VARNA BY BIRTH OR NOT? EITHER WAY IT IS WRONG BUT SHASTRAS SAY IT IS BY BIRTH –
PART 1: JERRY THOMAS
Modern Hindu cults such as Arya Samaj, or certain sections of ISKCON, and polemists such as Rajiv Malhotra promulgate the view that Varna system is a classification of vocation based on qualities and has nothing to do with ones’ birth. In fact, bizarrely, they also accuse Britishers of creating rigid varna system or caste system. On the other hand, orthodox and mainstream Hindu representatives such as Shankarachyara of Kanchi or Shankarachyara of Puri clearly refutes such views and establishes that varna system is by birth marshalling evidence from Hindu scriptures. Equally interesting is that the fact that these orthodox and reputed spokespersons of Hinduism blame British era for weakening the traditional varna or caste sytem. In this three-part series, Jerry Thomas weighs the arguments and points that without any iota of doubt varna system is by birth. Part 1 examines whether is any merit in the argument of those who argue that varna is by occupation. Part 2 raises an important question as to whether varna is justifiable even if it not by birth. Part 3 looks at the evidence of varna by birth.
PART 1: EXAMINING THE ARGUMENTS OF THOSE WHO CLAIM THAT VARNA IS NOT BY BIRTH
Let us begin by looking at the arguments for those who argue caste or varna by vocation. In fact, the most popular verse that is cited as an argument against varna by birth is Gita 4:13.
Examining arguments of Rajiv Malhotra
In his article on Bhagavad Gita on Caste (https://www.infinityfoundation.com/mandala/s_es/s_es_malho_caste_frameset.htm), Rajiv Malhotra quotes Gita 4:13 and looks at three interpretations, by S. Radhakrishnan, by Paramahansa Yogananda, and by Swami Chinmayananda. In fact, one of the first thing one would notice is that all three are modern commentators after the time which Shankarachyara’s have argued that varna has been destroyed in India. S. Radhakrishnan (AD 1888- 1975), Paramahansa Yogananda (AD 1893-1952) and Swami Chinmayananda (AD 1916-1993). If Rajiv Malhotra wanted to demonstrate the varna is not birth and it was changed during British time, we would expect him to produce commentaries before the Britishers and not after the Britishers.
Nevertheless, let us examine the evidence that he has adduced before looking to commentaries before the Britishers. Subsequently, we will look at Gita itself and other commentators to see the meaning of this text.
The first evidence produced by Rajiv Malhotra is from S Radhakrishnan.
S Radhakrishnan (Bhagvadgita on Caste (infinityfoundation.com))
[“The Bhagavadgita”, By S. Radhakrishnan. Published in Great Britain by George Allen & Unwin Ltd. in 1948. Indian Reprint by Blackie & son (India) Ltd. 1977, Bombay India. Pages 160-161.]
Literal translation: “The fourfold order was created by Me according to the divisions of quality and work.”
“caturvarnyam:: the fourfold order. The emphasis is on guna (aptitude) and karma (function) and not jati (birth). The varna or the order to which we belong is independent of sex, birth or breeding. A class determined by temperament and vocation is not a caste determined by birth and heredity. According to the Mahabharata, the whole world was originally of one class but later it became divided into four divisions on account of the specific duties. Even the distinction between caste and outcaste is artificial and unspiritual. An ancient verse points out that the Brahmin and the outcaste are blood brothers. In the Mahabharata, Yudhisthira says that it is difficult to find out the caste of persons on account of the mixture of castes. Men beget offspring in all sorts of women. So conduct is the only determining feature of caste according to sages.”
“The fourfold order is designed for human evolution. There is nothing absolute about the caste system, which has changed its character in the process of history. Today it cannot be regarded as anything more than an insistence on a variety of ways in which the social purpose can be carried out. Functional groupings will never be out of date, and as for marriages they will happen among those who belong to more or less the same stage of cultural development. The present morbid condition of India broken into castes and sub-castes is opposed to the unity taught by the Gita, which stands for an organic as against an atomistic conception of society.”
Examination of the interpretation by S Radhakrishnan
The argument that S Radhakrishnan adduced was from Yudhisthira in Mahabharata. S Radhakrishan cites Yudhisthira as saying that “that it is difficult to find out the caste of persons on account of the mixture of castes. Men beget offspring in all sorts of women. So conduct is the only determining feature of caste according to sages”.
