Re: Advaita and caste - (was Re: The Theism of the Upanishads)
On Tue, 12 Jul 1994, Vidyasankar Sundaresan wrote:
> Most of your comments are probably due to the fact that you have not
> been following the discussion Mani Varadarajan and I were having over
> alt.hindu for the last one and a half months. I shall address your
> arguments in order.
Well I admit I haven't been present for the whole thread. I shall take
back any comment I have made due to misinterpretation.
> >First of all, let me vent a pet peeve of mine. The word is BRAHMANA
> >NOT BRAHMIN!
> Yes, I agree with you here, but in the context of my discussion, the
> difference in spelling serves to accentuate the difference between
> Brahmanas the books, and Brahmanas the people.
As I said, this is just something that bothers me. The comment was not
directed against you specifically.
> >: This kind of "Brahminism" is today's fact - a fact that came into
> >: being recently.
> >Recently? How do you reach this conclusion? The religion practised
> >today is the same as that prescribed by Shruti and Smrti.
> I do not deny that. But my point is that by the word "Brahminism" one
> is not necessarily talking of the same thing at all times. The
> Advaita mathas are only some 1200 years old, the Srivaishnava mathas
> some 1000 and the Dvaita mathas some 800 years old. Surely that is
> quite recent by the standards of the actual age of our religion.
Well now you've clarified your point, I understand. But given the every-day
meaning of the word "recently" your use of it is a bit deceptive.
> the time of Sankara, "Brahminism" was defined by Poorva Meemamsakas.
> If you read all the arguments of Sankara against this system, you
> will easily see that he is opposed to their interpretation tooth and
Well as you yourself say, "Brahminism" can meany many things. If you
wish to define it as Purva Mimamsa you may. There are good reasons to
believe your opinion doesn't fit well with reality.
> >: Before Sankara's time, (7th cent. A. D.), Buddhism was widely
> >: prevalent among the scholarly community.
> >This is conjecture based on the fact that many more Buddhist books
> >survive from that period. It is by no means an established fact.
> Really? Is it mere conjecture? Excepting the period of the founder of
> a school, the number of treatises from one school is uually somewhat
> proportional to the prevalence of the school among the scholarly
I should have expressed this better. What I meant to say is that, for
reasons I have yet to hear a satisfactory explanation for, a good deal of
the literature of the immediately preceding period no longer exists. The
mere fact that a lot more Buddhist works are available now, tells us
nothing about their availability then or what proportion of the
literature they were. It seems to me that the power of Buddhism at the
time has been greatly exaggerated. (But I can't prove my point either.)
> Sankara was a younger contemporary of the greatest Poorva
> Meemamsakas - Kumarila Bhatta, Prabhakara and Mandana Misra. If
> Buddhism was not widely prevalent, at least among sections of the
> scholarly community, why would these three people take such pains to
> refute Buddhist philosophers? Note that I am not claiming that
> Buddhism was the widely popular religion in India at that time.
> Popularity as a religion is not the same as prevalence among the
> "scholarly community". Quite clearly, Buddhist philosophers held a
> great reputation as scholars in India, which is why both the Poorva
> Meemamsakas and Sankara felt the need to debate with them. If that
> were not the case, these debates need not have been held at all.
> Obviously, after Sankara, Buddhism ceased to be widely prevalent
> among the scholarly community. I stick to my position.
O.k. now I understand your position.
> >: A little thought will indicate that performance of such
> >: sacrificial rituals requires wealth, social status as a learned
> >: Brahmin or a powerful Kshatriya king, and other such requisites.
> >True for the Srauta karmas. But the Grhya karmas are also
> >undeniably Vaidik and considerably less complicated. The great
> >Mimamsakas only described Srauta karmas because they are the
> >archetypes of all yagnas and almost anything said about them can be
> >applied mutatis mutandis to the grhya karmas. The later Mimamsakas
> >also employed their tecniques in the analysis of the Smritis and
> >rites described therein.
> Agreed, but that does not take away from the fact that Sankara
> prescribed total giving up of all karmas, grhya included.
