[Advaita-l] saMnyAsa and brAhmaNas (was RE: Fw: Re: waking, dreaming, sleeping as mutually supportive)

Sunil Bhattacharjya sunil_bhattacharjya at yahoo.com
Wed Oct 28 18:31:46 CDT 2009

Dear Vidyasankarji,

We know that there are four Varnas and Lord Krishna also showed how  the different Varnas have thir separate occupations. Yet the Atharva veda appears to equate the Shudras with Vaishya, as Vish, the third Varna(AV 3.12)? Vajasneyi is not far behind in this (YV 18.48). Any comment?


Sunil K. Bhattacharjya

--- On Wed, 10/28/09, Vidyasankar Sundaresan <svidyasankar at hotmail.com> wrote:

From: Vidyasankar Sundaresan <svidyasankar at hotmail.com>
Subject: Re: [Advaita-l] saMnyAsa and brAhmaNas (was RE: Fw: Re: waking, dreaming, sleeping as mutually supportive)
To: "Advaita List" <advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org>
Date: Wednesday, October 28, 2009, 1:36 PM

Dear Anand,


Thank you for appropriately weighing in on this discussion! As always, you bring

much needed light and clarity to the issue at hand.


It is true that there has been an ongoing debate within the dharmaSAstra-s

about who is eligible to take up the traditional order of saMnyAsa. However,

it is clear, both from the historical record of the advaita tradition and from

sureSvara's vArttika, that formal saMnyAsa has always existed (and been

approved) among all varNa-s that have the upanayana rite of passage. The

externals and peripherals of the saMnyAsin may have differed according to

what section of society he or she was born in, but that is a far cry from

absolutely restricting the saMnyAsa order to a brAhmaNa male. It goes 

without saying that much room was always given for the discretion of a

guru in deciding whom to initiate into the saMnyAsa order.


That aside, it is also my contention that Sankara bhagavatpAda's comment

about brAhmaNa-s alone being fit for saMnyAsa (in the bRhadAraNyaka

bhAshya) should not be seen in isolation. For one thing, we have to take

the vArttika of his own direct disciple into account. For another, we have

to take into account his comments on brahmasUtras 3.4.15 to 3.4.42.

These encompass numerous sUtra-s where Sankara bhagavatpAda would

have had ample opportunity to say that brAhmaNa-s alone are eligible for

saMnyAsa, if that were indeed his strict intention. He does not do so. Rather,

he cites numerous verses that use the more general word dvija and also

himself uses the word dvija independently.


So much for the attempt of some to define a clear-cut demarcation of

purushArtha-s and pramANa-s (??!!) according to the four varNa-s.


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