Monday, March 17, 2014

Sex and Hinduism Revisited

_________________
Nithin Sridhar
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(This is a revised and enlarged version of 2008 article titled "Between Ears, Not Legs")

Her lap is a sacrificial altar; her hairs, the sacrificial grass; her skin, the soma-press. The two labia*(lips) of the vulva are the fire in the middle [Brhad-Âranyaka Upanisad, 6.4.3] (1)

This man (ama) am I; that woman (sâ), thou!
That woman, thou; this man am I!
I am the Sâman; thou, the Rig!
I am the heaven; thou, the earth!
Come, let us two together clasp!
Together let us semen mix,
A male, a son for to procure!
[Brhad-Âranyaka Upanisad, 6.4.20]

Whenever the issue of love, nudity, sex and Hinduism comes into picture, we usually get to see one of the following reactionaries: (a) The West in general and its scholars studying South Asia [for example RISA(2)] in particular, and their Indian counterparts who consider Hinduism to be a mix of voodoo and pornography; or (b) The Hindu orthodoxy which thinks sex is taboo.

Now let's examine how valid these perspectives are.

Hindu Purusharthas:

Human life is considered to be the most advanced of all organisms. The importance of human life has been highlighted repeatedly by our various Acharyas. The difference between Humans and all other animals, birds or plants is the fact that humans have faculty of thinking, faculty of decision and discrimination (viveka), whereas the other animals live life according to their instinct inherent from birth. Hence, it is the ability to discriminate between merit and demerit, good and bad or right and wrong and to exert “Free-Will” to act accordingly is what makes a human life unique and precious. It is because of this ability a person is able to work himself to fulfill his desires and attain goals. These goals or “objectives of human life” are categorized under four headings and collectively termed as Purushartha. They are the canonical ends or aims that serve as pointers in life. The four Purusharthas from the lowest to the highest are: kama - pleasure or desire (3), artha - wealth, dharma - righteousness or morality and moksha - liberation from the cycle of rebirth, with dharma being placed first in the order and Moksha at the last signifying the fact that Dharma is the common element, a general frame-work, a medium through which one must attain kama, artha and moksha.

According to the Kamasutra, "In the beginning, the Lord of beings created men and women and, in the form of commandments in one hundred thousand chapters, laid down rules for regulating their existence with regard to dharma, artha, and kama."(4) Further, it says, "Man, the period of whose life is one hundred years, should practise dharma, artha and kama at different times and in such a manner that they may harmonise together and not clash in any way. He should acquire learning in his childhood, in his youth and middle age he should attend to artha and kama, and in his old age he should perform (Nivritti) dharma, and thus seek to gain moksha, i.e. release from further transmigration."(5)

Hence, in the Hindu scheme of things, even though enlightment is the ultimate goal of life, it encourages people to enjoy everything and fulfill all material desires but through rightful means. This it does because, Moksha is a long process and every person is not immediately qualified for it. Only a person who has become dispassionate and has overcome the internal enemies like desire, jealousy, anger, delusion, pride and greed is qualified to practice Moksha-Sadhana and attain Moksha. This is the path of renunciation. But, for those who still have desires for wealth and enjoyment, the path of householders is advised. This is the path in which kama and artha are fulfilled in a dharmic way such that there is neither suppression of desires nor reckless-gratification. A person who indulges only in gratification of his desires be it for wealth or for sex without caring for its righteousness or consequences will end of committing heinous actions like corruption or rape. Instead, the path of householders is a path by which, two people come together to practice dharma, kama and artha together.

It is this harmony of dharma, kama, artha and moksha that is also the foundation of less traversed but more maligned path- the path of the tantras. The tantras does not reject anything as taboo, but it seeks to accept the human desires and passions including the bestial tendencies for what they are and then use them to rise above them. This it does in variety of ways that are suitable for people with different temperaments and competencies.

Hence, a person who wants to overcome his sexual desires can do so by practicing the duties of householder with restraint of his senses. Through this practice of restraining senses called as “Indriya Nigraha”, he would slowly become detached and dispassionate. Or such a person may instead use sex as a tool, as a medium of worship, which would result in satiation of his sexual desires and at the same time making way for spiritual upliftment.

