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Re: Disagreement Vs. Apachara

From: Sridhar Srinivasan (
Date: Sat Jan 18 1997 - 22:00:03 PST

Sri Dileepan writes:
>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.

Let me clarify, in no uncertain terms, that certain views expressed by me
were critical of views expressed by Mr. Dileepan or others visavis the
discussion on VarNashrama Dharma.  However, construal of a difference of
opinion as personal criticism seems to overlook a subtle but a clear
distinction: Mr. Dileepan's views, in this instance, are the ones I differ
with; not Sri Dileepan the person/Bhagavatha. I have the utmost respect for
him and other elders in this forum for their erudition and contributions;
however, I do believe that we should strive to allow each other the freedom
to express differing view points/interpretations(and to be taken as nothing
devoid of the pressure of having to put statuotory disclaimers (which are
conveniently ignored) or having to deal with, as a consequence, every
significant, self-anointed elder, jumping on the dissenting person as an
immature idiot (both by private mail and in public) and further, to be told
that this is not Emberumaanaar's way.  Does it not seem trivial that in
sorting out our differences of opinions and ego displays(after all,
attachment to one's veiws does constitute just that), we have to also invoke
Sri Emberumaanaar's ways?

Sri Dileepan writes
>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.

I would respectfully disagree about this.  What is varnasrama dharma per
prasthana thrayi?  Is it an evolutionary classifiction of people based on
their guNas and actions (a murderer or a thief is a less desirable
acquaintance than 
an honest intellectual) or is it a system of racist separation designed to
garner power in the hands of a few?  Manu smrithi clearly represents the
latter position.  Howerver, our Lord Krishna is very clear about his
utterances on this issue and they correspond, in my view, with the former.
Let us examine a few stanzas from BG:

4-13:  ChAthurvarNyam mayA srishTam guNA karma Vibhagayoho

Four varNas have been created by me on the basis of guNA (mental
temperament/attribute) and Karma (actions).  Patanjali's yoga sutras
attribute different colors to different temperaments, e.g., sattwa is
considered white, rajas is red and tamas is black.  Isn't Man essentially
the thoughts that he entertains?  The way this shloka reads is, in a manner
not dissimilar to how we socially organize our lives based on our attributes
and functions, so can Men be classified broadly into groups based on mental
atributes and corresponding actions.  Is it our Lord's fault if Man in his
greed for power and concomitant material benefits, conveniently used the
first half (I created the four varNas) to seek Godly sanction to an
essentially human folly.  Other shlokas that re-inforce the guNa and karma
based classification:

7-16: Chathurvidha bhajante mAm janaaha sukruthinorjunA
      artho jignyasurartharthi gnyAni cha bharatharshabha
9-32:  mAm hi pArtha vyapAsrithya yE pi syuhu pApayOnayaha
       sthriyo vyshyAha thatHa shudraaha thepi yanthi paraam gathim
 -33:  kimpunarbrAhmaNAha puNyA bhakthAha rAjarshayahA thatHa

Sri KrishNa devotes three entire chapters to discuss the characteristics and
actions of the evolved bhaktha and gnyani as opposed to the MooDhaas who do
not realize that He alone is the UpAya and UpEya; (avajananthi maam muDhaaha
mAnusheem thanumAshritham).  Further on in 9-12, he further expands on these
deluded jeevaathmas who are "MogHAshAha, mogHagnyAnAha, vichethasaha
mOhineem, rAkshaseem, aasureem prakrithimAshrithaaha".

He avers again and again about the role attributes of those who have natures
where thamas dominates.  So when he uses the term Shudra in 9-32, it is not
(as is conveniently interpreted) the individual of inferior birth.  If so,
why would he describe the essential nature of humanity in nine adhyAyAs and
how these natures contribute to different states of evolution; would it not
be rather easier to just talk about birth-based varNas?  If there is one
aspect that is made clear by Lord KrishNa, it is the notin of spiritual
evolution as a basis for Moksha.  The discussion here is not about physical
attributes, rather about mental attitudes.  The feminine component (one with
deep material attachments), Shudras (those driven by tamasic tendencies,
clearly there is no discussion of genealogy here) and those who are seeking
the material profit motive even at the psychological level (Vysyas).

When Sri Dileepan says there is  shastric injunction (in the
Prasthanathrayi) to support birth-based varNAshrama Dharma, I would like him
to produce the relevant stanzas, especially from the Bhagavad Geetha that
support this position.  To say (and this is CARELESS) "all our acharyas
irrespective of kalai have supported (manu smrithi based} varNashrama
dharma", I think, is an untenable position.  If justification of varNashrama
dharma on the basis of manu smrithi is morally repugnant (it is to me), I
believe Sri Dileepan is attributing similar notions to people whose views
(in this case clearly) he is not aware of.  Sri PiLLailokacharyar (to name
one thenkalai acharya who minces no words when he talks of
Naicchyanusandhaanam visavis the Supreme Lord) says thus:

manassukku theemaiyAvadu swaguNathaiyum bhagavat bhAgavatha doshathaiyu
dOsham ninaiyAdozhigiradhu guNambOle uNDAyiRukkavonnu
doshamuNDenRu ninaikkil adhu paradosham anRu swadosham

To think of oneself in superior terms is a dosham.  Further, to find fault
or even non-qualifying states in others is swa-dOsham. When time ought to be
spent in ridding one of one's own state of nescience (and the Acharya feels
there is not enough time in a lifetime to achieve this), it is hardly
meaningful to indulge in wondering about the states of evolution (or lack of
them) for others.

Emberumaanaar made eighteen arduous trips to learn thirumanthraartham (given
to him as a rahasyam), then stood on the mountain top and gave it to anyone
who was willing to listen.  When asked by thirukkachi nambigal as to whether
he was aware of what he was doing, his reply was" If all these folks will
reach SrimannarayaNa by knowing this, I would gladly do it.  I will beget
narakam for disobeying injunctions of my guru (and not because he revealed
the rahasyartham) but so be it if all these people would attain salvation".
Now are these the actions of a person who supported manu-smrithi based
notions of varNashrama dharma?  To reveal something sacred and brahminical
to all and sundry?  If actions speak louder than words, then Emberumaanaar's
life is replete with instances that clearly show that his desire for
bringing people of all varNAs (clearly a notion repudiatory of varNashrama
Dharma) to the feet of SrimannArAyaNA.

If one examines the nature of the Universe per our Acharyas, there are the
24 AChith prakaraNams (material notions or objects), the chith prakaraNam
(jeevathma thathvam) and SrimannArAyaNa.  How can one justify discriminating
between jeevathmas on the basis of birth (that their proximity to salvation
is a function of their attributes and actions is not a notion that requires
much explanation) in this framework?

I would like to state that, in my view, retaining yagnyopaveetham or doing
sandhya vandanam does not constitute objectionable varNashrama dharma.  It
is when we judge people without awareness of their guNas and Karma (as Sri
Mani pointed out with respect to the thirumagisai alwars-brahmins incident)
that we fall prey to the human tendency (Vasana) to hold oneself in a
relatively superior position.  To believe that our Acharyas, with their
expansion of vision, catholicity of action and the immense audaryam towards
all of creation (do they not all belong to the supreme lord?) would
subscribe to similar views, I feel, is inconsistent with the evidence out there.

I thank the bhagavathas in this group (and Sri Mani in particular) for this
opportunity to share my views.  Nothing said here has any personal intent;
these are merely view points that are at some points different from those of
Sri Dileepan. I am learning by these exchanges and I hope so will others.

Aazhwaar Emberumaanaar Jeeyar ThiruvadigaLe SharaNam