[Advaita-l] Shankara and Madhusudhana

Sunil Bhattacharjya sunil_bhattacharjya at yahoo.com
Thu Jul 28 13:00:37 CDT 2011

Yes Jaidharji.  You very right about the complexities of dharma as it is being practsed. I  read  somewhere quite some time ago that  in a community feast in Kashmirboth  mutton and beef were cooked together and that beef was tied with a cloth so that it could be easily lifted out and thus separated from the mutton so that the Hindus could take the mutton and the Muslims could take the beef. I do not know if that was one-tine incident or is a continuing practice.


Sunil KB

From: Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>
To: A discussion group for Advaita Vedanta <advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org>
Sent: Wednesday, July 27, 2011 11:40 PM
Subject: Re: [Advaita-l] Shankara and Madhusudhana

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 backward.

>   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 scapegoat.

> 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 law.)

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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