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From: Greg Jay (gregjay_at_poi.net)
Date: Sun Jan 25 1998 - 04:08:55 PST
> Adiyen has pledged not to enter any types of discussions which even >remotely leads to vadakalai vs thengalai. I don't see why these so-called different views cannot be discussed. I have studied and discussed these things with both sides and I am convinced that if they sat down and discussed the differences they would find out just how close their positions on most issues are. Instead, this last year in Sri Rangam, we studied with a Vadakalai teacher who insisted that our Tenkalai teacher hated Desika, even though the man often quoted Desika's words with respect to us in his classes. There was a similar misunderstanding by our Tengalai teacher about the Vadakalai man. I am not saying that there are no irreconcilable differences, just that a proper presentation of each side would be enlightening. Even if it only leads to the agreement to disagree. After all "Ramanuja's system of Visistadvaita recognizes the claims of both faith and reason and aims at harmonizing or reconciling them by admitting a free play of reason not only on the data of sense-perception and inference, but also on the spiritual intuition or anubhava of the great seers and the doctrines or views recorded in the scriptures." Page 1 The Philosophy of Visistadvaita by P.N. Srinivasachari. > But Adiyen would like to clarify little bit about VarnAshrama DharmA . > as long as a jIvAtmA is in a particular body , he is bound by >it . The body which is obtained through past karmA ( destines the >type of birth) poses many restrictions to the jIvAtmA (most of the things >are not visible to naked eyes) . Once again I see someone trying to say that Biology is destiny. I agree that one gets this body because of past karmas. However does that equate to one acting in a particular varna based solely on birth alone. Surely the story in the Upanisads of Satya Kama Jabala shows clearly that the boy was considered a Brahmin due to his quality of Satya or truthfulness. And as such admitted to the Gurukula, and what is studied in Gurukulas?, Vedadhyayana, right. Similarly Lord Krishna in the Gita describes Varnashrama in terms of Guna Karma, not Janma. Also later in the 18th chapter He describes each varna in terms of their occupations and qualities. In ancient times even in Europe, the son of a cowherd usually became a cowherd, and a King's son became a King. However I have seen innumberable examples of persons in India (and elsewhere) born in "High Caste/Class" families who have given up the qualities and activities of their birth castes/classes and have taken to the ways of other castes/classes. And vice versa. Please tell me to which caste someone belongs if his or her parents are Brahmins by birth from India but they are born and raised in America, and act for all intensive purposes just like regular Americans (watching TV, eating at Macdonalds, dating, etc.)? Even if by good upbringing and careful attention by their parents they are educated in the scriptures, have the samskaras performed, and read the labels on all the food they eat (a thing which invariablely NRI's forget to do) to make sure they don't take things with eggs in them or drink the milk with Vitamin D (fish oil) in it, how many generations do you think they can continue to remain pure of body in such a society without the determination of spiritual and moral conviction? And guess what?, that society is fast coming to India so you don't even have to go to America any more to become "degraded", you can do it in your own country. The moral behind this is that the real thing that is important is the qualities of a Vaisnava, not what kind of birth he/she may have taken. I would like to be judged on my merits and demerits, by my actions and not by those of my ancestors. Even today we see many Vaisnavas obsessed with making sure they receive the Temple Honors awarded to their ancestors whether or not they themselves continue to fully uphold their ancestors standards (Of course very many do, and are a wonderful credit to their illustrious families.) It's up to each and every one of us, at ever moment, to choose the type of life we lead. Actually come to think of it I can count on one hand the number of Sri Vaisnavas that I know who haven't lost their so-called high caste by birth status due to any number of small rules and regulations. Who has, no family members who have not lost caste due to crossing the oceans, eating Videshi vegetables, biting their food, or drinking Coffee (Videshi) or using Chilis (Videshi) or taking bath from a pipe instead of a tank or river, or taking to computer programming or becoming lawyers or servants of others when they should be studying and teaching the vedas, etc. It is commendable that some persons are still following all these prescriptions however I think that none of these things in and of itself seems very relevant to the determination of Varna today. The obsession with birth (Varna=Color ?) in India extends even beyond the idea of particular families. Even if born in a good family skin color can mean the difference between acceptance and rejection. Why else the