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RE: Fact or fiction?

From: Rajagapalan, Murli (
Date: Mon Jan 19 1998 - 08:39:32 PST

Dear Bhagawatas,

Regarding the topic of whether our ithihasas and purANas are fact or 
fiction, these are my $0.02 worth.

I will get to the point shortly, but just a prelude ... I do not think 
that I as a human who is capable of thinking, acting, and making 
judgments, need to accept anything at face value, just because it is 
"told by the acharyas."   Now, before I am summoned to the firing 
squad, please read on to make a judgment.  If you still find it 
objectionable, I apologize in advance.

I am a firm believer that our acharya-, and rshi- paramparas have done 
yeoman service to mankind by interpreting the esoteric in the sruthis, 
the fantastic in the puraNas, and the cryptic in the VedAnta SUtras. 
 However, I as a mortal human can understand but only a few of these 
"truths."  So, it is my duty (I consider) to go ahead and explore 
(with the help of an acharya) the inner hidden meanings in all of our 
scriptures.  I DO NOT think that merely disagreeing with an acharya 
and NOT accepting His words per say, can be construed as an act of 
disobedience committed by a heretic.  I think, all this indicates is 
that I am eager to learn the TRUTH.  Disagreeing with the acharya (in 
a humble manner) only helps strengthen our conviction in a particular 
aspect of the sastras, because the acharya will find a different way 
of explaining the same thing.  No doubt, acharyas do their best of 
explaining things.  But there are some issues that we cannot 
comprehend in a day or a month or even years of association with the 
acharya.  I think patience, introspection, and more importantly, 
truthful seeking is the only way we can understand the sastras.  Have 
we not heard of how Ramanuja himself begged to disagree with his guru 
Yadava Prakasa, and later how Kuresa differed from Ramanuja's view 
while the former was writing the thesis of the Sri Bhashya as 
propounded by the latter?  Acharya-bhakti should flow naturally rather 
than be forced.

Anyway, let me get to my point on what steps we might take to address 
the issue of the validity and role of our ithihasas and puraNas.  This 
might effect our own perception of the truth, which we would like to 
pass on to our younger generation.

*	For kids from the ages approximately from 3 to 10, stories from the 
ithihasas and the puraNas are fantastic, and since kids are dreamers 
(sorry for the blanket statement, there may be exceptions), these 
stories are appealing.  So, I think, a kid can be told these stories 
to bring out the morals and also in identifying some role models 
within our scriptures that kids can grow up to revere (and may be 
emulate).  Importantly, I think a "life perspective" has to be set in 
the child's mind in subtle ways indicating that a personal godhead is 
what has to be attained.  This may be a little difficult to do without 
pouraNic stories.  Kids do not receive philosophical truths as well as 
short snippets of stories that involve life-like characters that they 
can fantasize about.
*	However, things are different for a kid (now an adolescent) from the 
ages of 11 to 19.  Kids at this age want to think rationally.  Gone 
are those days when dad or mom told fantastic stories and they 
absorbed and accepted every word of it without a question.  Also, 
there may be some kids who have not gone through this "fantasy" phase 
at all.  Life has changed ... peer forces are stronger than parental 
forces, and kids need a more rational rendering of the truth.  I 
think, this is where the "life perspective" has to be told to kids is 
less subtler terms.  I think elders at this stage need to explain 
philosophical truths like the concept of the atma, prakrti, etc, etc. 
in acceptable doses.  Do not expect the kids to digest that right 
away.  However, I strongly believe that you as an elder cannot get 
anywhere with your or other kids without setting this "life 
perspective. "  It is the nucleus around which other things in our 
life should revolve.  Just to re-iterate, the "life perspective" is 
the translation of some fundamental ideas of tattva, hita, and 
purushartha into a language that the kid can understand.  Also, for 
kids living in the US, a meeting with a knowledgeable older person in 
India will go a long way.   However, such meetings should be monitored 
by the parent closely, because impedences may not match.  Also, I 
think elders should just show the kid some useful pointers of where 
and how to obtain information and lead the kid (now an adolescent) to 
explore and understand the subtle.  Once the "life perspective" is 
set, pourANic stories, I think, will fall into place in the context of 
the philosophical truths.

(I am ready for the firing squad :-) )

Adiyen,  Murali Kadambi