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Re: REQUEST : Hare Krishna Group

Posted By H. Krishna Susarla (susarla.krishna@tumora.swmed.edu)
Fri, 3 Jan 1997 15:20:18 -0600

Vidya wrote:

>H. Krishna Susarla wrote:
>> It would be more appropriate to say "ISKCON faithfully continues the
>> traditions of the Vaishnava system of Vedanta, upon which today's
>> is loosely based."
>It seems to me you are going overboard with this statement. Many people
>can find more fault with your contentions than with the official
>statement you are reacting to. For example, Sri Vaishnavas have a much
>better claim to represent the core traditions of the Vaishnava system of
>Vedanta than ISKCON.

Whether that is true or not, it is nevertheless the case that ISKCON can
more honestly claim to represent the core traditions of Vaishnavism than it
can for the "Hindu faith."

Secondly, it is quite fallacious to say that
>today's Hinduism is loosely based on the Vaishnava system of Vedanta.

What I was specifically trying to say is that Hinduism is loosely based on
study of the Vedas, not necessarily on Vaishnavism in particular.

>Let me try a little dualistic logic with respect to your statements.
>Either "Hinduism" exists or it does not. If it does not exist, the
>question of its being "loosely based" upon something else does not
>arise. So, you have to assume that Hinduism exists, to even say that it
>is loosely based upon something.

However, what I specifically knocked down was this idea of a "Hindu faith,"
or of a single religious entity called "Hinduism." I have never said that
Hinduism does not exist in any other sense; as you may be aware, I have
previously asserted that it is an umbrella term which has come to include a
diverse group of cultures in India, many of which have some connection to
the Vedas. The term does not exist in the Vedas, and so I criticize its
usage in any sense wherein it is taken to refer to a singular religious

Which directly contradicts your
>following statement:
>> After all, there is no "Hindu faith" to speak of, and it

Actually, there is no contradiction. Terms like the "Hindu faith" imply a
single religion, just as similar terms like "Christian faith," "Jewish
faith," and so on. Thus, I am correct when I say there is no "Hindu faith."

>There might well be. You don't have to conform to one set of strictly
>defined rules to be a Hindu, but don't let that fool you into thinking
>that it doesn't exist.

Note again that I said that the "Hindu faith" does not exist. This is
different from saying that Hinduism does not exist. If ever I said the
latter, you can be certain that I was referring to its usage to describe a
single religion (which many neo Vedantin groups will do). It obviously does
exist as a cultural and geographical classification, but nothing more than

Also, do not underestimate the importance of
>non-Vaishnava groups and non-Vaishnava Vedanta for Hinduism. For that
>matter, for most Hindus, Vedanta barely touches their lives. When you
>call upon Agni, Vayu, Indra, Varuna and Mitra in your naming ceremony
>for a child, initiation ceremonies, weddings, pregnancies and funerals,
>you can hardly classify that as monotheistic Vaishnavism or as Vedanta
>or both. Hinduism, such as it exists, is firmly based upon ritualistic
>practice on the one hand, which has little to do with Vedanta, and upon
>mythology on the other hand, which has even less to do with Vedanta.

All of which demonstrates the wisdom of distinguishing between Vedanta and

>> fanatically assert that they are Hindus. Furthermore, there is no
>> in the Vedas of any "Hindu faith."
>Nor is there any specific mention in the Vedas of ISKCON or of Gaudiya
>Vaishnavism or of Sri Vaishnavism or of Saivism or any of the other isms

As a matter of fact, the 12th skandha of the Bhaagavatam mentions the term
Vaishnava, in reference to Lord Shiva. I have also seen the word
"Vaishnava-dharma" in an Upanishad somewhere. I guess I should try to look
that one up at some point.

>you might want to replace the word "Hinduism" with. Nor will you find
>the word "Christian faith" in the original Aramaic and Hebrew Bibles.
>That does not mean that the "Christian faith" does not exist. And see
>how many sub-groups there are among the Christians, mutually disagreeing
>with one another - Catholics, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Baptists,
>Christian Scientists, Mormons, ....

This is still a bad analogy. See my response to Kalyan for more details. No
serious scholar can compare the difference between Vaishnavas and smaarthas
with those of Catholics and Baptists. In the latter case, there are
disagreements with regards to ritual, whereas in the former there is little
agreement on the nature of the ultimate goal of Vedic study.

>It is fine if you are uncomfortable with the blanket term Hindu to
>designate widely disparate groups.

It is not mere discomfort that is the issue here. The fact is that the
blanket term Hindu when used to designate widely disparate groups is vague
and misleading.

But think carefully before you deny
>that any such thing as Hinduism even exists.

Again, I never said such a thing. I only said that, according to the Vedas,
there is no religion called Hinduism wherein one can interpret scripture
any old way and take rules and regulations at his own leisure. Hinduism is
a cultural term and nothing more.

H. Krishna Susarla
UTSW Class of '99

{my views are my own}

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