You are here: Sri Vaishnava Home Page : Bhakti List : Archives : May 1999

Re: What is Brahminism now?

From: Mani Varadarajan (
Date: Wed May 19 1999 - 12:53:53 PDT

Sri T.A.S. Vijayaraghavan wrote:
> After reading your posting on Saturday (v.003.n.365) about modern day
> brahmins, I get a message that it is very rare to see a brahmin who
> still maintains rituals like "aupAsana etc.( I also feel that you are
> upset about this!). 

> Should we not see the relevance of the practices and rituals with
> respect to the Time Period and the context people lived in the past and
> the time period we are living in.

Dear Sri Vijayaraghavan:

I completely agree that we need to approach religious practices
and rituals with their time period and context in mind.  
I apologize if I sounded upset about today's brahmins not
performing aupAsana; this is not the source of my frustration.  
I *am* distressed that the tradition of Vedic learning is rapidly
dying away, fast being substituted by neo-Vedantic and
neo-Vaishnava movements that simply do not study the Vedas in
depth, or by a complete disregard for our tradition, both
philosophical and ritual.

I was mainly irked by the statement that acharya-purushas should
have brahma-jnAna (no argument here), and that such brahma-jnAna is
pursuant on being a brahmin, which is a consequence of
sandhyAvandana, etc., (both assumptions are untrue).  There was
furthermore the statement that there are brahmins even in America
who go to work and perform all these rituals, and who therefore
have a right to this status.

This is a true misunderstanding of what was required by our
tradition of a brahmin.  A brahmin is supposed to dedicate his
life to learning, particularly Vedic learning. This includes
learning some part of his Veda (with proper svara, etc.), daily
study of the shastras, imparting it to others after suitable
qualification, and performing *all* the daily and occasionaly
Vedic worship, according to his ability.  SandhyAvandana is the
*bare minimum*.  Just a few generations ago, the Vaidika
lifestyle was more the rule than the exception, unlike
today. Nowadays, simply doing sandhyAvandanam (learnt from a
book, with wrong svara, etc.) is supposed to reflect a
brahminical lifestyle. How far we have fallen.

My argument is that the shastras are a two-edged knife. If
anyone, including a brahmin, is to have any special privilege
(based on tradition or shastras), that someone also has to live
up to all their duties as ordained by the shastras. It cuts both
ways.  Otherwise, if we are to reinterpret the shastras to mean
that some rituals are less relevant, the rules for hierarchical
privilege and status are subject to reinterpretation as well.

namo vedapurushAya,