Vivekananda &c.

Vidyasankar Sundaresan vsundaresan at HOTMAIL.COM
Sat Mar 21 20:49:36 UTC 1998

Palaniappa <Palaniappa at AOL.COM> wrote:

>Zydenbos had said, "(2) To compare V. to ;Sa:nkara looks rather absurd
>(something like comparing Jerry Falwell to John Calvin)." For most of
>Tamil population, V as well as Zankara are equally irrelevant.


>As for Adi
>zankara's intellectual genius, there is a segment of non-brahmin
>(here many atheistic as well as theistic people are included) who find
>views on zUdras abhorrent and abominable.

Include Vivekananda among those who find Sankara's comments about SUdras

If you read Sankara's brahmasUtrabhAshya carefully however, you will see
that right after he quotes the smRtis denying study of the Veda to
SUdras, Sankara admits that some, like vidura and dharmavyAdha, gain
self-knowledge through other means. In other words, he is clear that
tradition prohibits scriptural learning to SUdras, but allows both that
scriptural knowledge is not necessarily spiritual knowledge and that
spiritual knowledge is available through non-Sruti sources. And Sankara
also ultimately devalues scriptural knowledge in relation to spiritual
(self-)knowledge, something that is unthinkable for most others.

In upadeSasAhasrI, Sankara emphasizes not that the teacher should be a
brAhmaNa by caste, but that the teacher should be one who knows brahman.
The two need not be the same thing. One could say that only he who knows
brahman is a true brAhmaNa, but this does not really address the issue.
However, Sankara presumes that the student is a brAhmaNa, but the actual
qualifications he seeks in a student are quite different. Sankara also
makes varNa irrelevant (and even non-existent) for him who knows
brahman. There is a seed of revolutionary thought in it, which has
indeed been developed by people like Narayana Guru of Kerala, but there
is no point in finding fault with Sankara himself for not having been a
social revolutionary. His way of affirming universality is through
renouncing society, not by reforming it nor by a political statement
that all men are equal.


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