Deconstructing the Inanity of Brahman and the Vedantic Worldview

Written by February 16, 2012 9:38 pm 281 comments

In supposing the existence of a permanent reality, or ‘substance’, beneath the shifting series of phenomena, whether of matter or of mind, the substance of the cosmos was ‘Brahma’, that of the individual man ‘Atman'; and the latter was separated from the former only, if I may so speak, by its phenomenal envelope, by the casing of sensations, thoughts and desires, pleasures and pains, which make up the illusive phantasmagoria of life. This the ignorant, take for reality; their ‘Atman’ therefore remains eternally imprisoned in delusions, bound by the fetters of desire and scourged by the whip of misery.

—Thomas  Huxley on the worldview of  Vedanta

In studying the genealogy of Brahminism from the onset of the primary Vedas (Rig, Yajur and Sama) through its transition to the Upanishads and Puranas, keen insight will at times observe and marvel at how it has morphed progressively from its ritualistic origins to assume more and deadly forms, where caste, religion and spirituality were used as tools in the real scheme of power grab and exploitation of large sections of society.

Given that such a conclusion is not totally unwarranted by historical and sociological analysis, the overwhelming tide of reverence for and fetishistic following of the Upanishads or the Vedanta is a paradox that is a thorny challenge for critical refutation.

In one of my earlier articles concerning the folly of current fashions in the exposition of Bhagavad Gita, which is a particularly vicious and diabolical form of Upanishadic evangelism, I had represented its vision in a mocking vein thus:Rope and Snake

“The central conception of Advaita philosophy and its current evangelism, is more or less, building of elaborate ‘castles in the air’ around the definition of the Brahman as the one and only unchanging ultimate reality beneath which lies the illusion of  constantly changing appearances and motions of the physical and transient world, where the ‘rope and the snake’ play the game of ‘snakes and ladders’ with our deluded senses, where Rishis, Gurus and Swamis play the great ‘Indian rope trick’ or tighten the hangman’s noose of ‘Self-Realization’ on bewildered devotees and followers, who are made to walk the ‘tight rope’ of avoiding ‘sense-objects’ and senseless objects in crossing the ‘transmigratory ocean of existence’, then selling such spiritual snake oil concoctions through speeches, books, seminars, study sessions and what not and misguiding and cheerleading innocent, gullible and earnest seekers of religion alike into a grand ‘wild-goose chase’ of the Brahman.”

The few critics of Vedanta and their incisive observations

Radicals of India’s pre-freedom era like BR Ambedkar and Lala Hardayal were even more scathing and unsparing in their denunciation of the Upanishadic spiritual tom-foolery. Ambedkar spoke in these unrelenting terms quoting from the observations of Thomas Huxley and Lala Hardayal:

“Of what use is this philosophy of the Upanishadas? The philosophy of the Upanishadas meant withdrawal from the struggle for existence by resort to asceticism and a destruction of desire by self-mortification. As a way of life it was condemned by Huxley in scathing terms: “No more thorough mortification of the flesh has ever been attempted than that achieved by the Indian ascetic anchorite; no later monarchism has so nearly succeeded in reducing the human mind to that condition of impassive quasi-somnambulism, which, but for its acknowledged holiness, might run the risk of being confounded with idiocy.”

But the condemnation of the philosophy of the Upanishads is nothing as compared to the denunciation of the same by Lala Hardyal:

“The Upanishads claim to expound ‘that, by knowing which everything is known’. This quest for ‘ the absolute ‘ is the basis of all the spurious metaphysics of India. The treatises are full of absurd conceits, quaint fancies, and chaotic speculations. And we have not learned that they are worthless. We keep moving in the old rut; we edit and re-edit the old books instead of translating the classics of European social thought. What could Europe be if Frederic Harrison, Brieux, Bebel, Anatole France, Herve, Haekel, Giddings, and Marshall should employ their time in composing treatises on Duns, Scotus and Thomas Aquinas, and discussing the merits of the laws of the Pentateuch and the poetry of Beowulf?

“Indian pundits and graduates seem to suffer from a kind of mania for what is effete and antiquated. Thus an institution, established by progressive men, aims at leading our youths through Sanskrit grammar to the Vedas via the Six Darshanas! What a false move in the quest for wisdom ! It is as if a caravan should travel across the desert to the shores of the Dead Sea in search of fresh water! Young men of India, look not for wisdom in the musty parchments of your metaphysical treatises. There is nothing but an endless round of verbal jugglery there. Read Rousseau and Voltaire, Plato and Aristotle, Haeckel and Spencer, Marx and Tolstoi, Ruskin and Comte, and other European thinkers, if you wish to understand life and its problems.

“But denunciations apart, did the Upanishad philosophy have any influence on Hinduism as a social and political system? There is no doubt that it turned out to be most ineffective and inconsequential piece of speculation with no effect on the moral and social order of the Hindus.”

Spiritualists like the Bourbons learn nothing from history nor forget its wrong lessons

But does any of this deter the almost universal applause and reverential awe that is the constant companion of Vedanta and its myriad gyrations of studies and expositions? Not a whit, if one were to consider how the likes of Anil Mehta and other such spiritual faithful from cults like Chinmaya Mission can dismiss any effort of debate with cryptic 3-liner responses.

So when I heard a response from one of the leading lights of the Vedanta blogosphere, I was initially hopeful that meaningful debate will get its fair share at last. But as it eventually turned out that, such hopes were premature and I realized that I was actually up against a Trojan Horse from the spiritualist camp. After some initial pleasantries, this gentleman committed the same sin of most spiritual apologists, mixing science and religion, using scientific and argumentative generalizations to question the rejection of Vedanta. As another ploy, he sent me a link to a brain-fryer of a book called ‘Vichar Sagar’, another tedious apologia for Vedic and Vedantic scriptures.

I am reproducing below some parts of my exchange with this person, whom I’ll refer to as “H.A.” (not his real name or initials). 

H.A.’s first comment to article on Bhagavad Gita via email:

Subject: The Ultimate Scientific Truth.

There is divergence of opinions about the truth, strategy, nature of the people etc. I realize that opinions cannot converge unless we agree on common principles, the biggest of them being ‘the truth absolute or ultimate’. I don’t know what you consider the ultimate truth, if any.

Any way I am interested in knowing what made you question or doubt the following points about Vedanta. I think if i know them i would be in better position to satisfy you to the best. It is from your above referred discussion.

  • Questioning the suitability of the ‘rope and snake’ metaphor and its irrelevance to the question of interpreting real
  • Pointing out the fallacies of the nature of Advaitic conception of knowledge which seems to fail even most basic tests of reason and empirical inquiry.
  • Trying to reason that Consciousness has no real bearing on a comparison of illusion and reality

My response to H.A.’s question:

While there are many common principles which can form the framework of a living philosophy, these principles need to be practical and useful.

In all humility the principle of absolute or ultimate truth is not one of them since it is not practical as there is no definition of what constitutes ultimate truth.

To me, it is one of many jargons that abound in Hindu or vedic metaphysics. Vedanta claims that the ‘Brahman’ is the ultimate and only truth that is worthy of realization. But the texts are themselves not clear about the conception and identity of Brahman. Lot of arguments, opinions and riddles are posed about this entity without any conclusions being reached. One text contradicts the other with some texts even claiming that the ‘Brahman’ is beyond understanding and comprehension. If that is really the case, is not the quest of Brahman a futile exercise?!. Commentaries fare no better than the original texts, since there is not one but many flavors of  vedanta:

  • Advaita Vedanta
  • Dvaita Vedanta
  • Visishtadvaita Vendanta

and more that I can’t recollect. But honestly these don’t make any practical sense, because truth or facts cannot be established by arguments and counter-arguments and nit-picking and hair-splitting about verses of Upanishads and the syllables and sounds of ‘OM’. That the earth is round and other physical facts were not determined by round-table debates of misguided prophets and deluded saints, but by observation, experiments and corroboration, and by putting our faculties to right use. Modern science is using such same empirical methods to unravel wonders of our brains and not doubting and dismissing the utility and testimony of our senses.

Vedanta makes blanket statements and assertions of this physical world being an illusion without providing one shred of evidence to support such brazen claims.  All its recourse is to blind faith, devotion and surrender to a teacher and unquestioning acceptance of the scriptural word.

H.A.’s counter-argument to my first response:

Belief, confusion, contradictions, mysticism are few of the unscientific aspects of Hindu metaphysics as per your understanding and I agree to the same. But does this all sufficient to dismiss altogether ‘The Truth’ so established by the Vedanta? It needs matching rebuttal comparable to the content and intent of the mechanism followed by these shastras. I expect the same in your next email about the specific few points raised by me.

The ‘Ultimate Truth’ may be defined as the one ‘which reveals and accounts for the existence of the universe as it is’ with all its cause and accordingly the scientific advancement may be directed.

Before you reply I wish you would have read or referred the likes of the book ‘Vichar Sagar’ by Nischal Das (http://www.archive.org/details/themetaphysicsof00sreeuoft ). If not taken as spiritualistic and viewed with scientific angle, it is formidable.

Before you explain the few points as referred by me I expect you would take the pros and cons of the issues as discussed in this analytical book. Of course you may not afford to spend such a time thing is different. Just like you I do believe Truth cannot be accepted just because Vedanta says. Let us arrive at it independently. Let us supplement science with the ideas of human beings. For I am satisfied with the ultimate truth ‘Brahman’ as realistically as E=mc2.

My rejoinder to his response above:

Skeptics are not dismissing the theories of the Vedanta. They are trying to question the claims of this school of ‘philosophic’ thought that their version of ‘truth’ or conception of the nature of reality is the real deal.

The playing field of a skeptic or a critical thinker is that of evidence, objectivity, feel, experience that is capable of validation by senses, perception, reason and logic, cross-verification of clues that must all tie to all threads and ends of a proposed theory that explains a phenomenon.

If this ‘truth’ that Vedanta is talking about of a unchanging reality super-imposed on an ‘illusory world of physical object and sensory experiences’ because senses are deluded into accepting illusion of physical appearances as reality, is an objective and valid one, as it sometimes claims, that claim should submit itself to objective and empirical verification.

But Vedantic apologists are not forthcoming with their proofs and evidences. They keep shifting the goal-posts, definitions, theories from time to time and hard as skeptics keep trying to pin them down, these idealists keep slipping out by changing the rules of the game. Vedantists cannot have their cake and eat it too.

Though commentaries, lectures and books on the Upanishads create heavy smoke-screens and fog around their theories, we can ferret out these recurring themes and components

  • Universal Soul
  • Individual soul
  • Transmigration of the soul
  • Karmic cyclicality and endless reversions of its cycles
  • Release of the soul from transmigratory agony
  • Final liberation of the soul and its unity with the Universal soul
  • Realms through which the individual soul passes on its journey of final deliverance and unity with the Brahman
  • Unified reality of the Brahman manifesting as the illusion of the physical world and sensory experience though the mechanism of Maya ( No explanation of why such an atrocity is being done by the Brahman is anywhere in the Upanishads)

I could go on and on, but the point is that all these things are in realm of speculation and imagination. The easiest way to resolve a controversy is provide a proof and experience of the claims that is at the heart of a controversy.

Skeptics have been waiting for centuries and no convincing proof or even good reliable evidence is forthcoming. All these airy-fairy concepts are resting on the shaky foundation of arguments, stories, fairy tales, tautological statements ( one example of a tautological statement is like this ( 1. “Since a higher reality exists, the current physical reality is not the ultimate reality” 2. “Because the the current physical reality is not the ultimate reality, therefore a higher reality exists and that is Brahman”).

The above is just one example, but the Upanishads, commentaries, its schools of thought are full of such circular arguments and reasoning. Upanishadic wisdom is worse than science fiction, it is metaphysical fiction.

When contradictions are pointed out, the defenders say that you have transcend your mind. My response is Good luck with that! As We  have better things to do in life.

The final critical punch that hoped to nip misleading and diversionary arguments  in the bud:

Further to my mail before this, let us briefly consider your statement
“So hope you will be as realistic as E=mc2 in your rebuttal of ‘Brahman'”

I see this as a trap that I don’t wish to fall into.

E=mc2 was proposed by scientists, which has been validated and accepted universally. It is upto the Advaitins and Vedantins, to contest and disprove it if they can with objective proofs and validations.

‘Brahman’ is a proposition of the Advaitins and Vedantins. The burden of proof is on them and lets us play by the rules of the game. As a skeptic I have the least eagerness or responsibility to provide a rebuttal. In my previous email I provided a few criteria that can serve to expose the lack of objectivity of the Vedantic propositions.

Don’t get me wrong, but refuting the Brahman or any other Vedic or Vedantic fantasy is like expecting to refute incontrovertibly the existence of fairies, ghosts, narasimha, pixies, flying monkeys, heaven, paradise, astral realms etc.

As the saying goes, “Fools can pose many many more questions than the wisest men can ever answer”.

 

This post was written by:

- who has written 13 posts on Nirmukta.

An accountant and a man of commerce by background and education, I am a Business Applications analyst by work and profession. I am a lover of diverse intellectual pursuits and interests. I have over time cultivated interests in literature, history and social sciences. In terms of beliefs, I have had in the past my share of swings between irrationality and rationality. As hopefully thinking processes and impulses mature, I am learning to cultivate the faculty of examining all systems and forms of thought and opinions, in whatever it is received and only accept those that accords with reason, logic and understanding.

281 Comments

  • Very Good article Mr Raganath. I was once a believer of Advaita Vedanta Philosophy. Not any more. If the concept of Brahman is true then what is shown in the movie Matrix is also true. Everything around us is not reality but an illusion created by a super-super-computer called Brahman or whatever they want to call it. Anyone with any bit of logic will laugh at me if tell them that I believe that the “Matrix” is true and it really exists. Why don’t we then laugh at the concept of Brahman? It is because they stop reasoning. Is the Brahman really science? Are the scientists saying it is science? No, never. It is only the believers who are saying that it is science. They should find out why the concept of Brahman was created by the Upanishadists. As rightly pointed out in Dr Prabhakar Kamath’s article Brahman was created to eliminate Brahmanism. Well the ever powerful Brahmins never let that happen and Hinduism remains the most complex religion to understand. The religious always point to the upanishads to show how beautiful the Hindu philosophy is. But the fact remains, as you have cited in your article, that this philosophy remained ineffective in shaping the social and political life of ancient India.

  • What an apt choice of image! The vexed ‘sarp-rajju'( snake-rope) question has transported many a Brahmin with delight. Is it a snake? Is it a rope? It is neither. It is hogwash.

  • Your post here has lighted more thoughts into my critical mind. In one of the emails above, you have listed the themes and components of a vedantic world view. Indeed that was step 1 to putting forth an argument. Could you write more detailed arguments about a rebuttal, or if it is left, to more scientific rebuttal which takes time and energy to come up with complete thesis on why it is holistically not true, to some other time…

    • Supreeth,

      This attempt at a critical refutation of the Vedanta is hopefully the initial of the many efforts that are needed to rid vast sections of educated Indians of their obsessive reverence for this system of thought.

      Surely more arguments than what I have put out in this article are always welcome. But whether such arguments need to be very detailed is debatable. As I have implied in the article, with the state of knowledge and tools for reasoning that we have now, the absurdity of the central tenets and themes of Vedanta becomes very manifest and obvious.

      Critics don’t need to beat around the bush and go into the detailed meanings of esoteric shlokas and terms in the Upanishads to contradict and debunk them. Apologists of spiritualism may need such crutches.

      The central conception of the Brahman is itself a giant house of cards resting on the flimsy foundations of scriptural apologetics.

      The need is really one of proper framing of our opposing arguments and adhering to the rules of debate and refutation

  • I have never understood this business about Maya (that the world is an illusion). That sounds like a null statement, void of any information. The universe seems to abide some rules, and the real challenge is to understand those. Whatever lies outside our cause-effect universe is not falsifiable and hence useless to dwell on.

  • Lokenath Chakraborty

    While I don’t find any evidence of a God or Godly being, I find some of the arguments fallacious here. It is a championing of the supremacism of Western thinking and Philosophy over Indian. What we need to understand is that the line between science and philosophy was thinner in the earlier days, and considering the time when Vedas or Upanishads are written, that line was almost non-existent. Instead of just dumping those thoughts into the seas, we need to crosscheck them in the present context and edit accordingly. Isaac Newton, arguably the most prolific scientist who ever lived, was also a philosopher and alchemist! Does that mean we trash his scrolls? No, that would be disaster! He said “To explain all nature is too difficult a task for any one man or even for any one age. ‘Tis much better to do a little with certainty, & leave the rest for others that come after you, than to explain all things by conjecture without making sure of any thing.” So the knowledge accumulated by our ancestors has a value. But we need to understand that they didn’t have access to the whole world or such developed machines we have now. so we can study their works critically, and filter out what doesn’t tally with present understanding, just like we accepted newton’s laws of motion for objects of medium mass and rejected it for very light or very heavy bodies. Of course one can argue if the Vedas are too old to have any value, but to know that we have to study it.

    • A discussion on how to criticize Upanishadic speculation in a manner that is not unwittingly and unduly Eurocentric is underway here.

    • Lokenath,

      I disagree that this article is an endorsement of westernized thinking or any kind of Euro-centerism. Yes there is quote of Lala Hardayal that admires works of European social thought. This still does not establish that Lala Hardayal was Eurocentric, if that be the insinuation.

      Empirical and logical thinking was and is not a monopoly of the Europeans or the Greeks. Lokayatikas in India, probably before the Greeks had denounced the philosohical and intellectual merit of the Vedas and tried to build a formidable body of ideas and theory. But that fell a victim to the philistinism of preisthood and royalty of its times.

      Reformist and radical thinking has no racial or geographical restraints or identities. It is universal and a common inheritance of humanity that it has been gaining in its march towards progress, liberty and liberation from the clutches of superstition and irrationality.

      Your suggestion that we should re-interpret the Vedas and Upanishads in the light of modern times, is what Lala Hardayal precisely lamented in his criticism of our these 2 scriptures. It is an exercise in futility

      To your other comment, the accumulated knowledge of our ancestors is not in the Vedas and the upanishads. Other than being cultural relics, they are as worthless as the Bible or the Torah. The accumulated knowledge of our ancesters was elsewhere and most of it has been vandalised.

      Newton’s work on physics is what has helped science and scientific advancement. His works on philosophy (defence of christianity) and alchemy are worthless from an intellectual perspective just like the Vedas and the Upanishads

  • Can’t the arguments of the Lokkayatta be reconstructed and published widely?

  • Can we start a thread or sub-forum to clarify and critically evaluate individual sentences in ancient texts?

    For example what does the following shloka in Gita mean?

    http://www.bhagavad-gita.org/Gita/verse-03-28.html

    Tattva-vit tu maha-baho guna-karma-vibhagayoh
    Guna guneshu vartanta iti mattva na sajjate

    Can we make sense of and evaluate it in light of modern philosophy of mind? For example, consider the statement “Ideas think themselves” by Philosopher of mind Daniel Dennett

    http://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/unbound/digicult/dennett.htm

    • Dr. Kamath’s analysis of the said verse (3:28) as stated briefly in this article, is as follows:

      …What today’s civilized society considers as evils were once essential tools for survival for evolving humans in the wilderness, and they became hard-wired into their psyche, and encoded in their genes, and became the life-preserving force, which Brahmanism called the Gunas of Prakriti, roughly Force or Quality of Nature…The Upanishadists correctly identified the Gunas as the source of these evils (3:28-29; 34, 36-40). The Upanishadic Dharma’s goal was to give the fallen upper classes Yoga as a tool to control these hard-wired, Guna-based evils, and learn to behave in a civilized manner towards others by seeing their own Self in others (6:29, 32).

      A forum thread for listing resources related to critiques of the Bhagavad Gita is here.

  • Its very funny post. Can the scientists or the author of this article prove that this universe exist?
    If it exist, where does it exist?

    • Quoting from Prof. Stephen Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time”

      Newton was very worried by this lack of absolute position, or absolute space, as it was called, because it did not accord with his idea of an absolute God. In fact, he refused to accept the lack of absolute space, even though his laws implied it. He was severely criticized for this irrational belief by many people, most notably Bishop Berkeley, a philosopher who believed that all material objects in space and time are an illusion. When the famous Dr. Johnson was told of Berkley’s opinion, he cried, ‘I refute it thus!’ and stubbed his toe on a large stone.

  • Dear Mr. Ranganath:

    Before you pass judgement on anything, I recommend that you try to go to the right source of information from a real Guru . I am sure that you will agree with the saying about half baked knowledge breeding danger. If you are interested, I will be happy to correspond with you about many of the points you have raised in this posting.

    Ravindra Murthy, MD

    • Mr. Murthy,

      This article expresses an opinion on the philosophy of the Vedanta, which is of course quite unflattering to its adherents and apologists. Whether it is a judgement is a matter of wrangling over semantics and tenor of the expression of these opinions.

      Certainly, the criticism at certain points is harsh and sarcastic. But that is again a matter of method and style. It is not a final say in the matter, but an effort at debunking of irrationally revered works of religion.

      Gurus of religion and spiritualism are dime a dozen and you are welcome to go thru skeptics’ and Nirmukta’s take of the bona fides of these Gurus, real, designer or otherwise. We have a small series of articles on one such ‘hallowed Guru’, Sw. Chinmayananda. (http://nirmukta.com/2011/06/16/gems-from-chinmayananda-the-spiritual-inanity-series-part-iii/)

      You may present your take on the credentials of a ‘real’ Guru and we can go from there.

      This article has tried to make the point that Vedanta is also a repository of half-baked knowledge, whose dangers the Indian civilization is still braving and suffering.

      We are waiting for your points and arguments and the comment section is the most apt for it

      • Dear Mr. Ranganath:

        This article expresses an opinion on the philosophy of the Vedanta,……..(Your statement)

        > While I welcome all opinions based hopefully on proper understanding or at least an attempt at one with an open mind, I have problems with people expressing opinions based upon improper understanding and biased thinking. Furthermore, these opinions often graduate undeservedly, into seemingly unimpeachable facts which will be blindly followed by another group leading to the common scenario of blind leading the blind.
        > I disagree with you on Judgment. It is one thing to disagree and an entirely different another, to attach labels of your choice to someone else’s opinion.

        Certainly, the criticism at certain points is harsh and sarcastic……… (Your statement)
        > I am glad to note that you are honest enough to admit harshness and sarcasm in your criticism, though you try to explain it away as a matter of method and style. But then, your postings seem to be running counter to “Nirmukta’s” comment-guidelines for posting. I hope that this website abides by its guidelines. I sincerely hope that you would steer clear of sarcasm and harshness in your postings. I am quite sure that you, with your gift for vocabulary and writing style, can do so.
        > I applaud you for your efforts at debunking of irrationally revered works of religion. Your article is titled “Deconstructing the Inanity of Brahman and the Vedantic Worldview “. Please tell me, what do Brahman and Vedanta have to do with religion? – It is a common misconception based upon obtuse thinking that Vedanta has something to do with religion or Hinduism; this is far removed from truth. The fundamental truths on which Vedanta is based are by no means the monopoly of the Hindu Religion or any Religion for that matter. It is a privilege shared by all beings and denied to none. Religion/Religious practices, often narrow and dogmatic, cannot breathe in the atmosphere of Vedantic View.

        Gurus of religion and spiritualism are dime a dozen ……… (your statement)
        > I agree with you about many people posing as GURUs and selling snake oil as truth. But that by no means exclude the presence of genuine GURUs. Challenge is for the seeker to discern one from the other.
        > While literature abounds with a multitude of definitions of GURU, I view Guru as someone/something capable of creating an environment where truth can unfold. Ultimate cognition of truth has to be made by oneself.
        > Vedanta by no means admits blind allegiance, dogmatic beliefs nor does it call for laying aside, your rational thinking. Never demanding blind acceptance, Vedantic assertions, drawing their vital force from the universal experience of all humans, are readily verifiable by each one of us in this life and not after death in some promised but unverifiable, heaven. Let me end by quoting my Guru “Vedantic assertions are suggestions of Truth, which must stand or fall, as we find them confirmed or condemned by Life and Experience. Truth must in the last resort come to be realized in our own experience, and no blind faith in the dicta of the scriptures or the seers, can constitute it as such.”
        > Vedanta does not just lay a claim to the above in the form of empty hollow words but also unfolds a very practical way of recognizing truth in its claims, to all open-minded and interested seekers. Soliciting blind dogmatic acceptance is not in its veins. You do not have to wait until you depart from this terra firma, to cognize the truth as espoused by Vedanta and to recognize that, that Truth is supported by your own life experience.

        This article has tried to make the point that Vedanta is also a repository of half-baked knowledge, whose dangers the Indian civilization is still braving and suffering. (STATEMENT BY YOU)
        > Please tell me, how you have come to this conclusion. Also, please explain to me how other civilizations that have never been exposed to “Vedanta”, have also faced some of the same dangers and sufferings as Indian civilization.

        I have stated my take on a Guru as per your suggestion in your posting. I have also taken the liberty of placing on record some of my initial responses to some of the points you have raised in your posting

        I plead complete ignorance of Vedas and Upanishads as I have never laid my hands on any of them. Apart from mechanical chanting of few slokas from Bhagavad Gita during my school days, I profess no knowledge about the teachings of Bhagavad Gita. I will be happy to carry on further with you as long as you come to table with an open mind divorced from all prior conditionings and ready to engage in an honest discussion without sarcasm. These apply equally to me. If you wish to proceed, please let me know how you would like to proceed further.

        • Mr Murthy,

          Let me start with the ending note of your comment. You say:
          “I plead complete ignorance of Vedas and Upanishads as I have never laid my hands on any of them. Apart from mechanical chanting of few slokas from Bhagavad Gita during my school days, I profess no knowledge about the teachings of Bhagavad Gita.”

          For so much ignorance of these scriptures, your defence of philosophy in these is very stoutly confident.

          When you are ignorant about the contents of these scriptures, what makes you glibly state that Brahman and Vedanta have nothing to do with religion or Hinduism.

          Many Indian and Hindu commentators and historians consider the Vedanta or Upanishads as foot-notes to the primary Vedas. If the Vedanta or Upanishads are not about religion why is it replete with references to and fables and parables of gods and deities. If you scour the many hindu religious websites, most of them carry references to Vedanta and also quite a few also claim that many passages of Upanishads are rehashing of themes from the Rig Veda.

          If Vedanta has no relation to Hinduism, why dont people of other faiths agree with that claim of the Hindus.

          You have quoted the word ‘truth’ so many times in your comment post. But its meaning and implication does not seem to be clear at all. Because it is lacking in proper definition and is very vague. If by truth, the reference is to the concept of Brahman, it is gets even farther from my understanding.

          Just like you, Upanishads also keep referring to the term ‘truth’ so many times that you lose count of it, and qualify it as a highest, greatest, supreme, pure, universal and what not truth.

          The commentaries on it from worthies like Adi Sankara and Badrayana to Vivekananda and Chinmayananda have left no stone unturned in confounding the confusion of its meanings.

          While reading quite a few Upanishads like Keno, Katha or Chandogya, I could not make out any earth-shattering truths, which spiritualist and blind believers seem to find in them by the ton.

          By harping on the glories of Brahman ad nauseam, many Gurus of Hindu and Vedic religion have carried out the Goebbelsian coup of religion and spiritualism.

          Then you have made a lot of high-sounding lines like
          * “drawing their vital force from the universal experience of all humans”
          * “Truth must in the last resort come to be realized in our own experience”
          * “to cognize the truth as espoused by Vedanta and to recognize that, that Truth is supported by your own life experience.”
          * “but also unfolds a very practical way of recognizing truth in its claims, to all open-minded and interested seekers”
          *”I view Guru as someone/something capable of creating an environment where truth can unfold. Ultimate cognition of truth has to be made by oneself.”

          But I have not the slightest clue what you are trying to drive at. It appears to me to be nothing more than a word soup of spiritualist lingo.

          While you are busy beating around the bush about the esoteric truths of the Vedanta, my article listed out these claims of the Vedanta:

          * Universal Soul
          * Individual soul
          * Transmigration of the soul
          * Karmic cyclicality and endless reversions of its cycles
          * Release of the soul from transmigratory agony
          * Final liberation of the soul and its unity with the Universal soul
          * Realms through which the individual soul passes on its journey of final deliverance and unity with the Brahman

          Will you take the trouble of validating how these claims are eternal and absolute truths?

          • Dear Mr. Ranganath:

            At the outset, let me express my sincere admiration for your command over English, choice of words and ability to thread them together in a wonderful style to very effectively articulate your thoughts/opinions. I only wish that you took care not to inject “sarcasm and harshness” into them, as you had admitted in your previous correspondence.

            Getting to the issues at hand:

            “Word soup of spiritualist lingo”. (Your way of summing up your reaction to what you thought were “high sounding lines” in my reply) is a nice way of expressing one’s reaction when things do not make sense. Please permit me to borrow the same phraseology to describe the 8 items pertaining to soul in your posting. I agree with you wholeheartedly that these are speculative fantasies and I have no interest in verifying these claims as they fall under the realm of speculation, over which the entire humanity can debate until the earth comes to an end without ever coming to an agreement. I honestly do not know whether these issues form the essence of Vendatic teachings; if they do, I plead ignorance. Vedantic teachings (as I have understood) primarily address the real nature of “I”. If viewed in the light of Vedantic truth, the plethora of adjectives and descriptions pertaining to “soul” in your posting, may make sense; but I have no interest In them and I will not dwell further, on them.

            With regards to my statements which you described as “word soup of spiritualist lingo” and “high- sounding lines , I will try to elucidate their meaning and attempt to show you that they are not high sounding after all . I will also try to make good on the claims in my statement that these are verifiable by everyone on this earth including you, based upon life experience. I am sure that you will agree that personal verification by oneself is the holy gravel on which “truth” will stand firmly. (furthermore, it should readily be verifiable by everyone) My only request to you is to come to this with honest yearning for truth and stand true to your words in your write- up about yourself in Nirmukta – “As hopefully thinking processes and impulses mature, I am learning to cultivate the faculty of examining all systems and forms of thought and opinions, in whatever it is received and only accept those that accords with reason, logic and understanding”.

            With that, let me first start with some definitions
            My understanding of “Absolute Truth” is something that is constant , not liable to change, ultimate, verified and verifiable.
            “Absolute Reality” as something whose non-existence cannot be conceived or imagined.

            Please let me know whether you agree with the above definitions. If not, please let me know how you would define them. We will proceed from there.

        • Mr Murthy,

          Your counsel to desist from acerbic and harsh responses to arguments is well-taken

          With that let me examine this statement of yours:
          “My understanding of “Absolute Truth” is something that is constant , not liable to change, ultimate, verified and verifiable.”

          In a response that I already in one of my earlier comments stated that there is no such thing as absolute, ultimate, supreme or highest truth or truths. Other than physical facts (to some extent) which retain their validity only till they are not superseded by a better explanation or theory, all truths are relative and subject to change.

          Any work that claims that it has the key to the magic elixir to one ultimate truth is either deluded or for some ulterior or vested motive leading others up the garden path of an non-existent paradise.

          What we term as theories in phenomenal, moral, social or behavioral aspects of existence is in a sense an attempt at providing explanatory models that make for the best possible understanding of these. The attempt is to make the closest approximation to the best and most reasonable understanding. There is no escaping relativism in the nature of things.

          The very nature of existence that we know of undermines the idealistic expectation of Absolutism that religious conditioning craves for.

          In the context of conscious life, other than the condition of death, there is no known constant and unchanging aspect or value.

          If you know of any other instance or example, please feel free to quote and explain.

          Even what is a moral truth or falsehood is also relative and keeps changing with the ages. Slavery was acceptable in one age, but now is not.

          Ultimate sounds like a strong, powerful and influential term, when closely examined in the context in which is used in religion and abstract idealism, is just a much abused superlative.

          Just by conjuring up terms like ‘Ultimate Truth’ or ‘Absolute Reality’, they cant be brought into existence. They are still a property of fertile human imagination.

          Your next declaration that:
          “Absolute Reality” as something whose non-existence cannot be conceived or imagined.”

          merely echoes ontological arguments for the existence of God. It is almost a copy of the argument made by theologian Anselm of Canterbury. You have just replaced the God of Anselm by ‘Absolute Reality’

          There is a lot of difference between conception and factual accuracy and occurance. We can conceive of many varieties of statism or perfection for our existence and modes of life. But only what can be perceived and experienced in a broadly standard and uniform manner is accepted as reality.

          To digress, Utopia is another grand conception of absolutist idealism. But it is yet to translate into reality. Yet this idealism has some roots in the experience of life. The religious dream of seeing the world united in its submission to the idea of God or scriptural mandates is also species of absolutist bias in thinking.

          There is no end to conceptual and imaginative faculties of man. To consider this as ending with the negative qualification of ‘Absolute Reality’ is just an arbitrary device of argument used by religious apology.

  • Lakshminarayana

    Hello Ranganath,

    I think it would be fun debating with you. Yes, really fun. Only problem is – I might get busy sometimes and may take time to respond. But rest assured, you will not be disappointed. Ok, so where shall we start? You set the rules. Only one question – To prove my point sometimes, I might quote an upanishad. And I will ask you to do the same. Does this sound fair? If yes, then we can continue.

    • While waiting for Ranganath and looking forward to the discussion, here is a question which the above proposal raises. Isn’t expecting a critic of the Upanishadic worldview to present an argument citing Upanishadic authority, only about as reasonable as this claim of the napkin religion?

      • Lakshminarayana

        Arvind, I never said I will quote the upanishad as an authority. There is no need for anyone to accept it as an authority. I said I will quote it to prove a point – meaning that – If I say this is what the upanishad says, I will back my statements using quotes from the upanishad. This is just to show that I am not lying. Same goes for you.

        • //I said I will quote it to prove a point.//

          What I had meant was this: If the very debate is about the utility of the Upanishadic worldview, then quoting from the Upanishads to make a point about the validity of the Upanishads is not too different from quoting from this napkin to support the napkin religion.Perhaps it counts as evidence is religious/spiritual circles and why it does not count as evidence elsewhere is touched upon in the latter half of this post.

          • Lakshminarayana

            Shall I repeat myself? The point that I will be proving is that “the upanishad really says what I write it says”. I will quote the upanishad to show that I am not lying about what the upanishad says. It does not mean that I am using the upanishad to prove the upanishad. For example, if I say that so and so upanishad contains the theory of relativity (not that I am really saying it, but this is just an example), then you will naturally expect me to “show those portions of that upanishad that contain this theory”. If I fail to show, then it means that I am lying.

          • The point that I will be proving is that “the upanishad really says what I write it says”.

            Well, if it is just about that, there is nothing to debate about. There can be no question that Harry Potter is the chosen one if you limit yourself to the world that JK Rowling has created.

            However if the point is about how Harry Potter is the Ultimate Reality or the Ultimate Truth or any other word prefixed with Ultimate (or Absolute), then the context becomes very important. For example, if you are indoctrinating a kid about what his/her goal in life should be, asking them to follow the Way Of The Potter and realize the Ultimate Potter, it sounds downright silly. Which is what I believe Ranganath is trying to point out in this article.

    • Lakshminarayana,

      In the eagerness to challenge, don’t you think you are contradicting yourself. You started saying that I will have the privilege of setting the rules, then turn around saying you will prove your point by means of your own rule of quoting the Upanishads.

      The point here is that quoting the Upanishads proves no empirical observation or phenomenon. As a free individual you have the liberty to quote-mine the Upanishads if you will, but that establishes nothing about the validity or reality of the so-called phenomenon of Brahman. Actually here Upanishads and the Brahman are under critical scrutiny of or on the judgement dock of reason and logic.

      So the rules of debate should conform to the needs of reason, logic, and facts and not be reduced to a ‘quote competition’ or wrestling over semantics and contextual idiom of Sanskrit shlokas and usage.

      If that is the playing field you can comply, go ahead and take a shot. The bulleted points of the Vedantic world-view in the article are beckoning you

      • Lakshminarayana

        Hello Ranganath, Don’t think of it as a challenge man. Think of it as fun.

        You say I contradict myself. But that is not correct, because I asked you a question whether I am allowed to quote something. I did not impose any rule on you. You had the freedom to decide whether to allow me to quote or not. So there is no contradiction. Anyway, all this is to take care that none of us end up misrepresenting the views of the upanishads. And thanks for accepting my proposition.

        Keep watching this space for more comments. Right now, got to get back to work. Good day.

