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I would like to address the issue of the less-talked about , most-abused area of Santana Dharma - the caste system.

I have being trying to rationalise the importance and the sanctity of the caste system which is and has been an important part of our society.

 

The abuse of the caste system has been the root cause of various oppressive activities in the past. The Manu's laws, the Bhagvat Gita and various other scriptures reiterate the importance of the the cast system. The caste system has been one of the pivotal reasons why many people left for other religions like the Buddhism, Christanity and Islam.

 

If someone could help me with my doubts it would great.

 

Does birth determine one's caste?

If so then it would mean a person of high-birth would still remain a Brahmin despite his/her heinous activites.

Isn't it a fact that no one can determine one's parents?

Even though one's birth could be attributed to previous birth's karma it isn't sufficient enough to account for the suffering of the lower caste.

Does it mean man's greatest achievement is being born to a high birth than being born to parents of the spiritual nature. Doesn't it take away the emphasis away from good deeds to high-birth. Tolerance a key element in our religion just seems to fail within ourselves.

 

When Shri Krishna asserted in the Bhagvad Gita that the caste system was dear to him and he created them. How could God himself create a system that would cause a systematic oppression of humans. Why is there a distinction? Aren't all equal. Doesn't all humans have equal rights? The untouchability, prevention of worship to the lower caste people etc. aren't they the greatest means of human hatred.Wasn't Vidura a man of less calibre. Is the rationale that argues that if this form of caste system exists that they need not follow this religion. Does it mean that in the olden days only higher caste people went to Ashrams for education and lower castes were denied education.

 

 

Or is it Deeds that determine one's caste?

Does it mean that a Shudra who is learned and virtuous is a Brahmin. Does it mean anyone despite his/her background(or birth)a person take to learning, yagna disciplines etc.Does it mean a Brahmin who takes to heinous activities no longer remains a Brahmin and becomes a Shudra. Isn't there a great loophole in the religion.

Manu's laws and Chanakya niti cite various examples of what a Brahmin should and shouldn't do. In Mahabharata Karna was ridiculed because of his birth. Wasn't that the time when Shri Krishna was there - how was it permitted? Wasn't he skilled enough as Arjuna.Why isn't Vedic learning made available to those who earn for it?

Forgotten are the various strict disciplines of Brahmins.Why isn't scriptures made available to everyone.

 

Shouldn't we the higher caste people feel guilty for the various atrocities done to the lower castes. Doesn't it require a public apology by us. Shouldn't we take active steps to clear off this stigma and bring about the true nature of the caste system and society. Shouldn't we get our priorities right. In times where there is racism in the West and deliberate attempts made to prevent spread of Sanatana Dharma, shouldn't steps be made to fight this menace on philosophical grounds.

People in the west regard ( are/were made to regard ) SD or Hinduism as a cult wherein lots of strange looking gods, tribal ceremonies, sex, untouchability, and oppression of women exist. Its very difficult for people in western countries to preserve our culture.

 

Thanks and Regards,

Akshay

 

 

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Dear aksh:

Maybe the following excerpt from "The Science of Self Realization" by His Divine Grace A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (1896-1977),Founder-Spiritual Master of the International Society of Krishna Consciousness (popularly known as the Hare Krishna Movement) can clarify your doubts.The excerpt is part of a transcript of a conversation between Srila Prabhupada and Professor Grigoriy Kotovsky,(then)head of the India Department at the U.S.S.R. Academy of Sciences and chairman of the Indian studies department at the University of Moscow.The conversation took place in 1971 in the U.S.S.R

 

Prof. Kotovsky: But by creating brahmanas from different social classes of society, you deny the old prescription of the Hindu scriptures.

Srila Prabhupada: No, I establish it.

Prof. Kotovsky: According to all scriptures--the Puranas, etc.--every member of one of these four classes of varnas has to be born within it.

Srila Prabhupada: No, no, no, no.

Prof. Kotovsky: That is the foundation of all the varnas...

Srila Prabhupada: No, no. I am sorry.

Prof. Kotovsky: The foundation of all the varnas...

Srila Prabhupada: You have spoken incorrectly. With great respect I beg to submit that you are not speaking correctly. In the Bhagavad-gita (4.13) it is stated, catur-varnyam maya-srstam guna-karma-vibhagasah. "These four orders of brahmanas, ksatriyas, vaisyas, and sudras were created by Me according to quality and work." There is no mention of birth.

Prof. Kotovsky: I agree with you that this is the addition of later brahmanas who tried to perpetuate these qualities.

Srila Prabhupada: That has killed the Indian culture. Otherwise there would have been no necessity of the division of part of India into Pakistan. Not only that, but from the historical point of view this whole planet was Bharata-varsa, and it was controlled by one flag up to the time of Maharaja Pariksit. Then it gradually separated. This is history. Lately they have separated Pakistan. So Bharata-varsa is now crippled into a small piece of land. Otherwise, according to Vedic scripture, this whole planet is called Bharata-varsa. Formerly it was named Ilavrta-varsa. But since Emperor Bharata ruled this planet, it is called Bharata-varsa. So this culture, Krsna consciousness, was always existent. Consider any religion--Christian, Muhammadan, Jewish. They are at most two to three thousand years old. But you cannot trace out the beginning of this Vedic scripture. It is therefore called sanatana, eternal. This culture is for this whole human society. It is not a religious faith. Religious faith you can change, but real dharma you cannot change. Try to understand Krsna. In the Bhagavad-gita (18.66) He says, sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja: "Give up all other forms of religion and just surrender to Me." That is real knowledge--to surrender to the Supreme. You or I--anyone--is surrendered to someone. That is a fact. Our life is by surrender, is it not? Do you disagree with this point?

Prof. Kotovsky: To some extent you surrender.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, to the full extent.

Prof. Kotovsky: You have to surrender to the society, for instance. To the whole people.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, to the whole people, or to the state or to the king or the government or whatever you say. This surrender must be there.("Spiritual Communism")

 

So you can see that according to the Bhagavad Gita, the four orders of brahmanas, ksatriyas, vaisyas, and sudras were originally created by Krishna according to quality (guna) and work (karma), not by mere station of birth.

 

I think it would not be inaccurate to say that the caste system, as in the four orders of brahmanas, ksatriyas, vaisyas, and sudras exist in virtually all societies. In every society, there is an elite group of intellectual people like professors, politicians and the clergy. These people would constitute the brahmana order. Then there would be the military men responsible for defending the country. These people would constitute the order of the ksatriyas. Then there would be the commercial traders in charge of the economic welfare of the country ---the vaisyas.Then there are the workers who do the manual labour necessary to maintain the assets of the society like various infrastructure. The Brahmana can be compared to the brain of the society, the Kshatriya its arms, the Vaisyas its stomach and the Sudra its feet. It is quite evident that these four orders are present in virtually all societies.

 

In the past, the caste system was abused. As Swami Sivananda described the process of this abuse as follows:

 

The upper classes gradually neglected their duties. The test of ability and character slowly disappeared. Birth became the chief consideration in determining caste. All the castes fell from their ideals and forgot all about their duties. The Brahmins became selfish and claimed superiority over others by mere birth, without possessing the necessary qualities. The Kshatriyas lost their chivalry and spirit of sacrifice. The Vaishyas became avaricious and greedy. They did not earn their wealth by honest means. They did not look after the economic welfare of the people. They did not do charity. They also lose the spirit of sacrifice. The Sudras gave up service. They became officers. They wished that others should serve them. The greed and pride of man created discord and disharmony.E(Kingly Science Kingly Secret by Swami Sivananda, Chapter 6: The Caste System)

 

As I understand it, the caste system, i.e. the four orders of intellectuals, warriors, merchants and labourers are a very natural division of the classes of people found in virtually every society. But due to abuse, discord and disharmony crept into the caste system of India. Maybe with education, more and more people will eventually understand the real meaning of the caste system and the abuses, discord and harmony will be avoided.

 

Yours Very Sincerely

leyh

 

 

 

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Hare Krishna Aksh,

At the time of birth, every person is Shudra, to become a Brahmin, Vaishya or Kshatriya one has to qualify for it.

I will give you one example:

Can a Doctor's son be a doctor ???

Not necessarily.

He has to qualify for that, if he qualifies all the related exam he becomes else not.

