Kaaba Is Not A Hindu Temple

Kaaba Is Not A Hindu Temple

Monday 2 May 2016

The Hindu Dharma Shastras, ban taking a voyage by sea or visiting the lands beyond India.

 The Hindu Dharma Shastras,  ban taking a voyage by sea or visiting the lands beyond India.

The Hindu Dharma Shastras, or law books, ban taking a voyage by sea or visiting the lands beyond India. The ancient lawmakers reasoned that travelers could not maintain their daily ritual worship while traveling, and would be polluted by the influence of foreign religion and culture upon arrival at their destination.  Over the last two hundred years, each Hindu lineage which observed the travel restrictions--and not all of them did historically--has faced the question of keeping or changing a tradition dating back more than two thousand years. In our decentralized religion, the adaptation to a changed world has come about piecemeal--one denomination, teaching lineage or even single temple at a time. In the following story, we recount the difficulties faced within the Madhvacharaya denomination when one of their most prominent swamis "crossed the ocean" to minister to followers in Europe and America.

It was not the first time the Ashta Mathas have been rocked by the same controversy. Sri Vishvavijaya Tirtha Swami, the designated successor to the head of Pejawar Matha, had to relinquish his post for going to the United States in 1987. He went with the blessings of his guru, Sri Vishvesha Tirtha, but refused to undergo the purification rites requested by the Madhva establishment upon his return . Sri Vibhudesha Tirtha Swami of the Admar Matha suffered the same fate for a similar offense, and had to install his chief disciple, Sri Vishwapriya Tirtha Swamji, as the Paryaya Swami in his stead.

Crossing the ocean--

Controversy over samudrayana, "ocean voyage," is nothing new in recent Hindu history. Swami Vivekananda was, because of his international travel, denied entry to the temple where his guru Sri Ramakrishna served for 40 years . The priests who serve the main Deity of Tirupati temple will not leave India. On the other hand, this same temple's training school has supplied priests for many temples in other countries. The Dikshitars of Chidambaram, a staunchly conservative community, allow for travel, but require purification upon return.
Hinduism is not the only religion that restricts travel; Jain monks and nuns are required to walk everywhere, and barefoot at that. However, Acharya Sushil Kumar Muni, a prominent Jain monk who passed away on in 1994, traveled widely by plane in his later years. In 2005, Jain monk Aacharya Rupachandgi visited the US. A news report at the time said, "Until recently, Rupachandgi would not have been allowed to travel anywhere his feet wouldn't take him. But the growing population of Jains in the United States has caused some rules to be relaxed, so that teachers from India can nurture Jain practice in this country." Hinduism is undergoing a similar adaptation. While some priests and swamis will not cross the ocean, many others will, even from otherwise conservative traditions.
The prohibition is clearly stated in several scriptures. The Baudhayana Sutra, one of the Hindu Dharma Shastras, says that "making voyages by sea" (II.1.2.2) is an offense which will cause pataniya, loss of caste. It offers a rather difficult penance: "They shall eat every fourth mealtime a little food, bathe at the time of the three libations (morning, noon and evening), passing the day standing and the night sitting. After the lapse of three years, they throw off their guilt."
The difference of practice on the issue among the various Hindu denominations is based on the scriptures each considers authoritative. Harsha Ramamurthy in his erudite article on the issue (kamakshi16.tripod.com/samudrayana.html), explains that, according to Baudhayana Sutra, the highest authority in deciding a question of dharma is shruti, our primary scriptures, the Vedas and Agamas. Next is the smriti, the secondary scriptures, which include the Dharma Shastras. Third is sampradaya, the teachings and practices of a specific lineage. He concludes, "Though there seems to be no direct ban on ocean travel in shruti, because of the bans in smriti and sampradaya, such travel is considered a banned activity." He said that the ban is observed both by the Madhva Sampradaya and Smarta Sampradaya (which includes the Shankaracharyas of Sringeri, Kanchi, etc.), as both adhere closely to the Dharma Shastras. He added that the ban applies to all three upper castes, and not just brahmins. It also applies to sannyasins, who--in his tradition--can only be from the brahmin caste. He pointed out that other Vaishnava Sampradayas, such as the Srivaishnavas, who follow the Pancharatra Agama, travel freely. He gave the example of Chinna Jeeyar (www.chinnajeeyar.org/), a follower of Visishtadvaita, who travels extensively. Similarly, the swamis of the Vaishnava Swaminarayana sect travel extensively.
Why the ban?
In the Baudhayana Sutra, the ban is discussed in the context of a description of the geographical limits of India which concludes that within its boundary "spiritual preeminence is found." Generally, two reasons are given by scholars for the ban. The first is that it is impossible to maintain one's required daily religious observances on a ship, particularly thrice-daily personal worship. The second is that one will incur the sin of mleccha samparka, usually politely translated as mixing with foreigners. Mleccha, however, is more accurately translated as "barbarian" or "savage." One should remember that triangle-shaped India is surrounded on two sides by ocean and the third by the Himalayas. Leaving ancient India to unknown lands meant either ocean travel or journey by foot through rugged terrain. It is a logical conclusion that travel outside India in those days did make religious observance difficult and took one into cultures that were not Hindu. The question is whether such concerns apply today; and if they do not, how the decision to adapt the scriptural dictate should proceed.
Sri Vishweswara Tirtha--the head of Pejawar Matha and the senior monk of the Udupi Ashta Mathas--said that violation of the scriptures cannot be accepted. "Sri Sugunendra Tirtha had crossed the ocean and, therefore, strictly following the scriptures, he could not perform the Mahapuja of the Lord Krishna by touching the Deity. We have reached a consensus that he can occupy the Sarvanja Peetha at the current Paryayam rituals, but not touch the Deity." On January 18, 2008, a convocation of 500 priests, scholars and Madhva swamis (including six of the eight Ashta Mathas), supported this opinion and concluded that the ban on travel should not be changed, according to Dr. Suresh Acharya, an Udupi-based scholar.

