Vivekananda &c.

John Richards jhr at ELIDOR.DEMON.CO.UK
Mon Mar 23 09:31:49 UTC 1998

I wonder if there is not a confusion here. I do not have access to the texts quoted below, but it seems to me, in quotation, that the reference here may well be to SCHOLARLY ERUDITION rather than what we would call "spiritual knowledge". Obviously, Shudras could hardly become knowledgeable about the scriptures if they were precluded from reading/hearing them. At the same time, I see that Shankara makes no attempt to water down verse 9.32 of the Bhagavad Gita in his commentary. This verse explicitly asserts that the "supreme state" (paraa.m gati.m) is open to women and Shudras too, and Shankara merely rephrases the assertion, substituting "gacchanti" for "yaanti" and "prk.rshtaa.m" for "paraa.m". He was undoubtedly a man of his time - as we all are! - but I feel that one can over-emphasise his arid traditionalism, unless, of course, one includes such verses as the above from the Bhagavad Gita in his "tradition". Ramakrishna too behaved rather unbecomingly to our eyes in leaping away when his feet were touched in devotion by an ex-courtisan. But these are surely minor warts on great men, who could afford a few little conditioned weaknesses from their past environment. Would that we all had such minor blemishes!

John Richards
jhr at
Stackpole Rectory, Pemboke, UK

>I do not think this is right. Commenting on Brahmasutra 1.3.34, responding to
>the opponents' view that "smRti moreover speaks of vidUra and others who were
>born from zUdra mothers as possessing eminent knowledge.-Hence the zUdra has a
>claim to the knowledge of Brahman", zankara says:
>"To this we reply that the zUdras have no such claim, on account of their not
>studying the Veda. A person who has studied the Veda and understood its sense
>is indeed qualified for Vedic matters; but a zUdra does not study the Veda,
>for such a study demands as its antecedent the upanayana-ceremony, and that
>ceremony belongs to the three (higher) castes only. The mere circumstance of
>being in a condition of desire does not furnish a reason for qualification, if
>capability is absent. Mere temporal capability again does not constitute a
>reason for qualification, spiritual capability being required in spiritual
>matters. And spiritual capability is (in the case of the zUdras) excluded by
>their being excluded from the study of the Veda.-The Vedic statement,
>moreover, that the zUdra is unfit for sacrifices intimates , because founded
>on reasoning, that he is unfit for knowledge also; for the argumentation is
>the same in both cases."
>One cannot be more emphatic than this w.r.t to denying spiritual knowledge to
>the zUdras.

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