The same thing applies here also.

Hope your doubt is cleared.

 

Hari Bol,

Sushil.

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The Gita says that your previous life's activities result in your next birth. If you are the child of a doctor, will your chances of becoming one not be greater than for someone who is born as a pig farmer (to give a random example)?

 

A young man of Indian heritage here in Canada won the Rhodes scholarship this year. He is becoming a doctor. No less than 11 members of his family were doctors!

 

It is a question of predisposition. The trouble comes when we try to lock people into their birth positions. This doesn't give them room to improve their lot.

 

But most people of every culture will agree that birth, though not a perfect predictor of what one IS, is an important place to start.

 

Yours, Jagat.

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Dear Aksh

It can become very confusing if we go on externals. Hypocracy is endemic in religion, in politics, in business and even in the humble sudra life. Example is everything.

Altho it be recommended to do ones duty and not anothers, still we should always aspire to the higher ideal of transcending these temporary designations. We must try to become a real vaisnava and truly not only see but also love all with equal vision unconditionally.

I was born in a western body, culture and samskar, in the darkest of ignorance as a melechra and had not the foggiest idea what a Brahmin was. But due to coming into contact with the grace of Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami and Srila Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Maharaj I was introduced to a process of purification, namely the chanting of the holy names of God. This when practised with firm determination and faith brings one to Harinam and Gayatri initiation. It is my firm conviction that these two great souls and so many others like them are fully empowered to bestow the highest conception of Brahminical life upon all their disciples, which we have experienced and wittnessed in the wholesale transformation of thousands of these fortunate souls who came to their feet.

Even tho on one side of my family i have a concentration of religious propensity priests, nuns etc. On the other side is a steady retrogression into decadence, and I somehow came out a crazy mixture of both in one life.I think I could honestly say I've tasted the extremes from one end of the pendulum, lower than sudra to a life beyond that which is considered brahminical, thankful that I oscilated to the Krsna-conscious side of life due to these all-merciful great masters who have so kindly introduced us to the world of transcendance.

If the caste system were to be implemented properly where by the whole body of society were working as a healthy organic whole, each part recognizing the respective roles of the other it may well be a more functional and contented society. But due to so much exploitation mistrust has spread

thruout, and as kali yuga advances it doesn't look like changing for the better in the forseeable future. This is why Sri Chaitanya has sung Hare namah hare namah hare namaiva kevalam, when confusion reigns just simply chant the holy Names of Hare.

 

Regarding the position of Indian thought on the world stage this dharsan by Srila B.R.Sridhara Maharaj may be helpful to consider.

My personal view is that as a soul born in India you can hold your head high with dignity for the glorious contribution of the Indian Theistic conception and you should truly be proud of it's noble position as we are from our western perspective. Don't underestimate the influence it holds in the world arena. It's just that Truth proper must be distinguished from the jungle of imitation that is being propergated.

 

Disciple: The Christians say the only master is Christ himself.

Srila Sridhara Maharaj: The fully-fledged is to be found in the Upanishad. Everything has got its central position, i.e. gold or diamonds, industry or religion, everything may not be found in every place. So in theism, India was selected to give the highest position in the world by God. It is not unreasonable. The university cannot be established in every village, some place must be selected for a particular hospital or educational institution or police station. So in this whole world, some place was selected to give the highest seat of religion and that came to the lap of India. We have to understand, we shouldn’t be envious. So the highest school for theistic education should be located somewhere on this globe, and that place selected was India. The German philosopher Max Mueller saw it like that stating, “In the Upanishad, what is found there can fully feed all religious seekers and still the water from that fountain is springing eternally. The fountain will not dry up.”

Some accept the Bible, some accept the Koran, some may accept Bhagavad Gita, but when there is a comparison to be drawn, one must come out of their local bigotry, into the broad light under the sky. They will have to compare and reject and accept, it is everywhere. Every nation boasts, “We are the first class power,” but when there is hate and war and all are on the battlefield, then it is decided who is who. Russia says, “I have got power to control the whole world.” At the beginning of the second great war, the Emperor of Japan said, “We are prepared for one hundred years at war. The Europeans will fight to the finish, and I will be the emperor of the whole world.” But what we may think is one thing and reality another, and history now tells something else. So with an open mind we are to go through and make a comparative study of all teachings. In the course of that we will find that the Indian religious writers in a space and time have covered such a vast span and most ancient it is. In the Bible it is said that the world was created some thousands of years ago, a very naive concept. But Indian theology says that there has been so many dissolutions and evolutions, solar systems dissolved and again they have sprung up. Both geographically and historically, what has been given in the Indian theological books, these other theologies cannot come into comparison. It also struck me, that beyond this body they can also gather knowledge. Such graphic and spacious findings have been delivered and distributed by the propagators of the Aryan scriptures. That always attracted me. That is the most spacious of all the religious conceptions.

Mahaprabhu and Nityananda Prabhu have come to invite and accept one and all with such a generous and all-accommodating attempt. Still at the same time, through our spiritual intelligence, if we can see and feel how they are offering to take us to the highest stage of life then we shall have to consider Their process, and follow step by step, to reach that supreme destination.

 

So actually there is no lack in the system or He who established it, verily it may have worked well in bygone ages, but the only lack is in those who fail to practise it honorably now, which looking at the disapointment abounding, I would say that's most everyone.

But all is not lost, As Krsna states "I carry whatever you lack' and this we will find in chanting His Sweet Names, that more than compensate for any loss we might imagine.

 

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Jagat said:

It is a question of predisposition.

 

This is interesting and can be very controversial. I realize that based on one's consciousness one accepts a certain body. Would it then be reasonable to say that such characteristics are in fact genetic? Such as intelligence, tranquility, the ability to withhold instant gratification etc.... Thus some people are genetically meant to be in the mode of goodness, some in the mode of passion, some in the mode of ignorance - in this body?

 

I have noticed when looking at children it is often very easy to see the personality of their parents. Some children (even as teenagers) are very peaceful and pure. Call it tejas or what have you, but you can see their purity in their faces. And sure enough when you look at their parents, they too have the same qualities. Now some of it will be parental instruction. But if a parent is very calm and thoughtful I think to some degree it is the body and consciousness they have. And this leads them to pass on certain traits to their children.

 

I remember taking a psyche class in college. My professor mentioned that at one point there was a theory that personality depended on body type (mesomorph, exomorph, I don't remember all the categories but they were like this). Anyways, he said that although this theory was rejected by the psychological community, in fact in his opinion it tended to be true. He mentioned that the thin boned, tall refined individuals tended to be the intellectuals, the overweight people tended to be the loud and humorous ones and he gave many stereotypes that do tend to hold up to some degree. Anyways, I'm rambling a little. If I've made any sense (or point) please feel free to comment on.

 

Gauracandra

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I often wonder how that one fortunate little jiva manages to out swim the billions of others competing for a place in the birth slot of a perfectly deserved family, genetic mother, health, beauty, intelligence, loving disposition etc. It's a pretty amazing arrangement if everything is tailor made to our samskaras.

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Here is an article I came across today that has the answers to all the above questions woven in there somewhere. The article is directed at a different topic (Hari bhaktas compared to caste brahmanas), but the scriptural statements provided clearly establish that caste is not based on birth.

 

The Ontological Position of the Vaisnava Over the Brahmana

Part One of Two Parts

 

OBJECTION: Through their process of initiation, many Gaudiyas who are not born in brahmana families claim to be brahmanas, having the right to perform arcana and yajna. This is not in line with the Dharma-sastras wherein it is explained that one must be born in the family of a brahmana in order to be one -

 

yajna-siddhy-artham anaghan

brahmanan mukhato'srjat

brahmanyam brahmanenaivam

utpanno brahmanah smrtah

 

"From the mouth (of the Lord) sinless brahmanas were created for the purpose of performing sacrifices. The child born of a brahmana in the womb of a brahmana wife is known as a brahmana." (Harita Smrti 1.12.15)

 

REFUTATION: Let us first examine what a brahmana is, by stating the qualities of a brahmana. According to Sri Krsna in Bhagavad-gita (18.42), the qualities of a brahmana are as follows —

 

samo damas tapah saucam

ksantir arjavam eva ca

jnanam vijnanam astikyam

brahma-karma svabhava-jam

 

"Peacefulness, self-control, austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, knowledge, wisdom and religiousness — these are the natural qualities by which the brahmanas work."

