I-3 Śrī Bhāshya | Rāmānuja | 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).

From what the text says about Jānaśruti Pautrāyana having been taunted by a flamingo for his want of knowledge of Brahman, and having thereupon resorted to Raikva, who possessed the knowledge of Brahman, it appears that sorrow (suk) had taken possession of him; and it is with a view to this that Raikva addresses him as Śūdra. For the word Śūdra, etymologically considered, means one who grieves or sorrows (sokati). The appellation 'Śūdra' therefore refers to his sorrow, not to his being a member of the fourth caste. This clearly appears from a consideration of the whole story. Jānaśruti Pautrāyana was a very liberal and pious king. Being much pleased with his virtuous life, and wishing to rouse in him the desire of knowing Brahman, two noble-minded beings, assuming the shape of flamingos, flew past him at night time, when one of them addressed the other, 'O Bhallāksha. the light of Jānaśruti has spread like the sky; do not go near that it may not burn thee.' To this praise of Jānaśruti the other flamingo replied, 'How can you speak of him, being what he is, as if he were Raikva "sayuktvān"?' i.e. 'how can you speak of Jānaśruti, being what he is, as if he were Raikva, who knows Brahman and is endowed with the most eminent qualities? Raikva, who knows Brahman, alone in this world is truly eminent. Jānaśruti may be very pious, but as he does not know Brahman what quality of his could produce splendour capable of burning me like the splendour of Raikva?' The former flamingo thereupon asks who that Raikva is, and its companion replies, 'He in whose work and knowledge there are comprised all the works done by good men and all the knowledge belonging to intelligent creatures, that is Raikva.' Jānaśruti, having heard this speech of the flamingo--which implied a reproach to himself as being destitute of the knowledge of Brahman, and a glorification of Raikva as possessing that knowledge--at once sends his door-keeper to look for Raikva; and when the door-keeper finds him and brings word, the king himself repairs to him with six hundred cows, a golden necklace, and a carriage yoked with mules, and asks him to teach him the deity on which he meditates, i.e. the highest deity. Raikva, who through the might of his Yoga- knowledge is acquainted with everything that passes in the three worlds, at once perceives that Jānaśruti is inwardly grieved at the slighting speech of the flamingo, which had been provoked by the king's want of knowledge of Brahman, and is now making an effort due to the wish of knowing Brahman; and thus recognises that the king is fit for the reception of that knowledge. Reflecting thereupon that a knowledge of Brahman may be firmly established in this pupil even without long attendance on the teacher if only he will be liberal to the teacher to the utmost of his capability, he addresses him: 'Do thou take away (apāhara) (these things), O Śūdra; keep (the chariot) with the cows for thyself.' What he means to say is, 'By so much only in the way of gifts bestowed on me, the knowledge of Brahman cannot be established in thee, who, through the desire for such knowledge, art plunged in grief'--the address 'O Śūdra' intimating that Raikva knows Jānaśruti to be plunged in grief, and on that account fit to receive instruction about Brahman. Jānaśruti thereupon approaches Raikva for a second time, bringing as much wealth as he possibly can, and moreover his own daughter. Raikva again intimates his view of the pupil's fitness for receiving instruction by addressing him a second time as 'Śūdra,' and says, 'You have brought these, O Śūdra; by this mouth only you made me speak,' i.e. 'You now have brought presents to the utmost of your capability; by this means only you will induce me, without lengthy service on your part, to utter speech containing that instruction about Brahman which you desire.'--Having said this he begins to instruct him.--We thus see that the appellation 'Śūdra' is meant to intimate the grief of Jānaśruti--which grief in its turn indicates the king's fitness for receiving instruction; and is not meant to declare that Jānaśruti belongs to the lowest caste.

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).

The first section of the vidyā tells us that Jānaśruti bestowed much wealth and food; later on he is represented as sending his door-keeper on an errand; and in the end, as bestowing on Raikva many villages--which shows him to be a territorial lord. All these circumstances suggest Jānaśruti’s being a Kshattriya, and hence not a member of the lowest caste.--The above Sūtra having declared that the kshattriya-hood of Jānaśruti is indicated in the introductory legend, the next Sūtra shows that the same circumstance is indicated in the concluding legend.

On account of the inferential sign further on, together with Chaitraratha.

