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Ancient Wisdom, Modern relevance – Caste System as it should have been

caste-system Ancient Wisdom, Modern relevance – Caste System as it should have been

In my last article, we had seen the basic essence of Lord Krishna’s instructions through Srimad Bhagavad Gita. Going forward, I will attempt to present the views from the perspective of Vedic teachings on some of the issues that we have been facing one millennium after another.

If someone writes articles about quantum mechanics, theory of relativity, chaos theory, Fourier transforms and so on, I bet that there will be almost close to ‘zero’ interaction on it. Whereas, there are couple of topics on which one can be assured of a deluge of comments from experts (no sarcasm here) who have had life as their laboratory and their own experiences as results of experiments. But no topic is as prone to sentimental ranting and fanatic following based on so many varied theories and ‘popular leaders’, like the topic of “Indian Caste System”.

Now I will attempt to present the caste system as described by Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita. I request anyone reading this article to set aside your prejudices, read through the article fully and then decide for yourself if it makes sense.

Srimad Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 04, verse 13:

cātur-varṇyaḿ mayā sṛṣṭaḿ
guṇa-karma-vibhāgaśah
̣
tasya kartāram api māḿ
viddhy akartāram avyayam

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

I might probably see, if I can, a few mouths drop open!

So, Bhagavad Gita endorses the caste system? Apparently, yes… but not in its current form. Unfortunately, this has the ultimate weapon for some pseudo-experts and proselytizers. The fault is not with Bhagavad Gita, but with us for our lack of understanding on the scriptures and our false ego which twists almost everything to suit our own needs.

Lord Krishna says he created the 4 divisions in the society… namely, Brahmanas, Ksatriyas, Vaisyas and Sudras. Notice the words Guna and Karma highlighted in the verse? Krishna does not mention Janma (birth) in his description. This is the crux of the problem. A brahmana’s son cannot become a brahmana by default i.e. by birth. A Ksatritya’s son cannot remain as a Ksatriya by default and so on. Somewhere in time, this system started to degrade. The change was because of people’s own selfish goals, and addiction to power that came with the caste assignment. The problem started when ‘unqualified’ people started remaining in the same caste as they were born in. The original system was simply that you go to a Gurukula, spend a couple of years learning stuff and the Guru identifies the stream of skill that you are good at and then assigns you to that caste. But that got changed and nowadays, you see a boy born in a ‘brahmin’ family still being branded as ‘brahmin’ even if he has the worst character possible and is working as a laborer in the IT industry! (Don’t get me started on how IT is a boon and such. That’s for some other time.)

So, what differentiates the 4 divisions? That is also addressed by Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita.

BG 18.41: Brāhmaṇas, kṣatriyas, vaiśyas and śūdras are distinguished by the qualities born of their own natures in accordance with the material modes, O chastiser of the enemy.

BG 18.42: Peacefulness, self-control, austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, knowledge, wisdom and religiousness — these are the natural qualities by which the brāhmaṇas work.

BG 18.43: Heroism, power, determination, resourcefulness, courage in battle, generosity and leadership are the natural qualities of work for the kṣatriyas.

BG 18.44: Farming, cow protection and business are the natural work for the vaiśyas, and for the śūdras there is labor and service to others.

I think the verses are self explanatory.

There is one more area where pseudo-secularists raise a hue and cry. They quote Manu Smriti (or Manu Samhita) and make an appeal to pity for their cause by citing verses which talk about punishments to be given for people who deviate from their caste… like a Sudra speaking Vedas. In opposition, if a person without a qualified MBBS degree is found to be working a doctor, will the law enforcers remain silent? In the same way, a person who has been identified by his Guru to be NOT having any qualities or work tendencies to be a Brahmana or a Ksatriya or a Vaisya, becomes a sudra. So how does this person have any right to lecture on the Vedas? Looking from the perspective of how the caste system should have been, I see nothing wrong in the punishments.

I quote my teachers:

“In the Vedic setting, if it is ascertained that one has the nature of a sudra, they were given vocational education; literacy for the masses was not given great importance in Vedic society. However, as the sudras gave service to the other varnas, it was in turn the duty of brahmanas to systematically disseminate shastric knowledge to the general public. In fact, the temple in a Vedic community was to serve just this purpose – as a center of learning – where the mercantile and laborer classes would come and learn about religious principles through art, drama and regular discourses on scriptural teachings.”

