Sunday, November 5, 2017
RENAISSANCE - HINDUISM - PART IV HINDU VARNA / CASTE SYSTEM - UNTOUCHABILITY
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 * * *