[Advaita-l] Re: Question: Swadharma
Jaldhar H. Vyas
jaldhar at braincells.com
Wed Feb 15 13:00:44 CST 2006
On Wed, 15 Feb 2006, Ram Garib wrote:
> By following swadharma, dvija-s gain
> eligibility to study vedanta while shudra-s do not.
> Not having to go through the self-discipline is no
> consolation if it bars one from the pursuit of the
> highest goal.
> Note that while some commentators permit shudra-s to
> gain vedantic knowledge through gita etc., others
> including shankara do not.
Both these statments are incorrect. Here is the concluding part of the
bhashya on brahmasutra 1.3.38 which ends the apashUdrAdhikaraNa:
yeShAM punaH pUrvakrtasaMskAravashAdviduradharmavyAdhaprabhrtInAM
GYAnotpattisteShAM na shakyate phalapraptiH pratiSheddhuM
GYAnasyaikAntikaphalatvAta shrAvayecchaturo varNAn iti
chetihAsapurANAdhigame chAturvarNyasyAdhikArasmaraNAt | vedapUrvakastu
nAstyAdhikAraH shUdrANAmiti sthitam ||
>From those Shudras who gained jnana as a result of their prior
samskaras such as Vidura and Dharmavyadha there is no possibility of
denying achievement because jnana always yields its fruit.
Smriti establishes adhikara for knowing itihasa and purana to all
the four varnas by "He should teach it to the four varnas." But for the
reasons given above it is established that Shudras have no right to the
 In the Mahabharata He was the minister of Dhrtarashtra. He was the
son of Vedavyasa through Matsyagandha.
 His story is also given in the Mahabharata. He was a hunter who
taught an arrogant Brahmana the true meaning of dharma and the necessity
 of Moksha.
 Itihasa = Ramayana, Mahabharata etc. Puranas = the Bhagavata, Shivapurana
 Although it is not spelled out, the implication is that those who
cannot study the Vedas can get the same effect by studying the itihasa and
puranas. The Gita, Yogavasishtha, Mokshadharma are some of the Vedantic
works which fall in this category.
 in the preceding sutras 1.3.34-38.
Now some comments of my own:
It is obvious that Shankaracharya and Vedanta in general are not
egalitarian. In fact only the most horrendous twisting of words could
allow anyone to think that they are. Yet nevertheless, here
Shankaracharya does affirm the ability of anyone in theory to get Moksha.
To understand why, we have to remember that karma is the bringing into
existence of things that were previously non-existent. This cannot apply
to Brahman as Brahman pervades all, even those that are completely
unaware, and there was never a time when Brahman was non-existent. So no
amount of work--Vedic or secular--can cause knowledge of Brahman. It just
is. The utility of karma is negative. If done right, it can destroy the
impediments that prevent that knowledge from shining forth.
If we accept that Shudras are capable of jnana in the first place and we
do for the reason just mentioned, then there has to be some method for it
to have happened. Some "samskaras" which broke through the veils of Maya.
And if they are not the Vedic samskaras, they must be some other kind.
Shankaracarya suggests the itihasa and puranas are the place to look for
Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>
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