Sex as Yajna:
Yajna or sacrifice is derived from the root, yaj. It means "worship" or "the offering of oblation". Max Müller defines yajna as "an act by which we surrender something for the sake of gods"(6). Sex is worship, a sacrifice. It is an act by which the partners involved surrender their ego in order to gain pleasure, progeny and, eventually, even enlightment.

Brhad-Âranyaka Upanisad  says “Her lap is a sacrificial altar; her hair the sacrificial grass; her skin the soma-press. The two labia of the vulva are the fire in the middle. Verily, indeed, as great as is the world of him who sacrifices with the Vâjapeya ["Strength-libation", libation is an act of pouring a liquid as a sacrifice (as to a deity)] sacrifice, so great is the world of him who practices sexual intercourse"

These verses clearly show that sex is to be treated as a form of worship, an act to not only to gain pleasure, but also as a sacred act for obtaining progeny (a householder’s duty prescribed by scripture) and spiritual upliftment.

Sex as Meditation:
In Vijnana Bhairava Tantra, during a conversation between Shiva and Shakti, Devi asks: "O Shiva, what is your reality?/ What is this wonder-filled universe?/ What constitutes seed?/ Who center’s the universal wheel?/ What is this life beyond the form pervading forms?/ How may we enter it fully,/ above space and time,/ names and descriptions?/ Let my doubts be cleared!"

Shiva explains her 112 methods of meditation to attain enlightment which includes few sexual meditations. He says: "At the start of sexual union/ Keep attentive on the fire in the beginning,/ And so continuing,/ Avoid the embers in the end./ When in such embrace your senses are shaken as leaves,/ Enter this shaking./ Even remembering union,/ Without the embrace."

These verses clearly indicate how the sexual act can be utilized for achieving enlightment. There are certain tantric sadhanas called as “Lata Sadhanas”, wherein partners identify themselves with Bhairava-Bhairavi and use sexual union to attain Samadhi. Samadhi is a state where the ego vanishes. In a sexual act, too, when the two partners unite together, when their passions reach their peak, for very brief moments, they both will experience a state of non-ego. If, this state can be harnessed and lengthened, then it can lead one to Samadhi.

But, this does not mean that every person who indulges in sex is a yogi. Kularnava Tantra clearly says- “Beguiled by false knowledge as propagated, certain persons, deprived of the guru-shishya tradition, imagine the nature of the Kuladharma according to their own intellect. If merely by drinking wine, men were to attain fulfillment, all addicted to liquor would reach perfection. If mere partaking of flesh were to lead to the high state, all the carnivores in the world would become eligible to immense merit. If liberation were to be ensured by sexual intercourse with a Shakti, all creatures would become liberated by female companionship (7)”.  Hence, every sexual encounter does not lead to Samadhi. Sexual recklessness does not lead to Spiritual progress. But, when a Sexual act is treated as worship, as a meditation and the act is used to still the mind and withdraw the senses, one attains dynamic equilibrium. This dynamic stillness when harnessed will in turn lead to Samadhi. A normal sexual encounter ends when the partners climax and the male ejaculates. But, in a Lata-Sadhana, there is no ejaculation. When, the partners reach the state of highest passion, they instead enter into a state of Samadhi. This is in fact very difficult to achieve for most people. Only a few have competency to practice them. It is the ignorance of such nuances that has led to misunderstanding of tantras.

Kamashastra:
It is the study of 64 arts(8) like singing, playing musical instruments, dancing, union of dancing, singing, and playing instrumental music, writing and drawing, tattooing, etc. The "art of lovemaking" is only a part of this shastra (discipline). Hence, the attempt of modern scholarship to reduce the whole discipline of Kama that deals with love, sex, marriage, arts and music to only a manual of sexual gymnastics speaks volume about the state of scholarship present in India and the West. This also strengthens the speculations that the scholars who study Hinduism selectively highlight some aspects that suit their agenda and ignore the rest.

Sex education:
This branch of education has been featured throughout the Hindu history. Vatsyayana says, both men and women should learn the Kamashastra(9).

