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Contradictions in The Scripture Due To Adulteration

Posted on: 04 Nov 2018
O Learned and Devoted Servants of God,

Dr. Nikhil asked: Padanamaskarams Swamiji! My question is with reference to Your reply to Shri Durgaprasad, given on October 26, 2018. You have said that the commentaries of the divine preachers on scriptures, varied in their conclusions due to the adulteration of the original text. You have said that this is the reason why we often find mutually contradicting concepts within the same scripture. However, I am unable to understand this point. How can the adulteration of the scripture lead to mutually conflicting concepts and conclusions?

Let’s take any one statement from the Veda. Let’s say that Shri Shankara interpreted it in a certain way. Based on it, the conclusion reached is that the soul is God. Shri Madhva interpreted the same statement differently. The conclusion drawn from His interpretation is that the soul is different from God. Note that neither Shri Shankara nor Shri Madhva is doubting the genuineness of the Vedic statement. Yet their interpretations are completely different. Then how is it possible to say that the reason for their mutual difference is the adulteration of the scripture? Are their conclusions not different for the same Vedic statement, which both of them agree, is unadulterated?

Any two people interpret the same thing in different ways due to their different mentalities, preferences etc. In the case of the three divine preachers, their different interpretations were the result of their different divine agendas, which in turn were due to the different needs of humanity in their respective times.

Adulteration in the Veda and the Gita

Swami replied: The word ‘scripture’ mentioned by Me in My earlier reply, means not only the primary scripture, the Veda but also secondary scriptures like the Gita, the Manusmruti, the Brahma Sutras, the Puraanams etc. Of course, the Veda was preserved by recitation in the old times and adulteration was almost impossible. But for that reason, we should not leave out logical analysis. Adulteration in the Veda is clearly seen in the Shri Suktam, which is a hymn in praise of Goddess Śrī. In some verses of this hymn, modern poetic meters like Sragdhara and Shaarduulavikriiditam have been used, which are found nowhere else in the Veda. The verses were even given the three types of accents (svaras), which are typical of Vedic verses, to mislead us into thinking that these verses are part of the original Veda.

Swami Dayananda analyzed the Bhagavad Gita and identified several verses as insertions, differing from the other three preachers. Shankara interpreted the Gita from the angle of monism (Advaita), which states that the soul and God are identical. Ramanuja interpreted it from the angle of qualified monism or special monism (Vishishta Advaita). According to this qualified monism, the soul and God are non-different from each other in the sense that they have an eternal relationship as part and whole. Madhva interpreted the Gita from the angle of dualism (Dvaita), which states that the soul and God are eternally separate and that God is the Master, while the soul is the servant. Swami Dayananda interpreted it as per the philosophy of the trinity (Traita), according to which God, soul and creation are three eternally-separate entities. Swami Dayananda treated some verses within the Gita as insertions, whereas the three preachers treated them as genuine.

Adulteration in the Brahma Sutra

This issue of adulteration of the scripture is not only in the context of nivrutti, which is the spiritual path but also in the context of pravrutti, which is the path of worldly justice. Shankara, at the beginning of His commentary on the Brahma Sutras[1] mentioned that the eligibility to receive spiritual knowledge is based on the four qualities[2] of the soul, irrespective of caste[3]. He said, “Brahmanas, kshatriyas and others…” (Apeta brahma kshatraadibhedam…)”. The word ‘Aadi’ means ‘and others’. So even though only two castes brahmanas and kshtriyas are mentioned, the other two, namely vaisyas and shudras are also included. In other words, spiritual knowledge is not prohibited for anyone, merely on the basis of the caste into which the person was born. The qualities of a person decide the person’s actual caste as per the Gita (Gunakarma vibhaagashah). The same Shankara, who is clearly convinced that caste is determined by the soul’s qualities, had to contradict this concept in His commentary, in the context of the castes of king Janashruti and Jaabaala Satyakaama. This point appears in the third paada of the first chapter of the Brahma Sutras. In the original story of Satyakaama from the Chaandogya Upanishad, the preacher decided that Satyakaama’s caste was brahmana, since the boy told the truth, even though it was bitter. But in Shankara’s commentary on the Brahma Sutra, the story was interpreted in the opposite way. It was said that since the boy was a brahmana (by birth), he told the truth. This interpretation opposes the concept of the Gita that caste is decided by the soul’s quality and not the reverse. In the original story, the preacher concluded that the boy was a brahmana since he spoke the truth. It means that even as per the original story (Chaandogya Upanishad), caste is decided by qualities and not by birth.

