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Everything posted by kimfelix

  1. There are many stories told based on the Mahabharata and Ramayana which are not to be found in the Sanskrit version of the text and this is one of them. For what it is worth, the version of the Mahabharata is that Yudhishthira is the greatest character because he is closest to dharma. It is for this reason that he ascends to heaven without tasting death, when all the other characters die. It is said at the end that the only sin he committed in his whole life was telling the lie that led to the death of Dronacharya. And in mitigation it must be said that he was asked to do this by Krishna himself. Dharma seems to be the central theme of the Mahabharata narrative and in terms of dharma, Yudhishthira is unrivalled.
  2. That is the way in which Shankaracharya interprets statements of the Upanishads such as 'ayam atma brahma', 'aham brahmasmi', 'sarvam khalv idam brahma' and 'tat tvam asi'. I would not say that the only way to understand these injunctions is in terms of the absolute identity of atman and brahman, but to do so is not an unreasonable mode of exegesis and seems to be in line with the spirit of these shruti texts.
  3. I don't think I am a mayavadin, although you would have to define the term before I could be sure. But in answer to your question, I would suggest that in Shankara's view moksha is not a matter of going anywhere different to where you are now. You are atman, and as the Mandukya Upanishad (v2) says, ayam atma brahma, the atman is Brahman. We perceive ourselves as existing in this world because we believe ourselves to have an individual identity , when we realise our true identity we cease to exist in that way and come to exist in terms of our true identity, Brahman. I think that is the advaita teaching as I understand it.
  4. Ranjeet, have you got references for those citations? If not it is hard to locate them in the works of Shankaracharya; some of these works are of dubious authenticity and there is sometimes a tendency to quote out of context, which alters the meaning.
  5. Bhaktajan, my private library contains Upanishads, Gita, Mahabharata, Ramayana, Puranas etc as well as writings of acharyas including AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and Narayan Maharaja. What higher authority should I seek counsel from? All of us read and hear and then make our judgements as to what path to follow.
  6. Ranjeet, you slightly misquoted what I said but it is not important. I was actually suggesting that jnana may not be about understanding one philosophy or another but about inner realisation of the truth and because this realisation is beyond the range of the rational mind it cannot be revealed through the spoken word. Both the Isha and the Kena Upanishad seem to suggest that true knowledge is beyond philosophising.
  7. I have read the discussion of the tamoguna in the Bhagavad Gita. I have also read a number of Puranas that some would designate as tamasic. There is absolutely no congruence between the concept of tamas as delineated by the Gita and the content or mode of discourse of these Puranas. Read them yourself and then compare what they say to the notion of tamas; it just doesn't coincide at all. There are different approaches to Advaita. Sriman Shankaracharya establishes a form of Vedanta that is advaitic by interpretation of shastra but for others philosophy is secondary to spiritual realisation, which is intensely personal and by definition subjective. I find the texts are most useful when I read and contemplate each verse without preconception as to its meaning. But there is no 'unbiased perusal'. Bias is an inevitable part of the human condition; but self-knowledge can give some insight into the nature of our biases.
  8. Namaste Ranjeet. I don't think the matter is quite as obvious as you suggest and I certainly don't see that the conclusion you present is 'glaringly' obvious. You have offered us a number of citations from the shruti but in each case there is much room for debate and one who chooses to disagree with you is not to be regarded as a fool or as wicked. 1. You cite 6.18 of the Shvetasvhvatara which refers to the one who manifested Brahma and delivered the Vedas to him. But note this verse does not mention Vishnu and you have added 'from His navel' as if it were part of the translation. That is a bit devious. Where the Shvetashvatara does name the Deity it is speaking about, it is always Rudra or Shiva. Note for example: jnatva shivam sarva-bhuteshu gudham (4.16). Vishnu is not mentioned in this Upanishad. 2. The Isha likewise never mentions Vishnu by name and neither does it use the word(s) parameshvara as you suggest. 3. I am afraid I don't have the full text of hymn 164 of the Rig Veda before me so I cannot say whether it is about Vishnu, although the name is not mentioned in the verses I have been able to access. The line you particularly draw our attention to does not mean 'he is your friend, the one who resides in every living being'. This verse is also to be found in the Shvetashvatara (4.6) and gives us the metaphor of the two birds residing in the same tree, one eathing the fruit and the other the witness. The meaning here is not quite what you represent it to be. Thank you anyway for helping with this discussion. I agree with many of the points you make but as is so often the case it is hard to be dogmatic in drawing conclusions.
