Saturday, May 16, 2015


Eligibility for Studying Srimad Bhagavad GItA and VishNu SahasranAma

SrImad BhAgavatam i-4-25 empowers Women and those belonging to the fourth caste to study MahAbhAratam. As SrImad Bhagavad GItA and  VishNu SahasranAma are  parts of MahAbhAratam, women and those belonging to the fourth caste who have faith in BhagavAn  can recite them  after learning from a Guru.

The intrinsic meaning of the adage “ BhAratah pancamo vedah” is that MahabhArata is a ceaseless treasurehouse of holistic knowledge like the Vedas  which contains various subtle exposition of dharma. It does not mean that only dvijas are  entitled to study MahabhArata. This injunction applies only in the case of study of the four Vedas comprising of  samhitA.  BrAhmaNa, AraNyaka and Upanishad and  VedAnta vicAra.

It is to be noted that a plain and unbiased reading of the VishNu sahasranAma phalaSruti shows that it can be chanted by all the four VarNas for which the benefits acrrue differently based on one's VarNa.

Vedantago brAhmaNah syAd kshatriyo vijayI bhavet !
vaiSyo dhana samruddhas syAt  SUdras sukhamavApnuyAt !!

On similar lines, this is another pramANa from SrI vAlmIkI RAmAyaNa:

paThan dvijo vAk RishabhatvamIyAt |
syAt kShatriyo bhUmi patitvamIyAt ||
vaNik janaH paNya phalatvamIyAt |
janasa SUdro'pi mahatvamIyAt ||       1-1-100

By reading this RAmAyaNa,
 ---A BrAhmaNa attains excellence in speech
 ---A Kshatriya attains lordship over land
 ---A VaiSya attains monetary gains
 ---A SUdra attains personal excellence.

Please note the word "paThan" (reading) used in SrI ValmiKI RAmAyaNa. This in addition to  the quote from SRimad bhAgavatam (given below) proves the eligibility of Women and  SUdras in reading the text of the ItihAsas like RAmAyaNa and MahAbhArata.
SrImad BhAgavatam i-4-25 empowers Women and SUdras to study MahAbhAratam .

                        strI SUdra dvijabandhUnAm
                        trayI na Sruti gocarA
                        karma Sreyasi mUDhAnAm
                        SreyA  evam bhaved iha
                        Iti bhAratam AkhyAnam
                        krupayA muninA krutam !!
SrI Sankara bhAshyam on SrI VishNu sahasranamam on the sloka "vedantago brAhmaNas syAt" goes in a circle and tries to connect performance of yajna and the SUdra varNa and says that the SUdras can only hear but not chant. This stringent  view also held by someAcAryas does not bring out the true spirit behind the purpose of creating itihAsa purANas. These are intended for the benefit of  all including women and SUdras ,irrespective of the VarNa, as BhagavAn is common to all and He can be reached by any one irrespective of one's caste through unconditional love.

