On Adi sha~Nkara’s theism

Ghora: My conclusion (in short):

1. shaMkara had no qualms with either shiva or viSNu being kAryabrahman or a saguNa symbol of the Atman he held as the highest reality. He was not your tear-jerking bhakta so favoured by the sectarian devotees of this or that deity. He didn’t particularly care about this issue. In the entire analysis I have restricted myself to quoting works which are unanimously held to be authored by him. No stotras, not even his independent works. His BSB, BGB & UpBs(brahmasutrabhAShya,bhagavadgItAbhAShya, upaniShad bhAShyas) That’s all

2. He may not have been comfortable with the existing, dominant shaiva sects of his time (pAshupatam or caturbhagini worship). In this light, please do not that there is an extremely famous bauddha mantra which invoked protection against various “dangerous” beings, including the caturbhaginis.

3. shaMkara was most likely not exposed to the mild siddhAnta form (I have issues with his dating but this is a different story)
Me: Why do you think so about (3)?

Ghora: Forgot to send u the main portion: Here are all the facts abt shaMkara’s theism:

1. shaMkara had a very dry conception of “brahman”, whom he clearly distinguishes from viSNu by the use of an interesting simile in the BSB.

2. There is the high possibility that he quotes a mantra from the kaivalyopaniSat at the start of his aitareyopaniSadbhASya. As you know, the kaivalyopaniSat is unabashedly shaiva In orientation.

3. He definitely quotes the shvetashvataropaniSat in his BSB; which you also know that gives a valid basis for shiva being parabrahman.

4. In his bhASya on kenopaniSat, where umA haimavatI “schools” indra & others, how does he gloss on the shruti’s description of umA devI—“bahushobhamAnAm umAM haimavatIm”. That gloss itself is very telling.

There are two bhASyas on kena. But still, both are telling. In one, he simply says that she is rudrapatnI who is brahmavidyA herself. In the other, he says that she is ever in contact with the sarvajña īśvara.

5. It is true that while he rejects all systems “outside” the veda: yoga, sAMkhyA, pāśupata & pāñcarātra, his treatment of pāñcarātra seems to be the kindest, where he says that he does not condemn their rituals but only their faulty metaphysics.

6. In his gItAbhASya, he gives vinAyakas, saptamAtRkas & caturbhaginis as examples of bhUtas. He doesn’t say that one shouldn’t worship them but he gives bhUtas as an example of tAmasika worship. Now points 5 & 6 have been milked for all it is worth by SVs without appreciating the context or appreciating the weight of points 1-4.

Me : Yes

Ghora: 3 is because the siddhAnta was far from well-known in the 600s/700s (I’m inclined to date earlier tbf)…Even around the 600s (appar), it was still a fledgling movement with pAshupatas possibly still being the dominant group
Ghora: The four main maThas were built in places in eras when the siddhAnta simply was not present there….

His dwelling in kAnchi & kAshmIra are generally considered hagiographic excesses

My own note: The simile in question from the brahmasutrabhAShya is ईदृशं चात्र ब्रह्मण उपास्यत्वं यतः प्रतीकेषु तत्दृष्ट्याध्यारोपणं प्रतिमादिषु इव विष्ण्वादीनाम्।(īdṛśaṃ cātra brahmaṇa upāsyatvaṃ yataḥ pratīkeṣu tatdṛṣṭyādhyāropaṇaṃ pratimādiṣu iva viṣṇvādīnām। For those who can’t read devanAgarI).