Similarly, in the case of king Janashrurti, a sutra[4] from the Brahma Sutras, mentions that a shudra shall not hear or recite the Veda. Who is a shudra? Is a person a shudra by birth or by quality? If you define this word by quality, shudra means a person having grief (shuk). It refers to a person who is always worried, because his life is limited only to materialism (Shochati iti shuudrah). He is a person who never cares about spiritualism. Since the Gita says that the person’s quality decides his or her caste, Janashruti, who was born as a kshatriya must be treated only as a shudra, since he was overcome by worry. But he was concluded to be a kshatriya due to some adulteration in the sutras, here. Sage Vyaasa is the author of the Brahma Sutras including this sutra. The same author says in another scripture authored by him, (Puraanam) that Bhurishravasa, a pot-maker or shudra (by birth) was made the president of a great sacrifice (Yajna) performed by all the sages themselves! It clearly indicates that the sages accepted that in terms of the qualities of the soul, Bhurishravasa was a brahmana, even though he was born as a shudra. So, sage Vyaasa and the other sages clearly accepted the determination of caste by the soul’s qualities alone. How did the same author, Vyaasa then contradict himself in the Brahma Sutras? It means that some adulteration has certainly taken place in that particular sutra.

Another sutra says that listening to and studying the Veda is prohibited for a shudra (shravanaadhyanapratishedhaat smruteshcha)[5]. We can interpret this sutra in the following way. Any person having a fascination for materialism is called as a shudra and he shall be excluded from any spiritual discussion. The reason for excluding the materialistic person (shudra) is his unfavorable quality. Instead of he getting benefit out of the spiritual discussion, he will brainwash the other spiritual people and turn them to materialism!

Adulteration in the Smṛti

In the above sutra, a reference is made to the secondary scripture (Smruti). The Smruti[6] says in this context that if a shudra happens to hear the Veda, his ear shall be filled with molten lead and lac and if he recites the Veda, his tongue shall be cut and so on. This horrible statement from the Smṛti has been quoted in the commentary on this sutra. It is easily possible to exclude a shudra from a spiritual discussion, based on his qualities which are unsuitable for the discussion. Then it is totally absurd to prescribe such a horrible punishment for him! Those who consider themselves to be shudras by birth will certainly rise up against the so-called upper castes due to such shocking statements. In fact, even a shudra by quality, should not be punished in such a cruel way. Undoubtedly, someone has adulterated these few sutras related to caste discrimination so as to divide the Hindu religion. The Smruti quoted here is certainly an insertion made either by foolish old Hindu priests of the middle ages or by an intellectual of another religion in an attempt to destroy the Hindu religion by dividing it internally.

The Manusmruti in this context says that a shudra is not eligible for spiritual knowledge since he or she eats forbidden non-vegetarian food. Here, the cruel quality and the sinful deed of eating meat are mentioned as the reasons. This appears to confirm the concept that the soul’s quality with its resulting deeds, is the reason for caste. But kshtriyas also eat this forbidden food and are yet eligible to read the Veda. In that case, why are the shudras who eat the forbidden food, not eligible to read the Veda? Since correct logic is missing in this verse, it can also be treated as an insertion in the original text.

The real concept here must be brought out. Eating forbidden food is a sin of pravrutti, which is the worldly path of justice. For these worldly sins, punishment will certainly be given separately. But there is no reason to prohibit anyone from reading and hearing spiritual knowledge or the Veda. On reading or hearing the spiritual knowledge or the Veda, the sinful soul may get reformed and give up eating forbidden food. The commentary on the scripture[7] in this context says that true spiritual knowledge can be attained by a shudra from the secondary scriptures, but they are not allowed to study the primary scripture (Veda)! We do not understand the big difference between primary and secondary scriptures. The same spiritual knowledge is expressed in both. It is foolish to assign some special significance to the accents (svara) found in the Veda. They are meant only for making the recitation pleasant and musical to hear. This again brings up the doubt of adulteration in this statement from the commentary, due to the failure of logic; If the kshatriya can study the Veda, why can the shudra not do the same, when both eat forbidden food.

