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Thenkalai/Vadakalai

From: Venkat V. Rao (vrao_at_bga.com)
Date: Mon Oct 10 1994 - 10:11:04 PDT

Thengalai/Vadagalai: about some historical settings related
                     to the concepts as heard from elders.
Part 3, contd.

Previously I had been designating some spiritual groups as the 'bebes'
and some others as the 'dodos'. Let me pick up the subject at that
point.

>From the days of the Ramayana to the days of the Mahabharata, a Yuga
change happened. With it, followed changes in social structure,
social values and social standards. The pristine simplicity of the Ramayana
period gave rise to the intransigent intrigues of the Mahabharata epoch.
Such a show of change in the Ithihasas was intended to imply something
natural with the changing times. And so with all human activities in
general even though we usually resist to accept the idea as something
inevitable, without being fatalistic. The Acharyas prescribed the efforts
needed to sail aganist this current with equanimity.

Essentially, the change can be characterized as the 'be'-emphasized activity
of the Dwapara Yuga transforming itself into the 'do'-emphasized activity of
the Kali Yuga. The former is ego-free whereas the latter is ego-loaded by
their very nature. And within the Yuga itself, this change seems to continue
monotonically. Today, we are far more 'dodo's than 'bebe's than we were ever
before. And one of the contemporary problems is this in itself. I hear
a lot from young people: 'I just do not get the time to be myself'. With my
life of seventy six years, I have been witnessing this change creeping on me
unmistakably but insiduously. Even while many may think that I should now have
a lot more of free time to be myself, the natural laws seem to intervene
to make things difficult even to shift slightly the emphasis from the 'dodo'
state to the 'bebe' state.

Differently stated, whereas the Ramayana talks highly of the righteousness
of 'to be' at all stages, the central theme of the Mahabharata was righteous
action, the 'to do'. The Bhagavat Gita overplays Karma in relation to Jnana
or for that matter, any other aspect of life taken singly. I am highlighting
this rather elaborately as a pointer to the wisdom of Ramanujacharya in
capturing this social response to nature as the object for spiritual reform.

Buddhism went at it in a round-about way without a balance between the
'to be' and 'to do' and the religion had to walk out of India. The Vedic
entity that forced this was Sankaracharya's Advaita. Most of his short
life-time was dedicated to counter the Nagarjuna's (Buddhist) brand of 'to
be' with the Advaithic brand of 'to be' proped up with the concept of
Maya, a non-vedic principle.  'Neti', 'Neti' implying 'Tat Asat', 'Tat Asat'
as the proof of Maya was used to support 'Tat Sat', 'Tat Sat'. This way of
putting things may be challenged as too simplistic by the Advaithins.
However it be, there is an element of the Epimenides paradox which, in
the final analysis, cannot be denied. Sankaracharya himself asserts this
when he said in his Bhashya on the Vedantha Sutra (II.iii.7),

            Ya eva hi niraakartaa tadeva tasya svaruupam:
              (the very denial affirms the denied.)

The circular logic and the implied self-reference behind this assertion
signify a great deal to the logicians of modern cognitive-science and
classical epistemologists.

If only Sankaracharya had a substancial fraction of the longivity of
life the later Acharyas had, the emotion-free Advaita assertions could have
been re-written by Sankaracharya himself. The introduction of the
emotional elements into his latter statements and Granthas and his journey
from the North to Kaladi specifically to perform his late mother's rites,
in spite of his being a Sanyasi are evidences to this belief. The popular
song 'Bhaja Govindam.. Bhaja Govindam... more than confirms it.

Anyway it be, the force behind the Sankaracharya-way of 'to be'  was losing
ground together with the 'irrelevance' of 'to do', this Acharya's followers
were trying to establish. Bhagavatha and the emotion-based and the
social-based Vaishnavism was converting the ardent followers of 'bebes'
to the 'dodos' camp. More of this was evident as centuries passed by

                          To be continued...   venkat v.rao,
                          Oct.10, 1994