Ravisankar S. Mayavaram msr at COMCO.COM
Mon Jan 31 15:34:45 CST 2000

Dear Members,

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bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam

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>From kartik at Mon Jan 31 18:24:33 2000
Message-Id: <MON.31.JAN.2000.182433.0600.KARTIK at ECE.UTEXAS.EDU>
Date: Mon, 31 Jan 2000 18:24:33 -0600
Reply-To: Sankaran Jayanarayanan <kartik at>
To: List for advaita vedanta as taught by Shri Shankara
From: Sankaran Jayanarayanan <kartik at ECE.UTEXAS.EDU>
Subject: Re: svadharma
In-Reply-To: <200001281655.LAA15310 at>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: TEXT/PLAIN; charset=US-ASCII

On Fri, 28 Jan 2000, Anand Hudli wrote:


>  That is not likely to be true. A couple of years ago, we had scores
>  of orthodox brAhmaNas making a trip to the US and performing an
>  Atirudra Homa. If crossing the sea is so devastating to one's
>  brAhmaNatva, then all these brAhmaNas would certainly not have
>  done so. Again, we have several very traditional brAhmaNa priests
>  in temples here in the US. Can we really say these people are not
>  brAhmaNas at all?

The BaudhAyana dharma suutra classes the sin of voyaging across the seas
among those like the stealing of a BrAhmaNa's property and giving false
evidence. These are not minor transgresses of dharma, and require
immediate expiation. Granted, there may be exceptions to this rule, but
the rule can be broken only under VERY special circumstances.
The VishhNu PurANa extols the greatness of BhArata varshha (India) as the
"Karma Bhuumi" -- the land of works where the great YaGYas are performed,
and says that the rest of the world is to be looked upon as "Bhoga Bhuumi"
(lands of enjoyment). There is absolutely no doubt that VarNAshrama dharma
practised outside India can in no way equal the same practised within

We cannot be sure what the particular reason for the BrAhmaNas who were
willing to travel to the west was. It cannot be merely for the sake of
performing this homa if it could very well have been performed in India
itself. If the necessary conditions for this homa were to exist in India,
crossing the sea is impermissible, for the shAstras are against this
practice. There must have been something else which prompted the BrAhmaNas
to make such a decision.

It is also a matter of historical fact that BrAhmaNas were NOT permitted
to cross the sea before the last century (I mean before 1900, now that
we're in the 21st century). Even if they did, a penance or rite was
demanded of them if they wished to regain their caste. An example is
Ramanujan, the famous mathematician, who on returning to India after his
visit to England, was asked to perform the necessary rites in order to
regain his BrAhmaNa-hood. You can hardly attribute greed to him for having
travelled to England. Giri has narrated a similar experience.

>  This is where the point of shishhTAchAra or conduct of good people,
>  elders, etc., as a source of Dharma, comes into play. There may
>  be some smR^iti sources that prohibit crossing the sea, but we have
>  in front of us, right now, many brAhmaNas seemingly contradict the
>  smR^iti.

But one who, although perfectly capable of leading a dhArmic life in
India, decides to settle down in the West (for no special reason) and yet
lays claim to BrAhmaNatva is only fooling himself. This is NOT permissible
-- even by the most liberal interpretation of the shAstras.

>  True, the smR^iti is, in general, a more powerful authority than
>  shishhTAchAra. But then again, the same principle of reconcilation
>  applies here too as in the case between shruti and smR^ti. Since
>  we have an apparent contradiction, we need to see if there can be
>  some reconciliation. One important thing that KumArila BhaTTa
>  mentions in his tantra-vArtika is that we have to see if there is
>  any motive arising out of greed, anger, delusion, hatred,  etc., in the
>  *lesser* authority that is apparently contradicting the higher one.
>  If there is such a motive then the *lesser* authority has to be
>  rejected. Although it may be true that some orthodox brAhmaNas come
>  to the US and other countries out of a greed for money, etc., it is NOT
>  the case that ALL such people come here with some selfish motive.
>  Therefore, there is NO conclusive evidence in this case that the
>  lesser authority, ie. shishhTAchAra, is driven by a selfish motive.
>  So we must conclude that the shishhTAchara position can be reconciled
>  and need not be rejected. Therefore, homas, yaGYas, etc. CAN be
>  performed outside India too. Maybe, there is some prAyashchitta,
>  such as taking the panchagavya, etc. that needs to be done, but
>  it seems unlikely that a blanket condemnation of brAhmaNa life
>  outside of India is hardly called for. Still, it may be safe to say that
>  those who have crossed the ocean  out of greed, etc., will have
>  lost their brAhmaNa status.

Exactly. There are several so-called Brahmins who stay in the USA for
the sake of leading a comfortable life, though they may be engaged in
religious activities like homas and pUjas. It is this class that may have
lost the right to be a BrAhmaNa.

>  Anand


bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam

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