Adulterations exist even in the Ramaayanam, the Mahabharatam and other scriptures. They have even been clearly identified in the commentaries. Therefore, a sharp and deep analysis of any scripture should be done, be it the Veda, or any other scripture. The Veda does not mean simply the text of the hymns marked by the three types of accents. The Veda means true knowledge. Even today, if a person speaks true knowledge in any language, it shall be called as the Veda. The basis for calling any statement as the Veda is that it should consist of true knowledge as concluded by sharp analysis. The Veda is not a pre-decided text. We have decided that the particular text in Sanskrit, which is marked with accents, is the Veda since it has been concluded through sharp analysis, that the text contains true knowledge.

Contradictions Within the Same Scripture

Apart from this, differences even can exist among statements within the same scripture. The primary scripture (Veda) says “I am God” and it establishes that the soul is God. Again, the same scripture says that souls come out from God like sparks coming out from fire. This establishes that the soul is a part of God. The same scripture also says that nothing in creation is God, which establishes the concept that the soul is neither God nor a part of God. The Gita also holds these three views as seen from the statements “Ahamatma…”, “Mamaivaṁsho…” and “Aham veda sarvani…na tvam vettha”. Of course, these differences in the subject of nivrutti (spiritual knowledge) can be correlated by taking into account the difference in the eligibility of the receivers of the corresponding concepts. To attract an atheist to the path of theism, he is initially told that God is nothing but his own awareness, so that he himself is God. When the person becomes a theist, the initial statement is partially rectified by saying that the soul is only a part of God; not God Himself. Finally, as the soul matures in his devotion, the truth is revealed that the soul is completely separate from God and is a servant of God. The scripture contains knowledge that is meant for all people; belonging to different levels of spiritual maturity. So, such mutually-contradictory statements are sometimes inevitable. However, they can be correlated. When a correlation between apparently-contradictory statements is possible, and disastrous conclusions can be avoided, we need not mind these differences. They need not be declared to be adulterations. But sometimes the differences cannot be correlated and horrible disastrous conclusions appear prominently. Then we have to conclude that the differences are due to adulterations, which include additions, deletions and modifications.

[1] The Brahma Sutras, composed by sage Baadarayaṇa (Vyaasa) are extremely short aphorisms or points summarizing important philosophical concepts. There are 555 individual sūtras that are organized into four chapters.

[2] Shri Shankara states four necessary mental qualities, which are the eligibility criteria for a person to learn spiritual knowledge (Veda). They are: (1) the intelligence to discriminate between the permanent and the impermanent (viveka). (2) Detachment from the enjoyment of any fruit in this world or in the afterlife (vairagya) (3) the six divine qualities, namely mental control (shama), control of the senses (dama), withdrawal from the senses (uparati), forbearance or tolerance of all external situations (titīkṣā), faith in the scriptures and the teaching of the Guru (shraddhaa) and complete focus on God and the spiritual path (samaadhaanam) and (4) an intense desire for liberation (mumukshutvam)

[3] The Vedic society was divided into the four castes namely the brahmanas, kshatriyas vaishyas and shudras. The brahmanas were the devoted scholars, who were mainly committed to the spiritual path. They also performed priestly activities and educated the rest of society. The kshatriyas were the rulers and warriors. The vaishyas were the businessmen and traders and the shudras were the laborers. Caste was originally decided by the qualities of the soul i.e. the person’s inherent nature. It was a fair and flexible system, in which the activities, profession and role of each person in society was determined by the nature of the person. Later, in the dark middle ages, people began to blindly fix a person’s caste based on birth. In other words, the son of a brnhmana automatically became a brahmana and so on. This led to a lot of injustice on the lower castes (shudras).

[4] Brahma Sutras 1.3.34-35.

[5] Brahma Sutras 1.3.38.

[6] Manusmruti XII.4.

[7] Brahma Sutras 1.3.38.


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