2 points | Post submitted by suyash95 163 days ago | 1 comments
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What are the permitted vocations for Brahmins according to the Dharma Shastra?
For this answer I will give an extended and very informative quote from The History of the Dharma Shastras by V. Kane.
The avocations practised by brāhmaṇas in the pursuit of wealth were many and varied, so much so that from very ancient times the lists of brāhmaṇas not eligible for invitation at sraddhas because they followed unworthy callings were formidable. Atrī (Anan. ed.) verses 373-383 names ten kinds of brāhmaṇas and briefly defines them, viz.
1. deva-brāhmaṇa (who daily performs bath, sandhya, japa, homa, worship of gods and honouring of guests and vaiśvadeva),
2. muni-br. (who is given up to staying in a forest, subsists on roots, fruits and vegetables and performs daily sraddhas),
3. dvija-br. (who studies the Vedānta, gives up all attachments and is engaged in reflecting over Saṅkhya and Yoga),
4. kṣatra-br. (who fights - is employed in the military or security and defence industries),
5. vaiśya-br. (who engages in agriculture, rearing cattle and the economy),
6. śūdra-br. (who sells lac, salt, dyes like kusumbha, milk, ghee, honey, meat or is an artisan),
7. niṣāda-br. (who is a thief and robber, a backbiter and always fond of fish and meat),
8. pasu-br. (who knows nothing about Vedānta and is only proud of his wearing the sacred thread),
9. mleccha-br. (who obstructs or destroys wells, tanks, gardens, without any qualm)
10. caṇḍāla-br. (who is a fool, devoid of prescribed rites, beyond the pale of all dharma and cruel).
Atrī (384) rather humorously adds ‘those who are devoid of Vedic lore, study the sastras (like grammar, logic etc.), those devoid of sastric lore study Purāṇas (and earn money by reciting them), those who are devoid even of Purāṇa reading become cultivators, those who are devoid even of that become bhāgavatas (pose as great devotees of Siva or Viṣṇu i.e. become what is called in modern Marathi 'buvā')
Devala quoted by Aparārka (pp.284-285) speaks of eight kinds of brāhmaṇas (of whom each succeeding one is superior to each preceding one) viz.
1. mātra — (one who is only born in a brāhmaṇa family but has not studied any part of the Veda nor performs the actions appropriate to brāhmaṇas),
2. brāhmaṇa — (who has studied a portion of the Veda),
3. śrotriya — (who has studied one vedic śākha with the six angas and performs the six duties of brāhmaṇas),
4. anūcāna — (who knows the meaning of the Veda and the Vedangas, is of pure heart and has kindled the sacred fires),
5. bhruṇa — (who besides being anūcāna always performs yajñas and eats what is left after performing yajñas),
6. ṛṣikalpa — (who has gained all worldly and Vedic knowledge, and has his mind under control),
7. ṛṣi — (one who is celibate, of austere life, of truthful speech and able to curse or favour),
8. muni — (to whom a clod of earth and gold are the same, who has ceased from all activity, is devoid of desires and anger etc.).
Śātātapa quoted by Aparārka (pp.286-287) speaks of six classes of persons who, though born brāhmaṇas, are really not brāhmaṇas viz.
1. one who has taken service with a king (government),
2. one who engages in sale and purchase (of commodities),
3. one who officiates for many yajamanas,
4. one who is the officiating priest for the whole village,
5. one who is in the service of a village or town,
6. one who does not perform sandhya adoration in the morning and evening at the proper time.
The Anuśāsanaparva (33.11 ff) shows that some brāhmaṇas were great rogues, others engaged in austerities, some resorted to agriculture and rearing cattle, others subsisted by begging, some were thieves and others were false, some were acrobats and dancers (but it yet recommends that brāhmaṇas must still be honoured).
The smṛtis teach that brāhmaṇas doing certain things are to be treated as śūdras. For example, Baud. Dh. S. (II.4.20) requires a religious king to employ brāhmaṇas who do not perform the morning and evening adoration (sandhya) in doing work appropriate to śūdras. Vas. Dh. S. J(III.1-2) says that brāhmaṇas who are not srotriyas (learned in the Veda), who do not teach the Veda or who do not kindle the sacred fires become reduced to the status of śūdras and quotes a Manava sloka (Manu II.168)
‘that a brāhmaṇa who without studying the Veda works hard to master something else is quickly reduced while still living to the status of a śūdra together with his family.’
Manu (VIII.102 = Baud. Dh. S. I. 5.95) asks the king to treat as śūdras brāhmaṇas who engage in rearing cattle, in the sale of commodities, who are artisans and actors, who are mere servants and money-lenders.
Parasara (VIII, 24) says that a brāhmaṇa who does not repeat the Gayatri mantra is more impure than even a śūdra and that brāhmaṇas who do not offer oblations to sacred fires, who are bereft of sandhya adoration and who do not study the Veda are all śūdras and that therefore one should study at least a portion of the Veda if he cannot study the whole.
Manu (V.4) 295 sums up in one place the reasons why brāhmaṇas are seized by Death before the allotted span of human life 'on account of not studying the Vedas, on account of giving up the rules of conduct prescribed for them, through idleness and through the faults arising from (partaking forbidden) food, Death desires to kill brāhmaṇas.'
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