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Brahma Sutra 1.3.25 says that "beings above men" are also qualified to meditate on Brahman and acquire the knowledge of Brahman.

Ramanujacharya in his commentary mentions Devas.

Shankaracharya in his commentary also mentions Devas:

It is true that the sâstra entitles men, but, at the same time, there is no exclusive rule entitling men only to the knowledge of Brahman; the teacher, Bâdarâyana, rather thinks that the sâstra entitles those (classes of beings) also which are above men, viz. gods, and so on.

Are there any other celestial races that can meditate on Brahman or have the knowledge of Brahman?

Do the Puranas and Itihasas talk about Rakshasas, etc. meditating on Brahman or possessing the knowledge of Brahman?

This Brahma Sutra says "beings above men" are also qualified, but in what sense does "above men" here mean? Gods are obviously above men, but are there any other races "above men" in the sense used here?

Interestingly, the Manusmriti classifies beings as high, middle, low based on the guna constitution of the body:

This threefold Migratory State due to the qualities should be understood to be again of three kinds each—high, low and middling, in accordance with the peculiar character of the act and knowledge of each man.

Inanimate beings, worms, insects, fishes, snakes, tortoise, cattle and wild animals,—represent the lowest state due to the quality of ‘Tamas.’—(42)

Elephants, horses, despised Śūdras, Mlecchas, lions, tigers and boars—represent the middling state due to the quality of ‘Tamas.’—(43)

Cāraṇas, Suparṇas, hypocritical men, Rākṣasas, and Piśācas—represent the highest state among those partaking of the quality of ‘Tamas.’—(44)

Stick-fencers, wrestlers, actors, men subsisting by the use of weapons, those addicted to gambling and drinking,—represent the lowest state among those partaking of the quality of ‘Rajas.’—(45)

Kings, Kṣatriyas, priests of kings, and leading wranglers and warriors represent the middling state among those partaking of ‘Rajas.’—(46)

Gandharvas, Guhyakas, ‘Yakṣas,’ the attendants of the gods, and all the Apsaras, represent the high state among those partaking of ‘Rajas.’—(47)

Ascetics and hermits, Brāhmaṇas, celestial beings, lunar asterisms, and Daityas represent the first state partaking of ‘Sattva.’—(48)

Sacrificers, sages, gods, vedas, luminaries, years, Pitṛs and Sādhyas represent the second state partaking of ‘Sattva.’—(49)

Brahmā, creators of the universe, Dharma, the Great One, Unmanifest,—these the wise ones describe as representing the best state partaking of ‘Sattva.’—(50)

...

12.81 - With whatever disposition a man performs an act, the fruit thereof he reaps with a body of that same quality.

It is interesting to note that Daityas (Asuras) are categorized as sattvic and put next to Brahmanas.

I wrote a question about it here, and I think the reason why they are above men according to the Manusmriti and put alongside gods is because they're actually more an inversion of devas than they are demons. They are "false gods" or "fallen gods"; hence, "a"-sura and not sura (god). They are after all step-siblings to the Devas and have the same father, Kashyapa. So, since their father is the same, both Devas and Asuras have bodies constituted mainly of sattva guna. But despite having sattvic bodies, Asuras have a tamasic and evil mental predisposition.

Due to this, Asuras are eligible to study the Vedas, as evidenced by the story in the Prajapati Vidya, and also the fact that Vishnu as Buddha had to lure away the Asuras from the Vedas since they were acquiring powers from Vedic rites. Since they are eligible to study the Vedas and follow its injunctions, it means that they can also meditate on Brahman as enjoined by the Vedas.

Rakshasas and Pisachas on the other hand are put below men, especially Dvijas, and they have tamasic bodies.

I don't know where Nagas fall but since they inhabit the Patalas along with the Asuras they might have sattvic bodies too.

So if this hierarchy in the Manusmriti is what this Brahma Sutra is referring to, does this mean that Gandharvas, Apsaras, Siddhas, Asuras, etc. are qualified for meditation on Brahman but Rakshasas and Pisachas aren't?