Pre-marital sex and love marriages:
In Hindu society sex was always considered a matter of individual choice. There are many such instances in our history. Scriptures too depict pre-marital sex and love marriages. So, complaining that they are "anti-Hindu" is ill-informed. The Manusmriti recognizes eight kinds of marriages of which "gandharva marriage" is one. It is a voluntary union of a maiden and her lover, which arises from desire and sexual intercourse for its purpose (10). A caveat needs to be added here. The support of scriptures for Love marriages or by extension for pre-marital sex between lovers who eventually marry should not be considered as a support for recent practices of sexual recklessness like one-night stands that has no element of love. The practices of dating multiple people for sex, or visiting prostitutes or one night stands are indeed considered as sexual recklessness and hence are against the basic tenet of Dharma- the Indriya Nigraha. Such actions are considered as transgressions of Dharma. The same is the case of extra-marital affair. It is considered as a sin (11), an adharma because it involves cheating.

If, it be said that, the issue of sex and affair are personal issues and it is wrong for religion to interfere in it, the answer is that Hinduism is not interfering in anybody’s life. It only teaches people to discriminate between Dharma and Adharma, the actions that are right and bring happiness and those actions that are wrong and results in sorrow. But, every person has a free-will to act, to take decisions, to make choices. This freedom to exert free-will was always present in Hindu society and is the very core of human life.

Is Hinduism pornography and tantra a sex manual?
 The straight answer is a simple "no".

The word "Tantra" actually refers to a vast body of literature called the "Agamas" which are practical manuals for meditation. There are many Shaiva, Shakta, Pancharatra Agamas. Using sex for meditation is prescribed in only a few of the many different paths described in the Agamas. The aim here was to turn a sexual union into a meditation, a spiritual union that would ultimately result in Samadhi and not sexual gratification. It is Victorian puritanical authoritarianism which condemns any mention or depiction of sex. 

Hinduism on the other hand, recognizes the role of sexual desires in human lives. The sexual depictions in some of the temples were meant to not only educate the people about role sex in householder’s life, but also to help those who were involved in sexual sadhanas (penance) for enlightment. Such, depictions has great value not only for their artistic beauty but also for spiritual significance. There is a difference between nudity, expression of beauty and pornography. What appears in the Hindu Puranas and Itihasas are expressions of genuine beauty and deep philosophy and not pornography as imagined by modern academics.

Hence, sex is neither a taboo nor pornography in Hinduism. Instead it is recognized as a very basic block of life, which must be harnessed in a proper way so that it would lead to both sensual happiness and spiritual fulfillment.

References & Notes:

1 The verses are taken from chapter titled "Incantations and ceremonies for procreation"

2 Religions In South Asia (RISA), a department under the American Academy of Religion (AAR), has been sponsoring studies for years now to deride Hinduism. The Gods and Goddess like Ganesha, KaLi, and saints like Ramakrishna etc. have come under much distasteful sexual connotation and nauseating voyeurism that one begins to wonder if it can at all be called academics. Also read RISA LILA by Rajiv Malhotra- http://creative.sulekha.com/risa-lila-1-wendy-s-child-syndrome_103338_blog

3 Kama in general means material desires and pleasures: physical, emotional, sexual and psychological. According to the Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana: "Kama is the enjoyment of appropriate objects by the five senses of hearing, feeling, seeing, tasting and smelling, assisted by the mind together with the soul. The ingredient in this is a peculiar contact between the organ of sense and its object, and the consciousness of pleasure which arises from that contact is called Kama." Part 1, Chapter 2: On the acquisitions of Dharma, Artha and Kama. The Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana, Translated by Sir Richard Burton,

4 Part 1,Chapter 1:Preface, The Kama Sutra of Vatsayayana, Translated by Sir Richard Burton.

5 Part 1, Chapter 2: On the acquisitions of Dharma, Artha and Kama. The Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana, Translated by Sir Richard Burton,

6 Max Müller's Sacred Books of East series (SBE 30), p 315.- http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/sbe30/sbe30119.htm#page_315

7 Kularnava Tantra 2.116-118

8 Part 1, Chapter 3: On the Study of the Sixty-Four Arts, The Kama Sutra of Vatsayayana, Translated by Sir Richard Burton

9 MAN should study the Kama Sutra and the arts and sciences subordinate thereto, in addition to the study of the arts and sciences contained in Dharma and Artha. Even young maids should study this Kama Sutra along with its arts and sciences before marriage, and after it they should continue to do so with the consent of their husbands. Part 1, Chapter 3: On the Study of the Sixty-Four Arts, The Kama Sutra of Vatsayayana, Translated by Sir Richard Burton.