  • Lakshminarayana

    As I understand your post, you are interested in objective verification of vedantic theories, specifically objective verification of brahman, for you write the following –

    “If this ‘truth’ that Vedanta is talking about of a unchanging reality super-imposed on an ‘illusory world of physical object and sensory experiences’ because senses are deluded into accepting illusion of physical appearances as reality, is an objective and valid one, as it sometimes claims, that claim should submit itself to objective and empirical verification.”

    “But Vedantic apologists are not forthcoming with their proofs and evidences. ….” etc.

    Here is my reply to this –

    Let me tell you one thing. I am not aware of the position of the non-traditional vedantins, but the position of the traditional vedantins is that the existence of brahman can NEVER be established by objective means. By “objective means”, I mean the “modern scientific way”. Let me explain this in a bit more detail –

    In traditional vedanta, there are three valid sources of knowledge (i.e., three valid means by which you can establish or reject a hypothesis) – (1) pratyaksha (perception) (2) anumana (inference) (3) scripture (by the way, this does NOT mean that I am asking you to accept this traditional position. I can easily guess that you do not accept scripture).

    Coming to each of them –

    1. What is perception? It is just direct observation. For example, you observe that two bodies reach the (flat) ground at the same time when dropped from the same height on to the surface of the earth, if this experiment is conducted in vacuum. Based on this direct observation, you can reject some old theories that say otherwise. Similarly, you can directly observe in the laboratory that Newton’s second law F=ma holds true. All these type of means of knowledge is “perception” for the traditional vedantin.

    2. What is inference? For example, if you know that the atom contains electrons that are negatively charged, and you also know the atom to be electrically neutral in charge, you can automatically infer the existence of positively charged particles in the atom. This is an example of “inference” for the traditional vedantin.

    3. Scripture – this is self-explanatory and includes vedas, upanishads etc.

    Note that perception and inference more or less constitute the “modern day scientific” means of collecting evidence for anything. Now Adi Sankara (who is the most well-known traditional vedantin) says that the Atman (The Self, brahman) CANNOT be known by means of perception or inference. He says this in one of his upanishad commentaries (Bruhadaranyaka upanishad commentary, to be specific). He also adopts a similar position in his commentary on brahmasutras. Even the upanishads say that the Atman/brahman cannot be heard, seen etc. Check Kena upanishad for example. It says that the eye cannot see it, ear cannot hear it, mind cannot reach it etc. which basically means that the (existence of) Atman/brahman cannot be established by means of perception or inference.

    To further elaborate – The traditional vedantins say that if brahman were known by perception or inference means, then what is the use of scripture? (This is a rhetorical question, which basically means that scripture is useful because it teaches something that cannot be known by perception or inference).

    By accusing the upanishads/vedantins of claiming objective evidence for brahman, you have mis-represented the position of traditional vedanta.

    On a side note, I find it amusing that you chose to target brahman for objective evidence, given that you also talk about “earnest” seekers of religion. Do you think there are any “earnest” religious people who can give provide evidence of the existence of God?

    Now I will stop here and wait for your answer.

    Good day.

    • I am not interested in objective verification of vedantic theories, because there is abundant evidence of the nonsensical and fraudulent nature of its claims.

      The article is attempting to make a call for the dismissal of the hollow and fanciful claims and theories about Brahman and other creatures of its theological fantasy.

      It is an appeal to the many to call off the bluff and bluster of its circular and tautological arguments in the defence of Brahman and non-dualistic ultimate reality which exists beyond the pale of physical appearances.

      My question to all this posturing of Brahman in the Vedanta and its apologies is that “Why dont you show me the Brahman that satisfies the test of reason, logic, experience and human understanding?”

      Vedantic apologists have no honest answer or reply to this test.

      Quoting Kena Upanishad and Adi Sankara is a lame exercise in argumentative brow-beating that is not going to work.

      Who gave Adi Sankara the license to discredit the aids of reasoning and understanding such as perception, observation, experience ( not just individual), inductive, inferential and deductive logic by voicing such shameless and arrogant nonsense as
      “Atman (The Self, brahman) CANNOT be known by means of perception or inference”

      The point is not that independent thinking is falling over itself to seek the elusive Brahman, but that the ill-deserved reputation of demagogues like Adi Sankara and their irresponsible endorsement of supra-sensory concepts denigrates the cause of empirical reasoning that has been engine of human progress.

      Now if Kena Upanishad were to tell you that Unicorn, Pegasus and Gryphon are sublime entities that the eye cannot see it, ear cannot hear it, mind cannot reach it etc. which basically means that the (existence of) Unicorn, Pegasus and Gryphon cannot be established by means of perception or inference, would you spend your energies in chasing these “Mayavi” entities in worship, meditation and spiritual orgies? and spend your lifetime in merging indissolubly with them.

      And how can scripture be useful because it teaches something that cannot be known by perception or inference, when it is composed by the very same people whose perception or inference is not realiable or trustworthy.

      Oops! how foolish of me to blaspheme that the scriptures were composed by humans!. Of course they fell down the sky into the worthy hands of Adi Sankara, Jamini and Badrayana, from the heavenly realms of Jupiter (Brihaspati)..Right!!!

      Then you say “Note that perception and inference more or less constitute the “modern day scientific” means of collecting evidence for anything.”

      All I can do is pity your pathetic ignorance of the Philosophy of Science and the detail, diligence and rigor of scientific methodology. Science and practical philosophy are not as shallow as your ignorance or obstinate posturing makes it out to be.

  • @ Lakshminarayana,
    Just like universe does not exist, mind does not exist. These guys say, science assumes universe to exist, likewise, as per advaita, mind assumes it to be the body and because of that perception arise.

    • The current scientific stance on the nature of the ‘mind’ is spelt out in brief by Yale professor Paul Bloom in this clip and is explained in simpler terms by author and neuroscientist Sam Harris in this clip .

      • @ Arvind,
        In a body, brain begins to develop only from the 3rd week. What causes the development till the 3rd week?. If every thought arises from the brain, what causes the embryo to develop into human?. Only during the 14th week, the baby can perform some actions using the brain.
        I too could quote a video related to this.
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Id9pPSFIw9s

        But this is not my point. My point is about assumption of the universe., This body exists in this world, So the body should have some properties of this world (Some properties of earth, some properties of water etc). The world exists in this universe, but what are the properties of universe. Does the world not have some properties of the universe?. But we dont know the properties of the universe, as the universe does not exist.

        Whether Brahman exists or not is not a problem. Whther the universe exists or not is a problem as every assumption, perception, is based on assuming that this unvierse exist.

        • Indeed one can upload and repost any number of videos unsupported by scientific peer review. Would you advise a relative to hire the services of an obstetrician whose knowledge is derived from videos of tahr481 or Hamza Andreas Tzortzis both of whom upload embryology-related videos? Speaking of what drives the development of the embryo, here are some vivid graphical descriptions. Those who are so convinced that the universe does not exist are invited to say exactly this to a relative urgently in need of an obstetrician, or even a dentist.

          • I never said body (or pain/pleasure that arise because of the senses) or the world does not exist.

            Just like the atheist wanting the theists to prove the existence of brahman (Since theists say “brahman exists”),
            Why not the atheists who say “universe exist” prove its existence?, If proved, also prove where it exists

          • Prakar,

            Your question has already been answered here.

    • @ Sathish,
      What do you mean by
      “pointless intellectual exercises”
      If you mean assumption & science, my answer is
      ” science assumes universe to exist, likewise, as per advaita, mind assumes it to be the body and because of that perception arise.”

      Also,
      In that section, there is a talk about the “flat earth theory”, Flat earth theory is not applicable to Indians.

      a) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aryabhatiya

      b) Even ancient Indians (several thousand years before), knew about the earth rotating the sun on its own axis

      “”The earth taught me not to deviate from the course that set for myself –
      Just as it does not deviate from its path around the sun”” – Copied from : The Uddhava Gita, By Manisha Wilmette Brown

      • Satish Chandra

        Prakar,

        There are valid assumptions and invalid assumptions. If the assumption of Advaita is tenable, then so is the earth being flat. Because the epistemic standards used in Advaita are so complex and robust that they open up out-of-the-box possibilities for what is possible, a flat earth being one. Flying Pigs, Pink Unicorns, Lord Sauron and Lord Voldemort are a few other possibilities.

        So you completely missed the point of the flat earth analogy. You are still clinging onto empirical evidence despite asking “profound” questions which assume the invalidity of empiricism. You are oblivious to the logical inconsistency of your arguments.

        • @ satish,
          Sorry i cant understand what you are saying because of your complex english.
          Could You kindly explain in simple words.

          • Prakar,

            Topics like the ones that we are discussing or debating cannot be simplified beyond a point.

            Satish has not phrased his points in complex language. While dealing with a subject like epistemology, one cannot get too elementary in the analysis. The aforementioned link is a good place to acquaint oneself with the ‘nature of inquiry into knowledge’

            The epistemic standards that Satish refers are the rules and norms of that inquiry into knowledge and which may help in supporting its theories and/or conclusions. Assumptions can be part of those standards. But they should contribute to explaining the theory that they seek to establish.

            Also these standards evolve and are changing continuously. Empiricism on whose methods and techniques, science and practical philosophy largely relies is considered a branch of epistemology.

            Advaita or Dvaita or its numerous off-shoots, are a form of extreme Idealism and over-abstraction, which cannot be reconciled with the standards of reasoning that is the foundation of empirical reasoning and validation.

            While there are forms of Idealism that rely on some form of abstract reasoning which have their utility in some situations, it is prone to extreme tendencies like religious fundamentalism and spiritualism, which though they have built a huge body of theory and rules of reasoning (Epistemic standards), fail the test of practical utility and add no value to human understanding.

            What Satish referred to as the complex and open-ended rules and/or methods of reasoning of Vedanta theory, are more or less escape valves or hatches for its believers and apologists, to slip out of the discomfiting questions and evidential demands posed by skeptics and critics.

            The flat-earth analogical absurdities (profound questions) that Satish is referring as being embraced by the Vedanta theory as primary tenets of its philosophical foundation are:

            – Brahman as the ultimate, absolute and unitary reality.
            – The world or the experience that we know and accept to be real, is a fiction and the result of another phenomenon termed Maya
            – Karma and reincarnation are the consequence of the supposed ignorance of Brahman as the ultimate reality

            All the theory, discourse and treatise of Vedanta is not to validate its fantastic theories to the satisfaction of human understanding, but to undermine the basis and conviction of reason and sense, through confusing and deceptive arguments. Its purpose is to wear down and exhaust the rigor of intelligence, so that
            – blind faith,
            – devotion
            – surrender to a teacher or Guru and
            – unquestioning acceptance of the scriptural word.

            acquire legitimacy as aids for justifying irrational ideas.

            Long story short….A mind that can consider as legitimate, the bizarre fictions of Vedanta like your observation

            likewise, as per advaita, mind assumes it to be the body and because of that perception arise.

            , is fully capable of questioning the existence of the Universe.

            This irony cannot be expressed in simple words

  • Lakshminarayana

    Hello Ranganath,

    I think the rhetoric in your previous reply stems from the fact that I have clearly shown that you have mis-represented the position of the vedantins by saying that they claim objective evidence for brahman and their theories. You probably refuse to accept that you are wrong.

    Having said that, let me tackle your post –

    In the above article you write – 1. “The easiest way to resolve a controversy is provide a proof and experience of the claims that is at the heart of a controversy “

    2. “Skeptics have been waiting for centuries and no convincing proof or even good reliable evidence is forthcoming”

    3. “The playing field of a skeptic or a critical thinker is that of evidence, objectivity, feel, experience that is capable of validation by senses, perception, reason and logic, cross-verification of clues that must all tie to all threads and ends of a proposed theory that explains a phenomenon.”

    My response – Most people who read the above will naturally think that you are looking for objective and sceintific evidence for brahman and vedantic theories. That is the reason for my previous post. Yet you now change your position in this manner –

    “I am not interested in objective verification of vedantic theories…”

    You say – “Quoting Kena Upanishad and Adi Sankara is a lame exercise in argumentative brow-beating that is not going to work.”

    I will tell you the reason for quoting both. I quoted them to show what the traditional vedantic position was. I quoted them to show that the traditional vedantic position is that brahman cannot be established using logic or observation. I quoted them to show that you are mis-representing the vedantic position.

    You write – “Who gave Adi Sankara the license to discredit the aids of reasoning and understanding such as perception, observation, experience ( not just individual), inductive, inferential and deductive logic…”

    Adi Sankara never discredited perception, inference and logical reasoning. I do not think my post in any way implies this. If you think it implies this, then you need to show where.

    You write – “My question to all this posturing of Brahman in the Vedanta and its apologies is that “Why dont you show me the Brahman that satisfies the test of reason, logic, experience and human understanding?”

    My reply – There is no way that anything about brahman can be debated or talked about without bringing in scripture – this is the traditional vedantic position, as I mentioned in the previous post.

    So here is my direct answer to your question – I cannot show you that brahman can be logically inferred or reasoned about (without bringing in scripture) because brahman, according to the traditional vedantins, is known only from scripture. Since you reject scripture, brahman is as good as a unicorn for you. For anyone who rejects scripture, brahman is as good as a teapot that orbits around Mars, it is as good as the flying spaghetti monster, it is as good as a unicorn or Pegasus. Do I make myself clear? Does this sound sufficiently honest to you?

    You say – “Now if Kena Upanishad were to tell you that Unicorn, Pegasus and Gryphon are sublime entities that the eye cannot see it, ear cannot hear it, mind cannot reach it etc. which basically means that the (existence of) Unicorn, Pegasus and Gryphon cannot be established by means of perception or inference, would you spend your energies in chasing these “Mayavi” entities in worship, meditation and spiritual orgies? and spend your lifetime in merging indissolubly with them.”

    I will tell my personal opinion on this. I would spend my energies chasing or worshiping unicorn, pegasus etc. if (and that is a big if) I genuinely feel that the concepts of unicorn, pegasus etc will make me a better person.

    You say – “And how can scripture be useful because it teaches something that cannot be known by perception or inference…”

    I talked about this just to show that (according to traditional vedantic position) brahman cannot be established by logical means or observation.

    And lastly –

    “Oops! how foolish of me to blaspheme……”

    I am amused by your theatrics…

    “All I can do is pity your pathetic ignorance of the Philosophy of Science and the detail”

    ….and also your condescending tone.

    Good day.

    • Laxmi N,

      I am pleased that my theatrics tickled your senses.

      But I can also see that you very conveniently evaded answering my question on how Vedanta is not a human composition. If it is a human composition, how it is free from the errors and pitfalls of human fallibility

      How is a scriptural word or recording superior to or above or beyond objective aids and tools of reasoning and validation?.

      Did its defenders like Adi Sankara and the like resort to pointing to its so-called divine origin and revelatory nature and inspirations?

      If they did, which they very likely did how did they prove these assertations other than by resorting to tautological arguments? ( Sankara has surely attempted the discredited ‘primary uncaused cause’ argument). This article on spiritualist fads (http://nirmukta.com/2011/01/07/a-critical-look-at-neo-hindu-religious-and-spiritual-fads/) references a link to his dogmatic bhasyas

      I will tell why I think Sankara ends up discrediting objectivity and reasoning. Sankara’s argument imply a dichotomy of phenomenon that is either false on one hand or what can be termed as non-falsifiable on the other hand. That is, a distinction between a temporal or physical world or reality and a higher realm or reality called the Brahman.

      Sankara has very emphatically defended this position (which implies dualism) and yet claimed that Brahman which is incapable of perception is yet the Ultimate reality which is hidden from senses though the illusion of maya and subsumed in it. He has termed physical appearances and reality as ‘Mithya’ or fiction and that release from it is required and possible only thru asceticism and bhakti. This is again a contradiction of non-dualism and an obvious absurdity.

      You are welcome to peruse the commentaries and apologies of Sankara in John Muir’s translation of Vedic scriptures and commentaries of Orthodox vedic scholars on it on Goolge books site

      What more proof do you need of Sankara’s and other Santana dogmatists’ assault on reason?

      My rejection of scriptures stands on solid logical grounds.

      What are your reasons for accepting scriptures at their face value?

      Lets come to your next gem of wisdom:
      “I will tell my personal opinion on this. I would spend my energies chasing or worshiping unicorn, pegasus etc. if (and that is a big if) I genuinely feel that the concepts of unicorn, pegasus etc will make me a better person.”

      Why is so special about Brahman, that is not special about unicorns, pegasus or even Aliens?. There are alien worshippers in this world. That has surely made some of them better persons. Only it is not made them any rational or wiser than you.

      I am sorry for my condescending tone at times, but then your ignorance of the details of scientific method and how phenomena are investigated and validated comes across as annoyingly cursory and dismissive.

      I can see that cherry-picking of lines and arguments are tactics of debate, but you must not lose sight of the gist or central message of the article that you are contesting.

      Vedanta claims to provide that knowledge(of Brahman) or the means to it by which everything will be known

      This is a very astounding, over-ambitious and arrogant claim to say the least. And to add to the misery of its blind and gullible seekers, there are atleast 100 or more Upanishads competing to provide that ‘esoteric wisdom’

      If you care to read the main of the texts without the bias of the influence of the self-serving and dogmatic commentaries of ancient orthodox theologicians like Sankara or Badrayana or even modern pseudo-scientific glosses of Vivekananda or Sivananda on it, you are bound to detect many inconsistencies and contradictions in them.

      This imposture and canard of Upanishadic dogma has been rescued from its deserved fate of rejection and isolation by orthodox vested interests in preisthood, aristocracy, royalty in the past and in modern times by religious extremists, spiritualists and cultural fanatics of the Hindu society.

      There is no such thing as absolute, ultimate, supreme or highest truth or truths. Other than physical facts (to some extent), all truths are relative and subject to change.

      Any work that claims that it has the key to the magic elixir to one ultimate truth is either deluded or for some ulterior or vested motive leading others up the garden path of an non-existent paradise.

      We can go on debating about this, but there will very likely be little meeting ground since you are wedded to an irrational and idealistic religious mode of thought, that is at odds with the thought process of material or dialectical realism.

  • Lakshminarayana

    Hello Ranganath,

    Further continuing on our discussion, I will address a different point in this post. This is about modern day gurus and swamis teaching about brahman. In your above article, you write –

    ======================================================================
    “………where the ‘rope and the snake’ play the game of ‘snakes and ladders’ with our deluded senses, where Rishis, Gurus and Swamis play the great ‘Indian rope trick’ or tighten the hangman’s noose of ‘Self-Realization’ on bewildered devotees and followers, who are made to walk the ‘tight rope’ of avoiding ‘sense-objects’ and senseless objects in crossing the ‘transmigratory ocean of existence’, then selling such spiritual snake oil concoctions through speeches, books, seminars, study sessions and what not and misguiding and cheerleading innocent, gullible and earnest seekers of religion alike into agrand ‘wild-goose chase’ of the Brahman.”
    ======================================================================

    Now, once again, I cannot speak for each and every person that passes as a swami or guru, but I can only tell you about the traditional vedantic position. Let me inform you that the traditional vedantins are not at all keen on imparting knowledge of brahman to anyone who is not interested in knowing about this. If you are not interested, no (traditional) vedantin is going to force you to believe it. No vedantin will even talk to you about it, let alone try to teach this concept to you.

    As an example, I can quote the Katha upanishad. In this upanishad, a person called Nachiketa asks Yama (god of death) about knowledge of the self. (Here, we must understand Nachiketa as a typical seeker and Yama as a teacher/guru). Yama tries to excuse himself from answering the question and instead tempts Nachiketa with wealth, pleasures etc. Nachiketa rejects all those pleasures and only after persistence from Nachiketa does Yama impart him the knowledge of brahman. Therefore, please note that no traditional vedantic teacher is keen to “evangelize” people about brahman.

    In his Upadesasahasri, Adi Sankara says that only to a disciple who satisfies some requirements, like having a tranquil mind, control over his senses etc. can the knowledge of brahman be taught. All this means that no traditional vedantin is going to eagerly lecture about brahman to every seeker that approaches him.

    Also consider this. If the (traditional) vedantins over the centuries were lecturing relentlessly about brahman to all religious seekers (selling spiritual snake oil concoctions in your words), then why is it that the concept of brahman remains relatively unknown to most people, as compared to other hindu gods like vishnu or shiva, for example? Most people are ignorant of brahman, vedanta, advaita etc.

    The point of this post is that all this so-called selling of snake oil concoctions (to use your words) is not done by traditional vedantins and once again you would be mis-representing them by accusing them of doing so. Now regarding non-traditional swamis, no body has any control over them and one cannot blame traditional vedanta for their actions.

    • Laxmi N

      This so-called distinction between a traditional Vedantin and non-traditional Vedantin, that you keep bringing up has no relevance to this discussion or debate. To you this distinction may be something to split your hair.

      To the critics, this is of the least relevance. We cannot distinguish between these categories.

      So what are you trying to imply? If the non-traditional Vedantins outnumber the traditional ones, so what? Is that the end of the matter because the traditional Vedantins are oh-so-pure and innocent and perfect?

      Now let me subject the great traditional Vedantin to a brief cross-examination.
      You said:
      “In his Upadesasahasri, Adi Sankara says that only to a disciple who satisfies some requirements, like having a tranquil mind, control over his senses etc. can the knowledge of brahman be taught.”

      Now where did this self-appointed gate-keeper of the mystical/airy-fairy/pixie dust abode of the Brahman know these rules and what is the proof that ‘tranquil mind’ and ‘control over senses’etc. is the passport to knowledge of the Brahman. And what does this etc. include and mean?. How does the spiritual witch Dr. Adi Sankara measure the tranquility of the mind and control of the senses. Is there a Bhasya on these esoteric measurements and traditional vedantin algorithms for their derivation?

      And now what kind of Vedantins are the
      Chinmaya Mission
      ISKON
      Brahmakumaris
      Sivananda Orgs
      Ramakrishna Missions?

      They are now the ones peddling the snake oil concoctions of Upanishadic and Vedic garbage all over India and even abroad.

      The exercise which you think is debate from your side, is what is better called as baseless and diversionary argumentation and casting of red herrings to take focus away from properly addressing points of contention.

      Hindu apologists have always been known to engage in this kind smoke-and-mirror debating tactics, because they have nothing concrete to say, yet are ashamed of confessing that they are rigidly and desperately clinging are delusions breed and fostered by generations of religious and cultural indoctrination.

      You are no different from one of them.

  • Lakshminarayana

    Hello Ranganath,

    You say – “But I can also see that you very conveniently evaded answering my question on how Vedanta is not a human composition. If it is a human composition, how it is free from the errors and pitfalls of human fallibility”

    My reply – In general, I try my best to answer any question that is directly posed and relevant to the topic. But you never asked the above question before. Instead, you only indulged in theatrics like – “Oops! how foolish of me to blaspheme that the scriptures were composed by humans!….” etc. Let me mention that I am bad at decoding theatrics and emotional tirades. So in future, if you want to ask me a question, please pose it directly.

    Anyway, now that you asked the question directly, here is my reply –

    All traditional vedantins hold that humans are not the source of the knowledge of upanishads. However, this is purely accepted as an axiom and is not forced upon an opponent. In the olden days, many people who debated with Adi Sankara and other vedantins did not accept the validity of scriptures. The vedantins never insisted that the opponents should accept their scriptures as true. For Adi Sankara, the nature of upanishads as not having human authors, is an axiom. Either the axiom is accepted or it is rejected. If you accept it, then brahman follows. If you reject it, then brahma is a bhrama (illusion). You are free to take either position. But you should not misrepresent the views of the other party.

    Now you ask – “How is a scriptural word or recording superior to or above or beyond objective aids and tools of reasoning and validation?.”

    My very first post answers this question. There are three “valid” sources of knowledge for traditional vedantins – 1. perception 2. inference 3. scripture.

    Vedantins are NOT saying that “we accept scripture only and reject objective aids of reasoning”. There is a very famous saying in vedanta circles. It is – “Even a thousand statements from the vedas cannot make a black crow white”. What this means is that no vedic injunction can override what we observe to be true.

    “Did its defenders like Adi Sankara and the like resort to pointing to its so-called divine origin and revelatory nature and inspirations?”

    See above. Adi Sankara never tries to logically defend the divine origin of scripture. He takes it as an axiom.

    “If they did, which they very likely did how did they prove these assertations other than by resorting to tautological arguments?”

    As mentioned before, Sankara never defends the divine-origin of scriptures. This is like an axiomatic truth for him.

    You write – “( Sankara has surely attempted the discredited ‘primary uncaused cause’ argument). This article on spiritualist fads (http://nirmukta.com/2011/01/07/a-critical-look-at-neo-hindu-religious-and-spiritual-fads/) references a link to his dogmatic bhasyas”

    Please be specific in your criticism of Sankara. You need to tell me the following – What is this primary uncaused cause argument? Where did Sankara use it, if he really did so? Which is that specific bhashya? Only when you ask me a specific question, can I give you a specific answer. If you point to a general link (that too to an article that was only written by you), what am I supposed to do? Am I expected to create my own questions that I think you have and then try to answer them?

    “I will tell why I think Sankara ends up discrediting objectivity and reasoning. Sankara’s argument imply a dichotomy of phenomenon that is either false on one hand or what can be termed as non-falsifiable on the other hand. That is, a distinction between a temporal or physical world or reality and a higher realm or reality called the Brahman.”

    My reply – Sankara’s arguments imply that there are two standpoints – one is the empirical standpoint and the other is the ultimate standpoint. Note that the existence of both these standpoints is once again inferred by Sankara from scripture. So if you do not accept scripture, then you will naturally not accept this view.

    Now, I do not understand what is your issue with this. If you say that by reasoning alone we cannot infer the presence of two standpoints, then I say that I already mentioned that no vedantic theory can be inferred without taking scripture into account and same goes even with this. If you say that this directly contradicts our everyday experience, then I say it does not because our everyday experience comes under the “empirical standpoint”, according to Sankara, and no where does he reject the empirical validity of the everyday experience.

    If you still think there is a problem, you need to state clearly what the problem is. And you need to state clearly why there is a problem.

    “Sankara has very emphatically defended this position (which implies dualism) and yet claimed that Brahman which is incapable of perception is yet the Ultimate reality which is hidden from senses though the illusion of maya and subsumed in it. He has termed physical appearances and reality as ‘Mithya’ or fiction and that release from it is required and possible only thru asceticism and bhakti. This is again a contradiction of non-dualism and an obvious absurdity.”

    My reply – Sankara has ABSOLUTELY no problems in accepting multiplicity at the empirical level. He posits non-dualism only as the ultimate standpoint. All this bhakti, renunciation etc is from the empirical standpoint. Because the empirical standpoint is a “given” for everyone. Again, at the risk of sounding repetitive, none of his theories could be formulated without scripture as a basis.

    “You are welcome to peruse the commentaries and apologies of Sankara in John Muir’s translation of Vedic scriptures and commentaries of Orthodox vedic scholars on it on Goolge books site”

    That is all right, but if you have any questions, please pose them directly.

    “What more proof do you need of Sankara’s and other Santana dogmatists’ assault on reason?”

    My reply – Have you given any proof yet? If you think you have, you need to show what it is.

    “My rejection of scriptures stands on solid logical grounds.”

    My reply – Please feel free to reject it.

    “What are your reasons for accepting scriptures at their face value?”

    My reply – You need to clarify if this question is addressed to traditional vedantins in general or if it addressed to me as a person. Only then can I answer this.

    More to come in a different post.

    Good day.

    • LN is surely going around in circles and does not have the intellectual honesty to admit that.

      He is not happy with my emotional tirades, though he wants to savor the ‘fun’ (his own words) of debating with me.

      Tirades, whether emotional, polemical or rhetorical are bound to happen in the crusade against irrationality and superstition. So LN will have to grin and bear it or he is free to vacate the field.

      Though LN makes lot of long-winded statements defending his faith in Vedantic dogmas, most of them end up with absurd statements or opinions.

      take a look at these:

      * “All traditional vedantins hold that humans are not the source of the knowledge of upanishads.”

      Then who or what is that source? The tragi-comic reality being the so-called knowledge of the Vedanta is a void and a sick joke!!

      * “The vedantins never insisted that the opponents should accept their scriptures as true”

      Really?!!! Then why did Sankara take the trouble of debating with Buddhist scholars or theoreticians of his times about the supremacy of scriptures.

      *”For Adi Sankara, the nature of upanishads as not having human authors, is an axiom.”

      This can be an axiom for Sankara, but why should it be an axiom for others. For the benefit of LN, axiom means a self evident truth that can be taken for granted to begin with. But the problem here is that the non-human origin/composition of the scriptures is not self-evident anymore. The human composition of these can and has been established beyond any reasonable doubt. People like LN blinded by their religious allegiance can’t see or accept it.

      * “Either the axiom is accepted or it is rejected. If you accept it, then brahman follows.”

      Axiom is only a starting point for a hypothesis. It does not determine the final validity of a hypothesis. Brahman as a hypothesis can start with an axiom, but the phenomenon underlying that hypothesis should satisfy various tests of rigorous validation. Since Brahman has failed even the smallest of validations of reason and logic, it is a null and void hypothesis. LN can make absurd inferences, because religious affiliations does not recognise the primacy of logic and reason

      * “What is this primary uncaused cause argument? Where did Sankara use it, if he really did so? Which is that specific bhashya?”

      Now LN does not even know to go thru a hyperlink specifically provided to him and find the link to the bhasya. It is not the job of this forum to educate lazy ignoramuses like LN on elements of teleological and ontological argumentation in support of religion, god or divinity. He has already given enough evidence of ignorance and/or contempt for science, history and logical reasoning. There are enough sources on the web that can educate LN what is a ‘primary cause’ or ‘original cause’ argument is, if he cares to.

      * “My reply – Sankara has ABSOLUTELY no problems in accepting multiplicity at the empirical level. He posits non-dualism only as the ultimate standpoint.”

      Here Dualism has been transformed into ‘multiplicity’ by Sankaracharya Sri LN. That is pontiff LN’s traditional vedantism at its peerless best. Ofcourse the empirical level has to be satisfied with the cold comfort of dualism, oops multiplicity. Only LN knows what this ultimate standpoint is. May be the frosty Mt Everest summit of Brahman is that ultimate standpoint where the deluded like LN stand apart from the rest of the teresterrial humanity like us.

      On an ending note, the intention initially was not to indulge in frivolities with the likes of LN. But after a point one cannot sustain gravity with someone who is stubbonly unresponsive to reason and is making a farce of debate.

  • Lakshminarayana

    Hello Ranganath,

    You ask – “Why is so special about Brahman, that is not special about unicorns, pegasus or even Aliens?”

    I have already answered this question before. For anyone who rejects scripture, brahman is as good as a unicorn.

    “There are alien worshippers in this world. That has surely made some of them better persons. Only it is not made them any rational or wiser than you.”

    Wisdom can be a very subjective thing. What sounds as wise for someone, may sound as unwise for others. For example, you think I am unwise. I might not have the same opinion about myself.

    “I am sorry for my condescending tone at times, but then your ignorance of the details of scientific method and how phenomena are investigated and validated comes across as annoyingly cursory and dismissive.”

    If you think I am ignorant, then you need to show me where I displayed my ignorance. Mere assertions that I am ignorant do not carry much value.

    “I can see that cherry-picking of lines and arguments are tactics of debate, but you must not lose sight of the gist or central message of the article that you are contesting.”

    In general, I try not to do cherry-picking. That is the reason why I am answering to each and every point that you raised, by putting your posts in quotes.

    You say – “Vedanta claims to provide that knowledge(of Brahman) or the means to it by which everything will be known”
    “This is a very astounding, over-ambitious and arrogant claim to say the least. And to add to the misery of its blind and gullible seekers, there are atleast 100 or more Upanishads competing to provide that ‘esoteric wisdom’”

    At the risk of being over repetitive – All vedantic claims are founded on scripture. In future, I will restrict myself to answering only logical issues and I will skip your emotional tirades.

    “If you care to read the main of the texts without the bias of the influence of the self-serving and dogmatic commentaries of ancient orthodox theologicians like Sankara or Badrayana or even modern pseudo-scientific glosses of Vivekananda or Sivananda on it, you are bound to detect many inconsistencies and contradictions in them.”

    Yes, the upanishads do not propound a single viewpoint. They contain multiple opinions, primarily because they are the products of different rishis. Another reason to infer this would be the presence of multiple vedantic philosophies like dvaita, advaita and vishishta-advaita. Having said that, it is possible to harmonize all these multiple views if one uses the concept of dual standpoints that Sankara talks about. (But to be honest with you, the other schools of vedanta do not accept that the dual standpoints, but each school of vedanta thinks that it has successfully harmonized the various apparent inconsistencies in the upanishads).

    Having said all this, now it is my turn to ask you a question – So what if the upanishads contain multiple view points?

    “This imposture and canard of Upanishadic dogma has been rescued from its deserved fate of rejection and isolation by orthodox vested interests in preisthood, aristocracy, royalty in the past and in modern times by religious extremists, spiritualists and cultural fanatics of the Hindu society.”

    Please allow me to skip this emotional tirade.

    “There is no such thing as absolute, ultimate, supreme or highest truth or truths. Other than physical facts (to some extent), all truths are relative and subject to change.”

    At the risk of being boringly repetitive, in the absence of scripture, brahma is a bhrama (illusion).

    “Any work that claims that it has the key to the magic elixir to one ultimate truth is either deluded or for some ulterior or vested motive leading others up the garden path of an non-existent paradise.”
    “We can go on debating about this, but there will very likely be little meeting ground since you are wedded to an irrational and idealistic religious mode of thought, that is at odds with the thought process of material or dialectical realism.”

    As usual, your condescending tone shows up again. So I will skip this too.

    Good day.

    • I have already answered this question before. For anyone who rejects scripture, brahman is as good as a unicorn.

      I’m baffled. If Brahman is as good as Unicorns (for those who reject scripture), then what is the problem in ridiculing the belief in Brahman? You’ve been complaining about the tone and sarcasm and what not. What is so wrong about putting a belief in something like a flat earth into persepctive? Once you defenestrate objective criteria for determining a worldview, anything goes and for which anything goes, ridicule does too. Then why the complaints?

  • Lakshminarayana

    Hello Ranganath,

    You say – “This so-called distinction between a traditional Vedantin and non-traditional Vedantin, that you keep bringing up has no relevance to this discussion or debate.”

    I think it has relevance to this debate. The reason is this – One cannot accuse traditional vedantins like Adi Sankara for something that a non-traditional vedantin is doing.

    “To the critics, this is of the least relevance. We cannot distinguish between these categories.”

    If you cannot or do not distinguish between these categories, then your criticism is not fair. It does not hold water. And it is irrational. Imagine this – If one Indian commits a mistake, will you generalize things and criticize all Indians? If one atheist like Stalin is responsible for killing millions, will you generalize and criticize all atheists? How reasonable does that sound to you?

    “So what are you trying to imply? If the non-traditional Vedantins outnumber the traditional ones, so what? Is that the end of the matter because the traditional Vedantins are oh-so-pure and innocent and perfect?”

    I am implying that you need to be careful while leveling your allegations against vedantins because vedantins do not come in a single flavor. See above.

    “Now where did this self-appointed gate-keeper of the mystical/airy-fairy/pixie dust abode of the Brahman know these rules and what is the proof that ‘tranquil mind’ and ‘control over senses’etc. is the passport to knowledge of the Brahman.”

    Sir, please do not keep asking the same type of questions again and again and again. You are asking for proof repeatedly. I am telling you that nothing about brahman can be said without taking scripture into account. I already told you explicitly that I cannot debate or talk about brahman in the absence of scripture.

    “And what does this etc. include and mean?. How does the spiritual witch Dr. Adi Sankara measure the tranquility of the mind and control of the senses. Is there a Bhasya on these esoteric measurements and traditional vedantin algorithms for their derivation?”

    It is not so difficult to estimate whether a person is of tranquil mind or not. For example, he who is not upset by insults nor is elated by praises is one with a tranquil mind. By talking to the disciple, the guru can assess whether the seeker is sincere or not. Still, even if this is not a perfect assessment, that is fine. At least the guru has tried to make a sincere attempt to analyze what kind of person has approached him. But please note the point of all this. I wrote about this because I wanted to show you that the traditional vedantins CANNOT be considered as evangelists. Let us not lose sight of this point. You accused the vedantins of evangeistic fervor and I clearly demonstrated to you that you are mistaken (as far as the traditional vedantins are concerned).

    “And now what kind of Vedantins are the Chinmaya Mission etc….”

