Of late we have been seeing write-ups, videos and tweets blaming our DharmaGurus and our Acharyas for not having stemmed the conversions of Hindus to other religions. These write-ups, videos and tweets have one theme in common and that is to blame the Gurus (especially the Shankaracharyas) and Acharyas for upholding the Varna and Jaati system in Sanatan Dharma and blame this for all the problems of the Hindus. This write-up aims to counter their unfair blame game.

First let us see what it takes to become a Sanyasi of the Dashanami order and then a Shankaracharya. Anyone can wear a kavi-vastra ie. an unstitched cloth dyed in ‘gerua’ colour, walk around the place with a bowl in his hand seeking alms and pretend to be a Sanyasi. In fact we have seen many Muslims too doing this and getting caught. So obviously, clothes do not make a Sanyasi. In “Bhaja Govindam” one of the verses attributed to Totakacharya (who went on to become a Shankaracharya), refers to such fake Sanyasis …

“ jaṭilo muṇḍī luñjita keśaḥ
kāṣāyānbara bahukṛta veṣaḥ |
paśyannapi ca na paśyati mūḍhaḥ
udara nimittaṃ bahukṛta veṣaḥ || 15 ||”

(There are many who go with matted locks, many who have clean shaven heads, many whose hairs have been plucked out; some are clothed in saffron, yet others in various colors — all just for a livelihood. Seeing truth revealed before them, still the foolish ones see it not.)

Then who is a Sanyasi? A Sanyasi is one who has renounced everything material and has also renounced all his desires of the senses which beset us. He/She is one who has also renounced his/her family ties, apart from all feelings of lust, attachment and hatred. In fact, before becoming a Sanyasi, one performs the final rites of oneself – this is symbolic of detaching oneself from this world and taking on a new identity where one is only attached to Brahmn. Those who are still stuck in Maya cannot and should not belittle a Sanyasi at all.

Now let us see what the basic requirements to become a Shankaracharya are …

As per the Mathamnaya Setu, a Shankaracharya is a “Vedvedangadi Visharad Sarvashastranam Yogajnah” ie. He has to be an expert in –

  • Vedas, Vedantas and all subsidiaries (Shrutis and Smritis)
  • Visharad – an expert in Sanskrit
  • Sarva Shastra – all Shastras in our Sanatan Tradition
  • Yoga + Jnaan – knowledge of the Supreme Self (Atman and Brahmn)

Not just does he need to be an expert in the above, he has to defend all of the above and teach them to future generations. Our Shrutis and Smritis are Divine revelations and cannot be changed by current generation based on their lack of understanding the same.

Next, the Shankaracharya has to have –

  • Lakshan – ie. he has to have supreme knowledge and have the required attributes (physical, mental and spiritual attributes)
  • Nigrah – Nigraha means “to bring under one’s control and restraint and then destroy it”. Here it means that a Shankaracharya has to bring under his control his senses (Indriya), his mind (Mann) and intellect and then destroy all his ‘vaasanas’. He has to be in complete self-restraint and not allow any happening or person to destroy his ‘Sthithapragyatha’.
  • Manishinam – This means that the Shankaracharya has to become Omniscent and wield power by becoming a Renouncer of everything, free of all desires and ignorance. He cannot have any attachment or hatred towards anyone. He has to be a Sanyasi.

If all the above conditions were not enough, a Shankaracharya cannot touch fire or metal. This means that he cannot cook for himself. He has to be satisfied with whatever he receives as alms (Bhiksha) and there are strict rules about that too. He cannot eat as much as he pleases, whatever time he pleases or even whatever he pleases. The food also has to be Sattvik in nature. So if you think that a Shankaracharya is eating delicious items everyday in copious quantities, please eschew that thought. Also, a Shankaracharya cannot sleep in luxurious surroundings, on a luxurious bed or choose to wear fancy clothes/jewellery or any such trappings which any of us wear without a second thought.

