Sunday, December 3, 2017
UNTOUCHABILITY is a mindset in which one Human being considers himself SUPERIOR to another by birth and some other as INFERIOR to him by birth. When the MINDSET of untouchability exists in the minds of large sections of people, it results in abominable, inhuman social practices in which some sections of people suffer humiliation, lack of social opportunities of many kinds and social inequality from birth to death.
These may arise due to religion, region, race, sex, nation, colour and any other such birth related traits of the individuals who group themselves and consider themselves as either superior or inferior as a group, in comparison to certain others.
Untouchability is certainly prevalent in many countries and perhaps, in all countries, in some form or other, even now. Skin colour has always been a great source of Untouchability Practice in almost all countries.
How did a small company like East India Company of Britain conquer and rule over India? Modern weapons like Guns was of course a factor. A belief of innate superiority in themselves based on whiter skin colour, over the darker skinned Indians, both Hindus and Muslims, was a great motivator in the British conquering the Hindu and Muslim kings with much less number of British Soldiers. The Hindus and Muslims did feel inferior because of the darker skin colour , however much we may protest that it wasn’t a factor.
Later, after the initial British conquests, it was largely the Indian soldiers themselves, who were led by the British and conquered other Indian Soldiers under Indian Kings (both Hindu and Muslim) and enabled the British to rule over India. There is no doubt that the skin colour differentiation and the superiority-Inferiority complexes built on it, did help the British a lot, to rule over India with great ease for Centuries with very little revolt.
How did the Islamic Invaders earlier conquered the Indian Kings? Religious faith was a great uniter and morale booster for the Islamic Invaders where as religion in India, at that time, was not that great a binding force for Indian soldiers and kings even when they were otherwise superior to the Invading forces.
The same story and the same causes account for unity and disunity in all parts of the world even today. In India, religion was always largely an INDIVIDUALISTIC and not a group activity. Even visiting temples was usually an Individualistic activity. There was no group activity inside the temple. This was and still is in distinct contrast to the invading religions like Christianity and Islam. For these invading religions, religion was and is largely a group activity inside the Church or the Mosque. Ganesh Puja and Durga Puja are recent inventions to create some group religious activity in Hinduism also, akin to other religions.
Group religious Activity necessarily involves all sections of people in a cooperative spirit and reduces physical and mental distances like UNTOUCHABILITY to some extent. It has its Flip side, though. Let us admit that, group religious activity is more a social activity and reduces distance between man and man but it increases distance between man and God. Right now, my concern is the distance between man and man. Once that comes down, God will perhaps come down to reside within us automatically.
UNTOUCHABILITY definitely was not prevalent to the present extent in India, in the days of Lord Krishna, in the Dwapar Yuga. Lord Krishna, though born as Kshatriya, chose to be brought up in a Yadava family, which was a clear symbolic Gesture to the whole society that - Yadavas were in no way inferior to Kshatriyas. It was symbolic but the symbolism was largely not understood but was wasted on most Hindus.
The lesson taught by Lord Krishna was that - not only Yadavas but also all others were in no way inferior to the 3 castes of Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Vaisyas. Choosing to be brought up in a Yadava family and living among Cowherds was symbolic of that. Obviously Lord Krishna could not be born in all castes to prove the point in total. This lesson was largely lost on all Hindus. Consequently, the Yadavas started thinking that they were the specially chosen ones by the Lord for his favours. This was definitely not the message of Lord Krishna to the world.
Lord Krishna, though invited by Kshatriyas and Brahmins at Hastinapur to dine with them, chose to dine with Vidura and Sanjaya who were considered as Sudras. So, what was his message here? His compassion and benevolence existed and extended equally for Kubja, a Sudra woman with serious physical deformities and for a very poor Brahmin like Sudama.
Caste differences were not a factor at all in the showering of the Lord’s compassion, love and friendship. Should we not understand the Lord’s clear message disseminated throughout his life like this and emulate his path, his message and his life style? Lord Krishna’s wives also included Kshatriyas, Yadavas, the daughter of Janbavan, a Bear king and so on.
We have discussed in a previous Chapter, the significant role of Satyavati, a fisherwoman, first, in giving birth to a Great sage like Veda Vyasa, through Sage Parasara and later, in originating the Kuru Dynasty through her offspring born of Santana, a Kshatriya King.
To emphasize again, Sathyavati, a Sudra woman was first married by Parasara, a Brahmin Sage and later, by Santana, a Kshatriya King. Parasara, her first husband, and Vyasa, her first son knew her whole life history and yet respected her, throughout their life. It was her first son, Vyasa, who recorded all her History as factually as we see it today. So, where was Untouchability in those days?
Bhishma, the first son of Santana through Ganga also knew Vyasa as Satyavati’s first son. What we need to understand from all these incidents narrated by none other than Vyasa himself is – that Guna and Karma were considered far more important in determining Caste than mere birth – by wise men of those days.
