[Advaita-l] Knowledge, renunciation and varNASrama rules

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Wed Aug 18 14:49:09 CDT 2010

> IMHO you are not correct in interpreting Adi Sankara's saying. He
> never says Sudras and Stris having Vairagya can take Sanyasa in 3
> 4.20 . This is your own saying. The question is If he wanted them to
> be eligible to Sanyasa he had good chance in 3 4.20. But he never said
> Sudras any where in 3 4.20. Why ?

Because the context in BS 3.4.20 is ASrama, not varNa. If he had wanted to,
in this passage, Sankara bhagavatpAda could have easily made a statement
that excludes strI-s and SUdra-s from the category of anadhikRta-s. He does
not do so, which indicates that he does not even consider limiting the issue
of saMnyAsa ASrama to the first varNa here.

> Moreover in 1 3.34 he says Sudro Yajne Anavakliptaha the Sudra is not
> fit to do Yajnas. In same sentence he says Vidyayam Api
> Anavakliptatvam Dyotayati. Sudra is not fit for Vidya also. Nyayasya
> Sadharanatvat. Because the same logic to not allow Sudra to do Yajna
> and not allow him to get Vidya. He does not have sacred thread. With
> sacred thread only Brahmin gets right to do Yajnas. Or he can straight
> away go from Brahmacharya to Sanyasa to get Vidya. in 3 4.20 Adi
> Sankara is saying other Brahmins who have sacred thread but not
> performing Yajnas can take Sanyasa. Your quick conclusion putting
> Sudras and Stris in same group with other Brahmins is not correct.

Nowhere in the commentary on BS 3.4.20 does he restrict his discussion to
men of the brAhmaNa varNa. Nowhere in this passage does he exclude strI-s
and SUdra-s from those who are anadhikRta. Your statement, that in 3.4.20,
he is talking of brAhmaNas who have sacred thread but not performing
yajna-s is quite unsupported by the bhAshya. You are mixing up adhikAra for
jnAna and adhikAra for karmA completely, much beyond the valid applicability
to veda adhyayana related issues alone in the apaSUdrAdhikaraNa. You are
ignoring the fact that Sankara bhagavatpAda clarifies that there is adhikAra
for the itihAsa-purANa for all and jnAna can arise from this SravaNa too,
aided by prior saMskAra-s from previous births.
In fact, the context of 3.4.20 is the exact opposite of how it appears to
you. The hard stance of pUrva mImAMsA is that one who has adhikAra to
perform vaidika karmA should never renounce. A further argument from
this pUrvapakshin is that perhaps saMnyAsa is talked about only for those
who have no adhikAra for karmA, e.g. the dumb, deaf, lame, widower, etc.
This is the pUrvapaksha, not Sankara bhagavatpAda's siddhAnta. Your
stance is therefore similar to the pUrvapaksha argument refuted by the

Sankara bhagavatpAda separates out the situation very nicely and says that 
so long as the conditions for renunciation are met, anyone can renounce. It
is in this sense that he quotes jAbAlopanishat. Those who have adhikAra for
doing karmA, e.g. brAhmaNas with yajnopavIta, can renounce karmA, both
laukika and vaidika, if their brahma-jijnAsA and vairAgya are ripe. This is
what the jAbAlopanishat is saying, when it says "brahmacaryAd vA, gRhAd
vA, vanAd vA." Those without adhikAra for vaidika karmA are covered in
the separate sentence, "vratI vA avratI vA, snAtako vA asnAtako vA". If you
say that the terms vratI, snAtaka and utsannAgni only indicate a particular
qualification, then by definition, the words avratI, asnAtaka and niragnika
includes all people who lack the qualification. These are not restricted to
the male brAhmaNa who has somehow lost the qualification for yajnAdi
Besides, recall the points made by Sankara bhagavatpAda before citing the
jAbAlopanishat - parivrAD eva brahmasaMstha iti setsyati. What is brahma-
saMsthA? He explains later in the same passage - brahmasaMstha iti hi
brahmaNi parisamAptir ananya-vyApAratA-rUpaM tan-nishThatvam.