10 Manu Smriti 3.32

11 Manu Smriti 12.7

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Is Hinduism Created by the British?

______________________
Nithin Sridhar
__________________

1. It is a modern fad to allege that, there was no religion called "Hinduism" before British came.
 
2. They claim that it was British who created Hinduism by giving it a working structure & framework.

 

3. They also claim that, it was British who decided that Vedas, Gita etc must be designated as core books!
 
4. Further, it is said that, before the dawn of British, Indians were practicing only pagan superstition!


5.it is true that,name Hindu was not existing before Persians use it.Does it mean the Hinduism did not exist?

 
6. "Hindu" may be the name given by foreigners, but we Hindus called our system "Dharma".

 
7. It was called "Sanatana Dharma" because it was based on eternal principles of life & Universe.

 
8. It was also called "Arya Dharma"- Nobel Dharma because it took a person towards highest Truth.


9. Those who say that,numerous sects, traditions and cults are unrelated to each other are simply ignorant.


10. It is the principles of Dharma that Unite every kula, every sampradaya, every Darshana.


11. To the Q how do they unite? They unite by taking every person towards highest goal of Moksha.

 
12. It is in this context the Vedas claim, God/Truth is one, Paths are many.


13. But, these paths are not exclusive. They are complementary & supplementary to each other.


14. Further, some paths act as foundation steps that lead to higher paths.


15. It is for this reason Swami Vivekananda says "One travels from lower truth to higher truth".


16. And this argument that various Hindu philosophies were exclusive were shown as false in 13th century itself!!


17. Sri Vidyaranya in his famous Sarva-darśana-saṅ̇graha (A Compendium of Speculations) demonstrates how schools were not exclusive.


18. He sketches 16 Hindu philosophies in their ascending order,one leading to other & culminating in Vedanta.


19. Even if one does not agree with his conclusion, it goes on to show how they are not exclusive.

 
20. All Hindu philosophies have their own importance & pave way for evolution of an Individual towards Truth.


21. So, there was always a united cultural, spiritual tradition called "Sanatana Dharma".


22. But, this unity was unlike that of west. The unity was not in means but in the goal.


23. As the western religions consider Unity to be of both means & goal, they term Hinduism as a way of life.


24. But, Hinduism is both a way of life & a religion in the sense of that which unites.


25. Here, the Unity is not in sameness of means, but only in the goal- Moksha.


26. It may be argued that, even Moksha is defined differently in various schools.


27. True, but every philosophy is only an indirect means aimed at inducing direct Realization.


28. So, whatever be philosophy, it is aimed at taking a person to Atma-Jnana.


29. The moment one attains Direct realization, all doubts, all differences vanish!!


30. Hence,Hinduism is not creation of British,but is Eternal Dharma tht takes everyone towards highest Truth.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Need for Indian Narrative


________________________    
Nithin Sridhar
____________________ 


(Also watch Rajiv Malhotra's lecture on "India's Grand Narrative"- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d9iObjKR5yI)


1. The issue of withdrawal of Wendy Doniger's book "The Hindu" and subsequent drama again shows the need for Hindu/Indian Narrative and Scholarship.

2. Those who are traditionally trained lack knowledge of modern scholarship. Further their numbers are dwindling fast.

3. The people with modern education largely has superficial understanding of Hindu religion and allied subjects.

4. We need to do two things- 1. Revive the traditional system of education of Veda, Vedanta, Tarka, Agama etc.And support the practitioners. 2. We need to create Indian narrative/analysis of not only Indic religions and traditions but also of world religions.

5. The traditional teaching through Sanskrit using mimamsa & tarka & Modern scholarship & research techniques must be carried simultaneously.

6. Further, we need create means of livelihood for those who learn & teach Vedas and dedicate their life for performing of vedic rituals.

7. The lack of Indian/Hindu narrative and purva-paksha as Rajiv Malhotra suggests is the source of problem which has manifested as Wendy etc.

8. Only way this lacunae can be rectified is by supporting Vedic learning & those who dedicate life to teach & practice Vedic tenets.

