[Advaita-l] Pratyavaaya paapam

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Mon Oct 27 23:59:02 CDT 2008

On Sun, 26 Oct 2008, Ramanathan P wrote:

> On this topic, it would be useful to make clear what the nityakarmas,
> etc.  of non-Brahmanas are.

This is an interesting question.  For kshatriyas and Vaishyas they are 
more or less the same as for Brahmanas.  In practice very few actually 
even did that much.  As an example I give Mahatma Gandhi's biography where 
he (a Gujarati Vaishya) got yajnopavita as a boy and wore it for a few 
years but then just lost interest and stopped.  Others, particularly kings 
"outsourced" duties like agnihotra to their purohits.  This has led some 
dharmashastra nibhandhakaras (i.e. Kamalakara Bhatta) to say that in the 
Kaliyuga there are only Brahmanas and Shudras, the other varnas have 
ceased to exist in their true form.  Others (i.e. Nathurama Sharma) hotly 
contest this notion.

For the Shudras (which for the purposes of this discussion also includes 
the many castes whose position in a 4-varna scheme is unclear.) there is 
also a difference of opinion.  Many nibandhakaras gloss over this topic 
altogether.  Of the ones that do, some postulate an equivalent set of 
nityakarmas only based on puranas and tantras.  So for example there is a 
tantrokta sandhya, tantrokta tarpana etc.  Others suggest they fulfill 
their nityakarma by performing whatever is their family occupation.

  Since I take it that the Brahmanas are
> primarily discussing here, and have in mind their duties, it should be
> one of their 'duties' to tell others how they fit, if at all, in the
> orthodox view of such things. If the discussion does not apply to them,
> for this is primarily about ritualistic duties relevant to Brahmanas,
> then that should be made clear. The reason is that we are linking a
> universal philosophy with particular dharmas of the individuals.

The specific details may differ but the general principle has to apply to 
all because the problem of avidya caused by ego-directed action is one 
faced by all.

> Are those from foreign countries who are trying to learn Advaita here relevant to this discussion?

In the case of Shudras we are alteast dealing with people who share the 
concepts of Vedic religion; what of those who are apparently completely 
outside that sphere?  This is not a new issue, as parts of India have been 
ruled or settled by foreign invaders for quite some time.  Again there is 
a difference of opinion.  Some have suggested if e.g. Christians and 
Muslims faithfully practice their religion (minus the bigoted aspects and 
of course with study of vedanta) then despite being dualistic it will 
still prepare one for jnana just as the dualism of shaivas and vaishnavas 
etc. can eventually lead to jnana.  Others have counseled adopting "Hindu" 

The problem with the first approach is that the God of the monotheist is 
a jealous one who in fact denies the existence of other Gods or other 
forms of worship.  This is quite different from our case where the 
Narayana of the Advaitins is not different from the Narayana of the 
Vaishnavas only the approach is different. Furthermore what people they 
have had who could be considered jnanis have instead been reviled and 
persecuted by them as heretics.

The problem with the second approach is that it does not address the issue 
of obligation.  How can something just taken up on one persons advice be 
"nitya" enough to counteract the pratyavaya papa?

I would like to suggest a third way.  It has been my observation from 
living in the UK and USA that much of "Christian" culture is just a thin 
veneer over practices far more ancient.  Take the upcoming holiday of 
Halloween.  The church calls it All Hallows Eve.  For most people it is 
observed by small children dressing up as witches and ghosts and going 
door to door to beg for sweets.  Buts its origins are in a Celtic rite in 
honor of their dead (in other words their pitrs) similiarly Christmas 
celebrates the sun and Easter a fertility Goddess.  If Westerners were to 
dig more deeply into these matters, it would provide them with an 
authentic 'tradition' which combined with Vedanta philosophy can prepare 
them for jnana.  That is what I advise people who ask me anyway.

> Another point in this regard: if the duties of the Brahmanas are
> different from others, and yet is a necessary svadharma for them alone,
> then what exactly is the basis? To be logical, must we not insist that
> we are born Brahmanas, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, Shudras due to specific
> prarabdha karma and with tendencies that makes us best fit in that
> varna?

Yes.  I am sorry to say that this whole "mental attitude" argument seems 
rather self-serving to me.

> It has more to do with Ishvara's decision (on our
> work-tendencies, hence our birth) that was presumably seen and made
> into shastras by our sages, than with the idea that the sages thought
> this approach works best for society. In the latter case, the
> individual is free to take up another's work by rejecting the
> psychological insinuations: it is possible depending on adhikara
> (Drona, for instance); in the former case,

Note that according to the Mahabharata, Drona did not give up his Brahmana 
duties (for instance in the gitaparvan he and Kripa are depicted as 
performing sandhyavandana) despite his "non-traditional" occupation.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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