Practical Vedanta

Sankaran Panchapagesan panchap at ICSL.UCLA.EDU
Tue May 18 18:34:34 CDT 1999


>   The answer is yes. Please see my post titled "Request for discussion
>   on Common Dharma", that I wrote about a week ago (May 9th). Specifically,
>   sAmAnya dharma includes such things as dAna, dayA, satya, asteya, and
>   ahiMsA , which if followed provide ample opportunity for social service.

 I'm sorry, I didn't update my bookmark to the new archive locations,
and so hadn't read all your earlier posts.
        I might have been mistaken about proper dharma, or what I
perceived as proper dharma. I understand that social service is included
in sAmAnya dharma and everyone just has to do his/her dharma.

>  No, we dont have to adopt anything from any other faith. Our dharma-
>  shAstras are sufficient if only we follow them.


> >        Also, the varNASrama system really has not much relevance to most
> >of us right now. For e.g.:  According to the smRtis (Manu?) is it not part
> >of brahmin law that they are supposed to live only off begging,
>    This is an erroneous conclusion. Although Brahmins are not supposed
>   to hanker after excessive wealth, there is no basis for saying they
>   must take to begging. What you are probably referring to is during the
>   brahmacharya and sAnyAsa ashrama's? Even to this day, there are those
>   who follow this, although I agree the practice is uncommon.

        I didn't imply begging alone, but also things which might be given
to one, as dAna, etc. I had the impression that dAna, etc. were the duties
of the kshatriyas and vaiSyas who had money.
        I might be mis-informed, but that idea of mine was based on cases
like in the Mahabharata, where for e.g., when the Pandavas are living
disguised as brahmins in ekacakra, it is taken for granted that the only
way they would get food is by begging. Nothing to do with
brahmacarya/sannyAsa. I am not able to recall any other similar instances,
but I am sure I have come accross some in our own epics and purANas.
Similarly, in other stories, from buddhist sources like the vinaya, etc.
there are clear instances that brahmins used to get their food only by
        Or, if not begging, a brahmin should only accept what is given for
his services, never ask for anything himself. I have been believing that
believe that such brahmins are the only true ones, all others like me just
don't have the courage, sincerety or faith to follow these strict rules.

> >        Certainly, one should not live comfortably in America, try to
> >increase one's wealth and comfort, and when asked whether one should not
> >contribute positively to the society, answer and say one is doing
> >AtmavicAra?
>  A counter argument could be: "At least, in America I can earn my liveli-
>  hood honestly and live an honest life, without being dragged into
>  corruption. That way there is more scope to follow my dharma in America
>  than in present day India. And being honest gives me  peace of mind, and
>  I can turn my mind to Atma-vichAra." How would you answer this?

        I don't think such an argument is acceptable. It is up to you to
be honest and straight. You cannot blame others, the society or the times
(Kali yuga, etc.) once you know the difference between right and wrong. If
you're firm, you can lead an honest life and get peace of mind without
comfort. (Where there is a will there is a way.) In fact, I think you
should learn to do AtmavicAra without any comfort whatsoever.
        To counter this one might argue that one can concentrate on
spiritual enquiry only if one's other basic wants are satisfied. But what
most of our scriptures from the gItA on say is that the solution is not to
eliminate wants by satisfying them, but to overcome by eliminating all
desires, some of which might even be seen as basic needs. And so say
people like the Buddha, and Gandhi, who are generally considered
spiritually advanced. In fact, in the archives of this very list I saw
arguments against this view (i.e. trying to eliminate desires by removing
desires by fulfilling them) as in the thread on Osho Rajneesh, etc.

>   I can understand your concern for social service but I cannot
>   understand your line of reasoning. As I see it, you seem to be suggesting
>   that since we cannot follow our dharma, we must take to social service.

        No, I was just implying that social service is an essential part
of our dharma today, as you yourself have said.

        My other question was basically to Vaidya Sundaram. He said though
he had enthu to do social service, etc. he placed greated weight on Ramana
Maharishi's words, and concentrated on AtmavicAra instead. But as long as
one has not renounced all desires and the world (sannyAsa) such reasoning
is not valid because dharma includes social service, and as long as one is
not doing AtmavicAra full time, by slowly conquering and eliminating all
desires and taking sannyAsa, one has to do social service as a part of
dharma. Otherwise philosophising at the jnani level would necessarily be
constred as escapism, as Madhavan Srinivasan did, right? (don't take
offense, but such is the perspective from outside).



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