9. And with help of those traditional pandits, scholars well versed in modern methodology can create Indian Narrative.

10. We need to implement this approach in all branches of Sanatana-Dharma- from theology to science, from astrology to astronomy.

11. We need to create scholarly, objective research in Sanskrit, English & other vernacular languages.


12. Those who study in Gurukulas have no means to support themselves.A person who learns Vedas and wishes to practice Vedic karmas whole life has no means to support himself.

13. And there are hardly few gurukulas that teach Vedanta, Tarka, Mimamsa in traditional way because only few people go to it. Whatever is being maintained of Gurukula system is with great difficulty and generous donations.

14. Further, Learning Veda or Vedanta, Tarka or Mimamsa etc in themselves take up more than 10-15 years. Hence, there is little scope for students to pursue modern education simultaneously.

15. Further, those who study in Veda pathshalas have very little means of livelihood. Hence, Govt and others should support such people who want to pursue vedic way of life, who involve in learning, practicing and teaching Vedic mantras and doing Vedic Karmas.

16. Similarly, the modern education has no time or scope including traditional subjects in elementary or high school level.

17. We can only include certain elements like teaching of basic English etc in traditional gurukulas and including Sanskrit in modern system.


18. We must parallelly create traditional gurukula system where teaching is in Sanskrit of all branches from veda to tarka, to agama, to Ganita/Maths to Jyotishya and the Modern education that is as it is practiced but with curriculum to reflect unbiased truth.
 

19.Arts and Humanities must be supported and encouraged, so that students who pursue it, later can work with traditional pandits and create PhD thesis, research work etc on various branches.

20. By such collaboration of those learned in modern methodologies and those learned in traditional methodologies, we can create an Indian Narrative and Scholarship in Sanskrit, English as well as in Vernacular languages.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Society & One-Legged Dharma-Part 5- The Issue of Child Marriage

________________________    
Nithin Sridhar
____________________ 


I will pen-down my comments and opinions on various social issues under the title "Society & One-Legged Dharma" pointing out how most of the ills of the society has been caused due to forsaking of Dharma by people. In Hindu scriptures, the Dharma represented by a Bull is said to stand on four legs in Satya Yuga, when most people practiced and lived life by Dharma. "Four-Legs" denotes that Dharma was firmly established in society. On the other hand, it is said that,in Kali Yuga, Dharma stands only on One-Leg. We have been witnessing this in our society, where qualities like truth, non-violence, compassion, honesty have lost their value and replaced by untruth, deviousness, corruption, violence etc.
The series of writings under this title is my humble attempt to revive Dharma by making people become aware of them.
-Nithin Sridhar

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The Issue of Child Marriage

Child marriages serve as one of the best example to depict the gap between what was conceived and what is presently being practiced. It depicts the deviation and degradation of the Hindu society from the tenets of Dharma that were prescribed for welfare of society.
 

In the present scenario, though by law the age for marriage is fixed at 18 for girls and 21 for boys, there are many cases of child marriages. The girl is especially made to leave school in middle and is married off. In many such cases, the girls would be completely devoid of education. The practitioners of child marriage, their apologists as well as those who jump to criticize Hinduism, point out that, Child Marriage is prescribed in the Hindu scriptures itself and it has been practiced in Hindu society from very old times. But, a proper understanding of scriptures would show that, the way a child marriage is being practiced today is completely deviated from what scriptures had prescribed.

According to the scriptures, the boys were allowed to marry only after they finished their education, the duration of which usually lasted for 12 years starting from age of 8 i.e. a boy finished education only at 20 years. So, the question of early marriage in case of boys did not arise. It is usually pointed out that, as girls did not had Upanayana ceremony, they were not educated and were kept illiterate. But this is anything but truth.

Manu Smriti clearly says that "service to husband" is "service to Guru" (Manu 2.67). That is, the Husband is the wife's Guru. Hence, the men who spent 12 years in Gurukula studying and learning, later upon being married, they will teach it to their wives. This can be very well understood from various conversations between Yajnavalkya and his wives. Hence, marriage and education went hand in hand as far as girls were concerned. It is keeping in mind the education factor that, the scriptures prescribed the age of marriage for girls as 8-12 i.e. the same age the boys enter Brahmacharya ashrama.