Karna, was a born kshatriya but was known to people only as Sudra, brought up by a Sootha named Athiratha and his wife, Radha. Though known to be a Sudra, Karna was made the king of Anga Desa by Duryodhana and nobody really opposed his decision. Karna, though well known as the son of Radha and Athiratha, remained as the well accepted King of Anga Kingdom till his death.
Ekalavya may not have been taught archery by Drona, but he and his people lived as a separate tribal kingdom, not really subservient to anybody.
Even in thretha yuga, Lord Rama considered Guha, the driver of a boat, as equal to Bharata, his own brother. Rama’s most important friends were Monkeys and Bears, not even humans. In the whole of Ramayana war, there were only two humans, Rama and Lakshmana. All others were not even humans.
In the Mahabharat war also, not just Kshatriyas, but all others like Brahmins, Yadavas etc participated.
Now, the best anecdote of Mahabharat really comes at the end of it. Sage Markandeya one day comes to Yudhishtira and narrates this anecdote to him.
There was a Brahmin Sage, Kausika, who left his Parents, went into deep forests and started doing Tapasya (Penance and Meditation) under a tree. He did the tapasya for several years there. One day, after his daily tapasya, he came out of his meditational practices and opened his eyes. Just then, a crane sitting on the top of the tree dropped its poop on him unknowingly. Sage Kausika got very angry when the poop fell on his head from above and looked up at the Crane with angry eyes. The crane instantly burned to its death, by the sheer power of his angry eyes.
Kausiaka was surprised at the powers he had acquired through his penance. The proud Kausika took bath and went into the nearby village for begging for food. Sages had to beg for food those days, as a customary practice for them. They could go maximum up to 3 houses and whichever house gives, they should be satisfied with the food from that one house. So, Kausika went to one house and said – “Bhavati Biksham dehi.” The lady of the house asked him to wait and went into the house for bringing him food. She collected the food and was bringing the same, when her husband entered the house from outside.
The lady put the food aside, received her husband , took him inside, served him food and after doing all the chores for him, she again came out with the food collected for Sage Kausika. Kausika had to wait till that time and there was no way out for him. He was therefore very angry with this delay. He felt insulted by the lady who, after promising to give him food, went inside the house for serving her husband, ignoring a great, waiting sage like him. He looked at her with angry eyes. The lady also looked at him and said smilingly – “I am not a crane to be burnt by your looks.” Kausika was surprised at these words. How did the lady know what happened in the distant forest, an hour before? He was certain that she somehow had much greater divine powers than him. So, he asked her the source of her powers.
The lady told him – “ I don’t do any Yoga or Tapasya like you. My work is my Tapasya. As a housewife, I take care of my husband, my parents-in-law, my children and my house to the best of my ability – with all focus that my work needs. That becomes my Tapasya and the source of all my powers.”
Sage Kausika now wants her to explain to him how her work can become her tapasya and the source of all her powers. She tells him – “I do not have time to tell you all this in detail. I suggest, you go to that village in Mithila where Dhrmavyadha is living. Enquire about him and go to him. He can explain to you about all this in detail.”
Sage Kausika goes and finds Dharmavyadha outside a village, near Mithila. Kausika was extremely surprised and dumbfounded to find that Dharmavyadha was not a sage at all but a butcher and seller of meat. How could a Butcher and seller of meat be an expert in Dharma and Tapasya? But, when he meets Dharmavyadha, Dharmavyadha gets up and invites him saying – “Oh, you have come to learn about Dharma and you are sent by the lady in that village. Please come. We will go to my home where we will talk about it.”
They both go to the butcher’s house. The butcher also first serves his parents, washes himself well and comes and sits with Kausika. Sage Kausika is already dumbfounded to find that Dharmavyadha knows that the lady has sent him. He asks the latter, how he knows all this. Dharmavyadha replies – “I know about the dead crane also and about what the lady in that village told you.”
Dharmavyadha then goes on explaining to him about Svadharma. “Whatever work you have to do, do it with all of your heart and soul. That is your Svadharma and that is your Tapasya. Society needs the work of a butcher and a housewife as much as or even much more than that of a sage and a yogi. Everybody’s work becomes his or her own tapasya, when you put your heart and soul into it and do it. Svadharma can easily achieve all that a yogi can achieve. But, that is not the point. You will enjoy your work and your life immensely and so will the society around you. God happily resides in the one who does his Svadharma with total devotion. That is his Bhakti yoga, his karma yoga, his dhyana yoga and his Jnana yoga – all in one. He doesn’t need to do anything else.”
Sage Kausika now understood the essence of his teaching well and went back to serve his old parents.
But, have we understood the teaching of Dharmavyadha?
What Dharmavyadha taught Sage Kausika is called Vyaadha geeta and emanates from the same Mahabharat from which Bhagavad Geeta of Lord Krishna emanates. Lord Krishna teaches much the same in Bhagavad Geeta. Lord Krishna also teaches much the same to Uddhava, a Bhakta, before his own demise. That teaching is called Uddhava Geeta.
