[Advaita-l] rules and exceptions

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Wed Sep 30 19:48:12 CDT 2015

On Fri, 25 Sep 2015, Venkatraghavan S via Advaita-l wrote:

> The subject of this thread has no bearing to the contents of the last few
> emails that were delivered under this subject.
> My request to those interested in pursuing this new line of discussion is
> to please carry on in a separate thread.

Yes you are absolutely right and I have done so.

On Fri, 25 Sep 2015, Abhyudaya Mandal via Advaita-l wrote:

> I think that Mr. Santosh is unnecessarily accusing Mr. Knapp. It would have
> been more appropriate if he has stood at the end of the line, but the fact
> that he did not probably does not have anything to do with the color of his
> skin.

As Santosh points out he himself thinks it does.

> Many Indians pay the pandas at the Jagganath Temple in Puri to cut
> infront and quickly get darshan. The same thing occurs in the Kashi
> Vishvanatha Temple in Varanasi. It is simply the brokenness and corruption
> in the temple administration.

True but "everyone else is doing it" is not an acceptable argument in 
moral matters.  Acharya comes from achar - conduct.  They are supposed to 
show the rest of use how to correctly conduct our lives by their own 
superior level of conduct not condone the ways of the crowd.  My mother is 
a fervent follower of Satya Sai Baba.  Last time she went to Puttaparthi 
for darshan she was disgusted to know there is a separate line for NRIs. 
She loudly declared to the attendents that although she came from abroad, 
she is an Indian and will stand in a line with the Indians.  If a retired 
teacher and grandmother can display this level of ethics a "Vedic friend" 
should be able to do much more don't you think?

> Given the fact that Mr. Knapp was refused entry in the temple to begin 
> with,

No, read carefully.  He was denied entrance to the garbagrha.  As you 
know, in all the major mandirs this is the case for most Hindus.  I even 
as a Brahmana can't do the seva for the murtis at the mandir I usually 
attend because I do not have diksha in the Vaishnava sampradaya it 

Now one may disagree with all this (though the followers of Swami 
Dayananda make much of following "traditional Advaita Vedanta" so I don't 
know why they would) but what cannot be denied is that these are in fact 
the rules.  Are the rules to be respected or not?  If not this opens up a 
whole new can of worms.  One of Swami Dayanandas major accomplishments for 
which he had received many accolades is to fight against the usurpation of 
the rights and properties of devasthanas.  But now that you've established 
that the rules can be flouted by producing a letter from a big shot, what 
are you going to say when the chief ministers nephew shows up with a 
letter?  What should be a an open and shut moral and legal case has gotten 
muddied for no good reason.

> I think that he would have been thankful even if he had to stand 
> in line like the rest of the devotees.

Why speculate about what he would have thought when there is direct 
evidence of what he actually did?

> If anything should be criticized, it should be: 1) the fact that some
> temples still don't allow white-skinned people to enter, and 2) the
> corruption among the priests and pandas that they accept money and
> recommendations.

Why can't all parties be criticized?

On Fri, 25 Sep 2015, Srikrishna Ghadiyaram wrote:

> Mr. Stephen Knapp's narration was simple. Only Sri Jaldhar and Others chose
> to see 'corruption' in that.

How many others?  Look, I have only the warmest feelings for the land of 
my ancestors but honestly India is only a place I visit from time to time. 
I don't live there.  A true believer can rationalize anything so if you 
are happy with the status quo, carry on; it doesn't affect me.  What I 
have seen amongst all the people I communicate with is there is a 
tremendous amount of frustration and cynicism amongst Indian people 
especially the younger generations concerning corruption.  So far the 
anger is mainly directed against the political classes but if supposedly 
dharmic people engage in or condone corrupt behavior they will lose all 
trust and it will be very hard for them to regain it.

> It is obvious/possible that Swami Dayananda, through his letter, wanted to
> inform any doubters that Stephen Knapp should not be prevented from being
> able to participate in his chosen temple visits, because he does not look
> like another common Indian.

As previously mentioned, his activities went well beyond "participation."

> I would even guess that Swami Ji would have had the intention that Stephen
> Knapp would write about Hindu (temple) culture which he learns from the eyes
> of a researcher, which we ourselves have ignored and destroyed or do not do
> enough to highlight.

Uh, who is this "we"?  The majority of Hindus are quite well acquainted 
with temple culture.  If you feel YOU are lacking in this regard shouldn't 
YOU rectify the lack instead of outsourcing it to others?

> Even if someone argues that he/she is doing  a lot to
> represent Hindu culture, a new / foreign observation is a welcome addition,
> specially if it has a broader appeal/reach in and outside India.

Which would be all well and good if anyone in the west actually knew who 
Stephen Knapp was but he is neither a celebrity or researcher of any kind, 
just a random New Ager with romantic delusions about Hinduism.

I'm reading a book called "Hidden Lives of Brahman" The author, an actual 
academic, did field work in the pathashalas at Shringeri and Mattur and 
compares what he observed there with the Vedantic texts to show how 
Shankaracharyas thought is not just a set of ideas but entwined in the 
actual practice of Vedic life.  (It's a fascinating book and I'll post a 
review as soon as I am finished.)  The pandits in those places cooperated 
with his research but of course did not allow him as a mleccha into the 
actual Vedic study.  Instead of running off to some big shot, the author 
works around the limitations and still ends up meeting his goals.

The point of me mentioning this is not to engage in a Shringeri vs 
Arshavidyapitha contest but to demonstrate that it is possible to do 
research, advocacy etc. in a way that does not violate dharma.

> There is no reason to have grudge even if some VIP (in general, not referring
> to Stephen Knapp's narration) gets preference and is being able to cut
> lines/queues, after all Isvara knows what is right. Those VIPs, more than
> common people like me, have to work in their allotted fields of public good.
> But, they may have their own needs of temple visits. So, facilitating them to
> move forward is not a loss. They will do good to public in general. Isvara
> knows, not just the internet critics.

So basically you condone corruption.  Your faith in the motives of VIPs is 
touching but I think most people realize that it is money and connections 
that gets preference not public good.  All those people waiting patiently 
in line at Minakshi Mandir are "Vedic friends" too and their time is as 
precious as anyone elses.

On Fri, 25 Sep 2015, Anil Aggarwal via Advaita-l wrote:

> I am sorry to say despite being a vedantin you do not seem to see below
> skin deep and still see as individuals and try to tarnish a great
> Mahatama.

I think practically everyone reading this has a lot of respect for Swami 
Dayananda.  But very few people are 100% black or white; most are shades 
of grey.  Even Yudhisthira the very embodiment of Dharmaraja had a spot on 
his reputation in the matter of Ashvatthama.  It does not take away 
anything from the genuine accomplishments of Swami Dayananda to point out 
an instance where he acted poorly.

As for skin color.  We have several non-Hindus in this list and if their 
interest in Advaita Vedanta is genuine they are welcome here.  They should 
not be treated like novelty circus acts or sinister agent of colonialism 
but seekers of the highest goal like anyone else and their questions, 
comments etc. should get the same respect as those of anyone else.  But we 
also expect that they follow the rules like anyone else.  There is a 
possibility that having thought Advaita Vedanta was one thing they are 
dismayed to find out it is another (actually this applies to Indians too.) 
and as a result they might lose interest.  But that's ok.  To be 
"disillusioned" is the best thing for a Vedantin don't you think?

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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