Sankaradarsana is an evergreen philosophy and
theology which is discussed widely. It is a living tradition
having great followers. This work titled, Exclusion of Sudras
from Brahmajijnasa, is primarily a critique on Sankara and it
looks into the problem of sudra-exclusion by analysing
Apasudradhikaranam of Brahmasiara Sankara Bhasya. With
the insights received, it tries to make an advaitic response to
the problem of exclusion which has become a threat to the
well-being and integrity of the society.
This work is my doctoral dissertation submitted to the
Faculty of Philosophy, Jnana-Deepa Vidyapeeth (Pontifical
Institute of Philosophy and Religion, Pune), defended on July
28,2017 for the Degree of Doctor in Philosophy (Ph D).
With a joyful heart I thank God, the Almighty who has
been my light in the task of this research. It was He who
enabled and availed me with all the necessary help in various
ways, especially by providing me with persons who were
generous to support me.
I consider it to be providential and great blessing to
have Dr. John Peter Vallabadoss OFM Cap. as my guide. I
express my sincere gratitude and profound appreciation for his
scholarly guidance, honest critique and insightful suggestions.
It was his availability with a joyful spirit and encouragement
with a brotherly concern that kept my enthusiasm untiring.
I am thankful to Dr. Selva Rethinam, SJ, the president
of Jnana-Deepa Vidyapeeth (JDV) Pune, and Dr. Kuruvilla
Pandikattu, SJ, the Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy, for their
encouragement. I am grateful to Dr. Nishant A. Irudayadason,
who always extended his wholehearted support at every stage
of this work in his capacity as the Chair Person for the Doctoral
Committee of the Faculty of Philosophy.
At this moment, I would like to express my sincere
gratitude to Rev. Dr. Raphie Paliakkara OFM Cap., the former
Provincial Minister of St. Thomas Capuchin Province, Kerala,
to which I belong. It was he, in consultation with his
councilors, who suggested me to have this research and made
all the necessary arrangements. I am greatful to Rev. Fr. Pauly
Madassery, the present Provincial Minister, who with all his
blessings supported and encouraged me to get this work
I thankfully remember Dr. Stephan Chundanthadathil,
SJ, Dr. Henry D' Almeida, SJ, Dr. Sebastian Pynadath, SJ, Dr.
Kancha Ilaiah, Dr. Jose Thachil, Dr. Johnson Puthenpurackal
OFM Cap., Dr. George Pattery, SJ, Dr. Anto Cheramthuruthy,
Dr. P.T. Mathew, SJ, Dr. Yesudas Karunanidhi, Fr. Antony
Thekkinieth OFM Cap. and Dr. Jijo Kurian OFM Cap. for
spending their precious time for me with discussions at various
stages of this project, and for their help in finding out the
With heartfelt gratitude I remember Fr. Vincent Crasta,
SJ, the registrar of JDV and the moderator of JDV PG Block,
Fr. Alex, SJ, the administrator of JDV and Dr. Francis
Ezhakunnel, the former moderator of PG Block, for their
encouragement and support for my stay and study in IDV.
I take this opportunity to gratefully acknowledge the
scholarship provided by Missio, which supported me
I gratefully remember the generous service rendered to
me by Dr. Thomas Reddy, SJ and Dr. Biju Joseph, SJ, the
librarians of JDV, and other library-staff.
Brahmajijnasa, the quest for Brahman, which is the
desire and search for self-realisation, is very fundamental to
Advaitic tradition. In satiating this quest Vedas are considered
as the excellent recourse by the entire Vedic tradition. On the
basis of varna and asrama, Vedas and the religious tradition
related to it disqualify and exclude some groups of people, such
as sudras, women of all varnas, non-sannyasa asramis, and
those who do not belong to any asrama such as widower, from
this quest. This idea of exclusion is fostered by the subsequent
texts of the tradition such as Manusmrti. It is carried over to
the succeeding age of the Vedic tradition reaching up to the
time of Vedanta. Sankara, the great Vedantic philosopher and
theologian, also seems not an exception to this.
Apasudrudhikaranam of his Brahmasutra Bhasya argues for
the exclusion of sudras. This dissertation attempts for a critical
account of the problem of exclusion in Sankara.
Sankara: The Vedantic Thinker
There were various attempts to understand the
Upanisadic truth with the help of Bhagavadgita and
Brahmasutra in addition to Upanisads. These attempts were in
the form of interpretations given to these texts. Various
philosophical or theological developments based on such
interpretations are generally known as Vedantic systems.
Sankara interpreted the Upanisadic wisdom from the
standpoint of strict non-dualism (a-dvaita). Ontologically
Brahman is the essence and reality-giving cause of everything.
This does not deny the plurality and differences experienced in
the phenomenal world but uphold the transcendence of
ultimate reality, Brahman. The enlightenment consists in the
intuitive experience of this non-dual reality which comprises
the realisation of the identity between Atman and Brahman. In
order to have this realisation the aspirant has to take up
jnanamarga, the sravana (listening), manana (reflection) and
nididhyasana (contemplation) of scriptures. Using reason as a
tool, the aspirant takes up the means for realising the ultimate
reality, Brahman which is trans-rational and extra-textual.
A sound critique on Sankara invites our attention to
some of the important points. Understanding the mind of
Sankara is comparatively difficult. One of the reasons is, his
textual works-except Upadesasahasri-are commentaries on
the texts of Vedic tradition such as Upanisads, Bhagavadgita
and Brahmasutra, and therefore, the reader may not find his
own ideas systematically developed. Secondly, the vocabulary
he uses are sometimes confusing, because he borrows terms
from other known philosophical systems of his time, such as
Samkhya and Mimamsa. Thirdly, many literary works are
attributed to him. Some of them present Sankara inadequately
and improperly. Due to all these, it is possible that the Advaita
tradition after Sankara misrepresent him. A critique has to take
this fact into account.
The study of Sankara has to be critical than
sympathetic. The traditional reverence for Sankara, and the
deified position he occupied in the Advaita lineage, shall not
compromise or constrain the kinds of questions that might be
addressed to him. The critique has to take note of the
inconsistencies and weak points of Sankaravedantic system,
not merely to find fault with it, but rather, to look for its
potential to become more reasonable and meaningful so that it
might adequately serve the integrity of the humanity and the
world at large.
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