Unless we put all these together, our understanding of even Bhagavad Geeta is likely to be incomplete. Many people today find fault with Lord Krishna for saying – “Chatruvarnam mayaa srustam.” But, they forget the latter part which says – “Gunas,Karma Vibhagasa.” Lord Krishna no doubt said, I created the four varnas – but he also said emphatically that, they are based on one’s Guna and Karma. Birth is nowhere mentioned by him. Lord Krishna’s own life is an exemplary teaching of this lesson.
We will see the contrast of all this, with today’s conditions and explore what reforms we need to make today to make our culture just and vibrant.
* * * to be Contd * * *
Friday, November 10, 2017
THE CASTE SYSTEM - 2
In the previous essay on Hinduism - Caste system, I had given my views on - how the present day caste system can be modified to accord with the definition given by Lord Krishna – that he divided people into Varnas based on “Guna and Karma”.
This means – Varna should be based only on GUNA and KARMA and should not be based on Birth. It should be based on who you are, and not based on who your father and mother are. Therefore, If you change your Guna and Karma, It should be possible and it should be necessary - to change your Varna. That is how it should be.
Today, the constitution of India guarantees religious freedom to all as a fundamental right. In respect of Hindus, this religious Freedom should actually mean – the right to choose one’s caste. A Hindu today, can get out of Hinduism altogether, but cannot change his caste. This is ridiculous interpretation of religious freedom. Caste stigma is the only reason why a Hindu is often compelled to change his religion – whereby he gets rid of his Caste as well as his religion. You can change your religion whereby your caste also goes – but you cannot change your caste within your religion. This is just ridiculous, atrocious and meaningless.
Many erstwhile systems which were permitted in Hindu system have changed in Hinduism, either by social reform or by Law. Sati sahagamanm – wife burning herself along with her dead husband, either voluntarily or by force of others, has been abolished by Law. It is not permissible any more. Widow marriage is now permitted and is becoming more and more acceptable with increasing male and female education. Child Marriages have been totally abolished. Today, all these are punishable crimes. Just one more major reform is needed in Hinduism to make it a Great, wonderful, admirable religion – namely, the REFORM OF CASTE SYSTEM.
Caste was just an identity for what one does – i.e., what is one’s profession. That was what Lord Krishna said. But, it has degenerated into severe, abominable, atrocious compartmentalization of the whole Society. In place of the four inter-linked, inter-dependent Varnas, we have over 4000 castes, differently named in different parts of the country and each living within the egg shell of his caste structure. There is no strong bond uniting all of us today. Somewhere down the line, this superiority – inferiority complexes have also arisen and grown all out of proportion. Hinduism talks a lot about Sarve Janah Sukhino Bhavanthu, God resides in all, love all, be compassionate, take care of all – and so on – but all this vanishes into thin air, when the holier than thou attitude gets into the heart. Heart becomes heartless and this has weakened the whole Hinduism out of shape.
With the entry of external religions like Christianity and Islam into India, the complexes got compounded. These external religions came with their motto of vigorous conversion of all Hindus into their religions, as, they assumed that their religion only was supreme and nobody other than them was going to heaven ! So, the Hindu was subjected to several onslaughts. Many were converted under threats. Many were converted under several lures. Many were and are converting to other religions on their own – to avoid caste stigma, to benefit from love marriages and so on.
For many people in Hinduism, there is now – no real incentive, no benefit, no purpose even – to stay in Hinduism. If I can be better off, more respected by my fellow religionists and can be devoid of any caste stigma there, why should I be here? This question comes naturally in the minds of many people who are subjected to caste stigma in Hinduism.
We can’t shut our eyes to this real suffering of people who face caste stigma, untouchability and other problems in Hindu society. These are just not ignorable or tolerable. The Constitution also says that. Most Political leaders also say that. But, how to root out these social evils totally and IMMEDIATELY – nobody is clear about this and nobody is willing to act on this. Frankly, nobody knows how.
We must be Human and treat all Humans as Humans. We can’t treat any innocent, helpless individual inhumanly.
Can we abolish caste system altogether? Even if abolish caste system altogether, we still need some priestly class, some warrior class, some trader class and some services class. These exist everywhere – in all cultures, in all nations and even among remote region tribals with no religion. The Only point to note is – nowhere is it resulting in any stigma by birth. Nowhere is the father and mother a cause of stigma for a person. This stigma should go completely. Yes. Your own Guna and Karma must decide your place in society. Not those of your father and mother.
Also, Hinduism must create a strong incentive, strong benefit and a strong inner urge for everybody to remain in Hinduism. Also, those outside Hinduism must feel that deep inner urge to join Hinduism by themselves. That is the purpose and need for grouping ourselves as a religion. If that is absent, people will naturally migrate to those religions where these possibly exist for them. We can’t prevent it.
Are other religions BETTER than Hinduism? I don’t think so. Hinduism only contains immense variety of religious thought processes and solutions to most human problems. All other religions talk of Heaven and hell. Hinduism also talks of rebirth and Moksha. Hinduism supports most of its systems through extraordinary LOGIC and not just faith and Belief. For instance, Karma theory is extremely scientific and lucid in Hinduism – when properly understood.