Nowadays the word Sudra has taken a ‘derogatory’ tone… while it is simply equivalent to being called a ‘dancer’, ‘mechanic’ and so on. I am 100% against the concept of ‘untouchability’, which is again the perverted rendering of the Vedic system by the pseudo-brahmanas of recent times. And one should also be careful while dealing with ‘modern reformers’ who are quick to denounce the Vedas and have ‘converted’ to Buddhism and such… they are more dangerous than the pseudo-brahmanas because not only are they wrong in their understanding of the scriptures, they are also proud of it and do what they do as a sense of duty and right.

So, the next time someone lectures to you on the caste system and starts denouncing the Vedic scriptures, you remember that it was we people, not the scriptures, who are responsible for the current mess.

0 07 December, 2009 Bhagavad Gita-as i learned December 7, 2009

About the author

A techie by profession but spiritual by nature. Ambi writes about the ancient wisdom of our Indian culture in a way the modern generation can easily understand. Oh ya, his comments are as interesting as his posts and his posts always trigger healthy debates.

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49 comments

  1. Lakshmi Rajan

    Caste system is used prevalently to criticize Hindu religion.

    You have a Mercedez-Benz car. You run it for many many years. After many years of tear and wear, you change the company fitted parts with local parts, show it to ill-equipped mechanicz and finally the once great car is now making noises and smokes. Will you critize the Mercedez-Benz car for the current state or the bad servicing at wrong hands inbetween? This is the case of Caste system scenario. While Vedas never advocated the practice of Caste system as prevalent now, the inbetween power holders altered the original practice to suit their convenience and finally Hinduism been blamed intotal for the current mess…

    Good sensible article Ambi!

    Reply
  2. Alka

    The problem that Hindu religion faces now is , it needs a strong religious leader who shall bring the true meaning of the vedic scriptures to the masses and not just the elitist and embrace the dalits and other excluded communities back to the dharma and also other communities to shed their baggage of caste. Tall order, it is!

    Nice insightful article! Making me a fan of your writing now lol

    Reply
    1. Ambi

      Mani Padma will probably jump on me… but here goes anyway ;) :P

      Just kidding.

      We need to shed the baggage called ‘Hinduism’. This word ‘hindu’ doesn’t even exist in the Vedas… and anyone quoting anything to that effect is simply looking at some cooked-up verses.

      Yes, we need strong leaders… but it falls to US… the masses, to come out of the shell imposed on us by western philosophers who have taken every chance to discredit us and the Vedic scriptures so that they can propagate their own philosophies.

      If only the ‘intellectuals’ of our society can take up the study of even just the Bhagavad Gita in its *unadulterated* form, the progress that we can make would be enormous.

      Many intellectuals shirk away from doing this because they fear the backlash from the ‘modern scientific community’. We do not reject modern science. It has its benefits. But it also has its limits.

      One cannot take up Bhagavad Gita without accepting Krishna as God or him to be real. One of modern scientific thought’s major shortcomings is that many scientists take the attitude called Burden of Proof towards God, saying that God does not exist until proved. This attitude is fine towards matters related to gross physical existence, but fails miserably when applied to subtle matters, beyond the reach of our gross senses. Nowadays, they would not believe God even if they saw proof for Him.

      So, a change in attitude is required. We have to accept that our ancestors weren’t just roaming about nude and plucking berries and making clacking sounds with tongues. Even a superficial study of sanskrit and its compositions as well as a tiny peak in to the knowledge of astronomy, human body, architecture they had would put that crazy notion in the grave.

      To light up a room, one need not remove darkness first. Just bring in the lamp… darkness will go away. Get this knowledge and spread it. Automatically things will begin setting themselves right.

      Reply
      1. Mani padma

        Excuuuse me! I am a grounded person and will not jump on anyone unnecessarily. :-) this subject is entirely your forte. .(not the jumping) and it might take another 100 years to question you. At least not until I imbibe even a tenth of what you know. Till then i prefer to read and reread your series from the sidelines.

        Reply
        1. Ambi

          Haha.. :D

          I was mentioning it in light of the “not satisfied with anyone’s opinion” comment.

