Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Gross Malpractice of the Caste System

I'm saddened by the gross misunderstanding and misuse of the "Caste System". The Hindus have gravely mutated the knowledge of Varna - human nature and temperaments. This malpractice and ignorance by the Hindus then became a weapon by non-Hindus against Hinduism, to convert lower castes to their faith, or by Western societies to demean Hinduism. There is still immense ignorance about the caste system both among Hindus and non-Hindus.

In an earnest effort to remove this debilitating and humiliating misuse of an ancient wisdom and to restore its dignity, I am going to quote from an authority on Hinduism, the Bhagavad Gita. What follows are the verses of the Gita, along with the translation and commentary by Swami Chinmayananda. 

In short: What Vedic knowledge says is that you have predominant inborn nature or temperament, some of this may be in your genes, some adopted from society, and some that you is the nature of your individual soul. This can also change over the course of your lifetime. How you express your nature makes you suitable for certain professions and engagements in the world. For e.g., if someone is born to a professor (Brahmin nature), has a natural aptitude for business (Vaishya nature), will be suitable in business/trading. The current day Hindu society would classify the son as a Brahmin, which is wrong! Varna (caste) is NOT hereditary. Vedic system says that ideally one should pursue the professional suitable to one's nature, and there are four broad categories of human nature.

The Varna was not a dogma or religious law or practice - it is an understanding or knowledge of human nature. It was NOT a social imposition, regulation or mandate. It is simply knowledge and understanding of the different types of human natures that exist in broad categories. 

Like other Vedic knowledge e.g., understanding how the mind works, Varna is the understanding and explanation of different categories of human nature that exists naturally amongst all humans. Don't you see scholars, leaders, traders and workers in society? 
You will see that your predominant nature also belongs to one of these categories. Ayurved contains even more knowledge about temperaments. 
Today we have modern psychologists who have developed character analysis and personality type models, like Brigg Myers. They also suggest which careers you would be suitable for. 

If someone has the nature to inquire, is intellectual, or spiritual, is good at teaching - that person is best suited for certain applications of those natural abilities. Some people are natural born leaders. Some are very good with money, numbers, and business. Others like being hands-on, physical, and work with their hands and feet....this is simply an understanding - it is completely abused and misused. The current Caste System must be erased from society!

First refernce: Bhagavad Gita Chapter 4 verse13

"Chaaturvarnyam mayaa srishtam gunakarma vibhaagashah; Tasya kartaaram api maam viddhyakartaaram avyayam."

The fourfold-caste has been created by Me according to the differentiation of GUNA and KARMA; though I am the author thereof know Me as non-doer and immutable.

Second refernce: Bhagavad Gita Chapter 18 verses 41 - 44

41. "Braahmanakshatriyavishaam shoodraanaam cha parantapa; Karmaani pravibhaktaani swabhaavaprabhavairgunaih."

Of scholars (BRAHMANAS) , of leaders (KSHATRIYAS) and of traders (VAISHYAS) , as also of workers (SHUDRAS) , O Parantapa, the duties are distributed according to the qualities born of their own nature. 

42. "Shamo damastapah shaucham kshaantiraarjavameva cha; Jnaanam vijnaanam aastikyam brahmakarma swabhaavajam"

Serenity, self-restraint, austerity, purity, forgiveness and also uprightness, knowledge, realisation, belief-in-God --- are the duties of the BRAHMANAS, born of (their own) nature.

43. "Shauryam tejo dhritirdaakshyam yuddhe chaapyapalaayanam; Daanameeshwarabhaavashcha kshaatram karmaswabhaavajam"

Prowess, splendour, firmness, dexterity, and also not fleeing from battle, generosity, lordliness --- these are the duties of theKSHATRIYAS, born of (their own) nature. 

44. "Krishigaurakshyavaanijyam vaishyakarma swabhaavajam; Paricharyaatmakam karma shoodrasyaapi swabhaavajam."

