[Advaita-l] mleccha-s not eligible to take Hinduism??

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Wed Jul 11 15:55:31 CDT 2012

Sorry but just when things were getting interesting, my laptop had to be 
sent back for repairs and then I got busy with Guru purnima and a few work 
related issues.  Here are a few more replies to various issues brought up 
in this thread.

On Tue, 26 Jun 2012, Bhaskar YR wrote:

> My doubt is whether mleccha-s ( Westerners) are not eligible to come to
> the  fold of vaidika dharma according to strict vedik rules??

Part of the confusion that has resulted is a lack of rigorous definition. 
In the title you talk about taking Hinduism but here you are asking about 
"strict Vedic rules."  The two are not the same!

On Tue, 26 Jun 2012, Venkata sriram P wrote:

> What is the definition of a mlEccha and re all westerners mlEcchAs ? 
> Need to be careful in categorizing.   

I agree.  mleccha ("barbarian") and arya ("noble") refer to culture not 
race.  Ideally all westerners should be monsters and all Indians should be 
saints :-) but in practice that isn't true!

So what does it mean to be in "the Hindu fold"?  Here are some scenarios 
which I have actually observed myself in a Pushti Marg Vaishnava Mandir 
attended by Gujarati immigrants in America.

1. A white man occasionally wanders in.  People look at him in curiosity 
otherwise ignore him.  He mumbles the Harekrishna mantra, takes whatever 
free prasad is available and leaves without talking to anyone.  Is he part 
of the "Hindu fold"?

2. Another white man also only appears infrequently but he is warmly 
greeted by the worshippers.  He has done academic research in India where 
he met with Pushti Margi Goswamis and he is quite familiar with the 
traditions and texts of that sampradaya in Sanskrit and Gujarati which he 
can speak fluently. By the way, the scholarly institution he is affiliated 
with is a seminary (a school for training Christian priests.)  Is he part 
of the "Hindu fold."?

3. An American woman possibly of Hispanic origin (I didn't ask) is married 
to a Gujarati man who is indifferent to dharmic activities.  But she 
regularly comes to the mandir with their young children for the Bal Vihar 
program "So they can know their heritage."  She doesn't wear a sari but 
she tries to follow some of the other norms of a married woman such as 
wearing bindi, mangal sutra etc. but she is not very familiar or 
comfortable in this environment and not getting any support from home. 
Is she part of the "Hindu fold"?

4. A couple from a prominent Gujarati Pushti Margi family whose ancestor 
was an associate of Vallabhacharya himself make a point to have darshan 
whenever they are in town and they do so in as meticulous and orthodox a 
manner as any Pushti Margi in India.  However they are not in town very 
often as they live far away in a place where they are the only Hindu 
family.  Their son dutifully does all the rituals as mummy and daddy tell 
him but he is not personally motivated and would much rather be playing 
outside.  Are they (especially the boy) part of the "Hindu fold"?

5. An elderly Bengali woman likes to attend this mandir for the Vaishnava 
ambience which is similar to the Gaudiya (not Harekrishna) Vaishnavism she 
grew up with.  But the age and language barriers stop her from full 
participation in the activities.  Is she part of the "Hindu fold"?

6. Finally there's me.  Even though there is a South Indian mandir within 
short distance which is more ideologically in line with my thinking, I go 
this one because of the Gujarati culture.  Those who know me there respect 
me for my learning and would be willing to give me a pass on some 
activities which ought only to be done by one who has had formal diksha 
but I refuse because I don't believe in the Pushti Marga and only take 
part in the aarti or those utsavas which are mainstream.  Am I part of the 
"Hindu fold" in this mandir?

Most likely anyone who has read this far will have a slightly different 
take on which of the people in these scenarios are "inside" and which ones 
are "outside" the fold and this goes to show why the whole idea of 
"conversion to Hinduism" doesn't make sense because different people have 
such divergent conceptions of what it means.  I am not ashamed of the word 
Hindu but it doesn't really mean anything to me.  Words like Gujarati, 
Brahmana, Smarta, Shaiva do and each of these concepts have their own 
methods of entry.

On Wed, 27 Jun 2012, Bhaskar YR wrote:

> But again, after reading all these explanations from the replies, I am
> getting an impression that  upanayana saMskAra can be done, as a special
> case,  to the sincere adhyAtama student/sAdhaka who wants to do his
> sAdhana in veda mArga.

What does Upanayana have to do with adhyatma?  It is a symbol of adhikara 
for karma.  Sadhakas in Advaita Vedanta stop wearing Yagnopavita even if 
they have been rigorously orthodox their entire lives.  Shukadevaji the 
son of Vedavyasa never underwent upanayana at all because from birth he 
was unaffected by karma.  So this is extra stupid from an adhyatmic 
perspective -- it is a step backwards.

On Wed, 27 Jun 2012, rajaramvenk at gmail.com wrote:

> In the case Satyakama, which gotra did he get in to? He sure needs that
> to say abhivadaye and more importantly to avoid sa-gotra marriage. It
> seems his guru took a decision on that. Is it not?

No Satyakama  describes himself as son of jAbali whos name is itself means
a woman of jabala gotra or daughter of Jabala which in the generations of
the Rshis amounted to the same thing.  This custom of taking a matronymic
is not restricted to people in Satyakamas situation.  See for instance the
vaMShabrAhmaNas in e.g. Brhadaranyaka III.6.5 which begins pautamAShIputra
kAtyanIputra etc.  Shankaracharya notes that they are named after their 
mothers because it is through the virtue of the mother that a guNavanta 
son is born.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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