Brahma Sutras
by Swami Sivananda


Section 3: Apasudradhikaranam: Topic 9 (Sutras 34-38)

The right of the Sudras to the study of Vedas discussed.

Sugasya tadanadarasravanat tadadravanat suchyate hi I.3.34 (97)

(King Janasruti) was in grief on hearing some contemptuous words used about him by the sage in the form of a swan; owing to his approaching Raikva, overwhelming with that grief, Raikva called him Sudra; for it (the grief) is pointed at by Raikva.

Suk: grief; Asya: his; Tat: that, namely that grief; Anadarasravanat: from hearing his (the Rishi's) disrespectful speech; Tada: then; Adravanat: because of going to him i.e, to Raikva; Suchyate: is referred to; Hi: because.

The discussion on the privilege of divine meditation begun in Sutra 25 is continued.

The whole of this Adhikarana about Sudras together with the preceding one about the Devas appears to be an interpolation of some later author.

In the previous Sutra it has been shown that the gods are entitled to the study of Vedas and Brahma Vidya. This Sutra discusses whether the Sudras are entitled to them or not.

The Purvapakshin says: The Sudras also have got bodies and desires. Hence they are also entitled. Raikva refers to Janasruti who wishes to learn from him by the name of Sudra. "Fie, necklace and carriage be thine, O Sudra, together with the cows" Chh. Up. IV-2 & 3. But when he appears a second time, Raikva accepts his presents and teaches him. Smriti speaks of Vidura and others who were born from Sudra mothers as possessing highest knowledge. Therefore the Sudra has a claim to Brahma Vidya or knowledge of Brahman.

This Sutra refutes the view and denies the right to the study of the Vedas for Sudra. The word 'Sudra' does not denote a Sudra by birth which is its conventional meaning, because Janasruti was a Kshatriya king. Here we will have to take the etymological meaning of the word which is, "He rushed into grief (Sukam abhi dudrava) or as "grief rushed on him" or as "he in his grief rushed to Raikva". The following Sutra also intimates that he was a Kshatriya.

Kshatriyatvavagateschottaratra chaitrarathena lingat I.3.35 (98)

And because the Kshatriyahood (of Janasruti) is known from the inferential mark (supplied by his being mentioned) later on with Chaitraratha (who was a Kshatriya himself).

Kshatriyatva: the state of his being a Kshatriya; Avagateh: on account of being known or understood; Cha: and; Uttaratra: latter on in a subsequent part of the text; Chaitrarathena: with Chaitraratha; Lingat: because of the indicatory sign or the inferential mark.

An argument in support of Sutra 34 is given.

Janasruti is mentioned with the Kshatriya Chaitraratha Abhipratarin in connection with the same Vidya. Hence we can infer that Janasruti also was a Kshatriya because, as a rule, equals are mentioned together with equals. Hence the Sudras are not qualified for the knowledge of Brahman.

Samskaraparamarsat tadabhavabhilapacca (I.3.36) (99)

Because purificatory ceremonies are mentioned (in the case of the twice-born) and their absence is declared (in the case of the Sudra).

Samskara: the purificatory ceremonies, the investiture with sacred thread; Paramarsat: because of the reference; Tat: that ceremony; Abhava: absence; Abhilapat: because of the declaration; Cha: and.

The discussion on the privilege of Brahma Vidya on the part of Sudras is continued.

In different places of the Vidyas the Upanayana ceremony is referred to. The Upanayana ceremony is declared by the scriptures to be a necessary condition for the study of all kinds of knowledge or Vidya. We read in Prasna Up. I-1 "Devoted to Brahman, firm in Brahman, seeking for the highest Brahman they, carrying fuel in their hands, approached the venerable Pippalada, thinking that he would teach them all that." Upanayana ceremony is meant for the higher castes. With reference to the Sudras on the other hand, the absence of ceremonies is frequently mentioned in the scriptures. "In the Sudra there is not any sin by eating prohibited food, and he is not fit for any ceremony" Manu X-12-6. A Sudra by birth cannot have Upanayana and other Samskaras without which the Vedas cannot be studied. Hence the Sudras are not entitled to the study of the Vedas.

The next Sutra further strengthens the view that a Sudra can have no Samskara.

Tadabhavanirdharane cha pravritteh I.3.37 (100)

And because the inclination (on the part of Gautama to impart knowledge is seen only) on the ascertainment of the absence of Sudrahood (in Jabala Satyakama).

Tad: that, namely the Sudrahood; Abhava: absence; Nirdharane: in ascertainment; Cha: and; Pravritteh: from inclination.

The same discussion on the Sudras' right is continued.

Gautama, having ascertained Jabala not to be a Sudra from his speaking the truth proceeded to initiate and instruct him. "None who is not a Brahmana would thus speak out. Go and fetch fuel, friend, I shall initiate you. You have not swerved from the truth" Chh. Up. IV-4-5.

This scriptural text furnishes an inferential sign of the Sudras not being capable of initiation.

Sravanadhyayanarthapratishedhat smritescha I.3.38 (101)

And on account of the prohibition in Smriti of (the Sudras) hearing, studying and understanding (the Veda) and performing Vedic rites (they are not entitled to the knowledge of Brahman).

Sravana: hearing; Adhyayana: studying; Artha: understanding; Pratishedhat: on account of the prohibition; Smriteh: in the Smriti; Cha: and.

The same discussion on the Sudras' right is concluded here.

The Smriti prohibits their hearing the Veda, their studying and understanding the Veda and their performing Vedic rites. "The ears of him who hears the Veda are to be filled with molten lead and lac." For a Sudra is like a cemetery. Therefore the Veda is not to be read in the vicinity of a Sudra. "His tongue is to be slit if he pronounces it; his body is to be cut through if he preserves it." Sudras like Vidura and the religious hunter Dharma Vyadha acquired knowledge owing to the after effects of former deeds in past births. It is possible for the Sudras to attain that knowledge through the Puranas, Gita and the epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata which contain the quintessence of the Vedas.

It is a settled point that the Sudras do not possess any such qualification with regard to the Veda.

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