Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Tue Aug 21 11:37:51 CDT 2001

On Mon, 20 Aug 2001, Rajesh Venkataraman wrote:

> What I did not get was the meaning of your statement
> "being a Brahman makes you speak the truth." What kind
> of brAhmaNa do you mean here (jAti/guNa/karma)? jAti
> does not seem to make sense here. I have given you the
> example of myself.

Well what are you going to do about it?  In the past you may have lied (as
have I) and that it is done but now that we know as Brahmanas we should
speak truth, what about today?  And tomorrow?

As I said this idea of speaking truth is an ideal and the reality falls
short.  But that shouldn't stop us from striving to make the ideal alive.

> Also please clarify
> >
> > A point the commentaries on the Brahmasutras mention
> > is that if only
> > speaking the truth is important, why was Satyakama
> > asked about his
> > parentage at all?  In that case both birth *and*
> > truth-speaking were
> > important.
> >
> If *both* birth and truth-speaking are important then
> I don't really think that there was a good possibility
> of verifying Satyakama Jabala's parentage because even
> his mother did not know for sure who his father was.
> Here is an excerpt from the Chandogya upanishad
> "Once upon a time Satyakama Jabala addressed his
> mother Jabala: ‘Mother! I desire to live the life of a
> student of sacred knowledge. Of what family, pray, am
> I?
> Then she said to him: ‘I do not know this, my dear – of what family
> you are. In my youth, when I went about a great deal serving as a
> maid, I got you. So I do not know of what family you are. However, I
> am Jabala by name; you are Satyakama by name. So you may speak of
> yourself as Satyakama Jabala’."

Most modern translations tranlate it this way and assume that Jabala
doesn't know who Satyakamas' father was. But Shankaracharyas' comment here
is interesting.  As another post in this thread points outs, specifically
what is being asked about is gotra.  He says Jabala had no time to learn
about her husbands gotra etc. as she was busy with wifely duties.  I would
be interested to know if other Vedantic commentators have interpreted it
this way.

> And if just speaking the truth were taken into
> consideration then he could have been noble boy from
> any other varna.
> I want to get it clear because you seem to imply (from
> your replies) that it is *absolutely* essential to be
> a brAhmaNa to get brahma vidyA. Do you?  Is this what
> is said in the apashudraprakarana? It is true
> brAhmaNas *were* *more* qualified than the others
> though.
> It must have been more a general rule of thumb than a
> dogma. If this were so rigidly followed then we would
> also be excluding women etc. (as Sri.Nanda says). And
> the Upanishads themselves say otherwise.

Actually it turns out both alternatives are wrong.  Earlier in the
Brahmasutras it is established that Brahman is to be known through the
Vedas.  The question in the apashudraprakarana is what does this mean for
Shudras (and women, and foreigners and others) who are not entitled to
study the Vedas?  Two sections from Chandogyopanishad are examined in this
matter.  One is this story of Satyakama Jabala.  The other is the story of
Janashruti who approached the Rshi Raikva to learn but was called Shudra
and rejected.  He tried again and was again called Shudra but this time
allowed.  so the purvapaksha is Shudras *are* entitled to study the Vedas.
However the sutras point out that Shudra could not refer to birth in this
case because the shruti explicitly mentions that Janashruti was a
Kshatriya.  Shudra in this case only means a grief-stricken person.  As
for Satyakama I already mentioned the argument that Gotama Haridrumat only
accepted him after asking about his lineage.  Also there is no provision
in Shruti and Smrti for upanayana and other necessary prerequisites for
Vedic study for Shudras.  So the siddhanta is that Shudras (and other like
them) are not entitled to Vedic study.

If that were the end of the matter, it would also follow that Shudras etc.
were not entitled to study of Brahmavidya either.  However at the end of
his commentary on this prakarana Shankaracharya says Shudras can learn
Brahmavidya through Puranas, Mahabharata etc.

Interestingly one of the criticisms Venkatanatha makes in the Shatadushani
is that such an added proviso makes a mockery of the teaching of the
Brahmasutras.  Not so say the Advaitins for the following reasons:

1.  No shastras or karmas can "produce" Brahman.  When it is said that
Brahman is known through them, it means that known correctly they remove
the obstacles that prevent the ever-present knowledge of Brahman from
shining forth.  As the various smrtis are authored by Vedic Rshis and they
contain the essence of the Vedas, they can also remove the obstacles.

2.  So insofar as any action is "necessary" all that is necessary is for
every person to do is practice his own dharma as diligently as possible.
When such good deeds have rendered him fit, he should renounce all goods
and actions.  And that renunciation is the same whether it is a beggar
giving away his fortune of one dollar or a rich man giving away his
fortune of a million.

3.  If it is argued that this raises itihasas and puranas to the same
status as the Vedas, Vaishnavas are hardly in a position to complain as
their teachings are also based on Pancharatra Agamasa etc. as well as

So no, the Brahmanas do not have a monopoly on Brahmavidya but only they
can (and must) learn it through the Vedas.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at>

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