17.) Seeing the Same Things Differently

Many incidents from Hindu lore have been placed in a social context by modern scholars, thereby imparting to them the character of social injustice. Thus the case of Ekalavya, and his mistreatment by Droṇa, has been read as an expression of castiest oppression; the overthrowing of Bali by Viṣṇu in his dwarf incarnation has been held up as an example of chicanery, and the killing of Śambūka by Rāma, for practicing forbidden austerities, has been deplored as a bloody and ghastly attempt to protect caste privileges.

These incidents however are not such as have come to light recently. They have been a part of Hindu lore for centuries. The story of Ekalavya appears in the Mahābhārata; of Bali in the Purāṇas, and that of Śambūka in the Rāmāyaṇa—and these texts have been part of the Hindu tradition for at least two thousand years.

So the question arises: what moral, if any, did the tradition itself draw from these incidents, in contrast to the modern Marxist interpretation? This would provide a useful foil for the modern interpretations.

It seems that the tradition has drawn a moral, or even more than one moral, lesson from these accounts. What remains to be done then is to identify some of them.

An incident in the hagiographical work of the Śrīvaiśṇava tradition, entitled Guru Paramparā Prabhāvam (The Splendour of the Succession of Teachers) records the following incident, which pertains to Rāmānuja as its central character, and involves the example of Ekalavya.

Apparently, while learning the Tiruvāymoli from Tirumālai Āntān, Rāmānuja differed from his teacher’s interpretation of the verses several times, offering alternate explanations. After Rāmānuja offered a different interpretation for 2.3.4, his teacher ceased his instruction, saying that these were mischievous explanations, which he had not heard from Yāmuna. The stalemate was resolved by another disciple of Yāmuna, Tirukōttiyūr Nampi, who reconciled the teacher and disciple by claiming that he had heard the alternate interpretation from Yāmuna. What is interesting to note is that Rāmānuja’s position had to be vindicated by another teacher’s recollection of Yāmuna’s commentary, and there was no text against which to check it. The Splendor goes on to say that at a later time, Tirumālai Āntān again hesitated to accept a certain interpretation, but Rāmānuja said that he was a disciple of Yāmuna as the legendary Ekalavya was a disciple of Droṇa: a student who learnt from a master in spirit, without actually ever being in his presence. So, even when there was no witness to attest that Rāmānuja’s opinion had been stated earlier by Yāmuna, the community assumed that whatever Rāmāunja said would have been said by or at least permitted by Yāmuna.[1]

Similarly, in light of what Shree Swaminarayan (1781-1830) says about Bali it can be argued that its real purpose was to vouchsafe a cosmic vision to Bali, just as one had been offered to Arjuna[2]—with this difference, that, in the case of Arjuna, it was in order to provoke him to undertake a course of action, while in the case of Bali it was to put an end to the course of action he was pursuing.

Finally, Kālidāsa suggests that the reason why Śambūka was beheaded was because he broke the law deliberately, so that he could be killed by Rāma and proceed straightaway to heaven.[3]

It is interesting how all the incidents have been construed positively by the tradition for its own purposes, just as the same incidents have been construed negatively by the Marxists for their own purposes. We do not see things as they are, says the Talmud, we see them as we are. And are these meant to be Rorschach tests for those looking at them?


[1] John Carman and Vasudha Narayanan, The Tamil Veda: Pillān’s Interpretation of the Tiruvāymoli (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1989) p. 9.

[2] Leslie Shepard, ed., Life and Philosophy of Shree Swaminarayan (1781-1830) By H.T. Dave (London: George Allen and Uwins, 1974) p. 207.

[3] Raghuvaśa XV.53.

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6 Responses to “17.) Seeing the Same Things Differently”

  1. Prof.Mallikarjuna Rao Says:

    What prof. Sharma says is absolutely true. Each age and ideology comes out with its own interpretation of events. Prushasuktham is another piece which is often quoted by the Marxists and the so called Dalit intellectuals to condemn Braminical tradition, which they argue upholds caste system, but they fail to show a society or an organization or an institution in history which is sans hierarchy. Still consensus is possible if only one is objective and interested in knowing the truth.

  2. sunanda Says:

    Dear Sir:

    We are planning to do a big protest when pop visits US (he is visiting after 22 years) to bring the vision of preservation of religious diversity. We have a small dedicated group in US. If you can recommend any body that will be great. with regards, sunanda

  3. Suresh Vyas Says:

    Let many people send message as follows to Pope.

    Dear Pope,

    I request the preachers of all the non-Vedic religions to please totally stop any conversion activity in Bharat, and give up converting Hindus for the following reasons:

    1. Vedic dharma is one of a very few religions that tells not to convert any one by force or enticement or financial lures or political pressures. For this reason, the Hindus have no armies or preachers to the harvest souls of other religions.

    2. The thousands of years old Vedic history shows that Hindus have not invaded other countries by force and never have converted any one by force. This cannot be said of Christianity or Islam. The Hindus never have killed any one just because he/she is not a Hindu.

