Sunday, December 3, 2017
HINDU RENAISSANCE- PART-V - UNTOUCHABILITY (Part-1)
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 * * *