But, most people understand it in parts. Many avoid Karma and excellence in karma – and get into laziness and inaction. But, Lord Krishna has said plainly that you cannot avoid Karma and you must indulge in it. In fact, you must seek to achieve excellence in whatever Karma you do – said Lord Krishna. The very purpose of Bhagavad Gita was to make Arjuna fight for Justice and not to go back on his duty. Lord Krishna’s life itself was a brilliant example of the best of Karma theory. Apart from Karma theory, there are many real sciences in the Gita like, for instance, Guna thraya Vibhaga Yoga, which require extensive research even now.
Let us get back to our discussion on the four Varnas. Lord Krishna was born in a Kshatriya family but from the day of his birth, he was brought up in a Yadava family. All this was done as per divine dispensation or God’s own will and advice. Why did Lord Krishna choose a Yadava family instead of a Kshatriya family? Is it to show us that all Varnas and Jatis are equal in his view? To me, it looks like that.The Lord, by his actions, showed that every caste was noble in this culture.
Whenever Lord Krishna went to Hastinapur, he chose to dine with Vidura and Sanjaya who were said to be of Sudra Origin and refused to dine with either Brahmin or Kshatriya Hosts.
Sage Veda Vyasa was born of a Fisher-woman called Sathyavati and a Brahmin Sage called Parasara. He has himself recorded all the details of his birth in his Mahabharat and was in no way ashamed of his birth to a Sudra woman in those days. Nobody in those days ridiculed him for his birth in a Sudra woman’s womb. So, why are we so ridiculously rigid today? Why are we not following the Lord’s example at least or of Veda Vyasa’s example? Which Hindu Swamiji will permit or approve these today? They should. But will they?
I think, it is time to resurrect Hinduism of the Veda Vyasa’s days as the world’s best, most humane, most versatile, most enlightened and most virile culture. We can of course, reform it further, in the light of modern advancements in education, technology etc.
We must necessarily question ourselves extensively and intensively on the present day Caste system in which we are living, because, it is not prevailing according to the Guna and Karma criteria that Lord Krishna prescribed. There are some Questions Arjuna failed to ask and we can ask them and seek answers for them.
Let us ask one more pertinent question. Does the caste system created by God include only the people, residing south of Himalayas, or does it include people outside also, all over the earth? Let us come to TODAY and ask – does the system include the Muslims, Christians, Jews, and so many others in all parts of the earth?
All people are created by God only and therefore the Guna and Karma based division applies to ALL people all over the earth. If we assume like this, the caste system definitely makes sense. Probably, this is what Lord Krishna meant also. Gunas and Karmas are detailed wonderfully, elsewhere in the Bhagavad Gita itself.
Among people of all religions – we definitely find –
(a) people who are peace and love oriented and who advice others on Dharma, a priestly Class generally, whom we may call ‘Brahmins’,
(b) people who are born to protect others by fighting evil, people who train in martial arts and warfare, whom we may call ‘Kshatriyas’,
(c) traders, manufacturers, farmers etc who create and sell goods and services whom we may call ‘Vaisyas’ and
(d) people who perform various services in the society either through manual labour or through technology - whom we may call ‘sudras’.
There are no outcastes or Panchamas or untouchables in Lord Krishna’s system. There are no other Varnas in God’s own creation, according to this verse. This broad classification of people seems perfectly reasonable and every society has these Varnas. We may call them by these names, or by any other names, but these categories of people exist in every Society. Today, we can change any or all of these names, if we want.
Now, this system is OK, if it is based on our own Guna and Karma – and not based on the birth or Guna and Karma of my parents and their parents and their parents and so on. Some genetic similarities may be there in me with the ancestors, but I can be entirely different from them in Guna and Karma. I can change my Guna and Karma by my conscious actions or by my unconscious actions also. That determines my Varna and not who was my great grand father.
Lord Krishna has given enough description of the three Gunas of Sathva, Rajas and Tamas. He has given enough description of Karmas also. In all these, people can change. A fisher woman can be the founder of a Kshatriya clan and in that clan, can be born Brahmins , Viasyas and Sudras – taking their individual Gunas and Karmas into account.
People often quote a Purusha Sukta verse for the Varna system. It says, the Purusha was the embodiment of all people. Brahmins form his mouth, the Kshatriyas form his strong Arms, the Vaisyas form his waist and upper legs and the Sudras form his feet. This too makes perfect sense if – we take this division purely based on Guna and Karma – excluding the criterion of Janma.
Some people severely object to the idea of anybody forming the Purusha’s feet. This criticism is meaningless. Without feet, Purusha cannot stand, run, sit, do war, do business, perform sex or give birth or do anything worthy. Feet are an important part of the body, support all organs of the body and, in the context of the Individual or the Society, represent the all-important services sector. Now, when you are doing a service, you represent the feet of the Purusha but you can become a Business man or a warrior or a priest too.
If this option is available, then, there should be no criticism at all on this score. In any case, if God presents himself before us as Purusha, what do we do? Do we do Namaskar or pranam at his feet or at his face, arms and waist? At his feet only. Feet are an important and integral part of the body. So, this criticism is unjustified to ourselves and to our feet. Let us not demean or degrade our own feet.
