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The caste system

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It is a fact that more than 70 per cent of the ancient Hindu Rishis, or enlightened masters of India, belonged to the lower castes.


Valmiki and Vyasa , who wrote the epics Ramayana and Mahabharatha respectively, belonged to the lower castes.


In ancient times , one's caste was determined by one's temperament, talents and inclinations. Caste was not a barrier to the lower caste people, who rose to the level of the upper castes through their talents.

This was the reason why Kshatriyas like the Buddha and Vishwamitra , became Brahmins or men of spiritual nature and why a Brahmin like Parashurama became a Kshatriya.

This is also the reason why shudras or low caste people like Valmiki , Vyasa, Vasishtha, Narada, Drona, Karna ,Thiruvalluvar were raised to the position of a Brahmin or Kshatriya , in virtue or their superior learning or valour.


Much more of this information can be found in Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's book "Heritage of the dalits".


Shankaracharya and others , were the great caste-makers. They would sometimes get hordes of Baluchis and at once make them Kshatriyas, and also get hordes of fishermen and make them Brahmins forthwith.


It was with the advent of the foreign invasions in India, that the caste system became rigid, and migration of people to different castes were stopped.

Even then, enlightened masters from the lower castes such as Kabir, Ravi Das, Sri Narayana guru were revered by the upper castes as well.


When India gained independence due to the efforts of Hindus like Gandhi, perfect equality was thrust upon the masses of India , no matter to what caste one belonged to, thus reestablishing and continuing the ancient tradition of India.

Even the constitution of independent India , was created by a Dalit called B.R.Ambedkar.


It will take some time for the deadweight of tradition of the rigid caste system to be removed from India. But as enlightened Hinduism and Buddhism, as preached by Gandhi, Swami Vivekananda, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and others are reaching the masses, slowly these shackles are being dissolved .

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In the manu smriti , when it comes to stance of hereditary caste system, the verse below is believed to sanction support for vocational non-hereditary caste system.


"As the son of Shudra can attain the rank of a Brahmin, the son of Brahmin can attain rank of a shudra. Even so with him who is born of a Vaishya or a Kshatriya" (X: 65)



Paramahansa Yogananda also opposed what he called to the un-Vedic caste system as we know it today. He taught that the caste system originated in a higher age, but became degraded through ignorance and self-interest. Yogananda said:



"These were (originally) symbolic designations of the stages of spiritual refinement. They were not intended as social categories. And they were not intended to be hereditary. Things changed as the yugas [cycles of time] descended toward mental darkness. People in the higher castes wanted to make sure their children were accepted as members of their own caste. Thus, ego-identification caused them to freeze the ancient classifications into what is called the ‘caste system.’ Such was not the original intention. In obvious fact, however, the offspring of a brahmin may be a sudra by nature. And a peasant, sometimes, is a real saint.”"

—from Conversations with Yogananda, Crystal Clarity Publishers, 2003.


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Vedas, the proud possession of mankind, are the foundation of Hinduism. Vedas are all-embracing, and treat the entire humanity with the same respect and dignity. Vedas speak of nobility of entire humanity (krinvanto vishvam aryam), and do not sanction any caste system or birth-based caste system. Mantra, numbered 10-13-1 in Rig Veda, addresses the entire humanity as divine children (shrunvantu vishve amrutsya putraha). Innumerable mantras in Vedas emphasise oneness, universal brotherhood, harmony, happiness, affection, unity and commonality of entire humanity. A few illustrations are given here. Vide Mantra numbered 5-60-5 in Rig Veda, the divine poet declares, “All men are brothers; no one is big, no one is small. All are equal.” Mantra numbered 16.15 in Yajur Veda reiterates that all men are brothers; no one is superior or inferior. Mantra numbered 10-191-2 in Rig Veda calls upon humanity to be united to have a common speech and a common mind. Mantra numbered 3-30-1 in Atharva Veda enjoins upon all humans to be affectionate and to love one another as the cow loves her newly-born calf. Underlining unity and harmony still further, Mantra numbered 3-30-6 in Atharva Veda commands humankind to dine together, and be as firmly united as the spokes attached to the hub of a chariot wheel.

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