Q. – Are all men entitled to study the Shastras, the Vedas, etc., or are they not?
A. ~ All men entitles to study the Vedas, because they are the word of God, are meant for the benefit of all and bring to light true knowledge. We know it as a fact that whatever things have been created by God they are for our use of all. On this point we have the following authority in which God commands all to study and teach the Vedas.
“As I have spoken this word – the beneficent Vedas, the Rig, etc., – for the good of all men creatures, so all learned men should preach it to all men. If here someone were to say that the word ‘twice-born’ is understood before the word ‘men’ and, therefore, the twice-born alone are entitled to study and teach the
Vedas, it would not do, because it would be against the meaning of the last portion of the Mantra. In anticipation of the question; ‘who are entitled to study and teach the Vedas’, it is said, ‘ the four Vedas should be read out by all to a Brahmana, a Kshatriya, a Vaishyana, a Shudra, and Atishrudra (antyaya) and one’s own relations and dependants, such as son and servant.’
As I (God) doing good to al without any favor and partiality am dear to the learned and charitable persons, who give their all in charity, so all of you, O learned men! Considering that the teaching of the Vedas is a universally beneficial and pleasing act, should read out the Vedic word to all. You should so act that this desire of Mine may be fulfilled and by acting in this way your desire for the happiness you may have set your heart upon will be fulfilled.
As I possess all desired bliss so you will have all happiness which might be the object of your desire. I give you this blessing. Beat assured of it. As I have revealed the Vedic lore for the benefit of all, so you also should use it for the good of all, so you also should use it for the good of all without making any distinction or difference. My
disposition is free from partiality and bias and directed to the doing of that which is dear to all. I can, consequently, be pleased only when you act in accordance with My disposition and not otherwise.” This alone is the meaning of this mantra because in the mantra just preceding this one God alone is spoken of. Yaju XXVI. 2.
The Varnas and Ashramas also depend on the merits, actions and conduct.
Manu says that a Shudra attains the status of a Brahmana and becomes entitled to his privileges if he possesses qualities of the latter such as complete knowledge and learning and a calm and good temperament, etc. In the same way, a Brahmana descends to the status of a Shudra and becomes liable to all the duties imposed on a Shudra if he has the disqualifications of the latter such as dullness of intellect,
stupidity, dependence on the service of others, etc. The same rule is applicable to persons born of Kshatriya and of Vaishya parents, i.e. one gets the status of that varna whose characteristics one possesses. Manu X. 65.
Similarly, in the Apastamba Sutras also. ‘By acting according to truth and virtue a Shudra becomes fully entitled by degrees to the rights of a Vaishyas,, Kshatriyas and a Brahmana and becomes fully entitled to do the acts prescribed for those varnas. similarly, a Brahmana belonging to the highest varna by acting against Dharma falls to the status of the varnas below him i.e. the Kshatriay, Vaishya and Shudra classes and has to observe the duties laid down for them. That conduct which is according to the Dharma is the only means of acquiring the rights of a higher varna and conduct which is opposed to Dharmacauses a man to fall to
the status of a lower varna. Apastamba. II. 2. 10 &11.
Wherever we come across such expressions as, ‘a Shudra should not be taught and allowed to hear the Vedas reas out’, the meaning is that as a Shudra is deficient in intellect and is incapable of learning, remembering and thinking upon what he has read, it is useless and of no avail to teach him and make him learn the Vedas.