[Advaita-l] RE: Vedic Shakhas for kshatriyas and vaishyas?

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Thu Jan 13 17:10:48 CST 2005

On Thu, 13 Jan 2005, Sanjay Srivastava wrote:

> I am not sure about veda pathasalas, but definitely there are vidvAns who do
> not discriminate on this basis. One of my vaisya friend (and she is a woman)
> is learning vedas from a very learned pundit in B'lore.

No doubt your friend has the best of intentions and thinks she is becoming
more dharmic by taking up this novel practice.  On the contrary she is
going 180 degrees in the wrong direction and becoming _less_ dharmic by
abandoning her svadharma.

> North India is still  more liberal.

Only if by liberal you mean illiterate.

> I am a kAyastha from Lucknow. There is no consensus regarding
> kAyastha's place in CAturvarnya system. Some have placed them in kshatriya,
> some in vaiSya and still others in Sudra category. However I did not find
> any difficulty in finding a proper teacher because of not being a brAhmaNa,
> though i myself could never devote enough time to this pursuit.

Many castes do not fit into the four varna system so why even try?  To
determine what you should do, you should take a look, not at some book, or
some theoretical ideal, but the actual historical practices your ancestors
engaged in.  The practice of ones svadharma is equal to knowledge and
performance of all four vedas.  In the Bhagavata purana, we have the
example of the Brahmanas wives.  They got darshana of Bhagavan when their
learned husbands did not because they practiced their svadharma diligently
and their husbands did not.

Now I don't know about U.P. kayasthas, but Bengali kayasthas did often
study in pathashalas (the historian S.N. Dasgupta was one) and some of
them achieved distinction in branches of shastra such as nyaya,
kavyashastra, ayurveda.  But not it should be noted, Vedas.  It wasn't
part of their svadharma.

For the jnanakanda too Vedas are not an end to themselves.  In the
Brahmasutras, it upholds the idea that anadhikaris are unable to study the
Vedas (and hence the upanishads) yet Shankaracharya says they too can
achieve jnana through itihasa, puranas etc.  He gives two examples,
Vidura (the minister of the Kauravas) and Dharmavyadha.  The Mahabharata
says that Dharmavyadha was a hunter (the meaning of vyadha) and even though he
 made a living killing animals because he followed his svadharma, he as
able to achieve what the arrogant Brahmana Kaushika could not.

So what is the "point" of learning Vedas?

It won't make you dearer than other people to God
It won't give you secret superpowers other people don't have.
It sure as hell won't make you wealthy or successful in the world.

The whole point and only point is this.  For certain people, the
Brahmanas, it is their duty to do so.

> In fact, majority of vedic vidvAns are not in a position where they can
> afford the luxury of chosing a student. By the time they master vedas and
> sAyaN bhashya, they are already overage for entry level emplyment
> opportunities. And very few of them are able to simultaneously cope with the
> rigors of secular education. Practically, after mastering vedas they do not
> have any gainful employment opportunities. If they are lucky, they get
> priesthood in some local temple or become purohit. A lot many end up being a
> yoga teacher. Some turn to begging---plain and simple. Those who entirely
> depend upon teaching vedas do not have many livelihood options. If you can
> pay, you are welcome. If you do not have time to go to them, they will be
> more than willing to come to your place for an additional paltry sum.

For those who read the shastras there is nothing new in this news.  It is
one of the hallmarks of the Kaliyuga that people will sell the vedas like
vegetables in the market.  (I would not refer to such people as
vidvans.) What should be noted however, is how many don't compromise their
principles regardless of their financial privations.  The larger question
of the economic basis of Dharma in the 21st century is an interesting one
but not relevant to the question of whether one should transgress ones
svadharma or not.

> I  would say that anyone who is even a bit interested should start learning
> irrespective of the caste.

And from the sociological view, this is the crux of the issue.  The basis
of dharma is not "interest" but the idea we are under three debts.  To the
Devas, which is paid by puja, yajna etc.  To the Pitrs, which is paid by
having children and continuing the family lineage.  And to the Rshis which
is paid by studying the appropriate shastras.  When the bill collectors
come, they will not accept the excuse "oh I spent my money paying my
brothers mortgage."  You have to take responsibility for your own debts

When you replace "duty" with "interest" you superficially get good results
initially because someone who does something with enthusiasm will be more
motivated than someone who is doing it because it is his burden.  But what
happens when interest is lost or something more interesting is found?
Then you are worse off.  This is not idle speculation.  In fact it is the
history of "modern" Hinduism these past 200 years.  In every generation,
there has been some charismatic guru who declares a "vedic revival" and
there is a brief burst of activity.  Then he dies and his sucessors can't
keep the movement together and pretty soon its all gone for naught.

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

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