Frankly, this is hardly an argument against varna by birth. Yudhisthira is saying that since there has been mixture of varna due to marriage, determining varna by birth is not possible, and hence one should look at the conduct. In other words, the ideal way would have been look at the birth but since that is not available, let us look at the second method. Looking at the second available method is not an argument the ideal first method but it is in fact agreeing that varna ideally should have been birth. Let us look at the Mahabharata to see it.
The Mahabharata, Book 3: Vana Parva, Kisari Mohan Ganguli, tr. SECTION CLXXIX (https://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m03/index.htm)
Vaisampayana continued, “Yudhishthira, finding his beloved brother coiled by the body of the serpent, said these words: ‘O son of Kunti, how hast thou come by this misfortune! And who is this best of serpents having a body like unto a mountain mass?’ Bhimasena said, ‘O worshipful one, this mighty being hath caught me for food. He is the royal sage Nahusha living in the form of a serpent.’ Yudhishthira said, ‘O longlived one, do thou free my brother of immeasurable prowess; we will give thee some other food which will appease thy hunger.’ The serpent said, ‘I have got for diet even this son of a king, come to my mouth of himself. Do thou go away. Thou shouldst not stay here. (If thou remainest here) thou too shall be my fare to-morrow. O mighty-armed one, this is ordained in respect of me, that he that cometh unto my place, becometh my food and thou too art in my quarter. After a long time have I got thy younger brother as my food; I will not let him off; neither do I like to have any other food.’ Thereat Yudhishthira said, ‘O serpent, whether thou art a god, or a demon, or an Uraga, do thou tell me truly, it is Yudhishthira that asketh thee, wherefore, O snake, hast thou taken Bhimasena? By obtaining which, or by knowing what wilt thou receive satisfaction, O snake, and what food shall I give thee? And how mayst thou free him.’ The serpent said, ‘O sinless one, I was thy ancestor, the son of Ayu and fifth in descent from the Moon. And I was a king celebrated under the name of Nahusha. And by sacrifices and asceticism and study of the Vedas and self-restraint and prowess I had acquired a permanent dominion over the three worlds. And when I had obtained such dominion, haughtiness possessed me. And thousands of Brahmanas were engaged in carrying my chair. And intoxicated by supremacy, I insulted those Brahmanas. And, O lord of the earth, by Agastya have I been reduced to this pass! Yet, O Pandava, to this day the memory (of my former birth) hath not forsaken me! And, O king, even by the favour of that high-souled Agastya, during the sixth division of the day have I got for meal thy younger brother. Neither will I set him free, nor do I wish for any other food. But if to-day thou answerest the questions put by me, then, I shall deliver Vrikodara!” At this Yudhishthira said, ‘O serpent, ask whatever thou listest! I shall, if I can, answer thy questions with the view of gratifying thee, O snake! Thou knowest fully what should be known by Brahmanas. Therefore, O king of snakes, hearing (thee) I shall answer thy queries!’
The serpent said, ‘O Yudhishthira, say–Who is a Brahmana and what should be known? By thy speech I infer thee to be highly intelligent.’
“Yudhishthira said, ‘O foremost of serpents, he, it is asserted by the wise, in whom are seen truth, charity, forgiveness, good conduct, benevolence, observance of the rites of his order and mercy is a Brahmana. And, O serpent, that which should be known is even the supreme Brahma, in which is neither happiness nor misery–and attaining which beings are not affected with misery; what is thy opinion?’
“The serpent said, ‘O Yudhishthira, truth, charity, forgiveness, benevolence, benignity, kindness and the Veda 1 which worketh the benefit of the four orders, which is the authority in matters of religion and which is true, are seen even in the Sudra. As regards the object to be known and which thou allegest is without both happiness and misery, I do not see any such that is devoid of these.’
“Yudhishthira said, Those characteristics that are present in a Sudra, do not exist in a Brahmana; nor do those that are in a Brahmana exist in a Sudra. And a Sudra is not a Sudra by birth alone–nor a Brahmana is Brahmana by birth alone. He, it is said by the wise, in whom are seen those virtues is a Brahmana. And people term him a Sudra in whom those qualities do not exist, even though he be a Brahmana by birth. And again, as for thy assertion that the object to be known (as asserted by me) doth not exist, because nothing exists that is devoid of both (happiness and misery), such indeed is the opinion, O serpent, that nothing exists that is without (them) both. But as in cold, heat doth not exist, nor in heat, cold, so there cannot exist an object in which both (happiness and misery) cannot exist?”
