[Advaita-l] Re: Importance of Peethams

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Tue Apr 13 00:09:37 CDT 2004

On Fri, 9 Apr 2004, [iso-8859-1] Raghavendra N Kalyan wrote:

> >Why do you assume "rational debate and discussion" or
> >"self->realization" are opposed to "ritualistic religion"? What do
> >those terms mean >anyway?
> Is that an assumption? Self-realization is indeed quite different from
> rituals. It does not depend on whether or not a ritual is performed. One
> may perform 100 rituals and still remain in ignorance. Moreover, while
> rituals need wealth etc. to be performed, brahma-jnAna cannot be
> obtained by wealth. Rituals need birth/caste based qualifications. Not
> so for brahma-jnAna. Initiation rites are required for the performer of
> rituals. Not so for brahma-jnAna. The list is quite long.

Yes this is true, but the assumption is not in what was said but what was
left unsaid.  Advaita Vedanta doesn't say give up rituals, it says give up
karma.  The concept of karma includes _all_ purposeful actions whether
sacred or secular.  We can just as easily say:

  Self-realization is indeed quite different from college. It does not
  depend on whether or not a college is attended. One may get 100 degrees
  and still remain in ignorance.  Moreover, while attending university
  needs money, books etc. to be performed, brahma-jnAna cannot be obtained
  by wealth. College requires good exam results. Not so for brahma-jnAna.
  Registration is required for the new college student. Not so for
  brahma-jnAna. The list is quite long.

The point is pitting "self-realization" against "rituals" has lead many to
think that forsaking pujas and prayers while keeping their fancy cars
and house is some kind of jnana as long as it is accompanied by flowery
nonsense about "spirituality" and "realizing that" etc. when in fact that
is the direct opposite of what Advaita Vedanta teaches.  If one wishes to
practice Advaita Vedanta to its utmost, one must give up all karma and
retire to sannyasa.  If one can't for whatever reason, one should atleast
renounce the fruits of action, doing only that which duty commands.
These two Vedic paths of nivrtti and pravrtti are meant for different
classes of sadhakas and they are the _only_ two choices.

You can see that from this perspective it makes perfect sense for an
Advaitic monastary to also recommend the performance of rituals etc.
Their followers who are not yet ready for sannyasa would be ill-served by
being taught a theory that couldn't be put into practice.

The same for "rational debate and discussion" versus rituals.  It is true
that rituals are not scientific i.e. they are not based on observable
natural phenomena but science isn't the full measure of rational thought.
If we look at the Purva Mimamsa shastra, we see that it is based on basic
axioms on which logical inferences are made.  In fact the very meaning of
Mimamsa is dialectic debate.  Logic and linguistics developed in India (to
a very advanced degree I might add) out of a desire to understand the
meaning of the Vedas for the performance of actions.

Vedanta is also called Uttara Mimamsa which shows it is a continuation of
the methods of Purva Mimamsa.  It is called Veda + anta because it is the
culmination of the process taught in the Vedas.  But just because it is
the pinnacle of the pyramid, it doesn't mean we can ignore the base of
rituals, logic, history etc. that supports it.

> > >I wish to be excused for raising this question. Are the peethams
> > >>>serving any purpose?
> >Obviously they are as nothing continues to exist without a purpose.
> I am curious to know what is obvious about it.
> >But I take it this purpose doesn't seem clear to you?
> Atleast, it does not seem clear to me. So, can you please explain? And
> may be, a few words on how the maTha-s are serving their purpose would
> be useful. Thanks.

Advaita Vedanta is not just a theory but a practical method for the
cessation of the suffering caused by samsara.  A practical method requires
practical examples.  The important part of a math is not the buildings
although they are often associated with famous tirths and mandirs.  It is
not the educational and charitable programs though they often run those.
It is the living chain of guru and shishya.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>
It's a girl! See the pictures - http://www.braincells.com/shailaja/

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