Upadesha Sahasri

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Sun Sep 15 23:55:01 CDT 2002

On Sat, 14 Sep 2002, ken knight wrote:

> 2.      That means to liberation, Knowledge, should be
> explained again and again until it is firmly grasped,
> to a pure Brahmana disciple, ( Alston notes:this
> should not be interpreted in a purely caste sense. At
> BS comm.. 3.4.38 Sankara quotes Manu SmR^iti 2.87
> 'Whoever practices universal benelovence and
> friendliness is a brahmana ),

I believe Alston has misunderstood here. Brahmasutra 3.4.36-39 concern
whether someone who is between ashramas is entitled to take up the study
of Vedanta?  the purvapaksha is no they are not because the shastras say
the Brahmana (by caste) should belong to one of the the four
ashramas--brahmachari (student), grhastha (householder), vanaprastha
(retired forest hermit), or Sannyasi (monk.) and it was earlier
established in the Brahmasutras that one finds Moksha from one of those
ashramas.  So e.g. a widower who by the death of his wife is no longer
eligible to practice the karma of a householder but is not formally
renounced is "neither here nor there" and not entitled to seek moksha.

The siddhanta is that Brahman is something that is within one at all times
so it cannot depend on some external action to bring it forth or put
another way at all times and for all people there must be some way to
bring about the knowledge of Brahman (though all methods are not
necessarily equally easy.)  This is where the quote from Manu comes in.
It shows that even if he doesn't perform all the duties like agnihotra
etc. a Brahmana (by caste) is still a Brahmana as long as he atleast
practices such virtues as speaking truth, friendship to all beings etc.
The hypothetical widower could at least do those things to prepare for
Moksha.   There is nothing in this context to suggest that those who are
capable of living according to an ashrama can shirk doing so or to suggest
that anyone who is friendly to all being etc. is a Brahmana.

Furthermore, such a reading would contradict this:

> ...who has approached the teacher in the prescribed manner, and
> has been examined in respect of his caste, profession,
> conduct, learning and parentage.

These things do matter and in upadesha sahasri the dialog is addressed to
a Brahman (by caste) student.

So is this work for Brahmanas only and irrelevant to everyone else?  No.
One of the things the Guru seeks to destroy from his pupil is:

> vanity of caste etc., and so on,


>       5.   He should also thoroughly impress upon the
> disciple qualities like humility, which are the means
> to knowledge.

So why did he enquire about caste etc. if you aren't supposed to care
about such things?  Because he wants the pupil to think about:

> Why then did you wrongly say,' I
> am the son of a Brahmana belonging to such and such a
> lineage; I was a student or a householder, and am now
> a wandering monk'?"

He wants the pupil to ponder:

> How is the body possessed of the
> diversities of birth, lineage and purificatory
> ceremonies. (different from the Self) and how am I
> devoid of them?

then the process of enlightenment can begin.  Pat slogans about how "all
is one" will not awaken the process of self-enquiry.  One must first
understand who one is in the conventional sense, where he is coming from,
and how he came to be that way before those views can be shown to be
limited and replaced by the full knowledge of identity with Brahman which
is moksha.

(btw. I think "purificatory ceremonies" above is also mistranslated if it
is supposed to mean samskara.  While purificatory life cycle rites is a
primary meaning of samskara, another meaning "the impressions on the
psyche left by experience" is more apropos here.  But I don't have a
proper copy of the text of the Upa.sa. so I could be wrong.)

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>
It's a girl! See the pictures - http://www.braincells.com/shailaja/

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