When the classification of Varnas is based on purely one’s Janma or birth and not based on One’s Guna and Karma – the division becomes wholly unjustified and illogical. If it is based on Guna and Karma, and if one can change his Guna and Karma and thereby his Varna, it becomes perfectly logical.
How did the system work in Mahabharat day’s?
We have already seen how Veda Vyasa himself was born. Veda Vyasa was the Greatest Author , the earth has ever seen. His Mahabharat is undoubtedly the largest, the most vivid and the most beautiful chronicle of contemporary History of his time and of all time. People of his time were far more liberal than us of the 21st Century AD. That is what we understand from the Mahabharat itself.
Though Lord Krishna told the Gita to Arjuna on the battle field., it was Vyasa who finally wrote it and gave it posterity. Gita is the greatest scientific treatise – if properly understood and interpreted. It needs to be studied in greater detail and greater scientific spirit. We just don’t have another such magnificent scientific treatise, which is over 5000 years old anywhere on the earth. Unfortunately, we recite its verses, mostly when somebody dies only, near his corpse! That is not its purpose. Even reciting is not its purpose.
Gita must be understood, explored and practiced. We must make more scientific advancements on its basis. There are many sciences in the Gita which need further exploration. That exploration is its real, proper purpose. Question it with a positive spirit. Krishna won’t mind. Arjuna questioned him so many times in so many ways. He answered. There is no other religious scripture on earth – in which anybody questioned God in so many ways and the God patiently replied to every query and every doubt.
I have no doubt that Gita is the most brilliant, logical, scientific and yet somewhat brief (in our context) explanation of many sciences. I would have liked more questions from Arjuna and more answers by Lord Krishna. Probably there were and probably these were lost to us over a period of time. It happens to many Great Books and cannot be ruled out. I have heard, though I am not sure, that Gita was originally far bigger than what it is now. It could well be. Probably, the Lord had clarified many more of Arjuna’s doubts. That said, what is now available is available.
Let us not discard or dismiss Lord Krishna’s words. Let us explore and find a positive meaning, a meaning that is acceptable in contemporary context, for the verses. Let us go beyond them. Let us ask questions which Arjuna did not ask but which we may feel justified to ask and seek positive answers for them from Lord Krishna himself. Let us accept Lord Krishna as a Friend, Philosopher and Guide and ask. He was the greatest and wisest person who trod on earth. I have absolutely no doubts about that. But, we must have an exploratory mind and not a rejecting, negative mind when seeking answers from him.
Vyasa was also a most respected Sage and contemporary of all Mahabharat characters. When sage Parasara loved Sathyavathi or Mathsyagandhi, the daughter of a fisherman, Veda Vyasa was born to them. Everybody in those days knew these facts well and yet respected all three of them. Nobody boycotted or belittled any of them. So, what is our problem with such marriages today? If we sit on a water-tight Caste system today and are afraid of permitting inter-caste marriages, who is at fault? They or we?
Their life history did not stop there. Parasara gave Sathyavathi a child, blessed her and left for his Tapasya. The Child, Veda Vyasa, a child prodigee, also bowed to her, asked for her permission to go for his own Tapasya and left. He promised her to come and help her whenever she needed him.
The lady then went back to her father as if nothing happened. Thereafter, the kshatriya King Santana finds her on the Ganges, loves her and wants to marry her. Unlike Sage Parasara who loved and married her without her Parents’ permission, Santana duly asks her father for permission.
Once asked, her father puts a condition – my daughter’s son should be the King. If you agree, yes, marry her. Not otherwise. Santana already had a wife, the divine lady of Ganga who left him after giving him a son, Devavrata and that son was now a highly educated and highly skilled person eminently deserving to be the next king after Santana. Santana also loved him a lot.
So, he came back love-stuck and love-sick for Sathyavathi. His first son from Ganga, Devavratha arranged the second “inter-caste marriage” of Sathyavathi with his father now. Nobody objected to this second inter-caste marriage also in those days. This incident was also recorded by Sathyavathi’s first son, Veda Vyasa himself. If you feel odd about it today, you have a sick mind, not they.
Sathyavathi begets sons and they grow up. She wanted Devavrata’s help for fixing a girl for the marriage of Vichitraveerya, her son born of Santana. Devavrata abducts Amba, Ambika and Ambalika from their Swayamvara site – 3 girls for his brother. But, Amba says, I am in love with Salwa and she is allowed to go back to Salwa. Salwa refuses to marry her now as she was abducted by Davavrata. Now, she goes back and asks Devavrata to marry him, as Salwa is refusing to marry her. Devavrata politely refuses, saying, he has taken a vow not to marry. Now, she goes to Parasurama, the Guru of Devavrata, who is also unable to make Devavrata agree. Now, Amba could not marry anybody! She becomes furious. She goes away to plan for her revenge on Devavrata.