  9. I have read all these posts with interest. Thank you for taking the time to contribute to the understanding of those who just read the posts. Just a couple of points that occurred to me on this, although they have been covered on other threads. I don't think the argument that the Shvetashvatara is actually referring to Vishnu really holds up if you read through the Upanishad carefully. If that is what is actually meant then the way it is presented is certainly misleading. I think someone said that it should be read in that way because that is 'ordinarily' the meaning. But 'ordinarily' is an imprecise criterion; what is ordinary to one person may be extraordinary to another. The quotation from book 7 of the Rig Veda was very difficult to read. The idea of Vishnu and Shiva's identity also appears in the Mahabharata on a number of occasions, so I can't accept that it is a relatively modern notion that has appeared since the life of Chaitanya. The tendency to elevate Vishnu or Shiva at the expense of the other Deity is primarily a Puranic tendency. The Mahabharata generally seems to regard Vishnu and Shiva as coequal Deities though there are some passages that are predominantly Shaivite and some that are predominantly Vaishnava.
  10. Ranjeet, don't we all have to make that decision as to which smriti is authentic? What else can you do? There is no absolute standard. And ultimately we must make use of shruti and smriti for our own inspiration. Find that which inspires your own spirituality and leave others to use other smriti in pursuit of their own spirituality. I think that is the ultimate criterion but I may be wrong.
  11. The list given in the Kurma Purana (1.1.13-15) includes both the Shiva and Vayu Purana, which it names as Shaiva and Vayaviya in the usual mode of designation for these lists. I agree that Shaiva means 'related to Shiva' rather than giving the direct name of the Purana, but here Vayaviya means 'relating to Vayu'. However, this list has 19 names rather than 18! The Vishnu Purana (3.6.22) gives this list: braahmam paadmam vaishnavam cha shaivam bhaagavatam tatha. Here the Vishnu Purana is referred to as Vaishnavam and so it is logical to take to 'shaivam' as referring to the Shiva Purana, otherwise it would name it as Vayaviyam. No other Purana in the list is mentioned apart from in relation to its conventional name. It may be that it is the content of the Shiva Purana, including the references to Radha, that convinced Hazra that it is not a major Purana but that would be a circular argument.
  12. Some interesting points there, but I don't think it is as quite as clear as Hazra suggests. The fact that 2,000 verses quoted are not to be found in the present version of a text could merely suggest that these passages have been lost. This is not uncommon. The Narada Purana describes four sections of the Kurma Purana but today only one of these still exists. And I am not convinced about the argument for the Vayu rather than the Shiva Purana. In most lists, at least four that I am aware of, the Purana is described as the Shaiva and not the Vayaviya as one would expect (one list includes both Shaiva and Vayaviya). All the other Puranas are listed by name rather than subject so it would be anomalous to refer to the Vayu Purana as Shaiva. I would not be dogmatic on either of these points but on the latter in particular, I think the evidence is towards the Shiva Purana.
  13. Raghu, I think the Brahmavaivarta Purana teaches that Krishna is the original source of Vishnu. I know that Puranic evidence is not always acceptable or persuasive but that may provide some sort of answer to the question you have been posing. If you want I can probably locate the exact passages in the Brahmavaivarta but it may take a little time.
  14. Some of the personal stuff is a bit of distraction but thank you for all these posts, many of which have been most enlightening. Just a couple of points to add, which occurred whilst I was reading. 1. The threefold classification of Puranas does seem to be a part of the Vaishnava view and is found in the Padma Purana, as cited above. There is also a threefold division based on gunas to be found in the Garuda Purana (Brahma Khanda, 1.45-53) but there the three lists are rather different to those given by the Padma. Having read quite a bit of Puranic literature I would say that the guna classification is not sustainable as there is so little difference between works that are said to be tamasic and those judged to be sattvic--apart perhaps from the Deity they revere. 2. Radha is not a late invention of the Geeta Govinda. Her name is not mentioned in the Bhagavata Purana but she is mentioned in the Mahashiva Purana and in the Brahmavaivarta Purana.
  15. This is a very interesting subject. The guru can be a learned teacher who has knowledge of the scripture and passes on that knowledge to the disciple. He teaches the texts and explains them. Such a guru is to be shown respect and reverence as a teacher but not puja in the form of guru-puja. The Kena Upanishad is informative on the subject. There the guru informs a seeker that the highest truth cannot be conveyed by a teacher it can only come through realisation. But in some traditions the guru has the role of empowering the mantra and then using the empowered mantra to install the Deity within the disciple, as at the prana-pratishtha of the murti. The guru is worshipped then not for himself because the Deity has been installed within his person. So I think in those traditions the guru-puja is not worship of the guru so much as the Deity present within the guru. The guru then installs the Deity within the disciple through mantra-diksha. I am not sure how ISKCON perceives the matter. From an outsider's perspective it seems that they regard the guru as a teacher of Vedic wisdom but worship the guru as if he were an embodiment of the Deity. So perhaps there is a mixture of the two ideas.
  16. Jains do not eat root vegetables. I think it is either because they are concerned about killing worms and other small creatures when one digs the earth or perhaps because they are opposed to using iron implements to cut into the body of the earth. Very few Hindus share that view and I think a lot of Jains also eat root vegetables, it is only those who are very strict who don't.
