What is adhikAra? (fwd)

Nanda Chandran Nanda.Chandran at NBC.COM
Thu Jun 4 13:21:35 CDT 1998

Prashant writes :
> The current caste system includes  social ills like untouchability.
> Are you trying to say that these things existed even in the time of
> Buddha?

In India today, if you use the term 'paraiyah' you'll be arrested. The
caste system prevelant today is pretty moderate and restricted only to
the respective members of each castes following their traditions without
affecting anybody else.

Infact I'm from TamilNadu, a state in India where the discrimination
*against* Brahmanas reigns supreme, where they say if you see a Brahmana
and a snake, kill the Brahmana first. There was a time when members of
'upper castes' abandoned their roots and took shelter under the cover of
'lower castes' forging documents etc to escape discrimination and enjoy
the benefits of the lower castes. Plus we hardly hear of Kshtriyas or
Vaishyas anymore. And inspite of the widespread discrimination, even
today against all odds, the Brahmanas still stand defiant without
abandoning their traditions. Why I'm saying this is that, even Nehru in
his 'Discovery of India' points out that during the Buddha's time it's
probably only the Brahmanas who still maintained their rigid rules of
the caste system, unlike the Kshtriyas or the Vaishyas who due the
nature of their professions were more flexible in accepting outsiders
into their fold. Being a Brahmana definitely stood for something then,
as it probably does now.

But please do not interpret my argument as, "Vedas are to be read by
Brahmanas only and thus only they can attain Moksha". Infact considering
the substantial Kshtriya presence in the Upanishads and the smritis,
IMO, it would be pretty tough to stick to that stand. My arguments are
only towards the Brahmana-by-birth theory, which is but part of
Jaladhar's argument.

        Because e-mail can be altered electronically,
        the integrity of this communication cannot be guaranteed.

>From  Thu Jun  4 14:47:45 1998
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To: List for advaita vedanta as taught by Shri Shankara
        <ADVAITA-L at TAMU.EDU>
From: Ram Chandran <chandran at ECON.AG.GOV>
Subject: Re: What is adhikAra? (fwd)
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Vidyasankar's scholarly and timely statement on "AdhikAra" has
instigated more discussions and clarifications.  Recently, I completed
reading the book "The Vedas" by Sri. Chandrasekharendra Saraswati
(Kanchi Paramacharya), published by the Bharathiya Vidya Bhavan,
Bombay.    I want to share with the list members what I learnt from this
book on relevant issues in recent discussions.

The book starts with tributes to the two greatest sages, Vedavyasa and
Adi Sankara:

   "I hail Thee, Vyasa, again and again,
   Thou, God in human frame,
   Thou, scion of Vasistha's ancient race,
   It is from Thee that all knowledge springs."

    "I salute the sacred feet of Sri Shankara, the
    abode of Srutis, Smritis, Puranas and
    compassion, and whoever accomplishes
    the good of the world."

This book is an excellent source for Vedic religion and traditions for
everyone who wants to understand and appreciate Hindu culture and
heritage. It represents the vision of the Paramacharya of Kanchi. The
moral monarch points out that the Vedas contain a wealth of information
to guide and ensure the salvation of the human race. In addition, Vedas
also define and classify the Hindu Society outlining the roles and
duties of various categories of people.  I believe that Paramacharya's
view points as expressed in this book should be given serious
consideration. Everyone may not have access to this excellent book, I
attempt to summarize certain aspects of the book that deals with the
questions and issues of interest to the list members.

What is the authoritative book on which Vedic Religion is based?

There is no single authoritative text on Vedic Religion. The sacred
texts vary by individual tastes and preferences.  Other religions such
as Christianity for example uses "Bible" as the basic text book.  In
Hinduism we have no such preliminary religious education and
consequently, confusion and divergence in view points have existed
almost always.

Does Hindu religion mean mere ritual?
Hindu religion does not mean mere ritual and it means DHARMA. To know
Dharma and the principles of Dharma, we must refer to sacred texts on
"Dharmapramana" (True Knowledge of Dharma. The True Dharma is described
in fourteen sacred texts: four Vedas (Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharva), six
VedAngas (Siksha - pronunciation, VyAkarna - grammar, Chandas - metre,
Niruktha - etymology, Jyotisha - Astronomy, Kalpa - procedure, Meemaamsa
- interpretation of Vedic texts, NyAya - logic, PurAna - mythology and
Dharma SastrAs - texts containing codes of conduct. Knowledge and wisdom
are enshrined in these and hence these fourteen are also known as
VidyAthAnas.  (A summary chart is enclosed at the end for easy

Do Veda and Vedanta Clash?  No, not at all!

