Shankaracharyas' view on Dharmashastras

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Fri Nov 12 16:18:17 CST 1999

On Tue, 9 Nov 1999, Ashish Chandra wrote:

> Namaste,
> I was going through the list archives on the subject of adhikAra. Thanks to
> Vidya, Bala and Jaldhar for some informative posts. I also came across
> something Vidya had written about 3 years back on the soc.religion.hindu
> list on the question of adhikAra of reciting Vedas for shudras and women.
> The post is at
> My question is, since the Jagadguru has himself pointed out to the
> non-applicability of some Smritis, as mentioned in Vidya's post, what
> exactly is a Smartha to follow ? What should be retained and what discarded
> ? Is there any agreement on these things? Is there a better way of learning
> about this (i.e. from a book or articles)?

I hope Vidyashankar will correct me if I'm wrong, but I think he was
referring to the Rajarajeshwari Peetham in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.
This was (is?) run by female sannyasis.  However the various vaidik karmas
were performed by a Pandit, a certain Shri Janakirama Shastriji from
Andhra if I recall correctly.  So there is no deviation from Shruti and
Smrti in this case.  Some people are of the opinion that women cannot
become sannyasis but as you will see from the next section of the
Jivanmuktiviveka I post the mainstream smarta tradition has a different

This business about "patriarchal society" smacks of pop sociology to
me.  Recently at our local mandir we had a visit from one Nikunjalata
Betiji.  In the Pushti Marga, the leaders are descendents of
Vallabhacharya.  That's why their Goswamis have titles like
"Beti" (daughter) etc.  For the bhaktas what was important was not that
she was a woman, but that she was a descendent of the founder of their
sampradaya.  When we went on a yatra to our Kuladevi last year, we stopped
at the villages Swaminarayan mandir afterwards just as a courtesy.  When
my mother entered, a resident sadhu literally dove out of the way to avoid
looking at her possibly hurting himself in the process! Now both the
Swaminarayan sampradaya and the Pushti Marga both draw their membership
from the same Gujarati population.  The Swaminarayans are theologically
more liberal but as you can see that does not necessarily translate into
social liberalism.  And the comparative theological conservatism of the
Pushti Marga did not translate into Social conservatism.  I'm not saying
there aren't oppressed women in India, but it is hardly the black and
white case some people make it out to be.

My wife does Datta Bavani (52 verses to Dattatreya Bhagavan in
Gujarati) in the morning.  Am I to believe she is inferior because she
doesn't do Sandhyavandana in Sanskrit like me?  I don't think
so.  Nobody I know thinks so.  The whole question of whether women have
the "right" to study Vedas sounds silly to me.  They have their own
traditions passed down from their mothers and grandmothers.  Why would
they want to copy men?

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at>

bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam

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