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Re: Agnostic.

From: Badri Seshadri (
Date: Sun Jul 25 1999 - 01:54:59 PDT

At 04:39 PM 7/22/99 -0400, Narasimhan Krishnamachari wrote:

>I saw an item on how "agnostics" are treated in our philosophy.  I just
>looked at Webster's to find the definition of the term "agnostic".  The
>definition says that "an agnostic is one who holds that human knowledge
>is limited to experience, one who denies or doubts the possibility of
>ultimate knowledge in some area of study". First, I would like to
>ensure that this is the spirit in which the person who raised this
>question meant it.  

I wasn't looking at such a dictionary meaning. It was more of the most
commonly used meaning of "indifference". To quote Bharathidasan,
"uNdenbaar palar, illaiyenbaar silar
enakkillai kadavuL kavalai"

Basically, it is impossible for me reconcile the fact that a religion
or set of "truths" propounded in one small corner of the world can
be universal truth. There are plenty of honest, god-fearing or otherwise
individuals with all the good qualities mentioned in most sastras
found in all sorts of places. It seems to me funny that they are
somehow condemned to misery.

Further, the early Indian acharyas were not proselytising (sorry for
using this specific word, but I wouldn't find anything close enough,
non-derogatory) beyond the connected land mass and there are illogical 
quotes abound on crossing the sea in our literature.

Much of the religion we are talking about have come by practice, with
our families passing on the collective knowledge. It is like passing
on family wealth which makes one new born kid rich while born and
another a pauper. While this lack of material wealth may be assigned 
to fate and karma in the past life, continuing to assign the lack of 
achieving a "path of mokhsha" to birth and fate seems to be a bit cruel 
and Ramanuja has argued against this as well. [not being knowedgeable 
enough, I can't post any quotes but I have certainly seen it in 
Patricia Mumme's book]

Somehow, against a global society that we come across these days
more often, all the religions seem to lack something or the other.

>It is my understanding that in our tradition questioning is encouraged,
>blind acceptance is discouraged, BhagavAn is beyond our descritpion
>through logical analysis and reasoning, He can only be experienced by
>each individual who sincerley seeks Him and cannot be 'revealed'to
>someone who is not sincere in seeking, etc.  

yes, but you are also told that you need a teacher to initiate you
in to how to 'seek', and who to 'seek'. It is also unclear whether
it is possible at all for someone to go after this truth without a
"valid" teacher (not out of ego, but out of mere lack of right teachers 
around. Say I was born in Burkina Faso in the pre-communication-
revolution era!) though there are certainly few examples mentioned
in various sastras about such people who attained self-realisation
all by themselves.