[Advaita-l] Pitrupaksha questions

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Tue Sep 27 10:40:31 CDT 2011

> SriVijayshankar,
> Lt all started with some one mentioning the Manusmrthi.Manu emphatically mentions,"Na stri
>svatantryamarhati"rather than it is being lost over the course of time.
I still do not see any connection between what Manu thought of women's rights and
what is one's kartavyatA towards one's living and departed ancestors, in today's world.

Let that be. You seem to have been singularly unfortunate in the choice of purohita-s
who have officiated at your family rituals, but you seem to be finding fault with the
whole tradition of mImAMsA as a result. From the beginning of time, there have been
unscrupulous office bearers in every religion. Perhaps we have a lot more of them than
otherwise, because of the unorganized and non-institutional nature of our dharma. Or
perhaps, we can see the faults closer to our homes better than the faults elsewhere.
It is easy enough for us to find fault with a brAhmaNa priest, especially if we have an
education that equips us well for contemporary urban life. But that does not mean that
you should do a false adhyAsa on all mImAMsaka-s for all times.
I think you and a number of others are talking at cross-purposes on this topic. There is
a place for karmA in one's life and there is a place for jnAna, but each person has to
decide where their personal balance lies. If you think the traditionally minded people
on this list advocate karmA as a means to moksha, then you are quite wrong. karmA
is accepted and emphasized by the traditional folks here only with respect to the part
of dharma that is pravRtti-oriented, and as a stepping stone to jnAna mArga. If there
is a traditionally minded person on this list who thinks karmA is a means to moksha,
rest assured that there are numerous other traditionally minded folks right here, who
will tell them otherwise.
Some of the questions asked on this list about such matters should really be addressed
to a learned purohita, with the full understanding that there can be and is enormous
regional variation in practice. Even within a linguistic group, one finds major and minor
variations in ritual practice, all of which can be charming, delightful and meaningful, if
seen from a broader perspective. Ritual details such as whether one should pour
arghya this way or that way, whether one should wear yajnopavIta or prAcInAvIta for
a particular action - all these are perhaps not immediately pertinent to this list as such,
although they can be of great importance to the given ritual and the performer of that

If you think that the focus of a few list members on the most intimate details of karmA
is tiresome, to some extent, I would tend to agree with you. We give room for some
of it on this list only because of the fact that worrying about these details is a small
indication of the level of SraddhA in the veda and eventually in vedAnta. You will no
doubt notice that some list members remain silent on these kinds of discussion topics
while others say a lot. It is in the nature of a public discussion list to have various
members with various motivations - loko bhinnaruciH.
On the other hand, it is fashionable nowadays to think that advaita vedAnta advocates
the giving up of only vaidika karmA and not of laukika karmA. The tendency for most
people is to think as follows, "I will buy a costly house, a car or two, send my children
to the 'best' schools, buy only designer clothing for all of them, save for retirement,
etc. I am intelligent and I can read the Upanishads and their Bhashyas (if only in
translation), understanding that I only need knowledge, not action, for my salvation. I
don't see any meaning in rituals and I don't need to perform them. After all, all these
rituals have only held back the social and economic 'development' of my father, mother,
grandfathers and grandmothers. But I can do my job really well, earn money to take
care of my family, thereby I will be a "karmayogi" and I can get liberation."
What all the traditionally minded people on this list are saying is that the above thinking
is flawed with respect to both karmA and jnAna. The bRhadAraNyaka upanishat says
that those who renounced all action thought quite differently and said, "kiM prajayA
karishyAmaH". Sankara bhagavatpAda talked of giving up ALL karmA, not selectively
vaidika karma alone. A number of us have honestly assessed our adhikAra and have
realized that while we can intellectually talk of advaita vedAnta, we are not actually
ready for the stringent and stark requirements expected by Sankara bhagavatpAda and
the upanishadic tradition for the jnAna mArga.
It is only for that reason that we discuss the details of karmA. At the kurukshetra field,
arjuna's false impulse to give up the war was not acceptable to kRshNa. He was told
to first do the duty that he had already embarked upon and to do it well. A number of
us on this list realize that we are a lot more like arjuna and a lot less like yudhishThira.
Isn't it very revealing that yudhishThira, the most sannyAsi like of the pANDava-s had
no hesitation once war was declared, and he didn't need hundreds of verses of upadeSa
from kRshNa at that time?
> I would like to say that in harping again and again that karmas are to be performed,this list is
>relegating SriShankara Bhagawathpada as to be insignificant.No wonder many durmatas have
>developed after his time!
On the contrary, I see the average age of this list's members as a measure of how
significant Sri Sankara bhagavatpAda continues to be and will continue to be for ever.
Just the other day, we moderators advised a 16 year old prospective member to get
permission from his parents and to start studying at a more formal level. And on this
list, we do have you and others to emphasize a focus on jnAna!

I would only request you to try and understand other list members a little better and
not deride karmA prematurely. It is not the kindergartner's fault that he can only be
taught ABC's and nursery rhymes. It would be the teacher's fault if s/he tried to teach
the child about figures of speech and complex poetry before even teaching the ABC's. 
> We can see clearly that there are no takers for Jnana.Only commercial activities are flourishing
>in the name of Dharma.

There are indeed many, many takers for jnAna. But prior to jnAna, there is jijnAsA. By
default, a jijnAsu is not yet a jnAnI and it is a given that not all jijnAsu-s are ready to
completely give up pravRtti mArga and take completely to nivRtti mArga. So long as one
is in pravRtti mArga, one DOES need to pay attention to the dharma of that mArga. 
However, if you think that every paisa given in dakshiNA to a purohita for a ritual is
nothing more than a commercial transaction, you do need to think again. In any case,
a personal need not to "waste" money on ritual fees and gifts is by no means a valid
criterion for embarking upon jnAna. Indeed, naciketas embarked upon a journey to get
jnAna only because he found that his father was NOT giving adequate ritual gifts! As
such, these arguments about "commercial activity" and the false tarring of the entire
tradition of mImAMsA (may I reiterate that vedAnta is also a mImAMsA) are bogus
and specious.
ps. I would request you to post in a calm frame of mind and to be a little more 
circumspect in jumping to conclusions about other list members. Everybody is
entitled to their own opinions, but it serves nobody's purpose to forcefully state
one's opinion as if it were the only truth. 		 	   		  

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