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Re: Discussion of jeans

From: Najjar (
Date: Thu May 20 1999 - 14:45:05 PDT

Dear esteemed members of Bhakti List,

Namo Narayana! Please accept adiyen's pranaams.

My name is Vasudevan (Wajdi to non-Vaishnavas) and I have been a long time
observer on this list. I have learned a great deal about our sampradayam
here and wish to thank each and every member for the much appreciated (and
needed) information he or she contributes.

I do not write to the list often because I fear I have much too much yet to
learn to be taking stands on issues that I do not know enough about. I am
sure that this is one of those times. However, I felt compelled to write
because of what I perceived to be a negative shift in the overall mood of
the list in past days over the issue of veshti vs. "jeans." 

I am sure that most members of the list can tell that my name(Wajdi) is not
Indian. In fact, I am a Lebanese(Arab)-American convert to this most
wonderful and glorious Shri sampradayam ( I was recently honoured to take
samashrayanam under HH 45 Jeeyar of Ahobila Muttam via Shri Venkat Swamy in
New York). Truly I am blessed beyond words. My interest in this newest
debate is related to my background as a non-Indian. I would like to begin by
saying, therefore, that my email might be perceived as being irrelevant to
this particular discussion because I do not know to what extent it was to be
applied to both Indian and non-Indian Shri Vaishnavas. I have taken it to be
aimed at all of us so I request the esteemed members to please forgive me if
I have misunderstood.

As a Shri Vaishnava, I feel that it is mandatory to wear Thiruman/Shri
choornam whenever possible. This is above and beyond all other issues of
appearance and ethnic/cultural division. For me, it comes not out of a
feeling of obligation, but out of a desire to please Perumal and announce to
the world that I belong to Him. I believe that this issue is separate from
clothing issues simply because thiruman and Shri choornam are symbols of our
relationship with Perumal - unlike the veshti which (while it can take on
religious meaning in the proper context) is worn not only by Vaishnavas but
by Shaivas/Smartas/and even Christians! That being said, when I attend the
temple I try to always wear veshti/angavasthram as is proscribed by our
Acharyas as well as in shastras. However, again, I do this because of my
personal (and selfish?) desire to make Perumal happy. It is my fear that
forcing everyone to wear veshti/saree to the temple will alienate some very
sincere and highly devoted people who, for their own reasons, find it
impossible. I personally do not think that allowing leniency in this area
leads to leniency in all other areas of regulation or to the general
downfall of religious principles in Shri Vaishnavam. Of course, I am only
concluding that from personal experiences. Actually, I have found that
whether wearing veshti or not, there are sadly much too many undereducated
Shri Vaishnavas (myself definitely included) who cannot even properly
articulate the basics of our sampradayam. I hope that more emphasis can be
placed on the education of our community and less emphasis placed on these
tangential issues. I have known several Ayyangars who do devoted anya-devata
worship and have no idea that according to their own sampradaya that it is a
sin. While it is easy to see someone's hope for all Shri Vaishnavas to
measure up to a certain outward standard, I cannot help but think that there
are other issues such as that of anya-devata worship and lack of people
performing prappathi that are much more pressing and vital to the very
existence of our faith.
As Shri Sudarshan was saying in his message, many Arabs take pride in
wearing dishdasha and abaaya. However, I think that it is important to note
that many many Arabs do not wear dishdasha or abaaya and are still very much
tied to Arab culture. In fact, as Lebanese, the dishdasha is not a part of
our culture at all. As long as the fundamentals of conservative dressing are
maintained, the majority of Lebanese (and indeed most modern Arab) men and
women see no difference in what they wear to the mosque. My point is that
while we are all Arabs and all proud of being Arab, our manner of dress is
incredibly diverse (and only in specific cases such as the ladies' hijab
tied at all to religion). To me, then, the issue of clothing takes on
notably cultural (as opposed to religious) characteristics. It is not in
Lebanese culture to wear dishdasha while it is in Baharaini culture.
Clearly, no matter what they wear, the Muslims from both countries remain
Muslims. For that matter, Christian Arabs in certain parts of the Middle
East also wear the dishdasha.

I think that Indians, on whole, would be greatly aided by fostering pride in
wearing saree and veshti but I do not think that forcing someone to wear
them will achieve the desired goal. Education -as Shri Sudarshan pointed
out- seems to be the key. If younger Indians are taught to see the
importance and relevance of wearing traditional clothes, then they will be
less likely to blindly shun them as relics of the past. Whether or not they
will maintain devotion to Sriman Narayana is a different matter.

Thank those of you who got this far for taking the time to read this quite
long-winded message. I am sure that I have inadvertently committed many sins
and I ask for pardon if I have committed any bhagavatha-apacharam. It was
only my intention to express my opinion on these matters and not to inflame
or create any controversy.

Vasudeva Ramanuja dasan