Nanda Chandran Nanda.Chandran at NBC.COM
Tue May 19 13:04:01 CDT 1998

I've been pondering about this matter of caste based on birth for quite
a long while and today morning something struck me. It's only plain
logic and reasoning.

OK, we've two criterions -
1. vedaAdhikArA - one who's eligible to study the Vedas
2. mokshaadhikArA - one who's eligible for moksha

First let me state my position that no amount of arguing can contradict
the enormous amount of evidence in the scriptures as to what makes a
brahmana - birth.

OK, but when Vedanta is so universal in it's perspective, how can the
study of the Vedas be restricted only to the Brahmanas?

As Jaladhar so often states, the shruti deals with two subjects 1. Karma
and 2. Brahman. By Karma I, with my limited knowledge, would interpret
as the ritual portion of the shruti. OK, what exactly is the objective
behind these rituals? We hear of the Ashvamedha Yaga and various other
rituals conducted by Brahmanas. These rituals can be performed towards
two ends : 1. Personal Salvation (which I suppose is the Purva
Miimaamsaa perspective) and 2. the general well being of the society.

It's the second objective that I feel is the crux of the problem. These
complex rituals which are performed for the welfare of the society
obviously requires substantial knowledge and responsibility. As Charles
Wikner pointed out sometime back, the effective way to insure the
survival of such knowledge *intact* (if the mantras are not pronounced
properly they might not yield the required effect), required that a
certain section of the society would be dedicated towards that end. Also
to ensure that this section of the society didn't forsake their duty,
probably the importance was heightened by giving them exclusive
privileges to learn and conduct the rituals. Pure psychology, I suppose.
Also the qualifications of the performer of the rituals is important -
thus the austere and ethical way of life of a Brahmana. These I feel are
the reasons why the shruti was limited only to the Brahmanas.

Vedantic knowledge can be had from even the smritis (Gita, Yoga Vasishta
etc). But the specific rituals with the hyms are present only in the
shruti (if I'm wrong please correct me).

I was reading the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad yesterday and in that a
Brahmana of the Gargya clan learns from Ajatashatru, a Kshtriya, who's a
jnani. This goes to prove that 1. A Brahmana need not be a jnani (which
contradicts the theory that a Brahmana is somebody who's attained
Brahman) and 2. One need not be a Brahmana to be a jnani. And this is
straight from the shruti itself, which would supercede even Shankara's
authority (if we're interpreting him correctly).

I agree with Rama that we shouldn't use words that would hurt the
feelings of other members on the list.

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