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Re: Varnashrama Dharma

From: Lakshmi Srinivas (
Date: Thu Jul 09 1998 - 12:05:44 PDT

The clarity and erudition with which our learned friends have
marshalled their arguments deserves our admiration. The presentation
however does leave, IMHO,  a few lingering questions unanswered. 

First and foremost question is whether our sampradayam moves forward
with time? If one looks carefully at the public pronouncements (as
known through karnaparampara) of our acharyas such as Sri Ramanuja or
Sri Desika, it appears that they were in many cases reacting to the
need of the hour. Otherwise, the well-known apachara of the
Tirukkottiyur Nambi need not have transpired. But then as we all are
aware, there were good reasons. So our own teachers were not flag
bearers of an ossified tradition but of a living one, a thriving and
prospering one at that. In fact the record does show that except in
the case of sastraic and darsana oriented bhashyams and vrittis
written by our acharyas, they were upholders of a rather liberal
tradition for their time and place. 

Ours is the only tradition in the length and breadth of our country
which is based on the Vedanta which at the same time totally
sanctifies (and even  glorifies) the use of non-Vedic material for
liturgical purposes viz., the Prabandham. I have heard many learned
brahmins from other parts of South India (and North India) comment on
the precedence given to the Prabandha goshti over the Veda parayana
goshti during purappAdu etc..  (Most times the comments are of an
admiring nature ascribing the continuing strength of temple worship in
TN to  such revolutionary measures which are already centuries old in
our temples.) But one thing is for sure: it is by moving with the
times that our revered acharyas ensured the continued prosperity of
our tradition. 

Today none of us are priests, archakas, adhyapakas or acharyas by
profession. It is not clear in how many Vaishnava homes the daily
rituals prescribed in the sastras (or even in a booklet called the
Vaishnava dinacharya published by LIFCO) are being carried out in a
proper and timely manner. By what authority are we neglecting these
duties and at the same time turning up at the appointed hour at our
offices in IBM, Microsoft, Caltech or wherever every morning?

Gentlemen, this is an electronic forum. By what pramana are we
participating in this mode of discourse?  In this case, it appears
that we do not need pramana as we are merely moving with the times. 

Despite  this utter lack of pramana for every activity in our daily
life, we nevertheless glory in our self-identity as Vaishnavas.  There
are scholars of European and American origin who study the Vedas and
quote from it, so what makes the non Brahmana Hindus and particularly
Vaishnavas ineligible? In this day and age, some of the sentiments
expressed in the name of varnashrama dharma seem anachronistic to say
the least and will clearly do a great disservice to the growth of our
tradition in North America, if not in India itself. 

Warm Regards. 

PS: I have written this in anguish so have not provided the necessary

Lakshmi Srinivas

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