Agriculture, cattle-rearing and trade are the duties of theVAISHYAS, born of (their own) nature; and service is the duty of the SHUDRAS, born of (their own) nature. 

45. "Swe swe karmanyabhiratah samsiddhim labhate narah; Swakarmaniratah siddhim yathaa vindati tacchrinu"

Each man, devoted to his own duty, attains perfection. How he attains perfection while being engaged in his own duty...

Commentary by Swami Chinmayananda 

Gita Ch4 v13:

This is a stanza that has been much misused in recent times by the upholders of the social crime styled as the caste system in India. Varna, meaning different shades of texture, or colour, is employed here in the Yogic-sense. In the Yoga Shastra, they attribute some definite colours to the triple gunas, which mean, as we have said earlier, "the mental temperaments." Thus, Sattwa is considered as white, Rajas as red, and Tamas as black. Man is essentially the thoughts that he entertains. From individual to individual, even when the thoughts are superficially the same, there are clear distinctions recognizable from their temperaments.

On the basis of these temperamental distinctions, the entire mankind has been, for the purpose of spiritual study, classified into four "castes" of Varnas. Just as, in a metropolis, on the basis of trade or professions, we divide the people as doctors, advocates, professors, traders, politicians, tongawalas, etc., so too, on the basis of the different textures of thoughts entertained by the intelligent creatures, the four "castes" had been labelled in the past. From the standpoint of the State, a doctor and a tongawala are as much important as an advocate and a mechanic. So too, for the perfectly healthy life of a society, all "castes" should not be competitive but co-operative units, each being complementary to the others, never competing among themselves.

However, later on, in the power politics of the early middle-ages in India, this communal feeling cropped up in its present ugliness, and in the general ignorance among the ordinary people at that time, the cheap pandits could parade their assumed knowledge by quoting, IN BITS, stanzas like this one.

The decadent Hindu-Brahmin found it very convenient to quote the first quarter of the stanza, and repeat "I CREATED THE FOUR varnas," and give this tragic social vivisection a divine look having a godly sanction. They, who did this, were in fact, the greatest blasphemers that Hinduism ever had to reckon with. For Vyasa, in the very same line of the couplet, as though in the very same breath, describes the basis on which this classification was made, when he says, "BY THE DIFFERENTIATION OF THE MENTAL QUALITY AND PHYSICAL ACTION (OF THE PEOPLE)."

This complete definition of the Varna not only removes our present misunderstanding but also provides us with some data to understand its true significance. Not by birth is man a Brahmana (Brahmin); by cultivating good intentions and noble thoughts alone can we ever aspire to Brahmana-hood; nor can we pose as Brahmana merely because of our external physical marks, or bodily actions in the outer world. The definition insists that he alone is a Brahmana, whose thoughts are as much Sattwic, as his actions are. 

A Kshatriya is one who is Rajasic in his thoughts and actions. 
A Shudra is not only one whose thoughts are Tamasic, but also he who lives a life of low endeavours, for satisfying his base animal passions and flesh-appetites. 

The scientific attitude in which this definition has been declared, is clear from the exhaustive implications of the statement: "ACCORDING TO THE DIFFERENTIATION OF "guna" AND "karma."
We had tried to explain how the Self, functioning through Its own self-forgetfulness (Maya) as it were, came to project forth temperamentally in three distinct conditions of mental and intellectual life: Unactivity, Activity and Inactivity. Through these triple channels flow the expressions of Life manifesting the different ideas, agitations and actions of the embodied-Life. None of the vagaries of existence would have been possible if the equipments were not tickled by the touch-of-Life.

Krishna, as the very Source of Life, emphatically asserts here, that He is the author of it all, in the sense that the ocean could say that it is the author of all the waves, ripples, foam, bubbles, etc., and gold can assert that it is the very creator and sustainer of all gold-ornaments in the world, inasmuch as no gold-ornament can exist when the gold element is removed from it.

