Sankaran Jayanarayanan kartik at ECE.UTEXAS.EDU
Thu Jan 27 18:53:18 CST 2000

On Tue, 25 Jan 2000, Ashish Chandra wrote:

> >From: Anand Hudli <anandhudli at HOTMAIL.COM>
> >Date: Tue, 25 Jan 2000 20:49:22 +0000


> >  The gItA also has the verse 3.35, "shreyAn.h svadharmo viguNaH para-
> >  dharmAt.h svanushhThitAt.h ..." (also 18.47). Even if one performs
> >  one's own dharma without proper completion of all the components
> >  of the relevant karmas, it is still better than the dharma of another
> >  which is performed well. The gist is it is better to perform the
> >  varNa-Ashrama duties to the best of one's ability rather than giving
> >  them up completely.
> >

"One who crosses the sea (samudrasaMyAnaM) loses his caste," according to
the BaudhAyana DS 2,1,2,2. Govinda, a commentator on this shAstra explains
that whosoever makes voyages by sea by means of a ship to another island
loses his caste and needs to perform a prAyashchitta (penance) in order to
re-enter the caste system. This is the traditional view, and there is some
historical support that this was indeed accepted by orthodox Brahmins
until about a century ago. It is only recently that BrAhmaNas have crossed
the sea to other islands and yet didn't think it an offence at all. The
VishhNu purANa says that in all the lands outside of BhArata-varshha
(India), there are no divisions of caste. The varNAshrama may well be
inapplicable in a land like the USA, even to Indians settled here.

> >  Anand
> >
> And what if one is engaged in activities that are contrary (hence
> prohibited) for one's Varna ? eg, a Brahmana in the army, an accountant
> Kshatriya, a Brahmana farmer ?

A related question would be, "What is the dharma for a person who was born
a BraahmaNa/Kshatriya/Vaishya/shuudra but later took up profession in law,
engineering, medicine, etc.?" AFAIK, there are no answers to this. The
scriptures that speak of dharma implicitly assume the existence of a caste
system in which people are performing their duties allotted by birth,
which makes it problematic to apply the same rules in the absence of

However, Gautama (DS 8.22) defines eight qualities of the Self called
"AtmaguNAH," viz. compassion on all creatures, forbearance, freedom from
anger, purity, quietism, auspiciousness, freedom from avarice, and freedom
from covetousness. A person bearing these qualities is sure to be "united
with Brahman, enjoying his bliss" and one in whom these are absent will be
"rejected by Brahman, unable to enjoy his bliss (even if he be sanctified
by all the sacraments (saMskAras))." This is an if-and-only-if criterion
for mukti. Shankara insists on very similar pre-requisites for an enquiry
into Brahman in his BSB. Any practice that helps you develop these
qualities can be called dharma.

> I was reading about Darbhanga Raj yesterday. It was basically a kingdom
> established in Bihar wherein the local Kshatriya ruler was deposed by an
> Aghan and replaced with a Brahmin. It ended with Independence in 1947 and
> was run by Maithil Brahmin kings. There are also instances of Brahmin kings
> in Maharashtra (Peshwas) and in Sindh. Considereing that varnaashrama dharma
> is not adhered to these days, what could it have been that compelled
> Brahmins to become kings when the majority of the population followed the
> Smritis strictly? The reason why I bring this up is because I thought that
> the deviation from varnaashrama dharma is fairly recent, which is ofcourse
> not entirely true.

There are some professions that are strictly forbidden for a BrAhmaNa.
Medicine (VAsishhTha DS 3.4), Trade (Gautama DS) are not allowed.

> ashish


PS: "DS" = dharma suutra

bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam

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