 

In the Mahabharata 1 it is stated:

 

dharmas ca satyam ca damas tapas ca

amatsaryam hris titiksanasuya

yajnas ca danam ca dhrtih srutam ca

vratani vai dvadasa brahmanasya

 

"A brahmana must be perfectly religious. He must be truthful, and he must be able to control his senses. He must execute severe austerities, and he must be detached, humble and tolerant. He must not envy anyone, and he must be expert in performing sacrifices and giving whatever he has in charity. He must be fixed in devotional service and expert in the knowledge of the Vedas. These are the twelve qualifications for a brahmana."

 

Elsewhere in the Mahabharata (Vana Parva Chapter 180) Yudhisthira explains —

 

satyam danam ksama-silam

anrsyamsam tapo ghrna

drsyante yatra nagendra

sa brahmana iti smrtah

 

"A person who possesses truthfulness, charity, forgiveness, sobriety, gentleness, austerity and lack of hatred is called a brahmana."

 

In the Srimad Bhagavatam (7.11.21) Sri Narada Muni states -

 

samo damas tapah saucam

santosah ksantir arjavam

jnanam dayacyutatmatvam

satyam ca brahma-laksanam

 

"The symptoms of a brahmana are control of the mind, control of the senses, austerity and penance, cleanliness, satisfaction, forgiveness, simplicity, knowledge, mercy, truthfulness, and complete surrender to the Supreme Personality of Godhead."

 

Having established the laksanas of a brahmana, let us see who is qualified to be a brahmana. The verse by Harita quoted by our challengers is correct so far as both the husband and the wife exhibit all the brahminical qualities referred to above, and perform the garbhadana-samskara correctly. Furthermore, both families must be able to ascertain their forefathers from Lord Brahma without any break, can confirm that their descendants had all properly undergone the ten purificatory processes (dasa samskara), can prove that there was never any intercaste marriages in their families and can establish that before each pregnancy the appropriate samskaras had been performed. Such a child born from these parents can be termed as a seminal brahmana. Such a child born to them may display brahminical tendencies but is not considered a brahmana in the true sense of the word until he is purified by samskaras. 2

 

Although such verses may be found to establish that a brahmana may be by birth, the scriptures also state otherwise — it cannot be ruled out that anyone may become a brahmana by the process of initiation -

 

yatha kancanatam yati

kamsyam rasa-vidhanatah

tatha diksa-vidhanena

dvijatvam jayate nrnam

 

"Just as bell-metal is transformed into gold by alchemy, a common man is transformed into a twice-born brahmana by diksa from a bona-fide preceptor." (Tattva Sagara 2.12)

 

So, by diksa-samskara a person who was not born in a brahmana family, but who exhibits brahminical qualities, may become a twice-born. Again, quoting Maharaja Yudhisthira in Mahabharata (Vana Parva chapter 180) -

 

sudre tu yad bhavel-laksma

dvije tac ca na vidyate

na vai sudro bhavec chudro

brahmano na ca brahmanah

 

"If such symptoms are found in a sudra, he should never be called a sudra, just as a brahmana is not a brahmana if he lacks these charactaristics."

 

Similarly, Lord Siva tells Uma in the Mahabharata (Anusasana Parva 163.8, 26, 46) —

 

sthito brahmana-dharmena

brahmanyam upajivati

ksatriyo vatha vaisyo va

brahma-bhuyah sa gacchati

 

ebhis tu karmabhir devi

subhair acaritais tatha

sudro brahmanatam yati

vaisyah ksatriyatam vrajet

 

etaih karma-phalair devi

suddhatma vijitendriyah

sudro'pi dvija-vat sevya

iti brahmabravit svayam

 

sarvo'yam brahmano loke

vrttena tu vidhiyate

vrtte sthitas tu sudro'pi

brahmanatvam niyacchati

 

"If ksatriyas or vaisyas become situated in the behavior of brahmanas and spend their lives in the occupation of brahmanas, then such persons attain the position of brahmanas.

 

O Goddess, by the same process, a sudra can become a brahmana and a vaisya can become a ksatriya.

 

O Goddess, by the results of these activities and by following the agamas, then even a low-born sudra also becomes a brahmana.

 

A person in this world is born a brahmana simply as a result of his nature. A sudra situated in the profession of a brahmana also becomes a brahmana."

 

na yonir napi samskaro

na srutam na ca santatih

karanani dvijatvasya

vrttam eva tu karanam

 

"Neither birth, purificatory ceremonies, nor learning, nor progeny are qualifications for brahminical status. Only brahminical conduct is the basis for brahminical status." (Mahabharata‚ Anusasana Parva 143.50)

 

Furthermore, Sri Krsna states in Bhagavad-gita (4.13)

 

catur-varnyam maya srstam

guna-karma-vibhagasah

tasya kartaram api mam

viddhy akartaram avyayam

 

"According to the three modes of material nature and the work associated with them, the four divisions of human society are created by Me. And although I am the creator of this system, you should know that I am yet the nondoer, being unchangeable."

 

None of the above scriptural statements mention birth as a brahminical qualification. This is also confirmed by the sruti in the Vajrasucika Upanisad of the Sama Veda.

 

OBJECTION: Birth itself is dependent upon guna and karma. The Lord Himself determines where a jiva takes birth according to the individual jiva's karmic activities in his previous life. Without prior knowledge of one's previous birth, it is erroneous to assume that, based on one's guna and karma in this birth, one's varna may be determined.

 

REFUTATION: At present in Indian society, one's varna is ascertained solely by seminal consideration. Yet the Vedic scriptures approved of a rational system ascertaining varna according to one's inherent qualities (svabhava). In order to prove that this is not a new invention created by envious people, we herein cite the case of Satyakama Jabala from the Chandogya Upanisad (4.4.1-5) —

 

satyakamo ha jabalo jabalam mataram amantrayam cakre

brahmacaryam bhavati vivatsyami kim gotro'ham asmiti

 

sa hainam uvaca-

naham etad veda

tata yad gotras tvam asi

bahvaham caranti paricarini yauvane tvam alabhe

saham etan na veda

yad gotras tvam asi

jabala tu nam-aham asmi

satyakamo nama tvam asi

sa satyakama eva jabalo bravitha iti

 

sa ha haridrumatam gautamam etyovaca-

brahmacaryam bhagavati vatsyamy-upeyam bhagavantam iti

 

tam hovaca-

kim gotro nu somyasiti

 

sa hovaca -

naham etad veda bho yad gotro'ham asmyaprccham mataram

sa ma pratyabravid bahvaham caranti paricarini yauvane tvam alabhe

 

saham etan na veda yad gotras tvam asi jabala tu nam-aham asmi satyakamo nama tvam asiti

so'ham satyakamo jabalo'smi bho iti

 

tam hovaca-

naitad abrahmano vivaktum arhati

samidham saumyaharopa tva nesye na satyadaga iti

 

"Once, Satyakama, the son of Jabala, asked his mother, 'I want to live as a brahmacari. Which dynasty (gotra) do I belong to?' Jabala answered, 'My son, I do not know which dynasty you belong to; in my youth I served as a midservant in various places and at that time begot you as my son. Therefore I don't know which gotra you belong to. My name is Jabala and your name is Satyakama. Therefore you should say that your name is Satyakama Jabala.' Thereafter Satyakama Jabala approached Haridrumata Gautama and said, 'I wish to live with you as a brahmacari.' Gautama replied, 'O gentle one, which dynasty do you belong to?' Satyakama replied, ' I do not know which dynasty I belong to. I askd my mother and she said, 'I begot you as my son when I was wandering in my youth as a maidservant. Therefore I do not know which dynasty you belong to. My name is Jabala and your name is Satyakama. So I am called Satyakama Jabala.'Gautama then said to him, 'My dear son, no one other than a brahmana can speak such truth that you have spoken. Therefore you are a brahmana, and I accept you. O gentle one, go and bring wood for sacrifice.' Jabala replied, 'I am going right now to bring wood.' Gautama said, 'Never divert from the truth.'