Hence, the underlying assumption behind the prescription of early marriage of girls was that they would be educated by their husbands. And then, the husband and wife together would practice their Dharma/duties. But as society deteriorated, the education part was completely removed and only the marriage part retained !! In today's scenario owing to the fact that, education is no longer a part of any marriage as such, child marriages not only becomes meaningless but also has given rise to many social injustices. Hence, people must understand, that marrying off their girls early without giving her education is against Dharma.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Society & One-Legged Dharma-Part 4- Homosexuality & Marriage

________________________    
Nithin Sridhar
____________________ 


I will pen-down my comments and opinions on various social issues under the title "Society & One-Legged Dharma" pointing out how most of the ills of the society has been caused due to forsaking of Dharma by people. In Hindu scriptures, the Dharma represented by a Bull is said to stand on four legs in Satya Yuga, when most people practiced and lived life by Dharma. "Four-Legs" denotes that Dharma was firmly established in society. On the other hand, it is said that,in Kali Yuga, Dharma stands only on One-Leg. We have been witnessing this in our society, where qualities like truth, non-violence, compassion, honesty have lost their value and replaced by untruth, deviousness, corruption, violence etc.
The series of writings under this title is my humble attempt to revive Dharma by making people become aware of them.
-Nithin Sridhar

_____________________________________________________________

Homosexual & Marriage

News-Report:
In a big blow to gay rights in India, the Supreme Court upheld a law criminalizing homosexual sex on Wednesday, setting aside a landmark Delhi high court decision in 2009 which had overturned the colonial-era ban.

Read More: http://www.livemint.com/Politics/FHDQ9yB2jRJMsOlNCQrkgL/Supreme-Court-to-rule-on-legality-of-gay-sex-today.html

________________________________________

My Comments:

The issue whether gays are born as gay or later in life circumstances turn them into gay is to be left to science. In either case, what two sane adults do in their bedroom, is none of the concern of Government or Law. Hence, the very act of criminalizing of supposed 'unnatural sex between two consenting adults' is wrong as long as it does not lead to some violence. There is nothing criminal about what goes between consenting adults.

Now, sex and marriage can be treated as separate issue or also as connected issue. The Section 377 is concerned only with sexual aspect and not the aspect of marriage. Marriage is not just about Sex though Sex/physical intimacy is one of the most important tenets of marriage. As far as the matter of sex alone is concerned, I believe it should be left to individuals and state has no moral rights to interfere in it.

Now, coming to issue of marriage of a gay couple. It is to be first understood that there is not much difference between a gay live in together couple and a gay married couple, except the latter involves more personal commitment along with legal security and social acceptance. Coming to the issue Hindu conception of Marriage, it is understood as a "Dharmic Bond" in which two are brought together for the purpose of practicing Dharmic duties together. Giving birth to children and continuing the family is one of the important duties of a married couple.So, also a series of Dharmic rituals and actions like Samskaras, Yajnas etc that has to be performed by Husband and wife. The present condition of society is such that, even Heterosexual couple practice only few religious duties. In case of a Gay couple, they cannot conceive children nor are they eligible for religious duties that has to be performed by husband and wife. Nevertheless, we can see that marriage is also based on concept of commitment, love, support and a desire to be with each other till the end. And these attitudes are present in a relationship between two men or two women even when they have not legally married. So, I feel even within Hinduism, Homosexual marriages can be allowed to happen, or at least be given a semi-marital status, where-in though they cannot conceive children or cannot perform certain rites like yajnas etc, they can at least practice Dharma like Truth, commitment, love etc. And if not Yajna, they can at least practice Japa, Puja etc. Further, some of the Dharmic tenets that are applicable to Heterosexual Married couple which cannot conceive nor adopts can also be applied to Homosexual marriages who do not go for adoption. Even if a homosexual couple adopts children, they can be treated the way heterosexual couples who adopted are treated.

Further, as far as the issue of Legal marriage is concerned, Homosexuals can be easily be allowed to get married under special marriages act by making provision for gay/lesbian marriages. Irrespective of the fact that whether such marriages are acceptable or not acceptable to some people, whether or not such a marriage will be recognized by religious heads or by religious tenets there should be no bar on considering, homosexual marriages as legal marriages.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Are Vedas valid means of Knowledge?

