Note on Vedic shAkhAs

Anand V. Hudli anandhudli at HOTMAIL.COM
Thu Aug 26 08:51:33 CDT 1999

On Wed, 25 Aug 1999 19:29:04 EDT, Ashish Chandra <ramkisno at HOTMAIL.COM>

>Thanks a lot to all those who have cleared my doubts/answered my questions.
>Anand Hudli wrote:
>>  7) A complication that arises if one learns another shAkhA without
>>     learning _any_ part of his own is: what does one do while following
>>     the saMskAras? These saMskAras are according to the gR^ihya sUtras
>>     of one's shAkhA. If one has not learnt any part of his shAkhA at all
>>     even to the extent of being able to perform the necessary saMskAras,
>>     then it won't do him any good, even if he has learnt some other
>>     fully.
>Which probably means that for people who have been "disconnected" from the
>tradition, who don't even know their Shakha (me) and might not have any
>chance of getting to know it, the law of Manu applies wherein I should just
>try and learn what I can ? Then what of the point Anandji is making here ?

  Deciding what one's dharma is under circumstances not commonly described
  in the dharma-shAstras can be very tricky. What we have are general
  guidelines that say the following. If a particular course of action
  has been enjoined by the shruti, then this must be followed. Next, if
  the shruti says nothing about the particular circumstance, then the
  smR^iti (such as the Manu smR^iti, the shrauta and gR^ihya sUtras, gItA,
  etc.)  should be our guide. But if even the smR^iti says nothing about
  the particular circumstance that we are faced with, the tradition of
  the family as followed by elders and ancestors, becomes the arbitrator
  of what is to be done. But if even this tradition has nothing to say,
  then we can do what we feel is right and justifiable under the circum-
  stances. The point here is that self-interest, tradition, smR^iti, and
  shruti are successively more powerful, shruti being the most powerful.
  In other words, what we follow as dharma based on self-interest is
  valid only if does not conflict with tradition. What we follow as per
  tradition is valid only if it does not conflict with smR^iti. What
  we follow as per smR^iti is valid only if does not conflict with

  Now, the step where we must know whether some course of action is
  recommended by the shruti/smR^iti is itself very difficult sometimes.
  In those cases, the smR^iti's (see yAjnavalkya smR^iti for example)
  recommend that a vidvatgoshhThI (a committee of VidvAns) be convened
  to recommend a course of action after due deliberation. These VidvAns
  must themselves be knowledgeable about matters regarding dharma and
  must also be followers of dharma.

  In your case, where the vedic shAkhA is not known, you may 1) try to
  find out if relevant records exist in Kashi or elsewhere and 2) if
  that does not help, request that such a "committee" be convened in
  Kashi or someother place where you can find such vidvAns. These vidvAns
  may already know of precedents like yours and may tell you what was
  done in those cases. If not they will discuss among themselves and
  let you know what needs to be done.

  My guess is that yours is not an isolated case in the whole of India.
  The Vedic tradition has all but disappeared in large parts of India,
  particularly in the Northern and Eastern regions. So there will likely
  be plenty more people who don't know their shAkhA. And if there had
  been a "ruling" on this kind of problem before in Kashi or elsewhere,
  what needs to be done is to find out what this "ruling" was.


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