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

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Fri Jul 13 10:52:11 CDT 2012

I am going to respond as concisely as possible to various points brought out by
different people.
1. That there is no central authority to decide on questions of dharma does not
mean that there are no authorities at all. Our dharma is not a text based fossil.
It is a living dharma. For all practical purposes, that which the most learned and
observant people do is a guide for us in our own conduct.
2. The talks given by the Sringeri Jagadguru, my own AcArya, are meant for an
audience consisting dominantly of by-birth brAhmaNa-s, who want him to give
them an easy way out of their own inherited religious and spiritual discipline. To
those people, the Acharya rightly says that he is not going to make exceptions
and tell them it is okay to give up even the basics of AcAra. He points out that
the SAstra-s themselves allow primary and secondary views, e.g. if 1008
repetitions of gAyatrI japa are not possible on a daily basis, one can do 108,
or else, at least 32, but he categorically refuses to okay an attitude that wants
to do away with the japa itself. The case of the 10th standard student who aces
the 8th standard examination applies only to such people amongst ourselves
who want the privileges of brAhmaNa birth but none of its responsibilities.
3. The case we are discussing is quite the opposite. This is like the student who
has been home schooled and appears for the 10th standard examination without
being formally enrolled in a school. if the student has the capacity to sit for the
exam, is the lack of enrolment in an approved school an automatic disqualification?
There are a few people who have not been born in an Indian brAhmaNa family,
but for one reason or another, have come to appreciate brAhmaNa values and
want to bring these into their own lives. If they have found a competent guru who
has tested their resolve and has initiated them, my view is that it is not up to
anybody else to say otherwise. Personally speaking, I have a thumb rule about
how to view the guru-s who make these exceptions too. If they are out to mak
 large numbers of "converts" from lands other than India, or if they go out of their
way to keep making statements to the press, or if they have found a calling to be
on a "Mission to the West", then I retain a large amount of skepticism about these
guru-s and their initiates. If they are careful and make exceptions only in some
exceptional cases, why then, this is as it should be. Yes, one can only talk of the
one exception of satyakAma jAbAla from a textual standpoint, but that one is
enough. A variety of interpretations, some plausible, others far-fetched, have
been put upon this story in recent times. As for myself, all I am saying is that
gautama hAridrumata was willing to make an exception in satyakAma's case,
even though he came with only his mother's name and not knowing who his
father was. Yes, Sankara bhagavatpAda says that satyakAma's parents had to
have been brAhmaNa-s, but this is a case of "must have been", based on the
fact that gautama hAridrumata took the boy's open truthfulness as a sign of
his brAhmaNatva. I would like us brAhmaNa-by-birth people to ask ourselves,
(a) whether we are as openly truthful in our own personal lives, and (b)
whether we would accept or find fault with a gautama hAridrumata who saw
satyakAma as the exception that he was, or will we instead be hung up on his
unknown gotra and unknown father?
4. I tend not to talk about one or the other guru being bought for cash or kind.
Frankly, I have heard such criticisms even against the Sringeri Peetham, and
from people who should know better. People look at the externals and jump
to the wrong conclusions. This happens all the time. Yes, there are many who
can be bought, but there is no reason to automatically assume that any guru
who makes an exception in an exceptional case has been bought. It does no
justice to the genuine exception (who may not have the financial resources
to buy), to his or her guru (who is not up for sale) and to ourselves.
5. With respect to saMnyAsa also, it is possible to take a hardline position, as
follows. The smRti texts dealing with the formal renouncing of all karmA talks
about giving up the yajnopavIta, shaving off the SikhA and doing the virajA homa.
Therefore, those who have no adhikAra to wear a yajnopavIta to begin with and
who cannot do any homa-s (anybody other than traivarNika men) are debarred
from becoming saMnyAsin-s in the advaita tradition. I am sure there are many
who feel this way. Contrast this hard, "conservative" position with the fact that
as central an institution to our traditional saMnyAsa as the Sringeri Peetham
and its AcAryas have from time to time recognized and allowed exceptions.
These include Swami Yogananda Saraswati of France, the author of the vyAsa
ashTottaraAata nAmAvalI, and the women saMnyAsi-s who used to be based
in Stroudsburg in the USA. The latter would have been doubly disqualifed by
most, for being women and of Western origin. The current Sarada temple in
Stroudsburg stands on the same site as their old Ashrama and came up after
the time of the chief saMnyAsinI who used to be there, when her small group
of disciples couldn't keep things running and wanted to move to other places.
A century ago, an unknown Sringeri saMnyAsin initiated an Austrian named
Leopold Fischer in Varanasi, with the name Agehananda Bharati, and asked
him to make Sringeri his first destination in his travels after saMnyAsa. This is
a matter of public record, as Agehananda Bharati went on to write a few books
and he also became a professor in an American university. One may not agree
with all his views, but one cannot deny his exceptional status. For a sample of
his robust writing, revealing a level of deep familiarity with Hindu and Buddhist
monastic traditions, see www.serendipity.li/baba/rampa.html. One could say
that none of these people were directly initiated by the Sringeri AcArya himself,
but the fact remains that over the course of recent history, none of the Sringeri
AcArya-s has held the view that the very saMnyAsi-tva of these exceptional
cases is inherently null and void. 

6. The Sringeri Jagadguru today does not hold birth against people who come
to him with sincerity. I have personally seen Sringeri Mahaswmigal teaching
Indian non-brAhmaNa men without a yajnopavIta and giving them appropriate
mantropadeSa. Quite a few people from Europe have sought teachings and
his blessings and he does not turn them away either. What such people make
of this later on is their responsibility. However, I can state this much confidently.
The so-called "conservative" attitude that seeks to deny the very authenticity
of the exception is the sure way to drive these exceptional people far far away.
7. Giving up the yajnopavIta in the advaita sAdhana - I am pretty sure that
Jaldhar only made this comment with respect to vividishA saMnyAsa as the
first step in genuine advaita sAdhana. I agree with that. We can all sit around
on a list like this and talk about advaita and about our tradition till we are blue
in the face, but till such time as we recognize the centrality of saMnyAsa and
at an intimately personal level, we are all nothing more than dilletantes.

8. Finally, to Sri Amith Vikram. If you are going to Sringeri for study, with the
full knowledge of your family, it is one of the few places where you can get
close to a Vedic utopia today. However, note that there will be distractions
there too, which you must learn to overlook. The bustle of heavy crowds
(which is increasing nowadays), the ups and downs with Matha staff and
administration, the strict personal routine and discipline expected by those
who teach there - these can all seem daunting. Especially if you are used to
life in a city setting, there will be a period of adjustment and there will be
more than one occasion when you will wonder if you have made the right
choice. Please be mentally prepared for a transition period and do not let
the minutiae of daily life there get in the way of why you are going in the
first place. Do make the most of this opportunity!
Best regards,


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