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

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Thu Jul 12 09:58:51 CDT 2012

In partial response to Shivashankar, 
>In the end it comes down to faith.  But that shouldn't stop you from 
>asking questions.  Have you asked your guru why he thinks you should have 
>upanayana.  I personally don't think he will come up with a plausible 
>answer but I am willing and interested to know what it is.  In the mean 
>time please remove the yajnopavit and dispose of it in a respectful 
>manner, stop sandhya and continue with a more appropriate form of sadhana.
Jaldhar, I would agree with you on almost all the points you mentioned in
your combined response to various posters, but especially not on this one.
We are all entitled to our opinions as to what constitutes brAhmaNatva and
what allows the upanayana saMskAra in a general sense, but one also has
to recognize that there are specific cases of exceptions.

In Sri Shivashankar's case, it is a matter between him and the guru who
agreed to invest him with an upanayana. I don't think anybody else has a
right to tell him to take it off and do something else, just because such a
course of action would constitute a breach of his dharma towards his guru.

Consider the following. satyakAma jAbAla was accepted as a brahmacArin
student and was first taken through the upanayana ritual. The chAndogya
upanishat explicitly says so (tvA neshye na satyAd agA iti tam upanIya...).
And of course, there would have been other contemporary brAhmaNa-s
who would have not agreed to take him on the way gautama hAridrumata
did. For hAridrumata, the very fact that satyakAma jAbAla did not lie about
his unknown lineage was enough to confirm that the boy had adhikAra. Now,
would any of hAridrumata's contemporary gurus have ahd the right to tell
satyakAma to renounce his yajnopavIta, go back to his mother and take up
some other occupation more suited for someone of uncertain parentage
and ambiguous varNa? I don't think so. On the contrary, satyakAma jAbAla
went on to become a teacher himself and taught upakosala kAmalAyana.
In all these sorts of discussions, there is an unsaid and fuzzy line betweeen 
being "Hindu" and being a brAhmaNa. People of ambiguous varNa-s exist,
I agree, and they have existed for a long time in history. Leave aside the
brAhmaNa varNa and the absence of any mechanism to convert to it. Take
the case of the kshatriya, from within well-documented recent history. The
man called Shivaji, son of Shahaji, living in the Maharashtra region, had to
go to great pains to prove his jAti's kshatriyatva before he could be crowned
king in a formal manner. The orthodox brAhmaNa-s in Pune and Paithan 
did not want to accept his family as kshatriya and someone from Varanasi
had to give his permission before he was accepted. The man called Ekoji,
his half-brother, another son of Shahaji, ruling over the Tanjavaur region,
had no such problems. The Bhonsales were readily accepted as kshatriyas
in that part of the country. Now Tamil speaking brAhmaNas who had to
preside over the coronation rituals in Tanjavur were every bit as well read
and conscious of dharmaSAstra as their Marathi speaking contemporaries,
but they had a different approach. Meanwhile, the Nawabs and the Nizams
and the Sultans were very much around, ruling over large parts of the
country before giving way to European rulers, chiefly the British. 

Part of why these varNa issues crop up today without any satisfactory
or universally acceptable answers is the following. The lack of a central
authority for deciding what is dharma and what is not means that different
authorities in different places and different times have found different
answers. In my opinion, that in itself is in keeping with the way dharma
operates. However, in a historical sense, our ancestors have not succeeded,
at crucial junctures in history, in redefining the essentials of varNa dharma
for non-brAhmaNa varNa-s. And what has been done cannot be undone
nor can what should have been done in the past be redone in the present.
In today's context, when "Hindus" live mostly in lands that are democracies,
the fuzziness of varNa where it concerns the non-brAhmaNa becomes even
greater and the untenable assumption of Hindu-ism = brAhmaNa-tva seems
to inform any and all thinking on the matter.

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