On mAnasika pUjA


mAnasika pUjA is not a substitute for the external rituals. Are we yogis that we can ignore/shut out all sensory inputs from our various indriyas and surroundings and do the pUjA in our current states just mAnasika?An example of how all the senses were directed towards nArAyaNa is the example of mahArAja ambarISha given in the link.(Using the ISKCON translation because I am lazy)

sa vai manaḥ kṛṣṇa-padāravindayor
vacāṁsi vaikuṇṭha-guṇānuvarṇane
karau harer mandira-mārjanādiṣu
śrutiṁ cakārācyuta-sat-kathodaye
mukunda-liṅgālaya-darśane dṛśau
tad-bhṛtya-gātra-sparśe ‘ṅga-saṅgamam
ghrāṇaṁ ca tat-pāda-saroja-saurabhe
śrīmat-tulasyā rasanāṁ tad-arpite
pādau hareḥ kṣetra-padānusarpaṇe
śiro hṛṣīkeśa-padābhivandane
kāmaṁ ca dāsye na tu kāma-kāmyayā
yathottamaśloka-janāśrayā ratiḥ

Mahārāja Ambarīṣa always engaged his mind in meditating upon the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa, his words in describing the glories of the Lord, his hands in cleansing the Lord’s temple, and his ears in hearing the words spoken by Kṛṣṇa or about Kṛṣṇa. He engaged his eyes in seeing the Deity of Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa’s temples and Kṛṣṇa’s places like Mathurā and Vṛndāvana, he engaged his sense of touch in touching the bodies of the Lord’s devotees, he engaged his sense of smell in smelling the fragrance of tulasī offered to the Lord, and he engaged his tongue in tasting the Lord’s prasāda. He engaged his legs in walking to the holy places and temples of the Lord, his head in bowing down before the Lord, and all his desires in serving the Lord, twenty-four hours a day. Indeed, Mahārāja Ambarīṣa never desired anything for his own sense gratification. He engaged all his senses in devotional service, in various engagements related to the Lord. This is the way to increase attachment for the Lord and be completely free from all material desires.


All these to keep one’s mind while doing the ritual of pUjA,japa,etc to establish the prescence of the devatA in the mind. Are those who claim mAnasika pUjA can be done merely due to lack of effort in shuchi/correct dravya/ityAdi yogins /have reached that quality of being absorbed in your devatA all your time?If yes,I have no objections.

On Hotee Vidyalankar and other learned brAhmaNa ladies

Copying from Halley Gowami because some things deserve a more permanent media than a Facebook post


” Some ladies recieved higher education and managed to rise to great hieghts ! Amongst such rare women , Hotee Vidyalankar , Hotu Vidyalankar , Anandamayee Devi (1752 — 1772) and Priyamvada Devi (16th cent–17th cent) stands out .
Hotee Vidyalankar was the most famous of them all . Born to ‘kulin’ brahmin family she was a widow from childhood . She became an authority on Sanskrit grammer , poetry , Smriti , Navya-nyay and established her own ‘chatuspathi’ ( centers of higher learning ) at Varanasi ! Brahman Pandits bestowed her with the title of Vidyalankar . She died at an advanced age in the year 1810 .

Hotu Vidyalankar’s real name was Rupamanjari . She was not a brahmin , but her father , Narayan Das noticed her exceptional intellgence and sent her at the ‘chatuspaathi’ of a brahmin pandit . There Rupamanjari mastered Ayurved , Grammer and other branches of studies . Her fame spread far and wide and students used to come from far off places to learn or get opinions on Ayurved , charak samhita and grammer . Ayurvedic doctors of the age used to consult her on matters of medicine ! Rupamanjari never married and kept her head shaven with a ‘shikha’ ( Chuda / tuft of hair ) and dressed as a man . She died 100 years of age at 1875 . ”

Someone in the comments mentions that Narayan Sanyal wrote a book রূপমঞ্জরী on haTI vidyAla~Nkara.


On festivities,and proper dhārmika pomp

Just what is essential (tai/t’i) for a land and people to be a nation (kuni)? Without four limbs, a man is not a man. Similarly, a nation also possesses some essence [or requisite and defining entity that makes it a nation] (kokutai).

-Aizawa Seishisai

The soul of the Hindu nation is built on reverence to the rites(temples,yajñas,etc) and the public celebrations of our devatās. These comprise our Hindu system,which is in absolute opposition to systems from Abraham’s children(Christian,Islam,liberal,etc).

