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Brahma Sutras
by Swami Sivananda


Section 4: Vidhuradhikaranam: Topic 9 (Sutras 36-39)

Those who stand midway between two Ashramas also are qualified for knowledge.

Antara chapi tu taddrishteh III.4.36 (461)

And (persons standing) in between (two Ashramas) are also (qualified for knowledge), for that is seen (in scripture).

Antara: (persons standing) in between (two Ashramas); Cha: and; Api tu: also; Taddrishteh: such cases being seen, (as it is seen in Sruti, because it is so seen).

Widowers who have not married again, persons who are too poor to marry and those who are forced by circumstances not to enter into wedlock and have not renounced the world come under the purview of Sutras 36-39.

The word 'tu' is employed in order to refute the Purvapaksha that Karma is necessary for the origination of knowledge of Brahman. The force of the word 'cha' is to show certainty.

A doubt arises whether persons in want who do not possess means, etc., and, therefore, are not able to enter into one or the other of the Ashramas, or who stand midway between two Ashramas as for example, a widower, are qualified for knowledge or not.

The Purvapakshin maintains that they are not qualified, as they cannot perform the works of any Ashrama which are means to knowledge.

The present Sutra declares that they are entitled, because such cases are seen from the scriptures. Scriptural passages declare that persons of that class such as Raikva and Gargi, the daughter of Vachaknavi had the knowledge of Brahman (Chh. Up. IV.1 and Bri. Up. III.6.8).

Vidura, a man who had no wife, did not adopt the Vanaprastha Ashrama, and who had no Ashrama, was expert in Brahma Vidya. He had knowledge of Brahman.

Antara (who stand outside) are those persons who do not belong to any order or Ashrama and consequently do not perform the duties of any Ashrama. They are born in this life with discrimination and dispassion owing to the performance of such duties in their previous birth. Their minds have been purified by truth, penance, prayers, etc., performed in their past lives. If a man has duly discharged the duties of his Ashrama in previous birth, but owing to some obstacles or Pratibandhas Brahma-Jnana did not arise in him in that life, and he dies before the dawn of knowledge, then he is born in the present life ripe for knowledge. Brahma-Jnana manifests in him in all its glory by mere contact with a sage. Therefore such a man does not perform any Karmas or rather does not stand in any need of performing any duties of Ashramas.

Api cha smaryate III.4.37 (462)

This is stated in Smriti also.

Api: also, too; Cha: moreover, and; Smaryate: is stated in Smriti, the Smriti records such cases.

The previous topic is continued.

Moreover, it is stated also in Smriti that persons, not belonging to any one of the four prescribed orders of life, acquire Brahma-Jnana.

It is recorded in the Itihasas (Mahabharata) also how Samvarta and others who paid no regard to the duties incumbent on the Ashramas went naked and afterwards became great Yogins or saints. The great Bhishma is also an instance in point.

Manu Samhita declares "There is no doubt that a Brahmana attains final success only by practice of continuously repeating the Japa. It matters little whether he performs other prescribed duties or not. One who is friendly to all, is really a Brahmana" (II.87).

But the instances quoted from scripture and Smriti furnish merely indicatory marks. What then is the final conclusion? That conclusion is stated in the next Sutra.

Viseshanugrahascha III.4.38 (463)

And the promotion (of knowledge is bestowed on them) through special acts.

Visesha: special; Anugrahah: favour; Cha: and. (Viseshanu- grahah: special advantage, advantage or favour accruing from extraordinary good works done in the previous life.)

The previous topic is continued.

Moreover knowledge of Brahman may be attained by the special grace of the gods due to Japa, fasting and worship of gods. Or it may be that Ashrama Karmas might have been done in previous births.

A widower who is not a householder in the proper sense of the term, can attain knowledge of Brahman through special acts like Japa, fasting, prayer, which are not opposed to the condition of those who do not belong to any Ashrama.

The Smriti says "By mere prayer no doubt the Brahmana perfects himself. May he perform other works or not, the kind-hearted one is called Brahmana" (Manu Samhita II.87).

This passage indicates that where the works of the Ashramas are not possible, prayer qualifies for knowledge.

Smriti also declares "Perfected by many births he finally goes to the highest state" (Bhagavad Gita VI.45). This passage intimates that the aggregate of the different meritorious works performed in previous births promotes knowledge.

Therefore, there is no contradiction in admitting qualification for knowledge on the part of widowers and the like.

Atastvitarajjyayo lingaccha III.4.39 (464)

Better than this is the other (state of belonging to an Ashrama) on account of the indicatory marks (in the Sruti and the Smriti).

Atah: from this, than this, than the intermediate state mentioned above; Tu: but; Itarat: the other, the state belonging to a prescribed order of life; Jyayah: better, superior; Lingat: because of the indicatory marks, from such indications in the scripture, from indication, signs, inferences; Cha: and.

The previous topic is concluded here.

The word 'tu' (but) is employed in order to remove the doubt. The word 'cha' (and) is used in the sense of exclusion.

Though it is possible for one who stands between two Ashramas to attain knowledge, yet it is a better means to knowledge to belong to some Ashrama. He who belongs to an Ashrama has better means of attaining knowledge of the Self or Brahman, because the facilities are greater in the latter condition.

This is confirmed by the Sruti and Smriti "The Brahmanas seek to know Brahman through sacrifices" etc. (Bri. Up. IV.4.22). "On that path goes whoever knows Brahman and who has done holy works as prescribed for the Ashramas and obtained splendour" (Bri. Up. IV.4.9). Smriti declares, "Let not a Brahmana stay for a day outside the Ashrama; having stayed outside for a year he goes to utter ruin."