Practical Vedanta

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Wed May 5 14:46:17 CDT 1999

On Wed, 5 May 1999, mmsudan wrote:

> Namaste,
>     Last month when I became member of the list I was not aware about the
> nature and level of discussion and exchanges taking place. While most of the
> contents are interesting and illuminating but I feel the contents to be more
> scholarly than practical. I have deep interest in spiritualism and ADVAITA
> VEDANTA but then I am more concerned with  present days ills of the society.

Yes, much of Vedanta is other-worldly.  It is designed for the solitary
monk who has renounced all of society and its pleasures and ills.  However
the shastras deal not just with moksha, but with dharma, artha, and kama
too.  Our sages say there is nothing wrong with the pravrtti marga for
those that are inclined to this world.  By following the dictates of the
shastras they will eventually be inclined to the nivrtti marga and realize
the futility of worldly goals.

> Which direction our
> society and country is heading? Which directions our young generation is
> heading?  In this age when the whole of our society is leaning more and more
> towards materialism and consumerism,

And this is a new thing?  In Ramayana didn't Kaikeyi attempt to remove
Shri Rama in favor of her own son?  How is this so different from the
Jayalalitas etc. of today?  Today there are more material goods so greed
seems to be on a larger scale but the feeling was always there.  But at
the same time the capacity to do good has greatly increased too.  On my
recent trip to India, I saw a pothi or small book one of my earlier
ancestors had possessed.  It was the 10th skanda of Bhagavata Purana,
laboriously copied by hand, incomplete and full of spelling mistakes.  In
my library I have about 300 volumes of Sanskrit works, well printed and
edited on all areas of the shastras.  It is the consumer society that
allowed such books to be published and that allowed me to own them.

> How do we make teaching of SankarAcArya
> more relevant to the common man on the street? Last month I posted on the
> list one of my letter addressed to all young friends. I am keen to share
> experiences and learn more from the respected members of the list as to how
> do we make India once again, in real and practical sense, world leader in
> spiritualism? How do we make teachings of SankarAcArya relevant and
> attractive  to the common man and particularly to the young
> generation?

Indians are only beginning to have to deal with this problem.  Hindus
living in the west have had to deal with it for some time.  One particular
torture they have invented for their children is the "Our glorious
heritage" lecture.  Let me tell you as a 28 year old who was born in
England and has lived his whole life outside India, it doesn't work.
Children have a good talent for spotting hypocrisy and humbuggery and this
kind of preaching just turns people off.  I know some people from the
"best" families whose children end up as atheists.  Conversely some people
are barely literate in Gujarati yet manage to pass on to their children
love and enthusiasm for God. It seems to me the key is how parents and
elders actually behave not what they say.  The successful ones are those
who live their religion enthusiastically in word and deed, who treat
Hinduism not like it is some ponderous burden or museum piece, but the
most natural thing in the world.

Much as I would like to believe I am the descendant of Rshi-munis from a
world center of spirituality, the fact is that I am the descendant of
Brahman schoolteachers and minor bureaucrats from an undistinguished part
of Gujarat.  But those teachers and bureaucrats did their best to serve
God as He wishes and I find that inspiring enough.

>  Nehru in his book Discovery of India has written " In the
> century SankarAcArya, one of the greatest of India's philosophers, started
> religious orders or maths for Hindu sanyasins or monks, this was an adoption
> of the old Buddhist practice or the sangha. Previously there had been no such
> organisation of sanyasins in Brahaminism, although small group of them
> existed. Some degraded forms of Buddhism, continued in East Bengal and Sind
> in the north-west. Otherwise Buddhism gradually vanished form India as a
> widespread religion."

Btw, I would not rely on anything Nehru said.  Whatever talents he may have
had as a politician did not cross over to more scholarly endeavors.

> Today the danger is influence of foreign culture,

No the danger is in badly understood culture foreign or Indian.

> young children's are not
> interested in study of scholarly Sanskrit texts.

Then let them say Rama nama.  When I go to mandir, I notice that
little children particularly enjoy ringing the bell.  Let them do that.
When the time comes that their curiosity awakens be prepared to give them
honest, informativ, and sincere answers.  (That's where the scholars come

> Scholars may continue
> discussing and exchanging notes amongst themselves, (it is desirable and I
> donot under estimate its importance, I hope I am not misunderstood )  but new
> generations here in India will drift away from our own culture in the
> meanwhile. Like SankarAcArya, who took on the challenge of his time, are we
> ready to face the realties of today  and discuss the same to find solution to
> this problem? I am keen to be enlightened on Practical Vedanta.

I don't think there is such a thing as practical (if by practical
you mean worldly) Vedanta but there is practical Hinduism and I think you
yourself gave the answer in your quote from Valmiki Ramayana.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at>

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