Practical Vedanta (fwd)

Ravi msr at COMCO.COM
Fri May 21 09:16:13 CDT 1999

---------- Forwarded message ----------
> Sankaran Panchapagesan <panchap at ICSL.UCLA.EDU> wrote:

>         But since most of us are not in such cases as Arjuna and Rama
> were, where we have to make a critical decision, it seems to me that the
> problem here is, more basically, what is our dharma? Is social service
> included in it or not?
>         I think after the advent of Christianity/Christian missions in
> India, there was a feeling among our national leaders like Gandhi & co.
> and is many educated people that our dharma system was deficient in that
> it did not emphasize social service. There is a feeling that this is
> something that is worthwhile adopting from Christianity. The only sort-of
> relevant duty of brahmins which might be termed "social-service" seems to
> me the performing of yajnas etc. for the general well-being of the people
> (not for personal gains). It all I think depends on whether you believe
> this is going to help or not.
When the Lord is already taking care of the world, what really does one need to
do? It's a blatant lack of faith to imagine that one can do more good to the
world than what God is already doing all the time.

Though service by works is good (at least better than aiming to satisfy one's
own selfish desires), it cannot remove the root cause of all the suffering in
the world. The seed of suffering in the world is only due to ignorance, and it
is more important to kill ignorance, which is constituted by the idea that food,
drink and other "basic material stuffs" are the primary causes of one's
existence. When it is known that the Self bears no relationship to the world of
matter, what kind of "work" can one do?

In Christianity too, there are several places where faith is emphasized more
than good works: e.g. Jesus teaches his disciples,"Look at the birds of the air
-- they sow not, nor do they reap...does not the Father take care of them? Are
you not much better than they? Will He not take care of you, O you of little
faith!"  It is obvious that at the very advanced level, one who has faith in God
will no longer actively work (sow, reap, etc.). Jesus continues,"So care not for
your bodies; care not for what you eat or where you sleep; take no thought for
tomorrow for tomorrow shall take care of itself." (I'm not sure of the exact
words, but this is approx. how it goes)

>         Our whole dharma system depends to a large extent on faith,
Yes. And that's all one needs. This is what must be developed in order to tread
the spiritual path. One needs only faith and dedication.


>         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? Is it not that these (social works) are essential social
> obligations of the present age, which must be forsaken for AtmavicAra only
> if at the same time the "good" things of social life, like comfort,
> pleasure, etc. are aso forsaken? Is trying to use Ramana Maharishi's
> philosophy as a justification for not doing social service while enjoying
> the benefits of the society, not a form of escapism as Madhavan Srinivasan
> argued?
If you mean: there exist people in the world who say,"I want to maintain an
annual salary of $100,000, with a nice retirement plan, invest some money in
stocks and bonds, along with a spacious house and a car -- and am _also_
interested in realizing the Self." Then you're right: this doesn't make any
sense. As the vivekachuuDaamaNi says,"Wanting to lead a comfortable life and yet
wanting to know the Truth is like wanting to cross a river on the back of a
crocodile" or words to that effect. For people who *want* to continue working in
the world, there is no way out of this ignorance. It is "better" to do some
social work and live in the world than live in a world of comfort yet all the
while claiming to strive for liberation. Anyway, why bother thinking about such

But surely, you are mistaken in pointing fingers at anyone in this list, since
none of them really endorsed that view at any time. What they did say was: one
can make spiritual progress (by prayer, etc.) while working in the world [solely
in order to sustain one's physical existence]. This is definitely better than
any social work anyone can do.


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