In the state of Kerala, we had the unusual case of Vishnu Narayan Namboothiri, a poet and former head priest of Sri Vallabha Temple in Thiruvalla. He was dismissed from his priest job for traveling overseas. However, he received an apology and was reinstated after a few months by the thantri (chief priest) who realized none of their authoritative scriptures prohibits priests from traveling abroad.
Sri Muthu Vaduganathan, a priest associated with the Pillaiyarpati Gurukulam in Thevar District of Tamil Nadu, agreed that the tradition has been for priests and sannyasins to not move far away by crossing the ocean. But, he said, there are historical accounts of Hindu saints who crossed the ocean. "I am told," he said, "that there is a penance to be performed when a sannyasin or priest crosses the ocean. The existence of this penance shows that as per the need and their own deeper vision, a sannyasin or priest can cross the ocean to preserve and make his mother religion flourish. But this should not be done for any materialistic need."
Dr. A.V. Ramana Dikshitulu, head priest of the Balaji Temple in Tirumala, one of India's most respected and popular pilgrimage destinations, said, "None of our priests who serve in the main sanctum can cross the ocean. Neither I nor any member of my family have done so, despite lucrative offers from abroad. Serving the Lord here is most important to us. The Balaji Temple is governed by the Vaikhanasa Agama. It says that the people outside India are akin to mlecchas, barbarians, who do not follow any rules or code of conduct, and therefore it forbids visiting such places. These places have habits, food, relationships and other things which could make us corrupt and impure."
"According to the Agama, all brahmins are supposed to worship at sunrise, midday and sunset, called trikal gayatri sandhya," he explained. "This trikal sandhya cannot be performed on a plane or ship; it must be done on the earth." Dr. Ramana Dikshitulu does not specifically rule out "crossing" an ocean, for he himself flies occasionally from Chennai to Kolkata, a flight which goes out over the Bay of Bengal. But as that flight is only two hours long, he does not miss his trikal sandhya as he would on a longer flight or a voyage by ship, and he does not land outside India. He was unaware of any penance to offset crossing the ocean.
 Sri Sugunendra Tirtha should have understood the consequences of his travel plans and either not traveled at all, or accepted the judgment of those who sought to abide by the scriptures of the Madhva Sampradaya after he did travel.
Clearly the Dharma Shastras' ban on ocean travel was intended to maintain the religious strength and purity of the individual, and to prevent negative external influence from non-Hindu cultures. Other cultures had the same concern. One can note that the very word barbarian (used to translate mleccha with a strongly negative connotation), just meant "foreigner," in the original Greek, yet came to describe an uncultured or brutish person.
Baudhayana Sutra makes the point more than once to delineate ancient India's boundaries and declare it a sacred land out of which one should not step. But what have we today? In the east and west of what was ancient India we have Bangladesh and Pakistan, both Muslim-majority countries hostile to Hinduism. Modern India itself is a declared secular state. Its first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, had little regard for religion and advocated sending priests out to work and turning all the temples into schools. And we have the Indian states of West Bengal, Kerala, Tripura and--from time to time--Tamil Nadu, all dominated by declared atheistic political parties.
Meanwhile, across the ocean--and leaving aside how priests got to the ancient Hindu civilizations of Southeast Asia and Indonesia--the modern diaspora has created significant Hindu populations in nearly every country of the world. The difficulties of living in the land of the mlecchas have indeed manifested, both for the original emigrants and their offspring. But thousands of Hindu communities worldwide have also struggled hard to maintain their religion through home worship, building temples and bringing priests and swamis to their country. It was Sri Sugunendra Tirtha's defense that he had gone to the US to teach at the invitation of Hindus who follow Madhvacharya's philosophy. It is also true that he knowingly broke the rules of his sampradaya, and then fought the logical consequences.
The swamis and priests who leave India do so to visit another community of Hindus, or are asked to come by non-Hindus sincerely interested in the Hindu wisdom. They have not gone out to consort with and be polluted by "barbarians."
 Hinduism Today has seen no compilation of how many traditions allow travel and how many do not, but it would appear that today an increasing number no longer follow the Dharma Shastras in this regard, focusing instead on meeting the basic religious needs Hindus living overseas.

