Shankaracharyas view on Dharmashastras

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Fri Nov 12 17:08:51 CST 1999

On Fri, 12 Nov 1999, nanda chandran wrote:

> 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
> scripture.


> But the main goal of the dharma shAstrams is Atma JnAnam only,

No.  Why then would Dharma and Moksha be considered seperate
purusharthas?  At best Dharma purifies the person who practices them by
putting them in the state where they *can* achieve atmajnana.  But it
cannot in any way *cause* atmajnana.  The goal of Dharma is to remove
Dosha which is created in various ways.  Even the staunchest vegetarian
ahimsaka for example causes pain and death to other living
things.  Without the regular practice of nityakarmas, the dosha caused by
this would build up.

> 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

Then how do you explain for example the comment of the Paraskara Grhya
Sutra that a Snataka (one who has undergone the Samavartana sanskara
completing Vedic study but is not yet married.) must say manidhanu instead
of indradhanu (rainbow)?  I don't see how that aids or hinders atmajnana.

> 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.

This is a popular theory but pure speculation.

> 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.

For the purposes of Dharma it doesn't matter if the sages were
"realized" in the Vedantic sense or not, only that they knew Dharma.

> 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.

So do Manu and Yajnavalkya in their Dharmashastras.

> 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.

The vyavahara and prayaschita sections of the smrtis seem to have been
mostly based on wishful thinking.  There is little evidence any of it was
carried out in practice.  Mostly the punishment for crims seems to have
been whatever the local Raja or his agents thought was appropriate.
Certainly they haven't received anywhere nearly as much attention as
achara in the literature.

> 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.

What is Brahmanism anyway?

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at>

bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam

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