[Advaita-l] Re: Question: Swadharma

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Wed Feb 15 13:00:44 CST 2006

On Wed, 15 Feb 2006, Ram Garib wrote:


> By following swadharma, dvija-s gain
> eligibility to study vedanta while shudra-s do not.
> Not having to go through the self-discipline is no
> consolation if it bars one from the pursuit of the
> highest goal.


> Note that while some commentators permit shudra-s to
> gain vedantic knowledge through gita etc., others
> including shankara do not.

Both these statments are incorrect.  Here is the concluding part of the 
bhashya on brahmasutra 1.3.38 which ends the apashUdrAdhikaraNa:

yeShAM punaH pUrvakrtasaMskAravashAdviduradharmavyAdhaprabhrtInAM 
GYAnotpattisteShAM na shakyate phalapraptiH pratiSheddhuM 
GYAnasyaikAntikaphalatvAta shrAvayecchaturo varNAn iti 
chetihAsapurANAdhigame chAturvarNyasyAdhikArasmaraNAt | vedapUrvakastu 
nAstyAdhikAraH shUdrANAmiti sthitam ||

>From those Shudras who gained jnana as a result of their prior 
samskaras such as Vidura[1] and Dharmavyadha[2] there is no possibility of 
denying achievement[3] because jnana always yields its fruit. 
Smriti establishes adhikara for knowing itihasa and purana[4] to all 
the four varnas by "He should teach it to the four varnas."[5]  But for the 
reasons given above[6] it is established that Shudras have no right to the 

[1] In the Mahabharata He was the minister of Dhrtarashtra.  He was the 
son of Vedavyasa through Matsyagandha.

[2] His story is also given in the Mahabharata.  He was a hunter who 
taught an arrogant Brahmana the true meaning of dharma and the necessity 
of renunciation.

[3] of Moksha.

[4] Itihasa = Ramayana, Mahabharata etc. Puranas = the Bhagavata, Shivapurana

[5] Although it is not spelled out, the implication is that those who 
cannot study the Vedas can get the same effect by studying the itihasa and 
puranas.  The Gita, Yogavasishtha, Mokshadharma are some of the Vedantic 
works which fall in this category.

[6] in the preceding sutras 1.3.34-38.

Now some comments of my own:

It is obvious that Shankaracharya and Vedanta in general are not 
egalitarian.  In fact only the most horrendous twisting of words could 
allow anyone to think that they are.  Yet nevertheless, here 
Shankaracharya does affirm the ability of anyone in theory to get Moksha.

To understand why, we have to remember that karma is the bringing into 
existence of things that were previously non-existent.  This cannot apply 
to Brahman as Brahman pervades all, even those that are completely 
unaware, and there was never a time when Brahman was non-existent.  So no 
amount of work--Vedic or secular--can cause knowledge of Brahman.  It just 
is.  The utility of karma is negative.  If done right, it can destroy the 
impediments that prevent that knowledge from shining forth.

If we accept that Shudras are capable of jnana in the first place and we 
do for the reason just mentioned, then there has to be some method for it 
to have happened.  Some "samskaras" which broke through the veils of Maya. 
And if they are not the Vedic samskaras, they must be some other kind. 
Shankaracarya suggests the itihasa and puranas are the place to look for 

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

More information about the Advaita-l mailing list