Vivekananda &c.

S Krishna mahadevasiva at HOTMAIL.COM
Tue Mar 24 04:53:43 UTC 1998

S.Palaniappan says:

<<Calling these minor blemishes especially zankara's is to deny the
unjust misery and cruelty that had been inflicted upon millions and
millions of Indians under the system which was being given intellectual
support by zankara and others of his ilk. Let me ask this question. In a
hypothetical situation in which an upper caste mob is lynching a zUdra
who might have come into an area where Vedic recitation was going on
(out of curiosity or innocent desire
to know what Vedas were all about) what do you think zankara would have

  Before I start, please allow to present my impeccable
anti-Hinduttvavada credentials by refering to my recent posts about
Frawley,Kak and company and earlier on my jokes about derivations of
place names a la Hinduttvavaada.

  I would like to make a few comments on the general development of
the argument of S.Palaniappan :

  I guess what Palaniappan is trying to say is that zamkara doesn't
deserve any credit since he was...well, racist( He had ukases against
women and zUdras learning the Veda.)(I am using the word "racist" since
it best sums up the whole argument about the ideology of Zankara. )

   I would like to point out that this whole concept of "racism",
"equality to all people" applied to a society as a whole( as opposed to
individual/group ideology, as happened with the nayan2mArs, the
veerashaivas etc) goes back no earlier than the 17th century. Some
societies called it caste, others called it race, others called it
patrician&plebian, but the bottom line is: There was, in every society
an equivalent of a "master race" and a whole gamut of "inferior
races",with the "master race" coming up fom time to time with theories
(real or the result of modern interpretation)that supported the idea of
their being a master race. This idea was taken for granted in most
places and the idea of equality applied to this era is a classical
example of an anachronism. By the same token as a result of which
Shankara is being condemned, shouldn't we also condemn Moses who
spoke about the "Chosen People"( the others being beneath contempt), or
the Islamic theologians( contemporaries of zamkara)who draw up a *caste
system* in the form of Moslems, Ahl-E-Qitaab(people of the book) and the
lowliest i.e. the kafir. The result of using a model that is invalid in
the first place is that it allows one to come up with the most
entertaining kinds of results, by the same token of racism being a
crime, some of the other souls who end up as villains are Shakespeare(
read his depiction of Jews in "The merchant of Venice"), Tulsidas( there
is a passage where he says that Sudras and women are fit only to be
thrashed) and Tilak( read his comments on the Maratha community), for
starts. EVEn AFTERthe advent of the concept of equality, you still have
Charles Dickens( read his description of "Fagin the Jew") and Mark Twain
( read his comments about African Americans in "Puddn'ead Wilson" and
American Indians in "Tom Sawyer")  and Karl Marx( YES EVEN KARL MARX,
the ideological guru of D.D.Kosambi, who started many of these
anti-Brahminical tirades)rave and rant merrily about the inferiority of
other races; I'm not sure as to why zamkara had to be singled out when
he came much earlier than this idea took root.
(There are plenty of such examples in India itself, but that will
have to await some other day)

  As the saying goes "Rome wasn't built in a day", likewise society
cannot be reformed in a day. It is impossible and unfair to expect
zamkara to achieve so much of reform into a mere 32 years of existence
. It is arguable that he may have done things differently had he lived
longer, but then such questions lie in the realm of speculation. I
therefore believe that it is neccesary to first take note of the face
and then follow it up with warts on the face, but to concentrate on the
warts and lose track of the face is most certainly a waste of time
and energy.

  A very interesting question brought up here is:What would have
happened if a zudra wanted to listen to the veda being chanted? This
has 2 answers:1. Well, if they did, they wouldn't have been neccesarily
lynched, au contraire they would have gone down in 20th century history
as great poets..all that one has to do is to look at the example of
Janabai, the Sudra servant maid of Dyaneshwar, who is a well known
poetess in marathi. In Tamil itself, one has the examples of non-Brahmin
nayan2mArs sing about the 4 Vedas( i.e. nAn2maRai); I wonder if they
could sing the praises of something  they didn't know?
And then, how could they compose verses later if they got lynched as
soon as they found about the Veda? 2. How many Shudras wanted to learn
the vedas? Please read Kancha Illiah's book "Why I am not a Hindu"; one
comes away with the feeling that the majority of them don't know and
don't care. He makes it very clear that he and his community don't have
the interest or the time to contemplate about Gods who don't make sense
to them, indulge in just about every proscribed activity and then want
to be worshipped.(I realise that this argument is going to raise quite a
few eyebrows and I myself run the risk of getting lynched, but please
read Illiah's book and tell me what you think). Bottom line : For
zudras/women interested in learning the essence of the vedas, "where
there is a will, there there is a way". (Even zamkara the *misogynist*
apparently bestowed a shawl on a lady scholar in Kashmir).

<<One should thank Roman Catholic and Protestant missionary activity,
but forwhich the oppression of the lower castes in zankara's native
Kerala (which even Vivekananda seemed to have commented on as noted in a
post by P.Narendran) and other places like Tamilnadu  would have
continued even more vigourously than it is now. No wonder when scheduled
castes try to convert to other religions, zankaracharyas and other Hindu
fundamentalists want to ban conversion.>>

  While I agree with you completely about the prevention of persecution
of lower castes, by higher castes, I'm afraid that giving
the Catholics and  Protestants credit for social reform is something of
a real jump. All that one has to do in order to study how some of this
conversion was carried out is to read "Dhannavada Anantam(1850-1949)",
the life of one of the first converts in Andhra
and the compiler of the Telugu Bible....since zamkara is guilty of
racism(20th century terminology), the charming souls who converted
Anantam are guilty of child abuse and kidnapping.(another 20th century
term); this point is made discreetly in a book written by his own son,
who is very pro-Christian. It would also be pertinent to find out why,
in Srilanka, there were large scale conversions into Christianity and
then away from Christianity into Buddhism in this century i.e. what was
the reason for conversion into Christianity? Social reform or Social

  Please also don't forget that the same G.U.Pope who went around
*improving* things in Tamil Nadu started the business of Tamil
domination ( or shall we say, imperialism)in Mysore..the problem with
most of these reformers was that they alternated between playing Dr
Jekyll and Mr Hyde and people who want to see only Dr JEkyll are liable
to come to erroneous conclusions...If zamkara is guilty of
Hinduttvavaada, Pope is guilty of Christavada( He is the one who
started the theory of tiruvaLLuvar being a Christian& the kuRaL being
the greatest work in the south because it paralleled his beliefs, a line
faithfully echoed by Basham, who says that vIramAmunivar was the
greatest of poets because he wrote the "tempavANi", overlooking the
"paramArta kuruvin2 katai", which is a literary classic in Tamil.)

  Last but the very least, it must be remembered that Narayana Guru,
a Hindu was responsible for much for the reform in Kerala, not the

  In conclusion, all that I can do is quote a Persian couplet by Amir

  "Tawafut ast man-i-shanidan-i-man-o-to
   Tu bastan-i-dar,man fatahe-bab me shanwam"

 (What you and I hear seem to be different.
 You hear a door closing, I hear a door opening).


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