    3. Any ritual or practice or concepts of Hindu dharma is not taking away the freedom (of thought, speech, and action) of the people of the tolerant faiths, and it does not cause any hindrance to non-Hindus.

    4. The Hindus in Bharat have easily provided entry to those who migrate to save their lives and or religion. Zoroastrians migrated from Iran because of the threat from Islam, and we happily accepted them in our society. We never have problem from them, and we never discriminated them for any reason. The same could be said for the Jews who came/migrated to Bharat. This remarkable phenomenon is due to the Vedic dharma.

    5. Vedic dharma in inherently tolerant of other tolerant faiths.

    6. Vedic dharma is the complete science of spirituality. I invite all the open minded intelligent people to study Bhagavad Gita – THE BOOK – of Hinduism. An intelligent person should not think of changing or replacing something that is so good. For example, when you know there is pure water in a bottle, you do not need to do anything to improve it, because it could not be made any better, it already is pure.

    7. Hindus has never enslaved other people. Islam, Christianity, and Egyptian cultures have history of forcing slavery upon other peoples.

    8. The Hindus did malpractice dharma (and there may still be some Hindus malpracticing dharma) though, and that is very sad for me. So, if any non-Vedic wants to make them give up any malpractice of dharma, then contact me or the Vedic gurus or Vedic organizations, and provide them help so that they can lead the Hindus to give up any mal-practice.

    9. For 1000 years Islam has cause immense suffering, killings, and destruction of Hindu dharma and temples and Vedic literature by invasions and force in Bharat. Christians have done some too, especially in Goa. Christianity is famous for killing other cultures and religions. Despite such suffering in Bharat, the Vedic dharma is still alive. This fact should tell the aggressors that there is something of value in it, and therefore Vedic people should be left alone.

    10. The practicing Vedic person is color blind, meaning he/she does not see skin color, race, religion, sex, etc. He sees the soul and supersoul in each living being. Therefore he greets people with namaste or namaskaar (folded hands, meaning “the supersoul within you and within is the same god.”) Also, this method of greeting without body contact avoids spread of germs, if any.

    This fact could be verified by the fact that the hare Krishnas in the western world have people from all the races, and skin colors and religions.

    11. The Vedic paradigm is that no one is a sinner, and there is permanent hell for any one, and that all have equal opportunity to peruse spiritual progress and realize god, and or be happy and make others happy. The Vedic prayers are universal in nature, encompassing all the people and other lives. To the Hindus “god blesses America” is not broad enough. God can bless all the people and countries. That is how the concept of Vedic gods is. No Vedic God is jealous of any one, and there is no personality like Devil.

    I could come up with a few more reasons, but please let me if this is enough. What I am saying is against the direction of the Pope. Our friendship will strengthen more if you could understand what I am saying. You have no loss in giving up converting the Hindus. Besides, there are internal problems within the western and Islam society where your philanthropic efforts could be directed. If you must convert, please convert the Muslims. The world will be better without Islam. I have no doubt about it. In any case, it has no right to stay where it has invaded by force.

    An open minded student of Vedic dharma eventually will realize that if world peace is to be achieved, then it will come only by promoting Vedic dharma. Because the Abrahamic religions are hostile against all the infidels and against each other. Their interest is to possess lands, resources, and control over lives of other peoples. A verse from Isopanishad comes to mind, but will share it when I see you have interest to know.

    If you see something good in my writing, please share with other preachers who could take it positively and not in any unfriendly manner.

    Wishing you sin-free life.

    Suresh Vyas

  4. Poonam Abbi Says:

    A person’s perspective is limited by his ability & intellectual capacity…the actual capacity, not the one he thinks he has…I quote from a wise Urdu shayar, “Koi apni hi nazar se to humen dekhega, ek qtre ko samandar nazar aaye kaise”…a drop can not see an ocean.

  5. Poonam Abbi Says:

    What makes you think your appeal to the pope will move him? He is a catholic & a nazi by origin of birth & culture.

  6. yogesh saxena Says:

    It is an iron cage, not having any ventilation and people are living in the state of suffocation, virtually on the verge of their death point. There is a complete apathy of the custodian of the power towards their welfare and in our country “We, the people ” who are regarded to be the sovereign of the nation are living a life full of abrogation and subjugation. I seldom consider that whether it is worthwhile to shout a voice and thereby invite some lighter sleeper to suffer the agony of the death and this purpose achieved through my writing may serve some purpose. Since the daylight shallow the darkness, I have written articles to take the intellectual from apathetically approach towards rectification of prevailing maladies as to wake up. I am sending herewith my some articles for being displayed by your good self. Yogesh Kumar Saxena, Advocate, High Court Allahabad (India) e mail Address yogrekha@yahoo.co.in or yogrekha@rediffmail.com Phone:- 91/ 0532/637720/2436451, Mobile:- 9415284843

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