Questions for those familiar with Tamil History
Anand V. Hudli
anandhudli at HOTMAIL.COM
Thu Jun 17 09:53:30 CDT 1999
On Wed, 16 Jun 1999 18:47:38 -0400, Vidyasankar Sundaresan
<vsundaresan at HOTMAIL.COM> wrote:
>>Some believe that only those portions of the MB which teach
>>"brahminism by conduct" show Buddhist influence (i.e, they were
>>added later on), just as some believe that the Giitaa was a later
>>addition to the MB.
>Such arguments ignore the very complexity of the structure of the epic.
>There is almost no character in the epic whose birth is sufficient to
>determine caste. Vyasa's mother is a fisher woman, Dhritarashtra and Pandu
>are Vyasa's biological sons, as is Vidura. However, Vyasa is a Brahmana and
>Vidura is a Sudra, but the other two are Kshatriyas. The epic is designed
>fundamentally on the complexity and fragility of caste considerations. To
>argue that its portions on how conduct makes a brAhmaNa are Buddhist
>influenced ignores the basic theme of the epic. Similarly, van Buitenen, a
>seasoned Sanskrit scholar, argues that the story is designed to put the
>where it currently occurs. His arguments are also based on the structure of
>the core myth. Opinions there are galore, but arguments about
>into an original text need to be made carefully. This is where I find that
>only a few scholars make any sense. The rest seem to base their conclusions
>on the thinnest possible grounds.
This is an excellent observation. Every key character in the MahabhArata
has something that seems to conflict with established notions of caste or
other orthodox ideals. In fact, the point that conduct determines whether
one is a Brahmana or not is one of the important themes that runs through
the whole epic. In some episodes, such as the nahushha episode, the point
is made explicit. YudhishhThira points out that intermixing of castes
based on birth alone is inevitable, and so it is the conduct that really
determines whether one is a Brahmana. His birth alone does not guarantee
Also, droNAchArya who is born a brahmana is shown to have accepted
the profession of a Kshatriya. But Vidura born of a Sudra mother is
shown to be a true jnAnI. Also, the DharmavyAdha episode makes a mockery
of orthodoxy of Brahmanas and depicts a butcher as being more knowledgeable
than a brahmana in matters of Dharma.
KarNa who is born of a Kshatriya mother, Kunti, out of wedlock, is
brought up by a charioteer and his wife. For the most part of his life,
he thinks that he is a only a "sUta-putra." BhagavAn Krishna Himself is
born a Kshatriya but grows up as a Vaishya in the house of Nanda.
And BhIshhma undergoes a kind of self-imposed, life-long brahmacharya,
quite uncharacteristic of powerful Kshatriyas who always had easy access
Someone like Buddha who looks for ways to criticize Brahamana
orthodoxy and caste-ism, will find plenty of support in the MahabhArata.
So it is hard to believe it when someone, scholar or otherwise, says
that parts of the Mahabharata were added under Buddhist influence.
Also, we should remember that as an itihAsa, the epic enjoys a higher
position than the purANa's. The MahabhArata is also regarded as the fifth
Veda. As such, it is not as easy to tamper with the 'bhArata as it would
be with some of the PurANas where one would not be surprised to find
More information about the Advaita-l mailing list