I was objecting to your statement that power and wealth were requisites
of performing ritual. shrauta ritual yes, grhya ritual no. The grhya
ritual is in no way inferior from the Mimamsaka point of view. It is
merely intended for a different class of people.
> himself points out that if as the Poorva Meemamsakas held, Srauta,
> smArta and grhya karmas were all enjoined on all the twice-born
> castes, not a single person would be able to do them all.
Could you tell me where he says this? I find it hard to believe. As I
said before it is entirely possible, even today, to fulfill all the
duties enjoined by the Shastras.
> >: Social status as a learned Brahmin is required because otherwise
> >: people would not attend the sacrifice and the sacrifice would not
> >: yield its expected fruit.
> >Huh?? I see no evidence of this in any shastra. The efficacy of
> >the karma depends on the technical proficiency of the priests. The
> >number of people attending has nothing to do with it.
> Attendance is not required for all sacrifices, but at least for some.
> I can quote the actual Upanishad which requires the presence of
> people (other than the yajamAn and the priests) attending the
> sacrifice for the expected fruit.
As an Advaitin, should you be quoting an Upanishad on karma? <G>
> I don't have it right now, but it
> is clear that at least some of the sacrifices are done for the sake
> of public approval - e.g. the Rajasuya, the Ashawamedha, even the
> ordinary marriage ceremony requires people as witnesses to the rite.
> This is in fact the reason why the Vedic marriage is considered
> superior to the other kinds of marriage like the Gandharva marriage.
You said "Social status as a learned Brahmin is required." Are you
suggesting non-Brahman nobodies can't get married by Vedic rites?
> >The Puranas and Itihasas were already in existence at this time and
> >they are also products of "orthodox Brahminism."
> Mythology is only one aspect of religion. Ritual is the more
> important aspect.
Spoken like a true mimamsaka! <G>
> Puranas and itihasas serve the former;
The Puranas and Itihasas contain many rituals which were analysed by
> Meemamsa as a philosophy is based wholly on the latter. I fail to see
> your point here. Kumarila Bhatta and other Meemamsakas attained such
> a vast amount of fame in their lifetimes, throughout India, just
> because they were the emodiment of "orthodox Brahminism". The fact
> that Puranas and itihasas were also products of orthodox Brahminism
> has nothing to do with my analysis of Sankara's atttitude towards
No it doesn't but throughout your post, you equate "orthodox Brahminism" with
the small minority of those who practiced the Shrauta karmas. I am
pointing out they were one strand of "orthodox Brahminism" and other
strands were equally active and important.
> >: Kings were able to assert their royal authority and collect
> >: much needed revenue through this device, smart Brahmins were able
> >: to amass wealth and influence affairs of state, while at the same
> >: time aserting that their moksha is assured.
> >Baseless speculation again.
> Really? The Poorva Meemamsa as a philosophy is geared to prove that
> moksha is assured only through the performance of ALL enjoined
> rituals, including Srauta, grhya, kAmya, nitya, naimittika etc. Not
> recognizing the fact that rituals enabled kings to assert their royal
> authority, and helped Brahmanas to reassert their position at the
> head of the caste hierarchy, is to be blind to the intimate
> connection between ritual and daily life. The tension between
> Brahmanas and Kshatriyas is well documented, and is to be expected,
> given the power positions held by these two castes in society. The
> ritual served to bind the two groups together fruitfully.
The nitya and naimittika rites are the only ones required by Purva
Mimamsa. And their only objective is purification. It is the kamya
rites which are for the purposes "amassing wealth" and "asserting royal
power." They, by definition, cannot be enjoined.
> >: What about the general populace, mostly
> >: vaiSyas and more importantly the poor SUdras?
> >Vaishyas are (or were) dwija and entitled to perform Vaidik karmas.
> >In fact there is a yagna called Vaishyastoma which can only be
> >performed by them. Sudras also play a supporting role in some
> >yagnas including the Ashvamedha.
> In theory yes. In practice, debatable.