The kshattriya-hood of Jānaśruti is further to be accepted on account of the Kshattriya Abhipratārin Chaitraratha, who is mentioned further on in this very same Samvarga vidyā which Raikva imparts to Jānaśruti.--But why?--As follows. The section beginning 'Once a Brahmachārin begged of Saunaka Kāpeya and Abhipratārin Kākshaseni while being waited on at their meal,' and ending 'thus do we, O Brahmachārin, meditate on that being,' shows Kapeya, Abhipratārin, and the Brahmachārin to be connected with the Samvarga-vidyā. Now Abhipratārin is a Kshattriya, the other two are Brāhmaṇas. This shows that there are connected with the vidyā, Brāhmaṇas, and from among non- Brāhmaṇas, a Kshattriya only, but not a Śūdra. It therefore appears appropriate to infer that the person, other than the Brāhmaṇa Raikva, who is likewise connected with this vidyā, viz. Jānaśruti, is likewise a Kshattriya, not a Śūdra.--But how do we know that Abhipratārin is a Chaitraratha and a Kshattriya? Neither of these circumstances is stated in the legend in the Samvarga-vidyā! To this question the Sūtra replies, 'on account of the inferential mark.' From the inferential mark that Saunaka Kāpeya and Abhipratārin Kākshaseni are said to have been sitting together at a meal we understand that there is some connexion between Abhipratārin and the Kāpeyas. Now another scriptural passage runs as follows: 'The Kāpeyas made Chaitraratha perform that sacrifice' (Tānd Brā. XX, 12, 5), and this shows that one connected with the Kāpeyas was a Chaitraratha; and a further text shows that a Chaitraratha is a Kshattriya. 'from him there was descended a Chaitraratha who was a prince.' All this favours the inference that Abhipratārin was a Chaitraratha and a Kshattriya.

So far the Sūtras have shown that there is no inferential mark to prove what is contradicted by reasoning, viz. the qualification of the Śūdras. The next Sūtra declares that the non-qualification of the Śūdra proved by reasoning is confirmed by Scripture and Smriti.

 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).

In sections the purport of which is to give instruction about Brahman the ceremony of initiation is referred to, 'I will initiate you; he initiated him' (Kh. Up. IV, 4). And at the same time the absence of such ceremonies in the case of Śūdras is stated: 'In the Śūdra there is not any sin, and he is not fit for any ceremony' (Manu X, 126); and 'The fourth caste is once born, and not fit for any ceremony' (Manu X, 4).

 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 a Śūdra is not qualified for knowledge of Brahman appears from that fact also that as soon as Gautama has convinced himself that Jābāla, who wishes to become his pupil, is not a Śūdra, he proceeds to teach him the knowledge of Brahman.

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).

The Śūdra is specially forbidden to hear and study the Veda and to perform the things enjoined in it. 'For a Śūdra is like a cemetery, therefore the Veda must not be read in the vicinity of a Śūdra;' 'Therefore the Śūdra is like a beast, unfit for sacrifices.' And he who does not hear the Veda recited cannot learn it so as to understand and perform what the Veda enjoins. The prohibition of hearing thus implies the prohibition of understanding and whatever depends on it.

And on account of Smriti.

Smriti also declares this prohibition of hearing, and so on. 'The ears of him who hears the Veda are to be filled with molten lead and lac; if he pronounces it his tongue is to be slit; if he preserves it his body is to be cut through.' And 'He is not to teach him sacred duties or vows.'--It is thus a settled matter that the Śūdras are not qualified for meditations on Brahman.

