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Can a non-initiated brahmin (usually considered a shudra (Skanda Purana Nagara Kanda 239.31)) study the Puranas?

I have heard that even Shudras can study the Puranas and Itihasas but Vyasasmriti 1.22 gives me some doubts.

Thus made twice-born, and free from all other faults, they become entitled to study the Vedas, Smritis and Puranas (22).

1.22

What does it mean by 'they become entitled to study the Puranas.'? Aren't they already allowed to read the Puranas?

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    Although, shastras say so & Shri Nischalaanda Saraswati too agrees on this. But, I personally don't think this should be followed. This can be refused upon the shastra vachan as, yukti-yuktam upādeyam vacam bālakād api | anyat tṛṇam iva tyājyām apyuktam padmajanmanā || "Anything sensible and practically useful and beneficial which is said by a child should be accepted - everything else is to be rejected as straw - even though spoken by Brahmā himself." Thus rules change with time, & kala. And today this isn't practical if we bare people from Puranas too. Jul 14 at 11:41
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    Already people left vedas, because they said U need Yagnopavit to read those. Now a few handfull people in the population are still reading Puranas, atleast they know something about rituals. If they ban saying only dwijas can read it. Forget people will surely go into endless darkness of ignorance. Jul 14 at 11:42
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    It is completely impossible to maintain a paleo-conservative stance regarding Hindu religious matters in these days. I saw a video on Youtube where Swami Nischalananda Saraswati had compared intercaste marriage with bestiality, but at the same time he will not hesitate to accept donations from dvijetaras. Jul 14 at 12:44
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    @AnubrataBit - why is there a 'but' in your sentence. accepting donations from dvijetaras can be countered by daily recital of Vedas. There is a specific mantra recited everyday for 'protecting me from accepting donations from "asat" people'. while there is no such mantra for protecting yourself intercaste marriage.
    – mar
    Jul 16 at 19:04
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    You refuse to grant the basic human dignity to a section of people but at the same time you expect monetary benifit from that same section of society, is notjing but hypocrisy & exploitation. It is due this campaign of dehumanization & economic exploitation of the lower castes by a section of Brahmins that a significant section of Hindus have resorted to heresy, veneration of fraudsters, miracle-mongering & atheism. Jul 17 at 4:53

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Initially, Purāṇas were meant to be the substitute of the Veda as religious literature for the uninitiated people.

स्त्रीशूद्रद्विजबन्धुनां न वेदश्रवण मतम् । तेषामेव हितार्थाय पुराणानि कृतानि च ।।

Women, Śūdras & benefactors of the dvijas (i.e uninitiated boys born in dvija families & touchable varnasaṁkaras) aren't entitled to hear the Veda. The Purāṇas have been created for their welfare. [Devībhāgavata Purāṇa:1:3:21]

However in later times, the stances hardened

पुराणपठनं वेदपठनं नापि चाचरेत् ॥ शास्त्रार्थकथनं चैव न शूद्रः क्वचिदाचरेत् ।

A Śūdra should never read the Veda & the Purāṇa and should never interpret the scriptures. [Bṛhaddharma Purāṇa:Uttarakhaṇda:4:15.02-16.01]

पुराणं धर्मशास्त्राणि संहिताश्च मुनिरीताः । नाध्यापयेन्नृपः शूद्रैर्विहितानि यदृच्छया ।। यस्य राज्ये सदा शूद्राः पुराणं संहिता तथा । पठन्ति स्यात्स हीनायुः राजा राष्ट्रेण सान्वयः ।। मोहाद् वा कामतः शूद्रः पुराणं संहिता स्मृतिं । पठन्नरकमाप्नोति पितृभिः सह पापकृत् ।।

The king shouldn't allow the śūdra to read the purāṇa, dharmaśāstras, treatises spoken by the sages & other such permissible texts on his sweet will. The lifespan of the king & that of the kingdom decreases where śūdras engage in reading the purāṇa & other such treatises with their interpretations. The sinful śūdra who reads the purāṇa, smṛti & other treatises falls in hell alongside his ancestors. [Kālikā Purāṇa:88:46-48]

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I would like to answer this question from the book Exalting Elucidations[dialogues between shri abhinava vidyatirtha ji(sankaracharya of sringeri) and disciple]

CHAPTER 22:- STUDY OF THE SASTRA-S PG NO. 161

Q:- Can all read Purana-s,Ramayana and such other works?

A:- All can read them and benefit.

Q:-Those who are not brahmin do not have oppprtunity to attain moksha?

A:-We can find the essence of the upanishad in texts like the Yogavasistha and Vicarsagar(Hindi). All can study such works and acquire jnana.

