Vedas for Brahmins is only a myth
Frauds and Myths – Misconceptions on Vedas
-BY VASUDEVA RAO
1. You mighty God! You have provided the world with all that is necessary. You shiniest in every part of the Universe. Bring us all treasures.
2. Assemble. Speak together, let your minds be all of one accord, as sages of yore understood their separate parts and enjoyed their share.
3. A common purpose do I lay before you, your common oblation do I prefer.
4. One and the same be your resolve, and be your minds of one accord. Let your mind be united and your agreements be perfectly united.
These are a few Mantras from Rig-Veda are also called Unity Mantra [Sanghatana Sukhta]. These Mantras call upon people to remain united in thoughts and action so that the ingredients of Dharma i.e. attainment of worldly prosperity and Salvation becomes possible.
The Vedas teach us to become human! Man is recognized by his/her attributes. Of course, we all look like human beings but when we examine ourselves then only one recognizes himself/ herself. The Vedas say “Manurbhava” which means “Be human being i.e. a noble man” and “Krinvanto Vishwavaryam” which means “Make the world full of Aryas” All human beings are Aryas and all Aryas are human beings. An Arya means a noble person. There is no bar for any one to become Arya.
A person could become Arya thru the attainment of proper knowledge and Vedas are the repositories of all true knowledge. Hence all human beings who aspire to become Aryas or the noble must have access to the study and practice of Vedas and its principles. The Vedas understanding this need has clearly stated that as under.
Yathemam Vacham kalyani mavadhani janebhyah|
Brahma rajanabhyam Shudraya Charyaya cha Swaya charanayacha|
Priyo Devanam dakshinai dhaturiha Bhuyasamayam|
Me kamah samudruthamupadado Namutu||
Meaning” I bestow this knowledge of the Vedas for all persons, similarly also preach it to all including the Brahmans, the kshatriyas the Vaishayas, the Shudras,servants ladies and even persons lower than Shudras. Further in order to remove all doubts of one being superior or inferior it makes very clear that all are equal. Look at the following Mantra.
Ajyestaso akanistasa he ete sambrataro soubhagaya|
Yuva pita svapa rudra esam sudugha prusnhih sudina marudhbhayah
Meaning. These men are without superiors, without inferiors, they are mutually brothers, they march onwards for prosperity. The eternal youthful, the soul protecting grief alleviating God is their father, the richly feeding; the mother earth produces happy days for these mortals.
The Mantras quoted above has one message. That is, all are equal and the spirit of unity is the underlying factors in all most all 20379 Mantras. Of course Vedas deal with Variety of Subjects and verily it is treasure house of all Knowledge, Action and worship put together. Precisely, recognizing the uniqueness of Vedas Swami Dayanand incorporated a principle [3rd principle] among the 10 principles of Aryasamaj which states that “Vedas as the source of all knowledge and it is the paramount duty of all Aryas to study and teach and to propound the Vedas”
Very well said! But how this knowledge overflowing in Vedas could be studied and its principles practiced when a majority of Hindu Society [i.e. Shudras and women] is totally barred from learning them? The orthodox Hindus meaning Brahmins have a feeling that they alone have the authority to study Vedas and others however interested or spiritually inclined have no such rights. It is real tragedy that this unfounded belief is being supported by number of Swamis owing allegiance to Acharya Shankar’s school of thought even in this 21 century when women like Smt Sunitha Williams could stay put in orbit for more than 6 months which is a feat by itself. These Swamis encourage their women devotees to study and chant Verses like Soundarya lahari or Lalitha sahasranam blindly. These two Verses have neither spiritual nor material significance. But that is what they are expected to do and not to venture into the Study of Vedas which they consider is strictly a male preserve. These obscurantist practices being indulged by orthodoxy have become a favorable stick to beat with at the hands of Dalit assertives who cite this instance to show how discriminatory is the Hindu society with regard to women and Dalits.
