Sankara, Vivekananda &c.

Vaidix Vaidix at AOL.COM
Wed Mar 25 10:41:50 UTC 1998

Dear list members

The references are too numerous to quote, so I go ahead with my monologue.

The original conflict is with manusmriti and brahma sUtrAs, which should
eliminate all subsequent discussion as a consequence.

Let us understand that there was no publishing technology or cdroms those
days, this seems to be the reason for stringency of laws.  The vedic knowledge
being too specialised, could not be fully grasped by everbody in the society,
it was feared that spreading to everybody might lead to reckless creation of
subdivisions leading to degeneration of vedas.  I still wonder how the
powerless lower castes can become a threat to vedas, but the idea may be that,
as only a minority of people can grasp and preserve vedic knowledge
(considering the depth of knowledge needed), the rest of the majority has to
kept oppressed at any cost. Probably the authors of manusmriti and brahma
sUtrAs thought that at one time in future some people who do not know the
importance of vedas might get into position of power and neglect the vedas.

By manusmriti we can also infer that it was written at a time when the vedic
tribes had settled down at a place long enough to have had a society which can
be categorized into castes.  If they were still fighting with the barbarians
(of south India or Europe as the case may be depending on political
inclination), then manusmriti would have looked differently.  In today's world
we may have to rewrite the smriti to read:  "All the vedic mss must be
protected at any cost, etc.."

Despite manusmriti, the meaning of vedas was long forgotten even by the time
of bhagwAn buddha, therefore when buddha questioned the brahmins they had no
answer (which again proves the antiquity of vedas to buddhA's time).

zaGkarA spent most of his time countering buddhism, the practice of which has
weakened the military of Indian kings.  He popularised gIta (a war song)
probably to bring up warriors from every household; and upaniSats to counter
buddhism at philosophical level.  He probably thought it was still not the
right time to fully liberalise vedic knowledge, hence his ambivalence on
eligibility of the so-called lower castes.  But then he only followed the
purANAs which were themselves ambivalent with conflicting examples of
ekalavyAs at one end, and zabarIs on the other.

advaita was indeed a great discovery from veda but it must be understood that
beyond advaita (and its cousins viziStAdvaita etc) there were no other major
discoveries since zaGkarA's time. Not to disregard his logical brilliance, his
presentation skills and his efficient propagation through the length and
breadth of India, zaGkarA himself did not go beyond the obvious while
interpreting the upaniSats.  Most of his ideas on advaita were already known
to his teachers.

If that is the case with zaGkarA, why talk of Vivekananda?  V was living at a
time when Indians were called coolies and blacks at the social level (though
not official).  Alexander was called "The Great" because he was a great
invader (of India) about which we have no issue (why was Julius Caeser left
out?), and Asoka was called the "The Great" because of his excellent
administrative skills and his being a messenger of peace to this world
(despite his two major military blunders of 1. reckless use of army by first
attempting daNDa without trying sAmA, dAnA and bhedA  and 2. subsequent
complete abandonment of army, thus making India vulnerable to invasions), but
every other Indian king including candraguptA was left out for the title.  It
also sent a message that Indians must be peaceful and not rise against British
empire.  This is what piqued the late 19th century thinkers like Vivekananda,
hence the slanderous reference to greeks as a reaction.  V's writings about
greeks or keralites are not to be inferred as his enemity with any section of
humanity.  He was trying to awaken the society that has become inbred and
divided into multiplicity of castes and sects.  By saying that "castes are
always there" he means the modern university professors and civil cervants are
the modern brahmins, politicians and warriors are kSatriyAs etc.  Why do some
people have an issue if V brings up a new interpretation of the scripture?
The trend seems to be "Damn them if they do, and damn them if they dont".

The ideas propagated by reformers like V were widely discussed at temple
discourses even in villages and that is how a social network was laid out
which was later used by 20th century freedom fighters.  In modern India the
temple discourses have all but vanished as the brahmins have migrated to
cities (along with V's pictures).  To say that V is a semi-urban figure is to
overlook the demographic changes that took place in modern India.  If scholars
can not properly understand demographic changes in post colonial India, how
you expect me to believe their postulations on vedic aryan demographies which
happened thousands of years ago?

Bhadraiah Mallampalli

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