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Brahma Sutras – According to Shankara 1-3-9

Topic 9 - The right of the Śudras to the study of the Vedas discussed

Sutra 1,3.34

शुगस्य तदनादरश्रवणात्, तदाद्रवणात्, सूच्यते हि ॥ ३४॥

śugasya tadanādaraśravaṇāt, tadādravaṇāt, sūcyate hi || 34 ||

śuk—Grief; asya—his; tat-anādaraśravaṇāt—from hearing his (the Rishi’s) contemptuous words; tat—that (grief); ādravaṇāt—owing to his approaching; sūcyate—is referred to; hi—because.

34. His (King Jānaśruti’s) grief (arose) from hearing the contemptuous words (of the Rishi in the form of a swan); owing to his approaching (Raikva overwhelmed with) that (grief) (Raikva called him Śūdra); because it (the grief) is referred to (by Raikva, who could read his mind).

In the previous Sutra it has been shown that the gods are entitled to the Vedas and Knowledge. This Sutra discusses whether the Śudras are entitled to them or not. Since, like the gods, the Śudras also are possessed of a body, strength, and desires, it naturally follows that they too are entitled.

In Chāṇḍogya 4.2.5 Raikva at first calls Jānaśruti, a Śūdra, when he comes for instruction with presents, which are refused. But when he appears a second time, Raikva again calls him a Śūdra, but this time accepts his presents and teaches him.

So it is maintained that the Śudras also are qualified for Knowledge.

This Sutra refutes the view and denies the right to the study of the Vedas for a Śūdra by caste, since the word ‘Śūdra’ occurring in the text referred to does not denote a Śūdra by birth, which is its conventional meaning, for Jānaśruti was a Kshatriya king (Chh. 4. 1 . 3).

Here we must take the etymological meaning of the word, which is “He rushed into grief” or “He in his grief immediately approached Raikva.” The following Sutra also shows that he was a Kshatriya.

Sutra 1,3.35

क्षत्रियत्वगतेश्चोत्तरत्र चैत्ररथेन लिङ्गात् ॥ ३५ ॥

kṣatriyatvagateścottaratra caitrarathena liṅgāt || 35 ||

kṣatriyatvagateḥ—(His) Kshatriyahood being unknown; ca—and; uttaratra—later on; caitrarathena liṅgāt—by the indicatory sign (of his being mentioned) along with a descendant of Chitraratha (a Kshatriya).

35. And because the Kṣattriyahood (of Jānaśruti) is known later on by the indicatory sign (of his being mentioned) along with a descendant of Chitraratha (a Kshatriya).

Jānaśruti is mentioned with the Kshatriya Chaitraratha Abhipratārin in connection with the same Vidyā, and so we can infer that Jānaśruti also was a Kshatriya, for as a rule equals alone are mentioned together.

 Sutra 1,3.36

संस्कारपरामर्शात् तदभावाभिलापाच्च ॥ ३६ ॥

saṃskāraparāmarśāt tadabhāvābhilāpācca || 36 ||

saṃskāra-parāmarśāt—Purification ceremonies being mentioned; tat-abhāva-abhilāpāt—its absence being declared; ca—and.

36. Because purification ceremonies are mentioned (in the case of the twice-born) and their absence are declared (in the case of the Śudras).

Purification ceremonies like Upanayana etc. are declared by the scriptures to be a necessary condition of the study of all kinds of knowledge or Vidyā; but these are meant only for the higher castes. Their absence in the case of the Śudras is repeatedly declared in the scriptures.

Śudras do not incur sin (by eating prohibited food), nor have they any purification rights” etc. (Manu 10 . 12 . 6).

Consequently they are not entitled to the study of the Vedas.

 Sutra 1,3.37

तदभावनिर्धारणे च प्रवृत्तेः ॥ ३७ ॥

tadabhāvanirdhāraṇe ca pravṛtteḥ || 37 ||

tadabhāva-nirdhāraṇe—On the ascertainment of the absence of that (Śudrahood); ca—and; pravṛtteḥ—from inclination.

37. And because the inclination (on the part of Gautama to impart Knowledge is seen only) on the ascertainment of the absence of Śudrahood (in Jābāla Satyakāma).

That Śudras are not qualified is known also from the fact that great teachers like Gautama made sure before imparting Knowledge that disciples like Jābāla Satyakāma were not Śudras. See Chh. 4. 4. 5.

Sutra 1,3.38

श्रवणाध्ययनार्थप्रतिषेधात् स्मृतेश्च ॥ ३८ ॥

śravaṇādhyayanārthapratiṣedhāt smṛteśca || 38 ||

śravaṇa-adhyayana-artha-pratiṣedhāt—Because of the prohibition of hearing, studying, and understanding; smṛteḥ—in the Smriti; ca—and.

38. And because of the prohibition in the Smriti of hearing and studying (the Vedas) and knowing their meaning and performing Vedic rites (to Śudras, they are not entitled to the knowledge of Brahman).

Sutras 34-38 disqualify the Śūdra for the knowledge of Brahman through the study of the Vedas. But it is possible for them to attain that knowledge through the Purāṇas and the epics (Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhārata).

The digression begun from Sutra 26 ends here and the general topic is again taken up.