Neo-Vedantists as we know, believe people of all varnas are eligible to study the Vedas. Notable examples of such people include the great Swami Vivekananda. However, Vedanta declares that Shudras are forbidden to study the Vedas:

And on account of the prohibition, in Smriti, of (the Sûdras') hearing and studying (the Veda) and (knowing and performing) (Vedic) matters. (Vedanta Sutras 1.3.38)

How do Neo-Vedantists such as Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and Swami Vivekananda interpret this verse?

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    Neo-Vedantins say that part of Brahman Sutras is interpolated. This is how they deal with it. 😎 Feb 9, 2018 at 13:46
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    It's simple. There's nothing wrong in prohibiting people with Tamas and there is nothing like Neo-Advatin or Neo vaishnava? Who coined these terms.
    – The Destroyer
    Feb 9, 2018 at 13:50
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    @TheDestroyer There is no such term as Neo-Vaishnava.
    – user9969
    Feb 9, 2018 at 14:18
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    @Rajas. That means Rakesh Joshi is also a Neo V, because whenever he finds something that he does not like he says "that's interpolated"
    – Rickross
    Feb 9, 2018 at 14:50
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    @Rickross Rakesh rejects Vedanta totally lol
    – user9969
    Feb 9, 2018 at 15:18

2 Answers 2


There is no direct reference to that verse in Complete Works and that's because Swami Vivekananda did not agree that Shudras are forbidden to study the Vedas.

Complete Works / Volume 6 / Epistles - Second Series / VIII:

The Achârya(Adi Shankara) could not adduce any proof from the Vedas to the effect that the Shudra should not study the Vedas. He only quotes ("The Shudra is not conceived of as a performer of Yajna or Vedic sacrifices.") (Tai. Samhita, VII. i. 1)

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 , ("Now then commences hence the inquiry about Brahman.") (Vedânta-Sutras, I. i. 1) that the word (Ath) 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?

Complete Works / Volume 4 / Writings: Prose / What we Believe in:

Who wrote the Upanishads? Who was Râma? Who was Krishna? Who was Buddha? Who were the Tirthankaras of the Jains? Whenever the Kshatriyas have preached religion, they have given it to everybody; and whenever the Brahmins wrote anything, they would deny all right to others. Read the Gitâ and the Sutras of Vyâsa, or get someone to read them to you. In the Gita the way is laid open to all men and women, to all caste and colour, but Vyasa tries to put meanings upon the Vedas to cheat the poor Shudras. Is God a nervous fool like you that the flow of His river of mercy would be dammed up by a piece of meat? If such be He, His value is not a pie!

Complete Works / Volume 3 / Lectures from Colombo to Almora / My Plan of Campaign:

There are books where you read such fierce words as these: "If the Shudra hears the Vedas, fill his ears with molten lead, and if he remembers a line, cut his tongue out. If he says to the Brahmin, 'You Brahmin', cut his tongue out". This is diabolical old barbarism no doubt; that goes without saying; but do not blame the law-givers, who simply record the customs of some section of the community. Such devils sometimes arose among the ancients. There have been devils everywhere more or less in all ages. Accordingly, you will find that later on, this tone is modified a little, as for instance, "Do not disturb the Shudras, but do not teach them higher things". Then gradually we find in other Smritis, especially in those that have full power now, that if the Shudras imitate the manners and customs of the Brahmins they do well, they ought to be encouraged. Thus it is going on. I have no time to place before you all these workings, nor how they can be traced in detail; but coming to plain facts, we find that all the castes are to rise slowly and slowly.

As you can see, Swami Vivekananda was not of the view that Shudras are not eligible to study Vedas. He said even Adi Shankara couldn't find any such verse from Vedas which prohibits Shudras to study Vedas.

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    @AnubhavJha Well Swamiji was stating the facts. Where is it written in Vedas that Shudras are not allowed to study Vedas?
    – Pinakin
    Feb 25, 2018 at 5:09
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    @ChinmaySarupria Vedas say that they can't do yajnas, also the smritis-puranas are there for common people. Feb 25, 2018 at 6:22
  • @SuryaKantaBoseChowdhury vyasa didn't support birth based caste system, that is obvious as he refers back to geeta. Feb 25, 2018 at 8:04
  • @SuryaKantaBoseChowdhury this is the same vyasa who wrote so many puranas, many puranas have quotes like "janme jayate shudra" everyone is shudra by birth, a Brahmin is one who fully belives in revealed scriptures, a sudra can become one too, here by sudras vyasa means people who do not fully believe in scriptures or may misinterpret scriptures, we already know what the ambedkarites, neo Buddhists and atheist indologists claim about Vedas. Feb 25, 2018 at 8:38

The above answer by Chinmay Sarupria is wrong. Here is the right answer:

The Taittiriya Samhita (VII, 1, 1) says the Shudra is unfit for sacrifices, which implies he is not eligible to read the Vedas because the Vedas deal almost entirely with sacrifices. And since the Shudra cannot study the Karma Kanda, he cannot study the Jnana Kanda, since the Jnana Kanda presupposes the Karma Kanda. Therefore, the shudra cannot meditate on the Brahma vidyas in the Jnana kanda.

The "Vedanta" means the "end of the Vedas" (after the Karma Kanda), and the idea is that you read the Vedas in order; you start with the karma kand, learn that the fruit of yajnas is limited, and then get a desire for Brahman and study the Jnana kand. So there is indeed a direct link between the karma kand and jnana kand.

Here is what Ramanujacharya says in his commentary on the Brahma Sutras:

  1. Then therefore the enquiry into Brahman. In this Sûtra the word 'then' expresses immediate sequence; the word 'therefore' intimates that what has taken place (viz. the study of the karmakânda of the Veda) constitutes the reason (of the enquiry into Brahman). For the fact is that the enquiry into (lit.'the desire to know') Brahman--the fruit of which enquiry is infinite in nature and permanent--follows immediately in the case of him who, having read the Veda together with its auxiliary disciplines, has reached the knowledge that the fruit of mere works is limited and non-permanent, and hence has conceived the desire of final release.

There are also countless references in the Smriti, Itihas, and Puranas compiled by sage Vedavyasa which state that Shudras are unfit to study the Vedas.

Here is what the Bhagavata Purana says:

1.4.25 - Out of compassion, the great sage thought it wise that this would enable men to achieve the ultimate goal of life. Thus he compiled the great historical narration called the Mahābhārata for women, Shudras, and fallen Dvijas who are unqualified to study the Vedas.

  • Thanks for your answer but my question isn't whether Shudras can read or not read Vedas but rather how do Neo-Vedantists interpret the birthbased restrictions laid in the Brahma Sutras.
    – user9969
    Sep 10, 2018 at 9:10
  • You should mention where does Taittariya Samhita mention that Shudra is unfit for sacrifices?....
    – Tezz
    Sep 10, 2018 at 9:49
  • @Tezz Updated..
    – Ikshvaku
    Sep 10, 2018 at 9:51

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