 

In his commentary to the Chandogya Upanisad, Sri Madhvacarya says —

 

arjavam brahmane saksat

sudro'narjava-laksanah

gautamas tviti vijnaya

satyakamam upanayat

 

"A brahmana possesses the quality of simplicity, and a sudra possesses the quality of crookedness. Knowing this fact, Gautama gave upanayanam to Satyakama."

 

Although there was no evidence that Satyakama was born from a brahmana family, Haridrumata Gautama accepted him as a brahmana simply on the strength of his brahminical character.

 

Satyakama is not the only example we can find of a person born in a lower varna

 

achieving the status of a brahmana. The son of Maharaja Gadhi, Visvamitra, became a brahmana by the strength of his austerities —

 

tapata sarvan diptaujah

brahmanatvam avaptavan

 

"That effulgent one (Visvamitra) performed all kinds of austerities and attained the position of a brahmana." (Mahabharata, Adi Parva, Chapter 174)

 

Also in the Mahabharata (Anusasana Parva, Chapter 30) we find the example of Maharaja Vitahavya who also became a brahmana —

 

evam vipratvam agamad

vitahavyo naradhipah

bhrgoh prasadad rajendra

ksatriyah ksatriyarsabha

 

tasya grtsamadah putro

rupendra ivaparah

sa brahmacari viprarsih

sriman grtsamado'bhavat

 

putro grtsamadasyapi

suceta abhavad dvija

vacah sucetasah putro

vihavyas tasya catmajah

 

vihavyasya tu putras tu

vitatyas tasya catmajah

vitatasya sutah satyah

santah satyasya catmajah

 

sravas tasya sutas carsi

sravasas cabhavat tamah

tamasas ca prakaso'bhut

tanayo dvija-sattamah

 

prakasasya ca vagindro

babhuva jayatam varah

tasyatmajas ca pramitir

veda-vedanga-paragah

 

ghrtacyam tasya putras tu

ruru-namodapadyata

pramadvarayan tu ruroh

putrah samdapadyata

 

sunako nama viprarsir

yasya putro'tha saunakah

 

"This is how Maharaja Vitahavya attained the status of a brahmana: O best of the ksatriyas, although Vitahavya was a ksatriya by birth, by the mercy of Bhrgu he became a brahmana. His son was Grtsamada who was as beautiful as Indra. He became a brahmacari and a brahmana sage. Suceta, the son of Grtsamada, also became a brahmana. The son of Suceta was Varca, and his son was Satya. The son of Satya was Santa, whose son was Rsivara. The son of Rsivara was Tama and his son, Prakasa, was the best of the brahmanas. The son of Prakasa was Vagindra, whose son Pramiti, was learned in the Vedas and Vedangas. Pramiti begot Ruru in the womb of Ghrtaci. In his wife, Ruru begot a son named Sunaka, who became a viprarsi. The son of Sunaka was Saunaka Rsi."

 

The Hari-vamsa (29.7-8) explains that in the dynasty of Grtsamada, there were brahmanas headed by Saunaka, as well as ksatriyas, vaisyas and sudras —

 

putro grtsamadasyapi

sunako yasya saunaka

brahmanah ksatriyas caiva

vaisyah sudras tathaiva ca

 

In Srimad Bhagavatam (9.2.16-17) we find that the dynasty of Maharaja Dhrsta also became brahmanas —

 

dhstad dharstam abhut ksatram

brahma-bhuyam gatam ksitau

 

"From Dhrsta came the dynasty called Dharsta, whose members achieved the position of brahmanas in this world."

 

Also in the Bhagavatam (9.2.22) we see the example of Maharaja Agnivesya, the son of Devadatta, who began a race of brahmanas —

 

tato brahma-kulam jatam

agnivesyayanam nrpa

 

"O King, from Agnivesya came a brahminical dynasty known as Agnivesyayana."

 

Other examples are Jahnu Muni, who was born as the son of Hotra in the Lunar Dynasty (SB 9.15.1-4); in the dynasty of Maharaja Puru, Kanva Rsi was born and from him the sage Medhatithi who began the Praskanna brahmana line (SB 9.20.1-7); Gargya, the son of King Sini, began a generation of brahmanas; Trayyaruni, Kavi and Puskararuni, the three sons of Maharaja Duritaksaya, became brahmanas; the descendants of Ajamidha headed by Priyamedha all achieved the position of brahmanas, and in their family the great sage Mudgala of the Maudgalya brahmanas was born: of the hundred sons of Rsabhadeva, eighty-one of them became brahmanas (SB 5.4.13); Nabhaga and the son of Dista, although born as vaisyas, became brahmanas 3; Maharaja Bali begot five ksatriya sons, and also had sons who founded brahmana dynasties (Hari-vamsa 31.33-35). Other great personalities such as Vasistha, Gautama, Agastya, and Rsyasrnga were not brahmanas by ordinary standards, yet who will doubt their qualification and that of their descendants?

 

Another supporting evidence is found in Srimad Bhagavatam (7.11.35) -

 

yasya yal laksanam proktam

pumso varnabhivyanjakam

yad anyatrapi drsyeta

tat tenaiva vinirdiset

 

"If one shows the symptoms of being a brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya or sudra, as described above, even if he has appeared in a different class, he should be accepted according to those symptoms of classification." (Srimad Bhagavatam 7.11.35)

 

Sri Lomasa Rsi in the Itihasa Samucchaya states -

 

sudram va bhagavad bhaktam

nisadam svapacam tatha

viksatam jati samanyat

sa yati narakam dhruvam

 

"A Vaisnava, even if he is born in a sudra, dogeater or even lower class family than that, if somebody sees such a devotee in bad behavior (due to being born in that kind of family), he is certainly said to be going to hell." (Itihasa Samucchaya)

 

na me bhaktas caturvedi

mad-bhaktah svapacah priyah

tasmai deyam tato grahyam

sa ca pujyo yatha hyaham

 

"A brahmana who is expert at chanting the four Vedas is not dear to me, but a devotee who comes from a family of dog-eaters is dear to me. Whatever he touches becomes pure. That devotee, although born in a family of outcastes is as worshippable as I am." (Itihasa Samucchaya)

 

The Padma Purana -

 

na sudra bhagavad-bhaktas

te tu bhagavata matah

sarva-varnesu te sudra

ye na bhakta janardane

 

"A devotee should never be considered a sudra. All the devotees of the Supreme Personality of Godhead should be recognized as bhagavatas. If one is not a devotee of Lord Krsna, however, even if born of a brahmana, ksatriya or vaisya family, he should be considered a sudra." (Padma Purana)

 

sva-pakam iva nekseta

loke vipram avaisnavam

vaisnavo varno-bahyo 'pi

punati bhuvana-trayam

 

"If a person born in a brahmana family is a nondevotee, one should not see his face, exactly as one should not look upon the face of a dog-eater. However, a vaisnava found in varnas other than brahmana can purify all the three worlds." (Padma Purana)

 

sudram va bhagavad-bhaktam

nisadam sva-pacam tatha

viksate jati-samanyat

sa yati narakam dhruvam

 

"One who considers a devotee of the Supreme Personality of Godhead who was born in a family of sudras, nisadas or candalas to belong to that particular caste certainly goes to hell." (Padma Purana)

 

Further evidence that a brahmana is not simply by birth is again provided by Sri Acarya Madhva himself. In his Gita Tatparya commentary, the acarya gives no mention of birth as a prerequisite to be a brahmana when commenting on Chapter 4 verse 13. 4 Rather, he states it is according to one's svabhava (inherent nature) —

 

svabhaviko brahmanadih samadyaireva bhidyate

yonibhedakrto bhedo jneya caupadhikastvayam (Gita Tatparya 4.13)

 

This is also reiterated by Sri Raghavendra Yati in his commentary, Gita Tatparya Nirnaya. In this regard Sri Jaya Tirtha is also in agreement. In his Sruta Prakasika commentary, he writes —

 

brahmanad eva brahmana iti niyamasya kvacid anyathatvopapatte vrscika

tanduliyakadi-vad iti

 

Here Sri Jaya Tirtha cites the vrscika-tanduli-nyaya — the logic of the 'scorpion and the rice'. When the seed of the scorpion is placed in the womb of another scorpion, a scorpion is born. This is the general law of nature. Yet sometimes it is seen that scorpions are born from rice. Although in this case the placement of the seed is not seen, the inconceivable potency of the Lord, which makes the impossible possible, brings about the scorpions' appearance.

