[Advaita-l] sapta-mAtR^ika-s in ShAnkara GItA BhAShyam

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Wed Jul 6 13:27:02 CDT 2011

On Tue, 5 Jul 2011, Satish Arigela wrote:

> Maybe you forgot at the moment of typing this that there is nothing un-vedic
> about a non-vegetarian sacrifice?

No of course not.  But there are two criteria in play.

> The recent soma-yAga-s done in Andhra clearly involved a pashu bali. My own
> AchArya participated in this along with other somayAji-s.
> Going by this, shankarAchArya should have also condemned the vaidika rituals

Please see Shyams post from today for an understanding of the Smarta 
attitude to this subject.  Shankaracharya makes his position clear in the 
bhashya on ashuddhamiti chet.

> which involve animal sacrifice? So is he saying then that it is okay to 
> kill a pashu for a vedic yAga but not okay to do it in a tAntrIka 
> context?

Exactly.  Look at all the combinations:

Vedic and vegetarian         --- OK
Vedic and non-vegetarian     --- OK
non-vedic and vegetarian     --- OK
non-vedic and non-vegetarian --- Not OK.

The Vedas have a general rule for ahimsa.  They have a specific exception 
for the somayajas.  The tantras do not derive their authority from the 
Vedas* so they cannot claim the specific exemption and are judged by the 
general rule.

[* the type we are discussing here.  Some tantric thinkers do try and 
claim a Vedic basis for their shastras.]

> If he says so, then on what authority he says that? Is he an authority 
> on tAntrIka issues?

Well on what basis does he criticise Samkhya or Mimamsa or Buddhism? 
Shankaracharya is an exponent of the Vedas and a partisan of the same. 
They (and smrti and shishtachara which are based on them) are the sole 
source of authority on what is to be done and not done.  It is acceptable
to follow what is good in other religions whether "Hindu" or otherwise but 
good is defined by the standards set in the Vedas.

> As an aside, what a tAntrIka does is between him and his AchArya and the 
> particular devata or set of devata-s. No body else's business no matter 
> who they are.

The corrollary of this is that the tantrika has no business complaining 
that the criticisms of others are unfair, invalid etc.  He should simply 
do what he has to do and let the chips fall where they may.

> All the above aside, the next shloka is talking about terrible practices. There
> isn't a clear link between sapta mAtR^ika-s worship and the next shloka.
> I would request to look at both the wording and the spirit of the sentences in
> the bhAShya for 17.4.
> He says very clearly that those with sattva worship the deva-s, and with rajas
> worship yakSha-s -- He is not explicitly talking about a rAjasic mode of worship
> of devata-s.

> The other point Ramesh raised about having a dim view of a particular  system,
> does not take into account the fact that in vAmAchAra it is not  just the
> three(vinAyaka, bhagini-s, matR-s) which are worshipped, but almost every devata
> that we know of including viShNu, nR^isiMha etc. Now why pick this system in
> particular when there are many vAmAchAra sects, at that time?

That of course is impossible to say.  It could even be as simple as he had 
been debating a Tumburu upasaka that day.  What this shows is the futility 
of relying on text alone.  The texts attributed to Shankaracharya (however 
few or many they may be) are embedded in a tradition.  That tradition is 
still a living one today and should inform our reading.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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