Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Blasphemers from Brahmin culture

Reproduced below a letter I wrote to the Editor of "India currents" Feb 2002 monthly published from San Jose, CA 95151 ( reply to an article "Threadbare" By HARI SREENIVASAN. This was published in March 2002 issue.

The subject is lively and relavent even today.

His article was describing debate in his mind about a spurious symbol a brahmin wears without real practice of the code and attaining real quality.

He said: "Recently I came to a point in every Indian Brahmin man's life, whether he be IBCD (Indian born confused desi) like me or otherwise. It's a question that we never really assumed would get here, because it would mean the equivalent of being blasphemers from Brahmin culture; the question of course is whether to keep wearing my sacred thread?"

He questioned himself:"Is it fair for me to gain access to certain temples in south India when I know less, and am less devoted than someone who is forced to stand further back, but prays sincerely? Could this now be a spurious symbol I wear?"

My reaction:
I feel it necessary to react to "Threadbare" in Desi Voice (IC Feb 2002). I think the author is in the same turmoil as every desi, more so one who is from orthodox and poor Brahmin families. The main reason is that he is rooted neither in orthodoxy nor in cosmopolitanism.

I am a pensioner in India visiting my daughters in the U.S. and have seen life here to some extent. Though initiated to the "first phase of four-part Hindu life," I stayed away from my home for education and was not subjected to the rigors of the regulations, but I know how elders in society were following the rules. I was also influenced by the post-Independence spirit of social upliftment and secularism. This kept me away from the rituals, but I did not develop an antagonism because of the deep-rooted cultural background. During debates in my mind, I saw merits in both ways and considered that the choice should be left to the individual.

I have a modest understanding of Vedic literature and I am convinced that the rigor they insist in following is not only to give blind practice in the young, expecting the followers to get more knowledge and convinced in the religion, but also to keep the tradition going. Religion and philosophy are different but are related. You may not be able to understand and appreciate philosophy without religion.

Our philosophy is propounding a single God (there may be various paths to reach Him) and urges every one to try to attain the qualities we ascribe to God. But to reach this stage you may have to go through the mill of life and get convinced of this philosophy, otherwise you will branch off to some other path.

Knowing more should be the aim of all persons, and going to the temple, devoted or less devoted, standing in front or back, are irrelevant. Real prayer means with full sincerity. And in this act you should convince yourself and nobody else.

M.N.S. Rao, San Jose, CA

I searched the website of "India currents" for the original article and the reply, to give a link. I did not find archives that old. I have a copy of the article with me for those who want to have a look at it.


Roshan said...

Well said Uncle! I love your blog.

Shyam said...

Hello Uncle, I really liked your thought and approach. The point you mentioned in the end about quest for knowledge suits well - beyond boundaries of culture, religion, country, etc.

Anonymous said...

ha, I will try out my thought, your post bring me some good ideas, it's really amazing, thanks.

- Thomas