[Advaita-l] varNAsharama system at the time of shankara

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Sun Jul 13 22:41:47 CDT 2008

On Sat, 5 Jul 2008, Dr. Yadu Moharir wrote:

> Why do you think that Acharya encompassed "strii, baala, andha & jaDa" 
> in one group ?  

The one thing all four have in common is they for various reasons have no 
adhikara to learn Vedas.  Beyond that you cannot logically infer any relation.

A few days ago I entered a contest and the legal notice said in part "If you
are under 18, not a US citizen, or an employee of XYZ corporation you are not 
eligible to enter this competition."  Can we infer from that that all 
employees of XYZ corporation are not US citizens?  Or that all non-citizens 
are under 18?  There may actually be some overlap between the 
groups but that is accidental and not a consequence of being ineligible 
for this contest.

In the same manner while there may be e.g. some strii who are baala there 
is no logical reason to establish an equivalence between the two classes 
merely because they share the attribute of non-adhikara.

What then are the salient attributes that determine eligibility for dharma 
and moksha?

The stock example given in mimamsa is yajet svargakAmaH "sacrifice for the 
desire of heaven."  This sentence establishes a goal (heaven), a means 
(sacrifice) and condition (desire.)  So the question is are women (or 
shudras or baala, jaDa etc.) capable of desiring heaven?  Yes it is 
evident that they can and we can show examples from history or the 
shastras of those who have done so.

But wait!  If it is said that women are ineligible to learn the Vedas than 
_how_ are they supposed to exercise their desire for heaven?  One way 
would be to hire a purohit who is eligible to do whatever is necessary. 
Just as the boss keeps the profits even if the employees are doing the 
work, the yajamana gets the punya even if the "work" involved is being 
done by others.  This implies that women must be allowed to earn money and 
own assets of their own (else they would not be able to be yajamanas, 
give dakshina etc.)  So you can see that even though our shastras do 
not proceed from an egalitarian premise, they can still come to an 
egalitarian conclusion.

So much for the karmakanda.  In the jnanakanda we have a different 
situation because knowledge of Brahman is not a product (as are all 
results of karma upto and including heaven.)  Rather it is a thing to be 
known, ones own true nature.  Are women incapable of knowing their true 
nature?  We see that they are not and have actual examples of women who 
were liberated.  So again ineligibility for Vedic knowledge is not the end 
of the matter.  There are various shastras that contain the essence of the 

What people forget is that the Vedas are  a means to an end not an end in 

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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