> >The shastras are quite clear that the Puranas are the road to moksha
> >for those who are not authorized or incapable of performing Vaidik
> This is a late development, and a popularly held notion. The rAjA is
> usually held responsible for both the secular and spiritual
> well-being of his subjects. Puranas were constantly being produced.
> They are by no means canonical.
Says who? The Puranas have always been considered authoritative (if that's
what you mean by canonical.)
> The Bhagavata Purana for instance is
> to a great part later than the 5th century.
I hate to say this, but you're speculating again. :-) Dating of texts
like these is more guesswork than science. The categories of "Purana"
and "Itihasa" are Vaidik in origin.
> Poorva Meemamsa
> philosophy does not have much to say about the Puranas as a tool for
Because as I said earlier, the Shrauta rites are the archetype and
whatever is said about them can be applied to the Puranas. And many
later Mimansakas did deal with them.
> >: Nothing really good can be gained out of it.
> >A lot of good can be gained from it. Nothing permanant can be
> >gained from it.
> I keep getting the feeling that you have not read the whole debate we
> have been having here. I use "real" in a very technical sense here,
> as I have throughout when referring to moksha.
You're right. I haven't. So I used real in the plain English sense of
the word. There are more accurate tecnical terms you could have used.
> In Advaita terms real
> is eternal. What is seen as good obtained by performance of ritual is
> not eternal, so it is not "really" good. So long as you recognize the
> impermanence of it, you are not essentially disagreeing with my
In Advaita terms good and evil aren't real either so "really good" is an
> >: Also, performance of ritual required money.
> >Again let me point out, Shrauta ritual requires money. Grhya ritual
> >does not. I am fully capable of performing all vidhis required by
> >Shruti and Smrti right here in New Jersey. (The only reason I don't
> >is I'm not married.)
> Agreed. But I am looking at ritual and ritualism in its most extreme
See, that's what I don't understand. Why are you looking at ritual and
ritualism in its most extreme positions? It's this constant focus on the
power and money side which made me suspect you had some other motive.
> One has to do that for the sake of the discussion.
For polemics maybe. For sober discussion no. Complete accuracy is what
is needed at all times.
> >: The Br. Ar. upanishad tells us
> >: "amrtatvasya nASAsti vittena" - wealth is not going to secure
> >: liberation. Now, it is obvious that mere possession of wealth was
> >: not going to liberate. Sankara's argument is this - because the
> >: upanishad has nothing to gain by stating the obvious, what it
> >: means by wealth is really the performance of rituals for which the
> >: amassed wealth is used - this is what the upanishad really wants
> >: to convey.
> So. My point is justified.
I never said it wasn't. It's the way you justified it I objected to.
> >: Assuredly, this was not music to
> >: the ears of the orthodox Brahmin of his day. Acquisition of wealth
> >: is always pleasant to any man. Performance of rituals justified
> >: this in the minds of the Brahmin. To be told that this is of no
> >: use for liberation must have definitely rankled the wealthy,
> >: influential and orthodox Brahmin of the 7th century.
> >You're speculating again. (And reading too much Marxism it seems.)
> I am not reading any Marxism here. The Brahman typically yearns for
> wealth, not just for mere materialism, but for its potential use for
> attaining the ultimate sukham - moksha. Please read my statements
> carefully. Quite contrary to Marxism, I am explaining Sankara's and
> Advaita's asceticism as against the usual justification for wealth -
> "dhanAt dharmam, tatha: sukham". Marxism, like capitalism, deals with
> the production and distribution of wealth. Moksha is about the giving
> up of wealth.
> Also, this is not mere speculation. The wealthy, orthodox Brahmin of
> Sankara's day was most definitely rankled by Sankara's views.
The poor ritualist would also have been rankled by Shankaracharyas
views. The opposition to him was ideological, not based on social class
which is what you seem to be suggesting whether you mean it or not.
> If he
> was not, he would have just accepted Sankara without debate, given up
> all his wealth, social standing and influence and become an ascetic.
