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

Raghav Kumar raghavkumar00 at gmail.com
Wed Aug 24 01:14:45 CDT 2011

Namaste Shyam ji and other friends
I can see that we are broadly on the same wavelength on such matters so I
think I shall end this thread here (from my side) making a few
observations. The problem is that if we adopt an excessively relativistic
position on such matters we may lose sight of the very important fact that
the Veda (with Smirit etc) is talking of trans-cultural truths.
For example -
1. One adherent of shamkara-bhagavatpAda (lets say) says - "The Veda says
rebirth takes place only for those who are under the ambit of the Veda and
accept it as a pramANa and rebirth does not occur for those who follow
alternative faith traditions, whose fate upon death,therefore, is decided
exactly as per whatever is written in their holy books and interpretations."
2. Another adherent of shamkara-bhagavatpAda says - "The Vedas ordain that
rebirth and the law of karma apply to all living beings. Even animals which
have no belief system will have rebirth.Such truths revealed by the Vedas
are trans-cultural truths and have no connection with what a person believes
or disbelieves. The worship and observances of these other non-Vedic
traditions though are meaningful, fruitful and have validity "
Position 1 ,is plain wrong and is not in keeping with the teachings of
BhagavAn bhAshyakAra. Position 2 is the right one. And I think it is
important to understand the difference which is not to say that we should go
around bringing everyone around in the World to position 2.

But if some smArtas take position 1, they are wrong in their understanding
of what the Veda is saying. (i believe)

One other point which you may like to reconsider is about what you wrote -
"Coming to Shankara's refutations in the shareerika sutrabhasyas, I will
like to point to two facts. One - both Buddhism and Jaina philosophies arose
as a refutation of Vedic validity - in other words they were related to the
VedAs even if it was in the context of negating them, and that their
proponents were very much in the same demographic tradition of that of
sanatana dharmA"

I would suggest that in a globalized world today, all citizens on this
planet are part of the same cultural and demographic space, interacting and
actively engaging with each other. The old days are over where there were
ghettoized civilzations and shraddhA traditions, each comfortable in its own
cultural space blissfully unaware of even the existence of other worldviews
and religious traditions, and hence there was no need
for refutation/analysis of other shraddhA-s.  Accordingly , bhAShyakAra
refuted only Buddhist and Jaina pUrvapakShas. He was not aware of Christian
theological pUrvapakSha-s or Islamic theology since they had not yet
intruded in to the cultural and intellectual space in India where only the
12 darshanas were extant. (lets say, the 788-832 AD date is acceptable,) I
would venture to think had he been alive today, he would most certainly have
refuted the theologies of the Abrahamic religions without hesitation. Such a
refutation is both necessary and meaninful (not for non-Vaidikas but) for
the few remaining adherents of the sanAtana dharma today. (we will come to
the example of respected AcArya-s a little later). Of course, I am not
saying that you and I have go around doing this. We have other priorities
such as internalizing vedanta etc and attaining to the immediate goal of
Atyantika-dukha-nivRtti. Absolutely.

 But as a matter of principle that it still needs to be done,in such a
globalized demographic space. I certainly would therefore not be unfavorably
disposed to the efforts of those who might try to do so; which is different
from trying to oppose such theological-refutation efforts by whosoever it
is, and also different from actively going about doing so.

In this context I see a clear difference between those theologies (like the
Madhva theology) which says an advaitin goes to hell. In my view, this is
still far better than a theology which wants to proactively despatch me to a
hot place in a hurry through violence etc. There is much difference between
the counter-refutation of advaita by madhvas etc., and
the refutation/repudiation done by a theology which says for example that
"one can attain paradise by killing a polytheist"  In this respect many of
the Sufis/Gnostics are ofcourse in an entirely different bracket. (Needless
to say, I have high regard for them notably Jalaluddin Rumi and Kabir for

Also it is worthwhile to point out that Islam did arise in opposition to the
pre-Islamic civilization of Arabia which had worship of the Sun, Moon and
other devatAs which are recognizably Agamic. Even the pre-Christian
traditions of Europe opposing which Christianity arose, bears closer
resemblance to the atleast some aspects of the Agama traditions.

The conduct of respected jIvanmukta Acaryas is to quite instructive and
certainly worthy of emulation. Even If a Madhva or VishistAdvaitin would
come to these respected AcAryas, I believe, they would be asked to continue
in their respective worship traditions without any desire to thrust advaitic
ideas upon them. But this would still go hand in hand with refutation by
these very respected jIvanmuktAs of  their (Madhva and other) theologies
when it comes to vedanta vicAra, to those who are equipped to do so.
Refutation of a given theology can go hand in hand with encouraging their
adherents to continue in thier respective traditions while encouraging them
to eschew the more extreme interpretations of those other theologies like
Islam etc.  And as for the idea that MadhvAcArya is refuted only as a
response. A similar situation obtains wiith reference to Abrahamic
theologies too in today's world.

Thank you once again,

On Tue, Aug 23, 2011 at 4:35 PM, Raghav Kumar <raghavkumar00 at gmail.com>wrote:

> 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
> mine)
> 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
> traditions.
> 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.)
> Om
> Raghav

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