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(HinduDharma: The Vedic Religion And Varna Dharma)
I could live in solitude in some village somewhere, performing puja and meditating. For the conduct of the Matha it is not at all necessary to have so much money as I receive from people in the cities. In my opinion the mathas ought to have only the minimum of strength in terms of money and men. A large entourage and a battalion of hangers-on are not essential to their maintenance. A matha's financial support and strength are nothing but the quality of the individual presiding over it.
If I leave my life of solitude and come to the city it is not because you give me a lot of money. You have great affection and devotion for me and you are so glad that I am present here at your request. You wanted me to come here and you are happy that I am in your midst. This is your business. But I have my own business, my own work, in coming to this city . What is it?
I have come with the hope of making some arrangement according to which Brahmins will not give up the Vedic dharma and will continue to practise it without a break. The purpose of my being here is to ask to prepare a scheme for the promotion of the Vedic dharma which is the source and root of all our systems of thought and ways of life; the scheme must ensure that the dharma does not become extinct in this generation itself. The Vedas which know no origin should be kept shining for ever their original authentic form. The Brahmin must be a servant who will keep holding up this light, this torch, to illumine all the world. This is a duty he cannot but perform not only for today but for the generations to come.
"Brahmanya" or Brahminhood did not come into being for Brahmins to lord it over others or for their own individual advancement. Its purpose is that the Brahmin should serve as a peon to hold up the Vedic lamp and show the path of Vedic dharma to mankind. If I come to the cities it is to urge the Brahmin community there not to extinguish this lamp, for to put out this light would be to plunge the whole world in darkness for all time.
In the towns and cities people come to listen to me in their thousands. So I am able to talk directly to a large number of people. It is with this idea in mind that I come to the big towns though it means some detriment to the observance of the rites associated with the Matha.
You spend a lot of money on constructing pandals in locality after locality for people to gather and listen to me. You come to hear my discourses in the midst of all your problems. However, my conscience does not permit me to give an entertaining talk without speaking to you about what is wrong with your way of life and perhaps causing you hurt thereby. It would serve you no purpose if I take all your money but fail to tell you about what is good for you and the world. That is why I keep asking you again and again to protect the Vedic tradition and to practise the ancient dharmas. Whether or not I will succeed, I have come here to urge you again and again to do it.
You honour me with a "shower" of gold coins and celebrate with much pomp the day of my installation on the Pitha. You do so because of your great affection for me. You appoint committees, collect money and toil day and night for the purpose. But how are we to be sure that the acaryas who will succeed to the Pitha in the future will also be similarly honoured? If the Vedic dharma becomes extinct why should there be a matha at all or a mathadhipati ( head of the matha)? So I tell you: "I see that you are so enthusiastic about honouring me with a shower of gold coins to celebrate the day of my ascending the Pitha. Why don't you have the same enthusiasm to work for the preservation of the Vedic dharma? Why don't you appoint committees for the purpose, draw up schemes, raise funds?
"It does not matter if you are unable to create conditions in which Brahmins henceforth will make the pursuit of the Vedic dharma their lifelong vocation. All I ask you is the minimum you can do, make arrangements to impart to your children the Vedic mantras, to teach them the scripture for at least one our a day from the time they are eight years old until they are eighteen. Teach them also the prayoga (the conduct of rites). Do this on a cooperative basis in each locality. If you succeed in this you will have truly honoured me with a shower of gold coins."
Nothing is achieved without effort. If we take up some work for own sake we are ready to suffer any amount of hardship. There is a university in a distant land and you are told that if you take a degree from it you will get a very attractive job. What do you then? You get the syllabus from that institution by post at once, manage to go and study there. Must we abandon our dharma on the plea that its pursuit involves a great deal of trouble? If there is trouble it means the benefits yielded will be proportionately greater- also it should be a matter of greater pride.
I have come to give you trouble in this fashion. I wonder why I should not stay here and keep giving you trouble until you agree to complete the arrangements to carry out my suggestion. After all, I have to stay somewhere, so why not here?
It gives me joy that more and more bhajans are conducted in the towns than before, that work connected with temples is on the increase and that puranic discourses are given more often than before. But we must remember that the Vedas constitute the basis of all these. If our scripture suffers a decline, how long will the activities based on its survive? The Vedas must be handed down from father to son, from generation to the next. It is because we have forgotten this tradition that our religion itself has become shaky. All the trouble in the world, all the suffering and all the evil must be attributed to the fact that the Brahmin has forsaken his dharma, the Vedic dharma.
I am not worried about the system of jatis destroyed, but I am worried about the setback to the welfare of mankind. I am also extremely concerned about the fact that, if the Vedic tradition which has been maintained like a chain from generation to generation is broken, it may not be possible to create the tradition all over again.