Now go back to sUtrabhAshya 1.3.38, and see what he says with respect
to vidura and dharmavyAdha - na Sakyate phala-prAptiH pratisheddhuM,
jnAnasya aikAntika-phalatvAt. "Sravayec caturo varNAn" iti ca itihAsa-
purANAdhigame cAturvarNyasya adhikAra-smaraNat. vedapUrvakastu
nAsty adhikAraS SUdrANAm iti sthitam."

What is the aikAntika phala of jnAna, the attainment (prApti) of which can
not be prohibited (pratishedha) to anybody? It is nothing other than the state
of "brahmaNi parisamApti". How could that be possible for a strI or a SUdra
to whom your argument would deny the very possibility of brahmasaMsthA?
How can the phala-prApti be realized without allowing the state of brahma-
saMsthA for the individual who has the requisite brahmajnAna? Note that
Sankara bhagavatpAda says nothing about the necessity of a future birth as
a brAhmaNa male, which is the only scenario possible for you, according to
what you mentioned earlier in this discussion. 

Putting all this together, I hold that there is only one consistent picture that
Sankara bhagavatpAda paints about varNa, ASrama and brahmajnAna, which
is as follows. Although the SUdra (and by default, the strI) may not have an
adhikAra for veda adhyayana, there is no denying the adhikAra of EVERYBODY
for itihAsa-purANa, which serves as a filter as it were, for the veda vidyA.
There is also no denying the fructifying of saMskAra-s leading to brahmajnAna
and there is no mention whatsoever of future birth as a brAhmaNa male being
necessary. There is no prohibiting the aikAntika phala of jnAna, which is the
very definition of brahmaNi parisamApti, the state of brahmasaMsthA. This
state is intimately tied in with that of pArivrAjya. As for the scriptural sanction
for the state of the parivrAT, the jAbAla Sruti is cited and shown to apply to
both adhikRta and anadhikRta individuals.

Now you clarify the following. You claim that you are not talking of the daNDa,
kAshAya vastra and kamaNDalu, but of leaving wife and family, possessions 
and titles behind. What is going to be your take on someone like vidura who 
has the brahmajnAna and has no desire to stay at home, but only wishes to
be brahmasaMstha for the rest of his natural life? What about someone like
sulabhA, if she does not want to get married and produce children? Or, for
that matter, if she is old and done with her family responsibilities and wants
to leave everything behind and remain brahmasaMstha for the rest of her
natural life? Is it your stance that the one's SUdra status and the other's strI
status mean that being brahmasaMstha is impossible for them? What happens
to the sage conclusion of Sankara bhagavatpAda in sUtrabhAshya 1.3.38 - na
Sakyate ... pratisheddhum? Do you mean to say that they can (or should) stay
in their usual routine, never renounce, and will still be brahmasaMstha and
liberated? What happens then to the other sage argument in 3.4.20 that only
the renouncer can be brahmasaMstha? So, the brAhmaNa male who gets
brahmajnAna should renounce everything, as he incurs sin FOR NOT formally
and really renouncing his life prior to brahmajnAna. But the strI or the SUdra
male who gets brahmajnAna should NOT renounce anything, as they will incur
sin FOR renouncing? What sort of logic is that? Note that if you say that a strI
or SUdra can never get brahmajnAna without future birth as a brAhmaNa male,
that stance has already been refuted by Sankara bhagavatpAda when he admits
the possibility that pUrva-saMskAra-s may lead to brahmajnAna, like vidura
and dharmavyAdha.

Assuming that you agree there is internal consistency within the sUtrabhAshya
about varNa, ASrama and adhikAra, please address every one of the points I
have raised above, and tell me exactly where I am misinterpreting the bhAshya.

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