Shankaracharyas view on Dharmashastras

nanda chandran vpcnk at HOTMAIL.COM
Fri Nov 12 11:32:47 CST 1999

>1. They shall pour hot spiritous liquor into the mouth of a BraahmaNa >who
>has drunk such liquor; he will be purified after death.

The dharma shastrams main duty is to clearly lay down the Vedic way of life
- especially the life of a brAhmana, whose duty it is to preserve the dharma
ie the shruti. In the course of preserving the dharma he's supposed to be
conduct himself in a certain way, which makes him worthy of preserving the

But the main goal of the dharma shAstrams is Atma JnAnam only, especially
for the brAhmana. Preserving the shruti has no value in itself, except to
aid the brAhmana in attaining Atma jnAnam and also to the steer the society
towards that goal - also it helps in preservation of the truth for the
future generations. All prohibitions, rules etc are only to help facilitate
the attainment of the goal - Atma jnAnam. ie if you drink liquor, you'll
become intoxicated, lose concentration and become dull witted - which is not
conducive to Atma jnAnam - so it is to be avoided. Like wise eating meat,
getting addicted to sensual pleasures etc

Probably due to invasions and the influx of new values, thoughts and also
the rise of the nAstika schools which undermined the shruti, the caste lines
might have been drawn hard and clear. But again all these have no value in
themselves except to facilitate Atma jnAnam.

And it might not be that all those who wrote the dharma shAstrams were
realized sages. Some of these authors would have been only intelligent,
orthodox brAhmanas who might have laid down in writing the Vedic heritage
and might also have let their imagination run on certain issues.

I think Gautama advocates other excesses too like pouring lead and wax in
the ears of one who's forbidden to hear the shruti, when he hears it. This
is something which is totally different in scope, than merely denying
non-dvijas the right to study the shruti. In those days, it might have been
that non-dvijas had not matured so much spiritually that such knowledge was
denied to them. But even then this wasn't always the case - there've been
exceptions - like Valmiki, Vidhura and also the non-brAhmana bhakti saints -
though non-dvijas, were recognized as jnAnis. But to pour hot lead into the
ears of a non-dvija who hears the shruti or to pour hot liquor into an
intoxicated brAhmana, are clearly the words of a fanatic (though there's no
evidence that such measures were ever carried out - probably such measures
were retained and popularised, to scare away would-be transgressors). So the
best thing to do in such cases is to consult all relevant literature and
come to a conclusion on such an issue.

I don't think Manu is as hard a proponent of brAhminism as Gautama was. He
is more measured and controlled, has his priorities (Atma JnAnam) right and
displays chivalry and a sense of humour too.

Get Your Private, Free Email at

bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam

Archives :
Help     : Email to listmaster at
Options  : To leave the list send a mail to
           listserv at with
           SIGNOFF ADVAITA-L in the body.

More information about the Advaita-l mailing list