    I have already answered this before. I said that I can speak only about the traditional vedantins. I cannot talk about every person that passes as a vedantin. (And I genuinely do not know anything about the Chinmaya mission etc. to be even able to answer your question).

    “The exercise which you think is debate from your side, is what is better called as baseless and diversionary argumentation ….”

    You need to show how I tried to indulge in diversions. You need to back up your claims.

    Please allow me to skip the rest of your emotional tirade. If you think any specific point is not addressed, pose it logically and I will try to answer it.

    I will summarize my posts here –

    Ranganath misrepresented traditional vedantins in at least two ways –

    1. He said that they claim objective evidence for brahman

    2. He implied that they work with evangelical fervor in spreading the message about brahman

    Both of these claims have been exposed as hollow.

    Good day.

    • // Ranganath misrepresented traditional vedantins in at least two ways –

      1. He said that they claim objective evidence for brahman

      2. He implied that they work with evangelical fervor in spreading the message about brahman //

      1. Rather than saying the Vedanta revivalists claim objective evidence for Brahman, it maybe truer to say that they are in denial of the demonstrable utility of a naturalistic worldview . All too often, this results in a sometimes unwitting but always self-serving promotion of mistrust in Science and Reason in their audiences, which constitutes a considerable disservice to society. De-emphasising the need for objective evidence of claims, which suits these revivalists just fine since it allows them to sip in supernatural claims, has real side-effects in terms of promoting a more credulous worldview, side-effects which these revivalists must be made aware of.

      2. The Vedanta revivalists are either inadvertently or intentionally part of a larger mobilization process bankrolled and cheered on by groups similar to those driving a process of right-wing consolidation in India. If the revivalists believe that calls like those of Francois Gautier to establish a ‘Hindu Spiritual Council’ with a ‘Hindu Pope’ should not be cause for anxiety among the critics of revivalism, then they must take steps to assuage these anxieties if they are indeed the benign beacons of non-sectarian goodwill that they claim to be. As long as they continue to play into the hands of individuals with demagogic agendas, the evangelism accusation will continue to haunt Vedanta revivalists.

    • Laxminarayana (LN) has in most of his comment posts made a big deal about the difference between a traditional and a modern or neo-classical vedantin.

      LN has gone to great length in pleading the innocence of the traditional vedantin, who apparently does not impose his view of the Brahman and core upanishadic tenets on others and does not evangalize.

      I take traditional to mean orthodox and conservative irrespective of any apologetic gloss that LN may put on it.

      According to LN, Adi Sankara is the poster-boy of the purity and perfection of traditional vedantism. By LN’s own criterion and definition of the innocuousness of a ‘traditional vedantin’ you would expect Adi Sankara to not evangalize the upanishadic saga of the Brahman.

      LN who is very confident, given his profound ignorance of history ,thus boldly declared that

      //”One cannot accuse traditional vedantins like Adi Sankara for something that a non-traditional vedantin is doing.”//

      But is that true?. No…In fact Sankara is known and acknowledged as the foremost evangelist of Advaita Vedanta. Let LN and others interested go thru this article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adi_Shankara#Historical_and_cultural_impact) on Wikipedia.

      Sankara has used means both fair and foul to carry the message of Vedanta far and wide in India. And he has made no bones about his true opinion of humanity and life in general by calling people “Mooda Mathe” or fools.

      LN makes a big song and dance about the traditional vedantins, but other than Adi Sankara has not provided any example or names of traditional vedantins.

      If LN can provide the names, we can get a report card of such other such Vedantin worthies

      If one takes care not to get caught up or entangled in LN’s merry-go-round chase of flimsy and silly arguments about what a Vedantin is or is not or the laundry list of Vedantic do’s and dont’s, it will be very clear that even Adi Sankara does not pass LN’s litmus test of the ideal traditional Vedantin.

      In his desperate attempt to clutch at the last straws of a sinking, dying and perhaps non-existant traditional and a white-as-swan vedantism, he invokes the ghosts of Stalin and Indian atheists and whoever his confused thinking can lay hands on.

      While LN proudly claims to be spokesperson of traditional vedantins (He says “I said that I can speak only about the traditional vedantins. I cannot talk about every person that passes as a vedantin.”), the problem is that he is representing an empty garrison.

      But he can still apply for a job or post on the India Census bureau for enumeration of Vedantins in India and their classification into tranditional and non-traditional.

  • Lakshminarayana

    In my previous posts, I have shown that Ranganath indulges in misrepresentation of the position of vedantins. In this post, I will deal with another topic that was discussed above in his much misguided article.

    The above article contains the following quotations of Huxley –

    “No more thorough mortification of the flesh has ever been attempted than that achieved by the Indian ascetic anchorite….”

    One can safely say that Huxley does not know that many upanishad personalities were householders who were married and some were even kings. Here is a list of some of them –

    1. Yagnavalkya – married with two wives – Maitreyi and Katyayani

    2. Uddalaka – presumably married, has a son named Svetaketu (Svetaketu himself is also married)

    3. Janaka – He is a king

    4. Ajatasatru – He is a king

    5. Bhrigu – married to Khyati

    These are some of the major personalities. The upanishads also mention many minor personalities who are householders (grhastas).

    Further most of the vedic sages like Vasistha (married to Arundhati, Vasistha is also considered as a knower of brahman), Agastya, Jamadagni, Kasyapa, Atri etc. are all married. Based on these facts the hypothesis of extreme asceticism and self-mortification can be safely rejected. Yes, the upanishads talk about desire and the need for renunciation. But self mortification is nowhere found in them.

    Lesson – Just because Thomas Huxley says something, it need not be correct. In Yoga Vasistha, which is a wonderful book on Advaita Vedanta, it is said that wrong statements should be rejected even if they come from Brahma and correct statements should be accepted even if they come from a little boy.

    • //Yes, the upanishads talk about desire and the need for renunciation. But self mortification is nowhere found in them.//

      The stance on self-denial and self-mortification in the Upanishadic texts itself if left conveniently ambivalent, though most 20th century revivalist movements emphasize it a great deal in the code of conduct they set for their acolytes. A particular pathological specimen of a life-denying worldview can be read in this publication by one of the foremost revivalist of the 20th century.

      The Bhagavad Gita, accorded Upanishadic status by most contemporary Vedanta revivalist schools, both endorses and disavows mortification of the body in different chapters.
      Endorsement : Chapter 4 Verse 29
      Disavowal : Chapter 17 Verse 5
      When the Bhagavad Gita isn’t so sure about its stance on self-denial, one wonders how the apologists are!

      • Satish Chandra

        Vichar Sagar, of which “H.A” is fond of, has this to say:

        But one whose semen is never spent, does not show his body covered with dirt; a devotee by keeping his semen, engages himself in communion by an aerial intertwining of the fingers in worship, holding the coin of semen, and in that way achieves the eight kinds of success (siddhi) over natural (occult) forces. Semen is of all worldly things, the excellent, it is snatched by a female in her vagina her love causes an incessant drain of the vital fluid and thus spoils the man, in the same way as a crusher grinds the sugarcane and squeezes the juice out of it.

        Such archaic (and sexist) understanding of the human body is what drives the Upanishads. Here is another example.

  • Lakshminarayana

    Hello Ranganath,

    You say – “But is that true?. No…In fact Sankara is known and acknowledged as the foremost evangelist of Advaita Vedanta. Let LN and others interested go thru this article () on Wikipedia.” “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adi_Shankara#Historical_and_cultural_impact”

    I visited that particular website and nowhere does it imply that Sankara was an evangelist. It does not mention anywhere that Sankara taught vedanta to every average man on the street. (One needs to read Sankara’s vivekachudamani/upadesasahasri for example to learn about the qualifications of a disciple). It merely says that Sankara debated with “leading scholars” of other doctrines. These scholars were stalwarts in their own area and not ordinary people. For example, Mandana Mishra, a mimamsaka who debated with Sankara, was a stalwart of his own school.

    And talking of debates, they were very common among the different schools of philosophy that existed in those days. Debating about the merits or demerits of the various schools of thought occurred everywhere. Neither are these debates invented by Sankara, nor are they forced by Sankara on anyone. Obviously no debate can be carried out if the opponent disagrees. And every debate had a neutral judge that both parties need to agree upon beforehand. The final verdict about the victor was given by the neutral judge. So, all your talk about Sankara adopting foul means is completely baseless.

    By now it is very clear to me that neither have you read any of Sankara’s works nor do you know anything about the various philosophical schools that existed at that time. Naturally your post is very low on substance and very high on rhetoric and colorful usage of language.

    And by the way, the wikipedia article for which you gave the link says that Westerners perceive Sankara as the most brilliant personality in the history of Indian thought. Talk of irony.

    You say – “If LN can provide the names, we can get a report card of such other such Vedantin worthies”

    Honestly, I am surprised. So all this while you do not even know whom you are criticizing? Why else would you ask me the names? And why am I expected to do the work that you were supposed to do before you started your article? Doesn’t it show that you are criticizing people without knowing who they are or what their positions are?

    You say – “But he can still apply for a job or post on the India Census bureau for enumeration of Vedantins in India and their classification into tranditional and non-traditional.”

    What is the use of such rhetoric when the substance is lacking?

    • Satish Chandra

      Lakshminarayana,

      I visited that particular website and nowhere does it imply that Sankara was an evangelist.

      There is a particular form of intellectual dishonesty which involves equivocating on meanings of words. So let me not use a particular word and point out why Ranganath said you are going in circles. Sankara didn’t sit at one place and let “worthy” students find him. He went around the Indian subcontinent deliberately looking for debates so that he can convince others of the superiority of Brahman.

      Now a lesson in vocabulary – click this link to see the meaning of the word “Evangelist”.

      No wonder you act surprised.

      • Lakshminarayana

        The word “evangelism” is not used in the context of debates between worth opponents irrespective of whether or not one of the parties actively seeks the debate. That is precisely the reason why I said that none of you people know anything about Sankara’s works nor do you know anything about the history of the various philosophical schools that existed at that time. Debates are quite common and so are “actively seeking debates”. Both parties should accept for the debate. Both parties should zero in on a neutral judge. Both parties need to accept the judgment of the neutral judge.

        To claim that, for example, Sankara went to Mandana Misra to debate with him would be correct. But to claim that Sankara went to Mandana Misra to “evangelize” him would be something that any historian worthy of his salt would laugh at. By the way I do not even think you guys know anything about Mandana Misra (till you heard his name from me).

        Also, for something to “imply evangelism” (the words that I used), the word “evangelism” need not occur explicitly. So your claims of my dishonesty are hollow.

        • Satish Chandra

          This article wasn’t written for you so that you can “debate”. So it is disingenuous that you are making up rules on what words are allowed in “debates”. You’ve taken the word “evangelism” quite far out of the context and made it a central point of your so called “debate”. Debates have evolved from the time of Sankara to step around such pointless trivialities.

          • Lakshminarayana

            How much ever you may try to deny it, Sankara advocates evaluating a disciple for qualifications before teaching him vedanta. And Sankara debates only with worthy opponents like Mandana Misra, not with every average guy on the street.

          • Cargo cults also insist on qualifications like faith and surrender to merit inclusion into them; and this is no compelling reason to dignify cargo cults as a way of life that is automatically superior to contemporary conceptions. Shraddha (unwavering faith in scripture that is undeniably theistic) features among the Vedantic tradition’s non-negotiable pre-requisites as formalized in Saadhana Chatushtayam. Ishwara Pranidhana (surrender to God) features in the list of Niyamas in the Patanjali Yoga system. These qualifications insisted upon by traditional Vedantic schools include some traits which are not particularly seen as strengths by those adopting Science as their method for understanding the world. Sankara and Mandana Mishra stuck to a stipulated protocol based on their epistemic standards that accord the last word to scriptural authority, which is incompatible with the epistemic standards of scientific explanation and hence not viewed as a productive line of inquiry by those with a naturalistic worldview. Some hobby suggestions for those who are indeed interested in these lines of inquiry are available at the end of this article.

    • Nirmukta or other free-thought forums indulge the likes of LN despite their obvious and overt disingenuous and specious methods of debating like:

      – harping upon trivial distinctions (traditional vs non-traditional vedantins), without framing these distinctions clearly and when confronted with the onus of providing evidence and definitions, excusing themselves with selective ignorance or amnesia or both.

      – diversion (exclusively referring to the term ‘Brahman’ and making it the primary focus of argument to the exclusion of other topics raised in the article like ‘Karma’ , ‘re-incarnation’ , souls and the so-called mechanism of ‘maya’)

      – Defending the arbitrary views of their heroes like Adi Sankara, and imputing their own perceived views to them and continuing with such stubborn insistence without providing any evidence of their own erudition or due diligence of history, theology, archived references and other such documentary material.

      – When presented with links and references to citations that debunk their pet notions, disputing them on the basis of per-conceived notions of their established positions on religious dogma (realm of Brahman or scriptures in this case) and refusing to quote sections of cited material to support their contention.

      – Using fancy terms like ‘ultimate standpoint’, ‘empirical level’ ‘multiplicity of levels and standpoints’ without elaborating what these mean and signify and how they endorse the debater’s view.

      – Accusing his/their opponents of not having read the scriptures or the works of scholars on theology, when he is probably more guilty of transgression of that supposed requirement of disputation.

      – Taking shelter against the obligation of providing an independent source of verification or validity for a contention (scriptural sanction for Brahman) with a regressive recourse to the notion of axiomatic truth, and stone-walling any critical attempts at such self-erected walls by arbitrarily treating axiom as the end or final resolution of a hypothesis.

      In the hope that the forum can expose the fallacies, inconsistencies and contradictions of arguments inspired by an attitude of affinity for religiously conditioned idealism and dogmas, and not a love of or interest in impartial and diligent investigation or research of a phenomenon or issue, for the benefit of those more inclined to reexamine their pre-existing biases in religion and philosophy.

      Tirades and strong repudiative outbursts do happen in an exchange, but people like LN tend to conveniently ignore the provocation that they cause,by their own self-serving and slippery arguments and improper framing of their points of debate.

      Since LN has no means to support his position on Brahman by means of independent verification and validation, he has to fall back on the crutches of regressive and negative argumentation i.e.,

      – Scriptural description and sanction of the validity of Brahman is an axiomatic tenet that has to be either accepted or rejected. In this broad and ever-expanding canopy of the negative catch-all term of axiom, the supposed ‘author-less’ and/or divine origin of the scripture, its immunity from human fallibility and any other warts and inconveniences of empirical validation that can serve as flies in the ‘ointment of scriptural perfection’ have also be totally accepted or totally rejected. (Even if this all flies in the face of any and every available evidence and knowledge to the contrary )

      – Inability to disprove the existence of Brahman or god is good enough proof its existence and validity (This can be extended to Unicorn, Gryphon, Pegasus, aliens and host of other creations of a fertile or frenzied imagination, but LN won’t have any of this because they are not endorsed by his favorite scripture and his favorite theocrat Adi Sankara. That privilege is of the Brahman and the Brahman alone!)

      So we should not be surprised if LN and his likes accord the blessing of axiomatic sanction to ‘Karma’ , ‘re-incarnation’ , souls and the so-called mechanism of ‘maya’ and transform them from the bizarre fiction that they ought to be to a scripturally sanctioned reality.

      But now I am confused whether this is at the ‘empirical level’ or the ‘ultimate standpoint’ of ‘Brahman’ or ‘Atman’ or ‘Jiva’ or multiplicity or singularity of empirical levels and in accordance with traditional vendantism , of whose many flavors we need to be very careful about, because those flavors can be dualistic or non-dualistic , which can in turn make the Brahman dualistic or non-dualistic or even elastic, according to how you can pull and stretch the words and meaning of the scriptures.

      • Brahman is non dualistic and since it is being discussed it cannot be without the relative truth of dualistism. That is what called as dualism and non dualism as two sides of the same coin and is called as ‘ultimate truth’. You people cannot do more than interpreting the things given the above sort of arguments.

  • Lakshminarayana

    Hello Ranganath,

    You say – “Really?!!! Then why did Sankara take the trouble of debating with Buddhist scholars or theoreticians of his times about the supremacy of scriptures.”

    Once again, you are making it clear that you have not read any of Sankara’s works. When debating with Buddhists, Sankara never makes use of scripture. He tries to find internal inconsistencies in their systems. Or he tries to show that their systems do not stand the test of direct perception or inference. By the way, Sankara’s main opponents were not Buddhists, they are mimamsakas – who were very much believers in vedas.

    “This can be an axiom for Sankara, but why should it be an axiom for others.”

    Which means you do not read my posts. I explicitly mentioned that the axiom can be accepted or rejected.

    “For the benefit of LN, axiom means a self evident truth that can be taken for granted to begin with.”

    No. An axiom need not be a self-evident truth. An axiom in a system of thought is a statement that cannot be proved within that system. Refer to
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Axiom

    The above article says – “In general, a non-logical axiom is not a self-evident truth.”

    “Axiom is only a starting point for a hypothesis. It does not determine the final validity of a hypothesis. Brahman as a hypothesis can start with an axiom, but the phenomenon underlying that hypothesis should satisfy various tests of rigorous validation.”

    Yes an axiom does not determine the final validity of the hypothesis. But once an axiom is accepted, the axiom itself can be used to prove the hypothesis within the system that supposes the axiom. Same is the case here. The axiom is that scripture is true. So anything that the scripture says about brahman (including about its existence) is considered as true.

    “Now LN does not even know to go thru a hyperlink specifically provided to him and find the link to the bhasya. It is not the job of this forum to educate lazy ignoramuses like LN ….”

    “Here Dualism has been transformed into ‘multiplicity’ by Sankaracharya Sri LN. That is pontiff LN’s traditional vedantism at its peerless best.”

    More theatrics. But as usual, there is not even at attempt to make a point. Even if you think I am wrong or ignorant, you need to show that I am wrong. Merely passing personal comments is not going to add any value.

    “On an ending note, the intention initially was not to indulge in frivolities with the likes of LN. But after a point one cannot sustain gravity with someone who is stubbonly unresponsive to reason and is making a farce of debate.”

    This is the typical excuse of an escapist who does not know how to debate.

    • //I explicitly mentioned that the axiom can be accepted or rejected.//

      To make a case for the acceptance of an axiom, there needs to be a case made that it results in beliefs that pay rent. For those insisting on ‘logical’ rather than ‘theatrical’ exchanges, it shouldn’t be too hard, especially after these repeated clarifications and reiterations of stances, that the Vedantic and naturalistic worldviews have incompatible epistemic standards. There has been nothing remotely unparliamentary in these exchanges to warrant complaints of inappropriate tone. Of course, the tone here will not be as obsequiously conformist as it is in circles already sold on a Vedantic worldview. It will be interesting to see how many Vedanta-promoting websites encourage a spirited exchange with critics in their own comment-trails.

  • Lakshminarayana

    Hello Satish Chandra,

    You say – “I’m baffled. If Brahman is as good as Unicorns (for those who reject scripture), then what is the problem in ridiculing the belief in Brahman?”

    If you want to ridicule Brahman, who is stopping you? But there are a few things that you should keep in mind –

    1. One must represent the opponent’s position correctly, even if one is out to ridicule him

    2. An emotional tirade is not a substitute for a logical argument

    • Satish Chandra

      I baffled not because somebody is stopping me, but because of the incessant harping from you on the tone of the article and the comments. Who is stopping you from accepting that Brahman will be ridiculed given that it is as absurd as believing in a flat earth (going by your logic. I reject scripture)? One can ridicule an idea and refute it as well. You seem to have forgotten that the article wasn’t written for you just so that you can copiously pontificate here. Accept that fact or stop wasting bandwidth.

      • Lakshminarayana

        Firstly, brahman is not as ridiculous as flat earth. Because flat earth can be easily disproved by means of direct perception. But brahman cannot. (Just like God cannot be disproved). Now please do not shift goal posts by suggesting that the burden of proof is on me since I am proposing brahman. Understand the point of saying that brahman cannot be disproved (in comparison with flat earth).

        Secondly, the article indulges in heavy misrepresentation of the vedantic position and so the article itself is a big waste on bandwidth.

        Finally, I am baffled that it does not seem to occur to you and Ranganath that it does not take much time for this discussion to degenerate into a slanging match, (though I guess that the moderator would be on your side in such a case). It is because I am focusing on debating and not on matching Ranganath’s childish emotional tirades, that there is at least a semblance of debate here.

        • //Firstly, brahman is not as ridiculous as flat earth. Because flat earth can be easily disproved by means of direct perception. But brahman cannot. (Just like God cannot be disproved).//

          Nobody here is denying that there is a difference between the demonstrably false and the unfalsifiable. It’s just that some of us are not particularly thrilled at the prospect of making some ‘not even wrong’ assertions the core of our worldview. That something cannot be disproved is not a compelling enough reason to believe it, let alone make it a central, defining belief. We are yet to see a definition of Godhead which steers clear of the pitfalls of being demonstrably false or unfalsifiable.

  • Lakshminarayana,

    Firstly, brahman is not as ridiculous as flat earth. Because flat earth can be easily disproved by means of direct perception.

    The earth is really flat. It is only due to maya that it appears as an oblate spheroid. Only enlightened people can realize the Ultimate Endless Formless Flatness. The scripture says that the real Universe is hyperbolically polarized and one needs to find a real traditional guru to realize that. Once that real realization sets in, the maya of curvature will dissolve and all that will remain is the Ultimate Endless Formless Flatness. The hyperbolic polarization is a Fundamental Axiom. You are free to disagree with it and make fun of it. I ain’t gonna whine.

  • Why a debate on a stance that is inherently in the realm of abstract imagination, and hence can neither be proved nor disproved? At the fundamental level, it all comes down to personal aesthetics.
    The religious people can choose to believe, but should stop trying to shove it up others’ throats or try to use shaky science to make it seem grounded and reasonable.
    At the same time, atheists might as well stop dissecting esoteric philosophical scriptures. That serves no purpose other than to inflate one’s one ego as being superior to a believer, while as I mentioned, this is more a question of taste.
    The issues worth discussing are the political and social aspects of religion, and not the tautological and vague, but harmless, philosophies like Adwaita and Vedanta.

    • Satish Chandra

      I don’t think you are familiar with Indian society. If you are, then you are oblivious to the fact that Vedanta has a very real social and political implications. It is sold as a cure all. You can’t take sugar pills to cure cholera. What you will get is an epidemic. So it is necessary to point out the stupidity of taking sugar pills.

  • This article is one of the example of mindless reductionism applied of Vedanta.

    The ‘Brahman’ even at the abstract conceptual level is a subject of philosophical study just like ‘Platonic world’ or ‘Ubermensch’ of Neitzsche.

    Further, Advaitins and Vedantins themselves agree that ‘Brahman’ is to be realized and experienced personally and this is not an objective entity to be believed in like the Biblical ‘God’. Though most of the advaitins don’t have that experience, they at least aspire to have that experience and the Non dual perception of the world is the final goal in their spiritual pursuit.

    The belief of Brahman cannot be equated to the claim of existence of ‘God’ of Abrahmic religions or the belief in ghosts, fairies, etc. Because the latter entities are conceived or imagined first and we have no way of establishing the proof for their existence unless they really exist. Whereas, in the case of the idea of ‘Brahman’, it is said to have been experienced by the serious spiritual seekers and those who experienced also agree with the possibility of the same experience in others.

    Though such an experience is theoretically difficult for us to conceive or imagine, we do have people all along the Indian History who claimed to have achieved such higher states of consciousness. Ramana Maharishi, Nisgaradatta Maharaj and Ramakrishna Parmahamsa, for recent examples. I also acknowledge there are many who claim to have enlightened and exploit the followers by promising them the same. But such frauds does not refute the genuine experience. Just like Pseudoscience does not refute the Science.

    If Brahman is an abstract philosophical conception alone, it would not have survived for so long. There is a continuity in Indian spiritual tradition, in which the serious seekers, over the centuries, attest to this ‘elevated’ experience and have expressed the same in their own way. Though there is large difference between, Ramakrishna’s teaching, Ramana’s Expressions or J Krishnamurti’s Lectures, Vedantins don’t find it difficult to get the underlying meaning of their teachings in spite of the difference. There may be many schools of thought in vedanta, but those differences exists only at the surface.

    Besides influencing many western philosphers, the ideas of vedanta also influenced Quantum physicists like Werner Heisenberg and Erwin Schrodinger.

    http://www.upscale.utoronto.ca/PVB/Harrison/DevelQM/DevelQM.html

    I quote from Schrodinger’s ‘What’s life?’

    “In Christian terminology to say: ‘Hence I am God Almighty’ sounds both blasphemous and lunatic. But please disregard these connotations for the moment and consider whether the above inference is not the closest a
    biologist can get to proving also their God and immortality at one stroke. In itself, the insight is
    not new. The earliest records to my knowledge date back some 2,500 years or more. From the early great Upanishads the recognition ATHMAN = BRAHMAN upheld in (the personal self equals the omnipresent,all-comprehending eternal self) was in Indian thought considered, far from being blasphemous,to represent the quintessence of deepest insight into the happenings of the world. The striving of all the scholars of Vedanta was, after having learnt to pronounce with their lips, really to assimilate in their minds this grandest of all
    thoughts. Again, the mystics of many centuries, independently, yet in perfect harmony with each
    other (somewhat like the particles in an ideal
    gas) have described, each of them, the
    unique experience of his or her life in terms that
    can be condensed in the phrase: DEUS FACTUS
    SUM (I have become God).”

    There is also research being done in the direction of finding the relationships between Science and the non-duality.

    http://www.scienceandnonduality.com/

    “When contradictions are pointed out, the defenders say that you have transcend your mind. My response is Good luck with that! As We have better things to do in life.”

    Is that scientific? How can you reject even before verifying it?

    To give an analogy, I have every right to say that I don’t believe in neutrinos till I myself have analyzed the theories of particle physics and observed or inferred the existence of neutrinos in a Neutrino observatory. When I do that, I will be convinced that neutrinos do exist. But since all these are not practical, we ‘believe’ the scientists who observe it in the observatories all over the world.

    In the same way, Vedantins believe in ‘Brahman’ and its realization as the same was reiterated again and again by various seers and sages over the centuries. We are free to verify it when do we want.

    • Satish Chandra

      What rot. Many people have personally experienced Jesus Christ. That is why Sanatana Dogma is not much different at all from the Abrahamic religions. All of them plead from personal experience that what they have experienced is The Truth (or The Ultimate Reality or whatever) and then type out reams of comments that it is The Truth because people have experienced The Truth say that it is The Truth and hence it becomes The Truth.

    • Neuroscience has come a long way since Schrodinger’s 1944 book “What is life?” and this progress has been within a framework of Eliminative Materialism and not owed in any significant measure to insights from any faith traditions. In fact the extent of productive interaction between faith traditions and neuroscience has been limited to faith traditions seeking materialistic and naturalistic demonstration as endorsement of some of their practices. The eminent neuroscientist Prof. Vilayanur Ramachandran acknowledges that subjective experience is a daunting frontier of neuroscience but he views this neither as a case for lapsing into supernatural copouts nor as a compelling reason to disavow the reductionist approach .

      • I do to wish to enter such an debate regarding spiritualism nor philosophy in consequence to this statement,
        I am interested if you understand quantum mechanics? I think for those that believe they experience or are connected with any kind of concrete reality (generally held by promoters of a misunderstood or casually studied scientific interpretation) would do well to give it another crack. Although I think it was Feynman who stated “if you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don’t understand quantum mechanics”, but the entire field of ideology associated with materialism seems to have taken an unexpected blow with this area of science. Maybe you have adjusted your philosophy, or it has always taken possibility into account; I’m not one to know but I would be grateful if you could link me to some material concerning this issue.

        I’ve really enjoyed reading through this site and especially appreciated your generally neutral and articulate comments. I’m not a scientist or researcher and am happy to be completely wrong, but thanks for giving me some better ideas to help me better relate to my personal enquiries.

    • Vijay,

      If you can hurl the accusation of mindless ‘reductionism’ to any unflattering criticism of Vedanta and Brahman, I am more than happy to return the compliment by terming your labored defense of Vedanta and Brahman as ‘mindless revisionism’

      So what if Vedanta has resemblance to Platonic concepts? That part of the world which once reveled in this type of futile and speculative metaphysics has largely moved past it and we in India are still desperately holding on to this Vedantic fig leaf of a long past, decadent and feudalistic antiquity.

      Brahman is not the only philosophical abstraction or conception to survive. The triune of Christianity is almost as much an abstraction as the Brahman or Atman and is far from dead or dying. So then is Holy Spirit as valid to you as Brahman?.

      The superstition of astrology has also survived till now and is thriving in some societies. So does its survival validate its reality or factual basis?

      Then you say “Besides influencing many western philosphers, the ideas of vedanta also influenced Quantum physicists like Werner Heisenberg and Erwin Schrodinger.”

      The question to ask here is whether these celebrities were influenced by the content of the extant main Upanishads or their manipulative and revisionist interpretation and commentaries made by religious and spiritual apologists of yore and now.

      Apart from that, any idealistic or poetic flings of a scientist or researcher do not constitute proof of an idea.

      Also science and scientific method has become a convenient punching bag for religious apology, when in fact the article makes no reference to science, lab tests or any other paraphernalia of scientific rigor, to call the bluff of Brahman.

      Let us spare science from the lowly task of delivering body blows to the flimsy edifice of Vedanta, Brahman and its shadowy spiritual cohorts. Practical philosophy and critical reasoning are good enough for this.

      To determine that ‘transcending the mind’ is a fool’s errand does not need scientific verification and use of Hadron Collider or sonar sensors.

      Coming to the Neutrino, now that you believe the scientists, will you worship the Neutrino and devote the rest of your life to understanding and being one with the Neutrino, who is the only One, without a second and who is ‘neither this nor that’ (neti neti). I am sure there is a Neutrino Upanishad waiting for you on your path to Vedantic salvation.

      • Ranganath,

        I am trying to point out that you have not represented the position of Vedantins correctly and so you are merely deconstructing the straw man you have set up in your article.

        You have to sufficiently differentiate the ‘personal’ God in Abrahmic religions and ‘impersonal’ Brahman of Vedantins before attempting to draw parallels between the two. There are many theological and philosophical differences between Judeo-Christian religions and Eastern religions. Not doing a differentiated analysis of religions, leads to fallacy of symmetry which is common in atheist and liberal discourse (Sam Harris is one exception, I am aware).

        Let me try to represent the ‘distilled’ version of the core thought of Vedanta without any religious ‘romanticization’.

        “The seeker starts from inquiring the ‘I’ (a dual state of object and subject). When he continues his self inquiry, at some point of time, his ego drops and his mind transforms into a non dual state of consciousness. This state of consciousness in which there is no difference between subject and object is called as Brahman,Nirvana and Moksha in Hinduism,Bhuddism and Jainism respectively.”

        There were also people like J Krishnamurti and U G Krishnalmurti, who tried to demystify this state without accepting any relgious view. UG Krishnamurti called this state as a ‘natural state’.

        Now we may reduce this transformation as a mere biochemical change in the seeker’s brain. But such reduction do not in any way decrease the significance of that transformation. We have wide range of emotions in our lives(which forms the basis of our lives) which are again reducible to mere chemical changes in our brain and body. But those theoretical abstractions do not in any way decrease our laughter or tears.

        And for your ‘Speculative Metaphysics’, do you also denounce the whole of philosophical or metaphysical inquiry of existential questions as a futile exercise? And how exactly, holding the Vedantic worldview will deter the progress in science?

        I have not quoted from Scrodinger to prove a point or appeal to authority, but to show how these eminent men saw Vedanta positively in their quest for answers for the lingering existential questions. It is to demonstrate that Vedanta is not a nonsense to be disposed of as reflected in the words of the intellectuals you have quoted.

        • Vijay,

          Here is my response to each of your paragraphs of comment:

          1. what Vedantins believe or assert is of no relevance to this article or the purpose of asserting logic and reason in investigating an issue . One could not care less for their conceits and lofty opinions. The emptiness and futility of the concepts like Brahman and Atman can be sought to be exposed independent of what its devotees and apologists claim about it.

          2. That is nit-picking and hair-splitting about possibly subtle differences between competing theological systems. The so-called impersonal Brahman can be as nonsensical or meaningless as the personal god of other religions. No pretensions were made about knowledge of comparative religion. Every religious system has copious content and armies of apostles and theocrats, but such strengths or differences need not necessarily absolve them of the charge of confounding and misleading the society with their ‘ethereal concerns’.

          3. If this is not religious romanticism, it will surely qualify for spiritualist romanticism. The only fly in this grand ego-dropping spiritualist argument is that the dropping ego invariably springs back like a coil and inspite of all fairy-tale descriptions of this pointless exercise of obliterating the distinction between subject and object, it is akin to a dog chasing its own tail.

          4. It is not surprising that in the spiritualist world, unnatural states are ‘natural’ and natural states are low, ordinary and mean. Men like JK and UG spend much skill and energy in giving nonsense and vapidity, the appearance of great philosophy and knowledge. However hard they may try, irrational concepts and ideas will be what they are. You can rationalize the irrational to any lengths, but there surely will be a few on whom the irony of such a charade will not be lost.

          5. The rationalist gripe with the biochemistry of Nirvana/Moksha/Brahman is that it is a case of ‘much ado about nothing’ and a spiritualist ‘rat-hole’ that its protagonists dig themselves into, though with a lot of ritualistic pomp and fanfare. If there is a poetry of the Moksha/Atman/Brahman that can come even a little close to the grandeur of ‘Paradise Lost’ or Kalidasa, I can suffer its inanity with gritted teeth. Even the creative genius of Bhakti era was riding on the pantheistic engine of the Puranic lore. A few cryptic verses of Upanishads do not a summer of Brahmanic glory make. Other bio-chemical changes or emotions in us do not lead us to absurd claims like ‘All existence is Maya’ and ‘Only Brahman is real’. Many of our emotional changes help us make a sense of our life and mostly experience it in a positive and constructive way, and not be waylaid by the schizophrenia of spiritualist rambling.

          6. Speculations on existential questions are fine. But it is important to understand what theories they give rise to. We need to ask Do they make sense or not. Because we cannot satisfactorily answer questions like ‘why there is life’ or ‘why we exist’ ‘how existence came into being’, is not a license to run amok with bizzare theories and speculations (after-life and its cycles) that Vedanta indulges in.

          7. The article has in its opening acknowledged the monumental difficulty of challenging the ossified legacy of and reverence for Vedanta. While you may have the company of Scrodinger and an overwhelming majority of assenting celebrities, nonsense is still nonsense whether it is the Vedanta or the Puranas.

          • Ranganath,

            My intention is not to prove the reality of brahman or superiority of vedanta or to ask you to exempt vedanta from criticism but to have a dialogue from the position of a spiritual seeker and sceptic.

            I could sense from your replies, that you are rejecting the whole class of ‘spiritual’ solutions proposed by all religions and even non religious people inspite of the social consequences those philosophies may have on the mankind.

            I would like to conclude our exchange with the following question.

            Don’t you feel any need for a indvidual ‘change’ or ‘transfromation’ in each one of us into a state of freedom where there is no suffering and conflict? The desire to free ourselves from ‘dukha’ as called by Bhuddha is what drives people basically towards ‘spiritual’ realisation or transformation.

            If you honsetly dont feel for a such necessity for a ‘change’, its quite a surprise for me.

            If yes, what in your view is the solution?

            Thanks.

          • Satish Chandra

            that you are rejecting the whole class of ‘spiritual’ solutions proposed by all religions and even non religious people inspite of the social consequences those philosophies may have on the mankind.

            We reject spiritual solutions because of their social consequences. The hallowed Vedanta despite being sold as a cure all for human problems, couldn’t even admit that the Varna dharma is obscene and needs to thrown out, without making any lame excuses that “it didn’t start out to be birth based and etc..”. Varna dharma has only one logical path – to end up as a birth based system. So much for individual “change” and “transformation”.

          • I could sense from your replies, that you are rejecting the whole class of ‘spiritual’ solutions proposed by all religions and even non religious people inspite of the social consequences those philosophies may have on the mankind.

            Don’t you feel any need for a indvidual ‘change’ or ‘transfromation’ in each one of us into a state of freedom where there is no suffering and conflict?

            The following articles published in this website deal with the topic of how transformation towards a more fulfilled state of mind is possible, and has indeed been repeatedly demonstrated, without appeal to or aid from any ‘supernatural’ or ‘spiritual’ assumptions.