The good arising in a subtle from the sound of the Vedas and the performance of sacrifices is not the only benefit that constitutes "lokaksema" or the welfare of mankind. From Vedanta are derived lofty truths that can bring Atmic uplift to people belonging to all countries. How did foreigners come to have an interest in our Vedanta? When they came to India they discovered here a class of people engaged in the practice of the Vedic dharma as a lifetime calling. They were curious to find out in what way the Vedas were great that an entire class of people should have dedicated themselves to them all their life. They conducted research into these scriptures and discovered many truths including those pointing to the unity of the various cultures of the world.
The Vedas bring universal good. This is not all. In the beginning, in my opinion, the Vedic culture was prevalent throughout the world. Others also, it is likely, will arrive at the same view on a thorough inquiry into the subject. The fact that there is something common to all mankind should be a source of universal happiness and it should also contribute to a sense of harmony among the various religions. Apart from this, I feel that people belonging of the truths of the Vedic religion.
If a separate class of people ready to sacrifice everything for the cause of the Vedic tradition did not exist, how would you expect people of other countries to become interested in this tradition? If we ourselves discard something that is our own, thinking it to be useless, how can we expect others to take an interest in it? Because of our neglect we have been guilty of denying others the benefits to be earned from the Vedas. It is the responsibility of the present generation to ensure the continuance of the Vedic tradition not only for the happiness of people belonging to all castes in this country but for people throughout the world. Without this task accomplished, no purpose is going to be served by honouring me with a shower of gold coins.
Why then did I agree to the kanakabhiseka? Had I not agreed to it, would you have gathered in such large numbers to listen to me?
To dispel the hatred, anger and bitterness that vitiate our social life people whose duty it is to sustain the Vedic dharma must remain true to it and set an example to others by living a life of virtue and tranquillity. The benefits that come from such a life may not be immediately perceptible. What happens when there is a hartal? All shops are closed and people have to suffer much inconvenience. Think of what will happen when the work of preserving the Vedic dharma come to a stop? The ill effects suffered by society will not be felt immediately but over a period. People then will realise the advantage of having an exclusive class that is devoted to Vedic learning as a lifelong mission. If you(Brahmins) alone do not fall in your duty, one day all the present hatred in society will be wiped away and happiness will reign instead.
In the hoary past it was in the Tamil country that Manu lived. It was here that Vedic learning, Atmic enlightenment and devotion attained their heights of glory. "Dravidesu bhurisah," they say. We had not only saints like Tayumanavar and Pattinattar in Tamil Nadu, but also great men belonging to other religions like Vedanayagam Pillai and Mastan Sahib who became Vedantins because of the special quality of the Tamil soil.
The original home of the Vedas is this land. It is believed that, as the age of Kali comes to a close, Kalki (the tenth incarnation of Visnu) will be born in the Tirunelveli region of the Dravida land with the mission of protecting the Vedas. He will be born the son of a Brahmin who will be steadfast in performing the duties of his birth- so it is mentioned in the Puranas. In a land like this there ought not to be any opposition to the Vedic dharma. I have come here, to this city [Madras], to remind you that Brahmins hold the key to the Vedas, to the continuance of the Vedic tradition.
Our religion places on its followers more restraints than any other faith does on its, but these are meant to elevate man to his true state, to take him to his true destination. There are restraints to be observed by the individual as well as by the community. Any restraint is like the embankment of a lake or a river. If the embankments are damaged, or if they are swept away, the whole area will be devastated. Today there are no restraints at all in the life of the individual or of society, no restraints in a religion that once imposed the maximum number of restrictions on its followers.
I go from place and keep giving discourses. I do so to keep Brahmins under some check or restraint because they are expected to be pathfinders for the rest of the entire society. There is a general belief that Brahmins are more attached to me than are others- whether or not Brahmins themselves think so or I think so. So, if I first succeed a little in binding them to their dharma, I will have the strength to teach others their dharma.
In brief, what do I ask of Brahmins? Before giving up his mortal frame, the Acarya composed five stanzas that contains the essence of his teachings. I keep telling Brahmins today what the Acarya says right at the start: Veda nityam adhiyatam". The same exhortation is made by the saint-poetess Auvvaiyar. It reads almost like a Tamil translation of the words of the Acarya- "Odamal orunalum irrukkavendam". What the Acarya says in a positive manner ("You must chant the Vedas every day"), Auvvaiyar puts in a negative way ("Not a single day should you pass without chanting the Vedas"). In Tamil the Vedas are called "Ottu". The Thirukkural has also the same term. The place where the Vedas worshipped Isvara is known as Vedapuri: in Tamil it is "Tiruvottur" ("Tiru-Ottu-ur"). Vedic chanting has survived up till now from the time of Brahma's creation. I keep visiting places to give people trouble and make them spend money during these visits. I do so only to impress upon them that the chanting of the Vedas must go on for ever.