“The serpent said, ‘O king, if thou recognise him as a Brahmana by characteristics, then, O long-lived one, the distinction of caste becometh futile as long as conduct doth not come into play.’
“Yudhishthira said, ‘In human society, O mighty and highly intelligent serpent, it is difficult to ascertain one’s caste, because of promiscuous intercourse among the four orders. This is my opinion. Men belonging to all orders (promiscuously) beget offspring upon women of all the orders. And of men, speech, sexual intercourse, birth and death are common. And to this the Rishis have borne testimony by using as the beginning of a sacrifice such expressions as–of what caste so ever we may be, we celebrate the sacrifice. Therefore, those that are wise have asserted that character is the chief essential requisite. The natal ceremony of a person is performed before division of the umbilical cord. His mother then acts as its Savitri and his father officiates as priest. He is considered as a Sudra as long as he is not initiated in the Vedas. Doubts having arisen on this point, O prince; of serpents, Swayambhuba Manu has declared, that the mixed castes are to be regarded as better than the (other) classes, if having gone through the ceremonies of purification, the latter do not conform to the rules of good conduct, O excellent snake! Whosoever now conforms to the rules of pure and virtuous conduct, him have I, ere now, designated as a Brahmana.’ The serpent replied, ‘O Yudhishthira, thou art acquainted with all that is fit to be known and having listened to thy words, how can I (now) eat up thy brother Vrikodara!”
In fact, if this passage proves anything, it proves that in ancient times, varna was birth and then later due to the promiscuous intercourse of four varnas, it was difficult to determine varna by birth.
The next evidence adduced by Rajiv Malhotra is from Paramahansa Yogananda. Paramahansa Yogananda hardly produced any evidence for us except that he quoted Adi Shankaracharya and Mahatma Gandhi as opponents of varna by birth, both of which patently false.
Paramahansa Yogananda writes:
“This accursed hereditary view of caste always has been condemned by wise swamis, yogis, and other enlightened men of India. Shankara, the founder of the Swami Order, wrote: “No birth, no death, no caste have I.” He renounced the Brahmin caste in which he had been born. The followers of Mahatma Gandhi and of other modern leaders in India are doing much good in reforming the caste system.”
Examination of Paramahansa Yogananda’s Argument
Adi Shankaracharya’s quote cited by Paramahansa Yogananda is from Nirvana Shatkam (Atma Shatakam) of Adi Shankaracharya. It is about mukthi or ultimately when you merge with Parabrahmam and not about human life. One can read it here : https://shlokam.org/nirvanashatakam/
In Nirvana Shatkam, Shankaracharya wrote, Verse 5:
- I have no possibility of death, nor distinction of caste. I have no father, nor mother. I have no birth. I have no relations, nor friend, nor guru, nor disciple. I am the supreme auspiciousness of the nature of consciousness-bliss. I am (Shiva) the auspiciousness.
If this can be taken as renouncing Brahmin caste which he was born, then we should take verse 4 and say that Adi Shankaracharya equally renounced vedas and mantras as well since he wrote in Verse 4:
Nirvana Shatkam, Verse 4, Adi Shankaracharya : 4. There is no such thing as merit or sin for me. Nor is there joy or sorrow. I have no need for mantras, or pilgrimage, or Vedas, or sacrifices. I am neither the enjoyed nor the enjoyer, nor enjoyment. I am the supreme auspiciousness of the nature of consciousness-bliss. I am (Shiva) the auspiciousness.
In fact, one can argue that Adi Shankaracharya denied himself to be an intelligent person as well since he wrote in Verse 1:
Nirvana Shatkam, Verse 1, Adi Shankaracharya : 1. I am not the mind, nor the intellect, nor the ego-sense, nor the store-house of memories. I am not the ear, nor the tongue, nor the nose, nor the eyes. Nor am I the sky (space), or the earth, or fire, or air. I am the supreme auspiciousness of the nature of consciousness-bliss. I am (Shiva) the auspiciousness.
