[Advaita-l] Did Sankara have non-brahmin disciples?

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Thu Oct 14 06:04:41 CDT 2010

On Thu, Oct 14, 2010 at 3:21 PM, Satish Arigela <satisharigela at yahoo.com>wrote:

> >4.With regards to point 3 however, shastrically can a Braahmana be a
> spiritual
> >disciple or take mantra >deeksha, etc from a Non-Braahmana grihastha or
> sanyasi
> >?
> When one sees a person who has some vidya and is accomplished in the same
> and
> capable to teach it, one should just learn it. Or one can be a loser and
> just
> miss the opportunity with obscure and outdated notions. So whatever one is
> meant
> for I guess...


In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad there is the ajAtashastru brAhmaNam
2.1.15...Here, a brAhmaNa, bAlAki, seeks brahmavidyA from King ajaatashatru,
a Kshatriya.  The latter is a Jnani.  The mantra itself says:  ..pratilomam
cha etad brAhmaNaH kShatriyamupeyAt...

//ajAtashatru said: 'It is contrary to usage that a brAhmaNa should approach
a Kshatriya thinking, 'He will teach me about Brahman.'.  However, I shall
instruct you....//

Shankara comments:  It is contrary to usage that a brAhmaNa who comes of a
superior caste qualified to be a teacher, should approach a kshatriya, who
is by custom not a teacher, in the role of a student, ....This is forbidden
in the *scriptures laying down rules of conduct*.  Therefore remain as a
teacher; I will anyway instruct you about the true Brahman ....

The commentator Anandagiri quotes a verse:

अब्राह्मणादध्ययनम् *आपत्काले* विधीयते ।
अनुव्रज्या च शुश्रूषा यावदध्ययनं गुरोः ॥
न अब्राह्मणे गुरौ शिष्यो वासमात्यन्तिकं वसेत् ॥

One aught to learn from a non-brahmana only in a special situation. Till the
time of grasping the teaching, the one should keep following the guru
(wherever he goes) and serve him.  One should not live for too long with a
non-brAhmaNa guru.

(Kindly correct me if the meaning given is not appropriate)

इत्यादीनि आचारविधिशास्त्राणि ।

उत्तमादधमेन प्रणिपातोपसदनादिना विद्या ग्राह्या । अधमात्तु श्रद्धादिमात्रेण
सा लभ्या इत्याचारः ।

The meaning is:  From a person of a higher caste when a lower-caste one
seeks knowledge, it has to be done with namaskaara, etc.  When the reverse
is the situation, then mere shraddhA, etc. are to be bestowed for procuring
the learning. This is the scriptural injunction.

Whether or not Shankaracharya had a non-braahmaNa disciple, we have the
AchAra laid down in the scripture that would surely have been the guiding
force for Shankara as He does refer to 'scriptures on this issue'.

>From DharmavyAdha, a meat-vendor by profession, spiritual instruction had
been sought and got by a brAhmaNa brahmachAri (directed by a pativratA,
chaste woman).

JaDabharata, a Jnani, of a Brahmana family, taught about the Supreme  to
King RahUgaNa of the Sauveera country, as described in the

To another question:

In Manisha Panchakam, he accepts as guru a low born jnani but
> don't know if scholars accept that this incident took place at all.

The reply is:

The ManeeshA panchakam has been commented by the great Advaitin Jnani-Yogin
Sri Sadashivendra Saraswati (Brahmendra). The commentary bears the name:
'tAtparya deepikA'.  He recounts the incident that led to the composition of
the Panchakam.

The work has another commentary 'madhumanjarITIkA' by Sri
BaalagopalaendramuniH.  He too recounts the story that took place in

Om Tat Sat

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