But, at the same time the Infinite, being All-Pervading, as we have already explained, cannot participate in any action and therefore, the Lord, in one and the same breath, declares that though "HE IS THE AUTHOR OF IT," in His own Real Nature," HE IS AT THE SAME TIME A NON-DOER."

Such contradictions in Vedanta become confusing to the students, as long as they are not initiated into the SECRETS OF ITS STUDY. In our conversation, we generally hear people say "that they reached their destination ten miles away by sitting in a bus;" "I caught a train and reached here." Since we understand it in our usual routine conversation, we do not try to dissect such statements to discover the contradictions they contain. Sitting you cannot travel. By catching a train, none can cover distances. And yet it is so true. When we travel in a bus or a train, we donot move; we only sit and hang on to our seats! But stillwe cover the distance because the vehicle in which we sit, moves on. In other words, the motion of the vehicle is attributed to us. Similarly, the creation of the temperaments, which should be attributed to the mind and intellect, is attributed to the Lord. In fact, the Lord, in His Essential Nature, being Changeless and All-Pervading, is neither the Doer nor the Creator.

Commentary Ch18 v41-44:
41. Of scholars (BRAHMANAS) , of leaders (KSHATRIYAS) and of traders (VAISHYAS) , as also of workers (SHUDRAS) , O Parantapa, the duties are distributed according to the qualities born of their own nature.

After dealing with the various gunas in the preceding stanza, Krishna now applies them to the social fabric of humanity and thus intelligently classifies the entire mankind under four distinct heads: the Brahmanas, the Kshatriyas, the Vaishyas and the Shudras.
Different types of duties are assigned to each of these classes of individuals depending upon their nature (Swabhaava), which is ordered by the proportion of the gunas in the make-up of each type of inner equipment. The duties prescribed for a particular type depend upon the manifestation of the inner ruling gunas, as expressed in the individual's contact with the world and his activities in society. The good and bad are not diagnosed by merely examining the texture of the person's skin or the colour of his hair; an individual is judged only by his expressions in life and by the quality of his contacts with the world outside. These alone can reflect one's inner personality --- the quality and texture of the contents of one's mind-intellect.

After testing and determining the quality of the inner personality, the individuals in the community are classified, and different types of duties are prescribed for each. Naturally, the duties prescribed for a Brahmana are different from those expected of a Kshatriya; and the work of the Vaishya and the Shudra should necessarily be different from that of the Brahmana and the Kshatriya
The Shastra enjoins duties, by pursuing which the preponderant Tamas can be evolved into Rajas, which, in its turn, can grow to become Sattwa. And, even then, the seeker must wait for the sublimation of Sattwa, when alone the final experience of the Infinite is gained.
By observing a person one can conclude as to which class he belongs to --- whether to the Brahmana, the Kshatriya, the Vaishya or the Shudra
In this context, when we say a man is Sattwic, it only means that the Sattwic qualities are predominant in him; even in the most Sattwic of persons, at times, the Rajasic and the Tamasic qualities can and will show up; so too, even in the most Tamasic man, Sattwa and Rajas will necessarily show up sometimes. No one is exclusively of one guna alone.

Today, as they are now worked out in India, these four classifications have lost much of their meaning. They signify merely a hereditary birth-right in the society, a mere physical distinction that divides the society into castes and sub-castes. 
A true Brahmana is necessarily a highly cultured Sattwic man who can readily control his sense-organs, and with perfect mastery over his mind, can raise himself, through contemplation, to the highest peaks of meditation upon the Infinite. But today's Brahmana is one who is claiming his distinction by birth alone and alas! he gets no reverence, because he has not striven to deserve it.


42. Serenity, self-restraint, austerity, purity, forgiveness and also uprightness, knowledge, realisation, belief-in-God --- are the duties of the BRAHMANAS, born of (their own) nature. 

