Shankaracharyas view on Dharmashastras

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Mon Nov 22 21:03:21 CST 1999

On Mon, 15 Nov 1999, nanda chandran wrote:

> 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

>From the point of view of the seeker, this is the only way to look at
karma and Dharma.  However the scope of Dharma (and Kama, and Artha) cover
non-ephemeral things too and occasionally some of them come in handy :-)
This is the difference between Karma and Karmayoga.  Karma has all kinds
of goals, getting a son, a pay raise, or even supernatural siddhis.  The
goals are met, then their effects dissipate.  But it is only when actions
are done with a view to removing oneself from sansara by performing them
without thought of the results that they becom Karmayoga.

> 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.

Actually in the discussion of Rshi Vamadeva who is mentioned in
Aitereyopanishad as having been liberated while still in the womb,
Shankaracharya discusses different views on this and maintains that
sannyasa is something that can be taken from any ashram or even no
ashram.  Because it is a negation of the very existence of ashrams and the

> 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.

Just as sannyasa is an end in itself.  Dharma is to be practised bcause it
is Dharma.  This is discussed in the Mimamsa shastra.  While many Dharmic
acts have definite purposes (viniyoga) both exoteric and esoteric, in some
cases the purpose has been forgotten and in some cases ther never was a
"significance" in the first place.  It's still Dharma.

> I don't think so. Dharmam is the way life is to be lived. And for
> what purpose? - Atma jnAnam only.

As I mentioned above, chittashuddhi is just the fortunate byproduct of
*some* kinds of Dharmic activity.

>  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.

Well, the smrtis of say Yajnavalkya or Parashara also contain

> 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.

But consider this:  Manu is the lawgiver par excellance and he was a
Kshatriya.  And in the Gita who does Krishna Bhagawan offer as an example
of a true practioner o Karma?  Janaka, a Kshatriya.  In fact, the Gita is
a conversation between two Kshatriyas.  Like the old theory that the
Upanishads (and Buddhism and Jainism) were reactions against
"excessive"  Brahman ritualism, a Kshatriya Vs Brahman split on Dharma
doesn't hold water.  Probably amongst both there was a split betwen
pro-karma and pro-Jnana factions with other groups trying to reach a
middle ground between the two.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at>

bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam

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