Brahma Sutras (Shankara Bhashya)

by Swami Vireshwarananda | 1936 | 124,571 words | ISBN-10: 8175050063

This is the English translation of the Brahma-sutras including the commentary (Bhashya) of Shankara. The Brahma-sutra (or, Vedanta-sutra) is one of the three canonical texts of the Vedanta school of Hindu philosophy and represents an early exposition the Vedantic interpretation of the Upanishads. This edition has the original Sanskrit text, the r...

Chapter I, Section III, Adhikarana IX

Adhikarana summary: The right of the Sudras to the study of the Vedas discussed

Brahma-Sutra 1.3.34: Sanskrit text and English translation.

शुगस्य तदनादरश्रवणात्, तदाद्रवणात्, सूच्यते हि ॥ ३४॥

śugasya tadanādaraśravaṇāt, tadādravaṇāt, sūcyate hi || 34 ||

śuk—Grief; asya—his; tat-anādaraśravaṇāt—from hearing his (the Rishi’s) contemptuous words; tat—that (grief); ādravaṇāt—owing to his approaching; sūcyate—is referred to; hi—because.

34. His (King Janasruti’s) grief (arose) from hearing the contemptuous words (of the Rishi in the form of a swan); owing to his approaching (Raikva overwhelmed with) that (grief) (Raikva called him Sudra); because it (the grief) is referred to (by Raikva, who could read his mind).

In the previous Sutra it has been shown that the gods are entitled to the Vedas and Knowledge. This Sutra discusses whether the Sudras are entitled to them or not. Since, like the gods, the Sudras also are possessed of a body, strength, and desires, it naturally follows that they too are entitled. In Chhandogya 4.2.5 Raikva at first calls Janasruti, a Sudra, when he comes for instruction with presents, which are refused. But when he appears a second time, Raikva again calls him a Sudra, but this time accepts his presents and teaches him. So it is maintained that the Sudras also are qualified for Knowledge.

This Sutra refutes the view and denies the right to the study of the Vedas for a Sudra by caste, since the word ‘Sudra’ occurring in the text referred to does not denote a Sudra by birth, which is its conventional meaning, for Janasruti was a Kshatriya king (Chh. 4. 1 . 3). Here we must take the etymological meaning of the word, which is “He rushed into grief” or “He in his grief immediately approached Raikva.” The following Sutra also shows that he was a Kshatriya.


Brahma-Sutra 1.3.35: Sanskrit text and English translation.

क्षत्रियत्वगतेश्चोत्तरत्र चैत्ररथेन लिङ्गात् ॥ ३५ ॥

kṣatriyatvagateścottaratra caitrarathena liṅgāt || 35 ||

kṣatriyatvagateḥ—(His) Kshatriyahood being unknown; ca—and; uttaratra—later on; caitrarathena liṅgāt—by the indicatory sign (of his being mentioned) along with a descendant of Chitraratha (a Kshatriya).

35. And because the Kshatriyahood (of Janasruti) is known later on by the indicatory sign (of his being mentioned) along with a descendant of Chitraratha (a Kshatriya).

Janasruti is mentioned with the Kshatriya Chaitraratha Abhpratarin in connection with the same Vidya, and so we can infer that Janasruti also was a Kshatriya, for as a rule equals alone are mentioned together.


Brahma-Sutra 1.3.36: Sanskrit text and English translation.

संस्कारपरामर्शात् तदभावाभिलापाच्च ॥ ३६ ॥

saṃskāraparāmarśāt tadabhāvābhilāpācca || 36 ||

saṃskāra-parāmarśāt—Purificatory ceremonies being mentioned; tat-abhāva-abhilāpāt—its absence being declared; ca—and.

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

Purificatory ceremonies like Upanayana etc. are declared bv the scriptures to be a necessary condition of the study of all kinds of knowledge or Vidya; but these are meant only for the higher castes. Their absence in the case of the Sudras is repeatedly declared in the scriptures.

“Sudras do not incur sin (by eating prohibited food), nor have they any purificatory rights” etc. (Manu 10 . 12 . 6).

Consequently they are not entitled to the study of the Vedas.


Brahma-Sutra 1.3.37: Sanskrit text and English translation.

तदभावनिर्धारणे च प्रवृत्तेः ॥ ३७ ॥

tadabhāvanirdhāraṇe ca pravṛtteḥ || 37 ||

tadabhāva-nirdhāraṇe—On the ascertainment of the absence of that (Sudrahood); ca—and; pravṛtteḥ—from inclination.

37. 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).

That Sudras are not qualified is known also from the fact that great teachers like Gautama made sure before imparting Knowledge that disciples like Jabala Satyakama were not Sudras. See Chh. 4. 4. 5.


Brahma-Sutra 1.3.38: Sanskrit text and English translation.

श्रवणाध्ययनार्थप्रतिषेधात् स्मृतेश्च ॥ ३८ ॥

śravaṇādhyayanārthapratiṣedhāt smṛteśca || 38 ||

śravaṇa-adhyayana-artha-pratiṣedhāt—Because of the prohibition of hearing, studying, and understanding; smṛteḥ—in the Smriti; ca—and.

38. And because of the prohibition in the Smriti of hearing and studying (the Vedas) and knowing their meaning and performing Vedic rites (to Sudras, they are not entitled to the knowledge of Brahman).

Sutras 34-38 disqualify the Sudra for the knowledge of Brahman through the study of the Vedas. But it is possible for them to attain that knowledge through the Puranas and the epics (Ramayana and Mahabharata).

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

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