Vedanta Discussions (Re:Superstitions)
This is in response to the discussions that I have been following in this
It is said that discussions are of four types: Samvada, Vada, Jalpa and
Samvada is the discussion between the teacher and the taught. All our
scriptures are written in the form of samvada. Before the teaching starts,
the teacher and the taught invoke the grace of the Lord, .Om
Sahanavavatu... Mavidvishavahai, OM Santi....etc. to make sure there is no
hatred between the two so that teaching can takes place. The student is
allowed to question, and the questioning is not intended to test the
teacher but to clarify students understanding (or misunderstanding). They
are no commandments that "that thou shall do this or that" but only
declarations of what is required to reach the highest goal. The Bhagawad
Geeta, as it says, is a Samvada, a dialogue between Lord Krishna and
Vada is the discussion between any two (generally among equals) to
establish the truth. As the English phrase "Let us sit down and discuss",
implies the purpose is to resolve the conflict and to establish what is the
truth. Both parties are open minded, even though they are convinced that
they are right, they are ready to listen and to accept the opponents
version if they are convinced that it is right based on the whatever the
pramana that they use as the authority. The famous dialogue that supposed
to have lasted for many days between Sankaracharya and Mandana Misra is a
typical example. The level of honesty of the discussion was exemplified
by the fact that Mandana Misra's wife Umabharati who was believed to be the
embodiment of goddess of Knowledge, Saraswati, was chosen as the Judge for
the Vada. In the end she declares that her husband lost the contest.
After 18 or so days of discussions, Mandana Misra was convinced to the
validity of Sankaracharya's interpretation of the scriptures that he became
his disciple. He was the well know Sureswaracharya who became the head of
one of the four Mutts. Learning takes place at the end of even vada since
truth is established to the satisfaction of both opponents.
Jalpa is the discussion between the two who are also convinced that each
one is right and the opponent is wrong. Unlike in vada, the purpose is
not to discover or establish the truth, but only to convert the other guy.
The outcome of this whole jalpa is lot of noise. Even if it appears that
one has lost an argument, he will not accept it, instead he goes back to
get some more materials or concocts some other arguments only to establish
he is right and other is wrong. Some of the scholarly discussions in the
news group are of this type. But even in Jalpa, the discussions are still
objective, each is strongly convinced (some times bordering to beliefs)
that he is right and the other is wrong.
Jalpa arises in vedanta because of (1) the apparent contradictions (
please note the word apparent) in the scriptures and (2) flexibility of
Sanskrit to split the words in a way that suites the basis of the
argumentation (because the same word in sanskrit can be construed using
several Dhatus or roots) (3) multiple meanings for several important words
and the interpreter's preference to choose a particular meaning over the
other and (4) contextual meaning that changes with phrase, sentence and the
topic. Typical example is the word Dharma - Any good sanskrit dictionary
will give at least 3 to 4 pages of meaning for this two syllable word.
Confusion for example could arise since the word Atama has been interpreted
to denote Jeeva and sometimes the Brahman.
Just to say that Prabhupada's or any one else's is "As it is" and the rest
are all interpretations or misinterpretations only borders to fanaticism
and does not establish a fact. Everyone can make the same statement about
their interpretation. That obviously cannot be a basis for argument. I
will come back to this topic of what then is the pramana or basis for
Jalpa may not be of use to the two who are arguing, in terms of their
learning. But the bystanders who are carefully following the two arguments
can get lot of benefit. It helps to establish their own convictions
provided the arguments are scholarly.
The fourth and the lost (recognized) type of discussion is Vitanda. The
sole purpose is only to defeat the opponent. In contrast to Jalpa, neither
one may have any conviction other than to prove that Mr. X is wrong, why
because he is Mr. X and not Mr. Y. The same statement from Mr. Y would be
right. This type of arguments have been used as valid means to establish
that the opponent is not qualified to discuss the subtleties of the logic.
There is no leaning experience out this kind of arguments even to the
bystanders other than the learning that either or both of them are not
worth listening to!