  • What is Pûrvapakshin? As per Ramajucharya's commentary - " The Pûrvapakshin denies this qualification in the case of gods and other beings, on the ground of absence of capability. For, he says, bodiless beings, such as gods, are incapable of the accomplishment of meditation on Brahman, which requires as its auxiliaries the seven means enumerated above (p. 17)--This must not be objected to on the ground of the devas, and so on, having bodies; for there is no means of proof establishing such embodiedness" – Carmen sandiego Jan 15 at 17:46
  • @Carmensandiego Purvapakshin means opponent, or the person whom Ramanujacharya is arguing against. – Ikshvaku Jan 15 at 19:08
  • Any idea if Ramanujacharya is referring to Purva Mimamsa followers or Buddhists ? – Carmen sandiego Jan 16 at 6:46
  • @Carmensandiego He is referring to the Purva Mimamsa people. They believed that Devas are bodiless. – Ikshvaku Jan 16 at 23:49
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Which celestial races other than Devas can meditate on Brahman?

Upon a closer study, it appears that all celestial races can meditate on Brahman.

According to the commentaries, the Devas and others are qualified to meditate on Brahman merely because they have the desire and capability to do so. They have the desire because they can experience suffering, and they have the capability because they are embodied beings:

Such meditation is possible in the case of higher beings also Bâdarâyana thinks; on account of the possibility of want and capacity on their part also...and since they also know that supreme enjoyment is to be found in the highest Brahman.

...

'Capability', on the other hand, depends on the possession of a body and sense-organs of whatever degree of tenuity; and that the devas, from Brahma downward, possess a body and sense-organs, is declared in all the Upanishads.

Later on, Ramanujacharya says there are four classes of beings:

Similarly, all the other scriptural accounts of creation declare that there are four classes of creatures--devas, men, animals, and non-moving beings, such as plants

Here the word "deva" means "celestial races" and includes Adityas, Vasus, Asuras, Rakshasas. Since it's put apart from "men", and since animals and plants are obviously below men, the "devas" category, which includes the Devas, Rakshasas, etc. is superior to men, which means in this context, Rakshasas, etc. are superior to men.

And then later on he says Devas are capable of meditation:

Owing to their having bodies, the gods [Devas] therefore are also qualified for meditation on Brahman.

So because these beings have bodies, they are eligible to study the Vedas and meditate on Brahman.

However, this might lead one to think that Shudras are also qualified to meditate on Brahman, since they have bodies and also experience desire and suffering, as the Purvapakshin says:

The Pûrvapakshin maintains that they are so qualified; for qualification, he says, depends on want and capacity, and both these are possible in the case of Sûdras also.

But the Brahma Sutra commentators say that although this is all true, since there is a special prohibition for Shudras prohibiting them from all Vedic study, they are not qualified for meditation on Brahman:

This conclusion we deny, on the ground of the absence of capability.

And this absence of capability is due, in the Sûdra's case, to absence of legitimate study of the Veda, [because the injunctions of Vedic study are meant only for the three higher castes].

And:

The Sûdra is specially forbidden to hear and study the Veda and to perform the things enjoined in it. 'For a Sûdra is like a cemetery, therefore the Veda must not be read in the vicinity of a Sûdra;'

So, the conclusion is that all intelligent, celestial races, and Dvija humans can meditate on Brahman as enjoined by the Vedas.

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  • Interesting. So Brahmasutras are consistent with Shambuka's story in Uttara Kanda. Not that it proves Uttara Kanda is part of Valmiki Ramayana, but something to keep in mind – Carmen sandiego Jan 16 at 6:52
  • @Carmensandiego This consistency doesn't prove it, but Vedic tradition and ancient commentaries of orthodox Vedic scholars have all accepted the authenticity of the Uttara Kanda. – Ikshvaku Jan 16 at 23:47
  • Can you point me to commentaries of vedic scholars that explain Sita Mata's exile ? When I read that section of Uttara Kanda, I could not relate it to any verses from dharma sastras – Carmen sandiego Jan 17 at 6:03

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