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From: Ranganathan, Sriram (sriram.ranganathan_at_funb.com)
Date: Thu Aug 05 1999 - 15:02:42 PDT

First Union Capital Markets Corp.

Dear 'C' :

Based on my limited knowledge, I would like to clarify a few points you have
raised.

<<<<<I'm dismayed the Hindu religion might not agree with itself on
fundamental issues like whether God (by any other name) is capable of
granting moksha.  >>>>>>>>>>

First of all, do not  confuse the terms "Hinduism" or "Hindu Religion"  with
Sri Vaishnavam / Visistadvaita philosophy. Those are generically and to a
certain extent loosely coined terminology,  ideally suited for people to
(mis) understand the  cultural and religious practices followed in India
(and now around the world ), encompassing a myriad of beliefs. On a broader
scale each of the so-called six main philosophies that originated in India,
is as distinct as they are though they derive copiously from Vedas, and a
few common practices among them do not make them the same. Thus, it is
indeed a fundamentally wrong notion, if you expect them to agree.

Nonetheless, I wouldn't suggest you to think that Visistadvaitam is "one
among a thousand". Basically, it is the essence of what is prescribed in the
Vedas, though the term  itself came to widespread usage recently, compared
to the hoariness of the Vedic civilization. As far as Visistadvaitam is
concerned, there is no doubt as to who is capable of granting the Moksha. It
is very unequivocal about all the fundamental issues that one can think of
and come up with. The confusion surfaces when one compares it with other
philosophies and tries to map it on an issue by issue basis. This is akin to
comparing the whole gamut of space with planets, for you cannot find the
great ideals of Sri Visistadvaitam anywhere else. Therein goes your dismay,
as regards the so called disagreement on fundamental issues.  

<<<<<<<<<<<Didn't the Saivites, Sankara, etc. all read the same Vedas too?
How, I wonder, did all those brilliant pious souls miss something as
important as this? >>>>>>>>>>

Yes, many brilliant and pious personalities have read the Vedas, and many
continue to do so. Now what has it got to do when it is said  only a few got
it right, such that their explanation makes sense ? 

Is it not true that billions read Science, Mathematics and Economics, but
only a few understand and think as did Albert Einstein, Ramanuja and Keynes
? Now, in relation to the Theory of Relativity or Laws of Motion, if I ask
"How come he alone got it right when all others did not ?" , the  answer, in
addition to the very facts and proofs, could well be  "Because, he is the
best ! ". Then I have no choice but to accept it (or disprove). 

<<<<<<<<<<If the Vedic tradition is so ambiguous it leads to such entirely
different conclusions (ie. Siva is or isn't equal to Visnu) then what kind
of infallible guide can it be to me? >>>>>>>>>>

On first contact, everything in this world is ambiguous. Tell me which is
not and I will show you how it is. Vedas are the fountainhead of knowledge.
No wonder they are difficult to understand and practice. That is precisely
why only a handful can explain the real truth, and the rest stop short. If
crossing the seas and conquering the space are any easier now, they are
because many people spent their lifetime, and  strove to unravel the truth
and science behind it. But still we have to do our part to learn what was
put forth by them,  if we want to get any closer. For a simple traveler all
that he/she needs to do is to buy a ticket, board, buckle-up and rest
assured(?!) that he or she will get to the destination. But, out of
curiosity if you want to know how the plane stays air-borne then you need to
learn the science behind  drag, thrust, weight and lift. What this means is,
complexity should not make one question the validity. To an extent, the
greatest things in life are simple and elegant, if only we approach it that
way. That is certainly applicable to Vedas too. 

Please note that I am not arrogantly trying to defend my faith or embarking
on a sales pitch, but merely stating what it takes to get there. I do
understand that your questions are nothing but a beginner's sincere queries.
Of course, I am no scholar, but just someone who was asking similar
questions, only a few years back.

 As I understand it,  Vedas encourage a sincere, devoted, honest person
willing to learn and practice 'the truths' in complete faith, as prescribed,
by asking  (the right) questions. It is up to the seeker to pursue the
knowledge, and take up the challenge and comprehend the subtleties. It can
be all that it could be.


Best wishes,
Sriram Ranganathan