? In the former case, they have already renounced
rituals. In the latter case, what do you know about the guts, study or
practice of rituals of other list members? In either case, it takes a
fair level of Sanskrit knowledge to read and understand Upanishad
commentaries. Also, nobody is disregarding or denying anyone any rights.
As I read Siva Senani's post, all I saw was an explanation for why
providing an online translation of the Veda is not a project that a
traditional maTha would or should do at this time.

7. Specifically in the case of Sankara maTha-s, and more generally for
any Hindu institution, it has NEVER been in our tradition to "make"
followers do anything by force. The AcArya-s preach to the general
public and they influence those who come into closer contact with them.
Scare tactics and physical or psychological force have been used and are
being used by preachers of other religions. These approaches are ALIEN
to the AcArya-s of the truly traditional maTha-s. A century or more ago,
there was a fear of being outcasted and socially boycotted, but today,
that is hardly an issue, especially in urban India.

8. Rather than make a hundred other points on this list, I would suggest
(with thanks to Kennedy) - ask not what a traditional maTha is doing for
you, ask what you can do to help sustain a traditional maTha. If we feel
strongly about our tradition, there is no better way than to personally
get in touch with some of our traditional institutions, find out what
they are doing and help their growth. I can think of many more worthy
institutions that one can support, not just the famous Sankara maTha-s.

> Vidyasankar

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