Vaidya N. Sundaram sundaram at ECN.PURDUE.EDU
Fri Jun 19 16:43:16 CDT 1998

 jantUnAm narajanma durlabham atah pumstvam tato vipratA
   tasmad vaidikadharmamArgaparatA vidvatvam asmAt param|
 AtmAnAtmavivecanam svanubhavo brahmAtmanA samstitih
   muktirno satakotijanmasu krtaih: punyairvinA labhyate||

 Of all births, that as a human being is rare to obtain. rarer still is to
be born as a male; rarer than that is to be born a BrAhmana. More
difficult than that is to be inclined towards the path of dharma declared
by the Vedas. Successively more difficult than this are scholarships (in
the revealed texts), discrimination between the Atman and anAtman, perfect
experience following profound meditation, the state of being established
in Brahman and lastly, mukti or liberation. These cannot be obtained
without merit acquired in hundreds of crores of lives.

 I am taking the liberty here of abridging HH's comments as it runs to 9
pages!! It is truly amazing how one verse can mean soooo much. Sorry for
this abridging, and if it seems incomplete, do let me know and I will copy
more of it in later posts.

 Like the verse in the bhagavad Gita: ashocyAnanvashocastvam
praj~nAvAdAmsca bhAsase | gatAsUnagatAsUmsca nAnusocanti paNditAh: ||
"Thou grievest for those who should not be grieved for; thou speakest
like wise men; but those who have attained Atmaj~nAna are not concerned
either with the state of death or of being alive", this verse in the
vivekachUdAmani beginning with jantUnAm ... gives in a nutshell the
entire substance of the work.
 An Astika alone is qualified to embark on the study of VedAnta sAstra.
An Astika is one who believes in the existence of the Atman apart from
the body. By saying that birt as a human being is difficult to obtain,
the fact of the exixtence of th Atman apart from the body is conveyed by
 The word jantUnAm means 'jananaSIlAnAm', those who are subject to janana
or creation in the world. The difficulty of obtaining sucha a birth can
be stated only on the basis that one goes through many births
successively. Birth means combination of Atman with a body, and so again,
separateness of Atman from the body is implied. It behoves a person to
obtain a body which will produce happiness and joy and avoid one that
will cause grief. By this is indicated the duty to endeavour towards
punya and avoid pApa, which will get a good body and bad body
respectively. Regarding what is Punya and what is pApa, sAstra is the one
which prescribes laws and lays down prohibitions. As an Astika alone
believes in the supremacy if the sAstras and hence he alone is qualified
for a study of the sAstras.
 The next thing stated by Sri BhagavatpAda as more difficult to obtain
than a mere human body is to be born as a male human being; for women are
not qualified to study the vedas. The idea is that they can never know
and realsie the Atman which can be done only by a concentrated study of
the Upanishads. The reason for such disqualification may be that
Veda-adhyayana and VedAntavichara are whole time occupations for which
women are unfit by reason of their involvementin domestic duties such
aschild baring and child rearing activities.
 Next in the list of things rare to obtain is vipratA, being a Brahmana.
It is true that although Kshyatriya and vaishyas also are considered
twice borns, they have other serious duties like taking care of the
kingdoms etc., and these are all inherently outward directing. Moreover,
as stated in the Sruti's, Samyasa is essential to realise the Ultimate,
and to qualify for sanyasa, one has to ascend to Brahmin hood. It is to
be noted here that Sri Bhagavat pAda does not say dvijatva (being twice
borns) as being difficult to obtain, but vipratA, i.e, being a BrAhmana.
 Next, vipratA will itself not help one get Knowledge. Having been born a
BrAhmana, one should engage in observance of the prescribed Dharmas.
 It is important to note here that Sri Shankara says "DharmamArgaprapatA",
not "karmamArgaprapatA"; This shows that the supreme objective of man can
be secured only by Dharma. It is said, " dharatIti dharmah: dhriyate
anena iti vA dharmah:". "Because it supports the world, it is dharma; or
it (the Universe) is supported by this, hence it called Dharma". Dharma
is super sensous, and cannot be perceived by any of the senses. Men can
comprehend it only by using sAstra as authority. hence the emphasis on
the word vaidika when saying vaidika dharmamArgaprapatA. It is also to be
carefully noted here that Vedas are considered as the ONLY source of the
knowledge of Dharma.  For when one says "I live by driking water", it is
not be understood as "drinking water and also drinking or eating
somethiing else". Just so, from the Vedas means from only the vedas.

 The karma MImAmsakas hold that dharma by itself is the final means for
the attainment of eternal bliss and that there is nothing else that is
required. Sri BhagavatpAda indicates his dissent by using the word
"mArga" in vaidika dharma mArga prapatA.

 ( discussion of this same verse ... to be continued )

                      Vaidya N. Sundaram
 Kandavar Vindilar      : Those who have seen (Brahman) have not spoken
  Vindavar Kandilar     :   those who speak (about It) have not seen (It)
    satyakAma, satyasaMkalpa, Apatsakha, kAkutsa, shrIman nArAyaNa
        puruShottaMa, shrI ranganAtha, mama nAtha, namostute.

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