  17. I think in the Gita Krishna does sometimes talk about the Supreme Deity in the third person, 8.22 is another example that is even more apparent. There is some problem here with the translations you have, as Milly suggests. 2.72 reads brahma-nirvanam ricchati and brahma-nirvana is not exactly 'the kingdom of God'. 6.28 reads sukhena brahma-samsparsham atyantam sukham ashnute, which says nothing about 'transcendental loving service of the Lord.' And I would suggest that Chapter 13 is about the individual purusha, the atman or kshetrajna, rather than the Supreme Deity. It is very difficult to separate translation from commentary and this can at times lead to difficulties.
  18. I have read that cows producing milk products designated 'organic' usually live in better conditions. It is not a solution but it is maybe some improvement.
  19. I have been vegetarian all my life but that is not much to do with blind faith in scripture or Brahmins. This is an argument for vegetarian diet that convinces me I should not eat meat. 1. Human beings do not need to eat meat to live; statistics seem to show that vegetarians have a longer life expectancy. 2. Therefore if I choose to eat meat the choice is motivated by my desire to enjoy food of that type. It is a pleasure and not a necessity. 3. In order for me to enjoy those foods animals will have to be killed in a cruel manner. 4. Therefore if I eat meat I am saying that my enjoyment of certain types of food is more important than the suffering of the animals. It seems morally unacceptable to cause suffering and death simply to provide myself with pleasure. Of course few of us live up to our own moral standards and I have no wish to condemn those who eat meat. I do many things that fall short of my own moral standards so I am not in much of a position to condemn others. However, the moral argument in favour of vegetarian diet appears unassailable, even if Rama or Krishna did eat meat.
  20. An interesting debate here with merit on both sides. The crux of the debate seems to rest on these points. 1. The Rigveda hymns do certainly refer to Vishnu in the way that has been quoted and Vishnu is referred to as Aditya. Aditya can be understood either as the sun god or as the son of Aditi. Smriti texts embrace the latter understanding and so it seems not unreasonable for Vaishnavas to use quotations from the Rigveda. However, it must be taken in the Vedic context as the hymns also extol Indra, Varuna etc in a similar way. So it is certainly stretching a point to say that the Rigvedasamhita advocates Vaishnavism, at least as we know it today. 2. Mike Malaysia gives quotations from the Upanishads to support his position. However, the Maha Upanishad and Kali Santarana Upanishad are not amongst the major Upanishads usually accepted as a part of the shruti. There are an absolute maximum of 14 major Upanishads. The quotation from the Shvetashvatara Upanishad (6.7) contains a false translation, which is not a proper way to conduct a debate. 3. The Vaishnava position is referred to as 'Puranic' but Vaishnavism is certainly to be found within the Mahabharata, Ramayana and Bhagavad Gita, so this is not quite fair. 4. Where Puranas and the Mahabharata are cited, the problem is that different Puranas and different passages of the Mahabharata extol Vishnu and Shiva in almost equal measure as the one Supreme Deity. Where Vaishnavas cite the Bhagavata Purana or Brahma Samhita, Shaivas can refer to their own texts, agamas etc, with equal weight.
  21. The trouble is that it is hard to translate without imposing a particular interpretation from one school of Hindu thought. This is certainly the case with Prabhupada's version. Robert Zaehner tries to be as literal as possible and gives explanation of alternative meanings that are possible, but his English is sometimes harder to understand than the Sanskrit.
  22. The duration of the yugas is precisely delineated in the Mahabharata on a number of occasions but a very clear statement is given in 12.224.16-20. If this version is accepted then we are not anywhere near the end of the Kaliyuga. And as it is the Mahabharata and Puranas that reveal the idea of chatur-yuga, if we do not accept their account there is no need to bother with the idea at all.
  23. Some academic theories are I think based on linguistic arguments but they are invariably inconclusive as the division between different styles is rarely clear cut. Regarding the Ramayana, a number of authors, notably John Brockington, have suggested that it was originally a secular hero epic that was later converted into a religious text through the ascribing of a divine identity to Rama. On this basis it is usually suggested that Books 1 and 7, the Balakanda and Uttarakanda, are later. There are different styles of Sanskrit in the Mahabharata but nothing so clear cut as to give an obvious indication of chronological layers. Again John Brockington is quite emphatic that such layers can be identified on the basis of text critical evidence, but nothing has been proven. Alf Hiltebeitel from Chicago University recently referred to these scholarly endeavours as 'myth-making'. So who knows?
  24. Academic views will inevitably vary but I think most scholars would date the Valmiki Ramayana to an earlier date than 7th century AD. Most writers suggest that the earlier portions date from around 250BC and the later additions were added up to the 4th century AD. But it is impossible to be conclusive on such matters because there is so little real evidence to go on.
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