> Mandana Misra's addressing of Sankara when Sankara came in uninvited
> to his house is not exactly complimentary. The story is told in the
> Sankara-vijaya of Padmapada's uncle, an influential Meemamsaka,
> burning the Panchapadika when Padmapada was on a visit to Rameswaram.
> Whatever the truth of the story, it embodies at least the fact that
> during Sankara's own lifetime, even towards the end, he and his views
> were hated, let alone being readily accepted.
Seeing as at that time, Buddhism was already over a 1000 years old, I
doubt if the Brahmanas would have been particularly shocked by his
views. Some people no doubt hated him, others did readily accept him.
> >The karma kanda also deals with other-worldly goals. (Svargo kama
> >yajet.) Liberation is beyond any conception of good and evil. The
> >crucial distinction is karma is impermanent, Moksha is permanent.
> That (about the karmakAnda) is not Sankara's view. The argument is
> simple. Moksha is permanent. Karma and its fruits, however
> other-worldly, are not. KarmakAnda deals with the latter while the
> jnAnakAnda deals with the former.
That's what I said.
> >: Thus in addition to telling the
> >: orthodox Brahmin of his day that ritualism will get him nowhere,
> >: Sankara is really telling him that the karmakANDa that he thinks
> >: to be supreme is really not so supreme at all.
> >It is supreme in it's own sphere. It is not permanent.
> Again you are quibbling without grasping the wider context of the
No. I'm saying that Jnana is not better than Karma it is simply
different. There are many good reasons for practicing karma but they are
all transitory. Jnana on the other hand is permanent.
> Let us get one thing clear first. Before Sankara, "orthodox
> Brahminism" was defined by Poorva Meemamsa. The Poorva Meemamsaka's
> attitude about the Vedas is that the karmakANda is supreme and the
> Upanishads, (the jnAnakANda) are subordinate, and for the most part
> mere arthavAda. Sankara's answer is that in reality, the jnAnakANda
> is supreme over the karmakANda. This is diametrically opposite to the
> then prevalent Poorva Meemamsa view. That is the point I am making
> here when I say "not so supreme". The question is about the relative
> supremacy of the karmakANda vs. the jnAnakANda.
If you are saying that the jnana kanda is superior to the karma kanda FOR
THE PURPOSES OF MOKSHA, then I agree with you.
> >: Again this was not going to endear Sankara
> >: and his philosophy to the prevalent Brahminism of his day.
> >Here you go again... :-)
> This is not mere speculation. Sankara's views, analyzed in the
> historical context, are suffciently radical for acceptance by Poorva
> Meemamsakas. When you see that Poorva Meemamsa was the prevalent
> orthodox Brahminism of Sankara's day, my point is quite clear.
> >: Sankara's
> >: attitude towards ritual is usually cited as yet another indication
> >: of a general "Buddhist influence" - you cannot at the same time
> >: quite arbitrarily claim that he had a decided preference for
> >: Brahmins also.
> >This "Buddhist Vs Brahmana" dichotomy is overstated in my opinion.
> >Samrata Ashoka stipulated that Brahmanas and Shramanas were both to
> >be respected. Raja Harsha also celebrated Buddhist and Shaiva
> >utsaves. The Balinese today even have Buddhist Brahmanas!
> Firstly, the state of Balinese religion has nothing to do with
> Vedanta philosophies. Secondly, the fact that kings like Asoka or
> Harsha respected both Buddhist and Hindu customs has nothing to do
> with the integrity of Vedanta philosophies, specifically Advaita.
> Thirdly, I can agree with you about the "overstatement" of the
> Buddhist vs. Brahmana dichotomy. Though I have nothing for it, I have
> nothing against Buddhism myself. My response is in the context of the
> criticism of Visishtadvaita (which Mani Varadarajan upholds) and
> Dvaita, that Advaita is "Buddhism in disguise". In the eyes of
> adherents of the rival Vedanta schools, Sankara's rejection of ritual
> is yet another evidence for this criticism. My point is that to say
> this and to say that Sankara had a real preference for Brahminism at
> the same time, is being inconsistent. It is inconsistent because it
> does not recognize the character of the "Brahminism" that was
> prevalent in Sankara's days. My only objective is to bring out this
> contradictoriness in the arguments of these schools against Sankara.