Herein we have a detailed enumeration of the duties of a Brahmana born out of his own predominantly Sattwic nature. Serenity (Shama), is one of his duties. Shama is controlling the mind from running into the world-of-objects seeking sense-enjoyments. Even if we shut off the world-of-objects by carrying ourselves away from the tumults and temptations of life into a quiet, lonely place, even there our minds will stride forth into the sense-fields through the memories of our past indulgences. To control consciously this instinctive flow of the mind towards the sense-objects is called Shama.
SELF-CONTROL (Dama) --- Controlling the sense-organs, which are the gateways through which the external world of stimuli infiltrates into our mental domain and mars our peace, is called Dama. A man practising Dama, even if he be in the midst of sensuous objects, is not disturbed by them. A true Brahmana is one who practises constantly both Shama and Dama, serenity and self-control.
AUSTERITY (Tapas) --- Conscious physical self-denial in order to economise the expenditure of human energy so lavishly spent in the wrong channels of sense-indulgence, and conserving it for reaching the higher unfoldment within is called Tapas. By the practice of Shama and Dama, the Brahmana will be steadily controlling both the mad rush of his senses and his mind-wandering. This helps him to conserve his inner vitality which would have been otherwise spent in hunting after sense-joys. This conserved energy is utilised for higher flights in meditation. This subjective process of economising, conserving, and redirecting one's energies within is called Tapas. It is a Brahmana's duty to live in Tapas.
PURITY (Shaucham) --- The Sanskrit term used here includes external cleanliness and internal purity. Habits of cleanliness in one's personal life and surroundings are the governing conditions in the life of one who is practising both Shama and Dama. The practice of Tapas makes him such a disciplined person that he cannot stand any disorderly confusion or state of neglect around and about him. A person living in the midst of things thrown about in a disorderly manner is certainly a man of slothful nature and slovenly habits. It is the duty of the Brahmana to keep himself ever clean and pure.
FORBEARANCE (Kshaanti) --- To be patient and forgiving and thus to live without struggling even against wrongs done against one, is "forbearance" --- the duty of a Brahmana. Such an individual will never harbour any hatred for anyone; he lives equanimously amidst both the good and the bad.
UPRIGHTNESS (Aarjavam) --- This is a quality which makes an individual straightforward in all his dealings, and his uprightness makes him fearless in life. He is afraid of none, and he makes no compromise of the higher calls with the lower murmurings.

Cultivating the above six qualities --- serenity (Shama), self-control (Dama), austerity (Tapas), purity (Shaucham), forbearance (Kshaanti), and straightforwardness (Aarjavam) --- and expressing them in all his relationships with the world outside is the life-long duty of a Brahmana. The above-mentioned six artistic strokes complete the picture of a Brahmana on the stage of the world when he deals with things and beings in the various situations in life. The Lord enumerates, in the stanza, three more duties of a Brahmana which are the rules of conduct controlling his spiritual life.
KNOWLEDGE (Jnaanam) --- The theoretical knowledge of the world, of the structure of the equipments-of-experience and their behaviour while coming in contact with the outer world, of the highest goal of life, of the nature of the spirit --- in short, knowledge of all that the Upanishads deal with --- is included in the term Jnaanam.
WISDOM (Vijnaanam) --- If 'theoretical knowledge' is Jnaanam then 'personal experience' is Vijnaanam. Knowledge digested and assimilated brings home to man an inward experience, and thereafter, he comes to live his life guided by this deep inner experience called "wisdom." Knowledge can be imparted, but "wisdom" is to be found by the individual in himself. When a student discovers in himself the enthusiasm to live the knowledge gained through his studies, then from the field of his lived experience arises "wisdom" --- Vijnaanam.
FAITH (Aastikyam) --- Unless one has a deep faith in what one has studied and lived, the living itself will not be enthusiastic and full. This ardency of conviction which is the motive-force behind one who lives what he has understood, is the secret sustaining power that steadily converts KNOWLEDGE into "wisdom." This inner order, this intellectual honesty, this subtle unflagging enthusiasm, is called "FAITH."
To grow and steadily cultivate knowledge, wisdom and faith are the sacred duties of a Brahmana in his spiritual life.


