What is adhikAra? (fwd)

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Mon Jun 1 13:45:11 CDT 1998

On Sat, 16 May 1998, Ramakrishnan Balasubramanian wrote:

> I am quoting the name of these two people because they were reknown for
> their rigid adherence to smR^iti-s. Giving some stray verses from some
> arbitrary smR^iti will not suffice, especially since many other
> smR^iti-s (including gItA) contradict that.
> 2. A brahmin who takes up a job other than vaidikam automatically loses
> the privelege of advising others. So persons writing software etc cannot
> make claims that whatever they say becomes "tradition" and that too
> overriding the acceptance of certain traditions by people like
> upanishhad brahma yogin (as Jaldhar has claimed in the past).

The point you are missing, is that as long as I am practising my
svadharma--which I am (not perfectly I'm sure but way above the minimum
with only increase in the future) I _haven't_ abandoned vaidikam.  I'm not
making the "karma-yoga" argument that my job is somehow a part of my
sadhana. (though it should be noted that if grhasthas like me did not
donate our earnings to maths, pathshalas, and mandirs no one would have
the luxury of being full-time Vaidiks.)  No, from the viewpoint of Dharma,
this profession of mine is completely irrelevant.  Something I'm doing in
my "spare time" as it were.  This is not true of all jobs, a Brahman
should not be involved in selling liquor for instance, but many
(including software development) are Dharmically neutral.

As for my views on tradition, you are misrepresenting them.  What I am
saying is that we, even this present generation grown up outside India are
a link in the chain of tradition just like all the generations before.  My
approach is not to treat Upanishadbrahmayogi, Shankaracharya etc. as
museum relics to be taken down, dusted off and polished, and put back on
the shelf.  Rather they seem to me to be alive right now and I am taking
part in their debates alongside them.  I take their views with the utmost
seriousness and when I take one point of view over another I try to have
good reasons.  If you or anyone thinks you have better ideas try and
convince me and if I agree I'll gladly change my mind.  But "some guy
said" without any insight into why he said is usually not convincing.  No
one should feel the slightest bit guilty for examining the workings and
reasonings behind the Vedantic doctrines.  Our siddhanta has withstood all
and it isn't any weaker now.

> 3. Claiming that one's profession has been determined by fate (as in the
> nADi josyam etc) is not acceptable. Whoever said following svadharma is
> easy? If it were the case, everyone would be a karma yogi.

It certainly seems like a dubious idea to me.  However in this regard it
is interesting to note the notion in some texts that with the passing of
the yugas, people will become inevitably less and less Dharmic.

> 4. If at all one had an open mind, he/she would realize that claiming
> brahmins can take up any job (using some stray quote) when it
> contradicts the very reason for varNAshrama, contradicts other smR^iti-s
> and statements of reknown leaders, is the height of hypocricy.

I don't recall anyone actually claiming this.  (And what is this stray
quote you keep referring to?)  I think I mentioned that the Smrtis do not
in fact prohibit a Brahman from making money which is true and that one
knows Dharma from the practices of ones elders not from books.

I find your comments very interesting from the sociological point of view
because they are a good example of the tension between traditionalism and
modernism.  The Modern culture differs from all the ones that preceded it
because it is based on abstract ideas rather than physical ties such as
blood, land etc.  The whole idea that a social system like Varnashrama
Dharma has a "purpose" would have seemed odd to a person living just 2oo
years ago.  Being a Brahman is just something you are or aren't.  The
various rules and regulations of the shastras are simply things that a
Brahman is obligated to do.  Hypocrisy is holding one set of beliefs and
practising another but a traditional Brahman doesn't realize he is
supposed to be believing in something.  As I think Vidyashankar said
before traditional Hinduism isn't an orthodoxy so much as an orthopraxy.
This doesn't mean the shastras are irrelevant, on the contrary they are
very important but not as "laws" but as a record of what the great men of
the past who we wish to emulate did.  Similiarly for the question of who
is an authority.  On questions of Dharma the traditional Brahman looks to
the practioners of Dharma not neccessarily the ideologues.  This why even
though Mimamsa is the underpinning of the entire Dharmashastra, it is not
studied that much.  It just isn't considered that important.

Now we have the situation (it hasn't been the first time) where people are
looking for ideas to give a purpose to actions and judging actions on the
bais of ideas.  That's not neccessarily a bad thing but by the same
measure it's not a good thing either.  One can survive quite nicely
without any ideology at all.

To get back to the original point (Yes I finally am! :-)  The thoughts of
the sages of Kanchi and Srngeri on this subject are of great importance
to me but in practical terms it is the thoughts of the sages of Rajkot,
Gujarat who I ask for guidance.  And I have quite a few books on
Dharmashastra on my shelf which I consult but in practical terms it is the
customs practiced by the Vyas family and Gujarati Brahmans in general
which I actually follow.  I believe this is the proper Smarta attitude.

