[Advaita-l] Sraddha and Chitta-shuddhi

S Jayanarayanan sjayana at yahoo.com
Thu Apr 2 01:04:38 CDT 2009

--- On Wed, 4/1/09, Amuthan <aparyap at gmail.com> wrote:

> From: Amuthan <aparyap at gmail.com>
> Subject: Re: [Advaita-l] Sraddha and Chitta-shuddhi
> To: sjayana at yahoo.com, "A discussion group for Advaita Vedanta" <advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org>
> Date: Wednesday, April 1, 2009, 11:56 PM
> Dear Sri JayanArAyaNan,
> On Thu, Apr 2, 2009 at 7:13 AM, S Jayanarayanan
> <sjayana_at_yahoo.com> wrote:
> > Sraddha is better translated as "Deep sense of
> Dedication to the task at hand".
> > ...
> > The idea is that one derives true joy from doing
> one's duty with Sraddha or sense of dedication,
> especially Vedokta Karmas. This leads to Chitta-shuddhi or
> purity of mind.
> This interpretation of SraddhA suffers from the same
> problems as the
> use of the word 'religious' in sentences like
> 'he religiously performs
> his tasks'. As is well known, the meaning of
> 'religious' in such
> sentences has nothing to do with religion in the primary
> sense, but
> only indicates the scrupulous or meticulous performance of
> the task at
> hand. The extension of this word to a completely different
> context is
> of course based on the perceived sincerity and zeal in
> religious
> people in their religious activities. Similarly the word
> SraddhA has a
> meaning like the one you've given only in sentences
> like 'avan
> SraddhayA paDikkarAn' (he studies with
> 'SraddhA'). But 'SraddhA' in
> the primary sense refers to 'faith' and is best
> translated so.

Ramana Maharshi once narrated a story about Sraddha, which is recorded in the book "Spiritual Stories as told by Ramana Maharshi":

"THERE WAS ONCE a guru who had eight disciples. One day he
instructed them all to make a copy of his teachings from a notebook
he had kept. One of them, who had lived an easy-going life
before renouncing the world, could not make a copy for himself.
He, therefore paid a couple of rupees to a fellow disciple and
requested him to make a copy for him also. The guru examined
the copy books one day and, noticing two books in the same
handwriting, asked the disciples for an explanation. Both the writer
and the one on whose behalf it was written told the truth about it.
The Master commented that, though speaking the truth was an
essential quality of a spiritual aspirant, it alone would not carry one
to one’s goal, but that sraddha (earnestness of purpose) was also
necessary. Since this had not been exhibited by the disciple who
had entrusted his own labour to another, he was disqualified from
discipleship. Referring to his making payment for the work, the
guru sarcastically remarked that “Salvation” costs more than that
and he was at liberty to purchase it rather than undergo training
under him. So saying he dismissed that disciple."

Does the translation of Sraddha as "Faith" do justice to the essence of the story? According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word "Faith" means "Belief, trust, confidence". Let's see - the lazy disciple may have actually "believed" or "trusted" or "had confidence" in the Guru's teachings, but he definitely did NOT have Sraddha. So to say that "Sraddha" is mere "belief" in the Guru's teachings does not bring out the essence of the story at all - that of DEDICATION TO THE TASK AT HAND! The obvious morale of the story is that one has to perform one's assigned task with dedication, not merely believe in something!

The circumstance during which Ramana Maharshi narrated the above story is also noteworthy:

"A devotee obtained a copy of Sri Bhagavan’s work
Ulladu Narpadu (Forty Verses on Reality) and began to
write out the entire work for himself. Seeing him doing this
writing with earnestness, though with a certain amount of
difficulty and strain, since the devotee was not accustomed
to squatting and doing continuous writing work, Bhagavan
told the story of a sannyasi and his disciples to illustrate
what is called sraddha – earnestness of purpose."

If mere "belief" qualified as Sraddha, I'm quite sure that many people who were sitting nearby doing nothing while the devotee was struggling with the text may have actually "believed" in the doctrine and teachings of Ramana Maharshi more than the scribe.

I was watching a TV show where someone claimed that a large percentage (some 95%) of Americans believed in God. The host of the show (I think Bill Maher) sarcastically remarked, "Well, belief doesn't require any effort!"

But Sraddha most certainly requires effort!

> Interpreting SraddhA merely as complete dedication would
> also bring in
> a redundancy in the definition of mumukshutva in the
> sAdhana-catushTaya scheme since the tIvratA that is implied
> by the
> secondary meaning of SraddhA is also implied by
> mumukShutva. More
> importantly, the secondary meaning does not fit with
> definitions of
> SraddhA like 'guru-vedAntavAkyAdishu viSvAsaH
> SraddhA'. So, I think it
> is better to translate SraddhA as 'faith'.

Like the write-up said, "Faith" *may* be a part of Sraddha, but Faith by itself does not seem a satisfactory translation of the word.

> Amuthan.


PS: There is a perennial Christian debate of what leads to salvation - Faith alone, or Faith and Acts. If anything, Sraddha is closer to being "Faith + Acts".


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