            Creating meaning in our lives (Prof(Dr) VNK Kumar)

            Send the Self on Vacation: How to Naturalize Enlightenment (Dr. Thomas W Clark)

        • Those who feel compelled to present themselves as arbiters of intellectual honesty in forums like this one, and are outraged over ‘mischaracterizations’ of Vedanta, would do well to remind themselves of the fact that there is no consensus even amid the ranks of self-proclaimed ‘defenders of Vedanta’ regarding what the canonical characterization is in the first place.

          There are some of these defenders who insist that the Vedas, Upanishads and Puranas constitute a unified scriptural composite with the demarcations being only ones of convenience, while there are others who relegate the Puranas to profane realms. There are some who insist that Vedanta is such a lofty endeavour that it is unconcerned with such trifles as maintenance of social order, whereas there are others who manage to see in its texts a blueprint of social engineering. Apologists of these different stripes who insist that their stances alone are authentic amid this cacophonous and often contradictory multiplicity, have been responded to on different occasions, both here and elsewhere.

          Far from the ‘above-the-fray’ apolitical character which is claimed for Vedanta by a certain brand of apologists, the revivalist agenda is far from free of real-world socio-political implications. For instance, the concepts of guna and karma, which are indispensable to Vedantic lexicons in its most orthodox as well as more revisionist variants, have had, and continue to have, demonstrably deleterious consequences whenever they have been allowed to influence public policy.

          There are many who claim for Vedanta a sort of amnesty from criticism saying that its ‘original intent’ was to respond to the spiritual yearnings of a certain society in antiquity,and that it cannot be held accountable for ‘unintended outcomes’ of its application. That such amnesty is an unreasonable demand can be illustrated by watching this clip where social psychologist Jonathan Haidt calls out the Dalai Lama for romanticizing Marxism indifferent to the observable adverse effects of the actual regimes it had produced. Recognizing that beliefs have consequences makes it incumbent upon us to not spare any beliefs the caution they must be subject to, and there is no compelling reason why Vedanta should be an exception.

  • This article reminds me of the words in Upanishad itself… “The Upanishidic knowledge should be imparted only to one’s own disciple or kids whom are known to be pure in heart and has a thirst for knowing reality.” Having see this article, I admire the wisdom of those minds in foreseeing such rantings when a materialistic mind tries to fathom the information that it shares. One should discover Upanishads, when the ego is stretched to the limit and yet no peace is to be found. They are a last resort, definitely not for a materialistic mind which still don’t recognize the pleasure / pain cycle that it goes through.

    • The same Upanishadic excerpts which during a critical reading appear to enjoin an attitude of arbitrary supremacist exclusivity, to their obsequious apologists appear to be products of the ‘wisdom of those minds’ of antiquity. One wonders how apologists square this notion of prudent exclusion with the claim of all-embracing universality which too is claimed as a merit of Vedanta! Quoting from this earlier post about another contemporary revivalist:

      Declining to respond to critics on grounds that the critics will fail to comprehend any arguments, is not only smug and patronizing but an abject admission of failure on part of those who claim to have a universal teaching that can be brought within the reach of everyone.

      • There is no exclusivity in Upanishads and you seem to be reiterating the above point (and in beautiful words!) about how a materialistic mind comprehends its knowledge. The emphasis is on passing it to the people who needs it desperately, not on their intellectual/familial/racial bindings. The knowledge in Upanishids is such a flower whose nectar exudes a smell so sweet that it bewitches those who had been wandering and tasting dirt, not the ones who doesn’t know they are wandering. The only criterion in a disciple are clear mind (expectation is that they are so clear that they squirm under suffering even after just having conquered the Everest. An impression of Buddha leaving his comfortable palace and Ashoka, desolate after winning Kalinga would help) and earnestness. A parent knows how to catch a kid in that mode and pave the way for their happiness even though they may have to face the worst tribulations in life.

        • If the words two comments above this one are the product of a ‘materialistic mind’, of what sort of mind is the comment just above this one a product?

          An aside (or perhaps the central irreconcilable difference underlying these exchanges) about the utility of materialistic descriptions of the mind can be read here.

          As for means to pave the way for their happiness even though they may have to face the worst tribulations in life, they are by no means the sole preserve of the Upanishadic or any other scriptural worldview, but a prerogative of each individual to decide for themselves. This recent post maybe a relevant read in this regard. Further, a defining tenet of humanism is acknowledging, and enabling, the right of every person to seek their own purpose, rather than enjoin scripturally mandated purposes on them. Far from being indifferent to questions of seeking purpose and overcoming suffering, humanists care about them enough to not let this seeking be hindered by the herding and corralling of the imagination by scriptural injunctions.

          • One thing I can suggest,

            When taken by means of scientific logic, critical reasoning only Vedanta and not atheism will last. e.g.

            http://inversesquared.blogspot.in/2012/03/you-never-go-full-profound.html

            except case of castism by birth which alone becomes the debating point.

            So I suggest discuss this alone and not the principles or anything else of Vedanta, or Sanatan Dharma. Some logical end will be then ensured. Otherwise all this is waste of time and energy.

          • One thing I can suggest

            This suggestion that has been made will find few takers here, for the following reasons, and I would therefore suggest making that suggestion elsewhere.

            except case of castism by birth which alone becomes the debating point.

            Another debating point, perhaps even more fundamental, is about the materialistic nature of the mind and naturalistic explanations of consciousness. ( 1 , 2, 3)

            So I suggest discuss this alone and not the principles or anything else of Vedanta, or Sanatan Dharma.

            Beliefs have consequences. See 1, 2 and 3. Beliefs and principles, however beloved they maybe to some interlopers here, when they have manifestly deleterious consequences, will therefore not be exempt from the critiques of the other interlocutors here. Far from being a waste of time, such critiques are crucial to cultural progress and the freeing of human potential from the straitjacket of antiquated notions.

            The many links provided above, provided one clicks them, offer enough of a record on previous debates on these questions to warrant desisting from further ad nauseam repetitive commenting…and leaving it to the wisdom of the readers to make their judgments and figure out their stance (hoping that Vedanta evangelists credit the readers with some with some wisdom, which all too often, they consider to be the monopoly of their school of thought). At the very least, readers will find in those discussions nothing to warrant the rather grandiose claim that when taken by means of scientific logic, critical reasoning only Vedanta and not atheism will last.

          • Thanks, Arvind,

            I liked this two photos very much and will use them widely, I think.

            http://farm7.static.flickr.com/6018/5960206082_99c23d88f1.jpg

            http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-OVbhpVUo-so/TZegsGWfC9I/AAAAAAAAALw/bev5WfQcu94/s400/ChristopherHitchensMorality.jpg

            These have been so basic realities that from them exactly Sanatan Dharma began at ancient time, I think! Anyway got impressed with the thoughts.

    • Niel R

      If you are in love with the Upanishads for sentimental and emotional causes or reasons, there is not much to quarrel with, though a more persistent inquirer would be interested in seeking the sources of such sentimental preferences like poetry, very refined and highly figurative allusions and imagery (but contrasted with vague and abstruse references), creative artistry in the form of striking and pithy yet meaningful aphorisms in such works.

      Though not devoid of contentions and controversies, yet if the Upanishads were to be subjected to tests of literary and artistic merit, it is quite doubtful that these works will come away with flying colors.

      So the formidable reputation and reverence of the Upanishads is surely not owing to any sentiments of artistic appreciation.

      So this zeal on the part of many intellectuals with religious leanings or convictions to coronate the Upanishads as a work of superlative excellence, peerless wisdom, extraordinary insights and what not, naturally arouses skeptical curiosity.

      Since the apologists have probably exhausted other defenses, what is left is an ‘appeal to emotion’ argument, which is what you are trying.

      I quoted Lala Hardayal, because in my opinion, he best expressed the kind of ‘hot air’ that the Upanishads are filled with, and not for any other reason and would like to credit people who offer honest and sensible opinions.

      Skeptics like to examine beliefs on their merits, without letting the ‘heart’, ‘soul’, ‘being You and not someone else’, ‘who are You’, ‘Why are You’ and similar mushy biases get in the way and muddy the waters of independent verification of theories and claims.

      I respect the value of sentiment and emotion in providing and enhancing the meaning and beauty of life, but do not believe that religious insight,devotion and experience are the best ways to that end.

      • Looks like you didn’t consider the totality before arriving at the above conclusions. Assuming you have read Upanishidas, if you come across somebody who claims to have read and feels emotional about it, its a waste of time talking to that person. Because that would mean that such a person is utterly stupid since, as you know the central theme of Upanishads is detachment. If there is not a better example of studies in contrast this is it. Emphasizing detachment and peacufulness.

        “Who am I?” was meant to be a hint at an extremely short book by Ramanna with the same title. It contains truth that “the author” found from within. So might have many others who might not have deemed it worthy enough to pen it down. All I am saying is one such person is the author of Upanishads too. It is to be discovered. A fertile land later called America would never have revealed itself to Columbus. He had to wander and wander! Emphasizing, Upanishads is not true becasue someone says so.

        I agree, all religions with mild exceptions for certain sects of Buddhism and Sufism; Vedic Hinduism, Islam, Christianity are all based on belief systems. The anger and hatred and violence, all come of that attachment to something they have taught themselves over and over. I need you to consider this very closely, Upanishads stand outside of those belief systems and is not a religion (dont take it from me, find it yourself). So does most of Buddha’s quotes. You dont need me to tell you that Buddha was not a Buddhist.

        Human brain could possibly process more than 50K thoughts per day. If you argue there will always be another thought that can counter it. Considering the permutations of associations possible between neurons in a brain, thinking that any body will ever reach any sort of conclusion with any sort of thoughts is a mathematical impossibility. I have seen quite a lot of people who “believes” that they have won an argument but never one who really did. Einstein famously defeated Bohr in debates only to be proved wrong by subsequent generations. Bohr’s thoughts probably is waiting for the next generation to be countered. Let’s say we are arguing about the most obvious thing, that it is bright & sunny during a bright and sunny day. Depending on variations in eye sight, there could be thousands of arguments. If you feel confident that your eye sight is one of the best, think again because there could be another life-form out there with a 4D vision and a much better eye-sight having an altogether different take on it. Thoughts will appear true to us, but only within our range of stupidity, our unknowns.

        The purpose of writing the above paragraphs is to emphasize a critical point. “It makes logical sense to look outside of thoughts if we are to find real turth.”

        If one is to be wise (not intelligent), consider that man with an active mind who is bed ridden for x number of years till death, sympathize with him, be with him, “be him” and think what is the purpose of that life? No purpose? If so why are we not doing something (toning it down for public consumption) about it? That’s a scenario that all of us could possibly see in this life time. Same with someone challenged mentally. If one thinks their life is very important, how about those who think it is actually the most expandable. Did Saddam and Gaddafi think like that? Where are they now?

        Again “who are you”?!

  • Confused!!

    What is the point of contention here? How did Vedanta create all the caste system issues we have today in India? If you follow Vedanta principle then you will realize that everything in the universe is considered equal. Untouchability was not called for in the Vedas, This is the result of some selfish people who used religion for social dominance, these are exactly the people who didnt follow the essence of vedas.

    I consider the Vedic Rishis to be scientific people pondering about existence, senses and things around us. Sanskrit is a scientific language and the only unambiguous spoken language on the planet. I don’t think a bunch of lunatics would come up with such a language in the first place. Earth was considered to spherical in the Vedic literature much before Galileo, that is why earth is called bhugol in sanskrit. The Word ‘Human’ has its origins in sanskirt word ‘Om’. Do you know why in a Vedic marriage, the couple is asked to look at arundathi naskshatra, go figure out.

    It is very wrong to highlight Vedic knowledge as junk when infact it was has great scientific significance. If you follow the wisdom in vedas you are bound to be successful and peaceful. For sure, they were improperly used in the society for social dominance, but the vedas themselves never preached that.

    • How did Vedanta create all the caste system issues we have today in India?

      It didn’t. However the apologetics and atavism of proponents of Vedantic schools have had a significant contribution in perpetuating and exacerbating exploitative social hierarchies. Consider reading the following articles:
      Hindu Revisionism: Was Shankaracharya Deceptive Or Just Ignorant?
      Maneesha Panchakam Of Shankaracharya

      Sanskrit is a scientific language and the only unambiguous spoken language on the planet.

      Anyone who has been a student of Sanskrit for even a month would refrain from making a claim of ‘unambiguity’, especially when it is the ambiguity that lends itself so readily to poetic devices that is hailed by literary enthusiasts to be one of the striking features of the language. Alberuni, who took his study of Sanskrit more seriously than most comment-trail Dharma Rakshaks of today, says,

      Sanskrit is a language of enormous range, both in words and in inflections. They call one and the same thing by various names and unless one knows the context in which the word is spoken. Some of the sounds of consonants are neither identical nor resemble with the Arabic and Persian. And the Hindus write their scientific books in metrics so that they can be committed to memory and thus prevented from corruption. This metrical form of literary composition makes the study of Sanskrit particularly difficult.

      If those are the traits of an unambiguous language, I would like to see examples of an ambiguous one.

      The Word ‘Human’ has its origins in sanskirt word ‘Om’.

      This gets the goat even of Koenraad Elst,otherwise a Hindutva sympathizer, who (rightly) calls this ‘donkey etymology’. This article explains why.
      The incurable Hindu fondness for P N Oak

    • Nomad,

      OK let’s not call Vedanta or Vedic ‘knowledge’ junk, if that is too harsh and derogatory. A better description of that would be to term it as bunk and bogus. Whether the Upanishads attest that everything in the universe is considered equal is not clear, but surely it considers the world and universe as fiction or Maya. When the world and existence is fiction, why should Vedanta care about untouchability. Is that not fictional too, for the Vedic worshippers?

      Then you say Untouchability was not called for in the Vedas

      If you read the Purusha Sukta of the Rig Veda, the four-fold classification or casteism comes thru very clearly in these verses:

      Brahmanasya Mukham aseed.Bahu rajanya krutha.
      Ooru tadasys yad vaisya.Padbhyo sudro aajayatha. 1-13
      Meaning
      His face became Brahmins,
      His hands were made as Kshatriyas,
      His thighs became Vaisyas,
      And from his feet were born the Shudras

      Following this lead Manu’s Dharma Sastras or more popularly known as Manusmriti is even more explicit about the sanctity and divine ordination of rigid caste hierarchy and pulls all punches in its severe strictures against Sudras.

      The real damage done in the perpetuation of casteism and untouchability was by done by a scripture revered far more than the Vedas, Upanishads and Puranas, that is the Bhagavad Gita, which says:

      In the Bhagavad Gita, Ch.4, Verse 13
      The Lord says:
      “The fourfold caste has been created by Me
      according to the differentiation of Guna and Karma;
      Though I am its creator, know Me to be incapable of action or change.”

      where the hypocritical, slimy and slippery character of Krishna using the bogus and deceptive concepts of Guna and Karma justifies the ‘divine mischief’ and then washes his hands off by claiming to be incapable of action or change, which effectively means that the structure of caste is set in stone

      This is not some selfish people, this is very Vaishnava darling deity Krishna who put the scriptural stamp of approval on untouchability and then seals it with the ultimate insult to the Sudras and women in the scandalous verse 9.32. Do you wish to hear the ‘sweet strains’ of that ‘poetic verse’?!!

      Then the ‘Great Sankaracharya’ (Adi Sankara) rubs more salt into the wounds of the Shudras by emphatically
      explaining why a sudra is not entitled to philosophical wisdom, Sankara writes (on Brahma sutra i.3.34):
      The sudras have no such claim, on account of their not studying the Veda. A person who has studied the Veda and understood its sense is indeed qualified for Vedic matters. But a sudra does not study the Veda for such study demands as its antecedent the upanayana ceremony [i.e. the initiation ritual conferring on one the status of dvija] and that ceremony belongs to the three higher castes only.

      I have no interest in dispelling Nomad’s ignorance and fantasies about the contents of the Vedas, which are as remote from scientific content or knowledge as we are from the Moon or the stars. The best way to remain entrenched in the ivory-tower of misconceptions about Vedas and Upanishads, is to not read even a few passages or verses of them and yet make grand statements about their knowledge content. Only his trivialization of the term scientific by using it so loosely and ignorantly is regrettable

      • This is not some selfish people, this is very Vaishnava darling deity Krishna who put the scriptural stamp of approval on untouchability and then seals it with the ultimate insult to the Sudras and women in the scandalous verse 9.32. Do you wish to hear the ‘sweet strains’ of that ‘poetic verse’?!!

        Ranganath, Here is a comment-trail in which an apologist (complaining about my take on the verse here) offered an interpretation of 9:32 that went something like, ‘Krishna was sparing these folks the tedium of reading the scriptures out of recognition for the full-time work they were doing in other spheres, that didn’t leave them time for metaphysical pursuits’. Now if only such recognition for the contributions of the toiling sections of society were more evident in a plain reading of the texts than just in the credulous self-serving imagination of apologists!

        • You seem to have an opinion but I don’t think you ever made a serious attempt at understanding the Vedas or Upanishads, yet. Try to tread the path of knowledge with an open mind, even though on its course it may seem that mind itself will be blown away. Let me tell you something… Am convinced that you will one day find yourself resting deep peacefully under its shade. You know why, because clearly you are intelligent. It is wise men who wants to find meaning in life, keeping looking for answers in one dogma after another, argues on their on understanding, finds all to be just beliefs and naturally comes to understand Upanishads. At that time reading Upanishads will only confirm your understanding. (Don’t tell me there is no other meaning in life because you will be contradicting yourself by posting here which again would be meaningless.) And remember, you cannot utter Upanishads and Vedas in the same breath. Upanishads are part of Vedantas, literally “end of Vedas”. They are not true because it is part of some traditional scripture written by X who was “highly regarded”. Its truth can be revealed to any open minded person who wants to understand the meaning of life. Aravind, no need to quote another person’s take on any of these. In your mind you are trying to substantiate yourself with an authority. But it is your “self” behind your thoughts that matters. Other’s and your opinions are just thoughts. Understanding where these thoughts come from is more important than the thoughts themselves. If all of these feels crap to you, that’s nice too. Because it will give you an opportunity to get frustrated with other materialistic pursuits and thoughts and guide you towards the truth. Somebody just happened to record the same truth in a book they called Upanishads.

          • Niel states that Arvind has not made a serious attempt to understand the Upanishads, implying on the other hand that he himself has done that and understands the Upanishads very well.

            To understand Upanishads or any work of literature for that matter, it needs to adhere to certain norms and rules of literary representation. Since the Upanishads violate most of those rules, they are a challenge to comprehension at one level. But there is something worse than that with them.

            To quote again the person, Lala Hardayal, who has perhaps best understood the Upanishads for what they are, they are nothing more than absurd treatises that represent spurious metaphysics of ancient India.

            The early Buddhists and the Carvakas rightly pointed out the chief defects of the Upanishads:
            – They are tautological (statements about Atman, Brahman etc.)
            – They abound in inconsistencies and contradictions
            – They are incoherent
            because of which these schools rejected the philosophy of the Vedas and Upanishads

            To add to these woes of the Upanishads, they are too vague and allegorical in narration, opening the door to all sorts of interpretations.

            So people who go with reason, logic and and inquiring spirit, and would also like to hold works to a high intellectual standard, find nothing very deep or of high significance in the Upanishads.

            Neil’s wishy-washy and vapid lecture on the Upanishads does nothing of note to change

          • Ranganath, there is no reply button next to your comment (atleast I cant see). I know in your mind, am trying to be a supremacist claiming to have understood Upanishads. I would say, everybody is navigating towards that path even when they are arguing against it. All one’s beliefs will fail them one day (will leave it to your life to sort out if that seems like a cocky statement). You just have to be honest to accept that it did fail (ego will ofcourse say I always win, you don’t need me to explain why…). Then you start with another, then another…

            Lala Hardayal! Why are you looking for another person’s validation to substantiate your claims. What do “You” think? Or just simply “who are you”? You are better than somebody who believes some one else’s beliefs. Would just leave you with a suggestion (who are you to give me suggestion? right?), keep with one of those convictions. You will know one day that you have to try all other belief structures out there to come out of it. May be someone with much higher intelligence than normal can get it naturally. Others including me, have to take the hard path it seems. May be its the big prize that nature hides with all its might.

            I admit in advance that you are better than me. World has seen enough of egotistical warfare and its perils. Please write your opinion and from your heart. I fully realize that I cant do anything even if you choose not to. So good luck either way.

  • Louis Brassard

    Around the 8th century BC, everyone had developed very sophisticated philosophies in mythic forms. Taoism, Veda, persian and greek had more or less very similar viewpoints expressed through poetic stories. Then in the greek world they started writing down the implicit philosophies of these stories and tried to make them consistent and objective from a god like perspective. At the same time, they invented theological religious with God external to the world. Gradually these two forms of mythic styles forbade god visual representations and they presented to unique truth.
    Noone can denied that modern science knows a good deal about the simplest aspect of the world but it knows nothing about meaning. Now india is becoming a modern society with technology and science. Many Aurobindo will emerge and will invent a new science,
    a science that do not sacrifice meaning for objectivity.

    • The question for Indians to ask of ourselves is whether all we can do is wait with bated breath for the next Aurobindo or next Vivekananda or next Gandhi, or whether we step out of the shadow of these icons who obscure the imagination now as much as they may have thrown some light on it in their times, and whether theirs is the only conception of human and national greatness possible.

      • The fact is that we can’t step out of their shadow. It would mean denying our heritage and values. We can make greater Gandhis, but the values would still need to be the same. If you want to make their conception of human greatness outdated, sorry but you will fail. You will come back to them. Not just them, but also Buddha and Jesus. Humanism started from spirituality, not secularism.

        • Arvind Iyer

          Humanism started from spirituality, not secularism.

          In the essay ‘A Note on Atheism’, Gora makes a plausible cause for how, even when promoted by ostensibly religious reformers, humanism succeeded to the extent that it was secular and was hindered to the extent that it remained religious. Quoting from the essay…

          In order to save the mass of people from the degradation into which the theism has thrown them, stalwarts with stout heart like Buddha, Jesus, Mohammad, Marx and Gandhi, preached bold action and strong initiative among the common people. Their efforts bore fruit. Popular rebellions rose against exploitation and enslavement and carried civilization a step towards common weal. It may be that they too talked of god and did not dispense with theistic attitudes altogether. But the new god was so much rational and revolutionary and so much less deterministic than the old and conventional god that these stalwarts were certainly more atheistic than their contemporaries. By adopting that amount of atheism, they attained a corresponding amount of progress. They awakened mankind out of former stupor. In the wake of the teachings of those prophets, rationality, socialism and democracy entered into the philosophy, economics and politics of common people and they were benefitted by the change.

          • When you change what atheism means like Gora did, of course humanism will fit in better with atheism. No one in their right mind would ever call Jesus or Gandhi an atheist (the fact that Marx is in this list is reprehensible to say the least). Then again, Gora was never in his right mind.

  • Vow…. beautiful post and commands, Ranganath sir, your defense are excellent, but, what to do? They have the history of cheating thousands of year and enjoying the luxury on religious or vedic ground. Many scientific inventions degraded all the veda or bible or quran contents, however, we are witnessing many propaganda like, all those scientific inventions are already available in their religious books! What a shameless claims! Rubbishing the hard work of scientist! Really a pathetic one! Many claim in the religious script are went wrong, it implies, by this time those books must be thrown to dust bin, unlucky the rationalist still crush their head to bring the truth to this helpless masses.

  • One of the most sophomoric polemics nirmukta has published. “how it has morphed progressively from its ritualistic origins to assume more and deadly forms…”
    [slap on the head]

    • Mahesh,
      It is surprising that in this parsimonious response of yours where ad hominem (sophomoric) and suggestively violent invective (slap on the head) reign supreme, you were yet generous enough slip in a partial quotation of the article paragraph about the genealogy of Brahminism.

      Since the genealogy of Brahminism was not the main focus of the article, I could not hold forth on it. But the immediately succeeding para, refers to the existence of historical and sociological studies that can throw light on the theory of ulterior motives (consolidation of casteist and feudal social hierarchies) of Hindu/Vedic scriptures.

      Since Upanishads and Vedanta are surely part of Brahminical scriptural legacies, the accusation of the degeneracy of scripture and religion into tools of casteist and social exploitation, while polemical in tone is not contextually irrelevant to the article.
      Since you raised the point, as part of analyzing the evolution of Brahminism from origins of priestly supremacy to a casteist stranglehold, historical/social studies, bibliography and chronologies are available whereby we can trace the pattern of scriptural genealogy starting from Rig Veda (1800-1200 BCE) thru Brahmanas/Upanishads (900-600 BCE) and Dharmasastras like Manavadharmasastras, Yagnavalkyasmriti, Apasthambasutra and Ghriyasutra (150 BCE-200 CE), Brahmasutra, Bhagavad Gita (200 BCE to 300 CE) and Vedanta (200 CE to 800 CE) to the culmination of Bhasyas and Puranas (300 CE to 1400 CE) and retrace in them the landscape as well as the conditions and reflections of varying degrees of accelerating social decay amidst the rising power and influence of feudal and plutocratic elites of the 3 upper castes(Brahmin, Kshatriya and Vaisyas)which becomes even more pronounced in the post Adi Sankara medieval India.

      This is just a rough outline of the possible methodologies of Indological research involving comparative studies of Indian medieval royal genealogies, prevailing social conditions (studied as a progression/regression/interruption of ‘relations or factors of production’) and correlating it with the underlying messages of Hindu/Vedic scriptures. Very few Hindus or Indians have any appetite or enthusiasm for such type of dialectical investigation of History or even the open-mindedness to at least lend an ear to its voices and concerns.

      The outcome of such a research can be devastating and fatal to the naive, cozy and arrogantly paternalistic notions of contemporary Hinduism and its blind adherents.

      So it is not unexpected that barbs of derisive and dismissive comments from the likes of you, is the preferred alternative to properly directed argument and dignified debate.

      • Ugra narasimha

        What if you are wrong about the social oppression part in ancient India prior to shankara… what if there are no proofs to your conjecture… and then will it just become social evolution as common to a society like the greeks who had institutionalized slavery or the arabs of the same time… it(Philosophy you are criticizing) was science for their time… and the holders of this legacy (it was as much as your ancestors achievement as mine as any brahmin’s or dalit’s, although I no longer wish to classify humans as such) are willing to change, we missed the enlightenment part since we were under successive muslim rule and english rule, where in during the muslim rule I don’t find any secular institutions like universities shining from our country… So instead of criticizing subjectively criticize the objective nature of the state we are in… what if you are wrong about ancient india and their society provided we haven’t had great deal of research in this area…

        • Blaming the Mughal and British colonialism has by now become the most worn-out cliche of Hindu caste apologetics. One expected the Hindu Council of UK to come up with better and more ‘ingenious’ explanatory ideas of defense. But it appears that the fabled Brahminical ingenuity has at last hit the ‘Great China Wall’ of apologetic fatigue.

          Ugra Narasimha (UN)above has perhaps attempted to fill that void of repetitiveness of Hindu nationalist defense by positing a new theory of India’s missing the bus of the ‘Era of Enlightenment’ or the Age of Reason due to Mughal and British colonialism.

          This is akin to replacing one species of denial-ism with another. Even after 65 years of independence and so-called republican and democratic systems, India’s tryst with the ‘Destiny of Enlightenment’ (with due apologies for parodying Nehru’s famous quote of rousing oratory) is nowhere near fruition.

          To add to the miseries of the liberalist frustration with the inveteracy of Hindu nationalist orthodoxy, are the trifling posers and quibbles of UN like “we haven’t had great deal of research in this area”, “what if we are wrong”, “Philosophy is Science” and “Objectively and not subjectively criticize the nature of our state” (This one is clearly a disguised special pleading of critical immunity for Vedas / Upanishads / Sastras) and then side-stepping responsibility for it by qualifiers like ‘provided’ , ‘instead’ and ‘ifs’.

          The article cited by Satish in his response, very clearly shows that there is plenty of research available in public domain for analyzing ancient scriptures as well as historical and sociological investigation of the India of Ancient and medieval periods.

          Of course the ostrich like attitude of Hindu nationalism can and does respond to these realities by ignoring them, pretending and proclaiming the poverty of such research, defaming the authors of such studies as Marxist and westernized or as apologists of Christianity and/or by engaging in its own version of revisionism in defiance of all rules of historical and research methodology.

          • Thank you for your long reply, Ranganath and my apologies for my late response.

            The term Brahminism that you use refers to, I am assuming, a divisive discriminatory practice that sought to subjugate a fraction of the masses while simultaneously and unfairly empower another fraction of people. Although this usage itself is pretentious, I will speak your lingo so that we are on the same page.

            Brahminism in the form that you have mentioned actually has very little support from Vedantic/Upanishadic literature in so far that the Brahmins are not authorized to commit violent or “deadly” crimes against the lower castes as you claim. The fact that Manu Smriti and perhaps Apastamba and Gautama Sutras offer physical punishments to Sudras is not in any way indicative of a spiritual creed in place during the ancient Vedic times, nor did this creed evolve as you seem to think in your long list of scripture.

            Consider for example several references in the Veda itself denouncing caste-based crimes or discrimination

            Yajurved 18.48:
            O Lord! Provide enlightenment/ compassion to our Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras. Provide me also with the same enlightenment so that I can see the truth.
            Yajurved 20.17:
            Whatever crime we have committed against my village, forest or committee; whatever crime we have committed through our organs, whatever crime we have committed against Shudras and Vaishyas, whatever crime we have done in matters of Dharma, kindly forgive us relieve us from the tendency of the same.
            Yajurved 26.2:
            The way I gave this knowledge of Vedas for benefit of all humans, similarly you all also propagate the same for benefit of Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Shudras, Vaishyas, Women and even most downtrodden. The scholars and the wealthy people should ensure that they not deviate from this message of mine.
            Atharvaved 19.32.8:
            O Lord! May I be loved by everyone – Brahmin, Kshatriya, Shudra or Vaishya. May I be admired by everyone.

            This viewpoint also did not evolve as drastically as you think, given references in itihasas esp. with regards to development of character, a corner-stone for vedantic spirituality.
            By your own dating, the difference between the Mahabharat and Vedas are 1-1.5 Millenia, however, the social stratification had still not been in place as evidenced below in Mahabharat Vana Parva, Tirtha Parva SECTION CLXXIX
            ” Those characteristics that are present in a Sudra, do not exist in a Brahmana; nor do those that are in a Brahmana exist in a Sudra. And a Sudra is not a Sudra by birth alone–nor a Brahmana is Brahmana by birth alone. He, it is said by the wise, in whom are seen those virtues is a Brahmana. And people term him a Sudra in whom those qualities do not exist, even though he be a Brahmana by birth.”

            “it is difficult to ascertain one’s caste, because of promiscuous intercourse among the four orders. This is my opinion. Men belonging to all orders (promiscuously) beget offspring upon women of all the orders. And of men, speech, sexual intercourse, birth and death are common. And to this the Rishis have borne testimony by using as the beginning of a sacrifice such expressions as–of what caste so ever we may be, we celebrate the sacrifice… He is considered as a Sudra as long as he is not initiated in the Vedas.”

            By your own dating, until the 4th c. BC Brahminism was not prevalent or at least the spiritual authorities of the time made it clear that such practices should be shunned. Keep in mind, that I am using your own criteria of reading through scriptures as they evolved to reach my conclusions.

            However, by the time of British colonialism, we see Brahminism had spread a great deal, and I have read on your site quite often that Adi Sankara somehow had a role in promoting Brahminism. First of all, let me make it clear that I actually don’t make the claim that the Mughals or Westerners had enforced the caste-system on India although I think they did a mighty good job of associating spiritual Vedanta with the propagation of the caste-system (CS), caste itself being a Portuguese word. Perhaps it was an honest misconception, perhaps it was not. In either case, the history does tell us that CS seemed to be in place by the time British rule was enacted on India. During the time of Buddha also, there were bad apples and this is what forced Buddha to shun Vedas and Brahminical authority – a fair enough point. But to say that Vedanta somehow discriminates against Sudras is not convincing. The article that has been cited in response to the Hindu Council of UK, does not consider the traditional meaning of the Purusha Sukta for example. The article does not consider the above references I have provided either, but that is a different story.

            brAhmaNo asya mukhamAseet | bAhoo rAjanya: krta: |
            ooru tadasya yad vaishya | padbhyAm shoodro ajAyata ||

            From His face were born the Brahmins and from His arms were born the royalty. From His waist were born the Vaishyas and from His feet came the Sudras.

            Of course this looks like it is giving Sudras the shorter straw and I realise that I can’t convince you that this has a metaphorical meaning that does not imply discrimination. However, scholarly interpretation of the verses that follow might help

            nAbhyA Aseedantariksham | sheerSHNau dhyau: samavartata |
            padbhyAm bhoomir disha: shrotrAt | tathA lokAm akalpayan || 14 ||
            Space unfolds
            From his navel
            The sky well formed
            From his head
            His feet, the earth
            His ears the Quarters
            Thus they thought up
            All the worlds.

            Here it also says that the earth came from his feet. Since we are all residing on the earth, why not say that the Vedas were saying the Brahmins came from the feet of the Lord also? Why don’t you make this interpretation instead of focusing on the verses before this? This is not just a question for you, but for the community of orthodox Brahmins also.

            My point is that Brahmins caused all of the caste problems, but this is not spiritually sanctioned. The meaning of verses from the Veda like the Purusha Sukta require a great deal of contemplation rather than making rash conclusions.

            As for my ‘violent invective’ I am amused that you find [slap on the head] as violent invective – perhaps you understood it to mean slap on the head of the author of the article, (whereas I meant slap on my head!). My other point is that you seem to exaggerate the situation with words like ‘deadly’ and ‘fatal’ whereas I have pointed out in this post that violent crimes against ‘lower’ varnas was not sanctioned. True, that in rural areas there is the threat of violence against dalits, but to say that Vedanta has anything to do with this is far-fetched. If anything, Vedantins have improved the situation. It is we that ask for the caste system to be abolished, it is the politicians that still want it there.

            I have tried to argue on your forums, but have found that it is actually you who are dismissive of my arguments against blaming every major social malady in the country to Vedanta and Hinduism. So, I had to make short, deriding remarks. Now that you want an actual argument I have provided one. I know you’re response. You will give me more links, and references and arguments. They will be from your forums, or from shastras or news articles about the plight of Dalits etc. I know all of this – so no need to give me any of those. I replied because you seemed to think that cozy and arrogant people such as myself were copping out from discussion.

          • Satish Chandra

            Mahesh,

            Let me point out a hidden premise in your comment – That the Varna system is of any good.

            It isn’t. It is an inherently flawed idea.

            And as expected, the Vedas in their infinite wisdom don’t throw away the flawed idea. Neither do the enlightened souls (like Vivekananda). They only make excuses upon excuses on how the flawed idea isn’t so flawed. That in essence shows the moral failing of Vedanta which you so feverishly defend. Cherry pick all you want, but nothing less than a complete disavowal of the flawed idea will redeem Vedanta in any measure.

    • Mahesh,

      This article was devoted to the theme of demonstrating the inanity of the Upanishads (their being devoid of any philosophy or sterling moral or intellectual ideas) and their sole obsession with metaphysical fantasies.

      It was Upanishads and its Vedanta variants that were on trial in this instance, not Brahminism per se. Yet one initial note on Brahmnism that was intended as a foreword was latched onto by you and made the cornerstone of the accusation of sophomoric snobbery of this article.

      Be that as it may be, your response to my defence gets worse with greater fallacies of cherry-picking, misquotations (spiritual sanction for casteism), distortions of historical references, ideological license in filling the gaps of chronology and more.

      I will come to the fallacy of cherry-picking Yajur Veda quotes later. Let us look at your lapse of misquoting my comment and conjuring a view that

      “Brahminism in the form that you have mentioned actually has very little support from Vedantic/Upanishadic literature in so far that the Brahmins are not authorized to commit violent or “deadly” crimes against the lower castes as you claim.”

      and then the glib denial that

      “a divisive discriminatory practice that sought to subjugate a fraction of the masses while simultaneously and unfairly empower another fraction of people” was ever a crime of Brahminism.

      Such practices are fiction and India was an egalitarian paradise, till the Mughals and the British descended to despoil this Eden of ‘high spiritual creed’!!!. And It is just my pretensious usage and you are rephrasing this as part of a compliment of retaliatory favor to me. Then comes the icing on the cake of apologetic snobbery which says;

      “The fact that Manu Smriti and perhaps Apastamba and Gautama Sutras offer physical punishments to Sudras is not in any way indicative of a spiritual creed in place during the ancient Vedic times, nor did this creed evolve as you seem to think in your long list of scripture.”