Only people who aren’t aware of the myth they are living by tell you myths can be abolished

-John Gray

Indeed. They are living the myths of liberalism,to be precise. Or other Christians/Muslims/other malicious parties using that adverse system to bait Hindus. Hence they have endless lectures for Hindus on how polluting/exploitative their festivities are(example:The dirt thrown on Dahi handi celebrations when compared to human pyramid festivities in Europe,or about polluting pandals). Or when they say about how Diwali/pandals are endless pollutants compared to 4th of July/31st December-1st January celebrations/fireworks celebrations of Bollywood celebs which invite pindrop silence to happiness from them). And have to make lots of unprincipled exceptions in their lines of arguments to specially target us. They are all side tracks to the main issue that these,as public expressions of reverence towards our devas,are matters in which no compromise should be brooked. Let us turn to Seishisai again

By worshiping Amaterasu [privately] within court enclosures, earlier emperors had offered the full measure of their sincere devotion to Her, it is true. But the significance of [earlier] emperors’ ritual acts was lost on the people below. By worshipping Amaterasu publicly, Emperor Sujin displayed his sincere devotion to the whole realm. Thus, the people grasped the significance of His Majesty’s act [directly and sensually], not through explanations or lectures…

When the Duke of Chou was praised in antiquity for having attained the “ultimate in filial devotion,” it was because everyone in the realm [joined him] in worshiping his ancestors, each person according to his proper status.The Duke of Chou did not worship his parents within ritual-hall confines, but in public, together with his people.

Similar thing can be said about Vijayadashami/Dipavali/etc celebrations. Celebrations in full dhārmika pomp and splendour,reinforcing the prescence of our devas should be made even more louder,since for us,we know and have been sustained by them for our entire civilizational length,and are the sustainers of the cosmos as seen by us,our gurus and our ṛṣis. We need not pay to people who bring up frivolous excuses to gaslight/blackmail us into reducing the dhārmika grandeur and colour of celebrations like environment,or how faith is personal. We have either these or the endless celebrations of the liberal West like Pride Month/Pride Parades/various soulless corporate dungheaps. There are no two swords in one scabbard,there is either only Indra or Vṛtra,Varāha or Hiraṇyākṣa. Similarly there is no coexistence with these systems,despite what many cloudy-visioned people may say otherwise. This was realized by far greater people than me like Tilak,who spearheaded the revival of Ganeshotsava. My standard personally for dhārmika pomp and celebrations would be the celebrations of the Mysore rājans that can be done with local groups/local rich men/grand buisiness folks at their own respective grand scales as well.


The tale of Satyakāma Jabala as seen by traditionalists

From an acquaintance’s posts here


Rajarshi Nandy:

The Chandogya Upanishad mentions this incident. The boy came to Gauthama
Rishi for knowledge and the Rishi asked him for his gotra. The boy goes back
to his mother and finds out that his mother is not aware of who the father
was. The boy comes back and says the same to Rishi Guathama, who says that
he shall teach the boy as the boy belongs to the gotra of truth, and thus by
default is a Brahmana.

“Thereupon the boy went to Gautama and asked to be accepted as a student.
‘Of what family are you, my lad?’ inquired the sage. Satyakama replied: ‘I
asked my mother what my family name was, and she answered: “I do not know.
In my youth I was a servant and worked in many places. I do not know who was
your father. I am Jabala, and you are Satyakama. Call yourself Satyakama
Jabala!” I am therefore Satyakama Jabala, sir.’ Then said the sage: ‘None
but a true Brahmin would have spoken thus. Go and fetch fuel, for I will
teach you. You have not swerved from the truth.'” (Chandogya Upanishad

So that is one sure shot, explicit case, where a Rishi shows that the tag
Brahmin is more by action than by birth.

Ajit Krishnan:

This is a popular misconception. Satyakama asks his mother this
question upfront. The mother does not know her child’s gotra. Why? In
olden days, women married young, and did not ask questions such as
“Who are you? What is your gotra?” to their husband. (In some areas,
this is still taboo today.) Over time, the gotra would be repeated
during various samskara’s, she would naturally remember it. The
conclusion here is that her husband, whom she served with devotion,
died young.

