[Advaita-l] Fw: Sankara Mutt

Srikrishna Ghadiyaram srikrishna_ghadiyaram at yahoo.com
Tue Sep 23 15:26:11 CDT 2008

Dear Sri Vidyasankar and others on this thread

As I was busy with work and pre-occupied mentally, I took some time to reply to this thread. My replies make your already long post, further super-long. Please bear with me. 

Please see my comments in-line. 



--- On Thu, 9/18/08, Sundaresan, Vidyasankar (GE Infra, Water) <vidyasankar.sundaresan at ge.com> wrote:
From: Sundaresan, Vidyasankar (GE Infra, Water) <vidyasankar.sundaresan at ge.com>
Subject: Re: [Advaita-l] Fw: Sankara Mutt
To: advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org
Date: Thursday, September 18, 2008, 4:31 PM

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.


I have not painted 'everyone' unfavorably with broad strokes. Vidyashankar, I know you 
have high scholarly background. In comparison to that, my back ground is not 
even a drop in the ocean. Would you please teach me, in which scheme of sentence construction
'greedy Brahmanas' makes 'ALL' Brahmanas greedy?

More over the complete paragraph I wrote is as follows:
"I am confident, there are many greedy Brahmanas and Sanskrit scholars
who will translate, if there is money and recognition. But, where are
the real practitioners, compassionate people,  who can write with their
own experience?"

So, I have divided Brahmanas into two groups g...dy and real. Real Brahmanas are
those who 'practice' 'simplicity, study, truth, charity, ritual and contemplation, 
and good will for all' and g...dy Brahmanas are those who 'go for money 
earning jobs in society, and do not even perform their Brahmana dharma 
even as an additional chore'. To this second group I belong.

First choice is to have translation of Veda by the 'real' Brahmanas. In the 
absence of which the 'second' group can serve the immediate need
of the day, albeit with some further scope to improve upon.

Just like your respected self and Sri Anupam Srivastav who jumped to
advice me to 'Contemplate a while to understand.' or 'one should observe 
and reflect a bit.' , as if the opinions 
expressed in their posts were worth more than the letters there, 
and also pointing to the inferiority of ordinary mortals like me 
and impregnable to rustic nature of my thoughts, automatically 
assume for themselves a higher pedestal, a higher level of
understanding without a debate. All this (probably) 
without reading my post with some consideration and see how
the society can be saved and helped, with more compassionate
out look of a 'Real Brahmana', than that of a scholar.

Is this fair?



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.


Is it the job of Max Muller? 

(Interestingly, I read on the internet that Max Muller did not visit India.
So, do I have to assume that he translated Veda mantras without 
seeing a Vedic ritual or listening to Veda? Members, Please comment.)


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


Yes, one may get some help. no guarantees because many knowledgeable 'orthodox' 
do not want to teach or give several hours of lecture
to teach a miniscule.

In the US West coast, to find a Veda teacher who is committed to
teach is NIL. I had to send my son to India for a year so he can learn some
basics. Here the priests are busy earning money, or they think you
have free time and money to travel 20-30 miles to learn 30 min. once a week.

Will it do any good? 

If Sankara Maths can accept donations pouring in from US, is it
too much to hope that one idea of 'abhudaya' of those folks 
should strike their heart of Sankara Math. 
Do I have to ask for it?

It is the lack of energy of people in groups such as this,
that makes the task difficult. I know, I am in the minority asking 
for this. But, is it minority or majority that decides what 
needs to be done?


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.


I hope you undersand that I am not expecting every cook to speak Sanskrit. 
But, will you deny them knowledge if they seek?

In the absence of Knowledge, (my group) Brahmanas have become just 
blabberers of a few words whose meaning is 'secret'.

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. 


Start a modern form of institutionalized 'every thing', unless it is 
'composing' veda mantras in Arabic or 'some such', which 
Maths and learned people can decide. But, do disseminate knowledge.


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.



I do not 'have any ONE/one in mind'. I am making a comment to bring attention
to the fact that those who have such a view as to what constitutes 'appropriate'
have not any way followed the basic tenet.

If Vedas provided Brahmanic dharmas to be followed in all the 
ashramas, then why jump to Upanishads without having achieved 
every prescribed qualification before that? If one has done all
those, I salute them. 

Only those who follow the rules morally stand to suggest rules 
to others. Only then does the person inspire others.

I do not intend to say that the scholarship required to study
and understand Upanishad commentaries is not trivial. But, the 
discussion is about qualifications, and purpose is to point
to the fact that we are paying a blind eye to our own whimsical 

In Sri Siva Senani's post he mentioned:

> After mastering the corpus, years 
> of meditation upon the meaning is mandated along with daily recital of some 
> portion of the corpus and regular practices involving the corpus. Thereupon, 
> having seen the face of one's grandson, one ought to give up ...

Is this what we are talking about happening now?

In any right, it is going to be difficult to comment on every thing 
here. So, I will post on that mail separately.


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.



You do not have to outcaste, you can make people understand; 
propogate. For want to brevity, I leave it here.


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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