(Translated from Bengali )
All Glory to God!
7th Aug., 1889.
It is more than a week since I received your letter, but having had another attack of fever, I could not send a reply all this time, for which please excuse me. For an interval of a month and a half I kept well, but I have suffered again for the last ten days; now I am doing well.
I have certain questions to put, and you, sir, have a wide knowledge of Sanskrit; so please favour me with answers to the following:
1. Does any narrative occur about Satyakâma, son of Jabâlâ, and about Jânashruti, anywhere else in the Vedas excepting the Upanishads?2
2. In most cases where Shankaracharya quotes Smriti in his commentary on the Vedânta-Sutras, he cites the authority of the Mahâbhârata. But seeing that we find clear proofs about caste being based on qualification both in the Bhishmaparva of the Mahabharata and in the stories there of the Ajagara and of Umâ and Maheshvara, has he made any mention in his writings of this fact?
3. The doctrine of caste in the Purusha-Sukta of the Vedas does not make it hereditary — so what are those instances in the Vedas where caste has been made a matter of hereditary transmission?
4. The Achârya could not adduce any proof from the Vedas to the effect that the Shudra should not study the Vedas. He only quotes “यज्ञेऽनवक्लृप्तः” (“The Shudra is not conceived of as a performer of Yajna or Vedic sacrifices.”) (Tai. Samhita, VII. i. 1. 6) to maintain that when he is not entitled to perform Yajnas, he has neither any right to study the Upanishads and the like. But the same Acharya contends with reference to “अथातो ब्रह्मजिज्ञासा”, (“Now then commences hence the inquiry about Brahman.”) (Vedânta-Sutras, I. i. 1) that the word अथ here does not mean “subsequent to the study of the Vedas”, because it is contrary to proof that the study of the Upanishad is not permissible without the previous study of the Vedic Mantras and Brâhmanas and because there is no intrinsic sequence between the Vedic Karma-kânda and Vedic Janâna-kânda. It is evident, therefore, that one may attain to the knowledge of Brahman without having studied the ceremonial parts of the Vedas. So if there is no sequence between the sacrificial practices and Jnana, why does the Acharya contradict his own statement when it is a case of the Shudras, by inserting the clause “by force of the same logic”? Why should the Shudra not study the Upanishad?
I am mailing you, sir, a book named Imitation of Christ written by a Christian Sannyasin. It is a wonderful book. One is astonished to find that such renunciation, Vairâgya, and Dâsya-Bhakti have existed even among the Christians. Probably you may have read this book before; if not, it will give me the greatest pleasure if you will kindly read it.
- ^Letters i – iv, vi – xiv, xvi – xxii, xxiv – xxvi, xxix, xxxi – xxxiii and cxxiv are translated from Bengali letters written to Pramadadas Mitra of Varanasi, an orthodox Hindu, for whose profound erudition and piety Swamiji had the highest regard. These letters are most interesting being written (except the last) at a time when, after his Master’s passing away, Swamiji was leading a wandering monk’s life. In the early days he used to sign his name as Narendranath, though his now famous name, Vivekananda, is printed in all these pages for easy comprehension.
- ^Shankarâchârya in his commentary on the Vedanta-Sutras, 1. iii. 34-37, interprets the aphorisms to prove that Upanishadic wisdom was imparted to Janashruti and Satyakama, only because they were not Shudras, as borne out by actual texts. But as these texts are doubtful even after Shankaracharya’s explanation, Swamiji wants to be referred to other similar Vedic texts.