The seers were tri-kAla-darshi-s. Gautama knew of his boy’s pedigree
before asking him the question. After hearing his answer, he says “A
non-brahmin could not have said this . . . you have not swerved from
the truth”. “satyam” is explained as “brAhmaNa-jAti-dharma”.

First, you have a jAti-brAhmaNa who desires to go to a preceptor, on
his own, during childhood. He then answers the preceptor’s question
truthfully, in his mother’s own words, without embellishment. This is
a very rare set of events. Of course the acharyA sees the worthy
student in front of him.

Rajarshi Nandy:

I do not agree to this analysis of the incident.

Ajit Krishnan:

You are certainly welcome to your opinions. However, the view I shared
is the traditional one, and it makes quite a bit of sense to me. I am
content with the traditional understanding, which shows this woman as
a pativrata. In the famed 3-volume set “Upanishad Bhashyam”, the
editor, Sri S.N.Sastri has a very lengthly footnote on the subject.
Those who are interested can go through it.

Narasimha Rao

Dear Ajit,

I am really sorry, but I have to disagree with you in this issue.

With due respect to you and Sri S.N. Sastri, I must say that Rajarshi’s view
is far more accurate and truthful to the scripture. In fact, Swami
Vivekananda also shared exactly the same view (i.e. Rajarshi’s view) when
commenting on this story from Chhaandogypanishad!

* * *

The specific line where mother Jabaalaa tells son Satyakaama about his gotra
in Chandogyopanishad is:

“naahametadveda taata yadgotrastvamasi bahvaham charantii parichaariNii
yauvane tvaamalabhe saahametanna veda yadgotrastvamasi” (chhaandogyopaniShad

Literal meaning word to word is: taata = son, aham = I, na veda = not know,
etat = that, yat = which, gotras = gotra, tvam = you, asi = are, aham = I,
charantii = moving, bahu = a lot, parichaariNii = servant maid, yauvane = in
youth, tvaam = you, alabhe = got, saaham = thus I, na veda = not know, etat
= that, yat = which, gotras = gotra, tvam = you, asi = are.

Literal translation without any interpretation (or spin) is:

“Son, I do not which gotra you are. I was a servant maid moving a lot in
youth when I got you. Thus, I do not know which gotra you are.”

* * *

Now, I cannot reconcile Sri S.N. Sastri’s interpretation with the above at
all. Even today, in this deep Kali yuga, Brahmins do find out the gotra
before marriage and avoid marrying people from the same gotra at any cost. I
find it strange that one would get married without finding gotra in old
days. In any case, there is no reference to such a thing above. There is
also no reference to early death of father. If she did not know the gotra
because her husband died when child was young and she did not ask at the
time of marriage, she would’ve explicitly said that and not say “I was a
servant maid moving a lot in youth when I got you. Thus, I do not know which
gotra you are.” If the true reason is that her husband died young, what is
the relevance of her being a servant maid and her moving a lot? Why would
she mention those irrelevant points and not her husband dying young?

Thus, I cannot support Sri S.N. Sastri’s view at all. It seems quite
far-fetched and motivated to me.

* * *

If one’s conditioned mind cannot accept the fact that a maharshi accepted
the son of a woman who would be considered “fallen” by the moral standards
one is used to, then one would probably try to imagine things, twist the
words of a scripture and give an interpretation that fits with one’s notions
of right and wrong. But then, one would be missing out on the true morals of
the scripture and an opportunity to question and refine one’s pre-exiting
notions of right and wrong…

* * *

Let us say an unmarried woman with good control over senses wanted a child.
Let us say she slept with five men that she liked and respected, with mutual
consent, on five different occasions, not for carnal pleasure, but with the
sole intention of begetting a child with any of them and then raising the
child alone.

Let us say another person (man or woman) slept with the same person that one
is ritually married to, on five different occasions, not with the intention
of begetting a child but just for carnal pleasure (i.e. using birth control

Which is worse? Which has a higher purpose? Which more adharmik?