In fact, Adi Shankaracharya never opposed Varna System by birth but supported it. In Brahma Sutra commentary, Adi Shankaracharya refuted anyone who said that a someone who is a born Sudra can perform any vedic sacrifices if he is qualified. Adi Shankaracharya argues that a born Sudra has no right to knowledge. Since that is the rule, how will he ever be qualified. Vedas cannot be uttered in his hearing. If that is the rule, how will he be qualified in vedas?
Brahma Sutra Commentary, by Sankaracarya; Translated by Swami Gambhirananda Chapter 1 – Reconciliation Through Proper Interpretation : Section 3: Topic 9
- It may be argued that, even as any hard and fast rule about the competence of men alone is denied and the competence of the gods as well for different kinds of knowledge is upheld, similarly by denying any monopoly of qualification by the three classes of the twice-born alone, the 9udras also may be accepted as qualified. In order to remove such an assumption is begun the present topic.
Opponent : Now then, the apparent conclusion is that a Sudra also is qualified, for he can have the aspiration and ability. And unlike the prohibition, “Therefore the Sidra is unfit for performing sacrifices” (Tai. S. VII. i. 1.6), no prohibition against his acquisition of illumination is met with. Even the disqualification for sacrifices that arises for the Sidra from the fact of his not being qualified for lighting a sacrificial fire, is no sign of his being debarred from knowledge. For it is not a fact that a man who has no fire-Ahavaniya and the rest-cannot acquire knowledge. Moreover, there is an indicatory sign confirming firming the Sidra’s competence. In the section dealing with the knowledge of snnvarga (merger of all things), Janasruti, grandson son of Putra and an aspirant of knowledge, is referred to by the word Sudra: “Fie, 0 Sidra, keep to yourself the chariot and the necklace, together with the cows” (Ch. IV. ii. 3). And in the Smritis are mentioned Vidura and others as born in the Sudra caste but endowed with special knowledge. Hence Sudras have competence for different kinds of knowledge.
Vedantin : Faced with this, we say: The Sudra has no competence, since he cannot study the Vedas; for one becomes competent for things spoken of in the Vedas, after one has studied the Vedas and known these things from them. But there can be no reading of the Vedas by a Sudra, for Vedic study presupposes the investiture with the sacred thread, which ceremony is confined to the three castes. As for aspiration, it cannot qualify anyone unless one has the ability. Mere ability in the ordinary sense also cannot qualify anyone; for scriptural ability is needed in a scriptural matter. But this scriptural ability is denied by the prohibition of the right to study. As for the text, “The Sudra is unfit for performing a sacrifice” (Tai. S. VII. i. 1.6), since it is based on a logic having common application, don, it suggests that the Sudra has no right to knowledge as well, for the logic applies both ways. And what you take for an indicatory mark occurring in the section dealing with the knowledge about merger, that is no mark at all, for there is no logic behind it. An indicatory mark becomes suggestive when stated logically; but that logic is lacking here. Granted even that this mark qualifies the Sudra for the samvarga-vidy~t (meditation tation on merger) alone, because it occurs there, still it cannot qualify him for all kinds of knowledge. The fact, however, is that this word Sudra cannot guarantee his competence anywhere, where, because it occurs in a corroborative statement (Arthavada).
On the contrary, this word Sudra can be construed with some one already having the competence. How? The answer is: On hearing this utterance of the swan, “Hullo, who is this one, insignificant as he is, of whom you speak as though he were like Raikva of the chariot?” (Ch. IV. i. 3), which was a personal disparagement for him, Janasruti, grandson of Putra, was struck with grief (luk). Raikva hinted at this grief by using the word Sudra, thereby revealing his own power of television. This is what we can understand.
For a born Sudra has no right to knowledge.
How, again, is it suggested by the word Sudra that he was struck with grief?
The answer is: “Tat-adravanat”. Because the word Sudra can be split up thus to mean that he (Raikva) approached towards, (abhidudrava) that (tat) grief (sucam); or he was approached (abhidudruve) by that (tat) sorrow (fuca); or he rushed (abhidudrava) to that (tat) Raikva, because of sorrow (.Fuca). And this derivative meaning has to be accepted because the conventional meaning is inadmissible. Moreover, this meaning is obvious from the story itself.
