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follow up on previous post on "material comfort and spiritual health"

From: sudarshan madabushi (sudarshanm_at_hotmail.com)
Date: Mon Jul 19 1999 - 13:56:03 PDT

Dear members,

Here is the exact quote of the "AchAryA" I mentioned in my immediately 
preceding post.

Begin quote:

"People today are caught between two groups holding opposing views. On the 
one side they feel the pull of individuals like (me) who maintain that they 
must take to the path shown by the (vedic) sAstrA-s; on the other hand they 
find themselves drawn in the opposite direction by reformers who want these 
"sAstrA-s" to be changed…."

"Even now there are people who at heart long for a life of peace lived 
according to the old (vedic) tradition. But they do not have the courage to 
give up the either the trammels of modern life or the feeling of pride in 
the changes effected under reformist movements. They are in an awkward 
predicament because they are not fully committed to the traditional way of 
life or to the new.

"Let me tell you how people cannot decide for themselves… of how they are 
neither here nor there. In most of their homes you will see Gandhiji's 
portrait and mine too. Now Gandhiji advocated widow marriage… and I advocate 
wearing the "sikhA". Those who respect Gandhiji do not however have the 
courage to marry widows. Those who say they respect me also do not have the 
courage to wear "sikhA". Poor people are these! They do not have any 
moorings and keep swinging between one set of beliefs and another. Instead, 
I tell you, we must have courage of our convictions and unflinching faith in 
the "sAstrA-s"."

"If we start to make small compromises in our adherence to the sAstrAs it 
will eventually mean following only such scriptural practices as we find 
convenient in our everyday life. Some people tell me with all good 
intentions: "The dharmasAstrAs are the creation of r-shis. You are like a 
r-shi. So you must make (appropriate) changes in the sAstrA-s in keeping 
with the times". Their view is that just as we remove weeds from the fields 
we must change (vedic) customs and duties according to our times. If I take 
out some rites and observances from the sAstrA now, thinking them to be 
weeds, later another man will turn up and remove some more for the same 
reason. At this rate, a time will come when we will not be able to 
distinguish the weed from the crop and the entire (vedic) field will become 
barren."

"It is my duty to see that the sAstrAs are preserved as they are… founded as 
they are in the Vedas which are nothing but what the "parabrahmham" has 
ordained. I have no authority to change them."

"We must not give up the sAstra-ic way of life thinking it to be difficult 
to follow. If we are not carried away by the glitter of modern mundane life, 
if we reduce our wants and do not run after money, there will be no need to 
abandon the customs and rites laid down by our canonical texts. If we are 
not obsessed with making money there will be plenty of time to think of the 
Lord. And peace and contentment and happiness will reign."

        **********            *************           *************

Continuing to quote the same "AchAryA", here is another extract from his 
speech:

"The brahmin, if he is true to his dharma, HAS to spend all his time in 
learning and chanting the vedas, in performing sacrifices, in preserving the 
sAstrA etc. What will he do for a living? If he goes in search of money or 
material he WILL NOT BE ABLE TO ATTEND TO HIS LIFETIME MISSION…. and this 
mission IS NOT ACCOMPLISHED ON A PART-TIME BASIS. And if he takes up some 
other work for his livelihood, he is likely to become lax in the pursuit of 
his dharma. It would be like taking medicine without the necessary diet 
regimen: the benign power gained by the brahmin from his vedic learning will 
be reduced and there will be a corresponding dimunition in the good accruing 
to mankind from his work."

"This is one reason why brahmins alone are permitted by the sAstrA-s to beg 
for a living ("Unchavrtti"). But the sAstra also has it that the brahmin 
must not accept more charity than what is needed for his bare sustenance. If 
he received anything in excess, he would be tempted to seek sensual 
pleasures and thereby an impediment would be placed to his inner 
advancement. There is also the danger that he would become submissive to the 
donor and of his twisting the sastrA to the latter's liking.

"The vedic religion prospered in the past … because people belonging to all 
varnA-s contributed generously to the brahmin's upkeep and to the nurturing 
of the vedic tradition. In Tamilnadu the nAttukOtta nagarattArs, the 
kommutti chettis and the vEllAlas raised funds for Vedic institutions. They 
felt the vedas were essential for social good.

