[Advaita-l] Shankara and Madhusudhana

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Thu Jul 28 01:40:39 CDT 2011

On Wed, 27 Jul 2011, Siva Senani Nori wrote:

> Rama and Krishna being kshatriyas, it is not a wonder that they ate 
> the flesh of animals. It should be a wonder if they had not.   Sage 
> Agastya is a Brahmin, but he did, for instance while dealing with the 
> menace of Vataapi and his brother; they are also references of others 
> sages having done so. If anything that might be discussed. The simple 
> answer everybody ate the flesh of animals earlier. Nowadays many 
> Brahmins and Vysyas do not, because the Dharma Saastras say so. Dharma 
> changes from time to time, place to place, and situation to situation.  

For some reason in discussions like this, people always like to invoke 
books while avoiding the actual visible evidence.  Even a cursory 
inspection of the Indian scene shows that food habits are an achara of 
jati, region and sampradaya not varna.  There are kshatriyas (and 
Vaishyas, and Shudras) who are staunch vegetarians and always have been. 
There are Brahmanas who are meat eaters and always have been.  It is not 
the case that the books were changed.  They were not consulted in the 
first place.

Currently my daughters friend is staying with us.  Her family are Nepali 
Brahmanas.   The lady of the house under the influence of a Vaishnava Goswami decided to 
become a vegetarian and so did her daughter.  However the rest of her 
family  eat goat, chicken, and fish and don't see anything wrong 
with it.  So she maintains two seperate sets of kitchen utensils and makes 
two meals one veg and one non-veg each time.  All the members of that 
family, even the meat-eaters would be horrified at the prospect of eating 
beef.  These are the complexities of dharma as it is actually practiced.

On Wed, 27 Jul 2011, Bhaskar YR wrote:

> Just on the lighter note, so, those who are born in brAhmaNa kula &
> hesitating to add meat in their menu now can do so with the support of
> pramANa from our own shAstra-s, after all it is 'shAstra vAkya 
> :-))

I know you're joking but there are some people who actually believe this. 
For the pancha dravida brahmanas eating meat is a durachara.  If Shri Rama 
were to offer it Himself, we would have to say "Sorry Bhagwan, the dharma 
You gave me forbids it."

On Wed, 27 Jul 2011, Siva Senani Nori wrote:

> Whether we like or not, it changes.

That's why "change" is a red herring.  The issue is not if there are 
changes but if the changes take place in a way that continues the 
tradition or if they make a violent break with it.  For that we have to 
look at books yes, but also and perhaps more importantly, actual 
historical practice.  My problem with "modern" Hinduism is that at the 
same time as it is trying to throw off the yoke of dharma, it tries to 
pretend it is rooted in the past.  The mental contortions they have to go 
to maintain this contradiction are what is keeping India and Hinduism 

>   There are only 50 to 100
> aahitaagnis in AP who perform all the vihita karmas properly, I am told.

Being a nitya agnihotri is a shastraic ideal but a look at the historical 
record shows that even in the "good old days" not many Brahmanas met that 
ideal.  Certainly more than today, but nothing like a majority.  So using 
this as an example of dharmic decline is somewhat of a distortion of the 
true state of affairs.  But looking back to a fantasy golden age suits the 
modernists fine as they can shirk responsibility and make "the times" a 

> I - as with so many others - did the Sudra vritti of serving others
> (employed in private 'service') for a living all my adulthood.

According to the Parasharamadhaviyam  shudravrtti is possible as an 
apaddharma of the kaliyuga.  This is an example of flexibility within the 
dharmashastra framework.

> Kshatriyas play polo, and are not involved in protecting people. Ambani
> is selling non-veg in his stores. Visvamitra srishTi in vegetables
> overshadows Brahma srishTi.

Again look to history.  Were all the rajas and merchants always 
scrupulously honest in their work?  I think you'll find that these are 
age-old complaints.  What we have in dharma is an ideal and it is the 
nature of an ideal that it is not always reached.  But there is a 
difference between trying to reach the ideal and failing versus not trying 
at all don't you think?

> Since all girls are to be married only after
> 18, and since they become rajasvalas much before that, with the marriage
> of every girl, we either break man-made law or the sanaatana dharma as
> propounded in the Dharma Saastra.

While girls did tend to get married earlier in former times even then it 
was not usually the case that they got married before puberty.  (It varied 
a lot by jati.)  Once again there is more flexibility in dharmashastra 
than you are letting on.  My daughters Nepali friend for instance recently 
underwent a ceremony called ihI in their language where a girl (she is 9) 
is dressed up as a bride and "married" to a coconut.  Then she is fed some 
sweets (the highlight of the ceremony I'm told!) and goes home to marry 
for real when she is older.  In other parts of India there are similar 
variants where the symbolic marriage takes place with the sun or a pipal 
tree or a kumbha. Or another workaround is the rajoshanti which was 
performed as part of my wedding.  This is a simple havan which acts as a 
prayaschitta for the dosha incurred.  The point is that there is enough 
flexibility in the practice of dharma to get around the false dilemma you 
have presented.  (However should the time come when you have to choose 
between dharma and man-made law, I hope you have the courage to break the 

We don't need people making new dharmas, we need people educated enough to 
be able to apply the old ones to new circumstances.  It won't always be 
possible but more times than one might think.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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