[Advaita-l] Guidance of a guru

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Tue Nov 23 16:33:36 CST 2004

On Thu, 18 Nov 2004, Sanjay Srivastava wrote:

> VMK wrote:
> "In that case your statement in your previous e-mail "... yet if one
> must make a compromise, one should go to a teacher who is just
> shrotriyam than to one who is just brahma-nishtham" contradict the verse
> inĀ  Munadaka Upanisad 1.2.12. The verse says evabhigacchet which means
> "its absolutely necessary". So I am wondering that since you have said
> that one can compromise, is there some other verse that you are basing
> your argument on? In absence of a Vedic reference, a statement of
> compromising would be mental speculation. Please correct me, if I am
> wrong."
> 1) No. My argument was not based on any other verse. Both the qualities
>    are essential. The argument was just to underline the importance of
>    finding a teacher who is "shrotriyam"-- a requirement which is often
>    the first casualty in modern times. This argument was based on an
>    elaboration made by my teacher Swami Brahmavidananda in Mumbai.
> 2) My understanding is that "eva" in this verse puts emphasis on going
>    to a teacher (as opposed to trying to figure out by himself). It has
>    not been used to put emphasis on "shrotriyam" and "brahmanishtham"--
>    though not qualifying them by "eva" does not mean that they are any
>    less important.  Correct me if I am wrong.

This is an interesting verse.

"Having examined the worlds produced by action, a Brahmana should arrive
at [the idea of] renunciation thinking 'There is nothing here which is not
produced by action so what is the point of acting?'  To understand this he
must go with samidha in hand to a Guru who is learned in shastras and
absorbed in Brahman."

"Having examined the worlds produced by action"  He learns of the worlds
produced by action from his study of the Vedas (which includes all the
shastras based on the Vedas, Ramayana, Gita, Bhagavata etc. Those who are
not qualified to learn te Vedas can get the same knowledge from these.)
The shastras specify the reward or punishment to be gained by the
performance or non-performance of actions.  After studying this an
intelligent student begins to see the defects in those rewards.  To see
that hell is bad (and consequently bad actions should be avoided) is
relatively easy but Heaven too has its problems.  For as a thing which is
"produced" (by the effects of good deeds) is has a beginning and
consequently an end.

On further reflection he finds "There is nothing here which is not
produced by action"  All is perishable so the arduous labour required to
get those perishable items will be futile.  "so what is the point of
acting?" with that thought in mind, he develops a distaste for action and
renounces it in search of true immortality

Shankaracharya says a Brahmana is mentioned here because it is the
Brahmanas who especially have the right to renounce.  This has led some
orders of Advaitic sannyasis to only accept Brahmanas into their ranks.
However other advaitic thinkers interpret this to mean only Brahmanas have
a particular talent for jnana so to speak but this doesn't no one else has
the right.  This is the mainstream view.  (In fact in the
Brahmasutrabhashya Shankaracharya gives the examples of Vidura and
Dharmavyadha who were Shudras and also jnanis.)

The sadhaka who wishes "To understand this" desire for liberation should
go "with samidha in hand" to the Guru.  samidha is the sticks used as
kindling for the yajna.  Providing samidha is the chief traditional duty
of a Brahmachari and all the other obligations of such a one are included
thereby.  But yajnas are part of karmakanda.  Didn't he just renounce
this?  One cannot escape ones obligations just by saying "I don't like
this anymore." While one is mired in duality, one must follow dualities
strictures and obligations.  Only one who is "absorbed in Brahman"
(Brahmanishta) is free from strictures and obligations.  According to
Shankaracharya, this is synonymous with sannyasa.  A householder can never
be considered Brahmanishta.  A Sadguru should not only be Brahmanishta but
shrotriya which Shankaracharya glosses as expert in "hearing and teaching
the Vedas along with their meaning"

It should clear from the beginning of the verse that the student is also
expected to be educated before he even seeks a Guru.  So then why is
teacher also expected to be shrotriya?  Isn't this redundant?  For this we
should remember that Vedanta is not revolutionary.  It is not a rejection
of what has come before but its culmination (the literal meaning of
vedanta) it is the crown or pinnacle of the Vedas.  This is why the phrase
"hearing and reciting" is used.  "hearing" is learning from the previous
generation.  "teaching" is passing it on to the next generation.  In
history there have been many many saints who have achieved enlightenment
unknown to anyone other than themselves.  Shankaracharya could have
secured moksha for himself, without founding any institutions to carry on
his legacy or without writing down any of his insights.  But we who live
many centuries later would have been deprived as a result.  Similiarly if
we do not take up the in-depth and systematic study of Vedanta, it is the
mumukshus of the future who will suffer and a true sadhaka will not wish
suffering on anyone.

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

More information about the Advaita-l mailing list