[Advaita-l] RE: Advaita-l Digest, Vol 36, Issue 17

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Mon Apr 17 21:37:17 CDT 2006

>   Before reproducing the story (texts, commentary, references and all 
>that) - the result of the checking out is: I always thought that the story 
>proves that if one is dedicated to Truth, that is sufficient for 
>initiation. What it actually means is more nuanced. The very fact that a 
>person is dedicated to Truth is proof of the person's brAhmaNa origin (Sri 
>Sankara's words: Rijavo hi brAhmANa na itare svabhAvatah), and hence the 
>eligibility of such a person for initiation. In the context of the 
>discussion, this is a significant difference, and in that sense Sri Vyas 
>was right: it doesn't, in orthodox explanation, prove what at least I 
>thought it proved.

Yes, it is nuanced and I would draw attention to yet other nuances in the 

Notice the intriguing word svabhAva in Sankara's bhAshya - has relevance to 
modern debates on varNa and jAti based on svabhAva. Also, the commentary 
only says that satya is the brAhmaNa-jAti-dharma. It does not prove beyond 
all doubt that satyakAma's father was a brAhmaNa himself. Nor does it do 
away with his mother's social standing. Although Gautama is ready to certify 
that satyakAma is a brAhmaNa by birth, the societal fact would have remained 
that his father was still unknown and that his mother was herself unsure of 
his parentage.

This puts an entirely new light on what is meant by "varNa by birth". I 
would venture to say that it is not just socially acknowledged or 
biologically proved parentage, nor an individually assumed or politically 
acquired status, but the certification by a teacher such as Gautama. We must 
also remember that viSvAmitra would not rest till he got accepted and 
certified as a brahmarshi by vasiShTha.

I don't think we can find contemporary cases of either such truth and 
honesty on the part of a student or such flexibility on the part of a 
traditional teacher. All of us lie on occasion, whenever it suits our 
immediate purposes, and would start doubting a traditional teacher who is 
similarly flexible.


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