* * *

Prevalent rules of morality are there for general guidance. World will sink
into an abyss of chaos and adharma without them and they are definitely
needed. But they are not absolute.

The correct judgment of right and wrong does not always come from the
application of a set of rigid rules. Correct judgment comes only from a
refined and purified mind. Scriptures and actions of rishis and gods
contained in them (and actions of other great souls of recent centuries who
were most likely reincarnations of rishis and gods) are there to clarify and
refine our understanding of what is right and what is wrong. As we
understand more and purify ourselves more, our judgment will become more and
more perfect.

Best regards,


Ajit Krishnan


Dear Narasimha,

 >I am really sorry, but I have to disagree with you in this issue.

I do not know what there is to be sorry about.

> With due respect to you and Sri S.N. Sastri, I must say that Rajarshi’s view
> is far more accurate and truthful to the scripture. In fact, Swami
> Vivekananda also shared exactly the same view (i.e. Rajarshi’s view) when
> commenting on this story from Chhaandogypanishad!

I mentioned Sri S.N.Sastri’s name, because he has a long 2-page
footnote discussion on the subject, and not to bolster my argument by
association. If I had wished to do the latter, I would have invoked
AdishankarachArya — “paricAriNii paricaranti iti paracaraNa-shiiilA
eva aham paricaraNa-chittatayA gotrAdi-smaraNe mama manaH na abhUt”
and Anandagiri — “punaH tasya uparatatvAt”. According the S.N.Sastri,
Shri Ramanuja and Shri Madhva also subscribed to the same view.

> Now, I cannot reconcile Sri S.N. Sastri’s interpretation with the above at
> all. Even today, in this deep Kali yuga, Brahmins do find out the gotra
> before marriage and avoid marrying people from the same gotra at any cost. I
> find it strange that one would get married without finding gotra in old
> days.

Needless criticism. I obviously conveyed the wrong message — the
argument is that she does not remember her new gotra, and not that she
was never exposed to it. Some things require repeated repetition
before they register. It is quite normal, even today, for brides and
in-laws to be very forgetful (or, more accurately “un-remember-ful”)
of their new gotra.

> If the true reason is that her husband died young, what is
> the relevance of her being a servant maid and her moving a lot? Why would
> she mention those irrelevant points and not her husband dying young?

The points mentioned are not at all irrelevant. It is a partial excuse
/ apology. Her mind was totally occupied in these activities. In her
youth, it did not occur to her to pay attention and remember her
gotra. Narasimha, this is a conversation between mother and son. If
the father died young, it would be well-known, and there would be no
reason for the mother to “disclose” it to her son at this time. When
answering the question, there is simply no need to start reciting the
litany of known facts. On the other hand, the points mentioned are
relevant, since they show her state of mind. It is a natural lament.

> Thus, I cannot support Sri S.N. Sastri’s view at all. It seems quite
> far-fetched and motivated to me.

The first sentence is quite reasonable. To say that it seems
far-fetched to you, is also very reasonable. However, the last
criticism is unfair, and cannot be substantiated. Though I did not
wish to say it, I have the same criticism — I see an attempt to
retrofit a story to result in a desirable conclusion, which would make
for an excellent example.

> If one’s conditioned mind cannot accept the fact that a maharshi accepted
> the son of a woman who would be considered “fallen” by the moral standards


This diatribe is interesting, but irrelevant to this dicussion. I am
happy to accept that this is how maharshis worked. But, this incident
is not a good example. The traditional understanding adds facts which
are not found in the upanishad. However, in my opinion, in this
instance, it fits in quite well.

savinayam praNato.asmi,


Free will (I don’t care if I’m branded superstitious)

There is no free will. Even in the attainment of good things or bad.