 

Our challengers have stated that "Without prior knowledge of one's previous birth, it is erroneous to assume that, based on one's guna and karma in this birth, one's varna may be determined." In order to help the reader to understand their hypothesis more clearly, we have created the following scenario —

 

We have a western Vaisnava, who wakes up during the brahma-muhurta every morning, takes bath thrice daily, applies urdhva-pundra in all twelve places on the body, wears dhoti and kaupina, chants Lord Govinda's name 25,000 times, worships Tulasi, worships the Deity form of the Lord with sixteen upacaras, lives a life of celibacy, is a strict vegetarian, does not eat onions, garlic and other forbidden foods, does not drink tea or coffee, does not take any form of intoxication, offers whatever he cooks to Krsna, does not smoke, does not gamble, studies the sastras, performs kirtana, fasts on ekadasi, and distributes the Bhagavad-gita to fallen people in the most degraded places.

 

… he is a fallen Mleccha, without any brahminical quality whatsoever and is destined to be cast into eternal hell.

 

Compared to…

 

A young man from Daksina Kannada, born in a brahmana family, studied some scripture at the local sabha when he was a child, now living in America, wakes up at 7.00am, eats his Corn-Flakes, gulps down his coffee and rushes out to catch the tube into town, works for a Mleccha beef-eating-manager (now what does that say for their guna and karma?) in a software company in order to send some money home to his family in Bangalore, watches Hindi films and cricket on Zee-TV on the cable-television so that he doesn't become totally home-sick, wears a three-piece suit at the office and Levi jeans at home, has never heard of a kaupina or longhoti and wears 'Fruit of the Loom' underwear instead, has forgotten how to put on a dhoti or lungi and is not inclined to remember, wouldn't dare apply urdhva-pundra because his friends would laugh at him, trying desperately for a green-card, is vegetarian but doesn't really look too closely at the E-numbers on the back of the packet ("It's OK — Krsna says in Gita, 'Patram puspam' and 'Ma sucah!'"), has no time to read sastras because he is too busy working for money, and tries to keep in touch with his culture via a webpage run by a group of young men in a similar situation.

 

…and of course, he is a brahmana!

 

One may argue that this may be a hasty generalisation. But if the shoe fits… 5

 

The question may be raised at this point as to why would the Lord allow a brahmana to be born in a low family? The Varaha Purana states -

 

raksasah kalim asritya

jayante brahma-yonisu

utpanna brahmana-kule

badhante srotriyan krsan

 

"Those who were raksasas in previous ages, have taken birth as brahmanas in Kali-yuga to torment the physically weak saintly persons who are engaged in the culture of hearing about the Lord."

 

In other words, this verse shows that birth is no guarantee of pure spiritual pedigree in Kali-yuga, for even demons are born in the families of brahmanas. It is also interesting to note from this sloka that those demons in the guise of brahmanas obstruct the saintly devotees engaged in chanting the holy names of the Lord. 6

 

So we may observe that although the glories, prestige and prowess of the brahmanas are sung in the sastras, their degraded condition in the age of Kali is also described there. A similar verse to the previous one is found in Padma Purana —

 

 

brahmanah ksatriya vaisah

sudrah papa-parayanah

nijacara-vihinas ca

bhavisyanti kalau yuge

 

vipra veda-vihinas ca

pratigraha-parayanah

atyanta-kaminah krur

bhavisyanti kalau yuge

 

veda-nindakaras caiva

dyutacaurya karas tatha

vidhva-sanga-lubdhas ca

bhavisyanti kalau dvijah

 

vrttyartham brahmanah kecit

mahakapata-dharminah

raktambara bhavisyanti

jatilah smasrudharinah

 

kalau yuge bhavisyanti

brahmanah sudra-dharmina

 

 

"In Kali-yuga, all four varnas are devoid of character and proper behavior and are addicted to sin. The brahmanas are devoid of Vedic knowledge and sacrifice. Giving up the five sacrifices mentioned in the Vedas and all brahminical behavior and consciousness, they engage in inferior activities. They collect charity to satisfy their unlimited appetite for sense enjoyment. The brahmanas of Kali-yuga are characterized by the qualities of lust and cruelty. Unholy in deed and thought, they take pleasure in malice and envy. These professional thieves blaspheme the Vedas, drink liquor and exploit women for sex, taking great pleasure in adultery and fornication. They accept extremely sinful means of maintaining their lives and, posing as sadhus, dress in red cloth and wear long hair and beards."

 

One can give ample historical evidence of the degredation of the brahminical society. When Sri Krsna returned to His divine abode, it was the brahmanas who became affected by Kali first when Srngi, the son of Samika Rsi, cursed Maharaja Pariksit. Later, in the history of India, we see that Lord Buddha appeared to preach against the Vedic injunctions because the brahmana class were misusing them and performing indescriminate animal-sacrifices. Many highly learned brahmanas such as Boddhidharma, Buddhapalita, Nagarjuna, Asvaghosa, Asanga, Kumarajiva, Dinnaga, Dharmakirti, Candrakirti, Santideva, and Ratnakirti all became Buddhists and decried the Vedas. By their influence, many kings began to patronize Buddhism and as a result the country became weak and was eventually conquered by foreign invaders. The nastika Jain philosophy was also spread throughout India by such brahmanas as Prabhacandra, Anantavirya, Devasuri, Hemacandra, Nemicandra, Mallisena, and Siddhasena Divakara. The followers of Adi Sankara such as Hastamalaka, Padmapada, Suresvaracarya, Totakacarya, Vidyaranya, and Madhusudana Sarasvati all hailed from brahmana families and spread the Advaitavada doctrine which is against the Vedic siddhanta. After the Moghul invasion, innumerable Hindus were forced to take shelter under the banner of Islam due to the archaic social strictures enforced by the brahmana community. At the time of the British, it was the brahmanas who, tempted by money, taught Sanskrit to the likes of H.H. Wilson, who proceeded to tamper with the scriptures and translate them in such a way as to make sanatana-dharma look barbaric (See also Vedic Chronology). Spurious socio-religious institutions such as the Arya Samaja, Ramakrishna Mission and Brahmo Samaja were mostly spearheaded by brahmanas. When the British converted Hindus to Christianity, it was those who originally came from the brahmana section who preached the Gospel to the backward-classes, translating the Bible into local languages. After independence in 1947, what was left of the brahmanas?

 

From ricksaw-wallahs to politicians, brahmanas have entered every occupational sphere there is. Even those who are performing puja in the temples are generally on the government's payroll and will stop at nothing to squeeze a few rupees from innocent pilgrims. The only remaining visible vestige of most of the brahmana community today is a grey 10-paisa thread hanging over their left shoulder.

 

[Continued in Brahmana Vaisnava - Part 2]

 

_________________________

FOOTNOTES

 

1 Throughout his chapter we will quote from Srila Vyasadeva's Mahabharata. It is important to note that although the Mahabharata is not a sruti-sastra (a subject which is addressed at length in another chapter), Sri Madhvacarya extols it as the 'Fifth Veda' and claims that 'it contains esoteric truths not to be found even in the Vedas.' (B.N.K. Sharma -History of the Dvaita School of Vedanta and it's Literature, Chapter 13, p.132)

 

2 Therefore the sastras enjoin –

 

janmana jayate sudrah

samskarad bhaved dvijah

veda-pathad bhaved vipro

brahma janatiti brahmanah

 

"By birth one is a sudra, by the purificatory process one becomes a dvija, by study of the Vedas one becomes a vipra, and one who knows Brahman is a brahmana."

 

3 nabhaga-distaputro dvau vaisyau brahmanatam gatau (Hari-vamsa 11.9)

 

4 The distinguished Madhva scholar Sri Bannanje Govindacarya writes, "The idea of chaturvarnya or 'four colors' in the Gita vindicates this view only. The Gita idea of 'four colors' is quite distinct from the idea of 'four castes' prevelent today. It is a idea which relates only to the soul's inmost nature or personality-trait. The true color of the soul needs to be discovered. That indeed is a right social order. In such a social order, the son of a low-born (sudra) may be a nobleman (brahmana); contrarywise, a brahmana's son may also be a sudra. For, 'varna' or color is not something which is transmitted hereditarily; it is something quite personal; something which is determined by the individual's own personality traits." (Madhwacharya –Life and Teachings, Sri Bannanje Sanmana Samiti, Poorna Prajna Vidyapeetha, Bangalore 1997)

 

5 If our readers object to our sarcastic tone, we refer them to the Dvaita website where they can observe a similar manner aimed at the Gaudiya acaryas.

