A moment please !!!
ahudli at APPN.CI.IN.AMERITECH.COM
Tue Feb 11 15:44:19 CST 1997
On Tue, 11 Feb 1997, VP Nandakumar wrote:
> I've been part of the Advaita discussion group for the past few days
> have observed that the Vedas and the Upanishads are being used as the ultimate
> references. Even if these are so, can it not be that due to the passage of
> (that's understating that actually!) and the civilization of mankind in
> some of the content might've been outdated or no longer relevant.
> Even if the content is relevant, are we sure that we're interpreting
> them correctly? I was under the impression that ADVAITA, DOESN'T ASK YOU TO
> ANYTHING ON TRUST. IT ONLY ASKS THAT YOU SHOULD HAVE A PASSIONATE CRAVING TO
> KNOW REALITY. If these are the fundamental concepts, why is it that we take
> whatever is in the scriptures for granted and the ultimate answer? Is it not
> duty to analyze the statements in the scriptures and explore the reason WHY?
> For example, the question about a Brahmin becoming asudh if he crosses
> the ocean. Can it be that in those ancient times, lands across the seas were
> truly barbaric and crossing the seas were so difficult and a totally degrading
> experience that the sages might've felt that these experiences would soil a
> man's mind and soul and so made such statements in the scriptures?
> I don't know, but I sure hope to find out!
advaita is very clear about the status of shruti (Vedas). For matters
relating to spiritual knowledge (Brahman), shruti is infallible. It can
never be wrong at any time, in the past, present, or future. Regarding
dharma shaastra's and smriti's, it is not quite the same. Smriti's
must be understood and followed in accordance with the times that we
live in and shishTaachaara (good practice). Now this shishhTaachaara
is dependent on the times that we live in.
For example, if the dharma shaastra says treating women as inferior is OK,
it is not acceptable, because current shishhTaachaara is against it.
If the dharma shaastra says a Brahmin must not go near an out-caste,
again, it is not proper to accept it, precisely because current
shishhTaachaara says otherwise, namely all men are to be treated as
So whenever there is a conflict between currently accepted good
conduct and dharma shaastra, the former will prevail. An example is
vegetarianism. Although, Manu and other Smritis do not rule out meat
eating completely, the shishhTaachaara for quite some time in India
has been that vegetarianism is a virtue that needs to be practised
by Brahmins. So we avoid meat.
What I am saying is that one should understand the jurisdiction or
the domains under which the scriptures are to be accepted. In
regard to knowledge of Brahman, there is no alternative to shruti.
In fact, Shankara makes it clear that even sayings of great people
like Gautama, KaNaada, etc. must be categorically rejected when
they are in opposition to the shruti. But shruti gains its status
because it does not bother much with affairs of day to day mundane life
which are subjected to change with respect to time. Shruti deals primarily
with timeless truths only, and so cannot be contested at any time by
anybody. The Smriti does not have such an absolute position because
it deals also with day to day life, and so can be interpreted and
followed according to the times we live in. One more difference is
we can leave out some things in the Smriti, based on shishhTaachaara,
and follow other things. But this cannot be done with Shruti. The
teachings of the shruti must be accepted in their entirety. This
again follows from the timeless nature of those teachings.
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