The reason I brought this up is that many people have the notion that
Buddhism was a revolt against the caste system. The existance of
Buddhist Brahmanas and the various examples of Hindu-Buddhist symbiosis I
gave, question that assumtion. Maybe like the Jains of today, Buddhists
denied caste in theory but were well integrated into the caste system in
day-to-day life. So my response to Mr. Varadarajan would have been,
"O.K. so he had sympathies with some aspects of Buddhism. So what? Did
he do anything which was contrary to the Vedas? No? All right then." :-)
> >: he says the SUdra though not traditionally entitled to the sacred
> >: thread or study of the Vedas, can also definitely gain such
> >: knowledge through other means.
> >The other means being the Puranas. They have no right to study the
> It is you that is speculating here.
No I'm not. The Upanishads are part of the
studied by S Shudras cannot study the Vedas. The Upanishads are part of
the Vedas. Therefore Shudras cannot study the Upanishads. And if the
Upanishads are suitable for all, why did he write a bhashya on the
Bhagavad Gita? (which is part of the Mahabharata)
> Sankara leaves the means by which
> Sudras obtain Brahman-knowledge unstated. He does not say the Puranas
> are apt texts for Brahman knowledge or that Sudras obtain such
> knowledge by reading the Puranas. If that were the case, the Puranas
> would be quite adequate even for the dvijas. Why go through the tough
> and complicated Vedas and Upanishads? Why not just rely on the easier
> and charming Puranas?
Why not indeed? This is why in India today, even among Brahmanas, the
Pauranik rites are more prevalent than Vaidik ones.
> In any case, the point is quite moot. The
> Puranas are also written in Sanskrit. How many Sudras, who are also
> traditionally prevented from learning the language, would know
> Sanskrit to even start reading them?
Then as now, the Puranas were read to the public by Brahmanas. (Which is
where I get my family name of Vyas from.>
> >True. But only the exceptional individual will make such a
> >tremendous leap. Most will steadily progress through the castes
> >through a number of lives.
> My point is that even accepting the fact that such exceptional
> individuals among Sudras are not just possible, they are quite
> probable, is a quantum leap. In Sankara's days, this represents quite
> a major thing.
As I said before Buddhism had been around for over a 1000 years so this
view was not new.
> >You are exaggerating. Kamya rituals (performed for selfish
> >reasons) are a hindrance. Nitya and naimittik (daily and periodic)
> >rites are a great help in purifying oneself in preperation for
> Of course, I am exaggerating. One needs to exaggerate a bit, to drive
> home one's point. This is not so important though. More specifically
> however, the ritual to be performed to attain svarga is a kAmya
> karma. So there you go.
Right. But Agnihotra is not Kamya, or Upanayana Sanskara.
> Mani's statement that Sankara preferred "Brahminism", whatever that
> means, is what I am out to clarify. My point essentially is not to
> prove any personal agenda, but to understand properly what one means
> by "Brahminism".
I take back what I said about a personal agenda. I still think you don't
> The Vivekachudamani makes it clear that nitya and naimittika karmas
> may help to purify oneself in preparation for sannyasa, but that
> without the seed of vairAgya, these karmas will be of no avail for
> such purification. Please refer to the commentary on the
> Vivekachudamani by Chandrasekhara Bharati of Sringeri, published by
> the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan.
> >This "Brahmin orthodoxy" is your own invention. The idea that one
> >can become a sannyasi from any ashram existed long before
> >Shankaracharya. Though I admit it was then a minority view.
> The idea that one can become a sannyasi from any ASrama is as old as
> the Vedas. I myself quoted the specific Sruti in my article. However,
> the "Brahmin orthodoxy" is not my invention. Let us analyze this a
> bit further. Either there was a "Brahmin orthodoxy" at the time of
> Sankara or there was not.