43. Prowess, splendour, firmness, dexterity, and also not fleeing from battle, generosity, lordliness --- these are the duties of the KSHATRIYAS, born of (their own) nature. 

The Kshatriyas have a greater dose of Rajoguna in the composition of their personality. A Kshatriya is not defined by Lord Krishna as the lawful son of another Kshatriya. He enumerates a series of qualities and behaviours noticed in a truly Kshatriya personality. In the Geeta, the four "castes" are described in terms of their manifested individuality when coming in contact with the world-of-objects --- the field of expression. In all these descriptions we meet with details of the individual's mental and intellectual reactions to his moral life.
PROWESS AND BOLDNESS (Shauryam and Tejah) --- These mean the vigour and constancy with which he meets the challenges in his life. He who has the above two qualities, heroism and vigour of pursuit, certainly becomes a commanding personality.
FORTITUDE (Dhriti) --- This is already explained in earlier stanzas. Herein, as applied to a Kshatriya, it is the powerful will of the personality, who, having decided to do something, pursues the "path" and discovers in himself the necessary drive and constancy of purpose to meet, and if necessary, break down all the obstacles until he gains victory or success.
PROMPTITUDE (Daakshyam) --- The Sanskrit equivalent for the army parade-ground command "Attention" is "Daksha!" This quality of alertness and smart vigilance is, indeed, Daakshyam. In the context here, it means that a Kshatriya is prompt in coming to decisions and in executing them. Such an individual is industrious and has an enviable amount of perseverance, however hazardous may the field of his activity be.
NOT FLEEING FROM BATTLE --- One who has all the above qualities can never readily accept defeat in any field of conflict. He will not leave any work incomplete. Since Krishna is here generally classifying all human beings according to the gunas predominant in them, these terms should be understood in their greatest amplitude of suggestion. No doubt, a true warrior should not step back in any field of battle; but such literal interpretation is only incomplete. The field-of-battle should include all fields of competition wherein things and situations arrange themselves in opposition to the planned schemes of a man of will and dash. In no such condition will a true Kshatriya feel nervous. He never leaves a field which he has entered; if at all he leaves, he leaves with the crown of success!
GENEROSITY (Daanam) --- Governments or kings cannot be popular unless they loosen their purse-strings. Even in modern days every government budget in all democratic countries has amounts allocated under heads which are not discussed and voted. A man of action cannot afford to be miserly since his success will depend upon his influence on a large number of friends and supporters. The glory of a prince is in his compassion for others who are in need of help.
LORDLINESS (Ishwara-bhaava) --- As a ruler, without self-confidence in one's own abilities one cannot lead others. A leader must have such a firm faith in himself that he will be able to reinforce other frail hearts around him with his self-confidence. Thus, lordliness is one of the essential traits in a Kshatriya. He must waft all around a fragrance of brilliance and dynamism, electrifying the atmosphere around him. A king is not made by his golden robes or be-jewelled crown. The crown, the robe and the throne have a knack of electing for themselves a true wearer. Lordliness is the hallmark of Kshatriya.

These eight qualities --- bravery, vigour, constancy, resourcefulness, promptitude, courage in the face of the enemy, generosity and lordliness --- are enumerated here as the duties of a Kshatriya, meaning that it is the duty of a true man-of-action to cultivate, to maintain and to express these traits in himself. 
In no society can leaders of men and affairs claim to be at once the spiritual leaders of the people. Secular heads cannot be spiritual guides. But a true leader is one who has the subtle ability to incorporate the spiritual ideals of our culture into the work-a-day life and maintain them in the community in all its innumerable fields of activity.

44. Agriculture, cattle-rearing and trade are the duties of the VAISHYAS, born of (their own) nature; and service is the duty of the SHUDRAS, born of (their own) nature. 