Different types of BrAhmaNas
We need to understand more about who is a BrAhmaNa. 
Vipra means BrAhmaNa.
A person is born as a BrAhmaNa.
As the first born among the mortals, he is known as agrajanmA.
After Upanayana. he becomes a dvija.
As one learned in Vedas, he is known as a Srotriya.
As a deity upon earth, he is known as BhUdeva.
As one who has emanated from the mukha of the Supreme, he is known as Mukhaja.
A BrAhmaNa who is only by birth and not by performance of duties is known as BrAhmaNabruva.
According to Devala, there are eight types of BrAhmaNas as follows in the ascending order of greatness:
MAtra means one who is born in a BrAhmaNa family who has not undergone upanayanam and not following any ansuhthAna.
BrAhmaNa is one who has done some veda adhyayana, who has ACara, SAnti, Satyam, dayA.
Srotriya is one who has done the Veda adhyayanam of one SakhA along with kalpasUtra or six vedAngas, knower of dharma, performer of six karmas like yajanam.
anUCAna is one who is vedavedAnga tatvajna, Suddha citta, devoid of Sins and having the qualities of Srotriya.
BhruNa is one who is vrataguNopeta, follower of niyamas in yajnas and vedAdhyayana, devapitruSishtAnna BhojI, jitendriya.
Rishikalpa is one who has all vaidika and laukika jnAna, Asramastha, jitendriya.
Rishi is one who is Urdharetas, tapasvI, follower of AhAra niyama, powerful to give SApa and anugraha, satyasandha.
Muni is one who is not attached towards vishayas, knower of all tatvas, without KAma and krodha, dhyAnastha, nishkriya, jitendriya, viewer of gold or sand equally.
Learning of Vedas
In matters regarding learning and teaching of Vedas , we have to go based on what is stated in the Vedic Scriptures and concluded by our great Rishis. One should not confuse what is stated in the SAstras with our limited materialistic knowledge. It is safer and better to align with the upadeSa of smrutis in  this regard.
Vedas are no doubt meant for Universal peace, Universal development and Universal welfare. But the Vedic yajnas have to be performed by those who are qualified by the SAstras to perform. While Vedic knowledge can be freely disseminated for the benefit of all, teaching and learning the Vedic Mantras with VarNa and svara have to be based on tradition only.
Vipras have protected the Vedas from time immemorial by making personal sacrifice and by leading a simple and austere life devoted to propagation of Vedas (sVadhyAya pravacanam). We have to offer our deep sense of  gratitude to them who have selflessly carried it so far despite numerous hurdles. In the name of modernity, let us not fiddle with it.
When we daily recite the SAnti PATha as below, we pray for the well-being of not only human beings but also animals and plants. ThereforeVedic Prayers have an Universal outlook.
Urdhvam jigAtu bheshajam !
Sam no astu dvipade !
Sam catushpade !
Om SAntih SAntih SAntih !
The following Mantra also recited while offering oblations to our forefathers show how caring are the Vedas about environmental order.
Madhu vAtA rutAyate(Let the air be pleasant)
Madhu ksharanti sindhavah(Let the rivers be pleasant)
MAdhvIrnas santvoshadhIh(Let the plants and creepers be pleasant)
Madhu naktamutoshasi(Let the day and night be pleasant)
Madhumat pArthivam rajah(Let the dust of the earth be pleasant)
Madhu dyaurastu nah pitA(Let our father-like Sky be pleasant)
Madhu mAnno vanaspatih(Let the herbs be pleasant)
MadhumAm astu sUryah(Let the Sun be pleasant)
MAdhvIr gAvo bhavantu nah(Let the cows be pleasant to us)
--- mahAnArAyaNa upanishad xxxix-3
Let all the dvijas take the initiative in learning and propagating the Vedic knowledge for the benefit of all Beings within the framework ofSAstras.
Else the prediction in SrImad BhAgavatam that "VedAh PAshaNda dUshitAh" would become a reality very soon.
Let us pray more Vipras do whatever they can for protecting and nourishing the Vedas and the Srotriyas.
Yadyat Acarati Sreshthah tadtadevetaro janah !
sa yat pramANam kurute lokas tadanuvartate !! ( Bh. G . iii- 21)
All people who have faith in the Supreme are eligible to study SrImad Bhagavad GItA and SrI VishNu sahasranAma. While Vedas and Vipras are to be held in high esteem, we need to understand that for approaching the Supreme, Vedas are not the only route for people belonging to all castes. Taking into consideration various aspects, BhagavAn has so kindly made him easily accessible to people of other VarNas as well through the path of unconditional love popularly  known as  bhakti yoga.
There are two broad routes to reach the Supreme. One path is approaching him while duly following the VarNASrama dharma (as far as practicable) as stipulated in Vedas and SAstras. This is mainly applicable for the first three VarNas. Another one is the BhAgavata dharma which does not have the Vedic injunctions thereby opening the door to all irrespective of caste or creed. That is why we can find many BrAhmaNas lovingly worshipping Non-BrAhmANa Azhvars and NAyanmars in the Bhakti tradition of the South.  If some one from any caste or creed  is so passionate and craving to know the Supreme BhagavAn , there is nothing which stops him if he follows the second path. Such a noble soul has to be deeply respected by all. The confusion has arisen mainly because we are mixing up the two and trying to apply the rules and injunctions of the first path to the second. Those who tread by the second path always honour those following the first path of VarNAsrama dharma and vice versa as the ultimate objective of reaching the Supreme BhagavAn is the same in both cases. 
குலம் தாங்கு சாதிகள் நாலிலும் கீழ் இழிந்து எத்தனை 
நலம் தான் இலாத சண்டாள சண்டாளர்கள் ஆகிலும் 
வலம் தாங்கு சக்கரத்து அண்ணல் மணிவண்ணற்கு ஆள் என்று உள் 
கலந்தார் அடியார் தம் அடியார் எம் அடிகளே !
---NammAzhvAr TiruvAimozhi
जय जय श्रीराधे