> I think one can reject the possibility that
> there was not, because by definition, there always was an orthodoxy
> and it was Brahman. There always is an orthodox position in any
> religion, at any point of time. That agreed, what was this Brahman
> orthodoxy at the time of Sankara. Surely, it was represented by the
> most dominant orthodox philosophical school. Which means it was not
> the Nyaya or the Vaiseshika or the Yoga or the Tantra or the Samkhya,
> but the Poorva Meemamsa. And the attitude of this school towards the
> idea that one can become a sannyasi from any stage in life was not
> exactly supportive, shall we say? If you can prove to me that the
> Poorva Meemamsa was the not the established orthodox view before
> Sankara, I shall happily take back all that I said.
I'm saying Purva Mimamsa was one group in Brahmana Orthodoxy. Perhaps
the major one but certainly not the only one. There were Vedantins long
before Shankaracharya. While Mimamsakas emphasized Vidhis, Vedantins
emphasized the jnana kanda. The Pauraniks emphasized the arthavada
portions. All three were firmly rooted in the Vedas hance equally orthodox.
> Even today, Visishtadvaitins claim to be more orthodox than
> Advaitins, because they do not let their followers take sannyasa
> without going through grhasthASrama first.
They can claim all they want. They are wrong.
> Also, one of Mandana
> Misra's arguments against Sankara was that Sankara was a sannyasi who
> had not gone through the prescribed four stages in order. It is not
> that Mandana Misra is unaware of the Sruti that Sankara quotes in his
> defence. He is just being "orthodox" according to his own lights.
Yes his is a valid orthodox position. It is not the only orthodox position.
> Again I stick by my statements.
> Also, what makes something "orthodox" and something not so orthodox?
> The majorityness or the minorityness of the view.
That is not the meaning of the word orthodox. It means faithful to
> Roman Catholicism
> was originally not considered orthodox, at least as orthodox as the
> eastern orthodox churches. Protestantism was not orginally as
> orthodox as Roman Catholicism. Today, in the popular meaning of the
> word, all three branches of Christianity are equally orthodox - the
> Mormons and the David Koresh followers are not. Our definition of
> orthodoxy in Hinduism has similarly changed considerably, chiefly
> after Sankara's work. Before him, orthodoxy meant something else -
> namely Poorva Meemamsa.
Orthodoxy today still means karma kanda. How many people do you know who
are sannyasis? Compare the situation in India with Thailand where at
some point in their lives almost all men take a monks vows.
> >Though Shankaracharya may have said that, he in fact returned home
> >to perform his parents shraddha -- a karma. Which is alright
> >because if you examine the shastras, there are many kinds of
> >Sannyasis many of which are involved in karmas of various kinds.
> >Only the Paramhansa is completely beyond karma and it's attendant
> >duties. The Paramhansa is the best of sannyasis but by no means the
> >only kind. And the Paramhansa must shed ALL karma. (Including
> >posting to usenet :-)
> Right. But then when Sankara returned home to perform his mother's
> funeral, he was already a Paramahamsa parivrAjaka. Clearly, he did
> what he did purely because he had promised his mother that he would
> return to perform her funeral. He was being true to his word, that is
> all. If you understand the Advaitic conception of jIvanmukti, you
> will see that there is no contradiction between his being a
> paramahamsa and his carrying out his promise that he had given before
> sannyasa. This doesn't again take away from any of the points I made
> in my posting.
A true Paramahansa is not bound by anything from his former life including
promises. Shankaracharyas vairagya was deficient in this matter.
> >Certain orders of the Dashanamis only accept Brahmans. Some accept
> >only the Arya varnas. Some accept all.
> Could you clarify this? The Dasanamis are so called because they have
> ten names as suffixes. These orders are not mutually exclusive. The
> disciple of a Bharati could be a Tirtha, his disciple could be a
> Saraswathi and so on.
Could be but usually a disciple has the same surname as his guru. For
instance the Swamis of the Kanchi Matha are all ___indra Saraswati.
> What are the orders that accept only Brahmans?
I used to know all this but I've forgotten. I'll find out for you.
Aranya is one I think. And remember, the Jagadgurus are always Brahmanas.
