[Advaita-l] On shraddhA: refutation of theology is still necessary

Raghav Kumar raghavkumar00 at gmail.com
Tue Aug 23 06:05:34 CDT 2011

Shyam ji, Thank you for your well-presented mail on how a smArta would view
other shraddhA-s. But please observe that your very presentation itself
(emobodying understanding and "tolerance") is however possible only in a
Vedic or Vedic-compatible worldview. Or to put it differently, anyone who
agrees to your kind of presentation would in my opinion be counted as
belonging to what the gItA and bhAShyakAra refer to as sattvika be they
nominally adherents of other traditions like Judaism, Islam etc. I am using
the word shraddhA to include both the theories (theology) behind a given
tradition and not merely outer observances like namAz etc.

You also wrote -
"Whenever other paths are opposed to the Vedanta in their theories, those
theories, to be sure, have been furnished NOT BECAUSE THEY ARE ABSOLUTELY
TRUE IN THEMSELVES, but because they serve, by holding out some legitimate
pleasures, to ultimately bring them round to the right path;" (capitals

That is unexceptionable.

I am also saying that - we ought not to be overly touchy or hesitant to go
about assessing or analyzing and refuting the theological ideas (or theories
as you have put it) implicit in any given shraddhA-s, belief systems etc.
including Islam and Christianity.

For example when you say -

"It is thus clear that, in IshwarA's ever-perfect Order, every Scriptural
tradition has an internal validity for its faithful, that is uninfluenced by
any tradition and lies beyond the speculative parameters of any tradition
that is outside its gamut and scope." - thats not entirely true.

The first part of what you wrote up to internal validity for the faithful -
i.e., based on adhikArI bheda, that part is unexceptionable. But to say that
the validity or otherwise of the scriptural declarations of any other
shraddhA tradition " lie beyond the speculative parameters of any tradition
that is outside its gamut and scope" is perhaps not entirely true. As for
example, when Buddhist ideas or Jaina ideas are strongly refuted in bhAShya,
in language that the adherents of these respective traditions would find
surely objectionable. I believe bhAshyakara does not thereby fall foul of
the idea - "Yo yo yAm yAm tanum bhaktah shraddhayArchitum icchati; tasya
tasya achalAm shraddhAm tAmeva vidadhAmy aham." Because he intends his
bhAshyas to be studied by advaitins not by the adherents of those other

Along similar lines, I would suggest that no such restriction via-a-vis
refuting ideas in other traditions, is really tenable. A strong refutation
of the theological ideas of other shraddhA-s like Islam etc is par for the
course as far as Vedantic charchA is concerned. And this can be done without
the slightest prejudice to the validity of daily worship like namAz, rojA
etc practised by Muslims. Not to speak of the unexceptionable conduct of the
vast majority of adherents of Islam etc.

Many people posting on this topic seem to conflate criticism of the
theological doctrines of Islam, with , criticizing their worship and
observances, the latter, for sure, have validity and serviceability for a
number of human beings with a certain type of temperament. This inability to
distinguish between Islamic or some other "theology", from Islamic
"worship/observances" is quite unfortunate. I wonder if it is because there
is a preconceived wrong notion that anyone criticizing Islamic or Christian
theology has unstated prejudices against other fellow human beings who are
called Christians or Muslims.

 For instance, the idea that there is an eternal jannat (Islamic version of
svarga) cannot be allowed to go unchallenged for the same reason that an
eternal svarga is not possible. We ought not to say that its ok to refute
the idea of eternal svarga because the pUrva mimamsakas are Astikas (within
our heritage); but that the idea of an eternal jannat (paradise) cannot or
should not be challenged and refuted because "it lies beyond the speculative
parameters of any (other) tradition that is outside its gamut and scope
(read Veda/Vedanta)", I would suggest that is not very logical and does not
represent the smArta position on this.

Even when it comes to the worship and observances, while, much latitude is
permissible in this respect - a latitude not to be given to Islamic theology
, still even there  do not put all shraddhA on par, bhAshyakAra's and Lord
Krishna's gradation (gItA bhAShya) of shraddhA into sAttvika, rAjasika, and
tAmasika provides a definite framework to do discern for ourselves which
shraddhA is of which type. (Such a discernment itself does not need
universal acceptance by everyone on this planet - but I would imagine its
possible for at least the adherents of shrI samkara-bhagavatpAda to evolve a
consensus on such questions.)


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