      But then there is not answer about which kind of creed or values of society are indicated by Manu Smriti and other Dharmasastras. Also you are emphatic that this creed did not evolve into a regressive one over the period of these scriptures till the Puranas.

      Surely they must have materialized as warm greetings to our Mughal and British colonialists!!!.

      Because that is that what of your subsequent ignorant and historially amnesic comments seem to imply like:

      “By your own dating, until the 4th c. BC Brahminism was not prevalent or at least the spiritual authorities of the time made it clear that such practices should be shunned. Keep in mind, that I am using your own criteria of reading through scriptures as they evolved to reach my conclusions.”

      Now you are hedging with 2 positions of the non-existence of Brahminism and authoritative spiritual restraint on Brahminical excesses and not sure about either

      Can you name these great spiritual authorities who did the lip service of such salutary edicts against discrimination and mutely stood by in the unfolding spectacle of social degeneracy of those times.

      Sorry Mahesh!, you are not using any of my criteria, but you are blatantly misusing and distorting them to serve some of the most ridiculuous apologies of caste system that you are laboring to make.

      Since according to you, caste is Portugese is origin, do you want add the Portugese to the list of colonial offenders! and polluters of our great spiritual creed.

      Then it is a new and revelatory lesson to me in meaning and interpretation that the do-googer banalities of the Yajur Veda 18.48, 20.17, 26.2 are really denunciations of caste-based crimes or discrimination. If this is how the Vedas ‘denounced’ casteism and discrimination, no wonder the Brahmins did not listen to or care about it.

      Since you have anyway waded into the minefield of cherry-picking, of all things the Yajur Veda, that almost endless chronicle of some of the worst ritualistic orgies of Vedic liturgy, let me return the compliment by revealing to you the riches of embarrasment that lurks in its verses and those of Atharva Veda.

      Yajur Veda turned your so-called ‘poetic’ and metaphorical rendering of Purusha Sukta of the Rig Veda into an elaborate Purushamedha or the Naramedha Yagna (human sacrifice). You may consult enotes for notings of this yagna, where there are references to western indologists speculating on whether the human sacrifices were real or symbolic. Obviously red-faced Indian historians have stayed away from any reference to this shameful practice. (I quoted this from enotes since that is not surely affiliated to Nirmukta or rationalists, which is about the only concession I can make for your anti-rationalist sensibilities)

      Not content with this atrocity, Yajur veda has rites and chants for Ashwameda sacrifice (Horse sacrifice), where its Vajasneya Samhita mentions consorts of Offering Kings copulating with the dead horses. The bestiality of Yajur Veda puts the incest of Rig Veda to shame.

      Then there is the Putra Kameshti Yagna, which is a Vedic sanction for surrogacy. Not to be left behind the Artharva Veda provides its blessings for phallic worship as may be seen in the hymn in Atharva-Veda X.7

      I am aware of how Angiveer tries to rescue the Vedas from these charges by his/its spindoctorism, but that does not cut any ice, because there are lot of other smoking gun references and inferences to show the barbarity and savagery of the Yajur Veda and Atharva Veda.

      One look at the indices of both these Vedas is enough to make any sensible person throw up in disgust

      If the Vedas could sanction and ritualize bestialities and debaucheries like these and worse, why is it not capable of sanctioning caste discrimination. Brahiminic ideological hegemony did something better than that. It used scriptural hierarchy to simply institutionalize caste system.

      • I am actually surprised. I expected a much more erudite and thorough rebuttal. Although the mannerisms of your reply are as expected, the content is lacking of any proper references, names or dates. That I did not expect from such a great scholar such as yourself. So let me greet you back in the same manner.

        Firstly, I mentioned explicitly that I did not blame the Mughals and the British for the caste system, and yet your reply makes it seem like I did. I hope you realize why Vedantins accuse you folks of making strawman arguments.

        Also, If you don’t see denouncing of discrimination against Sudras in the verses from the Yajur Veda, then sorry but you really don’t get it. The Vedas and Upanishads don’t command. They guide.

        Here’s the problem. You seem to think that ‘Brahminism’ was a ubiquitous practice. It developed in pockets, over time.

        Worst of all, however, you think that the Yajur Veda promotes human sacrifice! Based on what ‘Western Indologists’ (like who?) say. Right – because they actually practice the Veda, that clearly makes them the authority. How many Vedic priests who belong to the Yajur Veda Shaaka do you know who do that? What historical evidence is there for this, exactly? Pray tell how this practice disappeared – I want to know what fairy tales you concoct now. The Chandogya Upanishad Section 3 Chapter XVI-XVII clearly mentions that man is a sacrifice by symbolism only and even mentions Rk Veda verses to elaborate on this theme.

        “Then there is the Putra Kameshti Yagna, which is a Vedic sanction for surrogacy.” What is wrong with that exactly?
        Then you mention phallic worship being sanctioned. Again, that’s utter nonsense. Not a shred of evidence for this. You and your great Western Indologists read into it that way, but this is neither practiced nor is there any historical evidence that it was practiced. Anyway, what does this have to do with Brahminism?

        I am actually surprised that you would lose your cool and come up with such desperate arguments. That is why I said – you are the one who is dismissive. You are completely dismissive of the ‘savage’ Yajur Veda – you know, the one which EXPLICITLY repents for crimes against Sudras. Such barbarism! Then you side-step the reference to the Mahabharata. Good move. It will serve you well to ignore it.

        As for what creed was mentioned in the Gautama and Manu Smriti, the answer is simple. They were creeds of their own. They developed later than the Vedas and the first to actually denounce these were Vedantins like Sankara, Dhyaneshwar and Eknath. By the time of Dhyaneshwar at least, the ‘Brahminism’ as you want to call it was very much wide spread.

        At the time of the Mahabharat and the early parts of the Bhagavata Puran were being compiled, there was no wide-spread practice of ‘Brahminism’.

        I think I take it back. Your writing is not sophomoric. It is childish. You clearly write with a great deal of vitriol, which is one thing, but then you make a poor case for Brahminism having any connection with the Vedas.

        Thanks, but no thanks. I think I am on firmer ground with my convictions now after reading your reply.

      • Furthermore, when I give you several references, you dismiss them as ‘cherry-picking’ whereas you and your cronies are experts at these kind of arguments. Take a look at your own reference of ashwamedha. Never mind the expanse of literature on Ahimsa – a philosophy quite uniquely emphasized in Vedanta, but also found in Abrahamic religions to a lesser extent. We find statements like Ahimsa Paramo dharma (Mahabharata XVIII:116.37-41.), “Do not injure the beings living on the earth, in the air and in the water.” (Yajur Veda, Taittiriya Aranyaka). Just a few of the sea of statements that condemn violence against living beings, but instead you take the verses that fit well with your rhetoric.

        Another common trick you use is to slide away from the topic of discussion. I touched on the issue of ‘Brahminism’ because you mentioned it in your post. Granted it was not the topic of your post, but given that Brahman was expounded by the priests and monks and since you take a dig at them, so it only makes sense to critically analyze your position before going further into whatever it is you have opined about the philosophy itself. There has to be authoritative source for any ideology to be contemplated on. Instead, you went off on into the distant yonder talking about horse & human sacrifices and other topics not even remotely germane to the topic at hand.

        Anyway, to me varna is not important. If you would taken the time to actually read the Mahabharat reference you would find that there is no “pure” caste. The scripture itself says so. Swami Vivekananda and others, Mr. Satish, only pointed out that classification based on profession is a natural outcome of any civilization. Don’t tell me that there is no such thing as class welfare in the western world. I stay in the US, I have seen what capitalism can do.

        There is one thing in common between our views and that is that the Caste System is a cancer on society. Why not do something to eradicate it, rather than whine about Vedanta (of which you have done nothing to convince me that it has anything to do with the Caste System) and point fingers? Vedantins have already taken the initiative and are doing the dirty work (like AIM for Seva). All you pseudo-rationalists have done is spread your vitriolic diatribe against the very people who have rolled up their sleeves and are actually doing something useful.

        • Satish Chandra

          Why not do something to eradicate it, rather than whine about Vedanta (of which you have done nothing to convince me that it has anything to do with the Caste System) and point fingers?

          Just because you have deluded yourself that caste is same as division of labor or class division, and then concluded that Vedanta actively opposes caste, it doesn’t make it so. Despite shrill cries from the likes of you of how great a worldview Vedanta is, it couldn’t even discard the Varna system because it is an integral part of Brahmanism, the same Brahmanism which you are so desperately trying to delink from Vedanta.

          Vivekananda is prescribing how a society should function. Not how it is, or what it “naturally” should be. The “should function” part is what Ambedkar says as “would face impossible difficulties in practice”. You are clueless of caste issues which is typical of your kind (which can be remedied by spending some time on Ambedkar instead of getting all worked up with us “pseduo-rationalists”. Here’s a start: http://ccnmtl.columbia.edu/projects/mmt/ambedkar/web/index.html).

          • Let me give you a piece of advice because you need it badly. Before assuming another person’s views and knowledge on a topic, maybe consider what the person is saying. I did not delude myself into anything. Varna is a class division based on profession, read up on Vedanta before making your twisted comments. Vedanta does oppose caste and the caste system, however. They are two different things. Do you know why the opposition is made? Because the Portuguese word casta, from which caste gets its name, does not even mean the same as varna. Casta means race. And your beloved Ambedkar himself had this to say about that

            “The Brahmin of Punjab is racially of the same stock as the Chamar of Punjab. The Caste system does not demarcate racial division. The Caste system is a social division of people of the same race” ( Ambedkar, The Annihilation of Caste. p.49 of his Writings and Speeches, vol.1, Education Dpt., Government of Maharashtra 1979)

            I have read up on him, so next time don’t make the typically arrogant “if-only-you-knew-what-i-knew” rhetoric that you bury your head deep into. If you spend time reading up on Vedanta instead of reading what a disgruntled, angry, sentimental Marathi man from the early twentieth c. wrote on Vedanta, you would not be here. It was unfortunate that he was a victim of the caste system, it was equally unfortunate that he blamed the Vedas for it. He was entitled to his views, but he also was a bit of a power-lust.

            If you’re such an expert, why don’t you tell me what varna and caste mean? It’s clever how you now call it the Varna system, making up your own usage. For clueless people ‘of my kind’, the caste system is certainly not an issue why else would Vedantins spend their time writing about overcoming caste bias?
            http://sanskritdocuments.org/all_pdf/manishhaa5.pdf
            Why they never talked about how the Indian society is-
            http://www.ramakrishnavivekananda.info/vivekananda/volume_3/buddhistic_india.htm
            http://www.ramakrishnavivekananda.info/vivekananda/volume_3/lectures_from_colombo_to_almora/the_future_of_india.htm
            http://www.ramakrishnavivekananda.info/vivekananda/volume_4/translation_prose/modern_india.htm
            and it’s not like there was any champion of anti-Vedanta who made violence inciting remarks against Brahmins
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Periyar_E._V._Ramasamy#Anti-Brahmanism_vs._Anti-Brahmin
            But as a ‘rationalist’, you probably would enjoy the tit-for-tat scenario. Some guy two hundred years ago didn’t allow my ancestor to touch him, so let’s punish his great-great-great-great grandson and completely dump on his religion. After all, that’s what being a ‘rationalist’ means.

          • Satish Chandra

            Mahesh,

            I think it clear who is here for tit-for-tat scenario (“One of the most sophomoric polemics nirmukta has published”). So don’t pretend you are something else.

            Caste means Jati. It is also used loosely to mean Varna (as Vivekananda does). Only in light-year length stretches of imagination does it mean race, just so that you can play your tit-for-tat games. Both Varna dharma and Jati dharma are flawed ideas.

            You are clueless about caste issues not because I assumed something about you or I-know-what-you-don’t, but because of the evidence you have provided:

            It is we that ask for the caste system to be abolished, it is the politicians that still want it there.

            To abolish caste you need to empower those who were affected by caste the most. You can’t just say “I don’t believe in caste” and smile beatifically. That will not do. People who are clueless about caste issues will take any attempts at empowerment as “politicians want it” or “votebank politics”. I will grant that there is political opportunism. But that is not all that is there to it. Anybody who is not clueless will understand that.

            All you pseudo-rationalists have done is spread your vitriolic diatribe against the very people who have rolled up their sleeves and are actually doing something useful.

            One person who has contributed more than anyone else in India to remove caste is Ambedkar. And yet you simply dismiss him as “power-lusty”, “disgruntled”, “angry” and “sentimental”. There can’t be any greater testament to your clueless than that. Even Gandhi, who was even more clueless about caste than you, had enough sense to understand what Ambedkar wanted.

            Some guy two hundred years ago didn’t allow my ancestor to touch him, so let’s punish his great-great-great-great grandson and completely dump on his religion.

            It isn’t about you. There’s no need to be so self-centered. It is about empowerment of other people who aren’t privileged like us. When I say “your kind”, I mean people who are clueless about caste issues and valiantly defend Sanatana Dogma. That’s it. It’s not because you are a brahmin or whatever. Also, being clueless doesn’t mean you are an “enemy”. Again, it is not about you. It is about how even well-intentioned people (like Vivekananda) can cause harm because they rely on myths.

          • Before you get yourself into a twist, let me clarify to say that Ambedkar was a power-lust in so far as pursuing a political career and so had to have a manifesto centered around anti-Brahminism. Not to say he was being selfish. I have equal respect for the man too. In fact, I don’t know what you’re problem is. He himself said “Brahmins are not our enemies but those people who are moved by Brahmanya are our enemies. Hence, a Brahmin shorn of his caste consciousness is closer to us than a non-Brahmin with caste-consciousness”. You somehow, don’t want to listen to what even he is saying.

          • “I think it clear who is here for tit-for-tat scenario (“One of the most sophomoric polemics nirmukta has published”). So don’t pretend you are something else.”

            I don’t know how this means I am here for a tit-for-tat, I expressed my opinion. That’s all. Even if it was for some form of retribution, it certainly is not one that advocates violence like ‘rationalists’ such as Periyar wanted.

            “To abolish caste you need to empower those who were affected by caste the most. You can’t just say “I don’t believe in caste” and smile beatifically. That will not do.

            Fair enough. We have something we agree about.

            And yet you simply dismiss him as “power-lusty”, “disgruntled”, “angry” and “sentimental”. There can’t be any greater testament to your clueless than that.

            I clarified what I meant by power-lusty later. That was not the best choice of words I admit.

            It is about how even well-intentioned people (like Vivekananda) can cause harm because they rely on myths.
            Well at least you think Swami Vivekananda is well-intentioned. Like I said before. Neither of us want to see the caste system being practiced. It makes more sense to figure out how to empower those in need. That is not something I will argue against.

        • As much as these articles and some comment trails try to stay on the level of a macroscopic evaluation of ancient Vedic/Hindu texts and assess their contribution to an evolving yet disadvantageous social order, the level is dragged several notches down by reprehensible tactics of Hindu Nationalist apologetics.

          I have cataloged some of the more notable of these argumentative fallacies on this comment trail during my exchanges with one Laxmi Narayana

          You have continued on that same collision course by adopting your own variant of a red herring of the ‘Spiritual sanctity’ for casteism by Vedanta and then proceeding to erect and knock down this straw man by selective and specious reading and rationalizing of historical events, chronologies and verses of texts.

          It is not surprising that these exchanges invariably end in acrimony and vituperative mud-slinging. But the Hindu nationalist provocateur conveniently forgets his own first strike in violating the decorum of debate.

          Surveyed at a high and synoptic level, the Vedic texts from the Vedas to the Puranas (with Vedanta included) are repugnant, antithetical and hostile to modern secular and liberal values, systems and ethics.

          This broad conclusion as a tenet of morality and perspective of progressive intellectual spirit is inescapable, yet it is unable to pierce the thick skull of modern Hindu jingoistic temper, which continues to entangle these debates and arguments in the trivialities of nit-picking and hair-splitting over verses and refashioning interpretation to pass off these texts as great moral and spiritual guides.

          That said let me now come to the unpleasant task of the diversionary tedium of rejoinders to your Mahabharata references from which I am supposed to have stayed away due to want of scholarship and a fit of vitriolic insolence.

          Mahabharata in its current state is a series of recension, redaction and interpolations, which poses challenges in determining when which passage was recorded. The epic has been speculated to be worked on as late as 500 CE. Even the passage quoted by you, is evidential of the existence of a well-established discriminative caste or class system and the ethical discomfiture (as against any feeling of revulsion or angst) that it poses to its upper class authorship. Any reading of this passage without preconceived religious bias will reveal it to be an apologetic gloss and not a condemnation of or stricture against casteism.

          Brahmin apologists of ancient India have struggled and juggled with many explanatory camouflages and glosses to keep a lid on this cauldron of casteist menace. The tactic or trick in all such arguments is to skirt around the problem of birth as the real causative agent of social stratification of masses, and focus on the progression of entitlements based on merit through quibbles and pompous posturing and falsely show merit as the greater determinant of status than birth.

          Critics focus, not just on stray passages of Mahabharata, but on its broad narrative and theme and certain defining events in their chronology to draw conclusions or deductions of what state of society or its direction it represents. Using such a method the verdict is not favorable either to Mahabharata or even Ramayana. Even overtly or covertly feudal narratives can be punctuated by some reformist sounding messages and feudal elites are capable of making pious noises. But that does not alter the big picture of an stratified society stuck in a time-warp.This epic for all its lip service to merit could not do any justice to either Ekalavya or Karna.

          • Obviously your definition of discrimination is different from what the word actually means.

            “Brahmin apologists of ancient India…”. What brilliant chicanery. Yes, of course – everybody is an apologist but for atheists and rationalists. Except when it comes to defending the disgusting practices of state atheism in Soviet Russia, as your friends who have debated me previously have done so, to the extent of admitting “Well no atheist today would do any such harm”. Yeah, right.

            As long as history can tell Brahmins have been apologists according to you. Even the compilers of the Veda! Of the handful of verses in the Vedas/Upanishads that even mention Varna, there are hints of your ‘apologism’ lurking secretively in the undertones, mesmerizing the masses so as to make them adopt a comatose mental state awaiting to be awakened by the hidden agenda of a subjugating band of greedy, evil, power hungry Brahmins.

            Thanks for the Bollywood movie plot, but reality is far removed from that. I think you are the real apologist. You play the typical atheist game of changing your stance once your first argument has been shown to carry little evidence (retracing in the scriptural genealogy the rising power and influence of the 3 upper castes). So now once there is evidence suggesting a plutocratic power lust did not exist from scripture, what do we do? Sit back and change the rules of the game. No longer are we supposed to take a look at the content of the scripture (supposed stray passages. Yeah, stray passages when I quote them, hardcore evidence when you quote them). Now we’re supposed to look at the BROAD NARRATIVE. And let’s throw in some random references about Eklavya too for sentimental value as though the author of the Mahabharata thought that there was nothing wrong with what Dronacharya did, when the truth is far more different.
            http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m01/m01135.htm (End of pg 281)
            FYI – Eklavya was a Kshatriya.
            News flash – You can’t fool everybody, especially people who have bothered to read up and find out about reality. Nice try though. Since we are kids we are taught about the evils of caste system as it was prevalent in Hindu scripture but a much more critical analysis, away from emotionally charged rhetoric exposes the mass delusion that has gripped the country.

  • After reading Maheshji commands, I come to a conclusion that we cannot bend straight the dog’s tail!!! Ranganathji and Satishji your replays are excellent!

    It may be more than thousands of years of coziness and juiciness they enjoying out of this veda and sanathana dharma, could we simply make them realize by our skimpy remarks? No, it is difficult, how clever mahesji bottling distilled water out of ditch. The god (if he is there), his advise must be free from controversies and grubbiness, but the veda, I don’t think it is fit for others except Brahmin, contains as much as of flattery poems, brahmas chase of saraswathy like controversies, a stinking societal order, countless copy paste of rationalist approach(thanks to charavak and buddha), something like emptiness, nothingness and keeps go on countless advises.

    There are nearly 80crore population in india running for their daily needs. Education, enlightenment, philosophy or sceience and tech are the alien words for them and very few only come out with great struggle as against greedy manuvadis . Their plight to fill their stomach, and please and feed the top fold sitting mass is worry some story. The top fold masses are constantly and indirectly culturing and seeding them in the muddy belief of veda and creating a situation like veda has all the godly quality and making them to believe like veda or vedic god only forcing them to run like a mad to work always for the others (the lazy mass) and they are very least bothered for their self care. I think this is happening for many centuries and manuvadis steadily achieving this, poor mass succumb to these fake teachings.

    The govt and its machinery, most of the media were full of people from manuvadis implementing the best of situation like all fake godly fire live in the minds of poor and helpless mass. I am reading a news of manus lineage chopping dalit nose, throbbing minors genital organs, releasing the culprits who killed 12people including minors and etc.. What a great achievement keeps counted on the manus journeys!!! I don’t see any big difference between Mahesh and these kinds of people since vedic principle recommends these kind of punishment to low caste people who cross violet manus code of conduct.

    The depth of foolishness and immorality in the Indian society are immeasurable, these gruffness is due to implanted vedic principle in the minds of poor sections.

    The greatness of Ambedkarji of gifting the constitutional frame structure in midst dudes of manuvadis (a phony intelligence) is remarkable. Ok, he is lust for power! yes, that was his least opportunity to serve the helpless masses and he achieved it. This is a changing worlds, I believe there come a day, all religious books buried down as waste including the veda.

    • Pannaichan,

      Thanks a lot for your support to the cause of our battle against stubborn Hindu nationalism. I meant to acknowledge your earlier response, but somehow missed it.

      Though sympathizers of Brahmin elitism detest that word, manuvadi that you brought, manuism is what plagues modern Brahmin elitism too. It only now has many more disguises and masks

      While we cannot straighten the ‘dog’s tail’ of strident Hindutva responses of the likes of Mahesh, but we draw some encouragement from the more muted responses of Hindu reaction in these comment trails and work on a more detailed take-down of the irrationalities.

      • Thank you for your regard Sir, It is interesting to read many article in this website. I am seeing a generosity of moderator permitting all kind of theist remarks, wherein, it is difficult to post single rational remarks in any of the theist web/blogs. To prove the legitimacy rationalist has to bear all the muddy attacks, but for the spread of lies many organization working including the people from govt machinery. Hope truth only prevails!

    • I don’t really care what you think about me or even my spiritual beliefs. Since you are talking about social issues now, let me throw in my two cents about that issue and not talk about spirituality for a while.

      With all of the accusations that I am clueless about the plight of lower castes in rural areas, maybe it would do well to consider ALL people suffering from poverty and lack of education. Yes, SC/ST/OBCs have it tougher because of discrimination at the local level, I am fully aware of that. Just spare a thought for ALL of India’s poor for one second and come out of your pick-and-choose sympathizing. For just one moment do that.

      I know about this, because I come from a family that has experienced poverty first hand. No race or caste came to our rescue. WE had to get up and do things for ourselves.

      I don’t see any big difference between Mahesh and these kinds of people since vedic principle recommends these kind of punishment to low caste people who cross violet manus code of conduct.
      You have either not read a single one of my arguments on this issue or you are unconvinced. Whatever the case, I find it disingenuous (and I say that politely) that after all of the empathy that I have shown, and all of the Manu Smriti bashing that I have done, you and your cronies can come up and use senseless, spiteful labels.

      If empathizing with the downtrodden makes you branded a Hindutva or compared to a violent criminal, then I don’t what to say. Well, this heartless Hindutva proponent has one request. The next time you look at the dirt smeared face of a child on the side of the road begging for alms, don’t find a pretense to play the blame game. If this is not about me, then it is not about any of you either. It is about them. For once, get your head out of this rut that you can get a nice chip on your shoulder or pat on the back or some social service award by blaming the Hindu religion for the current and potential future of these people. They don’t care about that. They don’t care what YOU think about any religion.

      You don’t know me. I don’t know you. So, unlike you, I will refrain from judging your character. I have scrutinized the veracity of this article and the author, as he deserves. I have scrutinized the intentions behind writing this. I am a scholar myself and I can tell you that if an article like this ever passes through a peer-reviewed journal it would never see the light of day. But you have clearly taken this issue way over the top and exaggerated everything I have said. Finally, the reason why there are muted Hindu responses to articles like these isn’t because your articles are changing the mindsets of Hindus. Or that they are amazed by your brilliant insights. It’s because we have heard this all too many times now, and we’re sick of it. The muted lot did the smart thing by ignoring this article (unlike myself I now realize) and are actually making a change for not just their country but everywhere they go. We are not nationalists, at least I am not. Heck, I was not even raised in India for most of my childhood and have no attachment to the country whatsoever. For me spirituality is something personal, but humanity is a public issue. If by spreading hatred you think that you will win, think again. We have had enough of hate.

      • Thanks Mahesh for letting the real cat of your sympathies out of the bag. For such little or no attachment to India, you seem to have great attachment to its moth-eaten scriptures (Vedas and Vedanta) which are apparently more valuable and sacrosanct than the plight of society and lives.

        I would also like to know how the shrill Hindus like you and your more famed muted brethren change the world and lives, wherever they go, by building temples and cultish organizations all over the place in US and Canada and sponsoring spiritualist and health quackery like Deepak Chopra style???!!!

        While having no pretensions to scholarship myself, I am really ‘honored’ to be lectured to by a ‘great scholar’ like you.

        Though you have provided enough instances of judging, pre-judging and abusing me, yet you have the cheek to arrogantly crow that you refrained from prejudging me.

        I have already provided my opinion of the kind of scant respect you have for the decorum of contention and debate.

        I will rest with this and refrain further from locking horns with this kind of mulish obstinacy and boorishness

        • I am not attached to any country for that matter. As I said, humanity is the real public issue. Apparently plight of society does not fit in with humanity, which is new to me. I think you are the real nationalist going by your sudden irate response. No problem. Thank you for engaging in the ‘debate’, which mostly included name-calling and prejudice especially towards the end. I had expected just as much – which is why I should have done the smart thing and taken my boorishness where people can actually discuss in a civil manner.

          • If humanity is indeed the real public issue, then perhaps the keyboard taps and clicks being expended in Reply buttons here are better redirected towards efforts like these. It is therefore a legitimate part of this overall project to challenge worldviews that encourage system-justification by romanticizing past glory and hence perpetuate the circumstances that necessitate philanthropic intervention.

            To quote a less frequently quoted portion of the ‘opium of the people’ quote of Marx,
            The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.
            Efforts like those of Sir Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul, who technically are not attached to any country, which seem to stem from manufactured nostalgia about ancestral greatness and are being co-opted into a contemporary revivalist agenda, demonstrably militate against ‘criticism of the vale of tears’ and therefore, stiff opposition to such romanticization of India’s past is only to be expected from anyone wishing for India to ‘give up a condition that requires illusions’.

          • What Marx thought is of no consequence to me. He lived in one utopian illusion and I am merely sustaining myself in a democratic system, living paycheck to paycheck. In the sparetime, I sit back and enjoy the ‘illusion’ of literature and culture that has been around for millenia. This ‘illusion’ of mine is gratifying. It is better than empty promises of communism and the anti-spiritual nature of secularism. And instead of hinted pleas and advertising for donations to secular organizations who are really only out there to fund and operate websites such as these and deconstruct supposed ‘inanities’ and gain political influence, it would serve you well to look at how quotas and ’empowerment’ drives are really hand-waving meant for keeping the people in the same condition that they are, while encouraging violence against those who peacefully protest against it
            http://news.oneindia.in/2006/08/24/police-lathicharge-anti-quota-students-rally-9-injured-1156426655.html
            http://raunakslife.blogspot.com/2006/05/being-part-of-anti-reservation-protest.html
            http://news.outlookindia.com/items.aspx?artid=383542

            and support senseless and eccentric public food fetishes which are meant to provoke sentiments of people. And you’re great secular humanism doesn’t think twice before casting stones either
            http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-04-16/hyderabad/31349198_1_telangana-students-association-student-groups-beef-festival
            Only in India can something like this happen. You would never see westerners do this in India or eat pork publicly in Muslim countries. They are more cultured and have a better sense of decency I suppose.
            Emotionally charged rhetoric never works.

          • Satish Chandra

            Mahesh,

            It seems you are clueless about other things as well. Sitting in a chair and typing away does not make you have a clue.

            And instead of hinted pleas and advertising for donations to secular organizations who are really only out there to fund and operate websites such as these and deconstruct supposed ‘inanities’ and gain political influence..

            Nirmukta is not a registered organization or a trust or an equivalent entity. As such it cannot accept donations. Your desire to uphold Vedanta is so strong that you delude yourself into typing patent absurdities like the above.

            And with your spiel on reservations, you have again made your cluelessness shine even more brightly. Your views stand as a perfect testament of the kind of ethics a Vedantic worldview produces. Affirmative action is needed if you agree to some premises like “equality is desirable”. There definitely needs to be periodic review of the policies to ensure efficiency, but denying the idea itself can mean only one thing – a hypocrite. You can’t say “I want equality” and at the same time type spiel like you did. Before you go all “scholarly” again, hypocrisy can be unintentional. Flawed worldviews can warp things such a way that cluelessness will seem like a virtue.

            Regarding beef eating, it is as harmless as eating chicken or mutton. The only sentiments which are hurt are those of superstitious and supremacist folks who are so self-centered that they can’t even acknowledge that other people’s preferences also matter.

          • What Marx thought is of no consequence to me. He lived in one utopian illusion…

            What the mythical Manu thought though, unfortunately is not entirely free of consequences; consequences which those who prefer hallucinating utopian illusions of an imagined Varna Dharma halcyon era are loath to admit.

            …support senseless and eccentric public food fetishes which are meant to provoke sentiments of people.

            Any dietary choice can appear senseless and fetishist to someone disapproving of it on whatever grounds. ‘Vegheads’ haven’t been spared that accusation either in the West. To submit to every such restriction out of fear of provoking sentiments of people, is a recipe for mass starvation as Prof. Nayak points out here.

          • I wasn’t talking about Nirmukta specifically as suggested by ‘such as these’.

            Quota system and the empowerment by reservations is not about equality. If you don’t get what I’m saying, then don’t reply to it either. You keep talking about my clueless nature, but not once have you shown how reservations or quota have anything to do with equal opportunity, or providing level playing fields. Not to mention making any evidence for Vedic ideology promoting any form of discrimination on basis of ‘jati’. Mere rants of self-appraisal and name-calling lead you nowhere.

            Regarding beef eating, it is as harmless as eating chicken or mutton. Tell that to the cow. Shows what a self-centered mindset YOU have. Harmless… what crap.

            @Arvind
            Next time you make assumptions on someone’s views, you should probably read them first. I have repeatedly said that Manu Smriti does not conform to Vedic principles.

            Finally, the article you mention is ludicrous. There are enough food grains to go for all. Being secular means respecting the sentiments of people, not calling those people names.

          • Satish Chandra

            I wasn’t talking about Nirmukta specifically as suggested by ‘such as these’.

            Earlier you said “..out there to fund and operate websites such as these and deconstruct supposed ‘inanities’ ..” Unless the nature of English language has changed, that sentence includes Nirmukta. So have you added lying to your scholarly pursuits?

            but not once have you shown how reservations or quota have anything to do with equal opportunity, or providing level playing fields

            Here you go.

            Regarding beef eating, it is as harmless as eating chicken or mutton. Tell that to the cow. Shows what a self-centered mindset YOU have. Harmless… what crap.

            Well, another tool in your eminent scholarly kit. Putting words in my mouth. I said “as harmless as” not “harmless”. There’s a difference.

          • I have repeatedly said that Manu Smriti does not conform to Vedic principles.

            So long as the scholarly types conveniently refrain from taking their Manu-Smriti-defending co-religionists to task over following such purportedly unVedic principles, they automatically forgo the right to complain when this taking to task is done only by the name-calling secularist types.

            Being secular means respecting the sentiments of people, not calling those people names.

            That’s what ingratiation means. Being secular means this.

          • So, what makes you think I don’t contribute to non-religious charities? You don’t know me, why would you make that conclusion?

            Organizations like yours might not be funded from donations now, but they can quickly go the way of the Richard Dawkins foundation or American Humanist Association who spend their money on useless protests outside fire departments and in parks, whereas the evil, religious people actually go out and do their jobs and also give to charity and do volunteering.

            I wasn’t lying – I see a trend. I have seen your YouTube videos, I have seen rationalists come on news channels debating. Some of the things are good, like clearing superstition but other endeavors are downright political propaganda and nothing more.

            Your article proves nothing BTW. And if this measly court ruling is what decades of empowerment has bought us, then we need to invest time and resources elsewhere.

            Finally, I said “as harmless as” not “harmless”. There’s a difference. Don’t teach me English, I know what you meant. You admit that there is harm being done to the animal. There is no difference between chicken and mutton or beef – but why particularly beef is not just religious sentiments, but also the way that they are slaughtered. You are clueless about animal rights.

            OK. You people are clearly narrow in your outlook. Good riddance and hope you fail in whatever it is you are trying to do, which I’m sure still not sure what it is. That’s why you can write about inanity. You people have good experience spreading it.

          • Satish Chandra

            Organizations like yours might not be funded from donations now, but they can quickly go the way of the Richard Dawkins foundation or American Humanist Association who spend their money on useless protests outside fire departments and in parks, whereas the evil, religious people actually go out and do their jobs and also give to charity and do volunteering.

            Another scholarly tool – black and white thinking not-so-subtly used to setup a strawman. Not all religious people are evil. You can do without making such stupid statements. RDF and other organizations do their thing to show that one can be charitable without religion.

            Your article proves nothing BTW. And if this measly court ruling is what decades of empowerment has bought us, then we need to invest time and resources elsewhere.

            Have you even read that particular post or just persued and quickly came back to this site to type another scholarly comment? Had you actually followed through the links, you would have seen some justifications for this conclusion “This requires an acknowledgment that certain individuals are disadvantaged and deserving of redress via special rights”

            You admit that there is harm being done to the animal. There is no difference between chicken and mutton or beef

            Then where are the likes of you protesting functions which serve chicken or mutton biriyani? “Harm” argument is just a rationalization of the superstition which has been sanctified by Vedantic thinking.

          • Satish Chandra

            You are clueless about animal rights.

            When I say you are clueless, I back it up with evidence from your own comments. That doesn’t mean you can throw around the word “clueless” casually. I have never said that harm to animals isn’t of any consequence. I was just pointing out the selective outrage at beef eating and making a huge stinking deal of it when eating other types of animals is given a pass.

          • There is no difference between chicken and mutton or beef – but why particularly beef is not just religious sentiments, but also the way that they are slaughtered. You are clueless about animal rights.

            It’s interesting the discussion has moved to something more concrete and literally meatier than the elusively vacuous inanity of Brahman. If interested in sinking your teeth into that, here’s a wide-ranging discussion in the forums on Religion in the Abattoir.

          • “Harm” argument is just a rationalization of the superstition which has been sanctified by Vedantic thinking.
            Everything is blamed on Vedantic thinking. You know, since no one else thought that about cruelty to animals.

            I did read your article and let me tell you why it proves nothing. I find that this useless discussion on your forum goes nowhere and that’s why I don’t bother to comment, but the ad hominem attacks which you think bolster your case deserve a reply. The amendment was made to a law that goes by Smriti to begin with. The British had put it into place. The law was fair. But we don’t follow Smriti anymore and I don’t want to go into that debate again. So we made an amendment. That’s what as a civilization we do. There is lack of foresight from previous generations and so the next generations make the amendments. What is your point? What does this have anything to do with denying liberty and equality when the law was setup for these purposes on the basis of Smriti no less? How is this a case for empowerment of dalits at all? If anything, going by this we should go back to Smriti since the early law-makers were the first to understand and implement equality.

            Now before you jump to your conclusions that I am advocating Smriti, which I know you will, let me say that we progress generation to generation amending laws based on present circumstances. In no way does this have to imply a shift away from Vedantic thinking nor does it imply that superstition is “sanctified by Vedantic thinking”. To even imply that harm to animals is superstitious is incredulous. I think I have had enough of you people. You will find every excuse you can to denigrate spirituality. Even when it is not on firm footing. Good riddance.

          • Satish Chandra

            To even imply that harm to animals is superstitious is incredulous.

            What is incredible is your scholarly logic. In a society where meat eating is accepted, the only reason to raise a stink against beef eating is the superstition that the cow is holy (and not the chicken, not the goat, not the pig), not to mention the implicit casteism. It has little to do with consideration or lack of it for “harm”. It takes blinkers the size of a scholarly ego to miss that point.

            I think I have had enough of you people.