> Arya varNa is a misnomer. You are buying the outmoded theory based on
> the "Aryan invasion" that Arya = dvijas and Sudras = Dravidians. That
> is definitely not the case. Sudras are also part of the Arya groups.
> Non-Aryan peoples are specifically classified as avarNa.
Following Sanskrit usage (as you'll see in any dictionary) I used arya
as a synonym for dwija. The racial theories are modern rubbish.
> The decision
> to grant sannyasa to a disciple is purely a matter of individual
> choice for the guru. There is no such "policy" of specific daSanAmi
> orders to my knowledge.
As I said, I'll check up on this.
> >All who consider themselves true disciples of Shankaracharya must
> >accept the Smarta attitude towards caste as he himself did.
> What proof do you have about Sankara's own attitude towards caste?
> Caste is just a reality of social structure. In Sankara's view it has
> a very marginal role if at all for moksha. The popular notion, held
> by many Smartas, that the Brahmanas are a superior people and the
> Sudras are an inferior people, is not necessarily true. As Sankara
> himself points out, one can be a Brahman, and waste one's life, or
> one can be a Sudra, and attain Brahman-knowledge. Not many Smartas
> can accept that. For most of them, Brahman birth confers superiority,
> and the Sudra is practically non-existent. What exactly is, in your
> opinion, Sankara's atitude towards caste?
The correct Smarta attitude is that caste is unimportant for moksha.
Important for everything else. (Including the manner in which one may
become a sannyasi.)
> >The mere fact there are Nastikas who don't, like Chinmayananda, who
> >consider themselves Dashanamis is neither here nor there.
> On what basis do you call Chinmayananda a "nAstika"? Definitely not
> by the traditional definition of an "Astika", because then he is one.
An Astika is one who says yes to the the following three questions. Is
there a God? Is there a soul that survives the body? Are the Vedas
authoritative? If one believes the Vedas are authoritative, one must be
prepared to follow their commands. I have personally heard Chinmayananda
make statements contrary to the teachings of Shruti and Smrti.
> Is he "nAstika" just because he is not Brahmin by birth?
No. But if he is not a Brahmana he has no right to teach Vedanta.
> This really
> takes the cake. Would you classify all Chinmayanada followers, a lot
> of them Brahmin by birth, as "nAstika" too?
Nastika is as nastika does. If you act like a nastika, you are one. If
you don't I'll respect you no matter what or who you believe in.
Personally I have low opinion of most of the ones I've met but as I
haven't met them all, I can't judge them all.
> Would you please define
> Astika and nAstika before making such a statement?
See above. One who answers no to any of these questions is a nastika.
> >Remember one Dashanami, Ananda Tirtha (a.k.a Madhva) went so far as
> >to preach dualism. Even good parents have bad children sometimes.
> Dvaitins are also Brahmanas. Quite definitely they are also
I don't think so. I'll have to see. If they are, I'll be the first to
> In any case, what does this prove here in the context of
> our discussion about caste?
You were saying the decision to take sannyas was an individual one. I
said there are rules concerning it and the mere fact that there are
people who flount the rules doesn't make them invalid.
> Orthodoxy can be different from the people who consider themselves
> orthodox. I am not making a case for hide-bound and hateful
> orthodoxy. I am saying that some Brahmins who considered themselves
> orthodox, could have easily hated Sankara and his school and in fact
This is a much more reasonable statement of your position.
> This is well exemplified in the Padmapada episode. Vidyaranya
> specifically says that Padmapada's uncle burned the treatise
> Padmapada was writing, in a fit of anger and jealousy. And this was
> towards the very end of Sankara's life, if you care to remember.
> Remnants of the old thinking surely were still active well after
> Mandana Misra's defeat.