" There is now-a-days a tendency to bypass the karmas such as Yajnas or
study of the Vedas in the traditional way (Adhyayana) but to go straight
to the study of the Upanishads. As a result, many people are becoming
familiar with the contents of the Upanishads and are even able to
discuss them at length at an intellectual level.  However, this has not
produced anyone who has a peace of mind, is free from passions, or has
in practice realized the Truth about the Self or Atman. Why is this so?
The reason is that the preliminary preparation in the shape of complying
with the Vedic injunctions regarding Yajnas and worship has been ignored
and the mind and body have not been disciplined. Hence, to omit to study
the Vedas and perform the Karmas and straightway try to imbibe the truth
in the Upanishads is as wrong as performing only the rituals, taking
their meaning literally and not proceeding further to understand what
the Upanishads say."

What are the duties of a Brahmin?

A Brahmin must perform TWENTY ONE Yajnas everyday based on Agni Hotra -
seven Havir Yajnas, seven Soma Yajnas, and seven BhAga Yajnas.  Agni
Hotra is to be done at home. Yajna is done under a canopy erected on
open ground.  The Srouta Stura describes the domestic rites - those done
at home.

My comments: In South India, the Brahmins who perform Agni Hotra are
called Agnihotris.  Even today few Brahmins in remote villages  do
follow this tradition.   Twenty years back I had a conversation with an
Agnihotri Brahmin during the Upanayanam of my nephew in a village.  He
explained to me his strict disciplined lifestyle: First, He never had
eaten food prepared and served other than by his wife.  He maintained
permanent Agni preserved in a mud pot and conducted his Nithya Karma. He
had never stayed overnight other than at his permanent home in the
village. He had conducted his Yajnas regularly every day without any
break. (No vacations!) I do believe that there still some Agnihothris,
somewhere in remote villages performing their duties according to the
Vedic rules.  The modern mind of ours has the capacity and potential to
rationalize all our actions and self certify us as a Brahmin! Most of us
in this list (whether born as a Brahmin or otherwise) can ever make such
a false claim.  Let us be humble enough to admit our inability to
maintain the high standards as specified in the Vedic
Religion(Vidyasankar has unambiguously pointed out our  hypocrisy).

Who is a Brahmin? Is it not necessary for those other than Brahmins to
achieve evolution?

Paramacharya does not directly answer this question and there should be
good reasons.  " Everyone born as a Brahmin has without asking for any
reason necessarily and as matter of duty to learn, study and practice a
Veda Sakha which is one of the branches of the Vedas. A Sakha consists
of first the Samhita, next the BrAhmana, then the Aranyaka at the end of
which appear the Upanishad."

" The performance of Vedic karmas and rituals are for Brahmins and not
for others. But when others perform whatever jobs they are required to
do, lead them to mental upliftment and Self realization. To whatever
caste a person may belong, the zealous performance of one's duties as
laid down and dedicating one's fruit to God lead them to the goal.  The
moral monarch quotes the Gita Verse, 18:46 - "Sva karmana tam abhyarchya
siddhim vindanti maanavah."  The Paramacharya writes: "The most
important aspect of our worldly lives is to obtain the GRACE OF GOD. It
is the duty of the Brahmins to obtain such a grace for the benefit of
the society. It is the duty of the Brahmins to obtain the goodwill of
the Devatas, who are in the nature of God's officials, to men of

My comments: The Vedic Religion demands much higher standard of ethical
behavior from the Brahmins than by others.  They have to perform their
duties unselfishly for the benefit of the entire society.  It should be
pointed out that Paramacharya gave guidance and blessings to everyone
irrespective of race, caste and religion.  Mahatma Gandhi the modern
reformer of the Caste System in India has said during the conversation
with His Holiness in a goshala in Pallasseni village, Kerala, in 1929
just before his evening meal:  " The conversation I am having now with
the Acharya is itself my evening meal for to-day."

It is time for me to stop my remarks and control my desire for the
intellectual dialog.

Let me conclude with the following quotation from the book: Our Acharya
- Adi Sankaracharya - was a repository of the Dharma contained in the
Srutis, Smritis and PurAnAs. Hence we bow down to him with the following

  "Sruti Smrti PurAnAm Alayam karunAlayam
   Namami BhagavadpAda Sankaram lokasankaram"


The book contains a summary chart at the end of the book containing a
list of the sacred books using a broader classification of the Hindu

Classification of Vedas
Vedas - Rgveda, Yajurveda, SAmaveda, Atharvaveda

Subclassification of Vedas - VedaSAkhA, SamhitA/BrAhmana, Aranyaka and
Upanishad ( More details including the names of the Rishis associated
the subgroups are also included in the chart.

Vedangas - SiksA, VyAkarana, Chandas, Nirukta, Jyo'tisa, Kalpa
Upaangas - MimAmsA, nyaaya, PurAna, dharmaSAstra

The sacred books of Vedic religion

PrasthAAnatrayi - The Orthodox Hindu Texts on TatavjNAna- Metaphysics.