The ban on the study of Vedas on the part of Shudras [Non-Brahmins] originated probably many centuries after Mahabharata war. This ban although not applicable to Kshatriyas and Vyashyas later extended to them also as they were not taught Vedas. It had a deleterious effect as Kshatriyas besides became unaware of Vedic teachings, forgot in course of time, Dhanurveda also which is an Upaveda of Vedas. Had they preserved the study of Dhanurveda and practiced them India would not have had the ignominy of facing so many defeats at the hands of outsiders ultimately resulting in a prolonged political slavery. The restriction to study Vedas on the part of Shudras is not found in Ramayana, Mahabharata nor is there is any reference to this effect in Geetha or Upanishads. We find a Scholar of repute in the person of Vedavyasa who is held in high esteem even today. This man was born to a boat woman by name Satyavathi and he was a dalit by present standards. But he mastered Veda and wrote Vedanta Sastra. This goes to show that no bar was there during that time for the study of Vedas on the part of Shudras although the caste prejudices were then rearing its ugly head here and there. But with Mahabharata war ended with disastrous consequences the selfish Brahmins who had an access to Vedas started proclaiming that they had alone this authority to study Vedas and others not. The deciding of Varna was founded based on birth in spite of this being totally anti-Vedic. This unholy stance having no authority in Vedas almost became a Law when men like Acharya Shanker in their commentaries emphatically said that Shudras had no right to study Vedas. Punishments for violating this ban were also imposed. For ex, see what Shankar had to say on this subject.
1. Athasya Veda mupushrunvatha strapujatubhyam shrothra puranam
[The ears of Shudra who hears Veda is to be filled with molten lead]
2. Bhavthi cha vedocharane jihwechedodharane Sharira bedah
[Cut the tongue that spells Veda, cut the body if Vedas are chanted]
3. padyu ha ethatsmashanam yachudrah tasmachu sameehe nadheyatam
[Shudra is as unholy as the crematorium. No Veda should be recited by his side]
4. Shudraya matim na dadhyat
[No knowledge is to be imparted to the Shudra]
These extracts are from Shankar’s Bhashya. Further, he was opposed to women studying Vedas also. While clarifying a point for those who aspired for an erudite girl, he says erudition here means competency in house hold affairs only as women have no right to the study of Vedas. But the same Shankar had Bharathi sitting as Judge when he was engaged in a Shastrath with the Mandan Mishra. How could Bharathi could act as Judge, decide issues, and give judgment if she was unaware of Vedas? No wonder this stance on the part of Shankar is being continued even today by his followers. Shankar’s prescription for those Shudras violating the ban on the issue of study of Vedas has been repeated by other Acharyas like Madhva and Ramanuja. in similar manner. But while these Acharyas quoting some obscurantist smrithis justified barring of Shudras from studying Vedas on the part of Non Brahmins they never took the trouble whether such restrictions were found in Vedas themselves. They also never cared to explain who were those people entitled to study Vedas and what should be their qualifications in that case. This indeed is unfortunate considering the fact that Shankar held Vedas as the word of God but went about restricting its knowledge to His children purely on the grounds of birth. The restrictive clauses were also later got interpolated in Manusmrithi. But Vedas are very clear and defines who Brahmins as are under.
Who are Brahmins? The Vedas say:
Brahmansah somino vachamakrath brahma krinvanthah Parivatsarinam|
Advaryavo Garminah Sisvidhana Avirbhavanthi guhya Na ke chita|| Rig 7.103.8
Meaning: Devoted deeply to God and enjoying his bliss, absolutely non-violent and engaged in conducting yagnas, brilliant with the splendor of Knowledge and engaged in penance, sweating with severe discipline, propagating the universal and divine Vedic Knowledge, the Brahmins move about openly, though they were hidden before, and as though, they now come about with flying colors, after completing spiritual activities like the deep study of the scriptures, concentration, meditation etc.
To put it in simple terms, devotion to God, a pleasant attitude of mind, non-violence, the performance of Yagnas, the light of knowledge, severe penance, the propagation of the Vedas thru discourses, common accessibility well these are the characteristics according to Vedas. Brahmins then are the intellectuals liberal and unselfish by nature learned and enlightening with knowledge, steadfast in devotion to God and services to mankind. They are indeed like the head of mankind. The so called caste into which they are born is of no consequence, if those characteristics are found in them. Lord Manu expresses similar opinion when he defines Brahmins as those who are dedicated to study and teach Vedas and do yagnas. Manu has not recognized Varna by birth but steadfastly adhered to the concept of Varna being acquired thru Guna, Karma and Swabhava.
