What is adhikAra?

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Tue Jun 16 15:53:12 CDT 1998

On Mon, 1 Jun 1998, Vaidya N. Sundaram wrote:

> Please pardon me for addressing only one of the points of the whole
> argument.
>  Are we trying to establish here that;
>  If a Brahmana Then speak the Truth "ALWAYS"
>  If speak Truth "ALWAYS" then a Brahmana
>  If ever lied, never a Brahmana.

Well, what I'm trying to say is that the Brahmana worldview would like
your first statement to be true.  Of course reality, fell short of the
mark but the self image was that a Brahmana always spoke the truth.  And
the story of Satyakama should be read that way.

>  I am not so comfortable with this line of reasoning. Again, quoting an
> example: why does Vishwamitra make Harishchandra go through all those
> miserable events? It all started with Indra asking Vasista in his court (i.e
> Indra's court): Is there one who has always spoken the truth?  Vasista's
> reply was, Yes. Harishchandra is one such, and he has not even thought of
> lying even when his mother's womb, and Vishwamitra tries to prove Vasista
> wrong, as he is so fond of doing.

Thanks for bringing this up.  I am pretty sure that in the Mahabharat
there is a statement that King Yudhishthir was the only man who never told
a lie.  But this is said of King Harishchandra too.

>  The point I am trying to make is, Harishchandra says in the end that if he
> has been a true "Kshatriya" etc etc ... thereby denoting that he has spoken
> the truth always, is aware that he has spoken nothing but the truth always
> and is also aware that he is a kshatriya. And I believe it is also a very
> well recognised fact that to have one who has "never" lied is a "Rare" event
> with very low probability. So, being a Brahmana, has nothing to do with
> saying the Truth "always". Truth is what should be said, irrespective of the
> status / stature of the person. The qualification or disqualification from
> being a Brahmana does not arise because of Truth of the lack of it.

I agree.

>  Where is the "obligation"?. Truth is Truth, irrespective of perceptions.  It
> is better called "duty" (to say the Truth). And "to presume" comes not from
> feeling an "obligation to the Truth", rather an feeling of "Knowing better"
> and hence "inform the other of his/her mistake"

Perhaps obligation is the wrong word.  What I meant to describe is the
feeling that though saying truth may be the duty of all, "low" people
cannot be expected to follow such lofty notions while the "high" ought to
do so and are to be criticized more when they don't.  And you're right it
is a perception.  What I'm arguing is that it is this kind of perception
which has influenced the authors of the shastras.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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