Text with Principal Commentaries:
Bhagavad Gita - Gitabhasya of Sankara, Gitabhasya of Ramanuja,
Gitabhasya of Madhvacharya, Jnanesvari of JNAnadev, Gitabhasya of
AnandaTirtha, Subodhini - SriDharabhasya

Upanishads (12): Sankarabhasya on 12 Upanishads, Anandatirthabhasya

Brahmasutras: Sarirakabhasya of Sankaracharya, Sribhasya of
Ramanujacarya, Sutrabhasya of Madhvacharya, NimhbArkAcharya,
VallabhAcharya, BaladevAcharya, SrikanthasivAcarya, Sripatipandita

Sub-commentraies (VyAkhyA, VarthikA, TikA:

Bhagavad Gita: AnandaGirivyAkhyA, gudArthadipika of
Madhusudhanasaravati, GitArthasangraha of Yamunacharya,
Tatprayachandrika of Desikar, GitatAt Paryanirnaya, GitavivrTTi of
Raghavendraswami, Amrtatarangini by Rahunathadas, JayatirthamunivyakhyA,
Gitrarhahsya of Tilak.

Upanishads: Suresvara's Yartika on tait and Brhd.Upanishad, Isopanishad
Bhasya by Vedantadesikar, Rangaramujamuni on

Brahmasutras (Sarirakabhaysa of Sankara): Vivrana School (Pancapadika &
Tattvadipana), Bhamati School (Bhamati, Kalpataru, Parimal, Abhoga),
brahmasutradipika, Ratnaprabha, Bhasyabhanuprabha, Nyaya nirnaya of
Anandagir, Chandrika Nyayendusekara, Khandanakhandhkhadya,

The subcommentaries of Brahmasutras of Sribhasya and Sutrabhasya and
others are included in the chart.

Four Upavedas:
Ayurveda - CaraksamhitA, suSrutasamhitA, BhAvaprakASa, BelasamhitA

ArthaSAstra - Kautilya's ArthaSAstra, Kamandakiya NitSAra,
NitivaAkyAmtra of Somadevasuri, SukranitiSAra, Manusmrti, etc.,

Dhanurveda - Mahabharata, Agnipuraana, PrasthaAnabheda of Madhusarasvati

Gandharvaveda - Bharatnatyasastra, Visnudharmottaram, Sahityadarpana of
Visvanatha, DhvanyAloka of Anandavardhana, etc.

Thirty two Primary VidyAs: Rgveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda, Atharvaveda,
Ayurveda, Dhanurveda, Gandharvaveda, Tantra, SiksA, VyAkarana, Kalpa,
Nirukta, Jyotisa, Chanda, MimAmsa, Tarka, Sankya, VedAnta, Yoga,
ItihAsa, PurAna, Smrti, Nastikamata, ArthaSAstra, KamaSAstra,
SilpaSAstra, Alankrti, Kavya, Desabhsa, Avasarokti, Yavanamata,

Ram V. Chandran
Burke, VA

>From  Thu Jun  4 15:38:48 1998
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Date: Thu, 4 Jun 1998 15:38:48 -0400
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To: List for advaita vedanta as taught by Shri Shankara
        <ADVAITA-L at TAMU.EDU>
From: Ram Chandran <chandran at ECON.AG.GOV>
Subject: Re: Shruti and Smriti
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Paramacharya of Kanchi, in the book with the title "The Vedas" writes:
"Veda alone is the foundation of Smritis." The Acharya further states a
quotation from the Maha Kavi Kalidasa in Raghu Vamsa: "Sruterivartam
sritiranavgacchat." Sudakshina followed the footsteps of the cow, even
as Smriti followed the meaning of Sruti. Kanchi Kamakoti Pethathipathi
summarizes the interrelationship between PurAnAs, Smritis and Sruti: The
PurAnAs narrate the Vedic Dharmas in the form of stories. The Vedic
Dharmas and Karmas are presented not in the form of fables but advice
and injunctions by the Smritis. The Vedas (Srutis) intuitively flashed
into the comprehension of the Rishis.  Later on, the Rishis recollected
what they had seen and they became Smritis.  PurAnAs deal with the truth
contained in the Vedas, with the recital of stories. All are
authoritative and they all fundamentally deal with Dharma.

In conclusion, I believe that all scriptures are holy and have an
important role to play in human life.  All human beings are divine
(irrespective of their race, religion and caste) and have a role to play
in the cycle of life and death.  Any judgement on the relative
superiority of an human being is an Illusion. As long as this illusion
remains there will be intellectual debates. When these debates end,
there will be Wisdom, Peace and Total Silence!

Ram V. Chandran

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