obsession with "fairness cream", "face powder", "fair groom", "fair bride", etc. Surely in Vaisnavism we are trying to get away from such petty identification with bodily/birth features such as skin color, etc. Unfortunately in India the quest for "bodily/birth" purity doesn't extend to the environment. Although people bathe many times a day, as a rule even the Brahmin neighbourhoods are filthy, and people even feel the need to answer the calls of nature in the ground of temples. (Yes, I'm talking about East Uttara St. right by the temple wall in Sri Rangam, I have a house there.) (And they call themselves Brahmins!) Varnashrama dharma is a social system which works when people perform their duties based on their real natures. (Oh and it's a system where the state is ruled by a Rajarshi or Saintly King, so I guess that leaves India out of the running, nowadays.) Our karma is unfolding not just at our time of birth but continues to unfold during our lifetime. Unfortunately it seems that the Alvars lived in a time when there was this over emphasis on caste by birth and therefore they out of humility accepted their roles. Of course this is not the way Ramanuja felt about Kanchipurna, who he wished to become the disciple of, even though he wasn't a Brahmin. Nor should it be the way we view persons of "low birth" and spiritual qualities today. Just imagine a religion that actually prohibits it's member from performing religious acts, even though they might be able and eager to do so! Of course one has to be trained, to be qualified to perform some functions, and no one expects untrained persons to be presented as qualified for certain duties. > So , sAstrAs prescribe various duties a jIvAtmA has to perform >because of his connection with this body. NOT JUST BODY!, but according to his/her Varna. The question is whether Varna is determined solely by birth. >So , one has to just take up the kainkaryam assigned to him/her & perform with >devotion. This is the spirit behind the kainkaryam & thus one shouldn't >entertain questions like "Why can't I do this ?" , "Why should they only >do that ? " etc. ". Thank you for telling me what I can and cannot do or think based on your interpretation! Please tell me (if you can) what your idea of Kainkarya for those born as Yavana, Mleccha, etc is? Are we to be excluded from the Temple as Tiruppan Alvar was? And as we are even today from Rangaji Temple in Vrndavana, UP. Back in the 70s when I first went to Tirupati they wanted me to sign a form stating that I would not cause offense or disturbance in the temple, thinking that I was a Christian (I have never been a Christian though my mother is). I was ready to humbly sign but instead began chanting Venkatesvara Suprabhatam and Purusha Sukta for the man in the temple office. Immediately I was escorted back to the temple with the full blessings of all present, they realised that it was unnecessary for me to sign their form. While living in Sri Rangam last year, we attended the Vaikuntha Ekadasi festival. (Which we have attended on several occasions before. We have been visiting Sri Rangam since the 70s) My wife and I met a man from out of town standing near the gate in front of the Garuda Mandapa. (There is a sign ONLY HINDUS ALLOWED) I was wearing panca kaccha dhoti and angavastram and yajnopavita (I also have a tuft), my wife wearing 9 yard sari in Madisar style, both of us with Tengalai Namam. We were just about to go through the gate (like we do every morning) when this guy calls us over and explains that we are not allowed in. Well I just looked around and practically everyone else there knew us and immediately told the guys that we were OK. But I wonder what he was thinking 'cause we were sure dressed up like Vaisnavas, or was he only looking at the skin color and not the tiruman. Surprisingly enough we met a Hindu guy and his Blond Haired White Wife from Mauritius one day in the Sesaraya mandapa on our way in for darshan. The guy was wearing pant/shirt and his wife a salwar kameez. They said that they had been refused entrance by the temple authorities. (Hindus in Mauritius have given up Caste) The temple guys could not believe that the Blond girl was a Hindu, so both husband and wife were excluded. Meanwhile Indian Men and Women wearing tight fitting jeans, etc. just walked on by to darshan. After we complained about these people not being allowed in to the temple authorities, we went to the Chakratalvar Sannidhi. (There is also a big sign there ONLY HINDUS ALLOWED) While in there we saw a couple of Christian Nuns from a local Christian School with some school girls taking darshan of Lord Sudarsana. The Nuns had their full uniforms on, including crosses hanging around their necks. No one questioned them entering the shrine. When we brought this to the attention of the temple officials, they just laughed. Because the nuns were Indian, so because of the nationality or skin color or something they were OK. Years ago I met some archakas of the Rangaji Temple in Vrndavana, UP. I discussed with them about some aspects of Pancaratra Agama and my experiences in South India. They invited me for darshan in the temple. I said that I didn't want to make a fuss