[Advaita-l] Advaita Vedanta, religion, and science

Bhadraiah Mallampalli vaidix at hotmail.com
Thu Jan 22 17:25:08 CST 2009

Dear Michael Shepherd
If you check the dictionaries, the word religion is born from the root re-legio which means a super-natural constraint meant to hold back or restraint a follower to a set of beliefs, faith and observances.
Throughout his works Adi Sankara proclaimed and encouraged people to get freed from bondages and attain liberation. So the word religion is not applicable for advaita. 
This is not to say that observances do not exist in Hindu "religion". There is a practice called 'vratam' which a person takes up at some point of time, practices for a period, and then concludes it. Vratam is meant to impart a kind of rigor to practice (call it a boot camp). But in Hinduism a vratam is taken up only to discontinue at some point of time in future, and not meant to be followed forever because no law would help forever. Adi Sankara proclaimed that ultimately all tenets have to be renounced to achieve the highest truth. 
Manusmriti can be called a law book for people but it is not a universal law book. For it to be It was valid a contemporary king has to adopt it as a law. 
For the high level subjects he was discussing Adi Sankara had to necessarily reject many lower level subjects and the arguments contained in them, but he never meant to reject any thing in the absolute sense, because local rules would always apply for people living wihtin some given constraints.   
As for contemporary and universal explanations, well, any philosopher or reformer will practically apply the highest principles to ground realities and interact with locals and contemporaries. However these arguments must be seen in that light only; whereas universal principles must be held at all times. There is no confusion whatever with regard to Hindu books, though some people may be under misconception that manusmriti is still valid for whole Hindu society and such people may even try to apply it on others. However for some people who honestly think manusmriti is still applicable they apply it only for themselves and follow it sincerely but when it comes to applying it on others they do apply the limitations imposed by current local laws (which effectively override manusmriti in all respects even to the extent of invalidating it but some parts of the rules in manusmriti may still be valid like Hindu property successoin rules as adopted by British).  
As for other religious textbooks please evaluate them yourself. They may not be organized in the same way using the nomenclature of Hindus. Otherwise you may be comparing apples to oranges and coming to wrong conclusions. If in doubt please post a reply.  
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