[Advaita-l] Thoughts of A Novice to Learned People

Navin Rajaram navinr at moschip.com
Fri Feb 18 11:11:22 CST 2005

Hari Om,

Jaldhar H. Vyas wrote:

>>Yes, I meant to come to this question. If a shudra were to be considered
>>a shudra - first by birth - then is following his svAdharma which as per
>>the varna system is serving the rest of society - his only way to attain
>Is that all you think shudras do/have done?  Yes I know that's what
>Manusmrti etc. says.  But again historically is sitting around waiting to
>serve other people all that they've done?  I think you'll find that its

When we talk about what role shudras were originally assigned in society 
when the varna system *first* came into being, then probably texts like 
Manusmruti, etc will have to be taken as authority. With whatever I have 
read, the conclusion is they were serving society. Over a period of 
time(and yes, time changes concepts of role play in society because 
society and role conceptions change to accomodate more roles), there 
must have been further roles they played. Today, we have come a long way 
from that *first* varna version. And that is why I ask, what is 
svAdharma for a shudra, that which the first varna defined? Or that 
which came about via modifications over a period of time to accomodate 
changes in social conception. If my reasoning is flawed or if there are 
texts that contradict anything I say, please correct.

>>For example, my ancestors were priests. In this age and time, I am an
>>engineer who works fulltime, while I manage to devote a small fraction
>>of time to the study of shastras - something which my ancestors did full
>Do you know for a fact that all your ancestors were full time priests?
>It's possible particularly in Southern India where there was much more
>patronage.  But overall most people in India have been farmers first and
>foremost and some other occupation on a part-time basis.

This is what I was talking about in the previous few statements. If one 
traces back one's lineage to that first varna system, then inevitably 
one's ancestry would be either of the 4 varnas. That kind of tracing 
being close to impossible in many cases, one can only trace one's 
lineage to the past 200-300 years. In that case, obviously caste 
mingling, role swapping/diversification sort of factors would have taken 
effect. I cannot say with conviction *all* my ancestors (of the recent 
past) were fulltime priests - some were, others might not have been. and 
would have been playing roles similar to the ones you have mentioned 
among your ancestors.

My point is, role play in society is one thing. So is performing one's 
duty as a kshatriya,shudra,vaishya,brahmana etc different on a personal 
basis - isolated from one's external role play?

A month back, there was this email about a lady who was a research 
scholar and who wished to pursue Advaitic study. I think many learned 
members on this list, including yourself, agreed that she was better off 
following her svAdharma. Here in lies my confusion. What time and age 
are we defining svAdharma in the context of? Surely, it must be 
according to the sastras.  

>Yet they don't seem to have had an identity crisis about their Brahmanahood.  They
>continued doing sandhya, saying kathas and giving dana, and studying
>shastras.  A few even took sannyasa.

So this was a Brahmana's mode to self-realization. What of a Shudra or a 
Kshatriya or a Vaishya descendant?

>Amongst all human societies, some are just time-passers and some feel a
>need to go further.  Those who are motivated to go further should be
>encouraged.  But we shouldn't assume their motivations are the same as
>ours.  For instance in those "Vedic chanting classes" that were mentioned
>before, I suspect most people think they are learning fancy Sanskrit

I certainly agree here. But then definitions need to be crystal clear as 
to what roles people have based on their ancestry. We also risk 
misinterpretation of our own faith  BY others as exclusionary and 
divisive, wherein complementing the other side's role play was the base 
idea then.

>Well you'll find that they do have their own karma, tapa, and sadhana but
>yes, doing your svadharma imperfectly is better than doing anothers
If you could elaborate on this aspect or direct me to the appropriate 
work for study, I shall be thankful. I am interested in knowing clearly 
what does each person's dharma mean. My belief was (and still is, as of 
now)  lokadharma might be separate for people in different varnas. But 
Atma-dharma or seeking atma-jnana is not something that is restricted by 

>On the one hand people don't like to feel inferior.  On the other hand
>people like to feel they are unique in some way.  But if everyone is
>special no one is.  If only some are, necessarily others are not.  There
>is a contradiction there and great minds have not been able to resolve it.
>So Advaita Vedantas answer is to seek that vision outside society
One seeks to go beyond even looking at a mortal as a body, one does not 
even feel as if one is looking. But that is in the perspective of one 
who is realized. I do not see why we ought not to go about practising 
that perspective until it becomes second nature. Why not, stop judging, 
or even thinking - this is right, this is wrong. Essentially being on 
one side of the number line -5 or +5 means the same - we are away from 0 
which symbolizes balance. Being at 0 comes from avoiding the trap of 
perspectives,opinions and judgements.  It need not necessarily mean one 
becomes a "straw_man"  - it could mean one acts but the results, 
consequences,opinions etc are all coming and going. There is no holding 
on to.

Ditto when it comes to looking at someone else and thinking - he should 
be doing this or he should not be doing this.

>Time always changes things.  Time has never been a stable foundation for
>anything.  And I am not arguing for this system on the basis of it being
>old.  I am not interested in becoming the curator of a dusty museum of
>Indian antiquities.  I am arguing for this system because it is mine.  And
>I am telling you (plural) this because I also believe it is yours.
I have great faith in what has been said/revealed. I question it as a 
mind. Maybe my mind itself is conditioned by all these years of formal 
education,circumstances and people around me. Yet, the social reality is 
for all of us to see. As of now, it seems the old system will come into 
place only within limits in today's order. Yes, change is gradual but 
eventually if the old system which is the original scheme of things has 
to establish itself in totality, it can do so only by upheaval of the 
present order. Maybe that is why different Yugas were classified. It 
seems this is all a planned scheme of reality that repeats in time. 
Hence the need to be unperturbed by what goes on externally.

Hari Om,

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