Now, let us move to the next stage of evolution of the clan :
Vichitraveerya dies without begetting any children from either of his 2 wives, Ambika and Ambalika. With Devavrata”s approval(now called Bhishma), Satyavati summons her first son Vyasa, tells him the need for male children for the 2 widows, Ambika and Ambalika of her second son and asks Vyasa to ensure the birth of children for them. Vyasa agrees. Ambika begot Dhritarashtra and Ambalika begot Pandu through the help of Vyasa. A servant woman begot Vidura in the melee, through the same process. Vidura, though born of the servant maid, became the Chief Minister of the state. Nothing of this was hidden by Vyasa. He wrote all this as if it was perfectly normal, natural and acceptable. And, it was acceptable and accepted in those days. We are the great folks not mentally willing to accept such things today – as natural.
Dhritarashtra later on, married Gandhari. Pandu married Kunti and Madri. Gandhari got a boon from Vyasa to beget Kauravas. 100 sons and one daughter were born to her through the blessings of Vyasa. Kunti and Madri got 5 children through the blessings of some Gods. Look at all the processes adopted for child birth in Mahabharat. They had much broader social outlook than us. Do you agree? If you can’t agree, it is your problem; not of Vyasa or of the Kauravas and Pandavas.
Today, through Genetic science, some of our generation are doing the same thing. We may not even know the donor of Genes for our children. We haven’t seen them. But, yet, we go for Children through unknown genetic material sources. Mahabharat’s model of procreation is now coming to us through western science. Inter-caste marriages and inter-racial marriages (even between Devas and humans) was an approved method in Mahabharat days. They did not say – caste was a bar. They selected the best possible and safest Genetic source, if the husband or wife was unable to procreate.
My purpose here is not discussing Mahabharat per se or criticize its culture, which anyway is better than ours, in my opinion. We are not fit to criticize that culture in any way. I wish to point out the mental freedom, people enjoyed in choosing their partners, their children and so on. Yes. There were some instances in which this was given up for good reasons. When Draupadi’s Swayamvara (choice of Husband) was arranged, she refused to accept Karna – and that was her considered choice. But, at the behest of her mother in law, Kunti, she was willing to marry all the five brothers. We can’t really fault her choice. Woman must have her well considered choice of a Husband. Man must not force himself on her.
Lord Krishna himself married 8 women and not all were kshatriyas. 16,000 women are understood to have loved him – and they belong to different castes. Pandavas married one more wife each and Bhim married a Rakshas woman. Arjuna married a few – and one was a Nag Kanya (Uloopi) – whatever it meant in those days.
I can go on and on. But, this is probably enough of the description of caste freedom in those days. Today, we must have more freedom and not less and this should be based on well reasoned, well understood, well accepted, flexible systems – far away from today’s rigid, suffocating systems, which is driving away many Hindus into the fold of other religions.
We will examine the Hindu caste system a little more – to reform it and make it an intelligent, logical, scientific, acceptable system, and make it universally acceptable all over the earth. My intention is not to hurt any person or group of persons in any way. I seek pardon of any such person(s) who genuinely and justifiably feel so. My obvious intention is to remove all injustices in the existing system as smoothly as possible and wholly optionally in the beginning and thereby enable Hinduism to become a universally acceptable, world religion to which everybody would like to proudly belong. Our religion must be dynamic and must accept all truths that are obvious to us. We can’t ignore any injustices in our system any more. We will continue in this mode further.
* * * Will Continue * * *
Sunday, November 5, 2017
THE CASTE SYSTEM - I
The most controversial, oft - debated, oft- criticized and Vexatious system that continues to exist in Hinduism – is the Caste System. Read all about Hinduism – without referring to the CASTE – and you will find that Hinduism is the most enlightened, most humane and most logical religion. But introduce the caste system and now read everything from the view point of the lower castes – You will find that, everything is unjustified, inhuman and illogical.
There are always 2 such sides for looking at any human system. Or, more than 2 sides also. In the caste system also, one can always look from many view points. That is what we are going to do now. The idea is to explore all possible ways to make Hinduism a much better, more humane, more equitable, just and logically justifiable religion. Let us start :
The Bhagavad Gita, Ch.4.Verse.13 says this about the Caste system :
Chhaaturvarnam Mayaa srushtam Guna karma Vibhaagasah |
Thasya kartaaram api maam viddhi akartaaram avyayam ||
Lord Krishna tells Arjuna :
“This four-fold Varna system was created by me, by dividing people according to their Guna and Karma. Though I am the creator of the system, I remain action-less and changeless.”
Here, Lord Krishna is only describing how people are bound by Guna and Karma and get their due place in the Four Varnas system. No other Sloka in Gita has attracted more criticism than this sloka. Therefore, let us look at the meaning, the criticism, the possible explanations and the potential reforms in the practical application of this Sloka. It is of course capable of a Grand new interpretation leading to many acceptable reforms in the existing systems.