_______________________
Nithin Sridhar
______________________


In Hindu tradition, Vedas or "Sruti" are held as ultimate "Pramana". Sruti, Smriti, Itihasa and Puranas are all considered the authority on matters of Karma, Dharma and Moksha-in short the whole religious life. It is often asked, Why should we take Vedas as authority? Why should Vedas be taken as "Shabda Pramana"?

"Pramana" means "valid means of knowledge". There are various means by which a correct knowledge is obtained. Pratyakṣa (direct perception),Anumāṇa (inference),Shabda (verbal testimony) and Upamana (analogy) are the important valid means mentioned in scriptures.

All these Pramana are used in day to day life. All that we see, hear and perceive by senses are called as "Pratyaksha". "The water exist, because I can see it, and I can drink it" comes under Pratyaksha. "There is a smoke which I can see, so definitely there must be fire or factory somewhere"- comes under Anumana/Inference. "Similar to Cow, even Yaks provide milk" or "Unlike Tigers, Elephant has tusks"- these come under Upamana or Comparison.
Similarly statements like "John who went to Himalayas says it is very Cold"- comes under Verbal Testimony. So, in the Material world, all the four means of knowledge are used and accepted.

But, when it comes to the questions like- What happens after life? Does a person have only one life or is there after life? Does heaven or hell really exist?, neither direct perception nor inference nor comparison cannot function Independently or on its own because they are not perceivable from Sensory organs. The material world that is perceivable by senses can be understood using perception, inference and comparison but how will one to know about something that is not directly perceivable?

It is in these matters that are not "Laukika"- (that do not belong to this world/direct perception), the "Sruti" is considered the "Shabda Pramana"-the only means of Valid knowledge. In the world, when one has question related to Physical forces that work in Universe, he refers to Physics books. Similarly, to learn about chemicals and organisms, one refers to Chemistry and Biology and not History or sociology books. This is because we refer to only that book which explains about that particular phenomenon. A history book does not speak Physics nor vice versa. Similarly, it is Vedas alone that is the source of Knowledge about things that are beyond the grasp of our senses. Because, there is no other means by which we can know about Dharma, Karma and Moksha- the Vedas are considered the ultimate Pramana.

If it be asked, what is the proof that Vedas are true? Why should we accept it? The answer is that such questions can be asked about science too. Do we not accept the words of scientists when we read about it in textbooks? It is true that, they have arrived at those solutions after many experiments and analysis. But, the fact is that a common man does not witness those experiments in front of him. Similarly, the Vedic truths have been "Seen" (Directly Realized) by Rishis. There has been different lines of Teachers who have continuously guided the disciples towards Vedic Truth. If it be asked that, just as scientists have been proven wrong many times, even Rishis can be proven wrong and hence, Vedas cannot be accepted as "Pramana"; the answer is that, the Vedas are not created or written by Rishis. Vedas are "Apaurusheya"- that which is not of Human origin. Hence, at highest level Veda is not just "means" to attain Highest Knowledge but "Is" the Highest Knowledge itself. Brahman/God is described as "Satya", "Jnana" and "Ananta". Brahman is "Knowledge itself" and hence, it is Brahman who is source of all Knowledge. It is in this sense that, Vedas are described as "Apaurusheya". Hence, it is God/Brahman himself who has for welfare of world has taken many avataras like Krishna, Dakshninamurthy, Hayagriva etc to reveal "Satya/Truth" to people.

Hence, for a sincere seeker, there should be no doubt regarding Vedas being the ultimate means of Valid Knowledge in matters that are beyond the grasp of senses.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Society & One-Legged Dharma-Part 4- Thoughts on Jati-Varna System

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Nithin Sridhar
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I will pen-down my comments and opinions on various social issues under the title "Society & One-Legged Dharma" pointing out how most of the ills of the society has been caused due to forsaking of Dharma by people. In Hindu scriptures, the Dharma represented by a Bull is said to stand on four legs in Satya Yuga, when most people practiced and lived life by Dharma. "Four-Legs" denotes that Dharma was firmly established in society. On the other hand, it is said that,in Kali Yuga, Dharma stands only on One-Leg. We have been witnessing this in our society, where qualities like truth, non-violence, compassion, honesty have lost their value and replaced by untruth, deviousness, corruption, violence etc.
The series of writings under this title is my humble attempt to revive Dharma by making people become aware of them.
-Nithin Sridhar

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 Thoughts on Jati-Varna System
 
In the ideal Varna System, Jati is for vocations and not vice-verse. In a society there are multiple jobs that must be done by different groups of people. Only then, there will be smooth functioning. If every person is competing for some jobs and some other jobs are neglected, there will be unemployment, jealousy etc in the society.