While the above conditions have been used to describe the selection of a Shankaracharya, it is similar in all Paramparas and for selection of all Acharyas and Gurus of the Traditional order. This does not include modern Gurus who have started their own cults or Peethas in recent times.

Now, let us discuss how the above venerable Acharyas are being humiliated by people who do not have any love for Dharma or its principles. The most visible accusation is the one about their physical appearance – their rotund stomach. If one were to pick on a person’s appearance of one who is in his/her 30s or even upto 50 years of age, one could say that staying fit and trim is necessary. But when people, who are themselves no icons of fitness, pick on Gurus who are well beyond 70 years of age, one knows how decrepit of moral strength they are. Our films too have depicted Gurus as sitting lazily on a couch and having shapeless bodies, like as if aged Gurus are meant to be fitness freaks. A recent article in Hindi talking about the ‘pot-belly’ of the Shankaracharya of Puri showed the nadir of the thought process of those who call themselves proud Hindus, but are actually Hindus in name only.

The second accusation which is very often laid is about how they are sitting on a pile of money. If only one knew how our ShreeMathas are troubled routinely by Government agencies and especially by State Governments, regarding administration, finance management and others, one wouldn’t speak any more. All Hindu Institutions, including our Mathas are under perpetual attack with respect to their administration, properties and incomes. In fact, Mathas are unable to run their educational institutions and Veda Paathshaalas and Goushalas properly and are perpetually requesting devotees to donate even small amounts. If one would see the state of the Goushalas in Puri after every cyclone that hits Orissa, one would know what it takes to run the Goushalas. The Shankaracharyas do not hoard money or siphon off money to give to anyone, including their ‘poorvashram’ families; they do not even go on holidays anywhere. If anything, they use the money only to propagate Dharma in one form or the other.

The other accusation is that the Acharyas do not want to destroy the Varnashram Vyavastha. Why should they? Most of the people who cast this accusation go around talking about how Bhagwad Geeta is a Divine book which all Hindus should be proud of. Do they know that in the Bhagwad Geeta, Sri Krishna Himself has said:

चातुर्वर्ण्यं मया सृष्टं गुणकर्मविभागश: |
तस्य कर्तारमपि मां विद्ध्यकर्तारमव्ययम् || 13||

chātur-varṇyaṁ mayā sṛiṣhṭaṁ guṇa-karma-vibhāgaśhaḥ
tasya kartāram api māṁ viddhyakartāram avyayam

The four categories of occupations were created by me according to people’s qualities and activities. Although I am the creator of this system, know me to be the non-doer and eternal. (BG 4/13)

Further, He has also said that we take birth in any yoni, family, position, etc. based on our own actions (Karma) in our past lives.

So do these buddhi-jeevis expect the revered Acharyas and Gurus to disprove Sri Krishna? The fact is that today we want to see everything from Abrahamic lenses and hence see everything wrong in our culture, traditions, rituals and beliefs. We are made to feel ashamed about everything Hindu and we blindly parrot whatever has been told to us. This is what actually makes us fall prey to the Missionaries and Conversion agents. If it is true that Dharma can only be saved by abusing Dharmacharyas and Brahmins, if Dharma can only be saved by having Inter-caste marriages, why and how is it that Hinduism is the only ancient Dharma which is still alive and kicking? How is it that it is only our system of Dharma which ensured that there was no caste based Revolt until we received “Freedom” from the British in 1947 and created a New Country called India? How is it that Dalits & Shudras suddenly started feeling trampled upon and desperate to convert into other religions after 1947, on their own will and accord? It would help if these “super-intelligent savers of Hinduism” stopped in their tracks and questioned as to why Sikhs are converting on a massive scale now in Punjab. Are they also feeling tyranised by the Shankaracharyas and Varna Vyavastha?

Stop shaming our DharmaGurus, stop casting aspersions on our Gurus and Acharyas while calling yourselves as Proud Hindus. You are not proud; you are deceiving yourself and your Dharma in the name of Reform!

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