If people of the four Varnas are actually divided according to their Guna (innate characteristics) and Karma (their method of living and their actions) only – and not according to their Janma or Birth, there would probably be much less controversy and much less injustice in the Varna system. Of course, all controversy cannot be avoided, because, many people are unreasonable from that day to this day, and want the best without deserving it and striving for it. The question is – are Guna and Karma the real determinants of anybody’s Varna today?
The reality is, Varna system exists and thrives based on the division of people into four categories, based on the criterion of ‘Birth’ and birth only. Lord Krishna’s stated criteria of Guna and Karma are not acting as the determinants of any one’s Varna. That is the fact of life. There is also no flexibility in the varna system today - whereby, by the merit of their Guna and Karma, People can choose to belong to their rightful Varna.
To repeat the actual state of things - while the Lord says, Guna and Karma are the only two determinants of Varna, in reality, Guna and Karma are playing no part what so ever today, in determining the Varna of any Individual. This is where all injustice gets into the Society. People are not divided based on Guna and Karma. People are divided based on Birth and birth only. Guna and Karma of each Varna are prescribed in some scriptures but are nobody’s concern in reality. The prescribed Gunas and Karmas may be followed or may not be followed at the will and wish of the people of any Varna. They are not mandatory – in reality.
Thus, the present system is not structuring any Varna according to the prescribed Gunas and Karmas even to any reasonable extent. Every Varna is seeping with incompetencies and inefficiencies. Let us look at each Varna with some impartiality.
Most Brahmins today, do not even know the Bhagavad Gita, leave aside the Vedas and Upanishads. Whatever rules and procedures are prescribed for them are not followed. They don’t know and they don’t teach others. Therefore, most Hindus don’t know the Gita or Vedas or Upanishads.
The kshatriyas do not know the Gita and do not know the art of warfare. They do not feel like being responsible for protecting Dharma. Nobody asks them to be strong and skilled in fighting arts and protect all Hindus. Neither they know nor they teach.
Vaisyas do Business to some extent but go for jobs also. Attraction of Money is greater than all religion. Because of the earning potential, people of all Varnas are tempted to become traders, entrepreneurs and Businessmen. Yet, over 50 percent of Hindus are below poverty line. We don’t try to bring them up by our individual help to the less privileged. The quality of compassion and love is thus not the guiding principle of all the three Varnas ( or all 4 ). This one quality would have made all the difference to Hinduism and Hindus.
Sudras also do all works of all Varnas except reading Gita, Upanishads etc. Nobody really bothers about religion today. When some competent masters teach or lecture, many do listen. But, it is not happening in all temples – as it happens in churches and Mosques. As Rigveda syas – let us adopt noble ideas from wherever they come to us. Let us insist on good things being said from scriptures – to all people who go to temples also. Temples should enhance the love for our religion.
But, if a section of Hindus are barred from temples, how can religion be a binding force for them? This should change. Untouchability of all types and discrimination in Temples especially must end IMMEDIATELY. It must end Today, NOW. We can’t postpone it to tomorrow or any later date. If untouchability exists or persists, we can’t defendHinduism’s other greatnesses also. It is the Greatest sin on earth.
Thus, nobody, including Brahmins, read any of the Vedic scriptures, most do not know even routine prayers and Puja methods and there are too many varieties of Hinduism in practice, which almost look like too many different religions.
Very few “born Brahmins” really qualify to be called as Brahmins. Unless a person Knows at least the Gita reasonably, can interpret it to some extent, knows a few key Upanishads and can perform Puja and prayers reasonably well, and teach a little bit of Gita, he must not call or claim himself to be a Brahmin. This is my personal opinion and I am open to correction based on any reasonable ground.
I have seen a particularly attractive definition of ‘Brahmin’ which says – a Brahmin must see/ experience himself in all people and all people in himself. He must see the presence of Almighty in all. I think, this must be the way a Brahmin must be, assisting all people on the path of Dharma, even while taking care of himself. Personally, I think, a “3% of population” limit must be the cap on the number of Brahmins in Hindu society. We don’t need more Brahmins than that.
If Brahmins number is High, Society becomes weak and incapable of protecting itself, as has happened in the last 1000 years. Somnath Temple got destroyed because all people in it were weak and non-violent Brahmins and not Kshatriyas. Brahmins must be a unified clan across India and not divided into so many clans, state-wise and district-wise, with water-tight compartmentalization where no mixing even within the Brahmin varna across states is possible. There is a huge need to unify customs and procedures across India in all states to a reasonable extent and need to promote inter-relations across all states.
If somebody born as a Brahmin, is not interested in or capable of even reading the Gita and in teaching it to others and is not interested in unifying the entire Hindu society, he must be allowed to opt and adopt himself into any other Varna of Hinduism, which is more suitable for his Guna and Karma.
Also, anybody born in any other Varna, if he adheres to the above prescription of Brahmin, must be allowed to opt and be declared as a Brahmin. A Good beginning in this respect has already been made – in which Dalit boys were taught Gita, Puja procedures etc and were allowed to become Archakas in some temples visited by all Hindus.
