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Sri.Mani's non-sequitor

From: sudarshan madabushi (sudarshanm_at_hotmail.com)
Date: Fri Jul 02 1999 - 13:42:40 PDT

Dear Mani,
Aristotle, the philosopher, was a bit of an astronomer and mathematician 
too. His view of the universe was uncompromisingly geo-centric. To the 
Christian church the geo-centric view of the universe was holy cow and the 
suggestion of helio-centric theories was sacrilege right until the time of 
Copernicus and Galileo. Galileo's theories of physics and astronomy too were 
not perfect although by his time the helio-centric vision of the solar 
galaxy was settled scientific fact. Not until the time of Newton were some 
of the unsolved questions of astronomy and physics of Galileo's times put to 
rest. Newtonian physics had its own limitations until Einstein's General 
Theory of Relativity overcame them.

In the history of the evolution of ideas Aristotle does not stand condemned 
because he had views utterly opposed to Copernicus.

When we praise Galileo it does not mean that we mean any disrespect to 
Einstein.

If the students of Einstein had raised a hue and cry everytime the name of 
Newton was uttered in their presence, it is doubtful if E=mc2 would ever 
have been formulated.

Newton himself once said that if he saw more truth in the universe than any 
other astronomer or physicist before him it was only because he was taller 
than they and that was because "he stood on the shoulders of Aristotle, 
Kepler,Copernicus and Galileo". Newton was humble enough to acknowledge how 
much he owed to his precursors although in many respects Newtonian truth 
owed nothing of its validity to their own work.

In much the same way, I believe, in the history of the Vedic times of India 
there were many great souls like Sankara and others who fought to establish 
the primacy of the Vedic system of thought over alien anti-Vedic ideology. 
You may not agree with their thesis. Subsequent refinements to Vedic faith 
and Vedantic thought ... like those made by Sri.Ramanuja and the "bhakti" 
traditionalists may be arguably superior or more "true" or "more faithful to 
the Vedic ideal".That's a different matter altogether. But you simply cannot 
doubt or belittle the historical contribution of Sankara and his 
contemporaries to the restoration of Vedic idealism and ethos in India.

I am a SriVaishnava both by birth and conviction. I admire the philosophy of 
Sri.Ramanuja and the poetry of the Alwars and Swami Desikan. My esteem for 
them has never diminished on account of the admiration that I have also felt 
for the great "AchAryA-s" of other "sampradAyA-s" like Advaita or Dvaita.

It has always therefore been a wonder of wonders for me to see why otherwise 
extremely intelligent SriVaishnavas like Sri.Mani Varadarajan always have 
this strange psychology of "us Vs them" and simply cannot tolerate something 
even blandly positive being said about Sankara. It is almost like some 
student of Einstein getting extremely indignant at the very mention of the 
name of Aristotle or Newton!

I have heard of the SriVaishnava ideal of "guru-bhakti" and 
"guru-vishvAsam". It is very laudatory indeed. But, tell me, does the ideal 
enjoin us all to hold the "AchAryA-s" of other Vedantic persuasions in such 
utter contempt that we must hold up our noses when their very names are 
mentioned ... as though the very air around us is fouled as a result? What 
kind of "guru-bhakti" is this?

Sri.Mani, in my series on the LNKS (if you have noticed!) I have not tried 
to discuss so much the philosophy as the poetry of Sankara. I have tried my 
very best to strike a non-sectarian and non-denominational approach. If I 
have words of praise for Sankara it is for his poetry.

But from your comments I gather I have crossed the boundary and committed 
the unspeakable sin of praising Sankara personally. But what I think is that 
a harmless remark about an objective fact of history that I made about 
Sankara bhagavathpAdA in my last post has sparked you into starting what I 
think will now be another round of "SriVaishnava-Advaitin" polemics on the 
"list" following yours. We will now hear perhaps more great fulminations on 
how true SriVaishnavas will never praise Sankara (or "his grandpa", as 
somebody else once said) and those who do so commit grave "apachAram" and 
"AchArya-drOham"!

If I hear you right, Sri.Mani, I hear you now laying down a cardinal rule 
for all of us members: "Hear ye all ! Praise to Sankara is the taboo of all 
taboos on the "bhakti-list"!

And if you were running a similar list for discussing Newtonian physics, 
Sri.Mani, I suppose you would say none should utter a single nice word for 
Aristotle! Do I understand you right, Sri.Mani?

My posts on the LNKS seem to have irked the sensibilities of revered 
SriVaishnavas on the list on more than one occasion now!

I think it is time to call it all off. I had no idea that my random 
reflections could arouse so much religious partisan-ism on the list. Well, 
you live and learn every day, I guess!

To my other friends on the list who were following my posts these many days, 
I am sorry to say this to you, but we must leave it here.

If you remember, we quoted a lot of poetry, both Sanskrit and English, 
during the course of my LNKS posts. It was good fun too, isn't it? Here is 
one more now to end (or abort!) it all and which you may all like to ponder 
in a sober moment some evening:

"Why, all the saints and sages who discuss'd
  Of the Two Worlds so learnedly are thrust
  Like foolish prophets forth: their Words to scorn
  Are scatter'd, and their mouths are stopt with Dust."
                                                              (Edward 
Fitzerald)

adiyEn dAsAnu-dAsan,
Sudarshan





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