Shankaracharyas view on Dharmashastras

nanda chandran vpcnk at HOTMAIL.COM
Mon Nov 15 15:28:33 CST 1999

Jaladhar writes :

>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.

But then so are artham and kAmam. Just because they are declared
as the ends of life, that doesn't mean that they have any eternal
value. Doesn't Manu himself say that moksham is the true goal, as
its fruits relate not only to this world but also the world beyond.
The same way though dharmam would've its effect even after this
world, its final end is only moksham.

Ofcourse, it was understood that not everybody had the qualities
required for moksham. So with the practice of virtue (dharmam), one
would burn up the accumulated karmam and evolve towards a suitable
contidion for moksham, even if it be in a future life. So Atma
JnAnam is the true goal.

>>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.

Then why should a snAtaka even take up the stages of a householder
(grhasta) or a vAnaprastha (forest dweller)? Why can't he directly
take up samnyAsam? Everything at the right time. Though I'm not sure
of the significance of manidhanu or indradhanu, I would think that
the mantrams have a similar relation to the stage of life that one
is in.

>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
>might have been drawn hard and clear.

>>This is a popular theory but pure speculation.

Maybe. But also consider that the caste lines in the shruti and
earlier smrithis are not drawn so hard.

>>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 don't think so. Dharmam is the way life is to be lived. And for
what purpose? - Atma jnAnam only. So the sage who's realized
himself, is the person who's aware of what exactly is involved in
the process and is the best person to clearly prescribe the dharmam
for the society. Infact, that some of the writers of the dharma shAstrams
were not sages themselves, might be one of the reasons for such excesses in
the texts.

>>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.

Yes, though the brAhmana was responsible for laying down the dharmam,
it was the kshatriya who was responsible for making sure that the
dharmam was properly followed and when it wasn't, to punish the guilty. And
it's doubtful whether he'd have resorted to the ghastly punishments
prescribed in some texts, whatever say the brAhmanas might have in the whole
deal. And if the brAhmanas had actually been that sadistic in practice,
there's no way Vedic life would have endured for so long - there would've
been a popular rebellion long ago.

Even a historian like AL Basham, who cannot be said to be too liberal
with his praises, endorses that India was one of the most humane
societies in those times and that there's no evidence that such cruel
punishments adovocated in the shAstrams were ever implemented.

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