as I knew that that temple (the only Vaisnava one I know of) didn't allow western Vasinavas in for darshan. They said that they would help me get in by taking me to the office. The guy in charge was related to (the great) PB Anangacharya of Kanchi who I had met one time. He said that I was not allowed in because I was not a Hindu. The archakas told him that I was. He then said that entrance was restricted to only Indians according to Shastra. My friends said they had never heard of such a thing. And questioned him that persons of Indian descent from Singapore, Malaysia, Mauritius had all been allowed in, so why not me. Finally after the guy admitted that there was no reason why he couldn't let me in but it was the temple policy not to admit persons of Non-Indian descent. They don't even have a sign that says ONLY HINDUS, they just don't want non-Indians. I have been seriously told by an Acharya Purusha that since I was born in a family of meat eaters that my proper dharma could be to be a butcher. After he told this to my wife and I (Vaisnavas and strict Vegitarians for the past 26 years), he apologised to us and regretted what he had said and later told us that he was very happy with our interest and activities in Vaisnavism. I have known this person for 15 years and have a great deal of respect for him. This was the only time he ever spoke to me like that. Another funny incident happened to us while we were living in Sri Rangam last year. Some of the neighbourhood high school girls (all Vaisnavis) came to visit us in our house one day. We showed them pictures of our life in foreign, our murtis and altar in our house in Hawaii, etc. They asked us whether we were vegitarians in foreign or only while we were in India (Sri Rangam). We explained to them that although we were born in meat-eating families that we had both become vegitarians at a young age, and that in fact we had been strict vegitarians and vaisnavas longer than they had ('cause they were only teenagers). They said that they had heard that many people who were vegitarians in India took to eating meat and drinking as soon as they came to the West. (You know the old story that the West is so cold that you have to eat meat and drink alcohol to survive, also there's not many vegetables in the West) Well we were glad to clear up that misconception. And we know that what we said to them got around the whole of Sri Rangam to those who were concerned about us. We don't blame people for being sceptical about us, but we just ask that they apply the same standards to their own relatives. Another Sri Vaisnava last year was suprised to know that I had studied Pancaratra and taken Archaka (Chakrabja Mandala) diksha from a Tenkalai Svayamacharya. He asked if I had had tapta mudra dharana. When I said that I had, he remarked that "so what, even cattle are branded". Most Vaisnavas we have met are very pleased to see ANYONE interested in following their philosophy and way of life. > If the spirit of VarnAshrama DharmA is not understood , it leads to >absurd conclusions. Unfortunately I believe that you misunderstand the spirit of Varnashrama and are stuck in the misconception that birth in a particular family automatically determines one's social status. Varnashrama is a social system, it works only so long as it is implemented according to qualities and work, when a person devoid of the necessary qualities takes on the work (Dharma) of a particular Varna then the whole system is put into chaos. This we have seen in history even in the west. When the Kings and Queens of Europe oppressed their citizens too much the people revolted and established so-called Democracy. Rule by the masses due to there being no spiritual leaders (brahmins) and no good Ruling class (ksatriyas). Socialism was an attempt to make a classless social system of all Sudras, whereas in Capitalism the Vaisyas are held as supreme. Varna is determined by the prominent guna or mode of nature by which one lives his/her life and the prominent purushartha which one hopes to achieve by his/her actions. Predominantly Sattvic/Moksha = Brahmin Predominantly Rajasic/Dharma = Kshatriya Predominantly Rajasic Tamasic Mix/Artha = Vaisya Predominantly Tamasic/Kama = Shudra janmanaa jaayate shuudrah karmaNaa jaayate dvijah sincerely Keshava das P.S. I have brought up a lot of stuff in this post, that may offend people. It is not meant to offend those who wholeheartedly disagree and live their lives as pure servants of the Lord strictly following all the rules and regulations of the caste system. However it is meant as a wakeup call to all those who would hypocritically apply those rules and regulations to others while disregarding the essential equality of all Jivatmas regardless of birth, caste, sex, color, race, etc. Usually I only lurk on this list, as I wish to learn from all the learned Vaisnavas discussions. Please forgive me for speaking my mind on this subject which I feel very strongly about. I do visit India regularly (every year) and have lived continuously there for almost ten years in the 70s and 80s. I have also met and performed pujas for many NRI's all over the world. So I know the Indian community both in India and abroad.