Sankaracarya;Translated by Swami Gambhirananda. Brahma Sutra Bhasya (Kindle Locations 2819-2843). Kindle Edition.
- And because the Smrti prohibits for the Sudra the hearing, study, and acquisition of the meaning (of the Vedas). This is another reason why the Sudra has no right: By the Smrti he is debarred from hearing, studying, and acquiring the meaning of the Vedas. The Smrti mentions that a Sudra has no right to hear the Vedas, no right to study the Vedas, and no right to acquire the meaning of the Vedas (and perform the rites). As for prohibition of hearing, we have the text, “Then should he happen to hear the Vedas, the expiation consists in his ears being filled with lead and lac”52, and “He who is a Sudra is a walking crematorium. Hence one should not read in the neighbourhood of a ~Udra”53. From this follows the prohibition tion about study. How can one study the Vedas when they are not to be recited within his hearing? Then there is the chopping off of his tongue if he should utter the Vedas, and the cutting of the body to pieces if he should commit it to memory64. From this it follows by implication that the acquisition of meaning and acting on it are also prohibited, as is stated in, “Vedic knowledge is not to be imparted to a 8udra”66, and “Study, sacrifice, and distribution of gifts are for the twice-born”56. But from those to whom knowledge dawns as a result of (good) tendencies acquired in the past lives, as for instance to Vidura, Dharmavyadha, and others, the reaping of the result of knowledge edge cannot be withheld, for -lie result of knowledge is inevitable. This position is confirmed by the Smrti text, “One should read out to the four castes (keeping the Brahmaua in front)”67, which declares the competence for all the four castes for the acquisition of the anecdotes and mythologies. But the conclusion stands that a SUdra has no right to knowledge through the Vedas.
Sankaracarya;Translated by Swami Gambhirananda. Brahma Sutra Bhasya (Kindle Locations 2866-2878). Kindle Edition.
As for Mahatma Gandhi, we will examine the opinion of Kanchi Shankaracharya later.
While Paramahansa Yogananda did not produce any evidence for varna being not by birth, he at least accepted that it was well established as by birth by Brahmins.
Paramahansa Yogananda writes : “In India certain powerful religious leaders among the Brahmins – not unlike the Pharisees in the time of Christ – arranged to base the caste system entirely on heredity to suit their own despotic purposes. For a long time the general masses fell prey to the theory that the vocation of priest or warrior or businessman or laborer should be determined according to heredity, and not according to innate tastes or abilities. The son of a Brahmin was automatically a Brahmin even if he knew nothing of religious or philosophical life, or even if he had tendencies to act like a businessman or a warrior or a sense slave. When the warriors in India lost out against foreign aggression, the businessmen, laborers, and priests stood by; inactive, saying, “Too bad the Kshatriyas (warriors) lost; it is, of course, against our hereditary custom for us from the other three castes to fight.” This wrong attitude is one of the reasons why India lost her liberty when the land was invaded by enemies.” (https://www.infinityfoundation.com/mandala/s_es/s_es_malho_caste_frameset.htm)
In writing that Adi Shankarachyara renounced the caste of his birth, at least he acknowledged caste by birth was well established by the time of Adi Shakaracharya.
The third argument is from Swami Chinmayananda. He also gave us no evidence of varna by vocation other than stating his opinion. However, he agreed varna by birth is the creation of Brahmins and did not blame Britishers.
Swami Chinmayananda wrote:
The decadent Hindu-Brahmin found it very convenient to quote the first quarter of the stanza, and repeat “I CREATED THE FOUR varnas”, and give this tragic social vivisection a divine look having a godly sanction. They, who did this, were in fact, the greatest blasphemers that Hinduism ever had to reckon with. For Vyasa, in the very same line of the couplet, as though in the very same breath, describes the basis” on which this classification was made, when he says, “BY THE DIFFERENTIATION OF THE MENTAL QUALITY AND PHYSICAL ACTION (OF THE PEOPLE)”.
Examining a few arguments of Sanjeev Newar of Agniveer
Having seen that neither Rajiv Malhotra nor his witnesses have produced any solid evidence, let us look at some of the arguments put forward by Sanjeev Newar.
In “Manu Smriti and Shudras,” Sanjeev Newar of Agniveer (https://agniveer.com/manu-smriti-and-shudras/) writes:
Manu Smriti 2.136 states that one earns respect due to wealth, company, age, actions, and knowledge in increasing order. There is no mention of family, gotra, caste, lineage and other non-factors to demand or earn respect.
