miscellaneous (fwd)

Ravi Mayavaram msr at REDDY20.TAMU.EDU
Fri Apr 10 10:04:54 CDT 1998

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 9 Apr 1998 15:26:39 -0700 (PDT)
From: Vidyasankar Sundaresan <vidya at cco.caltech.edu>
To: Ravi Mayavaram <msr at reddy20.tamu.edu>
Subject: miscellaneous

My dear Ravi,

I just went through the archives of the Advaita mailing list today, and
was surprised at the vehemence of the debate over administrative policy.

1. I agree with your stand that a list discussion needs focus, and that
given the goal of this discussion list, that focus can best be achieved by
using Sankaracarya's texts as a guide.

2. Yes, advaita has a universal aspect to it, but we should take care not
to make anything and everything into advaita. Specifically, topic-based
comparisons of Buddhism and Advaita should be welcome, but blanket
statements like, "Buddha taught Advaita" and "Later followers have
distorted Buddha's teaching" or "Sankara is prejudiced against Buddhists"
or "Dharmakirti is prejudiced against Vedantins" should be discouraged.
They neither convey useful information, nor are they true to the
respective traditions. There are specific aspects of Buddhist thought
that have been historically/philosophically accepted by Advaitins, and we
should not dismiss all of it without any reflection. The universality of
Advaita thought has been indicated as early as in gauDapAda's kArikas,
which talk of a-virodha-vAda, but that does not mean that everything was
accepted as is.

3. I disagree with Sri Jaldhar Vyas's comments about the neo-Vedanta
groups. Although their social concerns may be different from what
traditional Advaitins have espoused, all the modern neo-Vedanta gurus have
authentic dIkshA-paramparAs connecting them to Sankara's disciple lineage.
Swami Sivananda, and through him Swami Chinmayananda and others all belong
to the Sarasvati order. The Ramakrishna Math monks belong to the Puri
order, through the person of Tota Puri, a guru of Ramakrishna. And in
India itself, Mahamandalesvaras of the Dasanami institutions come from
diverse religious and social backgrounds, e.g. Nityananda, disciple of
Muktananda of Ganeshpuri (Maharashtra) was recently appointed as a
Mahamandalesvara (this is mainly a kuNDalini yoga tradition, with links
to Kashmir Saivism).

The Ramakrishna Mission in New York may look like a church, but so what?
Their buildings in India look like other Hindu temples in the region they
are situated in. And one may disagree with something that Ramakrishna or
Vivekananda said, without having to dismiss the entire order as
non-Advaitic. Even within the Ramakrishna order, many of the early monks,
including Saradananda and Brahmananda, disagreed with Vivekananda on
numerous issues. And for that matter, not all of us will be able to
reconcile all the statements of the previous Sankaracarya of Puri with
Advaita thought. Ramana Maharishi taught Advaita, although he did not
formally become a monk in the Sankaran tradition. A discussion of his
teachings would be perfectly in place within this list. So, there has to
be some flexibility. Nothing is as monolithic as we would like to believe.

4. I think Sri Ram Chandran's concerns are uncalled for. He seems to be
reading an extreme position into your call for a direction. I presume you
have a much more moderate position than what was portrayed. I hope the
misunderstanding about policy gets cleared soon. As far as I can see, the
participants in this list have good qualities of head and heart, and it
would be sad to see it dissolve under acrimony.

5. I think we should begin discussion threads that are text-based. Your
postings from the SrI-lalitA-triSati-bhAshya form a good start. The
vishNu-sahasranAma-bhAshya would also be a good text to go through, and
one can see how well Advaita is taught in the course of explaining these
stotras, which can be mastered easily even by children. Even if one
doubts, from a scholarly viewpoint, the attribution of these texts to
Sankaracarya, there is no doubt that they originate from within the
Advaita tradition, and they will be well within the focus of this list.

With more philosophically heavy texts like the brahmasUtra-bhAshya or the
bhagavad-gItA-bhAshya, one could cover the important features, instead of
discussing them sUtra by sUtra or verse by verse. I have seen little
discussion of these seminal texts in the history of our list, and if
somebody else has not already taken it up, I will probably initiate
one, when I rejoin.


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