The small tract called Vajrasuci is a very interesting specimen of Buddhist polemical writing on the caste system advocated by the Vedic schools. The work is ascribed to Asvaghosa the great poet, who composed the Buddhacarita and the Saundarananda. Genuine doubts still persist as to the authorship of the tract although many scholars agree to its ascription to Asvaghosa.
The work aims at parading arguments against the notion of castes, especially the Brahmanhood. The fierst verse and colophone declare it to be the work of Asvaghosa. But in the work itself, which consists of a large number of quotations from the Vedas the Mahabharata, the Manavadharma Sastra, the Smrtis to refute the view that Brahmana happens to be the highest of all castes, there is hardly anything in ots form and content that may conclusively prove it to be a work of such a gifted poet as Asvaghosa.
The scheme is quite logical and impressive. Sabda pramana or Verbal testimony is accepted by all the systems of philosophy and it consists in the statements found in the Veda and of those who are infallible like the sages and law givers. The entire edifice of the caste system and importance of Brahmanas are based upon the Vedic and Dharmasastric sanction to it. This being the age old basis the author has very cleverly tried to turn the table on the advocated of the system by gleaning a very impressive number of statements from these very sources to refute the notion of caste. The small book abounds in quotations from the Vedas the Mahabharata and Manu, the greatest of Brahmanical law givers in addition to a great many other authorities.
It is interesting to note that so many objections against the Brahmanical notion of caste were raised at least as early as 973-981 A. D. when the work was rendered into Chinese although in the Chinese translation it is ascribed to Dharmakirti. The most important feature of the work is marshalling of proofs against the caste system from the Brahmanical texts themselves.
The author however in his zeal to refute the institution of the caste fails to formulate his view on what constitute the Brahmanhood. Though he observe that birth, body, knowledge, conduct and function do not constitute Brahmanhood he appearsto favour the other view karmana jaih. Even as it is this small tract raises many questions regarding the age old caste system and deserve careful scrutiny by both the academicians and the social thinkers.
In bringing out a fresh edition of this text along with a comprehensive Hindi translation useful notes and a scholarly introduction my colleague Dr. R. P. Dwivedi deserve congratulation. Translated into English in 1929 the text was first edited in 1839 and for nearly a century there had been no edition of the text till 1950 when S. Mukhopadhyaya brought out a fresh edition from Santiniketan along with English translation and notes. Dr. Dwivedi would be the first scholar to provide a Hindi rendering and a fresh assessment of the text. Having the specialization in Buddhist Sanskrit Literature to his credit Dr. Dwivedi is eminently suited for the work. He has put in a great labour in editing the text along with variant readings and providing a lucid exposition in Hindi. Parallel passages in support of the views already quoted by the author have also been provided from other Brahmanical texts which bear ample testimony to the fact that the institution of caste had to face serious objection even from the Brahmanical thinkers over the ages. The exposition is scholarly and all inclusive.
I take this opportunity to congratulate Dr. R. P. Dwivedi and would observe that had he provided the reference to all the quotations cited by the author it would have been much more useful and satisfactory. As it is the genuineness of the quotations and the context in which these occur remain obscure. Even then the present edition is a valuable contribution in the field of Buddhist Sanskrit Literature and deserves warm welcome by all the Indologists.
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