            You said that a few times already. Heed your own advice and stop spamming this comment space.

  • This article seems like an emotional tirade rather than a rational and systematic attempt at explaining what is wrong with the upanishads. The writer has borrowed a few quotes from some well-known people and given us excerpts from some discussions that he purportedly had with vedantins. Apart from that, the article seems utterly directionless. At the end of the even the writer does not seem to know what exactly his problem with vedanta is. This article can therefore be categorized only as a vague complaint against vedanta and does not deserve to be considered as a rational rebuttal.

    • Hmm… I guess you guyz are the mute people Ranganath was talking about. On second thought, maybe not.

  • Ugra narasimha

    Ok! This sucks, it is frustrating for me who was born a brahmin, a vegetarian, having turned atheist at heart and having that ever so slight thread of attachment to a past which had hope for some and misery for many vanish as if it is a bad dream. I am still a vegetarian.

    My point is if every thing about ancient india was perverse and today as such it sucks to be dalits and muslims, oh the other group equally willing to spit on every other hindu as brahmin stooge, why not have a massacre a rebellion or a revolution, kicking out every caste hindu, destroy all temples, destroy all ancient decadent books, destroy all knowledge of the past in the name of liberation once and for all…. wait the dalits still practice animism… of follow that for it is pro native… or pro dravidic whatever that means… every body else is an aryan who descended into india with his indras and devendras and rama and krishna to enslave the native…

    Declare victory for the poor natives of India who were suppressed for thousands of years by deluded brahmins… kill them today for they are worthless people…

    What were dalits doing all these years during muslim rule and british rule and before that during native rule, when people were suppressing them, why didn’t they come out their forest dwellings and colonies and launch an attack on all those fellows who were making them feel like animals… Why are you whining now, past is past after all there is no use cry over spilled milk. Stand up, you don’t deserve the name dalit, nobody need be suppressed, build universities, build systems enough for every one, not whine on reservations, why not make an excess of everything. After all kancha illiah boasts of production as your main stay while all others are lazy buggers.

    If any guy who feels india is not worth it, he must migrate to other parts of the world. Who wants to live in such hate filled dirty, shitty place. It is a dirt ball of human misery, and animal cruelty, afterall in the land of holy cow there are a nation of mulims larger than all of middle east combined, who consider it their sacred duty to kill cows ha! holy cows. Let the remains of whatever left be fought between dalits, muslims and christians and adivasis, and liberal marxists… after all you contend every other guy who is not one of this group other than a marxist with any attachment to past glory if any is a hundu who must feel wretched by his existance and must do something.

    To hell with everybody(figure of speech, I don’t believe in hell either)… whiners and loosers… what might happen in the near future is a great muslim takeover and subsequent conversions, all the liberals will shut their mouths or loose head and slow drag to darkages.

    There is nothing worth doing in india… a swarm of 1 billion overblown obese country of smelly hairy beasts. It would never be a place worth living and dying for till indefinite time…

    Liberals suck, brahmins suck, yadavs, gowdas, modaliyars holeya, madiga eediga, mullah, muslims suck, dalits suck… their culture sucks, their huts that look like they are out from 10000bc. Their drains ooze into their homes, their attitudes suck, callous, irresponsible, hate mongering, vulgur, dirty and perverse people, useless lazy loosers who whine and cry… get up and fight if you have guts.

    Ha! for myself I would like to live in a utopia where everybody is equal, respectful of every induvudual and respectful of ancient past whatever be, todays germans are proud of their norse gods or animistic beliefs, todays greek celebrate their olympian gods by playing video games! LOL… nothing is permanent, after all I have seen hinduism disintegrate in front of organised mobs of arabs and europeans in name of islam or christian god… marxism is correct in a sense it teaches dialectic materialism, conflict is the source of human progress… native americans were destroyed and voila, we have powerful US, native religions and cultures all have died, everybody dies so in a nihilistic sense nothing matters so what measure is a dalit massacre of hindus… then at least have the courtesy to build a memorial to rama over the rebuilt babri masjid as a reminder that islam is the greatest religion and muhammad was the radio of god… Marxists be damned into perpetual state of limbo like north korea… you deserve… all those bloody people who mind their business and were honest people like my great grand father who was a village priest for no fault of his born into a brahmin family living in poverty and dying in it as a native of britain’s crown jewel or those of my kafir ancestors for the filthy rich obscene mughals be cut into pieces…

    • Satish Chandra

      Stop being such a drama king. If you do not subscribe to Brahmanism, then it’s not about you. It’s as simple as that.

    • It is a clever weaponly attack on the rational expressions, So yours claim is any number of dalits or poor section succumb to brutality century by century but you won’t acknowledge a fitting a remark and reply, Am I right? It seems again your mind is looking for sympathy protection as against truthful rational revelation of tainted vedic arguments. The unhealthy situation is the manus approach collectively applied against sudras at initial stage, now the very easy target is dalits(Panchamas) because the sudras(most of the OBC) thinks they are upper then dalits.

      Great your indirect calling and orienting most of the upper section and few low caste helpless mass as against the dalits and minorities. I hope, the people who think rationally, understand your cunningness. It is hardly a century, the people who lived in forest(as per your claim) come to the main stream and doing their best on national integration and safeguarding the secularism, otherwise, indian subcontinent might have outnumbered european regionalism. Your grandpa got atleast a temple to be priest a safe place, where, the money and food grains are donated, think about a farmer, who work on the same temple land all the years, harvesting his bloods and sweat and donating it to the same temple irrespective of the monsoon failure and natural calamity!

      You don’t have any moral to give rousing call to dalit to arise or migrate they slowly gaining their rights, they know what to do! This is their nation, their brotherhood nation, it is their right to live and coexist harmoniously. Shut your vedic blasphemy and let other live peace fully!!!

  • No response given to my comment on the article provided. Don’t bother giving one.

    It is interesting to see how you folks can use all forms of excuses and logical inconsistencies to make your case. Not only do you make sweeping conclusions about a person’s character (Hindutva proponent, no better than violent criminals, scholarly ego, clueless) you also use several tricks to get readers to look starry eyed at your contortion rhetoric.

    Right from sweeping generalizations about a philosophy being the sole or major cause for the condition of a group of people
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accident_%28fallacy%29
    and anyone who supports it being identical to criminals who label themselves with the same group identity
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Association_fallacy
    To self-victimization and argumentum ad misericordiam(a common trick that muslim extremists also use)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appeal_to_pity

    Sorry that my clueless, scholarly ego has spammed your website. So long as you spread lies and exaggerate things, you can expect someone to debate you.

    • There are such things as misapplied fallacies.

      All religions claim some form of exceptionalism and it is unsurprising that apologists will conveniently accuse critics who call them out on this, ofDestroying the Exception. Hindus in particular claim exceptionalism by insist that theirs is ‘not a religion but a way’, which is called out on even within Hindu circles. To claim exceptionalism without sufficient grounds is Special Pleading and unless grounds are supplied, simply chanting ‘accident fallacy’ isn’t an adequate response to a charge of Special Pleading.

      A remark that a certain behavior of a given individual is similar to behaviors typically associated with a certain group, becomes an association fallacy only if the limited observation of the said behavior is generalized to conclude that the individual automatically has all traits of that group. For the case in point. For the case in point, so long as the interlocutor points that a fellow interlocutor is like a violent criminal in what respect, this is not an association fallacy generalizing to a personality judgment, but merely a comment on a particular behavior. To conveniently cast a comment on a behavior as a personality judgment, itself amounts to a strawman accusation!

      Finally, to cast any critique of intersectional marginalization as merely an Appeal to Pity as if the critiques are entirely ungrounded in fact, is itself a breathtaking display of belief in the fallacy of the Just World.

      • To conveniently cast a comment on a behavior as a personality judgment, itself amounts to a strawman accusation!
        Go tell this to the guy who cast the comment, please. Read what he said, before making ignorant comments like this. Oh wait, sorry. Of course, he has done nothing wrong. Now you will come up with some other explanation to support him, interwoven in a colorful cocoon of deceptive lingo coming from the know-it-all that you are. You are the judge of course.

    • Satish Chandra

      Right from sweeping generalizations about a philosophy being the sole or major cause for the condition of a group of people

      You keep manufacturing views out of maya ridden air with the elan befitting a great scholar. If only an artist were to paint it on a canvas, the world would see such stunning displays of the colors black and white, and the brilliance may even wash away the maya for all humanity permanently. Such is its power.

      Vedanta is sold as The Worldview. The least expectation of The Worldview is to unapologetically throw out inhuman ideas like Varna dharma and Jati dharma. Reasonable expectation is to militate against such vile ideas. The inability to do so manifests itself as being clueless of caste issues and mistaking any actions to combat the results of a corrupt worldview as self-victimization.

      • Can’t have a logical debate with you, since you moderate the comments, you make the rules and break the rules.

        • While you are at it, do post a similar complaint on kamakoti.org or artofliving.org or arshavidya.org. You will have some difficulty doing so because they don’t allow comment-trails in the first place to engage the ‘other side’ publicly. One’s irony meter breaks when sympathizers of outfits like those complain of debate encumbrances in no-holds-barred settings like this one.

    • Little delay Maheshji!
      I got your view, it is awakening call, let us start it from temple, let us abolish unwritten 100% reservation at temple and engage all temple assets with govt treasury, redistribute each temples land lakhs of acre among the landless hard working poor. I never seen anybody debating about the bribery at temple and temple man, Have you ever seen gods blessing at the rate of Rupees one to 100 and more, even crore? God is not responding to the worshipper, but the priest getting improved day by day, I think may be language is the reason for this communication failure, so all the temple should use the regional people languages with less mediator. Pl includes this in your fight for equality!

      Today’s india is full of shortage of meat supply, the reason is, the people who call themselves as vegetarian and orthodox are causing that demand, Believe it or not, I have seen many such people.

      Finally, what you have achieved after getting 100% reservation in the society with manus social, educational and employment rules for thousands of year? Vedas……………!!! but it has been put to acid test by rationalists!

  • You selectively choose the comments to post and don’t post other comments. So, it gives the impression to readers that you have had the last and reasonable word on the topic. If you do post comments, then you choose what is a fallacy and what isn’t. You choose what is good for the country and what isn’t. You determine what is an intelligent comment and what is a stupid comment. Why even bother have a comment section? Why even keep it open to debate when you want to adopt princess leia ears
    http://www.gearfuse.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/01/il_fullxfull15978378.jpg
    and remain closed to the sentiments and arguments of people who disagree? Better keeping your group restricted and subject comments to only a select few brave revolutionary heroes like yourself who know what is best for the country and for humanity.

    Since people who have commented here like myself, Neil, Vijay, LaxmiNarayan and others are clueless and deluded, maybe it is better to exempt all who disagree with you from debate. My ‘misapplied fallacies’ and ‘scholarly ego’ have gotten in the way of your grand scheme of promoting science, free-thought and secularism, so my apologies for that. Keep up this great work.

  • Ved describes Brahmin as A-nir-vachniya, and Adi Shankara uses ‘Language’ to indicate-only the BRAHMA.

    E xactly in a manner

    “a thorn is (was) used to remove ‘the thorn embedded’ in one’s foot”

    Only the modern intellectuals do not venture in thorn prone areas without adequate protection.

    They have also been a mute spectators for development which destroyed the jungles and environment etc.

    Naturally they are ‘busy’ discarding the views which are ‘damaging’ to their supposed ‘opposition’.

    They are also in tremendous hurry for doing so.

    For the less motivated individuals who are really the rationalists,

    ‘The brain is biggest factory ever made, capable of producing near about 5000 different chemicals ON DEMAND, and can perceive differently when excited in the proper way. (without damaging oneself but it takes tremendous courage for experiencing the BRAHMA )’.

    NA AYAM ATMA BAL-HINEN LABHYA.

    Today’s intellectuals only have some word-power to compensate for the lack of even elementary courage.

    – rkk

    • Satish Chandra

      Your comment didn’t even address my point:

      The beauty of Sanatana Dogma is that on one hand it says knowledge is respected, but on the other hand, it provided zero opportunity for all to learn the knowledge. It instead placed emphasis on gunas, as if people are just magically born with the right gunas (a logical certainty if karma is true).

      • Only very wise men want an answer for ‘their’ points.

        We the mortals contend with the fact that upper castes wanted their useless sons also to enjoy the same benefits.

        This remains true even today.

        As for The Veds:

        Janma-na everybody is Shudra.

        And irrespective of higher birth if one does not have the qualities one can not understand the knowledge.

        Meritocracy at its best.

        If medieval period onwards, men & women wanted to preserve their order or get cheap labour by force, veds should not be blamed for it.

        This is common sense and may be more correct. But instead of correcting the ills of society from within, the so called rationalists start barking at wrong tree.

        Science is separate matter altogether. It remains primarily a tool for manipulating the matter. The complexities of nature are not built by science, only experienced, albeit in more handy manner.

        – rkk

        • Satish Chandra

          This is common sense and may be more correct. But instead of correcting the ills of society from within, the so called rationalists start barking at wrong tree.

          Well, the enlightened people have been barking at The Ultimate Tree for thousands of years and the results of those pious chants are there for all to see.

          • It is no surprise in the age of ’15 second time span of attention’ to demand ‘my point be answered’ and be very happy with affirmative replies.

            The non affirmative replies are ignored sooner.

            The ethics-101 generations tend to believe there was not one but 1000s of vyasas who arbitrarily chose to denigrate the innocent people at will.

            There was an Aryan invasion. Earlier there was a Dravidian invasion.

            There was more severe invasion in later years.

            But attack the Veds and every thing will be normal once again and we will live happily ever after.

            amen !

            – rkk

        • RKK,

          You have joined the long and growing list Hindu defenders who are wrongly trying to re-frame and misrepresent the connection between Hindu scriptures and social evils and oppression into a position where critics are shown to allege that “Vedic texts sanction these evils and oppressive practices”.

          The proper critical position or perspective on this connection is that “Vedic texts have been used to defend and perpetuate these wrong practices”. While this is surely debatable too, it is not the same thing as the assertion that Vedic texts sanction these evils and oppressive practices.

          These are two totally different positions

          This wrong characterization of the critical/skeptical argument is sought to be forced into the mouths of critics by all kinds of fallacious and diversionary methods of argument, whether deliberate or unintentional from the opposing side.

          Also the Hindu defense is not forthcoming on whether Dharmasastras are part of the corpus of Vedic texts, which is again part of their tactics of evasion of uncomfortable problems

          Manava Dharmasastra surely claims its lineage/parentage from the Vedic/Upanishadic textual pantheon in its very first chapter. It very clearly claims that its rules / norms / institutes are all derived from sanction of the Vedas. It also provides a very good synopsis of Upanishadic philosophy (Brahman) and very strategically provides the injunction of its pursuit only in the fag end of social/community/householder. There is not just one Dharmasastra (Manusmriti) but numerous ones, all of which invariably hold up the feudal and socially exploitative order of their times, that is still being fought even to this day.

          Also the Vedas, Upanishads, Puranas and the Gita are attacked by critics and skeptics not just for any imagined culpability for the kind of culture and social system that we have inherited, but because they espouse many irrational ideas, opinions and superstitions like Karma, re-birth, gunas, souls, blind subservience to faith etc, while they hide behind the curtain and smoke-screen of high sounding mystical and spiritual insights and philosophy and many other such deceptions.

          This kind of hypocrisy, delusion or self-deception or a combination of them, since they help to sustain a religious/irrational/superstitious mode of thought among the Hindu masses and intellectuals, that is the enemy of social and cultural progress,it needs to be battled against.

          • You may be talking sense now by ‘probably’ dissociating Veds from wrong practises of people.

            I am a rationalist myself who does not carry the burden of proving every thing old as wrong.

            Surely Science can not be blamed for paid and misleading research of Pharma and drug industries of primarily western world.

            The trouble with the ‘so called rationalists’ is they take the name of science so reverently, as if it can not be misused ever.

            And only Shastras are responsible for all wrongs.

            The need is for changes in society for social ills.

            Irrespective of both: religion or science.

            – rkk

          • As a scientist myself, I think that science, and technology should take precedence over other considerations men/women may have.

            But when it comes to cosmology, one must think what was before big bang?

            Current science does not have answer for this.

            The ancients did not have $ 10 billion or even elementary instruments to make measurements. How did they come to different ‘ideas’ and ‘conclusions’?

            How did they come to a conclusion that their must be a ‘creator’ if we believe in creation, and ad infinitum….

            How did they come to a conclusion that it must be all inside us, if logic has to have a final say.

            How did they say that ‘there was nothing before the ‘srishti’. Neither sat.. nor asat…

            Since scientist do not know what existed before big-bang, we have no way even to speculate on Sat.. or Asat…

            Which means that ‘if we knew all answers’ we could have definitely said that ‘such and such is utter nonsense’

            Since many questions … for example we perhaps will come to know that some particle imparted mass to all other particles who tend to have it…

            but we will have to take for granted the ‘charge’ on particles. Or impart ‘strangeness’ and ‘charm’ etc. on building blocks.

            The question is not at all ‘who misused what knowledge’ etc…

            The thing is, human kind will misuse ‘any knowledge’ for whatever purpose suits it.

            Plato said this about democracy… if votes become instruments for electing your representative.. then ambitious people will only concentrate on how to get votes…

            Meaning thereby that ‘ambitious’ people have always used whatever tools they got… whenever they got..

            It has nothing to do with particular ‘book’ or ‘shastra’ or ‘instrument’…

            Good persons will continue to battle with bad persons… the trick is to identify real ‘bad persons’ … and also … not to lose oneself in the process.

            OM TAT SAT !

          • Satish Chandra

            Your eagerness to disassociate vedanta with everything except as a metaphysical tool to answer questions of what was “before” the big bang leads to an obvious conclusion that vedanta has little relevance to present society.

            “if we knew all the answers” is not what a scientist will say. “Given this evidence what can we infer” is what they should say. So karma operating over multiple lives is indeed utter nonsense. Likewise with other ideas.

            For a fraud like Sai Baba, it is harder to fool a magician not because magicians are “good”, but because magicians are privy to accurate knowledge that a lay person might not be privy to. So “Any knowledge can be misused” is a statement devoid of any useful information. Some knowledge systems demonstrably lead to more harm.

  • Kierkegaard (Leap of faith) and Ernest Becker (Denial of Death) had demonstrated that it is quite impossible for the fragile and fallible human individual to deal with the complexities and chaos of evolution that he/she is thrown into and causing all sorts of primordial fears of mortality, despairs, death anxieties and existential crisis.

    The most effective methods to ride out the above terrors of life by the majority of helpless human beings is not to look within that limited individual brain but something that is beyond the individual, even if it is lie, falsehoods, illusion or delusion. Note Kant’s god as an illusion arising from pure reason but acceptable for practical purpose based on faith.

    In contrast to the Abrahamic offers of immortality, heaven and 72 virgins, I think the concepts of Brahman and its associated spiritual practices are of higher and more refined grades of white-lies with lesser negative baggage to humanity.

    IMO, what is more important is the associated practices and the cultivation of equanimity from the terrors of the primordial impulses that soothe the psychological angst to enable one to live life more peacefully, albeit via white-lies.

    One of the most useful product that emerge with Brahman in the background and phenomenon as an illusion are the various methods of meditation and yoga. The benefits of these practices are well supported by scientific research and progressing.

    I believe the illusion of the all-pervading Brahman should weaned off eventually to be replaced by more realistic truths. However to denounce and get rid of the concept of Brahman from the majority in the immediate present may be too drastic and may manifest more harm than good.

    Nevertheless we should keep pounding on this truth that the concept of Brahman is a white-lie, and hopefully someday those who believe in Brahman will give it up voluntarily.

    • I believe Kant and you have given an honest try to the methods of achieving inner silence.

      And then alone you have come to a definite conclusion that ‘Brahma’ is a White Lie, albeit relatively ‘harmless’.

      (Did it by the way occur to you that ‘Abrahma’ can be an ap-bhransha by natives and Brahma may be involved in the much older pagen religion ?)

      Except, that I am not participating in the future discussions.

      Each to his own devices. God-Speed and bye bye.

      – rkk

  • Keeping aside the inanity of the brahman, I am looking at the inanity of this article. The vedantic theology around brahman has some building blocks. I do not see anything about them here. Instead the author of this post seems confused and is mixing up Vedantic theology, eschatology and temporal aspects. It will be appreciated if the author goes to the root of the Vedantic view and present rebuttals to Upnaishadic verses.

    • This is another instance of time wasting tactics of this troll called Gurush, who has already tried this on the other article about Hindu Caste apologetics.

      The comment trails (from me included) have enough detail about the roots,leaves, branches and stems of Vedantic view

      As an author I have no interest in rebutting individual repetitive verses of the Upanishads.

      I have even lesser interest in indulging the inanity and lust for cheap thrills of trolls like these

      • Ranganath,

        Troll,me? Well, you did just what I thought you would. Calling me a troll is the easy way out for you. Your extreme hesitation to deep dive and do a rebuttal of the triad of Vedantic theology, eschatology and temporal views is so glaring. And you use the smoke screen of your disinterest in rebutting Upanishad verses, to back that hesitation. Man, I love it…

        • Satish Chandra

          To refute something, like say Homeopathy, it isn’t always necessary to mention everything its peddlers spout. Similarly, to see the inanity of Brahman, it is enough if you ask the question “Of what use is this?”.

          Oh, that and you will find a lot more in the comment trails below (which you seem to chosen to willfully ignore).

          • @ Satish: For all the science touting that goes around on this site, where is the conceptual framework that connects the 3 aspects of the upanishads and then deconstructs them methodically? If this basic approach to inquiry is given a slip I see no merit in touting science as a corner stone of this group’s USP.

            And “Of what use is this” is a good discussion point excepting that the very question can be used to debunk everything under the Sun. And there is an alternate the reply different from the one that you hold dear to you. For instance, if an individual’s 15 minutes of prayer to an entity that you claim does not exist, gives him / her some solace, your question of what’s the use stands answered.

            And if everything needs to be tested, smelt, seen, documented, as you may claim, that approach puts the dearly held Big bang theory (of this group) in a big jeopardy.

          • Satish Chandra

            Religious beliefs obviously have social and political implications. That is the context of “useful” and not the irrelevant-to-the-article sense of “this is useful to me, why are you questioning it?” Before you waltz in and demand that the contributors do what you want, maybe you should first learn to avoid making such trivial and irrelevant objections?

  • @ Satish: Am I seeing a pattern here across the authors on this site? Oh, yes. It is that whoever questions the articles is supposed to learn stuff, what he / she opines borders on idiocy, when push comes to the shove, deride the literary works that run counter to the POV of the authors here. On “what use is this” comment, I did not bring that question. You threw it to respond to my question to the author of this post. When you use the phrase, it is relevant for the article but when i respond, I am supposed to learn about what is relevant. Define irony.

    And an individual’s 15 minutes of prayer- where and how does that have social and political implications?

    • Satish Chandra

      Your original question is what is irrelevant because you obviously can’t see the social and political implications of vedanta and hence think any questioning of Vedanta along that lines is pointless and the only valid way of questioning is what you deem as correct.

      A non-trivial question would have been – does the belief of realizing Brahman lead to evidence based beliefs about the world? As in, does karma account for what happens in a person’s life? How are gunas related to karma? What normative values are considered worthy by those who think they have realized Brahman?

      Of course, you will want none of that because that defeats the purpose of you being here – to defend your beloved Santana Dogma. You want to frame the discussion in your way so that you can deflect any criticism of Vedanta.

      • Again and again many ‘true rationalists’ have tried to bring the point that human greed is responsible for ills of the society.

        Veds are only used as tool by these men to hurt other human beings. It is same as a lion telling a lamb that ‘if not he then his father must have been upstream’ and so on…

        Some rationalists thought if they denounce Ved and ‘brahma’ then they stand a better chance of reforming.

        The ‘brahma’ as defined in ved is ‘not falsifiable’ and hence does not fall in the scientific category: this is according to a scientific scientist.
        ( and not by some odd vedantin as some rationalist might tend to think)

        Gurush is right and SC and others are wrong, is clear to a dispassionate observer.

        But it is difficult to admit for the writers of this site.

        • Satish Chandra

          If you agree that Brahman is unfalsifiable, great. If you want to believe in it, nobody is stopping you. At the same time, I hope the dispassionate observer is aware the inanity of believing in unfalsifiable entities like Russel’s teapot and would have enough sense to not defend that inanity especially when the said inanity is used by some people to justify discrimination.

          • Obviously SC does not even read this site itself carefully.

            I am not the originator of ‘not falsifiable’ construct.

            But I wrote elsewhere on these pages about using our brain more intensely to perceive differently.

            It is no mean thing to realize that the cortical thinking gets clouded by hypothalamus based thinking.

            To get over emotions of ‘anger’ ‘jealousy’ ‘superiority’ etc. to realize ‘higher things’ is not same as being angry and heaping miseries on others.

            There are methods of doing this, which themselves need more scrutiny in light of newer knowledge.

            There is not enough understanding at this stage to define ‘more’ or ‘less’ dangerous writings in veds. People, (as we have seen them in our short life span), guided excessively by ’emotions’ tend to go wrong. They ‘seemingly’ enjoy at the cost of others too, and call it albeit privately as ‘their luck’. To realize this as temporary or as illusion is also not a mean feat.

            Words have limited use precisely because one can take umbrage at any word used. One can very easily say that ‘this’ or ‘that’ word is wrong. Correct way to ‘experience’ on the other hand is very rare indeed.

            That’s why I said ‘Each to his own devices’ earlier.

      • @ Satish: There you go again. So you decide which question is relevant and which is not. Look at this..I am encouraging the author of this post to go and target the core of vedanta, the upanishads. But you are claiming that I want to deflect any criticism of vedanta. Who’s farther from the truth, here?

        And the questions you are raising on the likes of karma,gunas etc ought to have been extracted from the upanishads and then deconstructed by the author of this post, instead of sharing anecdotal emails.

        And it is not as if vedanta or any of the hindu scriptures were not criticized in the past.I believe religious scriptures are not beyond criticism or critique. And you are repeatedly providing evidence of how conditioned some of the members of this group are, in assuming that anyone questioning what’s posted on these articles has a certain type of hindu worldview.

        And if I may ask, what are the social/political implications of vedanta, in today’s context? Please revert with cases in point with linkages to specific aspects of upanishads.

        • Satish Chandra

          Karma has important implications. A humanist starts from the value premise that egalitarianism is highly desirable. Contrast this with the value premises that karma justifies – that the conditions one is born into is a result of karma from previous life and that one can improve their karma by performing their varnashrama dharma perfectly. In a value system like that, the emphasis is not on setting up an egalitarian system to counteract the randomness thrown at us by nature, but on the individual to mindlessly follow a dharma in the hopes of bettering oneself.

          Another is gunas. The too flies in the face of all available evidence – that one’s physical makeup and their environment together determine what one becomes. Placing undue emphasis on the former whilst ignoring the other is what leads to institutions like caste.

          You might argue that all these are unimportant in the grand scheme of attaining satchitananda, which brings me to the final implication – that social causes are not that important, but metaphysical issues of what is “the ultimate reality” are what are really important. Again, this can be seen in the form of apathy of people like Sankara who could have weakened a social ill, but didn’t because his priorities lay elsewhere.

          • Satish,

            Karma: Parking aside the misplaced beliefs of some of the hindus on the concept of karma, please show me from vedas and upanishads, where the karma is set to span across births.

            Gunas: Using Vedas & Upanishads, please substantiate your POV

            Social causes: I can churn out tons of verses from Rig Veda that deal with social set up and associated contours that precede satchitananda.

            Please remember we are discussing aspects of vedanta that you claim have negative implications for society. Shankara is your punching bag, though, you have never read enough of his works to understand his viewpoints on society. And Shankara is an exponent of the vedanta of upanihshads. So please substantiate how social causes were negatively impacted by vedanta.

          • Satish Chandra

            I know the pointless game you want to play. Sure I can find get you the verses, but then you will say “that is not a correct translation” or that “that is not what it means” or “that is not an authoritative Upanishad” or “look at these verses. They say everyone is equal” or whatever. I’m more interested in how Sanatana Dharma is practised rather than what its apologists think is the right interpretation of the texts. Talk is dirt cheap. Seeing the talk in action, now that’s pricey.

            So a better measure would be to see how the flag bearers of “the way of life” fared. Ex: Vivekananda, Sankara, Gandhi, Aurobindo.

            I think that should do for now. If you have an issue with how those people have interpreted the texts, then your time is best spent convincing the modern day practitioners of the eternal dharma of what the texts “really” mean rather than spending your time here.

          • ‘Good Karmas’ lead one to ‘nishkam karm’ which leads one to ‘moksha’ etc.

            ‘Bad Karmas’ can lead humans to next birth as ‘Pashus’ or ‘bhog yonis’ etc.

            If above conclusions are drawn from ‘shastras’, SC can show precisely what is wrong with this belief to start with.

            ‘Free will’ exists in choice of ‘good Karmas’ over ‘bad karmas’. SC can eg show that this is basically a wrong concept.

            ‘The rationalists’ are confused by writings that for ‘nirvikar brahma’ the ‘karma’ does not matter. It matters only for ‘sentient’ beings and ‘good karmas’ are seen as ‘method’ for attaining moksha etc.

            Modern science, particularly Stephan Hawking, does not use ‘god’ in his equations. It is though not clear what he means by ‘god’. It is also not clear when science will call it a day and declare that ‘now they know every thing’. As ‘the rationalist’ believe the day will never come, because science will continue discovering new things forever.

            ( when for example a scientist demonstrated a ‘cheaper and more effective way’ of doing things, other scientists told that they plan to continue doing things in costly manner. They had to earn their costly ‘salaries’ too).

            Each to his own device. Therefore.

          • I will be interested in knowing what precisely happened to Charvak.

            The sanatanis who speak without much understanding, also tended in past to stifle opposition, particularly coming from their own children etc.

            Some people turn atheist more to show anger towards their parents, and conclude that sanatanis were wrong. Because their books were wrong. Their concepts are not attuned to modern science etc.

            I wrote two years back on this site that the real fun will start when ‘atheist’ begin to implement good conduct for humans. Or preach ethics-101.

            The atheist may never realize that mortal beings are (unless they make efforts towards self improvement) made by their food. Increasingly packaged food industry inadvertently is loading the food with ‘harmones’ ‘preservatives’ and ‘taste-fooling’ agents. We think increasingly like ‘jokers’ of ‘batman’ films. Not that it is easy to think of effects either of ‘old books’ or of ‘science based industry’ on humans.

            In the meanwhile Spare some thought of sacrifices made by Galileo even with instruments, or advances made by Aryabhat even in absence of instruments.

        • Gurush,

          Again, as a pesky nuisance of a troll that you are, Stop dictating the agenda of comments and responses and what they should be and how they should be addressed according to your self-determined demands and requirements.

          We are not in need of any lesson from you on how to deconstruct the Vedanta and its fallacies.

          IMO, your baiting has been indulged far more than it should have been

          You have been told to go thru comment-trails for a thread-bare analysis of Vedanta, which as Satish remarked, you either dont want to do or are willfully ignoring.

          Just to poke your ‘amensia’ about the past, People and movements criticizing religious scriptures in the past were called Nastika and were also persecuted.

          Today’s critics are called rationalists / skeptics, but the problem that the likes of you have is that now it is not easy to persecute rationalists and now rationalists can also turn around and accuse hypocrites and sophists like you, which is another bitter pill to swallow.

          It is hypocrisy and worse to pay lip service of
          “I believe religious scriptures are not beyond criticism or critique”

          and then carp and crib about criticism of Vedanta and other fond scriptures of your choice.

          • Ranganath,

            I thought you do not care about trolls. Why are you responding to my comments, given you categorized me as troll?

            And please back up your claim that Nastikas were persecuted with events and chronology.

            I’m not dictating anything. It is you that dictates what literary works are utopian and what are real and what are cryptic without providing a shred of evidence to support your claims.

  • @ Satish: You are jumping the gun. Please revert with content to support your POV from vedas / upanishads and then we can discuss the items like verses, meanings, etymology etc that you have mentioned.

    And please make up your mind. You stated that you are interested in the way hindus practice the religions rather than what the scriptures state or how they are interpreted. Then why have you been barking up the wrong tree claiming hinduism to be this and that instead of targeting and clearly stating that the posts here are meant for those practitioners? Would that be too much of an effort on your part. I can point you to some polemical websites against hinduism that call out the specific flavor of the hindu world view they have a problem with. Would you mind doing that?

    Would it be correct if I summarize that you have a problem with the way hinduism is practiced, as opposed to the religion itself?

    • Satish Chandra

      Would it be correct if I summarize that you have a problem with the way hinduism is practiced, as opposed to the religion itself?

      You would be wrong. And the reason lies in the definition of Hinduism. There is enough scope in that definition for people like you to concentrate on one part and completely ignore other parts and then pretend as if you have rescued Hinduism from criticism. That is why I mentioned specific ideas (karma and gunas) as believed and practiced by people. I’m interested in the question “What normative values are being prescribed and practiced and do they work as advertised?” rather than “What verse I can cherry pick?”

      • Satish,

        I do not have to rescue Hinduism from anything or anybody. On karma and gunas, I will await your detailed response on what the literature says from vedas and upanishads.

        And I see that you are waffling. Earlier you stated that it was about the way people practice hinduism. Now, in your latest response, you went back on that and said that you want to see what has been prescribed and practiced. So it has to be one of the two.

      • Earlier you stated that it was about the way people practice hinduism. Now, in your latest response, you went back on that and said that you want to see what has been prescribed and practiced. So it has to be one of the two.

        Why should it be ‘one of the two’? Principles and practices are both legitimate objects of critique because those who can make you believe absurdities can inure you to atrocities.

        • @ Arvind: My comment was in response to this statement of Satish “I’m more interested in how Sanatana Dharma is practised rather than what its apologists think is the right nterpretation of the texts.” So I was asking him if he would then post items on this group categorically de-linking the scriptures from the practitioners.That was the context and your question becomes valid if Satish changes what I quoted above.

          • Satish Chandra

            Arvind’s response was quite spot on and obviously you missed the point of it. Maybe I should water down my earlier statement – I’m more interested in what people who are practitioners of Sanatana Dharma prescribe rather than in its apologists who are hell bent in derailing every criticism of Hinduism by setting up the false dichotomy of scripture vs practice.

            Lest you misread that statement again to conveniently twist it to your purposes, let me highlight an important phrase – who are practitioners of Sanatana Dharma. You really should understand what that phrase means, as in knowing the answer to the question “who can be called a practitioner of Sanatana Dharma?”. I can’t water it down any further than that.

            Also, if you had bothered to read the above article with any intention other than to push your agenda and without the sense of entitlement, you would have noticed that it was in response to a practitioner of Sanatana Dharma.

  • @ Satish: Now you are down to semantics, eh? Please re-read your comment with time stamp July 25, 2012 7:59 pm and the one with time stamp July 25, 2012 10:50 pm. The dichotomy is glaring in what you are trying to articulate. You merely clutched your your peer’s comment and changed goal posts. It is not watering down of what you said but rather changing of goal posts.

    And the title of the post is “Inanity of brahman & vedantic worldview” which is quite different from what you portray as the article to be, as a response to a practitioner. The article waxes eloquence on vedanta for half the time, quotes Huxleys and Hardyals, passes opinions on chinmaya mission and suddenly pops an email exchange between the author and someone else. Does this someone’s email to the author constitute the vedantic worldview that this article is trying to debunk? Your waffling on the way you respond is so obvious.

  • Sir – Suggest you attend a 7 day program of Inner Engineering by Isha foundation, also visit some 15-20 temples in south india in remote places, also suggest you visit Guruvayoor, Chamundi temple, listen to Swami Sukhabodananda. Kindly also read Swami Krishnananda’s (now no more) articles on the web and his books. Or try to read Osho Rajneeh’s books, you could come out enlightened

    Above all, you can do Pranayama and recite 108 Gayathri Mantras everyday, put ash on you head.

    I promise your life will improve beyond trying to deconstruct Vedanta. It is a futile , wasteful effort.

    The length and breadth of this nation have Shiva Temples, it will be a better effort to try to visit all those temples rather than fritter away your intellectual energy on trying to deconstruct something that has stood the test of times and that in which millions believe in , that thousands actually experience in parts or full.

    • it will be a better effort to try to visit all those temples rather than fritter away your intellectual energy on trying to deconstruct something that has stood the test of times and that in which millions believe in.

