However, at the time we are investigating now – the end of the Vedic period around 600 BC and the following 300 years – Brahmin texts begin to discuss Brahmins, not just practising tapas rituals, but turning their whole life into an ascetic life of sacrifice.137 Making tapas or asceticism into a life style signalled for them a significant move; a move creating ambivalence and dispute among the Brahmins.
About 400-300 BC the issue of Brahmins living an ascetic lifestyle was addressed in a new genre called the Dharmasutras – texts about the rules and regulations of daily life according to the law of the universe. These texts, in the early phase of the genre, dismissed ascetic lifestyles, but later on they embraced it. So we see a change of attitude among some less conservative Brahmins.
This transmission has been thoroughly investigated by J. Bronkhorst, a leading scholar in Indology based in Switzerland, in his book Two sources of Indian Asceticism (1993). The discussions among the Brahmins focussed on the question of whether it was permissible to leave rituals behind you in order to live an ascetic life – to turn your entire life into long-lasting tapas. Some Brahmins did so in different ways and degrees, but the texts tried to draw up limits for this. It alarmed the Brahmins if ascetic lifestyles dropped all the rituals and practices prescribed by the Vedas. Why? Because Vedic rituals prevented the world-order and the gods from collapsing. Not performing the ritual could imply military invasions, disease, hunger and evil spirits. In death, it would hurt your ancestors, your present household and clan and later generations. Much was at stake if a Brahmin stopped maintaining the prescribed fire rituals.
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