While the traditionalists over centuries refused teaching of Vedas to Non-Brahmins even though they are inclined by their Guna, Karma and Swabhava it was left to Swami Dayananda Saraswathi a visionary Sanyasi and an outstanding patriot and Vedic Scholar to demolish the myth that Non –Brahmins were not entitled to study Vedas. In his treatise Satyartha Prakash Swami discusses the opposition to study Vedas on the part of non-Brahmins and assert the position of all sections of Society are being equally entitled to learn Vedas. Quoting chapter and Verse from Vedas he admonishes the opponent in his inimitable style as under.
“The sectarian and selfish Brahmanas of the present time prevent other people, thru their false teachings, from acquiring knowledge and associating with men of learning, ensnare them in their own nets and thus ruin them physically, mentally and materially. They want to keep Kshtriyas and other classes illiterate, since they are afraid that if they acquired knowledge and become enlightened, they would expose their hypocrisy, get out of their selfish grip and become disrespectful towards them.
Both the rulers and the ruled should see that these obstacles are removed from the path of the students [male and female] of all Classes. In order to give their children sound education, they should exert themselves to their utmost with all their hearts, all their souls and all their wealth.
Q: Are women and shudras allowed to study the Vedas? What shall we do if they to reading? Besides there is no authority for their doing so. On the other hand it is condemned by the Vedas thus.
Streeshudro Nadiyathamithi shurthe||
[Never should women and the shudras study]
A: All men and women [i.e. the whole of mankind] have a right to study. You may go and hang yourselves. As for the text you have quoted, it is your own fabrication, and is nowhere to be found either in the Vedas or any other authoritative book. On the other hand here is verse from the Veda that authorizes all men to study the Veda and hear it read.
Yathemam Vacham kalyani mavadhani janebhyah|
Brahma rajanabhyam Shudraya Charyaya cha Swaya charanayacha
God says I have given this Word [i.e., four Vedas] which is the word of Salvation [i.e. Happiness here and thereafter] for all. Let all men therefore read and recite, teach and preach the Veda and thereby acquire true knowledge, practice Virtue, shun vice and consequently being freed from all sorrows and pain, enjoy true happiness.
Now, sir, shall we believe your word or God’s? God’s certainly. He who will still refuse to believe [that women and shudras are entitled to Veda learning] shall be called a Nastika [an infidel] because Manu has said He is an infidel who is a reviler and disbeliever of the Veda. Does not God desire the welfare of the Shudras? Is God prejudiced that he should allow the study of the Veda to Dwijas and disallow it to shudras? Had God meant that the shudras should not study the Veda or hear it read, why should He have created the organs of speech and hearing in their bodies? As He has created the sun, the moon, the earth, the water, the fire, the air, various food and drinks, etc, for all so has He revealed the Veda for all. Wherever it is declared [in the books of Rishis] that the Shudras are debarred from the study of the Vedas the prohibition simply amounts to this that he that does not learn anything even after a good deal of teaching. Being ignorant and destitute of understanding is called Shudra. It is useless for him to learn, and for others to teach him any longer. As for your debarring women from education that only shows your ignorance, selfishness and stupidity.”
The Aryasamaj which he founded literally took the above word and opened Gurukulas for both boys and girls where Vedas were taught to all without caring to know their caste. This had an electrifying effect and soon there was a country wide clamor for such Gurukulas. It is now an established fact that all sections of Society including women are entitled to the study of Vedas and this is a victory of Aryasamaj stand. Those who oppose this are set of lunatic fringe fit to be ignored. In fact it is Aryasamaj which produced number of Vedic scholars and most of them hailed from those castes/classes which had no access to the study of Vedas for centuries.. Pt. Gurudut Vidyarthi wrote number of Books at a tender age of 25 on the subjects of Vedas and his books became an acknowledged text books for those people studying in Oxford and he too came from Non-Brahmin class. Pt Lekharam is another illustrious figure who became a martyr in Vedic cause is another case in point.
Suffice it to say in conclusion, that Non-Brahmins including women are entitled to the study of Vedas and those people who oppose this are inviting public ridicule. All this has become possible due to the untiring efforts of Swami Dayanand and the Aryasamaj which he founded.