 

6 Five-hundred years ago, the main opponents of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s sankirtana-movement were the caste-brahmanas, who requested the Muslim Kazi to prohibit the chanting of the Lord’s name. The same envious opposition from the brahminical section continues to this day, though in a slightly different fashion.

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Sir, I am new to this web site which I came to know of through my friend, and the first topic of discussion I read here is about this caste system. Though I know not much about the origin and the original purpose of caste system, as far as my knowledge goes caste was formed based on the type of work one person does, and since in those days profession was hereditary one’s son naturally belonged to that caste leading to the present structure or system.

 

Sudras – the producers ( farmers mostly who produced live stocks)

Vysyas – traders ( who traded the products produced by sudras)

Kshatriyas – warriors or administrators( kings who administrated the kingdom)

Brahmanas – preists (who prayed for the well being of others)

 

If we look at profession wise each were interdependent, missing of one would affect other’s.

If the profession of sudras are considered lesser let us try to recall what thiruvalluvar has said in thirukural, “Those who live by farming are the one who truly live others live at the mercy of the farmers”.

 

Even otherwise if sudras are lesser I doubt it is because of their quality or character. I doubt ones caste reflects his quality or character. I was surprised to note in the discussion few quote from some book or story stating that sudras possessed lower quality or character, and doubt any book would have told so, if they would have, I am sorry to say this – should we respect those books for tell so.

 

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The following is from our Q & A discussion group at india-divine/ :

 

>Could you please tell me where the caste system

>originated from, if the majority of hindus

>recognize it, and where the current caste system

>problems stem from. I don't feel that the present

>caste system could be sanctioned by Hinduism.

 

Thank you for writing. You are correct that the present caste system is not something originating in the Hindu religion. According to the hindu scriptures caste was nothing but a term for one's occupation. If one was a teacher he was called a brahmana; if one was a soldier he was called a kshatriya; if one was a business man or a farmer he was called a vaishya; and if one was a laborer he was called a shudra. This had nothing to do with one's birth, but with one's qualities and actions. There are countless examples in the Hindu scriptures of people being born to parents of one caste, but becoming a different caste by training. In additon to this, caste was never used to discriminate against people. The different castes are described in the scriptures as the different limbs (arms, legs, stomach and head) of society. One does not discriminate against one's own legs just because they perform a different function than one's head. All of one's bodily limbs are working for the common body, and as such all are respected equally.

 

The Vedic society is divided into four divisions of occupation (varnas) and for orders of life (ashramas). This system is known as varnashrama. Since your questions are on the caste system, I will avoid speaking about the four orders of life, even though they intersect with the four divisions of occupation.

 

The four divisions of occupation (known today as caste) are actually based on one's acquired nature. Originally this system was not based on birth. This is explained in the ancient scripture Bhagavad Gita as follows:

 

catur-varnyam maya srishtam

guna-karma-vibhagashah

tasya kartaram api mam

viddhy akartaram avyayam

 

"According to the three modes of material nature and the work associated with them, the four divisions of human society are created by Me. And although I am the creator of this system, you should know that I am yet the nondoer, being unchangeable."

 

The four "castes" or varnas were determined according to one's qualitities (guna) and one's activities (karma) - and not by birth. This system of division of occupations exists naturally in every culture of the world. According to one's qualities, one will perform activity (an occupation), and according to one's occupation one is given a designation. In English we use the names teachers, administrators, farmers and manual laborers. In sanskrit these are called brahmanas, kshatriyas, vaishyas and shudras. The words may be different, but these natural divisions exist in every society.

 

The four divisions of society work together as one body. The scriptures figuratively describe the body of society with the head being the brahmanas (the intellectual class), the arms being the kshatriyas (the adminstrative class), the stomach being the vaishyas (the agricultural class), and the legs being the shudras (the worker class).

 

The Vedic society was ran by a king (who belonged to the kshatriya class). This king was guided and advised by the brahmanas, and based on their proper guidance the king would administer the society. The vaishyas (business men) were mainly engaged in agriculture and cow protection. In the vedic culture the cow is considered as wealth, since the milk it produces sustains the entire society.

 

Each caste or varna has a particular definition based on qualities and activities. In the Bhagavad Gita the following definitions are given:

 

brahmana-kshatriya-visham

shudranam ca parantapa

karmani pravibhaktani

svabhava-prabhavair gunaih

 

"Brahmanas, kshatriyas, vaishyas and shudras are distinguished by the qualities born of their own natures in accordance with the material modes, O chastiser of the enemy."

 

shamo damas tapah shaucam

kshantir arjavam eva cha

jnanam vijnanam astikyam

brahma-karma svabhava-jam

 

"Peacefulness, self-control, austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, knowledge, wisdom and religiousness-these are the natural qualities by which the brahmanas work."

 

shauryam tejo dhritir dakshyam

yuddhe chapy apalayanam

danam ishvara-bhavash cha

kshatram karma svabhava-jam

 

"Heroism, power, determination, resourcefulness, courage in battle, generosity and leadership are the natural qualities of work for the ksatriyas."

 

krishi-go-rakshya-vanijyam

vaishya-karma svabhava-jam

paricharyatmakam karma

shudrasyapi svabhava-jam

 

"Farming, cow protection and business are the natural work for the vaisyas, and for the sudras there is labor and service to others."

 

We find in the ancient scriptures of India there are many cases of someone belonging to one caste changing to another caste by developing the proper qualities. For example, the great king Kaushika became the most famous brahmana by the name Vishwamitra.

 

Today the natural divisions of society have degraded into a birth based caste system. This is not in accordance with the ancient scriptures. People without any good qualities are claiming to be brahmanas simply based on their birth. In the ancient text known as Bhagavata Purana it was predicted that in the future caste will be determined by birth, and the only ualification of the brahmana will be the string he wears around his shoulder - "vipratve sutram eva hi".

 

In India the brahmanas wear a thread which is part of their ceremonial dress. Today external symbols such as the thread are the only qualification which establishes one as a brahmana. The inner qualifications of peacefulness, self-control, austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, knowledge, wisdom and religiousity are ignored.

 

In summary, the present caste system has been manufactured by men for the purpose of exploiting society. The original divisions of society are natural and spontaneous. They exist in every society under different names and designations.

 

Yours in service,

 

Jahnava Nitai Das,

Bhaktivedanta Ashram

http://www.foodrelief.org

 

 

[This message has been edited by jndas (edited 01-16-2002).]

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As the daughter of a Brahmin I have never been comfortable with the Caste system but then I have never been comfortable with the British Class system either. Why do we elevate people onto pedestals whether it is for religious or social reasons? Whilst staying with my sister in Calcutta a young man came to clean out the septic tank in our compound. I went to hand him his payment but my sister stopped me. She told me I had to put the money on the ground several feet away from him and then walk away. I was horrified and told her that I could never do such a thing. My sister then said to me that I would only embarrass the man by trying to hand him the money, plus I would scandalise everyone in the compound and would end up being dunked in the Ganges to get me spiritually clean again! All I wanted to do was hand over this man's wages, money he had earned by an honest day's toil but the Caste decreed otherwise. I gave my sister the money back and told her to do as she wished, I would not get involved with crushing the human spirit in such a degrading way. Can anyone explain to me why we continue to support the Caste system or the Class system for that matter? Even in the 21st century we still seem to be in the dark ages. I wish I had the courage to make a stand against Caste and Class but I have strong feeling that I will holding a very lonely vigil...

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Would that I could earn an honest day's wages at some menial unpleasant task, then be embarrassed when someone attempted to personally pay me! No wonder Gandhi called the `untouchables` "Children of God"...thank you for sharing this experience.