We must here point out that the non-qualification of Śūdras for the cognition of Brahman can in no way be asserted by those who hold that a Brahman consisting of pure non-differenced intelligence constitutes the sole reality; that everything else is false; that all bondage is unreal; that such bondage may be put an end to by the mere cognition of the true nature of Reality--such cognition resulting from the hearing of certain texts; and that the cessation of bondage thus effected constitutes final Release. For knowledge of the true nature of Reality, in the sense indicated, and the release resulting from it, may be secured by anyone who learns from another person that Brahman alone is real and that everything else is falsely superimposed on Brahman. That the cognition of such truth can be arrived at only on the basis of certain Vedic texts, such as 'Thou art that,' is a restriction which does not admit of proof; for knowledge of the truth does not depend on man's choice, and at once springs up in the mind even of an unwilling man as soon as the conditions for such origination are present. Nor can it be proved in any way that bondage can be put an end to only through such knowledge of the truth as springs from Vedic texts; for error comes to an end through the knowledge of the true nature of things, whatever agency may give rise to such knowledge. True knowledge, of the kind described, will spring up in the mind of a man as soon as he hears the non-scriptural declaration, 'Brahman, consisting of non- differenced intelligence, is the sole Reality; everything else is false,' and this will suffice to free him from error. When a competent and trustworthy person asserts that what was mistaken for silver is merely a sparkling shell, the error of a Śūdra no less than of a Brāhmaṇa comes to an end; in the same way a Śūdra also will free himself from the great cosmic error as soon as the knowledge of the true nature of things has arisen in his mind through a statement resting on the traditional lore of men knowing the Veda. Nor must you object to this on the ground that men knowing the Veda do not instruct Śūdras, and so on, because the text, 'he is not to teach him sacred things,' forbids them to do so; for men who have once learned--from texts such as 'Thou art that'--that Brahman is their Self, and thus are standing on the very top of the Veda as it were, move no longer in the sphere of those to whom injunctions and prohibitions apply, and the prohibition quoted does not therefore touch them. Knowledge of Brahman may thus spring up in the mind of Śūdras and the like, owing to instruction received from one of those men who have passed beyond all prohibition. Nor must it be said that the instance of the shell and the silver is not analogous, in so far, namely, as the error with regard to silver in the shell comes to an end as soon as the true state of things is declared; while the great cosmic error that clouds the Śūdra’s mind does not come to an end as soon as, from the teaching of another man, he learns the truth about Reality. For the case of the Śūdra does not herein differ from that of the Brāhmaṇa; the latter also does not at once free himself from the cosmic error. Nor again will it avail to plead that the sacred texts originate the demanded final cognition in the mind of the Brāhmaṇa as soon as meditation has dispelled the obstructive imagination of plurality; for in the same way, i.e. helped by meditation, the non-Vedic instruction given by another person produces the required cognition in the mind of the Śūdra. For meditation means nothing but a steady consideration of the sense which sentences declaratory of the unity of Brahman and the Self may convey, and the effect of such meditation is to destroy all impressions opposed to such unity; you yourself thus admit that the injunction of meditation aims at something visible (i.e. an effect that can be definitely assigned, whence it follows that the Śūdra also is qualified for it, while he would not be qualified for an activity having an 'Adriṣṭa,' i.e. supersensuous, transcendental effect). The recital of the text of the Veda also and the like (are not indispensable means for bringing about cognition of Brahman, but) merely subserve the origination of the desire of knowledge. The desire of knowledge may arise in a Śūdra also (viz. in some other way), and thereupon real knowledge may result from non-Vedic instruction, obstructive imaginations having previously been destroyed by meditation. And thus in his case also non-real bondage will come to an end.--The same conclusion may also be arrived at by a different road. The mere ordinary instruments of knowledge, viz. perception and inference assisted by reasoning, may suggest to the Śūdra the theory that there is an inward Reality constituted by non-differenced self-luminous intelligence, that this inward principle witnesses Nescience, and that owing to Nescience the entire apparent world, with its manifold distinctions of knowing subjects and objects of knowledge, is superimposed upon the inner Reality. He may thereupon, by uninterrupted meditation on this inner Reality, free himself from all imaginations opposed to it, arrive at the intuitive knowledge of the inner principle, and thus obtain final release. And this way being open to release, there is really no use to be discerned in the Vedānta-texts, suggesting as they clearly do the entirely false view that the real being (is not absolutely homogeneous intelligence, but) possesses infinite transcendent attributes, being endowed with manifold powers, connected with manifold creations, and so on. In this way the qualification of Śūdras for the knowledge of Brahman is perfectly clear. And as the knowledge of Brahman may be reached in this way not only by Śūdras but also by Brāhmaṇas and members of the other higher castes, the poor Upanishad is practically defunct.--To this the following objection will possibly be raised. Man being implicated in and confused by the beginningless course of mundane existence, requires to receive from somewhere a suggestion as to this empirical world being a mere error and the Reality being something quite different, and thus only there arises in him a desire to enter on an enquiry, proceeding by means of perception, and so on. Now that which gives the required suggestion is the Veda, and hence we cannot do without it.--But this objection is not valid. For in the minds of those who are awed by all the dangers and troubles of existence, the desire to enter on a philosophical investigation of Reality, proceeding by means of Perception and Inference, springs up quite apart from the Veda, owing to the observation that there are various sects of philosophers. Sānkhyas, and so on, who make it their business to carry on such investigations. And when such desire is once roused, Perception and Inference alone (in the way allowed by the Śānkaras themselves) lead on to the theory that the only Reality is intelligence eternal, pure, self-luminous, non-dual, non-changing, and that everything else is fictitiously superimposed thereon. That this self-luminous Reality possesses no other attribute to be learned from scripture is admitted; for according to your opinion also scripture sublates everything that is not Brahman and merely superimposed on it. Nor should it be said that we must have recourse to the Upanishads for the purpose of establishing that the Real found in the way of perception and inference is at the same time of the nature of bliss; for the merely and absolutely Intelligent is seen of itself to be of that nature, since it is different from everything that is not of that nature.--There are, on the other hand, those who hold that the knowledge which the Vedānta-texts enjoin as the means of Release is of the nature of devout meditation; that such meditation has the effect of winning the love of the supreme Spirit and is to be learned from scripture only; that the injunctions of meditation refer to such knowledge only as springs from the legitimate study of the Veda on the part of a man duly purified by initiation and other ceremonies, and is assisted by the seven means (see above, p. 17); and that the supreme Person pleased by such meditation bestows on the devotee knowledge of his own true nature, dissolves thereby the Nescience springing from works, and thus releases him from bondage. And on this view the proof of the non-qualification of the Śūdra, as given in the preceding Sūtras, holds good.--Here terminates the Adhikaraṇa of 'the exclusion of the Śūdras.'

Having thus completed the investigation of qualification which had suggested itself in connexion with the matter in hand, the Sūtras return to the being measured by a thumb, and state another reason for its being explained as Brahman--as already understood on the basis of its being declared the ruler of what is and what will be.