[Advaita-l] Knowledge, renunciation and varNASrama rules

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Mon Aug 16 13:14:28 CDT 2010

> > I have heard even knowledgeable people interpretting Bhagawan discouraging Arjuna not to take up sanyasa as one of kshathriya not eligible for the Sanyasa Ashrama.  The discussion on this aspect in fact went on like even Adya Acharyal has restricted sanyasa only for brahmanas.  Latter on the discussions took a turn that Sureshvaracharya in his varthikas had interpreted the shastras to mean that sanyasa ashrama is available for dvija males.  (was it an explicit and restrictive opinion by Sureshvaracharya?)  In another thread, Shriman Jaldhar Vyas, although not elaborated had indicated that sthri shudradi vyaktis are entitled for sanyasa.  And now Shriman Vidyasankar, by invoking shankara bhashya on Jabala Upanishad has deduced that sthri shudradi vyaktis are also entitled for sanyasa ashrama.

Dear Sri Varadaraja Sharma,
There is a reason why the first chapter of the gItA is called "arjuna
vishAda yoga". vishAda is not vairAgya. bhagavAn kRshNa advises
arjuna to fight and not to take up saMnyAsa, because arjuna did
not exhibit true vairAgya that is a pre-requisite for saMnyAsa. Those
who interpret this as being due to arjuna's kshatriya birth are missing
the point altogether.

The formal and ritual renunciation of karmA is open to all dvija males,
as opined in the dharmaSAstra-s and cited by sureSvara. The standard
expectation applicable to the vast majority of cases is that there is a
sequential progression from studenthood through life as a householder,
followed by withdrawal to the forest and ending in renunciation of all
karmA. There is a special emphasis here on dvija males, because it is
the dvija male who traditionally has adhikAra for vaidika karmA and
incurs sin (pApa/pratyavAya) for not performing the vaidika karmA that
is enjoined upon him. That is why there are special rules surrounding
how, why and when a dvija male is fit for saMnyAsa, because saMnyAsa
entails the renunciation of ALL karmA.
Renouncing from the brahmacaryA stage itself is a special case, and
for the most part, it is not applicable to the vast majority of dvija males.

Those without adhikAra for vaidika karmA are still involved in one or
the other laukika karmA. saMnyAsa is a renunciation of ALL action,
vaidika AND laukika, not just vaidika action. As such, a question as
to how can one renounce what one does not have in the first place
does not arise for laukika karmA. It is not as if women and non-dvija
males sit idle and do nothing at all. The rise of brahmajnAna urges
the falling off of laukika karmA also, as much as vaidika karmA. This
applies to any human being who is qualified for saMnyAsa through
the requisite vairAgya and jnAna. Whatever action it is that they are
involved in as a matter of course, they are entitled to renounce
that if they have the intensity of vairAgya and AtmajnAna has arisen. 
I chose my strong language deliberately in my previous posts. For
those who are so proud of high birth and think that birth as a strI or
a SUdra is a big disqualification for the rise of brahmajnAna, our own
itihAsa-purANa texts provide the names of vidura, dharmavyAdha
and sulabhA, as key examples to the contrary. If someone wants to
set up a general rule that future birth as a dvija male is necessary
before brahmajnAna will arise, even one counter-example is enough
to throw out such a general rule. Our own tradition has always had
more than one counter-example for us to bear in mind.

As far as I am councerned, amAnitvam and adambhitvam are primary
qualities to cultivate before we can even begin talking of vedAnta. And
part of true humility and non-hypocrisy is to be respectful of what the
tradition and its torch-bearers have upheld, instead of assuming that
we already know better.
> Namaste Sri Varadaraja Sharma
> We cannot conclude sthri sudradi vyaktis can take sanyasa. It is not
> correct interpretation by Sri Vidyasankara. Sruti,Smruti, and
> Sistachara are considered but Sruti is most powerful. Smruti is more
> powerful than Sistachara. If Sistachara is against Smruti it is wrong
> to follow it. Smruti does not allow female / sudra sanyasi. If some
> Matha made Sthri Sudradi sanyasis it is against Smruti so wrong. We
> cannot follow it.
> Adi Sankara knew this. He did not say allow sthri sudradi sanyasis in
> his bhashyas. Jabala Sruti does not say allow them. Recent people are
> playing politics / partiality to do this. We are fools to believe
> them.

Shri Murthy,
I will repeat my quotation from sUtrabhAshya 3.4.20, as regards jAbAla
Sruti. Sankara bhagavatpAda says, "pRthag vidhAnAd anadhikRtAnAM".
The word "anadhikRta" here refers to those who do not have requisite
adhikAra for various vaidika karmA-s, but the related vidhAna pertains
to those who have the requisite vairAgya for renunciation. He does not
restrict its application to some anadhikRta-s and exclude others from
its purview. The Sruti (most powerful) and its interpretation through
the ages is clear enough. Adi Sankara bhagavatpAda knew exactly
what he was writing when he quoted this and his successors have
known exactly what it meant over the centuries.

You are, of course, welcome to your own conclusions of what you deem
unfit and wrong. If vidura and sulabhA were to stand in front of you, I
suppose you would hold one's Sudra birth and the other's gender against
them. The true jijnAsu would do much better in learning from them. 

Let us also remember that it is the orthodox advaita tradition that has also
transmitted the manIshA pancakam to us, although it has been dominated
by men of brAhmaNa birth through the centuries. Of course, one could get
all academic and question whether this is authentically Sankara's own
composition, but the fact remains that what is expressed in this poem
about the AtmajnAnI, irrespective of birth and social status, represents a
core ideal of the advaita vedAnta tradition.
ps. There is no SAnkara bhAshya on the jAbAlopanishat. Instead, there is
a citation of the jAbAlopanishat in the brahmasUtra bhAshya and in the
bhagavad gItA bhAshya. I would expect that there are citations from the
jAbAla Sruti in other upanishad bhAshya-s as well.

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