Hence, in order to achieve effective division of labor Jati system was create. Jati refers to a group of people involved in a specific job. It was made hereditary as by this, it was easy to pass the skills required from father to son, generation to generation. Varna's as you know is determined based on Guna and based on it certain Duties/Dharmas has been allotted. But, a child's Guna is most affected by the environment in which it grows. Hence, the Jati was designed such that, generation after generation grew in that particular environment and did those jobs and contributed to the society. They lived a happy and content life. There was no jealousy, hatred or violence. As No Job can be said to be inferior or superior to another, no Jati was considered inferior or Superior. Hence, there was progress and harmony.

Of course, all these are in an Ideal Society with Varna-Jati System in place. But, this system has been decaying for many centuries now. In fact with each Yuga, Dharma declines. Yet, it can be seen that, even till few hundred years ago, till the time of coming of British, there was very less caste violence. The untouchability etc had already taken its ugly form. Yes. But, the situation was still better than today. After the arrival of Britishers, the situation became worse. People abandoned their dharma/duties. They all started competing for luxuries imported from the west etc. People left their Jati Dharma- heredity vocation and duties but held on to the Jati names. This was like cutting of head itself because of headache. Every system over time may develop some branches that decay. The solution is to take corrective actions and set right the mistakes and not abandoning the whole system. In India's case, because of development of social discrimination and rigidity in the Varna-Jati system and because of the temptations of the material comforts, people abandoned the whole system.This is the root of current mess. Today Jati is only in a name to be invoked during elections. The concept of simple life, Sva-Dharma as applicable to each Individual have been completely abandoned.

According to Sri Chandrashekara Saraswati Swamiji, the major blame lies with Brahmins, who first abandoned their Dharma. It is Brahmin's dharma to study scriptures, learn vedas and all the rituals and practice them, teach them and living life in a humble and simple way. They guided society by example. When, they abandoned their Dharma for material comforts, then even the other Jatis followed. Hence, the whole system ended in a mess full of jealousy, discrimination etc. In fact, it must be added that, for many centuries before British had come,the Caste system had become rigid. The Jatis were not supposed to be too rigid. And discrimination had already lifted its head. Hence, the society had marched towards slow decay.

The Ideal solution should be that everybody should return back to Varna/Jati system in its Original form devoid of distortions. Doing so, will remove all the present conflicts and other problem. But, of course this is not practical immediately. It may take a long time. So, he suggests that for the sake of protection and propagation of Dharma, a set of people must be fully dedicated for learning, practicing and teaching. He says, at least Brahmins must return back to their Dharma of Vedic learning. Brahmins must let their children learn Vedas and live life by teaching and performing Vedic rituals. Or a new Caste of Brahmins be created for the study and practice of Vedic Dharma. If this happens, may be in some future by seeing the example of Brahmin Jati who are doing their duties in humble and simple way, the other people of society will also return to the Varna fold.

But, till then everybody can try to live life in a simple way even in the midst of luxuries. Everybody should try to be content with what God provides. Everybody should earn money through Dharmic means and not by corruption or bribery. Everyone should try to practice Samanya Dharma- Truth, Non-Violence, Cleanliness, Control of Mind etc.

Hence, those who have desire to gain wealth must do so in a Dharmic manner with an attitude of surrender to God. Those who are in political power must perform their work in a unbiased way for welfare of society again with attitude of Surrendering to Lord. This same is applicable to everyone in all the jobs be it defense or corporate sector. Everyone should do their work in dedicated way and try to be content with what they have. This is not to say they should not desire for better life but such a desire should be fulfilled by honesty and hard work. And people should perform some form of sadhana/bhakti and learn to control their desires.

And among the vast masses, if a few feel desire to learn scriptures, they should learn and practice them and propagate them. Society as a whole must make little efforts in protection and propagation of Vaidika Dharma. Only Dharma can save us.