Vivekananda Was Outcasted for His Travels to America

It is a little-known fact that Swami Vivekananda was "outcasted" by the Bengali orthodoxy upon his triumphant return from the Parliament of the World Religions in Chicago. The most dramatic consequence came in 1897, when he returned to Calcutta. The following is excerpted from A Comprehensive Biography of Swami Vivekananda by Shailendranath Dhar.
In the evening of march 21, 1897, Swami Vivekananda and the Maharaja of Khetri, accompanied by a large party, paid a visit to the temple of Kali at Dakshineswar which, as is well-known to our readers, had been the scene of Sri Ramakrishna's sadhanas and where the saint had lived for forty years.
In the reception given to Swamiji at Dakshineswar, as described above, there was a discordant note which did not reach his ears but which became loud soon afterwards and produced an unpleasant controversy in the press. Babu Trailokya Nath Biswas, the proprietor of the temple, who had been informed about the impending visit earlier in the day, had actually come to the temple and was present when the visit occurred but did not personally receive Swami and his party, which included a princely personage, viz., the Maharaja of Khetri.
"In an indirect way," wrote Trailokya to The Bangabashi newspaper, "Swami and his followers were driven away from the temple, but not in a direct way as stated by Babu Bholanath [in the same newspaper]. I never ordered anyone to welcome Swami and the raja, nor did I myself do it. I thought that I should not have any, the least, intercourse with a man who went to a foreign country and yet calls himself a Hindu. While Swami Vivekananda and his followers were leaving my temple, Babu Bholanath Mukherjee told them that they would have no interview with me.... Your account of the re-abhisheka of the Deity [i.e., the evening worship was repeated to purify the temple] is perfectly true."
A member of the family of Rani Rashmani protested in a letter which was published in The Indian Nation on April 12, 1897, against Trailokya's claim that the temple of Kali at Dakshineswar belonged to himself. He asserted that it belonged as much to him as to any other descendant of the late Rani Rashmani and that the recent scandal would not have taken place had it been under the management of any other member of the family.
Notwithstanding well-meant efforts to ease the situation, the story of Swamiji's alleged expulsion from the Kali temple gained ground. While The Bangabashi and other Bengali newspapers who opposed Swamiji kept it alive by continually writing on it, his old "friends," the Christian missionaries, had a new dart in their quiver for attacking him. Dr. Barrows who, as we know, had lately arrived in India and had turned against Swamiji [having originally supported him at the Parliament], took it as one more proof of the correctness of his theory that Swamiji was not a true Hindu and had not preached Hinduism in America.
It seems that, even for some time after he had heard about the row kicked up against him by the orthodox people, Swami Vivekananda took little notice of it. His attitude was even one of defiance of these critics, as we find it expressed in a letter dated May 30, 1897, "Our books tell us that the practice of religion is not for a sudra. If he discriminates about food, or refrains from foreign travel, it avails him nothing and it is all useless toil for him. I am a sudra and a mleccha (a non-Aryan, a barbarian)--why should I worry about observance of these rules? What matters it to me if I take the foods of the mlecchas and the untouchables of Hindu society?"'
 He wrote on the latter point to Mary Hale on July 9, 1897 as follows, "As if I had any caste to lose, being a sannyasin!" He added, "Not only no caste had been lost, but it has considerably shattered the opposition to sea-voyage--my going to the West. ... On the other hand, a leading Raja of the caste I belonged to before entering the order got up a banquet in my honor, at which were most of the big bugs of that caste ... It will suffice to say that the police were necessary to keep order if I ventured out into the street! That is outcasting indeed!"
When it's prohibited by Dharma Shastras to travel outside India and to the land of Forigners, the question of Hinduism existing outside the land of India during or after Vedic age does not exist!