> Sankara and Mandana Misra agreed before the debate, that whoever
> loses would become a disciple of the winner. Mandana Misra was being
> fair and graceful when he accepted defeat. Not everyone was a Mandana
> Misra though. Maybe Mandana Misra's stature as an eminent Poorva
> Meemamsaka and his eventual defeat helped substantially in redefining
> the meaning of "orthodox Brahminism". But Mandana Misra's own caustic
> comments to Sankara before they agreed to even debate, are a major
> pointer to the state of the accepted orthodoxy before Sankara's
> >However, You however
> >are committing intellectual fraud when you try to read a 19th
> >century notion like "activist social reform" into the words of a 7th
> >century author.
> Listen, you would do well to read my sentence again. I quite clearly
> said that Sankara is concerned with philosophy, NOT with "social
> reform". The fact that "social reform" is a 19th century concept is
> implicit in my statement. Mani Varadarajan compares Sankara to
> Ramanuja, and claims that at least Ramanuja tried to actively uplift
> the lower castes, while Sankara did nothing. My point is that such an
> issue is not relevant.
Then I take this statement back.
> >And Max Weber may have been a great sociologist but he was no
> >scholar of Advaita Vedanta so his views are irrelevant.
> I do not need to be a scholar of physics to say something about the
> history of Einstein, or to state that he was a Jew, or to even say
> that he came up with the theory of relativity. Max Weber's conclusion
> that Sankara was probably a "half-breed" is based on his sociological
> interpretation of Sankara. You have completely missed my point here.
> I do not agree with Weber; my quoting of his statement is only to
> indicate that Sankara's views are quite radical enough in their own
> right to be totally misconstrued.
To say that Einstein was a Jew is a documented fact. To say
Shankaracharya was a "half-breed" is an opinion and the opinions of the
uninformed are worthless.
> >While I agree that Shankaracharya taught that Moksha requires a
> >complete renunciation of karma, he was in no way opposed to ritual
> >and "casteism" for those in other Ashramas. In fact like all
> >Astikas, he considered it to be mandated for them.
> Again you come up with the word "Astika". The only correct meaning of
> "Astika" is that one should accept that the Vedas are Sruti, and one
> should accept that the Brahman (as identical to or different from
> Atman) exists. The Buddhists are nAstikas because they reject both,
> and the Jains are nAstikas, mainly because they do not accept the
> former. "Casteism", at least casteism as practised today, "by birth",
> has nothing to do with being an Astika.
I've given my definitions of Astika and Nastika above. As caste is
sanctioned by the Vedas its acceptance is vital to be astika.
> Caste, as I said in my posting, is one natural way of structuring
> society. My belief is that caste as present today, is not the same as
> the caste that developed in Vedic times.
Your belief. Reality is different.
> The Upanishadic story of
> Satyakama, son of Jabala, proves that birth was not a criterion for
The story is an arthavada which proves nothing. On the contrary there
are passages in the Vedas which explicitly base caste on birth.
> The recounting of the chandala episode in the Sankara-vijaya
> is not to make a point about casteism or about social reform, but to
> emphasize that in Sankara's eyes, caste was irrelevant to the goal of
> Yes, Sankara agrees with the Poorva Meemamsaka that ritual is
> mandated for the grhastha. But he also recommends sannyasa for the
> grhastha the moment he gets vairAgya. He says that the Sudra can also
> get liberation. These statements of his are sufficient to prove that
> Sankara is not "casteist", that he had no real preference for the
> "Brahminism" of his day, and that one cannot accuse Sankara
If Shankaracharya really didn't care and the orthodox Brahmanas were
giving him so much grief, he could have become a Buddhist or started his
own sect. The very fact that he spends so much time trying to prove his
philosophy is in keeping with the Vedas proves were his sympathies lie.
> > >I respectfully urge you to drop your personal agenda and read
> >Shankaracharyas words again, this time with an unprejudiced eye, in
> >the light of our Sanatana tradition.
> Thank you. I don't think I have a personal agenda here, Marxist or
> casteist or otherwise, except a philosophical discussion on Advaita.
> I also don't think I have read Sankara with a prejudiced eye. Please
> read (if you can get hold of them) the discussions that went on
> between me and Mani Varadarajan regarding Advaita before this
> particular posting, and all pieces will fall in place.
> >-- Jaldhar
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