> 5. Next the qualifications of a brahmin. In the bhAratam there is a
> story in the anushAsana parvam. A brahmin lad is beating a small donkey.
> It cries out to its mother "O mother, you said brahmins are kind, how
> come this fellow is beating me?". The mother replies "A brahmin has the
> welfare of every living creature in his mind. Since this fellow does not
> have it, he can't be a brahmin. In fact he is not, he is an illegitimate
> child born of his mother and a barber." Note the curious fact about this
> story. No, its not that two donkeys and one seemingly sarvaGYa are
> talking in sanskrit, that too in the shloka metre :-). It is that this
> qualification being absent is _enough_ to decide his lack of
> brahmin-hood!!! I salute anyone who has this qualification, but the rest
> better feel humble. BTW, shrI sha.nkara quotes this qualification (same
> verse from the bhAratam) as to why brAhmaNa-s are great. If anyone has
> this qualification they can feel happy, otherwise it would be good to
> keep quiet. So obviously he was addressing only this level of people,
> not the run of the mill "brahmins".
> BTW, the story continues to say that brahmin hood is decided only by
> birth, in case some one misinterprets the story.

As I said to Vidyashankar.  Truth is an idea which is hard to achieve but
if you try it's enough.  Those who sincerely try need not feel guilty if
they miss the mark.

> 6. BTW, this "krama mukti only" by the smR^iti-s (as in the case of
> non-dvija-s) is not acceptable. This is what shrI Subbaramaiya, a direct
> disciple of mahAsannidhAnam has to say in his book (which has a shrI
> mukham by HH) in page 579.
> pp.579: The sutra bhAshhya 1-3-9-38 points out that none can dispute the
> dawn of knowledge and the inevitable result of the good tendencies
> acquired in the past, in the case of **brahma GYAni-s** like vidura,
> dharmavyAdha etc. ...
> As a matter of fact, person **not belonging to any order** is also
> entitled to *****brahmavidyA*****, as such cases are met with in the
> upanishhad-s (sUtra 3-4-9-36).

Actually Shankaracharya argues that _only_ the person not belonging to any
order can achieve Brahmavidya.  He is so radically against karma that even
the institution of sannyasa (danda, orange clothes etc.) is not
neccessarily good enough.  But how a person gets to that state is what's
under discussion.

> This should settle the issue of krama-mukti only for non dvija-s. This
> is an absolutely wrong view. As I mentioned before the lack of
> contradiction
> about absence of vedAntic study and attainment of GYAna has been
> explained by shrI sureshvarAchArya and sarvGYAtma muni.

As I said to you in the other message I wrote, I don't see how the two
notions are contradictory.

> Note that Sri Subbaramaiya has gone through vedAntic study in the
> traditional manner and that too under HH himself.
> As for following svadharma he comments: "That svadharma alone is to be
> performed is emphasized by such statements as `Better is one's own duty
> though it falls short of perfection' and `Better die doing one's duty'
> etc. (page 583).
> That should settle utterly bogus views that brahmins can take up any job
> they please and claim superiority.

A claim I don't see anyone making.

> 7. Claiming that brahmins are better because of the will of Ishvara and
> their deeds in the past: I request that members not make such claims.
> The qualification of a brahmin has been clearly laid out in the
> bhAratam.

_A_ qualification has been laid out.  There are many others.  If quoting
stray smrtis is bad, quoting stray akhyans can't be much better.

If one does not have that and make such claims as above, it
> will only lead to strengthening of the ego. One should again and again
> remember the story of nArada and how his ego was subdued. When the
> greatest of sages suffers this fate, what can we say? None except Sriman
> Narayana himself knows the true worth of people.

It is not making any judgement of the overall worth of someone to suggest
that they are not adequate for a particular task.  I long ago realized I
wasn't ever going to play for the NBA.  I got over it and I don't feel any
less of a human being :-)

> 8. I request that members not claim that non-dvija-s cannot
> videha mukti (instantaneous moxa) without properly learning vedAnta
> under a qualified guru. Such statements will lead to the frustration and
> disappointment of our serious, practicing non-dvija friends (including a
> lot of Americans) on this list.

There are some good reasons for being more inclusive but this isn't one of
them.  First of all anyone who gets frustrated and flustered whenever
things don't go their way isn't getting anywhere near Moksha anyway.
Secondly wahat kind of a friend are you being if you withhold the truth
for fear of hurting "illusinary) feelings?

>  In my opinion that's a crime. The most
> traditional of maTha-s (like Sringeri) do not accept such a claim. So, I
> request that this list not be turned into some kind of exclusive club
> for brahmins.

Let us also not turn it into a feelgood mutual flattery society.

> 9. I have a final request. Could members please refrain from using the
> word "shudra" unless very much necessary?

I believe in the preceding discussion, the word was only used as

> The word though meaning
> something else is now used generally by ignoramuses as some kind of four
> letter word. I am not going to justify their behavior that "it is their
> word view". Again, let's not convert the list into some kind of brahmin
> exclusivistic club. We have many other members, some of them very
> learned or serious practitioners or both in our midst.

Actually it has been used as a four-letter word for some time if you
treat the story of King Janashruti as an example.  But I for one pledge to
use it only as vidwans do not ignoramuses.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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