      Quoting from here,

      A million votes cannot ratify a hoax into a truth. If it is millions that count, on what basis does Sri Sri dismiss ideas like houris in paradise or ambrosia dining halls on Olympus, when each idea at some point had millions of believers?

      Also, here is some reading from this site on temples and the myths surrounding them.

      Above all, you can do Pranayama and recite 108 Gayathri Mantras everyday, put ash on you head

      Here is another deconstruction of contemporary myths surrounding the chant.

      Suggest you attend a 7 day program of Inner Engineering by Isha foundation,

      Before ‘inner engineering’, how about some high-school physics?

      • You know – You can just about deconstruct anything in this world. The beauty about the temples is actually the variety of myths surrounding them. A rational thinker or a critical thinker is a failed mind. It is a mind which has concluded that sense experience is all that can be. The scientist in a true sense is actually a seeker who has imposed boundaries to his thinking. He truly believes that all that we see is all that can be. There is no room for an intuitive understanding of the Cosmos.

        High school physics is boring. What you go about discovering or learning are pre-existing truths of the physical world. Yes there are mundane material comforts if Science is used properly. There are also weapons of mass destruction, a highly polluted earth as a result of Technological prowess.

        Rather sad. Isnt it ?

        • Vyasa,

          These are my brief responses to your misrepresentations:

          //”It is a mind which has concluded that sense experience is all that can be”//

          Reason and science do not conclude anything with finality. They keep seeking and searching and investigating phenomenon. Realism respects the ‘experience of the senses’ and accepts that perception, observation and experience have far more validity and credibility than the flings of imagination, trance-like inspirations and other varieties of idealism and religious experience.

          //”There is no room for an intuitive understanding of the Cosmos”.//

          This is only verbiage unless you clearly define what you mean by intuitive understanding of the Cosmos. You cant gain any understanding of the Cosmos by sitting under a Banyan or Peepul tree and stare with closed eyes and chant OM and mantras.

          //”What you go about discovering or learning are pre-existing truths of the physical world.”//

          Those may be pre-existing truths, but you can know them and use them beneficially only when you go thru a formal and empirical process of learning and understanding them and not by chanting Gayatri Mantra 108 times!!!

          //”a highly polluted earth as a result of Technological prowess.”//

          Pollution is not just because of high technology. High technology is needed even for non-polluting alternatives. In India pollution of rivers show that high technology is not required for destroying natural resources.

          • “You cant gain any understanding of the Cosmos by sitting under a Banyan or Peepul tree and stare with closed eyes and chant OM and mantras.”- How many years did you try that?

            “Those may be pre-existing truths, but you can know them and use them beneficially only when you go thru a formal and empirical process of learning and understanding them and not by chanting Gayatri Mantra 108 times!!!”- What about doing both? I’m sure your curiosity can always accomodate more experiment.

            “Realism respects the ‘experience of the senses’ and accepts that perception, observation and experience have far more validity and credibility than the flings of imagination, trance-like inspirations and other varieties of idealism and religious experience.”- Is realism for real? Do you mean to say that our sense which sense so little anyways capture reality fully? I am not looking for any assurance, any credibilty, am looking for DEFINITIVENESS.100% solid clarity, which I can tell you from first hand experience, is more bang on in the “trance-like inspirations” than you’d ever think.Imagination- is that not an extension of conscious observation?What’s wrong with it?Don’t inventions also start with imagination? And pollution is directly a result of overpopultion coupled with use of fossil fuels.The thing is that a scientist’s wonderful invention only works when commercialized, and when commercialized, increases the already rampant chaos in most cases.So what if ancient civilizations didn’t have electricity or communications? Eventually, a clean life is what is needed and people got that.When the entire world is on horseback, I don’t buying a stallion do I? Plus science has made so many weapons possible..it would needd a whole new post. The good things would be preventive medicine, information technology and the like.All in all, what is good is what creates good.

      • A rational thinker or a critical thinker is a failed mind. It is a mind which has concluded that sense experience is all that can be. The scientist in a true sense is actually a seeker who has imposed boundaries to his thinking. He truly believes that all that we see is all that can be.

        One is tempted to type out the facile retort that a religious mind is a failed mind which has resorted to wishful thinking over verifiable truth. Instead, a more productive approach would be to provide links to a friendly introduction of what critical thinking is actually about:

        Bridge8 Critical Thinking Animations
        QualiaSoup on Critical Thinking

        Part of a scientist’s calling, or at any rate an occupational hazard, is having to counter myths, superstitions and propaganda in the scientific age.

        PS: Consider clicking the links provided, and perusing the nearly 200 comments in this article before rehashing arguments and non-arguments already rehashed ad nauseam below.

    • Thanks Vyasa for cataloging the major themes and practices of Hindu tribalism (especially ash- smearing).

      An anthropological exercise can determine the roots of ash-smearing practice as most probably evolving from ancient Tantric tribalism with the co-opting of it into Hinduism by refining the earlier crude ingredients and being replaced with sandalwood.

      Interestingly vermillion mark/spot (red tilak on forehead) has most probably evolved by the toning down of blood sacrifices from the Yajurvedic age and co-opting it into symbolism of color and powder material(Quoting from DD Kosambi’s work on the Introduction to the History of India)

      Shiva Linga worship is yet another instance of how animistic fetishism may have evolved into idolistic symbolism that gets perpetuated and continued.

      There are lingas outside of India (if I recollect right, in Cambodia) where some idols have preserved its original anatomy of a human private part. In the Indian Lingas, the top part has been stylized to conceal its aboriginal roots, but in the remainder of the idol structure, there is enough evidence of its genitalia origins.

      Christianity and Islam also have their own versions of tribalism. However many parts of the Christian world have reformed and are still reforming

      If the western world had your attitude, we would never have seen the ‘Age of Reason’ and its revolutionary world-wide impact

      Except for the Jaggi Vasudev jig, I have done almost everything that you have recommended in the past.

      Only by reason and realism, one realizes the futility of blindly following these rituals of our religious ‘heritage’

      Maybe you don’t wish to get there. But there are many out there who are not as blind-sided as you and do really wish to change

      • Your article is giving me a fantastic bout of LOL. I actually wonder your motivation to deconstruct Vedanta. You must have at sometime been a religious or spiritual man. Were you always éndowed with Kritical thinking ?

        Something twisted in your life, maybe some incident which has led to try to act the Rebel by going on dismissing Vedanta.

        A debate with Swami Krishnananda would have been just the right dose for you, alas he is no more alive.

        Osho sums it up beautifully – He says – Please leave your sandals and knowledge outside when you come in for the discourse.

        Tribal practices actually may save the life of the planet. It may also cure a lot of you from the misery that happens.

        • Instead of adopting a condescending attitude ‘wondering about the motivation and about some twisted incident’ it might help if you actually read the article with an open mind. But yeah, for someone who finds beauty in the ridiculous instruction to ‘leave the sandals and knowledge outside’ it might be a tad difficult.

        • You said
          “A debate with Swami Krishnananda would have been just the right dose for you, alas he is no more alive.”

          So What if Swami Krishnananda is no more alive, surely if Vedanta is true and not inane, his spirit must be alive and roaming!!!

          Pls locate his spirit if you can and we will be more than willing to debate with the ‘blissful’ and ‘blessed’ spirit of SK

          • Firstly, forget Huxley as well as the rishis. Let all of it go to hell.To say that to know what is, we need the second hand cruthces of quoting anyone is a grave misfortune. And I am saying this for both: quoting Huxley and quoting Vedas.

            “Brahman” is an antiquated idea: How?Have you proved it experimentally? Have you disproved it either on sound evidence?Has brahman told you “I am not”?

            ” Rishis, Gurus and Swamis play the great ‘Indian rope trick’ or tighten the hangman’s noose of ‘Self-Realization’ on bewildered devotees and followers”- Can you tell me for SURE that it is jsut a trick and they are merely bewildered? Or are you guessing? What I say I can bet my life on. Can you?

            “In all humility the principle of absolute or ultimate truth is not one of them since it is not practical as there is no definition of what constitutes ultimate truth” In all humility this is a very flawed satement.How can you define what is Absolute-beyond boundaries, beyond change, all pervasive.Please get this straight:”Absolute” is contextless. To try and give it a context is idioticity.To say that only that exists that can be defined is a very wrong notion.Black holes existed billions of years ago, UNDEFINABLE by any of the erstwhile scientific laws. SO were they not?

            “They are trying to question the claims of this school of ‘philosophic’ thought that their version of ‘truth’ or conception of the nature of reality is the real deal”. Please go ahead and explore this matter. But mere questioning will never help.All questions are within context while the absolute is not.Reading or writing any amount of theory is NOT going to help. At the same time, don’t follow any Guru, any syste. Take your own observations and arrive at your own conclusions.Then bash any guru to any length that you want. Truth is a priceless thing that needs the biggest price to reach.Argument is a tiny winy protion of it.It would offer as much help as a spoon would in digging a well.

  • One intersting link. Dont know whether this a joke or true:

    http://vedagayatriagraharam.com/aboutus.html

    A place for brahmins only:

  • The “arguments” put forth against the “inanities of the Upanishads” smack of being of the same kind and class of logic as are used by paid armies of evangelists to convert Hindupoor and gullible to Christianity. Indeed it should not be surprising if such elements are behind this and similar articles targeting Vedic system of sociology-politicia-religious thought that has stood the ravages of time, for deriving some negative benefits of creating doubts and confusion even in the minds of those who have come to lay faith – after expending a large part of their lives to get a gliimpse of THE TRUTH using science and rationalism, – since it gives them immense, indescribable solace, and also push the fence-sitters onto the side of science-supremacists.

    The ‘ultimate’ truth is unprovable as to its existence by any human methods of proof like counting, measuring or other mathematical or scientific methods of observation, recording, curve-fitting, or functional expression. The Upanishads or the Vedanta (‘witw’ end’) proclaim the infinitely tantalizing nature of any conscious effort to decode the mysterious That’ by saying — ya to vaacho nivartante, apraapya manasaa saha. The Upanishads that the author in his wisdom elected to castigate as just bundles of inanities are the one and the only source of eternal and universal wisdom that complement the purely ‘this worldly’ religions that turn out to be formulations for orderly conduct of society with particular god-specifications like Jesus THE SAVIOUR, Mohammed THE Prophet, etc. they (the Upanishads) spell out the broad disciplines of a spiritually gifted mind of men who keep trying and getting closer to the ultimate truth as the ideal objective in their mortal physical existence.

    It is, however, clear that the foundations of science, of which math is a virtually indispensable tool, are beginning to shake [not the place here to elaborate, but suffice it to say, hitherto unexpected and mysterious phenomena like action at a distance, (‘spooky’ action), violations of time dimension in the particle world, dark matter and dark energy constituting what we believe as THE material universe are acting as impenetrable barriers that demand, as it were, that man should just rent content with the use of the simple discoveries, invention, and devices for individual and mass convenience goods. Great pioneers like Tsiolkovsky have hinted that it will never be possible to break through the space and time barriers or to “observe” the “exististence of other dimensions of THAT, neither in its material nor in its spiritual, aspect, except through the constant and continuous efforts of the human consciousness through whatever means he may employ.

    The Upanishads are the latter part of the Vedas, dealingb with spiritual, liberating truth and its realisation for actual liberation and union with an absoute transcendental universal consciousness, while the former part comprising the Braahmanas, Samhitas and Aranyakas may be described as a source of knowledge of healthy materialistic existence that will equip a person to graduate to the stage of seeking Upanishadic wisdom, by practising which true liberation is guaranteed, a subjective state of true bliss and satisfaction for which there can be no objective observation or a certificate from an authority as we have come to understand.

    • Mano,

      I will respond to this para by para:

      Response to Para 1: Comparing secular critics of Vedanta to Christian missionaries is lame conspiracy theory mongering with any basis and care for fact-checking. So no is surprised by your veiled references other than you.
      Also it appears that you have not gone thru many of the comment trails that extend the critique of Vedanta beyond what the article attempted.
      The accusation of science supremacist bias or tendency is also misdirected and inaccurate as the article and most of the critical follow-up have mostly used empirical methodology of logic, reasoning and holding up of the claims of Vedanta to tests of knowledge, coherence and evidence, with very little recourse to science and lab experimentation analogies.

      Unlike what you claim, people have not come to faith after spending most of their life by using science and rationalism. Most people of India including you have already wasted most of their in trifles and inanities of faith and devotion, and when you are exposed to glimpses of science and rational thinking, don’t want to have it or give it a chance.

      If ignorance, self-deception and slavery of cultish practices is indeed the “immense, indescribable solace” of a gift and legacy of Vedanta for the masses, my condolences and best wishes to them and you

      Response to Para 2: This is the typical and standard escape clause of spiritualist apology that something which cannot be proved or conclusively falsified is true and real and shifting the burden of proof to the disbelievers instead of honestly saying that they choose to believe in fantasy.

      Response to Para 3: Pseudoscience and quantum quackery does not amount to shaking foundations of science.
      Pls care to explain what you mean by the term “violations of time dimension in the particle world” and how does it materially change our relationship to time
      Pepper-spraying of terms like
      “action at a distance”
      ‘spooky’ action
      dark matter
      dark energy
      does not necessarily mean that either you or Vedanta know, understand or have any connection with science, modern cosmology, quantum theories or behavior of phenomenon at the sub-atomic level. You have to better job than merely copy-pasting quantum quackery lingo. If according to you, the material universe is acting as impenetrable barrier, in what way is the nonsense in the Vedanta penetrating these barriers?

      Response to Para 4: I have heard this Sales pitch so many times that I have lost count of it. The only puzzle that no Hindu/Indian apologist wants to answer is that inspite of these sources of knowledge of healthy materialistic and spiritual existence, Indian society is still nowhere near either healthy materialistic or spiritual existence

  • I stumbled onto this page quite by accident and your write up was interesting. Here is my take on the subject. As a lifelong atheist/rationalist etc. etc. this debate is a perpetual one in my head. Indeed, I end up debating myself quite a bit. The issue is not whether to believe in god(s) or a God or even to acquire a spiritual sense, (whatever that means) but come to terms with the nature of objectivity. We all want to be objective, but can we really attain that state? Ultimately, there will always be something about this Universe that will remain unanswered. It is that (n+1)th state when n states have been understood.

    What does this have to do with the Upanishads/Vedanta you may ask? After spending a considerable amount of time studying the originals debates, I came away fascinated by the debates in the books although the participant philosophers pretty much seem to have given up in the end. Which is why the circular answer is arrived at. Even somewhat solipsistic one might say. The apophatic expression “not this” or neti- neti negation philosophy was an important contribution. In medical (and other) research today this approach has important applications despite the religious origins of this approach. The point is the nature of reality may well truly be beyond us. I am fascinated that a Bronze age society would even dare to try and sort this out. And develop a sophisticated language, vocabulary and grammar to handle the subject. so I would not be too hard on them. The fact is they failed, but we may not succeed either. Seen from that perspective, they were advanced for their time as no where in the world was the issue of “free will” and the nature of consciousness taken on so early in history. Western thought has gone through gyrations even more radical and even today in the USA with all its development, we have a political party (Republicans) and a population (about 47%) that seems to be in the dark ages. I have traveled to India and for all its godmen and absurdities the people seem grounded. A strong purge of superstition would do wonders.

    The neuroscience of free will has experimental evidence that indeed free will is an illusion. Nature (and our brain) appears deterministic.(see Dr. Sam Harris lectures on youtube) This is a large subject and I wont go into it here.

    A final point if I may; the current state of particle physics is in a strange place as this whole nonsense of “String Theory” is in its death throes (for exactly the reasons of supernaturalisms)due to the inability of experimental falsification. The landscape was 10exp500 and a theory that purports to explain everything explains nothing. As my teacher Dr. Richard Feynman used to say “it is cargo cult science”. The point is that even the so called hard sciences can fall into this trap as it involves fallible humans. We have reached so far into the atom that further probing may have reached a limit.

    Thank you

    S

    • To believe in Brahma-Anda because various telescopes, thousands of experimentalist and theoreticians using physics principles establish it, makes sense.

      Not believing in brahman because no instrument or theory talks about it, also makes sense.

      The brahman is under lying principle of all brahm-anda, which although is very very large [ but finite…]and much beyond is what happens to be in ancient Indian texts.

      To not appreciate the theory, to not wonder about the means by which this knowledge was gained, the very clear lack of effort in shoving it down our throats, is more of INANITY though.

      Particularly, since science is yet to know the reason for ‘being’ and ‘happening’ of the universe.

      The wise men that ‘so called scientists’ are, they do not believe in accidents, which can give them any thing howsoever small. …… ‘No free Lunch.’

      Yet they seem to believe in ‘by chance’ theory of ‘BIG BANG generating the universe’. This is inanity.

      Scientist can manipulate matter and energy, but are yet to know what exactly these are. This is inanity.

      – rkk

      • RKK,

        Instead of answering what you think is “great questioning” of the so-called inanity of the article, I feel it is better to throw questions back at you

        Lets accept that “science is yet to know the reason for ‘being’ and ‘happening’ of the universe”

        But does the Upanishads or the Vedanta know any better about the reason for ‘being’ and ‘happening’ of the universe other than blaming it all on the poor Brahman and trying the futile task of uniting two creations of its fantasy, the Brahman and the Atman.

        Once again lets accept that ‘foolish’ scientists do not believe in accidents. But does the Upanishads believe in accidents? And are Brahman and Atman those most unfortunate accidents in the history and misfortune of India?!!!

        And is believing in Brahman as the agent of creation and perpetuation of the universe better than believing in chance as the more likely reason and how and why so?

        OK! scientists manipulate matter and energy without knowing what these exactly are!!!

        But the Vedantik ‘scientists’ ‘know’ what matter and energy are!! All that is maya of the Brahman going around on a blind date with the Atman. But did these wise-crack seers know how to manipulate matter and energy other than by building ‘sand castles’ of Brahmanand!!

        And you claim to be a scientist!!! WOW!!!

        • The Indian Philosophy lays emphasis on experience AFTER the brain has quitened itself of NOISE generated by sense organs.

          A scientist knows that stress etc are not mere thoughts. These are physical, and these can influence our daily decisions.

          That is the reason why scientist depend on INSTRUMENTS to measure the effect of a stimulation to a system.

          The interpretation of DATA from various instruments depends on the brain.

          To that extent quiet-ness of brain, and IQ matter.

          Present day scientist do not know the IQ of ancients.

          Brain being a destructible part of human body, archeologist at best can depend on bones, or artifacts, to make a guess, which they later turn into a theory.

          No direct experience of IQ beyond, let us say Einstein.

          Ancients have given the instructions on how to experience.

          I am sure Dr. Ranganath and Dr. Sashi write AFTER they have given fair trial to the methods, and found them INANE.

          -rkk

          • RKK,

            You said: Indian Philosophy lays emphasis on experience AFTER the brain has quitened itself of NOISE generated by sense organs.

            My response: Vedanta is not equal to Indian philosophy. So it is wrong and inaccurate to equate a narrow streak of Idealism called Vedanta with broad Indian philosophy or metaphysics. It is true that the barking dogs of Vedantik fanaticism can out-shout its saner critics and other adherents, but just wanted to point this out.

            Now what is this experience after the Brain has quietened. What is its description in the Upanishads? Here I am expecting clear definitions and descriptions, not crossword puzzles, chants and poems!!!. Even the poetry and metaphor of the Upanishads is of a poor and inferior quality and order. Upanishads can’t make its mind about the size of the soul or its location. Is it the size of a thumb, size of a millet or grain or smaller than that. Is it microscopic or not? Is it a spirit or is it physical. Is it embodied or disembodied. Is the soul inside us or outside us and is it in the heart or in the ‘lotus of the heart’. What is the ‘lotus of the heart’.

            These are not my questions, but the puerile and silly questions posed in the Upanishads themselves with no answers to it.

            Did Upanishads consider the brain a sense organ or not?.

            Most Upanishads are not even 3-5 pages long.
            Even in longer ones like CU and BU, the main metaphysical content in the forms of dialogues of Yagnavalkya, Janaka, Janasruti, Raikva and Pravahana Javali are not more 2-3 pages long.

            How do you expect the concepts of consciousness, experience and even an existence of a realm above the physical pale to be explained or taught in such sparse and frugal content.

            Read the Upanishads for yourself before making grand claims on its behalf.

            Your next few statements make no sense at all to me. Now science/technology is trying to analyze the brain and has had a lot of success in neurological examination. But Upanishadic sages had no means to analyze the brain or remainder of the human anatomy.

            They may have been masters at meditation, but they made no precise and verifiable statements in their texts. Yagnavalkya personifies the CYA (cover your ass) strategy of the ancient sages. They hedge one claim or opinion with another and so on, that in the end you dont know what they stand for.

            Can you tell/show me in the Upanishads what verifiable claims are made about analytics of the states of the brain and about experience when brain is in different states of conciousness.

            The you said: Present day scientist do not know the IQ of ancients

            My response: What are you trying to establish by means of such a vague statement. We are not making any disputes about the IQ of ancient Indian Sages. They may have been the greatest geniuses in terms of IQ count. But still we are not able to derive any meaningful or useful hypotheses from their texts that can be empirically and experimentally validated.

            You then said:Brain being a destructible part of human body, archeologist at best can depend on bones, or artifacts, to make a guess, which they later turn into a theory.

            My response: We are not in this case establishing the chronology of the Upanishads. We dont need the dead brains of Yagnavalkya, Pravahana Jaivali or Badrayana and its IQ counts. We have their written texts that have used linguistic, semantic and grammatical rules that we can make sense of. Analyzing that we can judge the merits of their thoughts and claims. There Vedanta and Upanishads get a grade F (Fail).

            You said:Ancients have given the instructions on how to experience

            My response: Really!! where and in which verses of the Upanishads, such detailed instructions are given, unless the act of sitting near a Guru who will whisper the instructions of the secret(Brahma-Vidya) in your ears is a detailed instruction in itself!!!!!

          • Ironically, what you posted would have been actively opposed by Vedantins in the past!

            You’re referring to the theory of vrttis (changing states of mind) in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Namely, that there is ‘self’ which resides in the body, and that this self is obscured by the vrittis.

            I don’t remember the exact vritti list given by Patanjali, but it includes Perception, Imagination, etc. Yoga is DEFINED by Patanjali to be the stilling of the vrittis.

            Now, the Carvakas considered this to be an impossible task– that one would die if this happened! The Vedantins, even if they thought this was possible, rejected it as a possible way to know ‘Brahman,’ which they equated with the ‘self’

          • Sorry, my above post was for rkk.

          • Ranganatha wants a clear answer.

            He is not interested in crossword puzzles.

            We all know that science [ good science ie ] is a verifiable method. It is verified over years. Cosmology tries to piece billions of years’ history using verified laws of physics alone. They meticulously apply conservation laws to observed phenomena and come to a conclusion that universe started with a big bang and resulted in the dark matter.

            Which is now again heating up due to gravity in places, — the painstaking data collection in infrared to xrays — and equally important interpretations are pointing towards one model being more correct than others. The clear answers regarding the origin for the tremendous energy existing in the universe will take quite some time for science and every other human endeavor.

            We can try different methods logically without writing off any for that matter.

            I use science in daily life, for living as well as making the living.

            I also study vedantic literature more than other, to know what they have to say on this.

            I have clear understanding that the clear answer is not yet available. The world is still a crossword puzzle.

            -rkk

    • Dr. Sashi

      Thanks for your inputs and reactions to the article. While you are entitled to your opinion in giving Vedanta/Upanishads, some benefit of doubt, I would still have some misgivings about crediting our ancient Vedantiks with any path-breaking understanding of the phenomenon of reality.

      The problem is that Vedanta did not answer anything about the states of reality or Universe that we do not know yet. Saying that there was nothing before something and that something came out of nothing is not very enlightening or revealing.

      By shrouding the identity of Brahman in puzzles, quibbles and negative qualifiers (neti-neti), Upanishads have provided no explanatory value to the concept of Brahman and worse provided no means to subject it to validation and means of experience. Katha Up. lets the cat out of the bag of the true motives of Upanishads by asserting that Brahman cannot reached/achieved/understood by reason.

      And Vedanta is an interpretation or exegesis of Upanishads, that is worse than the Upanishads in sense of being rigidly absolutist and dogmatic and in its avatar of Advaita as evangelized by Adi Sankara, it tries to rationalize the most abject kind of nihilism and discredits the validity of the physical world and experience of the senses.

      I am not sure what your context or timeline for the bronze age is. If we generally accept that this age ended around 1300-1200 BCE, it is disputable whether Upanishads were indeed composed in this age. It is quite like that they were composed after Buddhism gained ground in India. That is an age when along with Indian, Greek and Persian civilizations were blooming too and greek metaphysics including Platonism has most of the elements and shades of abstract idealism that is seen in ancient Vedic Orthodox metaphysics.

      And why single out this world-denying, nihilistic and negative idealism of Vedanta for pride of a place in Ancient Indian philosophy pantheon, when there were better and more constructive philosophies like
      Sankhya – Secular Dualism
      Nyaya – Logic and Reasoning
      Vaisesikha – Atomistic
      Lokayata – Philosophic Materialism

      The greater tragedy is not the failure of Vedanta to explain phenomenal ideas, but to make abstraction and extreme idealistic speculation as an obsession and a goal in itself.

      In that respect. so far empiricism has not failed us

      Hopefully science, logic and practical philosophy will not fail or disappoint us so miserably as the Upanishads and Vedanta

      • Hi Mr. Ranganath,

        I can agree with you where you say that ‘Brahman’ cannot be a workable scientific hypothesis because it lacks a clear definition. We can’t really say ‘Brahman’ exists or doesn’t, because we are not told what this phenomenon is!

        I do, however, take issue with you characterization of Vedanta as simply exegesis, or worse, inaccurately calling it nihilism (please see my post below on this, I would be happy if you could comment!)

        I think yoru essentialist characterizations of Sankhya, Nyaya, etc. are also problematic as well– not only were the philosophical schools of ancient India more rich than these, but more importantly, all of these schools had something to say about most topics as well! To say that Nyaya talked ONLY about logic/epistemology and Vaisesika didn’t is to be mistaken.

        As an aside, one of the more fascinating discussions that they used to have back then is the philosophy of the mind– if anyone here has time, I would encourage them to look up Nyaya, Yoga, and Buddhist “answers” to the mind-body problem.

      • As far as why Vedanta has gained so much prominence, I gave give a short explanation.

        Part of the reason is 19th century Indians themselves. In fact, during Swami Vivekananda’s time, Nyaya was still thriving. Vivekananda, however, was preaching a new form of Vedanta we now call neo-Vedanta, and felt Nyaya was too cerebral. He and other Bengalis of the time actively pushed their ideology.

        Vivekananda eventually made it to Chicago, where he represented his philosophy as “Hinduism,” speaking for all of India (minus Muslims, Christians, etc.)

        Another reason is that the British under William Jones had learned the knowledge of traditional pundits and had made the traditional role largely redundant. They controlled Pundit education as well, setting up an institute called Sanskrit College in Calcutta. Pundits died a natural death.

        What was left was Vivekananda-style Vedantins and their derivatives.

      • Science starts with energy, entropy, and matter. Ends up with near infinite energy held densely together in near zero dimension. Science calls this best solution available to human beings. And we hope that science will not fail in the end.

        Great hope !

        -rkk

  • Captain Mandrake

    * The point is that even the so called hard sciences can fall into this trap as it involves fallible humans. We have reached so far into the atom that further probing may have reached a limit.*

    Is it possible that what you say in the last sentence is wrong? I mean I understand that there are limits to the tools that can be build to probe interiors of atom but claim that we have already reached that limit seems wrong. After all the Hadron just found the Higgs.

  • Hello Mr. Ranganath,

    A well-written article, and you should write more. You need to be more pro-active in exposing the hypocrisy of the vedantins, without mincing words. For example, the vedantins think that they are the greatest logicians out there, but they choose to believe in all sorts of illogical things like books that do not have authors, maya (illusion) whose nature is inexplicable (they talk a lot about it but even they do not know what it is) etc. Ask a normal theist what he means by God and he will give you at least some comprehensible answer. But ask a vedantin what he means by brahman and he will dump some hi-fi sounding mumbo-jumbo on you. In my opinion, it is better to be a blind believer in God rather than being a pseudo-logician like a vedantin. At least the blind believer knows that he is a blind believer. The vedantin, on the other hand deludes himself into thinking that his belief system is logical, when it is nothing but castles in the air that he has built.

  • With regard to what you quoted:

    “But denunciations apart, did the Upanishad philosophy have any influence on Hinduism as a social and political system? There is no doubt that it turned out to be most ineffective and inconsequential piece of speculation with no effect on the moral and social order of the Hindus.”
    ———————————————————–
    Why must any system of thought have anything to do with a moral or political order?! Not even the statist Soviet Russia went that far! Surely Russel and Whitehead’s proof that 1 + 1 = 2 had nothing to do with morality, politics, or society, but it is still elegant and worth praise. In fact, many gems of science and mathematics, and even philosophy, have nothing to do with ethics or politics and that is okay.

  • I also fear that you and H.A. have misunderstood the 18th century construct of neo-Vedanta to be historic Vedanta, which is emphatically not solely a system of metaphysics. You criticize Vedanta as “metaphysical fiction,” which makes no sense, since Vedantins were exponents not only of metaphysics, but also of epistemology and logic, which is where their real worth lies (as a positivist, I don’t much like metaphysics anyway).

    And of course, you can’t really “prove” epistemological claims– they aren’t subject to empiricism, they are a prior!

    • Asoka,

      I do not know about HA, but I am sure that I don’t have any misunderstanding about Vedantic exegetic starting with Brahma Sutra and continuing with Adi Sankara’s Mayavada to New Age revisionist garbage initiated by Vivekananda.

      Though you have not cared to define any of positions, the arrogant confidence of your statements is ‘breathtaking’. Also you should have gone thru the comment-trails which have made a more wide-ranging critique of Vedanta.

      So Vedanta is also a system of epistemology and logic!!!

      Maybe it can be a system of the crooked logic of the three theological scoundrels; Badrayana, Adi Sankara and Madhavacharya. Their use of logic has been to discredit other schools of thought starting with Sankhya. And Sankhya is the main target of the rhetorical attacks of Adi Sankara and Badrayana.

      And if Vedanta is to be considered an exposition of epistemology, we will really have to redefine epistemology itself!!! If epistemology is the “Study of the origin, nature, and limits of human knowledge” there is very little of any of this in the Upanishads or Vedanta.

      Even giving the benefit of doubt, please clarify what specific knowledge of the soul and the Brahman is delineated in the Upanishads and its commentaries. If rambling and incoherent speculations are to be qualified as knowledge, that is a different argument and debate.

      Limits of human knowledge or experience does not necessarily establish the validity of Vedantic concepts of soul, Brahman, avidya (ignorance) or Absolute reality.

      I have already responded in an earlier comment-response to this escape clause of a priori claims.

      A concept can be a priori and in some cases unprovable or non-falsifiable. But that does not exempt it from examination and validation. Its relevance still needs to be determined and it must satisfy the tests of reason and knowledge to be considered a knowledge claim.

      Arguments alone cannot establish the validity of a knowledge claim. And Vedantins cannot be be sole judge of their own creations.

      Vedanta completely fails all these basic tests.

      That is why skeptics refuse to accord Vedanta the recognition of knowledge and dismiss it as inanity.

      • Ranganath,

        My other posts are scattered across the thread, which I did read– this is probably why you didn’t see them, and it’s my mistake. I obviously disagree with you. I’ll state very briefly why and would appreciate it if you could the last word, since I don’t think we can convince each other over a forum. I’d be grateful if you could address my objections point-by-point.

        1) You approving quote a claim that a philosophy only has value if it has some socio-political or moral value. Do you truly believe this? String theory is speculation with neither– is it not valuable?

        2) You paint a very peculiar picture of ancient Indian philosophy. That only Nyaya philosophers practiced logic, only Samkhya philosophers had dualism, etc. and that Vedanta was just exegesis of the Prasthanathrayi. That is simply not true! The only reason such schools could debate one another is because they held opinions on common topics, the big ones in ancient India being:

        i) Language
        ii) The Mind
        iii) Pramana– or, epistemology

        The Prasthanathrayi is nothing but theology, and Sankara et. al. did plenty of this. But there is Vedanta beyond Sankara, philosophical treatises
        Vedanta had something to say about all of these topics and more.

        These schools were usually not mutually exclusive either. Take Vacaspati Misra– he was an Advaita Vedantin and founder of the Bhamati school. He examined the Mimamsin Mandana Misra’s sphota theory of language, the Nyaya samskara theory, and others and created an original theory. This was not a metaphysical formulation by a long-shot.

        I stand by my original statement. If you consider the entire Vedanta to be the Prasthanatrayi, then you’re mimicking Vivekananda and Radhakrishnan’s misunderstanding of Indian philosophy and betray an ignorance of the real issues and the real players.

        3) You make an even stranger statement– you say it was wrong of Vedanta to use logic to discredit other schools. That’s the whole point isn’t it? If you believe something is true, you show why– it’s not like other schools didn’t do the same to Vedanta. That’s called debate. And by the way, Sankara’s enemies did not practice Samkhya– that philosophy had largely died out as an independent affair by his time. It targeted Mimamsa.

        4) You also claim that Advaita Vedanta taught the world was an illusion and the world was therefore nihilistic. This is a false claim, though not dissimilar to what Buddhologists go through in popularizations of the concept of sunyata. The quote from Richard King below should suffice to make my point.

        5) Finally, in your last post, you seem to be accusing me of being a Vedantin myself. I stand by what I said– epistemological claims are a priori and by definition cannot be empirically determined. The question is, what is a valid epistemological claim– and that’s the whole problem, isn’t it? But nothing I said there was wrong.

        I would love to hear your reply, and as promised, will not reply back so as to not clutter the board– I had a similar discussion with a Captain Mandrake on Nirmukta once, and I fear the moderators cut the discussion off!

        • Asoka,

          I can now see thru the game of diversion and apologetic clap-trap that you are trying to play here.

          You are trying to turn this comment-forum into some sort of an idle intellectual pastime of nitpicking the finer details of ancient Indian thought systems and using arguments and cherry-picking interpretations of your choice into misleading us into a wild goose chase of epistemic claims and counter claims.

          The ploy is to drag the focus away from the irrational themes and ideas of Upanishads and Vedantic exegesis which has been main thrust of attack of this article and most of my comment responses, into squabbling and quibbling over terms like ‘nihilism’ and what Vedantins did over and above the main evangelism about Brahman and Atman.

          I don’t want fall anymore for these bait-and-switch tactics

          If you are trying to make a case that Vedanta/Upanishads’ doctrines about Brahman, Atman, its union and release from transmigration and attainment of a unitary/solitary/absolutist state is not the central or foundational tenet of its main theoretical framework and is not an absolutist dogma and not an absurdity/inanity, I am surely not buying that bull-crap from you.

  • My final word on the matter:

    As far as the claim that the world is an “illusion” goes, that’s not exactly what Vedantins claimed– nor did Berkeley and the idealists in the 19th century! Quoting Dr. Richard King on this, in his exposition on Vedanta:

    “The world is not a complete delusion, as delusions are imagined by the mind, and the world is not a product of a single mind (solpsism). Nevertheless, the world is not an ultimate reality because it is subject to change.”

    The problem, then, is to understand exactly what these writers mean by “ultimate reality,” but they certainly don’t regard the world as an illusion.

    • Why should we accept Dr. King’s opinion as the official stance of Advaita Vedanta on the reality of the world or phenomenon.

      Especially when there are Paul Deussens and more who enjoy greater consensus and success in pinning Adi Sankara to his Mayavada view of the essential truth of Vedanta, Dr. King would be the minority view.

      It is also known/alleged that Sankara himself has tried to wriggle out the ‘Absolutist’ hole that he dug for himself, by using the dichotomy of the two levels of truth of Paramarthika and Vyavaharika satya. Which again is a borrowing from Sunyavada theory.

      Another apocryphal story attributed to him even says that Sankara in a fit of frustration/confusion in a debate says that Maya is neither real or unreal.

      The point I am trying to make it that the some of Vedanta prophets mainly Adi Sankara made a lot of confusing and contradictory claims. Regardless of whether these people believed in their own fantastic opinions, they surely evangelized the masses into accepting a delusive vision of reality and experience.

      Also King’s point that “Nevertheless, the world is not an ultimate reality because it is subject to change”
      need not be accepted just because it may accord with some translation of some Vedantic bhasya or commentary.