So many thousands of you are gathered here. It is my hope that my words will have made an impact on at least ten or twenty of my listeners and that these ten or twenty will remember them and try to act according to them.
It was only after people emigrated to the big towns and cities that they found themselves compelled to lead a life contrary to the teachings of their dharma. It is in urban centres that you see some of the worst aspects of modern civilization. That is why I had decided not to come to such places, preferring to stay in the villages. But people from these urban centres insisted that I should visit them and, though I was touched by their affection, I was at first reluctant to accede to their request. I told them: "I shall come if you agree to return to our old ways of life, even if it be to a small extent. You need not take lessons in the Vedas all at once. But, as a beginning, you must adopt the external symbols of our Vedic dharma. The peon wears a uniform, doesn't he? The Brahmin must wear the pancakaccha and sikha. There are not symbols proclaiming his superiority; on the contrary, they denote that he is a servant of all other communities, a servant of the Vedas. You must wear these symbols if you want me to come to your city."
It was in vain that I had laid down these conditions. Perhaps there was no desire on the part of the Brahmins. I had spoken to change their style of dress or their outlook or perhaps they did not have the courage to do it. But they requested me again and again that I should visit them. Eventually, I reconciled myself to accepting their invitation even though they had not acted on my words. "They still have some respect and affection for me, "I told myself. "I will agree to their request and see whether my purpose will be served if I go into their midst and speak to them directly again. After all, what is the Matha for? It is meant for the welfare of the people, to cure them of their ills and turn them to the right path. It is my duty to speak to them again and again- whether or not they like it- about how in my opinion they have gone wrong".
Thus I started visiting the towns again. When people welcome me in great joy, honour me wherever I go, decorate the roads with bunting, how can I wound their feelings by speaking about what is wrong with them? Everybody has problems in life. The world is plunged in turmoil and people face all sorts of hardships. In the midst of all this they come to me hoping to forget their problems. Is it right for me to remind them of their faults? Or am I to keep everybody happy by turning my religious discourse into an entertaining performance?
Am I to speak to people about what is good for them, what is good for society, or am I to make them happy for the moment by making my talk a kacceri-like performance? But there are musicians for kacceris and why should I be invited to perform something similar? If I were to give a kacceri-like performance for the sake of money, I would have to make the listeners happy for the time being. But my purpose is not money. If money comes, it is spent in feeding more than the usual number of people, in holding assemblies of the learned, etc. The affairs of the Matha could be managed with the smaller amounts received in the villages. However, an effort must be made, all the same, to speak to the entire community of people about what is good for them, for their life. Is this not the very purpose of the Matha?
Thinking on these lines, I came to this conclusion: "It is up to them (the people I am to address in the towns) to listen to me and act on my advice. Whether or not they like it, I will speak to them about their duties, about what they should do for spiritual uplift as well as for the happiness of mankind. "I can do no more than speak to them about their duty. I have no authority to punish them if they fail in this. Even in political parties which believe in the oneness and equality of all, disciplinary action is taken against erring members- some are expelled like untouchables. I have no authority to excommunicated anyone for any of their offences. Nor do I ask for myself such authority to be exercised over men. The only right I ask for is to have the ears of people. I cannot but do what I can do- that is why I am here.
Sufficient it would be even if a single individual somewhere paid heed to my words and acted according to them. He would be the starting point in the direction of the desired growth. Have not movements that do not have an iota of justification behind them grown with just ten people to start with? For a good cause also it would be enough if ten people joined together initially.
I keep speaking in the hope of finding such people. You must not feel unhappy thinking that I am very much dissatisfied with you. I am not unaware of the complexities and problems of modern life. If one is trapped in it, I know how difficult it is to be freed from it. In the midst of all this, you make arrangements in a big way for kumbhabhisekas, bhajans, discourses, etc. I am happy about it all. I feel encouraged by it to speak to you about that which is the very basis, the very life-breath, of these activities of yours. It is that of fostering the Vedic dharma.
Though there is much room for offences against the sastras in the present way of life and though there is cause for worry about the future. I am reassured by certain signs that promise our well-being. Instead of lamenting that "all is lost", the proper thing to do is to promote the good aspects in present-day life and to speak about what still needs to be done. In this way those who have taken the wrong path will sooner or later see the light and turn to the path of wisdom.
All this gives me the confidence to speak about the old ways of life and the old customs. I do not claim that all that is old is necessarily good. At the same time, I feel that nothing should be rejected merely because it is old. An object (or deed) is to judged not on the basis of whether it is old or new; it is to be accepted or rejected after finding out how useful it is. Let us accept what is good in the new and reject what is bad in the old. Likewise, let us reject what is bad in the new and accept what is good in the old. Kalidasa says the same thing.
