[Advaita-l] Re: 'End' not 'Means'

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Fri Apr 14 01:52:42 CDT 2006

Dear Mr. Koekkek,

You raise very interesting questions, so here are my 2 c. worth on them.

>For me, as a European, I feel a bit a contradiction at this moment. Adwaita
>cannot be traditional for me, course I am no Hindu.

Agreed, but that need not be an obstacle at all.

>Or do you mean that I should stick to questions about:
>"Who am I", from Sri Ramana Maharshi,
>a translation from sayings from Sri Shankara, from the "Ashtavakra 
>from "Advaita Bodha  Deepika",
>"Jnana Yoga" from Vivekananda,
>or your website about Vedanta?
>These are the texts on Vedanta I have.

If you have the interest and can find a means to study Sanskrit, I would 
personally encourage you to learn the language and read the originals for 
which you have read the translations already. Contrary to general fear, 
learning the Sanskrit language is not all that difficult. Even the Chinese 
and Japanese studied and translated Buddhist Sanskrit texts to their own 
completely different languages. Europeans, because of their 
Germanic/Celtic/Latin/Greek/Slavic backgrounds, should find it much easier.

We must also distinguish learning the Sanskrit language, in order to read 
the texts in their originals, from learning to become a Vedic priest and 
making that one's life occupation. In the former case, the intention is not 
to exclude anybody at all. In the latter, there are issues of social and 
religious identity that impose restrictions.

In fact, I would say that a lot of the angst some of us express on this list 
arises from the fact that most Indians nowadays do not seem to have the time 
or energy to learn the language of the tradition, but argue endlessly about 
opening up the priestly course of study to all. And this in spite of the 
fact that as speakers of native Indian languages, we have even more of an 
advantage than the average European when it comes to learning Sanskrit. 
Rather, most Indians are content to read translations in English; we are 
educated and think only in modes inculcated by an education system imposed 
by British colonists, but mostly we do not apply the rigor and discipline 
that is natural to most Western philosophers. When we step out of the 
familiar modes of thinking, we are ripe candidates to fall prey to one or 
the other kind of jingoism and propaganda arising from the political 
situation in India today. All of this can be bettered if we make a better 
effort to understand our tradition - that is all that I am getting at.

>Or am I also allowed to write texts as the following, which are, as far as 
>think to understand this all, related to advaita:


>But I am a bit doubting. Perhaps I don't belong in this mail-ring. I cannot

There you would be mistaken. It is not the policy of this list to discourage 
anyone who is seriously interested. There are quite a few non-Indian members 
in this list, although they may not be active participants for the most 

>study the Vedanta like a Hindi-person. I don't mean this in a negative way,
>you are doing a good job together. Perhaps this contradiction has been a
>problem more often. You think in your own tradition, but only very
>untraditional thinking European people can become interested in advaita, 
>those kind of people have quite often a very active meaning by themselves.

There you have hit the nail on the head! However, I would not agree that 
Indians think in our own tradition all the time. In addition to what I wrote 
above, the very fact that we are all writing on this list in the English 
language, and not in Sanskrit or Tamil or Assamese, indicates that we too 
have internalized many things that were not part of our tradition. By 
definition, most of the Indian participants on this list come from families 
that have one foot in our Indian tradition(s) and another outside it. I 
would not say that the second foot is in the Wesern tradition either, 
because in most cases, that foot is placed securely in what Indians perceive 
as Western modernity.


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