[Advaita-l] ShAstra vs. shraddhA

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Tue Jun 12 22:14:59 CDT 2012

On Tue, 12 Jun 2012, Naresh Cuntoor wrote:

> In Gita 17.1, Arjuna raises a question - ye shAstra-vidhim utsRujya
> shraddhayAnvitAH yajante, teShAM kA niShThA iti. The context to this
> question is in the previous chapter which concludes with shAstraM pramANaM
> te .. shAstravidhAnoktaM karma kartum arhasi.
> Shankara Bhashya clarifies the question in 17.1 is about those who
> shAstravidhAnaM .. parityajya yajante .. shraddadhAnatayA. And adds that it
> refers to those who devAn pUjayanti without being aware of the shastra
> (..kaMchit shAstram apashyantaH..).


> Further, it is said that this question does not apply to those who ignore
> shAstravidhi. Anandagiri makes this comment clear (..shAstrIyaM vidhiM
> pashyantopi ..upekShya ..).
> The chapter then goes on describe the three types of shraddhA and the types
> of yajna, dAna, tapas and AhAra.

And I think a clue as to what Shankaracharya is getting at can be found 

Take 17.4:

yajante sAttvikA devAnyakSharakShAMsi rAjasAH |
pretAnbhUtagaNaAMshchAnye yajante tAmasA janAH ||

"The sattvikas worship the Devas, the rajasikas yakshas and rakshasas. 
pretas,the hosts of bhutas and such are worshipped by the tamasika 

The devas are the Gods of the Vedic pantheon and as the Gita explains 
elsewhere, to worship them according to shastric vidhis and without 
expectation of reward is karmayoga and considered sattvika worship.

Yakshas and Rakshasas (said in itihasapurana to be half-brothers) are 
minor spirits worshipped for personal gain whether in a positive way for 
wealth, fertility etc. or in a negative way to destroy the wealth of ones 
enemies etc.  Because egotistical reasons are the motive, this worship is 
called rajasic.

Pretas are the spirits of dead people who did not reincarnate (because of 
neglect of dharma, non-performance of shraddha etc.)  Bhuta is often 
translated as ghost.  But it is more accurate to say they are "wild", 
troublemaking spirits.  They are to be appeased out of fear.  Such worship 
is tamasika.

So far this is pretty self-explanatory so Shankaracharyas comments on this 
shloka are minimal.  But what he does say is significant.  He glosses anye 
"and such" as saptamAtR^ikAdin.

If you remember we had a discussion last year[1] about Gita 9.25 where 
Shankaracharya also invokes matR^igaNa as an example of bhutas.  At that 
time it was shown that the particular examples were not random but the 
deities of a specific tantric sampradaya.  From this perspective the 
people refered to in 17.1 are not ignorant of all shastras but are 
followers of nastika shastras.  Their worship is defective but it is 
nevertheless worship of a sort.

> Besides that the overall message of the
> chapter seems to be that Om tat sat iti vAkyam is used by Brahmavadis
> because of its profundity.
> So, in effect, the three word nirdesha of Brahman (Om tat sat) then gives
> carte blanche to ye shAstra-vidhim utsRujya shraddhayAnvitAH yajante.

Not so.  sarvadharmAnpartityajya (18.66) apllies to both astika and 
nastika dharmas.  As inferior as the worship of the tamasikas is, it can 
(and must just like the worship of the sattvikas) be renounced by one who 
is desirous for moksha and that person alone is fit to meditate on om tat 

[1] http://www.advaita-vedanta.org/archives/advaita-l/2011-July/027863.html

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

More information about the Advaita-l mailing list