This is most welcome. They will definitely perform the Puja etc much more competently than born Brahmins who were not taught well all these things. Anybody properly taught will perform well. The Archaka is a key element in holding all people’s attention and Bhakti to the Deity. Archaka can unite the whole Hinduism by his conduct. Archakas can easily evoke the respect of all people towards Hinduism.
Let the dalit Archakas be called just Archakas and be allowed to opt for declare themselves as ‘Brahmins’. In my view, they are already de-facto Brahmins and must be declared officially as such, at their option. A few such persons may opt to become Purohits also - to perform marriages and other ceremonies as well, for all Hindus. Let the Brahmin Varna become more efficient and competent in its allocated work in the religion. This becomes easily the most welcome development in Hinduism. Likewise, allow born Brahmins to declare themselves as belonging to Kshatriya, Vaisya and Sudra clans according to their Guna and Karma. Probably this is what Lord Krishna wants, when he emphasizes the role of Guna and Karma only, as determinants of Varna.
Very orthodox and conservative religious leaders may have their reservations on such a system. But, most observers of current day religious developments and frictions will agree that this reform is a must for Hinduism in India. A Muslim priest knows the Quran. A Christian priest knows the Bible. But, a Hindu Priest knows almost no Hindu scripture adequately. There is no question of blaming any Individual for this state of things. It is just that, there is just no system today, in which every Brahmin can raise his competence level in religious matters.
kshatriya must also know the Gita reasonably well, must be wedded to the idea of protecting the Hindu society from Adharma and evil influences and must be strong and well equipped in many of the old and contemporary martial arts. The Hindu Society is just as strong as the Kshatriya link. India fell to western Invaders, because Kshatriyas fell first. Kshatriyas today, may opt for and prefer Police and Military jobs. Government also may like to prefer them for such Jobs. Those in such Jobs may be allowed the option to declare themselves as Kshatriyas. Again, those born Kshatriyas who do not have Kshatriya mindset may be allowed to opt for other Varnas for which they are more suitable.
I personally feel, at least 40 percent of Hindu society must be Kshatriyas. Today, I do not see Kshatriyas anywhere. They are probably around 1% of the Hindu society. Did they get wiped out in the Mahabharat war and subsequent wars? I don’t know.
Therefore, today, there is a great need to resurrect a unified Kshatriya clan by contributing one child from each Hindu family to become a Kshatriya. There is more need for Kshatriyas in Hinduism than for any other Varna. If this one reform is implemented in Hindu society, there will be no need for India to worry about any Enemy country in the world.
I am not saying that Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaisdyas or Sudras must be limited to their Varna Dharma only. No. Let them practice any other vocation for living and success, in addition to their Varna Dharma. Like Drona and Parasurama, a Brahmin may learn and practice Martial arts also and teach them, or do any Business he likes. We don’t need any people who are seen as unproductive for any reason. All people must be capable of taking care of their own essential needs and also aspire for success in any other field they like – apart from practicing their basic Varna Dharma.
VAISYAS are an essential component of any society today. Any producing and marketing person must be allowed the option to choose the Vaisya Varna. I feel, farmers also must be called as Vaisyas because, they also sell what they produce. All Entrepreneurs, Business men, Traders and farmers must be allowed the option to be declared as vaisyas. This Varna Dharma apart, they may learn any other art and profession and practice. 40% of Society must be Vaisyas.
SUDRAS are another essential component of Hindu society. They must form the balance 17% of society. All professions not mentioned above must be grouped together and all people must be allowed to declare themselves as Sudras, if they do not want to learn scriptures and teach, are not interested in fighting arts and are not interested in any Serious Businesses.
Cross moblities, across the Varnas, at the option of the Individual must be permitted – based on Guna and Karma.
Let us not force anyone out of his existing Varna. Let us permit options to all, to change their Varna based on their Guna and Karma, any time they feel like. Gradually, the options will pour in and society will become much more efficient than at present. There will be no grouse for one against the other, based on Birth. Over a period of time, what Lord Krishna has declared in the Gita will actually become the truth. Varnas will come to be based on Guna and Karma totally.
Everybody can be encouraged to exercise such Varna option at the age of 18. It must be purely optional but based on Guna and Karma. Nobody need be forced out of his ‘birth based Varna’, to start with. After 20 years from now, this may become the method to choose varna automatically.
Are Varna and Jaati the same? There are only 4 Varnas as per Lord Krishna’s creation. But, we find over 4000 Jatis or castes in India. All are called by different names. All have independent customs. There are also the so called outcastes, which systems were not created or talked of, by Lord Krishna. There are also Tribals who lived away from Hindu societies earlier, who are now getting integrated into the Hindu society.
In the olden days, the Hindu system did not have the additional complications of today, in which foreign religions born in ‘Kaliyug’ are present in India and are out to convert all Hindus into their fold. But, most Hindu religious leaders are almost sleeping and never realizing the implications of this ‘one way conversion’ into other religions. This one way conversion poses many New Questions which were not asked earlier by Hindu religion. They must wake up to the new realities, to the injustices within Hinduism and to the potential of making Hinduism the best world religion. More of this, in the next Post.
* * * To be continued * * *