[Advaita-l] Pranava adhikara (Was Re: Guru for Devi Puja)
Jaldhar H. Vyas
jaldhar at braincells.com
Mon Oct 22 23:36:47 CDT 2012
On Thu, 18 Oct 2012, Venkata sriram P wrote:
> I would like to resolve certain issues here:
> First is praNava adhikAra :
> namOntaM shivamantraM vA vaiSNavaM vESyatE budhaiH
> yadvA samabhyasEt shUdrOtvArSakaM vidhipUrvakaM
> shudrAs can take up shiva panchakshari / vishnu mantra sans praNava
> by suffixing the pada *namaH* ie., shivAya namaH or viSNavE namaH.
> This can be suffixed with tAntrika praNava ie., *auM*.
I've changed the subject line because this is a different although related
matter. It is of interest because this is a different issue than the run
of the mill "modern vs traditional" or "orthodox vs new age" debates.
Here we have a genuine difference in conceptions of Dharma. As you will
see, I have a definite opinion on the matter yet that does not mean I
consider the other view to be "wrong" per se just not the one I follow.
With that preamble out of the way...
It is an incontrovertible fact that the adhikara for the recitation of
Vedas only belongs to traivarnika males who have undergone upanayana. Now
omkara is supposed to represent the essence of the Vedas. Therefore it
follows that recitation of omkara should also be restricted to those who
have veda adhikara. This view has a strong pedigree; apart from the
sources Venkata Shriramji mentions, authoritative dharmashastras such as
Dharmsindhu also say the same. And it is not only Smartas who hold this
view. For instance, I have a copy of the Narayana Kavacha published by a
Pushti Margi Vaishnava institution where the ashtakshari (OM namo
nArAyaNAya) and dvadashakshari (OM namo bhagavate vAsudevAya) mantras, the
prANava is replaced by hR^iM despite occuring as is in the text of the
Bhagavata Purana itself.
But speaking of the itihasa-puranas, they are also said to be the essence
of the Vedas and furthermore specifically for anadhikaris. And as noted
above, the omkara freely occurs in these texts. So it would seem that
they should be allowed to recite it.
The rejoinder to this is that the qualification for studying
itihasa-puranas only extends to shravana ("listening") and not recitation
or contemplation. Bhaskara Mishra a near-contemporary of Shankaracharya
states in the introduction to his commentary on the Bhagavadgita that
anadhikaris should not even listen to the Gita or other philosophical
portions but only the charitras ("stories") of the puranas. Then they may
be reborn as dvija and undergo upanayana, veda study etc.
However Shankaracharya clearly says:
yeShAM punaH pUrvakR^itasaMskAravashAdavidurasharmavyAdhaprabhR^itInAM
GYAnotpattisteShAM na shakyate phalaprAptiH pratiSheddhuM
"From those [Shudras] who have attained jnana due to the merit of their
former sanskaras such as Vidura and Dharmavyadha, the fruit of jnana [i.e.
moksha] cannot be denied because jnana is the sole cause of that
[moksha.]" (bhashya on BS 1.3.38)
Yet if they do not have Vedadhikara, how did Vidura or Dharmavyadha get
that jnana in the first place? Appealing to former lives only shunts the
problem back. Shankaracharyas answer is different:
shrAvayechchaturo varNAn iti chetihasapurANAdhigame
"Statements in Smrti such as "He should teach it [the itihasa-puranas]
to the four varnas" show that the four varnas have adhikara for it."
(bhashya on BS 1.3.38)
Now it should be noted that:
1. This comment takes place while the inelegibility of the non-dvija for
Vedic study is being upheld. So Shankaracharya clearly holds Veda
adhikara and Purana adhikara to be two different things.
2. The quote from Smrti (specifically the Mahabharata) is a little bit
ambiguous because shrAvayet literally means "cause to listen." As noted
above some think that the non-dvijas can only listen. However
Shankaracharya specifically says that it is possible for a Shudra to
become a jnani and jnana requires manana and nidhidhyasana as well as
3. It therefore follows that non-dvija can also learn the philosophical
sections of itihasa-purana such as the Gita not just the strictly
mythological parts. And if they should teach the symbolism and
significance of the omkara, it follows that they can learn that too.
4. The Gita says in 8.13:
This could be translated as "OM is the one letter Brahman" or "OM is the
imperishable Brahman." However you take it, it shows that for the
Vedantins, the omkara is more than just the essence of the Vedas, it
is Brahman itself.
For these reasons I do not object to non-dvijas using OM and mutatis
mutandis other mantras and stotras found in the itihasa-puranas though
like I won't criticize those who hold differently if that is their
Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>
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