      We can very well argue that Ultimate reality need not be changeless. You can expect or hope for an unchanging reality. But there is no need for an unchanging reality to actually happen or manifest.

      This world, despite its change and flux can very well be the Ultimate Reality.

      Vedanta may have a problem with a changing world which does not satisfy its Absolutist fantasy. But that is its own problem. And Vedantins alone don’t get to decide what an Ultimate Reality should be and look and feel like.

      • Thank you very much for the reply, Ranganath– I’d appreciate it if you could also reply to the longer comment above.

        I would just like to pipe in that Deussen’s work is nearly 100 years old (I confess I had to look up who he was). I would be more apt to accept what people like Richard King, Bimal Krishna Matilal, Jonardon Ganeri, or Sheldon Pollock have to say given that they are more recent and form the consensus of today.

        The point though isn’t really what Sankara meant by “illusion–” I think we would be splitting hairs if we debated that. The bigger point, I think, is whether or not this taught nihilism. I believe it’s about as nihilistic as Plato’s teaching of the ideal world and the real world, Berkeley’s claim that nothing is real unless observed, or the Christian claim that only the “world to come” is real– that is to say, not so nihilistic at all.

        In fact, in his “Discovery,” Nehru himself vehemently opposed the claim that the idea of maya was nihilistic. And Buddhologists do the same today against the claim that sunyata is nihilism as well.

      • Hey Ranganath,

        I just discovered your blog. Fantastic. I was concerned, however, with your claim that Sankara evangelized. Why do you say that? It was my impression that philosophical texts were confined to a small population and that Vedanta became popular in the 19th century thanks to Theosophists and such.

        As far as the Sankara Mutts go, only Brahmins visit those. Most people seem to have been untouched.

        • Hi Ashwin

          Thanks for your appreciation of my blog. I am not sure what is your notion and interpretation of evangelism is.

          Because of unreliable historical records we cannot be sure how much of his religious and evangelical conquests (Digvijayams) are really his triumphs of converting Buddhists and non-Vedics to the Vedic fold and how much is myth.

          But Adi Sankara’s legacy is not just confined to his commentaries and texts on Upanishads. He is also credited with organizing the spread of Vedanta by his tours to the 4 corners of the country and setting mutts on the model or lines of Buddhist monasteries, carrying on debates with scholars of opposing schools of thought, establishing a lineage by selection of disciples to continue his teachings. He is known to have been consulted by kings of South India (probably Chera Dynasty) who may have provided organizational and logistic support for his activities and rabble-rousing.

          While it may be true that his philosophical texts were confined to a small population, that minority was an elite and intellectually, politically and socially very powerful one and significantly included Brahmin acharyas and ministers.

          Sankara did a big favor and service to this elite by defending the varnashrama dharma and upholding the tenets of Manava Dharmashastras by terming the text as “Medicine of Man”. He justified casteism by using the interpretation of the Upanishads to deny the Dalits eligibility of knowledge by disqualifying them from ‘Upanayana’.

          This and more will be clear from his commentary on the passage of Ch. Up where he evades the need for accepting the Dalit/Sudra identity of Raikva who is seen as advising the Brahmin Janasruti but calling him a sudra. He neatly and shrewdly terms the ‘spiritual ignorance’ of Janasruti as a sudra quality.

          The greatest damage that Adi Sankara inflicted on Indian social and religious reform was by reviving the dangerous texts:
          Brahma Sutra
          Bhagavad Gita

          and applying his cunning and self-serving apologetic glosses on them by which the Hindu clergy and religious elite swear by even to this day. Even today’s swamis and new age fanatics still [parrot his themes on Vedanta and Upanishads.

          Adi Sankara’s work and legacy did not end with him and his Advaita proved so popular that it was copied and remodeled by Madhavacharya and Ramanuja who created their own clones of this tragedy of a philosophy.

          The 19th century rehashing and revival of Vedanta is only a continuation of the unfortunate evangelical trend pioneered by Sankara in the 8th-9th century CE.

          Why should the revivalists and Theosophists of the 19th Century only pick on Advaita and glamorize it, when so many flavors of it were competing is a point to ponder and does point to the appeal of the Sankara legacy and mythology.

          Sankara mutts are not any longer required to spread and continue his legacy. Chinmaya Missions, ISKON and sundry other organizations have cropped up to carry on that benighted torch and legacy of Sankara.

          The misfortune of India knows no bounds, religious or otherwise!!!.

          • Thanks for clarifying! Yes, I recall that Sankara also had a conservative interpretation oa certain Upanishadic story in which a tacher accepts a student without regard for his caste status since he was truthful- Sankara said that the student must have been a Brahmin anyway because he told the truth.

            As far as Buddhism goes, hadn’t qit largely died by Sankara’s time? I remember his most famous debates seem to have been with Mimamsikas, another Vedic school. Sankara may have struck the final blow, but I think Buddhism was on its last legs by 800 CE and doesn’t seem to have been his concern. After all, he and his teacher freely quote Buddhist texts, and as you mention in your blog, craft maya from sunya. I think the Mimamsakas even accused Sankara of being a closet Buddhist.

          • Disagree with Ashwin. Out of those Brahmin ministers, how many we’re trained in Vedanta? Most Brahmins were neither pundit nor priest. And even if the ministers did know some philosophy, how can we say they were not influenced by non Vedantic schools?

  • The concept of bramhan seems similar to a scientific element known as ether which was also believed to be everywhere. Of course science this was a rational scientific hypothesis it could be proved or disproved as was done by michalson and morley. This is in sharp contrast to the bramhan which can neither be proven nor refuted despite the idea being around for quite a few centuries. It does not take nobel laureate to decide the intrinsic merit of the idea. As for all the hidden truth , all is an illusion proponents i suggest you look up brains in a vat senario. You may understand why science is naturalistic. Hail discordia.

  • You can convince on the common man the problems on ritualism…….but ur penetration into Vedanta is rather useless as very little effect is most probably going to be produced…….as the seers speak after seeing wht they see, more clearly than u see and more clearly than they perceive us……..let it remain though….all the best friends!!!

    • The reference to the “common man” as opposed to us ” more educated types” or what not is not a good statement to make. We are not “elites” here.

  • Pramod

    While you are free to throw up your hands, I nor any skeptical activist shares that defeatist perception or sentiment of yours.

    For all you know this may not produce any effect. But why easily give up.

    Also let us not give Vedanta and its ‘seers’ more credit than they deserve. And why do you want to speak on behalf of the ‘seers’.

    Besides, How do you know that they see and perceive more clearly than us.

    • Upanishad philosophy is difficult to understand because you are trying to understand GOD (Brahman) by the very intellect GOD is illumining. In the material world scientists have matter to prove their discoveries. For the Spiritual scientists who have realized GOD, they do not have any material evidence to show us, that is why we do not believe. So to realize you have to become a spiritual scientist yourself by having faith in the scriptures & Gurus. Choice is yours, you can continue to struggle in this world or realize you are GOD who is beyond space & time. Even material scientists do not understand the concept of space, what to say of GOD? Infinity concept is beyond the grasp of human mind.

      • Though you have put it quite crudely, I can understand the conflict involved here between the assumptions of faith and ‘mystical’ philosophy and the demands and rigor of reason and logic.

        But this is not something new and skepticism is not fazed or deterred by this challenge and problem. The problem is also not because of the complexity of Upanishads. This article and the follow-up critical comments have made the point that the Upanishads are absurd and full of empty and bogus rhetoric.

        Because of its contradictions and vagueness of the Upanishads, it is not even clear whether it makes a case for ‘GOD’ or theism or pantheism or some other metaphysical view. There is no way to know what view of the world, it upholds unlike what the Vedas and Puranas are able to convey (agreements and disagreements apart). Confusion reigns supreme in its doctrines. There are multiple and conflicting views of Karma, Samsara, rebirth and deliverance which were sought to be reconciled with a lot of difficulty and obfuscation by Badrayana and Adi Sankara in their exegetical works on the Upanishads.

        How do you know that your ‘Spiritual Scientists’ have realized ‘GOD’. Unless you properly convey the context of your spirituality, you term will be nothing more than an oxymoron. The shallow spiritualism of your kind resting on the mercies of faith and blind belief is in direct conflict with science and scientific attitude.

        As regards scientists’ problem with understanding of time and space(even if that were valid), the gurus and swamis fare no better. But your Gurus have the easier option of disdaining time and space and delude themselves that they are above those confines.

        By capitalizing ‘GOD’ you have not explained or answered anything (since blind faith can escape from that responsibility) and only made a capital FOOL of yourself.

  • “But denunciations apart, did the Upanishad philosophy have any influence on Hinduism as a social and political system? There is no doubt that it turned out to be most ineffective and inconsequential piece of speculation with no effect on the moral and social order of the Hindus.”

    Why would this be relevant? Most philosophy isn’t relevant to social and political systems. The Upanishads aren’t political philosophy or a system of ethics. And by the way neither is string theory, evolution, etc.

    • Kal

      The article on Vedanta is not only about this part of the opinion of Dr. Ambedkar on Upanishads.

      Many aspects of the absurdities of the Upanishads have been analyzed thread-bare in it. It would be useful if you have anything to say on that rather than just pick and latch on to this part of the quote.

      Regardless of what it really is, there is no doubt that Upanishads have heavily and negatively impacted the Hindu society. Its exegesis and the evangelism of the archaryas have been greatly influenced by it.

      Your rhetorical waiver does nothing to change that harsh reality.

      • In that case, please refrain from putting anything in an article which you aren’t prepared to defend. It is confusing and also provides you with an escape clause when people criticise your work.

        • Kal

          I have already defended the purpose of using that quote of Dr. Ambedkar.

          Lot more has been said and implied by him in his assessment of the Upanishads, than the typically narrow perspective that you are trying to force or railroad into it to legitimize your nit-picking.

          Thanks to Arvind Iyer, some instances have also been provided of the philosophic/moral and social didactic pretensions of those texts.

          You are entitled to your escapist hatches, but we are not obliged to submit to your censorship decrees.

          • Ranganath,

            First, you attribute that quote in your article to Lala Hardyal, not Ambedkar. Second, kindly do not divert the issue by calling me names.

            The matter is, you have put a quote in your article which implies that a philosophy is only good if it has moral or sociopolitical value. I disagree with that. And if you disagree with it too, I am asking why you put it in your piece.

            It is not wrong for me to ask you about this. If all you wanted me to talk about is why Vedanta doesn’t suck, I honestly have nothing to offer. With all due respect, I also dont have to read your article to realize that there is no proof for Brahman, or that the Prahlad story is impossible for that matter. Thus if you write something, Ill talk about what hou wrote, and I expect you to take ownership of everything you write. When criticized, please don’t put up a smokescreen.

            So I ask again: do you really believe that something is of utility if and only if ethics and politics are affected by it? Its a yes or no question. And then I ask: if not, what is that quote doing in your article?

            Thanks,

            Kal

          • Satish Chandra

            do you really believe that something is of utility if and only if ethics and politics are affected by it? Its a yes or no question.

            Is that question even necessary? If the Upanishads are a mere academic curiosity with no real world consequences, there’d be no need for articles like this which ridicule them. Isn’t that obvious to you?. If not, it should be. Your entire argument seems to be “I don’t think a philosophy should necessarily be relevant to social and political systems. Therefore I’m going to make a point about that on an article in which there is a very obvious implicit assumption that the philosophy it is talking about has social and political ramifications which necessitate the ridicule of the said philosophy”.

            Had your argument been “that quote says Upanishads have no social and political consequences, but the article/author thinks that they do” you’d had a real point to make. But that was not your argument initially, was it? It very much does come across as lacking anything of substance, an argument made just for sake of making it.

          • I should add that the quote does NOT claim that the Upanishads have bad negative social value. It claims that they have none. Have you perhaps misunderstood it? That’s all I want to know.

          • Satish,

            Not really. The article calls them metaphysical fiction and nowhere talks about society. It’s not so obvious without Arcind Iyer’s post. Anyway, you’ve cleared my doubt.

      • Oh and finally, PLEASE PLEASE stop assuming that anyone who disagrees with you is secretly trying to defend Hindu revisionism and is an escapist, Hindutvadi, apologist, or whatever you call it. Don’t be George W Bush or Anakin Skywalker. Don’t be a McCarthy. It’s annoying.

        Before using such terms, ask yourself:

        1) What do they mean? Should I look them up?
        2) What evidence do I see that the poster is an example of this definition? That he disagrees with me is not a good reason.

        It’ll get you far!

        • Kal,

          Your noises of injured innocence are not convincing.

          You were not called an escapist. Your tactics were termed escapist.

          You have applied the terms ‘Hindutvavadi’ and apologist yourself. Don’t put those terms in our mouths

          We should have called out the fallacies better.

          You were attempting an argument of a non sequitur kind and then were using it as a bait-and-switch tactic to drag us into a wild chase of irrelevant issues.

          It takes a while…but we surely get it.

    • The Upanishads aren’t political philosophy or a system of ethics.

      They aren’t entirely indifferent to those topics either, and their lingering loyalties towards the hierarchy of the times are never entirely concealed.Here are some instances:
      (i) Taittiriya Upanishad 11th Anuvaka, which has traditionally featured in some university convocations, lays out a code of obedience and conformism, emphasizing dynastic succession and ancestral rituals
      (ii)Chandogya Upanishad 10th Khanda, where food taboos (which permit accepting foods considered ritually impure only on pain of death) are illustrated in the episode of Ushasti Chakrayana
      (iii)Kathopanishad, 1st Valli, where Yama reiterates a belief of cosmic retribution for inadequately hosting a Brahmana guest

      Since these texts are treated as infallible by the orthodox, even stray references to social structures therein, ends up sanctifying them and serve to perpetuate them.

      • Arvind, I was just paraphrasing Hardyal’s quote. So is Hardyal wrong? Is he in the article by oversight? I’m not trying to heckle, was just curious. Thanks for taking the time.

        • Kal,

          You have got the quote completely wrong!!!

          The quote of 3 paras has been cited by Dr. Ambedkar out of which the first para is actually attributed to Thomas Huxley and the 2nd para to Lala Hardayal. The 3rd para of that quote is by Dr Ambedkar himself and he refers to the denunciations of the Upanishads by Lala Hardayal in preceding para and ends with the conclusion of how ineffective the Upanishads turned out to be in terms of their moral/social impact on the Hindu society.

          The forenote to the quotes clearly refers to this.

          • It is not religion, religiosity or righteousness codes, scripture, code, etc., that are to be faulted for the unstoppable moral degeneration. Nor science, which is neutral to its application – use or misuse. It is a certain inexorable force in a swift trend that no human force can resist or curb or reverse. That may sound supersititious. But on deeper reflection it ALONE is the explanation for the unstoppable decay in humanity. Any “rationalist” argumentation will only end up heating up both sides of the argument to no meaningful purpose.

          • I don’t think we are morally degenerating– we are getting better than ever.

            As far as the quote is concerned, I’ll have to disagree. The usefulness of a stream of though isn’t its effect on society.

      • @Arvind,
        Who approved the english translation of a sanskrit text is the correct one?

        A word generally will have different meanings
        Example: taptyasana
        source: bvml.org/SBNM/srad.html

        Author’s Post
        E=mc2 was proposed by scientists, which has been validated and accepted universally. It is upto the Advaitins and Vedantins, to contest and disprove it if they can with objective proofs and validations.

        My reactions:
        What is the basis of validation of this Theory?. Is it scientifically proved? or generally accepted by you and the so called naturalists, atheists, that this is true?
        How can you Define the term universally without validating the existence of universe?.
        for the sake of argument, lets universally accept that the universe exist, By saying an unproved theory as universally accepted, you are trying to blindly accept whatever scientists say!

        Author’s post
        Brahman’ is a proposition of the Advaitins and Vedantins. The burden of proof is on them and lets us play by the rules of the game.

        My reactions:
        Brahman can easily negated when scientists define the universe.
        As per advaita, universe does not exist, so we need not proove it. As per the scientists , universe exists, so first proove the existence of the universe. The burden of proof is on the scientists and let us play by the rules of the game.

        • Prakar,

          Since according to You and Vedanta, this Universe does not exist, You also do not exist!!

          So then why are You existing and then commenting to this blog post which should also not exist! according to Vedanta.

          Please care to explain and prove that You don’t exist. Then we will see how to go about proving the existence of the Universe.

        • Cosmic Entity

          As per believers “God Exist” and as per non-believers God doesn’t exists !

          So going by the rules please first prove “God Exist” once you do that then we shall take the matter ahead from there on.

          As for the String Theory, irrespective of what it contains or claims, happened only in late 20th century, where as the claims of vibrations produced by energy is there since thousands of years in our scriptures. “OM” the primordial sound of the Universe that pervades everything etc are all the claims by religious people and scriptures, can you tell what’s the basis of all these things?

          Then there are claims that using those vibrations one can reach every corner of the Universe ! Can someone please tell how does sound waves travels in vacuum?

          • Wise rationalists may want to consider that for a long time after big bang there was less vacuum. And that in plasma waves can travel long distance both transverse waves as well as longitudinal waves. Even the light pressure can convert in to longitudinal waves when it encounters matter/air. It is proven by science that ordinarily men/women/creatures are sensitive to very very low sounds. The logarithmic response of organic sensors coupled with brain trained to concentrate on low sounds can detect them. It is no reason to confuse that ears of creatures have a large dynamic range. Infact such ‘anamolies’ are indeed the driving force for science research.

            Point is rather simple, It is good to know proper science properly. It is great to use technology in day to day life.

            It is a travesty to want older text to conform to new and latest discoveries.

            It is wonderful to marvel the human resourcefulness of all times.

            And of course wait gracefully to open up science to unravel greater secrets, known in different forms to older than us people.

            -rkk

      • Arvind Iyer

        Who approved the english translation of a sanskrit text is the correct one?

        If Max Muller’s translations are not sufficient, here are Aurobindo’s and S Radhakrishnan’s for corroboration. Come back if the translations of the portions quoted above don’t agree in these versions.

        How can you Define the term universally without validating the existence of universe?.

        A response has been provided here .

        As per the scientists , universe exists, so first proove the existence of the universe. The burden of proof is on the scientists and let us play by the rules of the game.

        Consider reading this thread that addresses similar misconceptions touted as profundity : Science and realism

  • Before I start commenting on my views of Vedanta, Upanishads or Vedas, I would need to first admit that my knowledge on ancient scriptures of Hinduism are limited and I have done at the best a little bit of selective reading based on views on certain topics of interest. My views on science is far more based on solid foundations of an education that was both structured and driven by passion.

    First let me spell out the good things about your posts. The best possible outcome that I can identify with your posts are that they are against superstitions. This in my opinion extremely important to reforming the Indian society. I do not mind a few of the superstitions to remain, as long as they are harmless, more out of cultural affinity rather than true belief. Whether we can temper the superstitions to reasonably harmless results along is a big question. In my life, I have been successful, and so hopefully it is not an impossible task to be not considered as an options. After all we do maintain 1000 year old structures standing despite their practical uselessness for the sake of heritage. Cultural affinity and pride is not always defined through practical utility theories, their value are often hard to judge, and is more implicit.

    Now I also have some criticisms on your approach to blogs. One is your insistence on existing scientific proof to explore a theory. Even in science do remember that theories unless invalidated using proofs is never rejected. The order in the scientific world is to endorse that theory among the group of existing ones that seems most likely. So your approach to dismissing the theories of Vedanta should be to postulate and alternative which need not have proofs, but at least reasons to be more acceptable and reasons for the same. I hardly find an alternative being suggested to push the theory of Vedanta behind in the current order of understanding of the world. My second criticism is the lack of specificity in your blog, when you criticize Vedanta. They seems as loosely generalized as your suggestion of a never ending round of verbal jugglery, mixing in between the beliefs of Hinduism in general, with those of the Upanishads. I would like to see you analyze why Vedanta is not true with reasons, not necessarily proofs, but at least with alternate theories until such time we have invalidating proofs. Remember tomorrow even the existence of electrons can be challenged if sufficient proof is provided for their existence is not proved beyond doubt. Its existence is constructed using scientific jargon, assumptions based on parallel evidences, in light of the failure of the senses of science to completely describe it. At the moment this explains best the scientific knowledge and observations and hence pretty much on a parallel to the experiential realization, science too employs a probabilistic model that cannot be described by scientific measurements that are absolute.

    • Mahesh,

      Your response is very typical of the stock Hindu apologist who also wants to appear to be on the side of science and modernity.

      I can summarize the message of your waffling rant against skeptical attacks on Hinduism:

      ” We are all for rationalism and removal of superstitions but please refrain from attacking our gods, scriptures, bigotry and cultural prejudices which we defend in the name of ethnicity and national pride”

      Sorry this pretense and hypocrisy will not work.

      And it also looks like you are expecting too much from a single blog post. But you don’t seem to have the patience to go thru the comment-trails of this blog post, where a more than a thread-bare analysis and detailed refutation of Vedanta has been attempted.

      From the general points on the blog post, we have advanced to minute details of medieval apologetic of the Vedanta from Badrayana to Adi Sankara, the catalogue of fallacies of today’s Vedanta apologists to exposing the fake profundities of faux intellectualism of Vedanta and Hindu fundamentalists.

      Plenty of reasons and arguments have already been delivered to nail home the inanity and nonsense of the Vedanta.

      You are most welcome to take the trouble of going thru all that.

      All this silly and pretentious threat of disproving electrons cannot rescue Upanishads and Vedanta from the ignominy of the absurd and barbaric nonsense that it truly is.

  • Ranganath:

    > But the texts are themselves not clear about the conception and identity of Brahman. Lot of arguments, opinions and riddles are posed about this entity without any conclusions being reached. One text contradicts the other with some texts even claiming that the ‘Brahman’ is beyond understanding and comprehension. If that is really the case, is not the quest of Brahman a futile exercise?!

    I think your questions are very clear and have occurred to me as well. I hope you will make it more public and take it to the mainstream media so as to provide a stimulus for either Vedanta to proceed to the next stage of memetic evolution or die!

    That said, even with its vagueness and lack of content, here’s a practical utility from Vedanta that I can think of. I will make use of the premise that there is a sense of deep “existential contentment” and a sense of “inner-peace” that comes from knowing answers to questions such as what is the origin of this universe and everything we see around us, what is the true nature of reality, how do we face the buffetings of life, what’s the meaning of it all, and so on. It may be that we might not know answers to these questions in our lifetimes, and even if known, the answers will be scattered over too many fields of natural science and philosophy that it’d be difficult to distill them into simple, coherent principles that we can understand.

    Vedanta may not be “truth” in a scientific sense, but it gives the “truth-experience” to its adherents. Thus Vedanta becomes a sort of psychiatric coffee you administer to yourself to have this pleasurable experience. This in my opinion forms a *lower bound* for the utility of Vedanta.

    • Captain Mandrake

      **Vedanta may not be “truth” in a scientific sense, but it gives the “truth-experience” to its adherents.**

      Also known as delusion.

  • There is some controversy about bestiality and sexual morality going on on Ranganath’s blog:

    http://variedessays.blogspot.com/2013/09/casteism-and-broken-apologetic-of.html?showComment=1378263575866

    • It looks like the brewing of a ‘perfect storm’ in a teacup.

      Also a classic case where the adversaries chose to deliberately miss the woods for the tress.

      On a related note, the objections and protestations of the cultural vigilantes seem very puzzling.

      Some of them claim to be skeptics and atheists, but yet say that they stand for truth. Truth of what? Of a fairy tale! Should not that be termed oxymoronic?!.

      • Hi Ranganath,

        Not to bring a debate from an external trail onto here (perhaps my first post was also inappropriate), but I feel like there has been a misunderstanding.

        The commentators simply seem to be worked up about the fact that you inaccurately called Satyavati a mermaid and thus said that Parasara was guilty of bestiality. I think it was an honest mistake. They seem to think that you were intentionally being misleading and have claim that you have done it on other posts (I haven’t read any of those).

        Nowhere do I think that they stand for the truth of a “fairy tale” though. In none of their comments is an indication that they are “cultural vigilantes” or “Hindus.” Indeed, one of their grievances seems to be that you by default assume that anyone who calls out errors in your works is a “cultural vigilante.” Well, I did just now– does that make me one?

        I think the ones who called you a homophobe were out of line. But perhaps the best thing to do would be to acknowledge the error and not label opponents as cultural vigilantes in such a way.

      • Indeed, amid all that noise, one of them admits that they’ve only been saying/asking two things all along:

        Ranganath… we are tired. Why can’t you just admit you were wrong about the mermaid bit? Why did you try and fudge the truth by including it?

        And if you really are so progressive, why did you term the liaison between Satyavati and Parasara debauchery? Are you against polyamory and group sex?

        These are direct questions. Forget everything else… and just answer this. And we will be happy.

        I highly doubt that a “cultural vigilante” would have such liberal sexual views. Thus I think that these are fellow freethinkers who are asking pertinent questions.

        • Hi Ashwin

          I did respond on that comment trail that free thinking and some degree of moral conservatism are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

          I did not find any reaction to that disclaimer.

          I can understand the existence and prevalence of unconventional practices/trends and their growing acceptance in some parts of society and yet not be personally supportive of them, though I don’t stand for their suppression or abolition or forcible corrections.

          Instead of interpreting the tendency and bias of the Mahabharata narrative towards licentiousness, the apologists seem to giving it the gloss of liberality and progressiveness or modernness, that no reasonable reading of it will support.

          These are needlessly loaded questions that have no relevance to ideas espoused in my post. They are meant to provoke and stoke animated/agitated response and misdirect the course of debate on the real issues of the post.

          • I read you post again, and unfortunately still think you misunderstand/overreact… you accuse the commentators of believing in the Mahabharata’s fantastic events. There is no evidence of that in the posts.

            They literally just said the two things I copy/pasted above.

            That’s fine though… I’ll not continue with this.

          • Needless to say, I was disappointed in the follow-up article… it certainly does verge on the McCarthyism they complain of.

            Are we not allowed to complain about factual errors in your articles without being termed cultural vigilantes and Hindu apologists?

            http://variedessays.blogspot.com/

          • Interestingly enough, you make another dubious claim in the post:

            “Pandu died after having sexual intercourse with Madri, as a result of some Sexually Transmitted Disease.”

            In the Mahabharata itself, it is clearly stated that Pandu dies after intercourse because of a curse.

            It seems like you are engaging in mythological revisionism that is also historical revisionism.

            It is academically dishonest to misrepresent source material in this way.

          • Thank you, Ashwin, for pointing out the pervasiveness of mythological revisionism aspiring to be historical revisionism in our society.

            We should note that history can never be written with just a book of myths in front of us. Myths can be insightful in that they reveal that attitudes of their authors, but I probably couldn’t write a history of medieval India if I only had the Agni Purana in front of me.

            A fallacy that many people have is that if they look at each event in a myth and purge the fictional elements of it, it automatically becomes history.

            That seems to be what has been attempted here in this post about ‘historicizing’ the myth of Mirabai.

  • I came across this interesting article with lot of claims.
    http://centreright.in/2013/02/vernadsky-noosphere-and-vivekananda/#.Un0xafmkrU4

    Found it difficult to understand. Can someone please provide points to clarify or refute the claims?

    Thank you

  • I think Dr. Ambedkar is worth a read, especially for his influence on the Tamil identity and his impact on how people look at culture and history in India today.

    But when it comes to ‘revisionism’ he pretty much just made things up without any real backing whatsoever. So I don’t really use him as a source to understand any Sanskrit source material including the Upanishads. From a political and social theory point of view, the Upanishads is of course ‘useless’ but this isn’t really the purpose of this document anymore than is Isaac Newton’s Principia.

    What I do find interesting is that Spinoza came to some of the same ideas as the Upanishads independently in his Ethics but was able to connect it to politics and social issues. It actually makes a good extension to these philosophical ideas and was very instrumental in bringing on European Enlightenment.

    The otherworldly concepts of reincarnation and letting go of karmas really are not Updanishadic but rather introduced by the Jains and later taken in by the later Vaishnava sects. It is mentioned in the Gita.

    In Upanishadic terms, karma is action in this world that have effects beyond the present time and beyond the individual, but this is not in any next world but effects things in this world even after ones death. So if you build a house now, it may be a dwelling of your children in the future and may be the reason a road does not get constructed through a specific region. These are things that are not apparent to the builder at the time building.

    In the Upanishads, the soul automatically returns to Brahma after death regardless and the elements decompose, become the earth and then the food for new life. There is not need for tapas or meditation. According to Adi Shankaracharya those practices are only used for understanding, perspective and inner knowledge.

    This kind of stuff may not be useful to most people but is interesting and philosophically advanced speculations that are worth reading as much as Wittgenstein, Schopenhaur, or even Spinoza.

    As I’ve read the western tradition of philosophy, which I highly respect, I have even more respect for Indian philosophy that I would have had otherwise.

    • Kit,

      I am sorry to put it very harshly. But You are mostly talking nonsense except when you are making observations on western philosophy.

      It looks like you know very little of the Upanishads or medieval Indian philosophy (Darshanas) or Dr. Ambedkar.

      Dr. Ambedkar did not analyze the Upanishads in detail, but his critique of the Vedas, Puranas and Shastras/Smritis is masterly and is invaluable in the development and appreciation of a contrarian approach to religion and feudalism in Hindu culture. That he had his own conspiracy theory about the counter-revolution of Brahminism, does not in any way detract from his immense contribution to the field of historical analysis and criticism of ancient and medieval India.

      The less said about your opinion of the Upanishads and Vedanta, the better. Any reading of the Brihadaranyaka Up., Chandhogya Up., Taittriya Up., Kaushitaki Up. and the Mandukya Up. will bear out the themes that were ridiculed in the post and the critical comments. The worldview of Vedanta considered in the post was not just restricted to primary Upanishads, but included the exegesis represented by Badrayana’s Brahma Sutra, Adi Sankara’s commentaries on it and Sankara’s own commentaries on the Upanishads themselves.

      Your conception of Karma does not agree with what the Upanishads state and without having proper acquaintance with the doctrines of the Upanishads and Vedanta, you are simply talking through your hat, when you are providing flimsy apologies for the medieval ideas of ‘samsara’ and re-birth.

      Sankara is himself fork-tongued on whether Upanishads are theistic, pantheistic or panentheistic (separateness and oneness at the same time). The desperation of Sankara would be evident when it is reported that when needled too much on his conception of Maya, he blurted out that Maya is neither real nor unreal. And I would like to be educated about Sankara’s and your concept of “inner knowledge”

      Other than making bogus and tendentious claims about being a ‘rationalist’, you seem to have very little idea of the social and political context of the composition of the Upanishads and its exegetical works. Upanishads and Vedanta are not as innocuous as Isaac Newton’s Principia. Their legacy is far more lethal in that they most probably inspired and instituted the theistic darshanas (Sankhya,Yoga,Nyaya,Vaisheshika,Mimansa & Vedanta) and provided metaphysical cover for the socially regressive and oppressive Shastras and Smiritis.

      • Actually I don’t think you understand Karma from the Upanishad view and you are mixing it with how it is viewed in Jainism.

        First of all, the shocker:
        Karma does not mean fate!
        This is purely new age dribble.

        The closest word for Karma is ‘action.’ So throwing a ball up in the air is the Karma which leads to Prarabdha which is the word that can maybe be translated as fate but really is the outcome of the action: the ball falls. But you still are able to act on Karma and either catch the ball or let it land on the ground. If you try to catch the ball from the location you through it up and not in another country, you are aligning your Karma (action) with Dharma (the movement of nature).

        But it gets more interesting…as what is more important than Karma is how it affects us mentally in the form of Vasanas which are tendencies. This is the mind pattern that creates our likes and dislikes and the directions we desire to go. We are created by our actions and thoughts.

        It is also interesting that the word ‘Jati’ in the Upanishads also have a different meaning in that it is referring to the categories we create through our tendencies. For example, why we see chairs as different from cats. Jati is an element of maya created by vasanas.

        You can see how this becomes very contradictory to the ‘oppresive Shastras and Smritis’ that you mention, especially Manu Smriti.

        In Shankarachary’s view meditation was not necessary for the commoner, but rather for those who wanted to have an experience beyond the ‘maya’. This experience can give brief awareness but has no other advantage in life beyond knowledge for knowledge sake.

        All this can be pure ‘woo’ but behind it there is some interesting thoughts. Even science fiction has lead to a lot of profound inventions and discoveries over time. The ability to see outside and beyond your immediate senses and use thought experiments and imagination to visualize what could be is very valuable.

        • Captain Mandrake

          **But you still are able to act on Karma and either catch the ball or let it land on the ground. If you try to catch the ball from the location you through it up and not in another country, you are aligning your Karma (action) with Dharma (the movement of nature).

          But it gets more interesting…as what is more important than Karma is how it affects us mentally in the form of Vasanas which are tendencies.**

          In short, “action” aligned with “the movement of nature” affects us mentally through “tendencies”.

          You call that interesting? I find it hilarious.

          **We are created by our actions and thoughts.**

          Also hilarious.

        • Kit

          The Jainist view and the Upanishadic view of Karma are not very dissimilar in the sense that both seem to be imputing to Karma as action a power of its own in determining and dispensing consequences to the doer across endless birth or transmigration until that cyclicality is broken thru realization of the soul.

          Chandogya and Brh. Upanishads refer to Karma as deeds and relate the paths through multiple realms of the unrealized soul accruing from such deeds ( though in the process betray the typical ignorance of cosmology and natural phenomenon that is often associated with primitive societies) There are also details the kinds of rebirths resulting from the effects of Karma.

          The Upanishadic view of Karma, rebirth and release (moksha) can be deduced from the main principles of Sankhya Darsana and of course Vedanta, with the difference being that Sankhya is atheistic and dualistic (like Jainism) while Vedanta is supposedly theistic and non-dualist with the twist of Maya borrowed from the Adi Sankara’s interpretation of the Mandukya Upanishad’s verses on the ‘unreality’ of 3 states of experience (waking,dream and deep sleep).

          Concerning Vasanas, your comment is very unclear. What is that ‘it’ which supposedly affects us mentally in the form of Vasanas (desires). The chain or link of causation between Karma and Vasanas is not clear from any of the principal Upanishads. In my opinion of the muddle-headedness of Upanishads / Vedanta, it may seem that both seem to feed into each other in a hopeless vicious circle.

          The concept of Varna has always superseded jati in the Vedic system and the opinions of certain Upanishads upholding the prohibitions (from Sastras) on Upanayana and spiritual learning for Sudras do not seem to contradict the Sastras or Smiritis.

          I suggest that you read Adi Sankara’s Vedanta Sutra bhasyas instead of proffering second-hand opinions from dubious sources about Sankara’s approach to Vedanta and Vedic metaphysics. You can also know about Sankara’s views on creation theories of the Upanishads and on his discrediting of the tools of reason and empiricism from these Bhasyas and from John Muir works on ancient Indian scriptures.

          I am sorry to be sounding pedantic, but you don’t seem to having any information or context of how these ideas were treated in the principal Upanishads and their exegesis and are simply parroting new age ideas based on current Swamis/gurus’ interpretations taken from the verses of the Bhagavad Gita, which is mistaken to be a proxy for Upanishads and Vedanta.

          If one goes by the interpretations that JN Mohanty, BK Matilal and Amartya Sen provide about purpose of the debates among the various darshanas in Medieval India, interesting theories and thoughts do emerge. But that still does not validate the purpose or substance of the whole metaphysical foundations of these systems. And their social implications are still open to inquiry and criticism.

  • These “hypotheses”” are all masculine constructs. Even science itself is sexist because it neglects fields that are deemed feminine.

    Why is the mechanics of rigid bodies so well known, but the Navier-Stokes equations
    are still not well researched in fluid mechanics? The answer is sexism in the subconscious that makes (mostly male) science researchers recoil from fluids, which are feminine, and go towards the rigid, which is masculine.

    So called “imaginary numbers” were also conjured up by sexist men to put a phallic symbol in mathematics.

    Look up Luce Irigiray.

  • Upanishads and Vedanta are esoteric dogma containing speculations about the Self(Soul).

    These books were initially available only for Brahmins but Vivekananda has written a lot about this and his books are available online.

    There is no consistency in assertions in different Upanishads. For example:- Some Upanishads states the Non-Dualistic approach while other assert the Dual approach.

    Of course the Dogma would fall apart considering if and whether the Atma(Soul) actually exists?…..Forget the Brahman element.

    I especially find the Advaita Vedanta Dogma particularly dangerous.. It essentially claims —-Everything is Brahman…..It is quite dangerous…..It can actually cause Narcissism in Humans who get trapped by such Dogmas.

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