Since each mind-intellect equipment is governed and ruled over by its predominating quality (guna), each equipment has its own nature to reckon with. A vehicle that can efficiently work in one medium of transport cannot with the same efficiency work in another medium, a car is efficient on the road --- but on water? The Rajasic mind cannot fly into meditation and maintain its poise as easily and as beautifully as the Sattwic mind can. Similarly, in the field in which a Kshatriya can outshine everybody, a Vaishya or a Shudra cannot. To rise to the highest station in social life all men cannot have IDENTICAL opportunities. A social system can only give "equal opportunities" for all its members to develop their gifts in and through life. In order to prove this thesis, the various duties are prescribed that will help to mould the personalities of the different types of men.
AGRICULTURE, BREEDING AND TENDING CATTLE, TRADE AND COMMERCE --- These are three fields in which a Vaishya can function inspiredly and exhaust his imperfections. These are duties towards which he has an aptitude because of his own nature. Work in a spirit of DEDICATION AND SERVICE IS THE DUTY OF A SHUDRA.
The mental temperament of a man determines what class he belongs to and each class has been given particular duties to perform in the world. If a man who is fit temperamentally for one type of work is entrusted with a different type of activity, he will bring chaos not only into the field but also in himself. For example, if a Kshatriya were asked to fan someone in a spirit of service, he may condescend to do so, but one will find him ordering somebody else, almost instinctively, to fetch a fan for him! So too, if a man of commercial temperament, a Vaishya, comes to serve as a temple-priest, the sacred place will become, ere long, worse than a trading centre; and again, let him become the head of any government, he will, out of sheer instinct, begin doing profitable "business" from the seat of governmental authority; people call it corruption!!
We must analyse and discover the type of vasanas and temperaments that predominate in each one of us and determine what types of men we are. None belonging to the higher groups has any justification to look down with contempt upon others who are of the lower types. Each one serves the society as best as he can. Each one must work in a spirit of dedication for his own evolution and sense of fulfilment. When each one works thus according to his vasanas and fully devotes his attention to his prescribed duties, it is said here that he will develop within himself and attain, in stages, the ultimate Perfection.
When a person works devotedly, in the proper field and in the environment best suited to him, he will be exhausting the existing vasanas in him. And when the vasanas are reduced he will experience tranquillity and peace within and it will become possible for him to discover more and more concentration and single-pointed contemplation.


45. Devoted, each to his own duty, man attains Perfection. How, engaged in his own duty, he attains Perfection, listen. 

EACH DEVOTED TO HIS DUTY, MAN ATTAINS PERFECTION --- By being loyal to our own level of feelings and ideas, to our own development of consciousness, we can evolve into higher states of self-unfoldment.
The truth of this classification of mankind may not be very obvious, if we observe it only superficially. But the biographies of all great men of action declare repeatedly the precision with which this law-of-life works itself out in human affairs. A tiny Corsican boy who was asked to tend sheep refused to do so and reached Paris to become one of the greatest generals the world had ever seen --- Napoleon. A Goldsmith or a Keats would rather compose his metres in a garret than take up a commercial job, courting prosperity and a life of comfort. Each one is ordered by his own Swabhaava, and each can discover his fulfilment only in that self-ordered field of activity.

By thus working in the field ordered by one's own vasanas, if one can live surrendering one's ego and ego-centric desires to enjoy the fruits, one can achieve a sense of fulfilment; and a great peace will arise out of the exhaustion of one's vasanas. The renunciation of the ego and its desires can never be accomplished unless there is a spirit of dedication and a total surrender to the Infinite. When unbroken awareness of the Lord becomes a constant habit of the mind, dedication becomes effective, and man's evolution starts.
Such an intelligent classification of human beings on the basis of their physical behaviour, psychological structure and intellectual aptitude is applicable not in India only. This four-fold classification is universal, both in its application in life and its implication in the cultural development of man.

YouTube video:
Here is a brilliant episode on the "Caste System" from the TV series, Upanishad Ganga, a creation of Chinmaya Mission:

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