Name calling (those that disagree with their established notions are idiots
and rascals and the profanity ) that I have seen during the past couple of
weeks in this news net, unfortunately does not fall in any one of these
four established discussion types, because our ancestors never imagined
that our culture will degrade to that.
Let us work together and elevate the quality of these discussions.
I would like to suggest few topics for discussions. I would like everyone
to discuss as thoroughly as possible, presenting his arguments and
presenting where the other arguments are illogical, not just because some
"as it is" book says so. Normally for Vedanta (the word implies the end
of the Vedas which is the jyanakanda part or the Upanishads) discussion for
Hindus the sabda pramana involves the Prastanatraya (prastana means the
authority - the three authoritative texts ), Vedas, Bhagawad Geeta and
Brahamasutras. Vedas are considered as the highest Pramanas. Discussion
is not about the Acharyas or any individuals who interpreted what etc. We
are more interested in the interpretations and their logic and their
validity. It does not matter a bit for us whether Sri Sankaracharya, Sri
Ramanuja or Sri Madwa or Sri Prabhupada or other umpteen Acharyas were
right or wrong. It does not help us a bit. We want to grow and discover
the truth. Keep the discussion as logical as possible and provide the
correct and self consistent explanation. You can criticize the other's
interpretations on logical grounds to show the fallacy of the logic, but
be open that your interpretation of other's interpretation itself could be
Here are some fundamental topics thatĘI would like the discussion to start.
Others can add to the list.
Who am I? What constitutes the jeeva? ( Is there one jeeva or many) Or
Atama and Jeeva the same or have diferent connotations. Is there a creator?
- who or what is He? Why did he create? - for what or what is the
purpose? Where is He now and what is his nature. Even if He chose to
create Why me? Why is He having a sport or Leela at my expense? If there
is no creation How did I get into this mess? What is Avidya and what is
Maya that we hear so much about? What is Moksha or nature of Moksha? What
constitutes Moksha? How does this Moksha differ from each of the schools of
thought and why? What are the three major schools agree apon? What I am
liberating myself from? Servent generaly imply that you are at somebody's
beg and call? How can I convince myself I am liberated when I become an
eternal servant. If Moksha is something I am going to gain what is the
guarantee or logic that I am notĘgoing fall into this mess again? If He is
all powerful and compassionate, why does He not just close the shop and
give salvation to everyone and end the problem. What is the right means
for Moksha? - How do I know I am on the right path? What are the yogoes.
Are they the valid means and why? Which one is better for me and why?
If you have through knowledge of the scriptures, discuss each topic and
bring out the pros and cons of each argument. Donot underestimate the
intelligence of the readers. Most of us how are able to use the internet
have analytical minds. If you have a scientific mind bring out the logic
that can convince the intellects. If not, like an honest scientist,
provide where the logic ends and faith begins. I recognize that some of
the questions are framed in the form that betrys my bias, but take the
spirit of each question leaving the wording and the language.
Using the scriptural texts that provide as Pramanas, discuss logically why
your interpretation is right and not the others. Obviously the others will
also have a go with it. But the discussion should be directed to the topic
and not to the individuals.
But in the end at least we the reader are better informed and we can have
better appreciation of our scriptures and everyone can select what appeals
to each one of us for whatever the reason. If you want to convert me to
your school of thinking convince me that your logic is right and others are
wrong. Don't say that somebody says so or somebook says so.
I would be happy if scholarly people like Main and Vidya and any one who is
convinced about the philosophy and knows about it enough to participate to
lead the discussion. At the end of each topic of discussion, be available
to receive criticisms, comments or even questions for further
Again as the final note the discussion should be on the topics and not on
individuals. Keep the subjective statements to a minimum and don't make
them as declarations. Be honest to yourself. Let us learn for each other.
And no more name calling. That reflects our own degradation.
He who knows not and knows not that he knows not is ignorent - leave him.
He who knows not and knows that he knows not is simple - teach him
He who knows and knows not that he knows is asleep - wake him.
He who knows and knows that he knows is wise- listen to him.
My pranams to everyone.
Sadananda (I was surprised to learn there is another one in the net who is
also always happy!)