It is known that Kanchipurna was one of the gurus of Ramanuja.

Kanchipurna was a non brahmin and Ramnuja was from a brahmin family.

At another instance, Kanchi Purna refused to accept Ramanuja as his disciple, stating that Ramanuja was a Brahmin well versed in the shatras, while Kanchi Purna was just an ignorant old Sudra. To this Ramanuja replied, " If the knowledge of the Sastras only brings about pride instead of devotion to God, then it is false knowledge, better is ignorance than this. You have verily tasted the real essence of the Sastras; other scholars merely carry the burden, like the ass that carries the load of sandalwood. So saying, he fell at the feet of Kanchi Purna and began to weep.

iLayAzhwAr wanting to accept the uchchistam (sEsha prasAdham/food remnants) of thirukkachi nambi, once invites him to his thirumALigai (home) to accept his thadhIyArAdhanam. thirukkachi nambi obliges and iLayAzhwAr runs back to his thirumALigai (home), informs his wife about this with great joy and instructs her to prepare a great feast, performs his nithya karmAnushtAnam, completes his thirumanjana thIrtha kainkaryam for dhEva perumAL and returns home.

Does Vedanta allow one to have a non brahmin (varna) guru ? (Because I have heard something opposite to this from the Vedanta sutra).

On what grounds did he wish to accept him as a guru? (this also created some issues in his personal life also because of difference of varna).

As per Vedantic and other scripture is it allowed for brahmin Varna to have a guru of Shudra varna?

Now some are raising a point that he was not mantra guru etc. But whether he taught mantra or not. He was the guru in vaishnavism or vedanta which is quite obvioius.

  • @NogShine but vedanta cares about varna. You dont have shudra pontiff and sanyasins right. Commented Nov 27, 2017 at 2:15
  • @RakeshJoshi Was Mahapurna a Shudra or some other non-Brahmin varna?
    – Ikshvaku
    Commented Nov 27, 2017 at 2:16
  • @Ikshvaku i heard that shudra.. Commented Nov 27, 2017 at 2:16
  • a disciple does not accept a guru. A guru accepts a disciple. It is not a question of Ramanuja accepting Kanchipurna, it is always the guru who accepts the sisha. Commented Nov 27, 2017 at 4:13
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    If you see the link to the ramanuja.org website, it was quoting an article from a magazine. So, it's authenticity can be questioned. He was a Vaishya, a lower caste than Brahmins. He was hesitant because he was not Ramanujacharya's acharya. So, Ramanujacharya's wife cleaned the home. It is not allowed to take initiation from a Vaishya that is why he declined that giving respect to Varnashrama dharma and said there are other persons to do it. He said if he wanted to give respect as mentor, it is okay for him. So, they continued it but not initiated. Commented Dec 5, 2017 at 9:49

2 Answers 2


Manu Smriti II.87 says:

But undoubtedly, a Brahmana reaches the highest goal of muttering prayers only; (whether) he perform other (rites) or neglect them, he who befriends (all creatures) is declared (to be) a (true) Brahmana.

And Krishna says in the Gita V.18 (Swami Gambhirananda translator):

The learned ones (whose ignorance regarding the Self has been destroyed by Knowledge...) look with equanimity on a Brahmana endowed with learning and humility, a cow, an elephant and even a dog as well an eater of dog's meat.

Thus a true Brahmana is one who sees the equanimity of all living creatures and to see the equanimity in all living creatures is one who has Knowledge of (Realized) Brahman.

The Munduka Upanishad I.ii.12 says (Swami Gambhirananda translator):

A Brahmana should resort to renunciation after examining the worlds, acquired through karma, with the help of this maxim: "There is nothing (here) that is not the result of karma; so what is the need of (performing) karma?". For knowing that Reality he should go, with sacrificial faggots in hand, to a teacher, versed in the Vedas and absorbed in Brahman.

And in the Chandogya Upanishad IV.iv.1-5 (Swami Nikhilananda translator), Satyakama, whose mother was in service and did not know who his father was, approaches Gautama to request to live with him as a brahmacharin. verses 4 and 5 are as follows:

Gautama said to him: "Of what ancestry are you , dear friend?" Satyakama said: "I do not know, Sir, of what ancestry I am. I asked my mother about it, and she replied: 'In my youth I was preoccupied with many household duties and with attending [on guests] when I conceived you. I do not know of what ancestry you are. I am Jabala by name, and you are Satyakama.' I am therefore, Sir, Satyakama Jabala."

Gautama said: "None but a [true] brahmin would thus speak out. Fetch the fuel, dear friend; I shall initiate you. You have not departed from truth." He initiated Satyakama....

The varna that you are born into has nothing to do with the qualification as a teacher of brahman or a student of Brahman.

