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

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Sat Jul 14 15:24:14 CDT 2012

On Thu, 12 Jul 2012, Vidyasankar Sundaresan wrote:

> The question about exception and SUdra-s is ill-posed. There are only two
> possibilities: either there are exceptions or there are none at all. In either
> case, an exception is not a rule in itself. The rule applies to most cases
> that satisfy general criteria. An exception is made only when some special
> and specific circumstance or attribute dictates that the general rule be set
> aside.

What we then need to know is what the specific circumstances or 
attributes are.  At that point the exceptions stop becoming exceptions and 
then become subsidiary rules.  That's how you "convert" a liberal to a 
conservative.  :-)

> My illustrative purpse is this - if there is someone like satyakAma jAbAla
> today, most of those who are anxious about dharma would hold his
> unknown parentage against him.


> Now, replace satyakAma with a non-Indian first name, unknown parentage
> with European/American/African/Australian parentage and gautama with
> the name of a contemporary brAhmaNa guru who accepts this person
> and initiates him.

The two situations are not comparable, let me explain why.  Gautama did 
not know with certainty if Satyakama was a Brahmana.  But it was atleast 
plausible that a native of the Kuru-Panchalas could be one.  The chances 
of him being Swedish were, barring an incredible miracle, 0%.  On the 
other hand the chance of Shivashankar being Swedish are 100% as he said so 
himself.  That speaking truth is an attribute of Brahmanas in Brahmavarta 
does not imply logically that truth is not an attribute of Swedes in 
Scandinavia.  So a criterion that is useful in the former context may not 
necessarily be applicable in a wider context.

> The most that others can do is to refuse to intermarry with him and his 
> family and to refuse to eat a meal together with him - things like that, 
> which indicate a level of social ostracism, to mark their displeasure.

This is another point that must be considered in these discussions. 
Upanayana is not only a religious act but also a social one.  My son will 
be undergoing it next year when uttarayana comes around and I have already 
begun planning for it.  While mostly this involves the details of the 
vidhi and pujas etc. it also requires booking a hall, deciding who to 
invite etc.  I plan to focus on the spiritual aspects.  I certainly don't 
want to turn it into the kind of crass, materialistic orgy of spending 
which sadly is becoming prevalent.  But the social element is there.  Much 
has been discussed in these threads concerning the "Hindu fold."  Well if 
here is such a thing then we must expect converts, gurus, and critics 
alike to adhere to the norms of the Hindu fold.  Otherwise we will end up 
with the situation of Yoga which is nowadays just a trendy, vaguely 
"spiritual" stretching exercise for suburban housewives completely devoid 
of any Hindu content.

> Now, if any of us on this list wants to be very strict about rules and 
> vehement about allowing no exceptions, then the first thing that person 
> and his family should do is to give up eating at restaurants and office 
> cafetaria with work colleagues and friends who are not brAhmaNa-s. The 
> second thing to do would be to refuse to attend and recognize any 
> interreligious wedding, even if it involves close family members and 
> friends.

I believe I did mention this before but it bears repeating.  performance 
or non-performance of x has no bearing on performance or non-performance 
of y.  Sure you ought to be consistent in both or you open yourself to the 
charge of hypocrisy.  But while being a hypocrite can lessen the 
impact of criticising anothers actions, it doesn't alter the truth or 
falsehood of the claim.  I doubt if anyone on the list has obeyed the 
secular law completely but incurring a few parking tickets shouldn't stop 
you from preventing a theft should it?

> Is this going to be possible?

Not only is it possible. It will be necessary if any semblance of astikata 
is to remain particularly outside India.

> Living in the United States, I know of very observant brAhmaNa families
> whose sons-in-law or daughters-in-law are of European extraction and
> the wedding is conducted as per vaidika rites, complete with pANigrahaNa,
> saptapadI and lAja homa. I know of cases where the son of an Indian
> brAhmaNa mother and American father has been given the yajnopavIta
> with the maternal grandfather doing the brahmopadeSa. And in such
> rituals in this country, the priests who officiate are well qualified and
> trained from some of the best and most orthodox institutions in India.

And what about the children from those fancy weddings?  The immigrant 
generation observes traditions out of habit thats all.  By and large they 
have done a rotten job of passing on any of those traditions to their 
children and the high intermarriage rate is a consequence of this.  It is 
instructive to compare the experience of the Jews who have gone through 
the same debate as sociologically they are similar to Hindus.

Traditionally one is a Jew by birth.  There is a method of conversion but 
it is intentionally difficult.  In fact a prospective convert is supposed 
appear before a panel of Rabbis who actively try and dissuade him by 
telling of all the horrible persecutions that have happened to the Jewish 
people over the years.  Only if after three such attempts he is still 
interested is he allowed to convert.  This places a big barrier on 
conversion but means that anyone who passes through will be firmly 
commited to the Jewish religion and people.  The Reform Jews decided that 
it was too difficult and anyone who "really truly believed" should be 
allowed to convert with a minimum of fuss.  Plus there were beginning to 
be intermarriages (traditionally grounds for expulsion from the community. 
Some Jewish parents even performed the funeral rites if their child 
married a non-Jew.)  It was felt that converting the non-Jewish spouse 
would keep the family from assimilating into the Christian majority.  But 
the opposite happened.  The intermarriage rate amongst non-orthodox Jews 
is approximately 50%.  98% of the grandchildren of such marriages do not 
identify as Jewish even by the minimal standards of the liberals.  So 
overall the non-orthodox population is aging and shrinking.
Meanwhile the vast majority of Orthodox Jews are marrying within the fold 
and are more Jewishly educated than ever before.  As a result their 
numbers after generations of decline are increasing rapidly.

(See here for a discussion of Jewish demographics: 

It may seem counterintuitive but more stringency is the winning position 
not less. In the modern world where one can choose between many religions or
none without social or legal sanction, religions that make no demands 
inspire no loyalty.  When you make it too easy to get in, you make it too 
easy to get out.

> In effect, I am drawing attention to the fact that brAhmaNa society has
> changed so much and so rapidly, we can ill-afford to tell the contemporary
> satyakAma jAbAla and gautama hAridrumata what they should do or not
> do for the sake of dharma.

It only seems like an emergency to you because Brahmana society is 
currently in the decline stage but we can change the trajectory just as 
other religions are doing.  The same pattern of liberal decline and 
orthodox growth is seen in Christianity and Islam as well as Judaism so 
there is no reason to believe Hinduism will be any different.  Education 
of the younger generation not exceptions for converts are the key.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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