"If the brahmin had not been tempted by the European (or American) 
life-style and if he were willing to live austerely according to the 
dictates of the sAstrA, other castes (even today) would come forward to help 
him. It is not that the others deserted the brahmin. He himself ran away 
from his dharma, from his agrahArA, from his village and from the vedic 
school because of his new appetite for the life of luxury made possible with 
the new technology of the West. He forgot the high ideals… All told, the 
argument that the brahmin was compelled to abandon his dharma because he was 
denied his daily bread does not hold water. We cannot but admit that the 
brahmin became greedy, that he yearned far more than what he needed for 
sustenance."

"Let us concede that the brahmin left his village because he could not feed 
himself there and came to a city like Madras. But did he find contentment 
here? What do we see today in actual practice? Suppose a brahmin receives a 
salary of Rs.1000/- in Madras today. If he gets a job in Delhi with double 
the salary he runs off there. When he goes to Delhi he would abandon totally 
the dharma he was able to practise at least to a small extent in Madras. 
Later if he were offered US$4000/- a month in America he would leave his 
motherland for that country, lured by the prospect of earning a fortune. 
There in the US he would become totally alienated from his religion, from 
his dharma, from all his traditions. The brahmin is willing to do anything, 
go to any extent, for the sake of money…. The usual excuse trotted out for 
the brahmin deserting his dharma does not wash…. Were he true to his dharma 
the brahmin would tell himself, "I will continue to adhere to my dharma come 
what may, even at the risk of death."

"There is no point in suggesting what people belonging to the past 
generations should have done. I would urge the present generation to perform 
duties that the past generation neglected to perform. To repeat, you must 
not forsake your dharma even on the pain of death. Are we going to remain 
deathless? As things stand today, we accumulate money, suffer humiliation 
and earn the jealousy of others and finally we die losing caste by not 
remaining true to our dharma. Is it not better then to starve and yet be 
attached firmly to our dharma so long as there is breath in us? Is not such 
loyalty to our dharma a matter of pride? Why should we care about how others 
see us, whether they honour us or speak ill of us? So long as we do not 
compete with them for jobs they will not have any cause for jealousy or 
resentment against us. Let them call us backward or stupid or think we are 
not capable of keeping abreast of the times. Are we not now already their 
butt of ridicule? Let us be true to our dharma in the face of the mockery of 
others, even in the face of death. Is not such a lot preferable to suffering 
the slings of scorn and criticism earned by forsaking our dharma for the 
sake of filling our belly?"

"People ask me: "What is the remedy then today? Do you expect all brahmins 
to leave their new life-style and return to vedic learning?"

"Whether or not I expect them to do so and whether or not such a step seems 
possible, I must ask them to do so.

"Where is the need for a "guru-peeTam" or a seat on which an AchAryA is 
installed if I am to keep my mouth shut and watch idly as the dharma that is 
the source of everything is being endangered?

"Even if it seems impossible for brahmins to return to their 
varnAshrama-dharma it must be shown to be possible in practice… that is the 
whole purpose of the institution called "mutta-s". They must harness all 
their energies towards the attainment of this goal.

"It is not for me to say that the return of the brahmins to their vedic 
dharma is not possible. To take such a view would be contrary to our very 
dharma. It is up to you all to make it possible in practice or not to make 
it possible. All I can do is to keep reminding you of the message of the 
dharmasAstrA-s".

           **************           ****************          *************

Dear members, the above is the voice of not a Ramanuja or a Vedanta Desikan 
or Adi Sankara … it is the clarion call of an "AchAryA" who lived amongst us 
hardly 10 years ago…!

It rings with idealistic fervour. It is simply magnificent. It may not sound 
to you all as "very practical" perhaps. But the highest Truth of the Vedas 
is really an Ideal… It has nothing to do with considerations of mundane 
practicality.

So please, let's be honest with ourselves in making our choices in life… and 
the views we air.

adiyEn dAsAnu-dAsan,
Sudarshan


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