[Advaita-l] Determination of Varna - Focus on Satyakama

Rajaram Venkataramani rajaramvenk at gmail.com
Mon Aug 27 07:21:31 CDT 2012

When I talked to Sri Subrahmanian on the topic offline, he immediately said
he has to refer to the tikka on the bhashya. This is both a traditional and
scholarly outlook. I am indeed surprised that this thought has not arisen.
I hope he posts that as it will be throw light on the topic. To keep the
topic warm, I would likee to post this brief response.

On Tue, Aug 21, 2012 at 5:30 AM, Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>wrote:

> On Fri, 17 Aug 2012, Rajaram Venkataramani wrote:
> Then, though he did not know his kula and gotra, he accepts him as a
>> brahmana because he did not flinch from truth. <quote> As you have not
>> flinched from truth, which is the rightful duty of brahmana caste, I
>> accept
>> you as a Brahmana and am going to initiate you. Fetch fuel, my boy, for
>> the
>> fire rites". <\quote> (Sa. Bh. Ch. Up. 4.4.5). This is not the norm but an
>> exception made based on guna.
> I suppose it is a character flaw on my part to keep responding to trolling
> but as it pains me to see shastra and Shankaracharya misquoted, here is the
> relevant bhashya.
RV: I dont know why quoting an authentic translation by Ganganath Jha is a
troll or a misquote.

> taM hovAcha gautamo naitadvacho.abrAhmaNo visheShaNa
> vaktumarhatyArjavArthasaMyukta**M |  R^ijavo hi brAhmANA netare
> svabhAvataH |
> yasmAnna satyAbrAhmaNajAtirdharmAdagA nApetAnasi ato brAhmaNaM
> "Gautama said to him, none but a Brahmana could speak in this way" -- such
> an honest declaration only a Brahmana could make.  Because it is the
> Brahmanas not others whose svabhava[1] is to speak honestly. "As you have
> not flinched from truth" --  which is the characteristic[2] of the Brahmana
> jAti[3] therefore you are a Brahmana.

> RV: The key words here are "As you have not flinched from truth ...
> therefore you are a Brahmana". This conclusion is possible because "truth
> is the characteristic of brahmana jAti". Your translation says nothing to
> disprove my conclusion that Gautama determined Satyakama's brahmana varna
> based on his guna. I never said that satyakama was not born in a brahmana
> family.

> [3] Note the word jati is used here not varna.
RV: What is the implication? We both agree that varna is acquired at birth.
I only say two things that is different. 1) It is determined by other
processes in exceptional conditionss. And 2) In very rare
conditions brahmana guna is found outside brahmana jAti. In fact, I am not
saying that. In SBh 11.17.14, Kadalangudi Natesa Sastrigal following
Sridhara closely annotates, "If guna contrary to janma bhumi is to be
found, then it has to be considered as due to mixing of jAtis just as we
consider agni as a kAranOpAdhi if heat is experienced in water".
(Translation from Tamil to English by me and any error arising due to that
is mine but scholars who know Tamil can check).

The upshot is that you and the reformers have it backwards.  It is not "You
speak truth therefore you must be a Brahmana" but "You are a Brahmana so
you cannot help but speak truth."  Far from making an exception for an
anomaly, Gautama is praising a class and an exemplar of that class.

RV: I am not a reformer. I am just enquiring if exceptions were allowed in
our sastras and tradition. You yourself translated it thus, "As you have
not flinched from truth" --  which is the characteristic[2] of the Brahmana
jAti[3] therefore you are a Brahmana." You did not translate it as "As
you are a brahmana, you speak truth,   which is the characteristic of the
Brahmana jAti". Does not your interpretation contradict your own

> The Shringeri acharya is not a member of this list so take it up with him
> instead of hundreds of unrelated people.

RV: The members of the list respect traditional scholars only because they
represent traditional mutts and the views of their acharyas. Please listen
to Sankara Jayanthi 2012 Anugraha Bhashanam at Sringeri. It is in Tamil and
if you dont know the language, you may have to get it translated by a Tamil
scholar you trust. http://vijayayatra.sringeri.net/ Periyava says,"If I am
spreading Advaita Siddhanta within India accepting certain niyamas, he is
doing it even outside". The award is for doing good work. Please also read
Kadalangudi Natesa Sastrigal's introduction to his translation of Brahma
Sutra Bhashya. He clearly says that only trivarnikas - not sudras or dwija
bandhus - are eligible for teaching of the upanishads. Even if a brahmana,
out of generosity, gives it to others they cant get it because of
ineligibility. Others should learn the same from puranas and itihasas only.
But he justifies his translation in to Tamil of the Brahma Sutra Bhashya
and Upanishads. It is too long and nuanced to reproduce here.

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