The confidence by which Sanjeev Newar lies through his teeth is rather shocking. Manusmriti 2:135, just one verse before Manusmriti 2: 136 mentions that these are varna based. Similarly, Manusmriti 2:155 sums it up by its clear discrimination of varna system. Let us read Manusmriti along with the commentary of Medhatithi.
Manusmriti with the Commentary of Medhatithi, by Ganganatha Jha
Manusmriti 2: 135 – The Brāhmaṇa of ten years and the Kṣatriya of a hundred years should be known as father and son; and of the two this Brāhmaṇa is the father.—(135) Among the three (higher) castes, he, in whom there are present most of these five, and of high degree, deserves (greater) respect; as also the Śūdra who has reached the tenth stage (of life).—(137)
Manusmriti 2: 136 – Wealth, Relation, Age, Action and Learning, as the fifth,—these are the grounds of respect; (among them) that which follows is weightier (than that which goes before it).—(136)
Manusmriti 2.155 – Among Brāhmaṇas seniority is by knowledge; among Kṣatriyas by valour; and among Vaiśyas by grains and riches; among Shudras alone it is by age.—(155)
How can there be a Brahmin of ten years be the father of a kshatriya of 100 years? If your father had the job of a solider and you have the job of an intellectual, would you become your father’s father?
Now let us also ask why only age for Shudra? Shouldn’t artisans etc be respected for their work and excellence? Of course, it is not about occupation, it is about segregation of people at birth.
Medhatithi provides the answer why only age for Shudra? Because shudra is not entitled for the property or learning.
Medhātithi’s commentary (manubhāṣya):
‘Of these five’ grounds of respect;—he in whom there are ‘a larger number’—not all—‘deserves respect.’ And here the mere sequence (or posteriority) of the qualifications should not be much heeded. For instance, when one man possesses wealth and relations, and the other possesses only old age,—the former gets preference over the latter.
But even when there are several qualities present, if they are not of high degree,—while the single quality possessed by the other person is of very high degree,—then both are equal; and the larger number do not get over the latter (superior) qualification.
When the former verse uses the term ‘weightier,’ it only means superiority in comparison to one (not several) of the preceding ones.
When however in one person there are a larger number of preceding qualities and also of high degree,—of great excellence,—while in the other person there are present the same number of succeeding qualities,—so that the number of preceding and succeeding qualifications (possessed by the two men) are equal,—then, there is no getting over the one by the other, simply on the ground of precedence (in enumeration); in this case both are to he regarded as equal.
“Since what the text declares is that he is deserving of respect in whom the qualities are of high degree,—it would he right to conclude that in the case just mentioned where the two persons possess an equal number of qualities (hut the preceding ones are of higher degree), the presence of the preceding set should get over the other.”
Not so; the epithet ‘of high degree’ is meant to apply to the case where the two sets of qualities are equal; e.g., where the one as well as the other is possessed of learning, superiority belongs to one whose learning is of the superior order. Similarly with the other qualities.
‘Among the three Castes,’—i.e., among Brāhmaṇas, Kṣatriyas and Vaiśyas. If the said qualities, many in number and of high degree, belong to the Kṣatriya, then such a Kṣatriya deserves to be respected by the Brāhmaṇa possessed of inferior qualities, even though he belongs to the higher caste. The Vaiśya, similarly, is to be respected by the Kṣatriya.
Similarly by all the twice-born castes the Śūdra should be respected, ‘when he has reached the tenth stage.’ The ‘tenth’ stands for the last stage of life, and indicates extreme old age. Thus then, in case of the Śūdra, ‘wealth’ and ‘relations’ do not constitute grounds of respect, in relation to the three higher castes. This is clear from the fact, that the Text specifies the ‘tenth stage.’ ‘Action’ and ‘Learning’ are not possible in the Śūdra; for the simple reason that he is not entitled to these.
