You are here: Sri Vaishnava Home Page : Bhakti List : Archives : May 1998

Sec3/Part I Myths

From: VVijay236 (
Date: Tue May 19 1998 - 20:20:54 PDT

Dear Bhagavatas,

I am thankful to all those who had sent words of appreciation for my postings
on the background of Myths in our religion in Section 1, as also the various
anecdotes from our scriptures in Section 2,  which I had been presenting under
Part I Myths. 

I propose to present a few topics that have been the subject of some
controversies in Section 3 of Part I Myths. Hope you will find them

May I invite your valuable inputs?

Anbil Ramaswamy
Part I : MYTHS


We have so far alluded only to a few anecdotes and examined the morals we
could derive from them. There are innumerable other episodes in our scriptures
that could not be included for want of space. In fact, as we remarked earlier,
each and every personality appearing in the various Puranas, Itihasas etc is
unique and has a lesson to convey.

In discussions on religion , we generally find three kinds of topics being
debated with fervor. viz.,
(i)  Which one of the various religions is the best?. This goes by the name of
'Study of comparative Religion'.

(ii)  Even within a religion, pitting one sect against another or adjudicating
between the different streams of philosophy and

(iii)  Questioning the behavior and statements of personalities in certain
intriguing circumstances, tearing them out of context and passing subjective
judgments on them.

(I) Discussions on Comparative Religion

These discussions though begun with the best of intentions to learn the
various viewpoints ultimately turn out  into acrimonious debates as each would
dogmatically hold his / her religion as the correct ones terming all the rest
as heretical. The attitude of ' Give and take' soon deteriorates into an
attitude of ' Take it or leave it', none of the participants emerging saner or

All religions are true and valid and are agreed on  the basic problems of
human suffering and how to solve them and how to reach Godhead - call it
Salvation, Liberation, Moksha , Nirvana or what you will. The unanimity of all
religions in defining the goal  is shattered by the diversity of opinions and
interpretations of  the adherents on the means to achieve the goal. 

So, we do not propose to embark on such an unedifying exercise that can end up
only in a cluttered mind and confused thinking defeating the very purpose of
the inquiry.

(ii)  Discussion on different streams of philosophy within a Religion

The same remarks hold good while trying to adjudicate between the
interpretations of different masters because ultimately, they are also agreed
on the basic concepts. It is futile to revile others without first knowing the
basic tenets of one's own  doctrines. Understanding one's own religion itself
is a stupendous task involving a process that would take a lifetime or more.
We have enormous material to learn but have pretty  little time at our
disposal and too many obstacles on the way. A little knowledge is dangerous
and a discussion based on half-baked smattering would indeed be devastating
and self defeating. The prudent course , therefore, would be not to indulge in
polemics but rely on faith and intuition which alone can  lift us from the
cogmire of petty wrangling.

(iii) Conduct of certain characters in peculiar circumstances coming under

When we attempt to learn about the morals from the various stories, it arouses
a natural curiosity to adjudicate, with reference to our present day
perceptions, between the rights and wrongs of certain characters and actions
in intriguing circumstances in a bygone age. 

It is not proper for us to take positions as "Advocatus Dei' and 'Advocatus
Diaboli' in assessing the correctness or otherwise of the courses adopted in
situations peculiar to those ages. Any attempt to dissect the events for the
purpose can lead only to a kind of intellectual arrogance, as if we are
competent to judge them by our standards
(if, standards we have!). 

Still this favorite pastime never fails to lend an irresistible temptation to
the protagonists and the antagonists. We shall allude to a few such standard
controversies and try to see what could have influenced the kind of action or
stance we encounter in the episodes. Where we are not able to discern any, we
leave it to the readers to enlighten.

The topics will follow.

Anbil Ramaswamy