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The two schools

From: Mohan Sagar (
Date: Mon Mar 31 1997 - 20:25:47 PST

Mr. Keshava Prasad writes:

>I took the example of  "Vadagalai" and
>"Thengalai" arguments only because they were currently taking place on this
`>forum and appeared to be a good example to make  a case in point.

>Though there has been no known checks to
>interdining, intermarriage and social harmony at home and temple, when it comes
>to control of power in various aspects of society and affairs of the temples,
>the division has  been perpetuated even today.  Yes, a lot of good has come
>about with the division especially in the development of literature in both the
>languages. But the division raises its ugly head time and again causing
>and mistrust among humans just like the distincton between North & South
>Indians, Northerners & Southerners in the U.S. 

I would disagree with the level of division between our two schools as being
analagous to North and South divisions in India and the US.  Such divisions
are the result of significant distinctions in food, language, history,
religion, and to some extent, race. None of these is the case between what
differentiates the our two noted schools of thought. While it is true that
the Kanchipuram scholars utilized Sanskrit more than their Srirangam
counterparts, it must be noted that both schools clearly agree that our
tradition is an ubhaya vedanta, a hybrid of Sanskrit philosophy and Tamil
mystical devotionalism.  Western scholars such as Mumme have chosen to
compare the subtle distinctions between the two schools as being more
analogous to the divisions between the Catholic and Lutheran churches, two
churches worshipping the same God with differences as to the role of human
beings in salvation.

>The solution perhaps lies in bringing about some sort of integration in
>and deeds among the divisions so that the concept that all men and women are
>created equal and we can totally dispense with the arguments about  anyone's
>superiority over the other, whether humans or Gods and Goddesses. Such reforms,
>even if in a limited sense, not to hurt the progress of independent creative
>efforts but only to cause social harmony, could be  be instituted only by our
>religious leaders in the past and can be tried by the religious leaders of the
>present, to be rewarded with any degree of success. It is upto us their
>followers,  to bring the case to them. This was the point I was trying to make.

I would agree on this, to a point.  If all would bear with me on this, I
would like to take the opportunity to reminisce (much of the conversation is
paraphrased from my memories):  One of my most memorable lessons in my
"university days" came when I invited my Cultural Anthropology Professor to
a Deepavali function.  As is the tradition in the Tamil community in Denver,
all of us had gathered together for the recitation of Sri Vishnu
Sahasranamam and Bhajans.  The Tamil community was relatively small then,
and everyone could more or less sit comfortably in the small town home
community clubhouse that served as our regular gathering place.  The Good
Professor sat next to me during most of the rituals and bhajans, and I was
rather proudly attempting to explain the significance of each.  One of the
bhajans sung was the famous "Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram," and when the line
"Ishwara Allah Tere Naam" was sung, I, in my youthful idealism explained how
this verse had united the people of India under a common God.  Professor Van
Arsdale smiled at me and said "Well, Gandhiji was quite the idealist and
charismatic leader.  But are you sure that everyone here is truly believing
in such unity?"  A little uncertain as to what he meant by this statement, I
did not reply.

After a few moments of silence, he looked around the roomful of people and
spoke, "But just look at the beauty in difference.  A good student of
culture can see this even in one room.  Look there, the devout are in front
donning their traditional dress and caste markings.  And just next to them,
the religious but not so traditional wear more western attire but still
chant the verses.  And over there are the faithful, who choose not to
participate but recognize the sacredness and watch with curiousity.  And see
those two gentlemen there, they struggle with the words but still want to
try.  And back there near the stove, the not so religious chat, hardly
paying attention to the goings on at the altar.  Their participation is more
in line with supporting and belonging to the community rather than being
pious.  One language group, one people, even one religion, and yet so many
different cultures. Unity in diversity.  It applies to one room, it applies
to one world."

I have carried this lesson throughout since then.  We cannot expect all
people, even of one culture to think the same.  I believe that harmony comes
about from respecting each others' rights to having our differences as much
as unifying under similarities. 

I hope my sentimental musings brought out this point without boring everyone.

Daasanu Daasan,