‘Most’;—all that is meant by this is excess, not plurality of number (which would mean at least three); hence what is asserted applies to tho presence of qualities also. There is nothing to justify the notion that the term ‘bahu’ (from which ‘bhūyāmsi is derived’) denotes number. Further, the term actually used is ‘bhūyaḥ,’ not ‘bāhu’; and the former is often found to be used in the sense of excess, much: e.g., ‘bhūyāṅśchātra parihāro,’ ‘there is much that can be said in answer to this,’ ‘bhūyābhyudayena yokṣye,’ ‘I shall become endowed with much prosperity.’ Nor is any significance meant to be attached to the plural number in ‘bhūyāmsi’; the plural number in this case denoting only kind, according to Pāṇini 3.2.58, which lays down that ‘when a kind or genus is spoken of, the plural number is optionally used.’ If significance were really meant to be attached to the plural number, then a person possessed of only one quality (of however high degree) would never be entitled to respect; and this would run counter to what we h ave learnt from the foregoing verse. Furthor, by speaking of —‘the Śūdra who has reached the tenth stage’—where mere age (only one quality) is mentioned as a ground of respect,—the Text has made it clear that no significance is meant to be attached to the plural number (in ‘bhūyāmsi’). Usage also points to the same conclusion.—(1.37)
Similarly, Sanjeev Newar of Agniveer (https://agniveer.com/manu-smriti-and-shudras/) writes:
In fact, Manu Smriti 3.109 clearly states that one who eats by glorifying his Gotra or Family is considered an eater of his own vomit.
As per the Manu Smriti that the self-proclaimed birth based Brahmins or upper-castes believe in, the very act of glorifying their lineage or Gotra to demand special privileges makes them deserving of condemnation.
Response: Manusmriti speaks feeding the guest food and not about any special privileges. Those privileges have been given elsewhere unless Sanjeev Newar thinks giving food to guest is some special privilege. However, Manusmriti here speaks about unjustifiable discrimination. In a Brahmins house, only Brahmins are considered as guest. Kshatriya is not considered as a guest and given food only after Brahmins ate. Vaisya and Shudra are given food along with servants.
If Taittiriya Upanishad, Shikshavalli I.11.2 teaches to treat guest as god, it must be remembered that as per dharma shastras, everyone is not a god but only brahmins. In fact, Taittiriya Upanishad, Shikshavalli I.11.3 teach about honouring Brahmins who are superior. If we read Manusmriti along with Medhatithi’s comment on Manusmriti 3:112, it becomes very clear.
Manusmriti with the Commentary of Medhatithi, by Ganganatha Jha
Manusmriti 3: Section VII – Duties of the Householder
He should gently place on the ground food for dogs, outcasts, Cāṇḍālas, persons afflicted with filthy diseases, birds and insects.—(92)
The twice-born householder, giving alms, obtains the same reward for merit which reward for merit one obtains by giving a cow, in the proper form, to his Teacher.—(95)
A Brāhmaṇa staying for a single night has been declared to be a “guest” (Atithi). Because his stay is not long, therefore he is called “Atithi” (guest).—(102)
One should not regard as “guest” a Brāhmaṇa who lives in the same village or who is a companion. He should regard him as such when he arrives at his house, or where the wife and the fires are at the time.—(103)
Those foolish householders who wait upon the food cooked by others, become, after death, on that account, cattle belonging to the givers of food.—(104).
The guest brought by the sun in the evening should not be driven away by the house-holder. Arrived in time, or not in time, he shall not stay in his house without taking food.—(105)
He himself should not eat what he does not offer to his guest. The honouring of guests is conducive to wealth, fame, longevity and heaven.—(106)
He should offer seat, room, bed, foliowing and attendance of the best kind to superiors, of the inferior kind to inferiors and of the equal (ordinary) kind to equals.—(107)
On the Vaiśvadeva having been finished, if another guest should happen to arrive,—for him also he should provide food to the best of his ability; but he shall not make any offering (out of that food).—(108)
A Brāhmaṇa should not advertise his family and Gotra for the purpose of obtaining a meal. Bragging about these, for the purpose of obtaining a meal, he comes to be called a “feeder on filth” by the wise.—(109)
In a Brāhmaṇa’s house, the Kṣatriya is not called a ‘guest;’ nor the Vaiśya or the Śūdra, nor his friends or relations, or his Teacher.—(110)
Commentary for 110:
In a Brāhmaṇa’s house, the Kṣatriya is not called a ‘guest;’ nor the Vaiśya or the Śūdra, nor his friends or relations, or his Teacher.—(110)
If a Kṣatriya should happen to come to one’s house in the character of a guest, one may feed him also, after the Brāhmaṇas have eaten.—(111)
The Vaiśya and the Śūdra also, when arrived in the family in the character of guests, he should feed, along with his servants,—showing his compassionate disposition.—(112)
Medhātithi’s commentary (manubhāṣya) for Manusmriti 3: 112:
Even though a Kṣatriya, during his travelling, happen to arrive at the Brāhmaṇa’s house, at the time of breakfast,—he is not a “guest.” Hence it is not incumbent upon the Brāhmaṇa to offer food to him.
