You are here: Sri Vaishnava Home Page : Bhakti List : Archives : January 2000

Re:Topic for Discussion

From: Venkat Nagarajan (NAGARAVE_at_fin.gov.on.ca)
Date: Fri Jan 07 2000 - 15:04:57 PST

Dear Bhagavatas/Sri. Sampath,

The item attached below should explicate what I mean by the unique
optimal path specified by the dharma shastras.  In this instance I am
about to quote an Advaitic Yogi.  I do this mainly because he has dealt
with the dharma shastras, which are common to both (Advaita and
VisistAdvaita), so beautifully in English.

The dharma (prescribed codes of conduct) of a brahmana is 
clear and is immutable.   Performing a few of the prescribed duties (i.e,
not executing the full range but a small subset) is preferable to none, but
it is not optimal (I am assuming here that individuals desire misery
minimization in the karmic life in addition to mukti.)   

1. Do bhagavatas feel misery minimization is desirable (i.e., can it
produce greater utility than the current life style)? 
2. Assuming it is desirable, is it feasible?
3. If it is not feasible, is it the individuals defect or are the shastras
defective (i.e., they are no longer relevant)?
4.  If It is the individuals defect, is it not a question of lack of courage or
desire to execute as opposed to inability to execute? 

-I hope bhagavatas will freely answer these questions (I just want to get
an idea of how others view this.)

Source Advaitic Yogi:  

"The only remedy for all the ills of the worlds, all its troubles is the return
of all Brahmins to the Vedic dharma. "

"The Lord himself has declared in the Gita that it is better to die abiding by
one's dharma that prosper through another man's dharma ("nidhanam
sreyah"). Brahmins who had seen no reason to change their life-style
during the long Muslim period of our history changed it during British rule.
Why?"

"Brahmins aquiring the habit of accumulating money is a recent
phenomenon. It is of course quite undesirable. The Brahmin relinquished
the duties of his birth-the study of the Vedas and performance of the
rites laid down in the Vedic tradition. He left his birthplace, the village, for
the town. He cropped his hair and started dressing in European style.
Giving up the Vedas, he took to the Mundane learning of the West. He fell
to the lure of jobs offered by his white master and aped him in dress,
manners and attitudes. He threw to the winds the noble dharma he had
inherited from the Vedic seers through his forefathers and abandoned all
for a mess of pottage. He was drawn to everything Western, science,
life-style, entertainment. "

"For thousands of years the Brahmin had been engaged in Atmic pursuit
and intellectual work. In the beginning all his mental faculties were
employed for the welfare of society and not in the least for his own
selfish advancement. Because of this very spirit of self-sacrifice, his
intelligence became sharp like a razor constantly kept honed. Now the
welfare of society is no longer the goal of his efforts and his intelligence
has naturally dimmed due to this selfishness and interest in things
worldly. He had been blessed with a bright intellect and he had the grace
of the Lord to carry out the duties of his birth. Now, after forsaking his
dharma, it is natural that his intellectual keenness should become blunted.
Due to sheer momentum the bicycle keeps going some distance even
after you stop pedalling. Similarly, though the Brahmin seeks knowledge
of mundane subjects instead of inner light, he retains yet a little
intellectual brightness as a result of the "pedalling" done by his
forefathers. It is because of this that he has been able to achieve
remarkable progress in Western learning also. "

"The Brahmin spoiled himself and spoiled others. By abandoning his
dharma he became a bad example to others. as a matter of fact, even by
strictly adhering to his dharma the Brahmin in not entitled to feel superior
to others. He must always remain humble in the belief that "everyone
performs a function in society; I perform mine". If at all others respected
him in the past and accorded him a high place in the society it was in
consideration of his selfless work, his life of austerity a, discipline and
purity. Now he had descended too such depths as to merit their most
abrasive criticism." 

"The Brahmin, if he is to be true to his dharma, has to spend all his time in
learning and chanting the Vedas, in performance sacrifices, in
preserving the sastras, etc. What will he do for a living? If he goes in
search of money or material he will not be able to attend to his lifetime
mission-and this mission is not accomplished on a part-time basis. And if
he takes up some other work for his livelihood, he is likely to became lax
in the pursuit of his dharma. It would be like taking medicine without the
necessary diet regimen: the benign power gained by the Brahmin from
his Vedic learning will be reduced and there will be a corresponding
diminution in the good accruing to mankind from his work. This is one
reason why Brahmin alone are permitted by the sastras to beg for their
living. In the past they received help form the kings_ grants of lands, for
instance-in consideration of the fact that the dharma practised by them
benefited all people. But the sastras also have it that the Brahmins must
not accept more charity than what is needed for their bare sustenance.
If they received anything in excess, they would be tempted to seek
sensual pleasures and thereby an impediment would be placed to their
inner advancement. There is also the danger of their becoming
submissive to the donor and of their twisting the sastras to the latter's 
liking. It was with a full awareness of these dangers that in the old days
the Brahmins practised their dharma under the patronage on the 
rajas(accepting charity to the minimum and not subjecting themselves to
any influence detrimental to their idharma). "

"Whether or not the present Hindu society changes and whether or not it
can be changed, it is essential to have a class of people whose very
life-breath is Vedic learning. I do not speak thus because I am worried
about the existence of a caste called Brahmins. Nothing is to be gained if
there is such a caste and it serves only its own selfish interests. If a
caste called Brahmins must exist, it must be for the good of mankind. The
purpose of the Vedas, the purpose of the sound of the Vedas, is the
well-being of the world. That is the reason why I feel that, hereafter at
leaset, there ought not to be even a single Brahmin who does not chant
the Vedas. "

ramanuja dasan,
Venkat