 

------------------

Radhe Radhe always Radhe!

amanpeter@hotmail.com

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From Srila Prabhupada's purport to Bhagavad Gita chapter 2, text 8:

 

Although Arjuna was putting forward so many arguments based in knowledge of the principles of religion and moral codes, it appears that he was unable to solve his real problem without the help of the spiritual master, Lord Sri Krsna. He could understand that his so-called knowledge was useless in driving away his problems, which were drying up his whole existence; and it was impossible for him to solve such perplexities without the help of a spiritual master like Lord Krsna. Academic knowledge, scholarship, high positions, etc, are all useless in solving the problems of life; help can be given only by a spiritual master like Krsna. Therefore, the conclusion is that a spiritual master who is one hundred percent Krsna conscious is the bonafide spiritual master for he can solve the problems of life. Lord Caitanya said that one who is the master in the science of Krsna consciousness, regardless of his social position, is the real spiritual master.

 

kiba vipra, kiba nyasi, sudra kene naya

yei krsna-tattva-vetta, sei'guru'haya

 

"It does not matter whether a person is a vipra (learned scholar in Vedic wisdom) or is born in a lower family, or is in the renounced order of life-if he is a master in the science of Krsna, he is the perfect and bona fide spiritual master." (Caitanya-caritamrita, Madhya 8.128) So without being a master in the science of Krsna consciousness, no one is a bona fide spiritual master. It is also said in vedic literature:

 

sat-karma nipuno vipro

mantra-tantra-visaradah

avaisnavo gurur na syad

vaisnava sva-paco guruh

 

"A scholarly brahmana, expert in all subjects of Vedic knowledge, is unfit to become a spiritual master without being a Vaisnava, or expert in the science of Krsna consciousness. But a person born in a family of a lower caste can become a spiritual master if he is a Vaisnava, or Krsna conscious." (Padma Purana)....

 

Therefore, if we want to curb lamentation for good, then we have to take shelter of Krsna, as Arjuna is seeking to do. So Arjuna asked Krsna to solve his problem definitely, and that is the way of Krsna consciousness.

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Would that I could earn an honest day's wages at some menial unpleasant task...

This isn't about the caste issue, but just for the purpose of contemplation I would like to detail the service of these individuals. It's their job to clean out the septic tank when it becomes full. So they actually go down inside the septic tank with buckets, fill them up and then pass them to the surface to be poured out. They are literally swimming in human refuse.

 

I hope we will all be thankful at how easy of a life we have.

 

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darkangel's story is certainly heartbreaking. There's nothing spiritual or noble about the attitudes she confronted that day. There's no way for a progressive, essence-seeking person to explain it except as a manifestation of the material energy, which exists to keep us out of the way until we're free of all desire to exploit others.

 

 

[This message has been edited by stonehearted (edited 01-20-2002).]

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Originally posted by valaya:

Would that I could earn an honest day's wages at some menial unpleasant task, then be embarrassed when someone attempted to personally pay me! No wonder Gandhi called the `untouchables` "Children of God"...thank you for sharing this experience.

 

 

Lest this post be misunderstood, it is simply a spontaneous offering of my humble and respectful obeisances to one possessing that which I regrettably lack...

 

 

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Originally posted by darkangel:

As the daughter of a Brahmin I have never been comfortable with the Caste system but then I have never been comfortable with the British Class system either. Why do we elevate people onto pedestals whether it is for religious or social reasons?

...<original cut> ...

She told me I had to put the money on the ground several feet away from him and then walk away. I was horrified and told her that I could never do such a thing. My sister then said to me that I would only embarrass the man by trying to hand him the money, plus I would scandalise everyone in the compound and would end up being dunked in the Ganges to get me spiritually clean again

There are two different questions here,

"Is caste based on birth or something else according to scriptures? "

"Is caste the same in usage and practise in the current form?"

 

Since this second question as addressed through an example by you and several others, require a seperate thread especially because of the unacceptable treatment of (human) life. It is in violation of the scriptural eddicts of "ahimsA paramO dharmAh" in thought and deed. And life in human form is itself a big grace, since god becomes more accessible. Everybody is aware krishnA's demonstation of this kArunya as the first principle and even greater than victory or friends. sanjayA was narrating the war to dritarAstrA, on the day of arjunA's vow to kill jayadratha by sunset or else kill himself. dritarAstrA is convinced that guarded by mahArathis he is safe. Especially 11 miles on battlefiled from pandavA front line to jayadratha, as crow flies is going to take forever when you go around fighting. arjunA and lord sri krisnA are getting closer, but sun is also slowly coming down. Now krishna changes the course of charriot and goes away a little and gives rest and water to the horses. dritarAstra tells sanjayA now, that he is sure of victory for pAndavAs, not after he saw lord's viswa rUpam but now, because he knows that kArunyAh is the highest dharmA. So there is no escaping from the fact that history has been brutal for especially fourth varnA. But simply beacuse of some historical mistakes, we cannot change scriptures as a means to undo the mistakes, it can only be done by honest correction. Anyhow let us see what is in there in scriptures.

 

Now whether caste is based on birth or something else according to scriptures ? purusha suktA, purva mimAmsa, upanishads, smrithis, ithihAsa everything mention it, and most of the times, it is based on birth. Birth does matter. All three varnAs do have thread and hence called twice born. Fourth varnA does not have. I am not discriminating, or having any bias, this is what is there. Also it matters in aspects corncerning marriage. [Manu goes much beyond to give names of cross-varnA for different permutations, may it is meaningless when even gotra is unknown to few people, since introductory apivandhanam is not common].

 

Everybody knows the stroy of viswamitra trying to become a brahma-rishi. So it such a unimaginable thing for ordinary mortals. sri sItA's father and reknowned disciple of yagnavalkyA, he himself pursued his duties. In recent times, Lord krishnA told his devotee arjunA to do his kshatriyA duty. The whole of bagavat gIta, is around his duty to fight. Why didn't krishnA find one of his most dear devotee eligible for some other varnic duties ? The supreme Lord sri krishnA tells arjunA, my dear bhakat, it me who created the castes (warning to guys who think superior or inferior, because everything by krishna is superior). It is your caste duty to protect dharmA. Arjuna is saying, lord this is a destructive duty, though unlike bombing civilians, he only killing his enemies in field. But Arjuna is concerned also for soldiers against bhishmA or dronA or karnA or duroyOdhanA. More so of the desitutes and orphans of this great destructive war. Since it not like switching jobs, and is based on birth alone, krishnA is spending his time to tell arjunA of his duty, otherwise, he could have told, either you change your caste or fight. Though arjunA was not for fight, that is he did not suggest reason, because it was not possible. The supreme Lord sri krishnA, mentions that drOnA's end was because a brahmin should not fight in war, though he teaches. Drona himself knew this principle, when he send pAndavas, for fighting drupadA, instead of himself. With regarding to parasurAma, it was because the kings where explotative for generations and generations. Lord mercifully in his avatar, to save the people from such very cruel kings, eliminate 3 times eliminated 7 (21?) generations of kings around the earth. (no swiss banks, tax havens or island countries to hide mr.marcos). Same applies to karnA, he could not fight till bhishmA's death, because though bhishmA knew of his origin, he adopted practicality, because political science is so.

 

<u>Because this business of becoming different varnA is based on superior-inferior mindset. Every varnA is holy.</u> nam AzwAr the kula pathi or foremost is a velAla, sudra. He is adored by thousands of vaishnavAs. Most of the twelve AzhwArs where not brahmins. In fact tirupAn azhwAr was carried to the temple on the shoulder of a brahmnA. But I should add he never recited vedAs. In fact, brahmins stopped reciting it when he came towards them. KshatriyAs, vaiyAs can learn. But can you say they are deprived of god, no. Everybody has dharmA, arthA, kAma and mokshA. Each follow their capacity and duty identified by birth . It is in numbering, brahmnA is called the first, ...so forth. This has nothing to do with anything else, because if scriptures if scripture is considered to be biased, then can go further, it can also say brahmin is better than sudra directly, why don't we find a single line like that. Unfortunately punishment has been taken to be the bias for brahmins, why not see the unfairness to the duties. Why are they alone required to go through, long strenous pratice of scriptures as obligatory, are they not human beings. Are they not human to feel to have some luxury, no. Sorry that is the brutality or the justness, they are to be away from material comforts. Actually all purAnas and smrithi praise the king and give him sanctity since he alone protects all the people. He is considered an amsa of god because beings take refuge in him. There is a story in tamil where a chozA king even killed his son to do justice to cow when the speeding prince killed the only calf. Most works are decorations in honour of a king, and two most famous avataras are rAma and krisnA, as kshatriyAs.

