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

Shyam shyam_md at yahoo.com
Wed Aug 24 11:22:19 CDT 2011

Pranams dear Sri Raghav,

Just to briefly clairfy.

I never said anything about "rebirth takes place only for those who are under the ambit of the Veda" nor is this what I think your learned friend - whom you earlier alluded to - meant. That there is a "spirit" that survives the physical death of the body is a given - accepted by almost all except perhaps the lokAyata. What the excerpt from the Skanda Purana seems to suggest, is that non-Vedic Scriptures - of the Abrahamaic religions for example - that promise a particular result - typically a place in Heaven - in return for a lifestyle that is committed to be in conformity to their own enjoined precepts - will have validity for the devout that find themselves born into that particular sampradaya - because they may been fashioned by the All-knowing All-merciful as being the best preparatory ground from the standpoint of that particular jivA's temperament. 

Now terms such as eternal that those Scriptures allude to - as it applies to Heaven and Hell may not mean the absolute eternal - but only relative eternal - our own scriptures too mention these types of stations that may hint at eternality - vid. Shankara bhasya for BG 16.20 for what almost seems like eternal damnation and one can take, among many examples - the NAchiketa sacrifice as something that is in a sense an "eternal" heaven - though in both instances it is clear that really speaking what is meant to be "eternal" is only from a relative sense and not an absolute sense. 

Hence one can see that this postulate does not detract in anyway from the fact the kshine punye martyalokam vishanti of the GitA. In any case such speculative exegesis is both needless and, imo, beyond the parametric ambit of an AstikA. 

This also is irrelevant to the title of this thread - about refutation of (Abrahamic) theology.

Thank you for a very stimulating discussion.

Hari OM

--- On Wed, 8/24/11, Raghav Kumar <raghavkumar00 at gmail.com> wrote:

> From: Raghav Kumar <raghavkumar00 at gmail.com>
> Subject: Re: [Advaita-l] On shraddhA: refutation of theology is still necessary
> To: "A discussion group for Advaita Vedanta" <advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org>
> Date: Wednesday, August 24, 2011, 2:14 AM
> 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
> example.)
> 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,
> Raghav
> 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
> > 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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