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    Incorrect. Vidura refuses to teach Vedanta to Dhritarashtra on account of not having the adhikara owing to his birth. He requests his teacher to step in instead and this gave birth to sanatsujateeyam
    – user1195
    Commented Nov 27, 2017 at 11:45
  • @moonstar2001 Not sure if you can consider Vidura an enlightened sage. He was an intelligent and truthful person, but not a knower of Brahman. The author of the Mahabharata, Vyasa - his father was the brahmin sage Parashara and mother, Matsyagandha, was the daughter of a fisherman - see chapter 5 of the Adiparva of the Mahabharata Commented Nov 28, 2017 at 5:18
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    Vidura is most certainly the knower of dharma and is the go-to person on all things dharma in the mahabharata. He very clearly says he does not have the adhikara to teach bramhan only to know bramhan. He is the pupil of sanatsujata and is certainly educated in bramhan. He is so evolved that Krishna goes to his place and not anyone else's Please don't lessen the importance of Vidura because it does not fit a narrative. Also Vidura's expressly declines to impart vedanta not because he is not enlightened but because he does not have the adhikara due to his birth.
    – user1195
    Commented Nov 28, 2017 at 7:08
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    @SwamiVishwananda Vidura did have Brahmajnana. In fact Vidura is cited in Adi Shankaracharya's Brahma Sutra Bhashya, Ramanujacharya's Sri Bhashya, etc., as an example of an exception to the general rule that low-caste people are ineligible for Jnana. Under normal circumstances, low-caste people are ineligible for Jnana because they cannot study the Vedas, but in rare circumstances a low-caste person can spontaneously acquire Jnana due to their previous birth. Vidura is cited in Adi Shankaracharya's commentary on Brahma Sutras verse 1.3.38: sacred-texts.com/hin/sbe34/sbe34107.htm Commented Nov 28, 2017 at 9:30
  • @SwamiVishwananda, Matsaygandha was not born to the fisherman, only brought up by him, she was born to a Kshatriya. Vidura is an incarnation of Yama dharma raja. And Krishna decided to eat at his house due to his bhakti.. pretty sure he is as enlightened as they come.
    – ram
    Commented Dec 4, 2017 at 22:25

You have not specified what kind of Guru was KAnchipurna of RAmanuja. Whether just a ShikshA Guru or more than that. That is, Mantra Guru or DikshA Guru.

Anyways, since a DikshA Guru is usually called a Guru, i am assuming he gave Mantra to RAmanuja.

Then this is really something that is unheard of.

First, of all, to be a Guru, one has to obtain right (AdhikAra) of all Mantras. But, a Sudra can not do so. Because there are restrictions imposed upon the kind of Mantras he can be initiated into. So, a Sudra can not be a Guru.

For example, a Sudra can not be initiated into Mantras that have Pranava, SwAhA in them. Plus there are other restrictions.

Even, the case of a Sudra initiating another Sudra is proscribed for that reason:

Swadharma nirato bhutva srutvA dvija gurormukhAt |
Sarva siddhimavApnoti shighram devatva mApnuyAt ||
Sudrah sudramukhAcchrutvA vidyAm va mantrameva vA |
GrihitvA narakam yAti dukkham prApnoti nishchitam ||


One, following his own rules for righteous conducts (swadharma nirato), must get mantra from a Dvija Guru's mouth and thereby he attains all special powers and accomplishments and soon attains divinity. A Sudra upon receiving mantra from a Sudra Guru without doubt suffers and visits hell.

Vishnu YAmala Tantram.

Although here the word Dvija (which may refer even to a Vaishya) is mentioned the commentator explains and proves that it refers only to Brahmins in this case.

He quotes a NArada PancharAtra verse (viz: VidyamAne tu yah kuryAt tatra viparyama ... ) to show that even Kshatriyas and Vaishyas are not qualified to initiate a Brahmin. A Brahmin has to be usually a Guru for a Brahmin.

In HariBhakti VilAsa and Rudra YAmala it is stated the same viz:

Pratilomyam na dikshAyet

Or in other words, Sudra is not qualified to initiate others.

However, there is an exceptional case, when the ordinary rules fail to apply.

Lord Shiva says to Mother Goddess, in the next given verse, that even a person who fails to meet all the normal standards of a Guru (that is one who is Guru-Lakshana-Hina) can still be one if he is the knower of the Self or that of Brahman.

Sarva lakshana hinohapi tattva gyAni guru smritah |
TasmAt tattva videveha mukto mochak eva cha ||


One is still called a Guru if he is tattva-gyAni (self-realised), even though he might not have any other qualifications [that are otherwise required]. Only one who is a tattva-gyAni is liberated and only one who himself is liberated can liberate others.

KulArnava Tantram 13.121.

So, everything now depends on whether KAnchipurna was self-realised or not.

  • I think Kanchipurna was a shiksha Guru.
    – user9969
    Commented Dec 4, 2017 at 4:30
  • Well let OP respond. Will decide then whether to keep my answer or not. @SuryaKantaBoseChowdhury I do not have any idea about Kanchipurna.
    – Rickross
    Commented Dec 4, 2017 at 4:33
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    I suggest you to do some research effort before posting the answer. Know something about the background of the question. He is not the one who gave mantra diksha. He taught some Sri Vaishnava secrets and concepts. Whole answer becomes redundant and irrelevant. Commented Dec 4, 2017 at 5:44
  • I am the last person to do research on Kanchipurna. My research effort should show in the BQs i am using. What kind of Guru he was is supposed to be mentioned clearly in the Q itself by OP himself. And, i already asked from him clarifications. Will decide upon seeing the response. BTW one BQ says "vidyAm va mantrameva vA".. So receiving any forms of knowledge from a Sudra is included in my answer. @NogShine
    – Rickross
    Commented Dec 4, 2017 at 6:12
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    "I am the last person to research on Kanchipurna." Why? Is there a bias? Then shouldn't you be the last one to answer about him too? If the response didn't come, you should wait till it comes but shouldn't post wrong answers. That quote doesn't say that. "A sudra receiving mantra or vidya from a Sudra leads to hell." Vidya can be interpreted differently. The disciple isn't a Shudra here. It is not right to see a self realised person with caste. He had direct contact with God. He (Kanchi Purna ) talked with God daily during his service. so, he was a Gyani. aand you quoted a Shakta agama. Commented Dec 4, 2017 at 6:33

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