 

Ok coming back to caste, there are some restrictions because of the nature of "work", on how a person needs to interact in a society, that is normal. Like you don't expect a person working in field, and hence soaked let us say in water come into a building, where as a singer may be able to do so. (Let alone how you feel of people who enter the house on rainy day without a door mat). This "norms" for cleaniness has nothing to do with caste. Even in one's own house, one does not shave in the kitchen. It has nothing to with religion, it is hygeine. But that does not mean you speak with disrepect to a cleaner or treat him in ways which are demeaning. Nor is he expected to be hugged as is. There has to be some common sense based on station, propriety and dharmA.

 

Now, can there changes in duties. Yes we have to refer to dharma shatras, which says in bad times etc man can change his duties. But this is not meant to meant forever, and surely no exemption because of kaliyugA, the poor brahmins are expect to do the same, whichever yugA it is. manuh->manushah->man, what a injustice, they should make some provisions, in this age when "man is not human". Can somebody change caste? Yes. You can be outcasted, that is not considered in that caste. It does not mean you are out of all castes. This is because of failure of performance of obligatory duties or performance of heinous acts.

 

So you will never find a body of people conducting tests or evaluation on people to determine their caste by some other means. Nor you find mechanism to keep following a person on that evalution in every point of life to check that. That is why almost all scriptures treat caste synonymous to birth. So for all practical purpose it is determined by birth. BUT THERE IS NOTHING SUPERIOR OR INFERIOR OF ANY CASTE. And so there is nothing superior in others duty, ones own duty is most important. Also it is normal too have balancing rules to sustain a minority disposition in a population, because it is hard to find people who would want to spend their time for the sake of knowledge and gain nothing materially.

 

Anyhow, our focus is sri krishnA and vaishnavisim is higher than brahminism, kshatriysm, vaishism and sudrism if they exist in any form. Though some rites are also performed only by brahmins, daily duties is a must for three varnAs in all four stations of life. That is why sage vyasA tells, extolls kaliyugA, sudrA and women. Oh god, hope all this seen from in the sense it is written. It is not written with any other intention than sharing some thoughts, with friendliness to all divine, human and all other forms of life.

 

 

 

[This message has been edited by laksri (edited 01-20-2002).]

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Originally posted by jndas:

…[cut]…

The different castes are described in the scriptures as the different limbs (arms, legs, stomach and head) of society. One does not discriminate against one's own legs just because they perform a different function than one's head. All of one's bodily limbs are working for the common body, and as such all are respected equally.

…[cut]…

 

In India the brahmanas wear a thread which is part of their ceremonial dress. Today external symbols such as the thread are the only qualification which establishes one as a brahmana. The inner qualifications of peacefulness, self-control, austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, knowledge, wisdom and religiousity are ignored.

 

Importance of grace of god for good environment :

Also see, “The unsuccessful yogi, after many, many years of enjoyment on the planets of the pious living entities, is born into a family of righteous people, or into a family of rich aristocracy.” http://www.asitis.com/6/41.html . Purport says, “After prolonged life there, he is sent back again to this planet, to take birth in the family of a righteous brahmana vaisnava or of aristocratic merchants.”

 

And, “Or he takes his birth in a family of transcendentalists who are surely great in wisdom. Verily, such a birth is rare in this world.” http://www.asitis.com/6/42.html

Purport has, “Birth in a family of yogis or transcendentalists--those with great wisdom--is praised herein because the child born in such a family receives a spiritual impetus from the very beginning of his life. It is especially the case in the acarya or gosvami families. Such families are very learned and devoted by tradition and training, and thus they become spiritual masters. In India there are many such acarya families, but they have now degenerated due to insufficient education and training.”

 

Varnas not a barrier :

O son of Prtha, those who take shelter in Me, though they be of lower birth--women, vaisyas [merchants], as well as sudras [workers]--can approach the supreme destination. http://www.asitis.com/9/32.html

[and is a thread started by another member].

 

Varnas do not matter for devotee :

“Advanced yogis are not very much attracted to the rituals of the scriptures, but they automatically become attracted to the yoga principles, which can elevate them to complete Krsna consciousness, the highest yoga perfection” http://www.asitis.com/6/44.html Purport says, In the Srimad-Bhagavatam (3.33.7), such disregard of Vedic rituals by the advanced transcendentalists is explained as follows:

 

aho bata sva-paco 'to gariyan

yaj-jihvagre vartate nama tubhyam

tepus tapas te juhuvuh sasnur arya

brahmanucur nama grnanti ye te

 

 

"O my Lord! Persons who chant the holy names of Your Lordship are far, far advanced in spiritual life, even if born in families of dog-eaters. Such chanters have undoubtedly performed all kinds of austerities and sacrifices, bathed in all sacred places, and finished all scriptural studies."

 

Back to question :

Now coming back to the verse 4:13, In Bhagavat gItA as it is, Sri Prabupada explained that “According to the three modes of material nature and the work ascribed to them, the four divisions of human society were created by Me” http://www.asitis.com/4/13.html

 

From this, it is very clear that how Lord created these four divisions. Sometimes this is lost in today’s world. Many become like Satyakama, not knowing ones own nature. Great teachers like His Holiness Sri Prabupada, correct the situation by recognizing such people and giving them proper guidance. So this principle is not suitable for ordinary mortals, it is best left to great blessed men. For us caste is simply as it is, based on birth to determine our duties, that is all and nothing more. That is the reason for knowing his caste and nothing more. In the past this was used also to apply shastras indicating different ages and process of different intiations for different castes. But this is expecting too much.

 

Let us see the example set by Lord himself, about his duties ( not some yagna kind of rituals), “After His meditation, the Lord would regularly bathe early in the morning with clear, sanctified water. Then He would change into fresh clothing, cover Himself with a wrapper and then engage Himself in His daily religious functions. Out of His many religious duties, the first was to offer oblations into the sacrificial fire and silently chant the Gayatri mantra. Lord Krsna, as the ideal householder, executed all the religious functions of a householder without deviation. When the sunrise became visible, the Lord would offer specific prayers to the sun-god. The sun-god and other demigods mentioned in the Vedic scriptures are described as different limbs of the body of Lord Krsna, and it is the duty of the householder to offer respects to the demigods and great sages, as well as the forefathers.” http://www.krsnabook.com/ch70.html

 

Also for us it is Krishna and his devotees, and discussing things, which have been lost in kali yuga, is taken care by acharyas send by god. KrishnA. I would like to end this by quoting from Sri Prabupada’s Krishna book, “ While engaged with the brahmanas who were too involved in the performance of Vedic sacrifices, Krsna and Balarama also saw that the cowherd men were preparing a similar sacrifice in order to pacify Indra, the King of heaven, who is responsible for supplying water. As stated in the Caitanya-caritamrta, a devotee of Krsna has strong and firm faith in the understanding that if he is simply engaged in Krsna consciousness and Krsna's transcendental loving service, then he is freed from all other obligations. A pure devotee of Lord Krsna doesn't have to perform any of the ritualistic functions enjoined in the Vedas; nor is he required to worship any demigods.” http://www.krsnabook.com/ch24.html This is a very important principle and is not applicable to anybody, only those in love with Krishna.

 

I have this word caste enough times, as synonymous to duty, hope such a word which guides one duties which are not inferior or superior, but is obligatory, is not such a bad word after all.

 

Be steadfast in yoga, O Arjuna. Perform your duty and abandon all attachment to success or failure. Such evenness of mind is called yoga. http://www.asitis.com/2/48.html

 

 

[This message has been edited by laksri (edited 01-21-2002).]

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I have recently begun to study Vedic Astrology and have discovered that there are astrological methods of determining varna. Most of the texts I have read say that this is done by determining the moon sign. According to this view, since my moon is in siderial Aries, I would be a Ksatryia. According to Jaimini, however, varna is shown by the Varnada Lagna. Mine is in Taurus, making me a Sudra.

 

I am curious about where I can get more information about this whole question. How significant do you believe astrological determiniation of varna is? What is the significanceof such different results? What does it imply for one's work and spiritual path?

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how doesn't it affect the caste system just think about it. they do many things to help them fail at every thing they do and they don't give them any help. u stuiped friut cake.

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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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