Shankaracharyas' view on Dharmashastras

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Fri Nov 12 16:22:38 CST 1999

On Thu, 11 Nov 1999, Sankaran Jayanarayanan wrote:

> Anyway, the dharmashaastras are quite out-dated, IMO.

It must strike anyone who has looked at the Dharmashastras that much of
what they prescribe is not followed, indeed has never been followed.  Yet
we claim to be smartas -- followers of smrti.  How come?

To answer, let us look at what the smrtis are.  For some reason or
another, Shruti was seen by the Rshis.  We can speculate how and why but
the important thing for this discussion is that it happened.  The Rshis
reacted to this, wondering what it meant, what was it for.  They developed
analytic methods for this which are known as Mimamsa.  This is of two
kinds, investigations into the nature of Dharma or Purva Mimamsa, and
investigations into the nature of Brahman, Uttara Mimamsa or Vedanta. The
records of all these conversations and analysis are what is known as

It is from the consensus of all these sages that we establish Dharma.  If
one was to say eating beef is ok, and all the rest said it was not, then
the minority opinion is duly noted but the majority opinion is followed.
It is like if one supreme court justice thinks there should be death
penalty for jaywalking.  It doesn't become the law of the land unless his
colleagues also agree.

Now a person may argue who are these sages?  Why can't <insert name of
someone who confirms your prejudices> be considered a sage?  Those who are
qualified to explain Dharma, are above all those who practice
it.  Vidyashankar once observd here that Hinduism is not so much about
orthodoxy but orthopraxy.  It doesn't matter how much you believe in it
but how much you practice it.  A sage is also someone with a deep
understanding of the issues at hand.  Just as a judge cannot make rulings
out of thin air, he must be aware of and consider all the legal precedents
etc.  Lastly, he must have no ulterior motives.  Making a decision first
then attempting to justify it with random bits of shastra is out of the
question.  There are such people even today.  YOU may end up being one of
thos people!

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at>

bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam

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