You have invited me with much affection and treated me with much honour. So I feel reluctant to tell you about what is bad in your present way of life. I have dealt with many subjects- about devotion, jnana, culture, and so on. True, they are edifying topics. But they are all like the branches, flowers and fruits supported by something deeper, supported by the root constituted by the Vedas. Nothing grows with this root, without the Vedic tradition being nourished. It is pointless to speak about other matters after leaving out this vital subject. The preservation of the Vedic dharma is the basic service we render to our religion, and while on the subject, we have necessarily to do well on the drawbacks in the present way of life. After speaking to you about other matters, about mixing with you. I have become friends with you and I feel I could take up then topic of the Vedas since I feel I need not be as reluctant as I was before in telling you about what is wrong with your way of life.
The very purpose of my visit is this. But is it proper for me to speak about it right at the start? Since you have done your job by honouring me and pleasing me, I feel I can now do my job by speaking about the importance of sustaining the Vedic way of life. I have given you so much trouble for this purpose and put you to a lot of expense. As if this were not enough, I am asking you, like Vinoba Bhave, for "sampatti-dana".
Every Brahmin must learn the Vedas and teach his sons the same. Necessary though this is, there is something even more important to be done as a matter of priority: it is to make sure that the schools that teach the Vedas (the pathasalas) which are gasping for breath as it were are not closed down but given new life. For this purpose both teachers and taught must be given monetary help. More Vedic schools must also be established not only to teach the mantras but also their meaning and to conduct examinations. During the years of study the students must be given a stipend. On passing their examinations they must be given substantial awards, the amount depending upon their marks. You have to do all this to maintain the Vedic dharma. Naturally, you need capital for it.
Trusts have been created for this purpose. A number of people have made gifts of land (bhudana)- like Vinoba Bhave I too have received bhudana. Now ceilings of landowning have come into force. It is difficult to foresee how the rights of landowners will be affected in the future. That is why I am asking for sampatti-dana.
Everyone of you must put one rupee in a piggy bank every month on the day on which your janma-naksatra falls. Think of me as you do it for, after all, it is I who am asking you to do it. After twelve months you must send the Rs 12 so collected to the Veda Raksana Nidhi. On your janma-naksatra, the Matha will send you prasada (vibhuti-sacred ashes-kumkum, mantraksata). You will be the recipient of the blessings of Candramaulisvara if you contribute to the Veda Raksana Nidhi year after year.
You pay taxes and spend so much on so many things. Take this contribute to the Veda Raksana Nidhi as a tax imposed by me: pay one rupee every month for my sake. If everyone agreed to do so, it would mean great support to the task of preserving the Vedic dharma. The maintenance of the Vedic tradition is uppermost in my mind and it is a duty we have to carry our for the good of future generations.
If you ask me why the Vedic dharma must be perpetuated, the answer is that the sound of Vedic mantras and the conduct of Vedic rites like sacrifices will bring universal material and spiritual well-being. Second, if people in every country of the world are to know that the Vedic religion was once a universal religion and, if unity and peace are to be achieved on the basis of such awareness, there must be a class of people in our country who will devote themselves solely to Vedic learning. I maintain that fostering the Vedic dharma is of the utmost importance because it will bring prosperity and inward tranquillity to people not only in our country but all over the world.
There should not be even a single Brahmin in the next generation who will not be able to chant the Vedas. We need the Brahmin not to exercise authority over others, but to carry out the duty of protecting the primordial dharma- and this not only for the unity of our land but for the oneness of the whole world.
How can we claim that a small group of people in this country (dedicated to maintaining the Vedic tradition) can create happiness throughout the world? Well, take the case of a powerhouse. Only four or five work in it but the entire town receives light. If these four or five people do not work, the whole town will be plunged in darkness. In the same way only a few people are required to keep the auspicious world lamp of the Vedas burning. My mission here is to protect somehow the seed capital necessary for it. For the sake of this, I agreed to all the festivities you conducted in my honour. The chant of "Jaya-Jaya Sankara, Hara-Hara Sankara" heard during these festivities brought so many people here to listen to my discourses. Those who conducted the festival in my honour must pay heed to what I wish to say. You exert yourself in many ways in the cause of so many things. Why not to exert yourself a little for my sake also? You do so much for yourself: you go to your office; you have your own pastime; and you conduct all kinds of businesses. For my sake do this job of protecting the Vedic dharma.
Why should I speak differentiating between you and me ["For your sake" and "my sake"]. My work is also your work. Maintaining the Vedic tradition is the one job that ensures the supreme good of all. Doing this duty means well being for you- and I shall be earning a name as a result!
For a general background, please see here