Iti horaśāstre(referring here to Bṛhat Parāśara hora śāstra,Chap 2,śloka 3)-


avatārāṇyanekāni hyajasya paramātmanaḥ/jīvānāṃ karmaphalado graharūpī janārdanaḥ//

अवताराण्यनेकानि ह्यजस्य परमात्मनः|
जीवानां कर्मफलदो ग्रहरूपी जनार्दनः||

[Indeed,the unborn paramātmā has had many avatāras. Janārdana in the form of grahas(graharūpī) grants the karmaphala of living beings.]

Basically,whatever little will you have is also coloured by your past karmas. Your svābhāva which influences how you respond to whatever situations you get and the impressions your receive in your formative phases –they too are a result of your prārabdha karma. What can possibly be changed to make this better in long run is your attitude towards what you receive and how you manage with the cards you have been dealt with.




On the lakṣaṇa of ‘gauḥ’,setting aside pseudo-science

The lakṣaṇa of ‘gauḥ’ in Hindu tradition is to be determined by seeing what our pūrvācāryas have commented on this,and not on pseudoscientific nonsense like ‘desi cows are associated with gold nanoparticles’, ‘A2/A1 milk’,etc.

“gōḥ sāsnādimattvaṁ lakṣaṇam” has basically been the definition since the time of Pātañjali (of mahābhāṣya fame).

Vidyāraṇya similarly quotes Pātañjali thus

tathā cōktaṁ bhagavatā patañjalinā mahābhāṣyē – atha gaurityatra kaḥ śabdō yēnōcyaritēna sāsnāmāṅgūmakakudakhuraviṣāṇānāṁ saṁpratyayō bhavati saḥ śabdaḥ

So ,our ‘gauḥ’ is any breed of cow that is humped with horns,and with a dewlap and tail. And not about A1,A2(I don’t think the rājan bhadravarman of champa near Vietnam,who was a śrotiya and boasted of performing vaidika rituals could have checked for A1/A2 or gold nanoparticles).

I discussed with others (like Hariprasad),who noted that there is no strong reason to deny respect to cows of foreign breed since they are all of the same jāti,one can at best to say that there is tārātmy within breeds of cows and that foreign breeds of cows have less abhimāni devatā sannidhyam. Also,we have consumed their milk for whatever reasons,so not slaughtering them and taking care of them till their death should be our way of showing upakāra smaraṇam.

Westerners and our traditions

The question on how to interact with Westerners or even those who are deeply influenced by post-enlightenment,Christianized ideals is an important one to deal with. How should they be accepted in sampradAyas/institutions belonging to sampradAyas?

From my brief survey of some institutions,the institutions that have heavily accepted westerners have had massive degradations that have negatively affected the sampradAyas overall. Like ISKCON and the insiduous Abrahamic strains(like suggesting that jIvas fall from vaikunTha,despite baladeva’s bhASya on the last sutra of the brahma-sutras,and too many other things that can’t be spoken about here now and the other splinter groups. Or Yogananda distorting the Kriya Yoga paramparA.

From these examples(one may also refer to the mass influx of Jatts within Sikhi or briefly the post Banda Bahadur period to note that mass influx of people who haven’t had a perparatory period isn’t really a helpful thing). On the other hand,we also have to contend that we really can’t stay shut up in cocoons in the West all the time. Still,we have to deal with its secularizing tendencies while we are there. We’re losing both our men to its secularism and our women to both secularism and marriage to other traditions,which very frequently result in a much reduced ability to pass down our traditions to our children.

This is a problem,which doesn’t seem to have any easy solution,frankly. The most successful and orthodox orgs in the West seem to have been those related with the Saiva Siddhanta Church(not that I am recommending or pushing for them,anyway). A few disciples of Swami Dayananda maybe also? Maybe one or two students of Lakshman joo? We don’t even have the fire of Sridhar Ketkar who married a Jewish wife,bringing her into the Hindu fold.

Rupa Goswami’s advice : saGga-tyAgo vidUreNa bhagavad-vimukhaira janaiH/ziSyAdy ananuvandhitvaM mahArambhAdy anudyamauH (One should keep a distance from those who are averse to the Lord, avoid accepting too many disciples(emphasis mine) and not be overly enthusiastic about initiating great projects) seems to ring truer than ever.