Similarly with the Vaiśya and the Śūdra.
The ‘friend’ and the ‘relation’ are one’s equals, not guests.
The ‘Teacher’ has to be served as the master; as described in the text—‘the act of cooking should be done after having offered to the Teacher’ (Gautama 5-26).—(110).
Explanatory notes by Ganganath Jha
This verse is quoted in Parāśaramādhava (Ācāra, p. 354) in support of the view that in the house of the Brāhmaṇa, the Kṣatriya and others are not to be entertained as regular guests, they are only to have food offered to them in Vīramitrodaya (Āhnika, p. 438) to the effect that wherever the term ‘Brāhmaṇa’ is used in the texts laying down the duty of entertaining a ‘guest’, it is meant to exclude the Kṣatriya and other castes;—and in Hemādri (Śrāddha, p. 428).
Comparative notes by various authors
Gautama (5.43).—‘The non-Brāhmaṇa can be the guest of the Brāhmaṇa only if the former is one who has been engaged in a sacrifice.’
Śaṅkha-Likhita (Vīramitrodaya-Āhnika, p. 452).—‘The non-Brāhmaṇa cannot be the guest of the Brāhmaṇa; the full honours of the guest are to be rendered only to the Vedic scholar possessed of special qualifications; the Kṣatriya and the Vaiśya are to be received as friends; and to the Śūdra something may he offered only by way of favour, to save him from discomfort.’
Viṣṇu (67.36).—[Reproduces Manu, 111 and 112.]
Gautama (5.44-45).—‘To the Kṣatriya food is to be offered after Brāhmaṇas; others are to be fed along with servants, as a favour.’
Āpastamba-Dharmasūtra (1.4.18).—‘The Kṣatriya and the Vaiśya (are to be fed); if a Śūdra happen to arrive, he should be directed to do some work, and food should be given to him.’
Baudhāyana (2.3.11-13).—‘Morning and evening, whatever food there may be, out of that he shall make the Vaiśvadeva offerings, and then entertain, to the best of his power, the Brāhmaṇa, the Kṣatriya, the Vaiśya and the Śūdra that may happen to arrive; but when the Śūdra arrives, he should be directed to do some work.’
Medhātithi’s commentary (manubhāṣya ) for Manusmriti 3: 112
Those that have the character of guests are said to arrive ‘in the character of guests;’ the ‘character of the guest’ has been already described.
He should feed the Vaiśya and the Śūdra also, like the Kṣatriya. The time, for feeding them is after the quests, relations and friends have eaten, but before the House-holder and his wife.
‘Along with’ means simply ‘at the same time.’
‘Compassionate disposition’—sympathy, pity.
‘Showing’—providing proof of, having recourse to.
This last clause has been added with a view to show that those here mentioned are not objects of respect. It is one who is to be kindly treated that deserves compassion, and not one who is to be worshipped. Towards pergons deserving kindly treatment, if help can be accorded, this is done by everyone who desires his own welfare. But its omission does not mean ill-treatment of the guest. What is meant is that the merit derived from helping the person deserving compassion is not similar to that derived from entertaining the guest; it is inferior to this latter.—(112)
Explanatory notes by Ganganath Jha
Parāśaramādhava (Ācāra, p. 354) quotes this verse without comment;—also Aparārka (p. 152), which explains ‘ānṛśaṃsyam’ as ‘anaiṣṭhuryam,’ ‘absence of hard-heartedness.’—It is quoted also in Varṣakriyā-kaumudī (p. 572), which explains ‘Kuṭumbe’ as ‘in the house’.
In other words, the very verse produced by Sanjeev Newar of Agniveer destroys his case. However, let us, for argument’s sake, agree that varna is not by birth. Will it be still justifiable? Let us look at that in the second part.