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This question is of no relevance today. All people throughout the world are reading the Hindu texts. There is no doubt that there are discriminatory verses in medieval Hindu scriptures. However, Hindu scripture also takes a less discriminatory position:

If a holy act is against the interest of other members of the society, it should not be practiced. It is Dharma which is the source of Artha and even of Kama.

Kurma Purana I.2.54

Today one should follow the less discriminatory position.

One should not blindly follow every scriptural statement.

Attitude towards ancient custom and tradition

One should practice what one considers to be one’s duty, guided by reasons, instead of blindly following the practices of the world.

Mahabharata Santi Parva Section CCLXII

However, discard the desire (kama) and material wealth (artha) if contrary to Dharma; as also, any usage or custom or rules regarded as source of Dharma if at any time they were to lead to unhappiness or arouse people's indignation.

(Manu Smriti 4.176)

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    You keep posting the same two verses for every answer: This one, and the "reject what is unreasonable" verse. That's probably all you know from scripture, and you use those two verses as a license to reject and accept whatever you from scripture that is convenient for you.
    – Ikshvaku
    Jul 15 at 13:42
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    I have to post these 2 verses to reject obnoxious scriptural verses. If you know other verses that say the same thing please let me know. I will add that also in my answers. Jul 16 at 2:54
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Vyasa Smrithi reads thus

Evam dwijaanitimaapanno vimukto vaanyadoshatah,shruti smriti puraanaanaam bhavedhyayana - kshamah
Thus having accomplished ‘dwijata’, the ‘balya krita doshas’ are annuled and he becomes eligible for shruti-smriti-puraana adhyayana.
(Translation VDN Rao)

The second line of vyasa Smrithi (in anvaya(affirmative) ) says

A dvija befits(kshamaha) Shruthi Smrithi Purana adhyayana(study)

This may not mean itihaasapuranaas are inaccessible to non-dvijas ,dvija-bandhus, and sthree(women).They are benifitted through the shravana(listening)of the same, through Pauranikas /Pravachana karthas.

Adhyayana(study) not being their svadharma,(impracticable for them to indulge in it(detailed study) in the light of vedas depend on pauranikas lest may infer the same skewedly)

Study of itihaasapuranaas are critical for those practice veda adhyayana

itihasa puranabhyam vedam samupabrmhayet .
That means that one must study the Itihasas and Puranas, in addition to the Vedas. The reason is to enable a correct interpretation of the Vedas(Mahabharata ,adi parva)

Srimad Bhagavadam says

vipro ’dhītyāpnuyāt prajñāṁ rājanyodadhi-mekhalām vaiśyo nidhi-patitvaṁ ca śūdraḥ śudhyeta pātakāt. A brāhmaṇa who studies the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam achieves firm intelligence in devotional service, a king who studies it gains sovereignty over the earth, a vaiśya acquires great treasure and a śūdra is freed from sinful reactions
SB 12.12.65

strī-śūdra-dvijabandhūnāṁ trayī na śruti-gocarā karma-śreyasi mūḍhānāṁ śreya evaṁ bhaved iha iti bhāratam ākhyānaṁ kṛpayā muninā kṛtam
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, laborers and friends of the twice-born.
SB 1.4.25

ya edaM shrunyaa-Nityam yashchapi parikirtayaet | Naa-aShubham praptyunaat kinCHIT-somutreH cha manavaH || (2) Nothing inauspicious (or obnoxious) will befall the one who devoutly listens to the recital of this sahasranama stotra daily and (the more so) the one who recites it wherever it may be, whether in this world or the worlds beyond. veedantago brahmana-asyat Kshatriyo vijayee bhavaet | vaishyo dhana-SamRidhasya-chhuudra-sukhamvaapnuyaat || (3) A brahmin he will attain the knowledge of the vedanta; if a kshatriya, he will become a victorious warrior; if a vaisya, he will acquire immense wealth, and if a sudra, he will remain happy (Vishnu sahasranama phala Shruti)

For the learned and the unlettered alike in our country the Ramayana and the Mahabharata have for centuries been like their two eyes, pointing to them the path of dharma
(Hindu Dharma The Universal Way of Life)

In summary, It seems that ,there is no inconsistency across scriptures bestowed by sage Vyasa (on this topic) .It only means that , some are entitled to access the same through shravana(told by the subject experts.)and not by adhyayana(study)

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  • do you consider reading translations, as shravan Jul 16 at 12:57
  • @YOuwillnotknow In my understanding , reading a translated text tantamounts to shravana, as it is already intrepreted by scholars during translation.Also this is clarified in another answer.(sometimes the scriptures can't be read directly as literal meaning may not suffice) Since itihaasapuranaas are intertwined in folk theatre as well, it is known through practical reality that the text is not denied for any sect.When mutual faith persisted in the society people relied on a traditional Pauranika who was an aapta (trustworthy and unbiased) ,
    – Athrey
    Jul 17 at 10:40

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