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Re: Disagreement vs. Apachara

From: Parthasarati Dileepan (
Date: Fri Jan 17 1997 - 10:17:50 PST

First, the ignorant someone referred below is me.  (Sri Sridhar: it is
quite okay to name me, others have used worse epithets; I won't accuse you
of anything let alone bhagavatha apachaaram :-)) 

At 11:58 PM 1/16/97 -0600, Sridhar Srinivasan wrote:
>  I am quite surprised when people pull in our Acharyas
>to support often rationally and philosophically untenable positions.
>Instances from Sri Emberumaanaar's life abound about his karuNa and open
>mindedness in sharing his insights with people from different facets of
>life.  I am sure most in this forum are familiar with his efforts in
>including a large number of Sri VaishNavaas from different walks (and
>varNAshramAs) of life into the fold of bhakti and prapatti.  The life of
>Pillai UrangAvilli dasan is another good example of the inherent kindness
>and liberal attitudes that our beloved Emberumaanaar practiced.  Given this
>background, it pains one's sentiments to see expressions that seek to
>support our ignorance and insular views with references of tacit approval
>from our poorvacharyars.

To my knowledge no one has claimed that the way of bhakthi/prapatti is
closed to all except brahmins.  No one has claimed that respect is due only
to brahmins.  No one has stated that non-brahmins must be kept out of Sri
Vaishnavam.  Then, there is no question of "seeking support for our
ignorance and insular views with references of tacit approval from our

If Sri. Sridhar Srinivasan is referring to varNashrama dharma when he says,
"rationally and philosophically untenable positions" then I must say there
is not tacit, but open support for it among the writings of not just our
poorvacharyaas such as Sri Ramanuja, but our Lord Sri Krishna Himself.  The
Sri Vaishnava interpretation of Sri BG does not do away with birth as a
determining factor for varNa.  All our Acharyas irrespective of kalai have
supported varNaashrama dharma.  To my knowledge even the Jeeyars and other
sanyaasees of Sri Vaishnava persuasion retain their yagyopaveedham and do
not give up on varNa based duties.  Have they misunderstood the examples
from Sri Ramanuja's life story and his writings which include staunch
defense of Manu smrithi?  I think not.

Whenever varNa is mentioned an assumption of ill treatment of
untouchables/sudhras is immediately made.  Let me say, just in case, I am
not denying or condoning such ill treatment.  However, such ill-treatment
is a result of ignorance and greed and the perpetrators come from all walks
of life and varNaas, even the "untouchables".  Brahmins following the
angaas of varNa dharma is the least of the problems the dalits face.

If Sri Sridhar Srinivasan does not mean varNaashrama dharma when he says
"ignorance and insular views", then he needs to elaborate further and also
relate it to what what has been written by me and others in this forum.
Any indictment must be backed up with at least prima face evidence.

>Someone yesterday even went so far as to indicate that there are
>objectionable parts to the Prasthanatrayi in the context of VarNAshrama
>Dharma.  Such utterances, I feel, represent the type of superficial
>carelessness our philosophical treatises ought not to be treated with. No
>person intimately familiar with the exalted nature of rational thought and
>open minded inquiry in these wonderful storehouses of knowledge would make
>such statements.

I readily agree that my knowledge is quite superficial.  But carelessness,
I am not guilty of, at least in this instance.  If you read my comments
carefully you will realize that they were directed at those who may seek
radical changes in our tradition.  I am sure most in this group are aware
that different people have interpreted the prasthana thraiya differently.
Those who find varNashrama dharma repugnant have many objectionable parts
in the prasthana thraiya.  There was a long discussion in
Soc.Religion.Vaishnava about Sri Vaishnava interpretation of a verse in
Srimad BG that women and sudhras are sinful by birth.   Therefore, those
wanting to follow Sri Vaishnavam and at the same time modify or throw out
varNaashrama dharma have no other option but to purge any statement
relating to varNa/sudhras in our scriptures and also go against some of the
teachings of our poorvaacharyas.  All I am saying is this is the
predicament the seekers of radical change face.

Observance to VarNaashrama dharma views, which by the way is kalai
independent, is something we have to deal with within the leadership of our
Acharyaas.  I am ignorant in many ways, but there is one thing I am not
ignorant of, i.e. Sri Ramanuja's advice that we must follow our Acharyas.
Ask your acharya what he thinks about doing away with varNashrama dharma.

Please do not misunderstand me.  I am not against change per se.  But when
you advocate change as a Sri Vaishnava and invoke Sri Ramanuja's life,
then, to be consistent, you have to do it in a way that does not flout one
of the foremost of Sri Ramanuja's teaching, respect to bhaagavathas and
acharyaas.  I think all the points that were made could have been made
within the norms of Sri Vaishnava behavior.  I cannot accept that the only
way to engage in open minded enquiry is to roundly criticize others of
bigotry and worse.

Thanks, Dileepan