          But you had already offered the truce tea… I don’t drink tea, but yeah… ok. :)

          Reply
        2. Ambi

          Understanding this philosophy isn’t that difficult as one might think, MP. One just needs to make a sincere attempt at reading “Bhagavad Gita as it is”.

          That’s how I got started… seemingly by accident. For the normal person, this might seem as by chance… but hey, I know chance has ‘no chance’ when it comes to spiritual science.

          It is imperative that one should be honest enough to admit that one needs to have a teacher for anything… especially so for spiritual science. If one approaches the Bhagavad Gita or a Guru with a haughty mind, one can never understand it.

          Without my teachers who came in to my life, my life would have been VERY different. But that’s a story for another day. Fact is everything you read here in my articles is not even remotely my intellectual thinking… I am just trying to pass on whatever I learned without changing anything.

          As I said in the comment to my earlier posts, even if one person takes up the teachings of the Gita sincerely, it would make all this worthwhile.

          Reply
  3. Antarman

    very good post, I would express it in my mother tongue Hindi..bahut hi accha laga padh kar….dont think any english translation can express my feelings better.

    Reply
  4. David

    Clarifies the misconception i have carried about Hinduism ! Thanks to the author. Still, I feel the problem can only solved if the followers of the religion sheds as someone had put earlier the baggage of caste. Sadly, I don’t see anything happening in that front.

    Reply
    1. Ambi

      I am glad you found some clarity through the article.

      The problem is the current caste system we are made to ‘follow’. The actual caste system was meant for smooth running of the society… so to drop it entirely is not advisable.

      Reply
      1. David

        What I meant to drop is the corrupted form of caste system not the caste system as originally envisaged. Even as you have mentioned the attributes of caste system,I don’t think with the current diversified professional activities the caste system as originally thought have validity. It’s my opinion though I would like to hear from you how the original form of caste system can be implemented in the current world scenario and economic activities.

        Reply
        1. Ambi

          “…I don’t think with the current diversified professional activities the caste system as originally thought have validity”

          Any reason why?

          We see it happen even now… doctors, engineers, professors… though they don’t have the word ‘caste’ attached to their professional designation, its still the same.

          Reply
  5. Pramathesh B

    @ Ambi
    Btw, it would have been great if you had also another line.

    The caste system when became a class system, the hierarchy of power was :

    1. Knowledge Power
    2. Political Power
    3. Money Power
    4. None of the above

    But, today it is

    1. Political Power
    2. Money Power
    3. Knowledge Power
    4. None of the above.

    Reply
  6. Murugan

    According to your article, the caste of an individual is determined by the Teacher and not by birth as it is now. In that case is it allowed for a Sudra to become any other caste over a period of time after acquiring the knowledge/skill required to become other caste. Who decides that in that case?

    Reply
    1. Ambi

      Nice question.

      Since I don’t have a direct answer I have heard, I can present what believe would be logical based on what I have heard.

      Guru would still the decider, since a spiritual master is teacher for life. In case the Guru is not there in the picture due to any reason, one then has to consult other sadhus and the final anchor, Sastras, before concluding what is right for that person.

      Reply
      1. Ambi

        Just as an interesting point, there are instances of qualified Brahmana becoming sudra-like because of their behavior and developing un-brahminical qualities and such during the course of their life… like in the case of Ajamila… but that will be post by itself.

        Reply
  7. Hari

    Excellent article. But irrespective of the theory (as explained in the Bhagavad Gita) or its current practice the fact still remains that caste system then and now is discriminatory. I do not want a guru with his or her own prejudices to decide what I can do with my life.

    Reply
    1. Ambi

      So, what you are saying is “Tell whatever you want, doesn’t matter… this is what I will do and believe”. So, the ‘Excellent article’ part was for…?

      Did you study the article fully? Esp. the “I request anyone reading this article to set aside your prejudices..” part?

      Even after I have tried to explain the actual basis on which the ‘then’ caste system was created on, you are trying to stick to the false sense of equality so popularly advocated by oh-so-many people when by nature it does NOT exist.

      You cannot become a doctor just because you think you can be or are one. You will have to go through several years from school to a medical college with different teachers in medicine to get your degree. If you so strongly feel about your stance, try telling the schools or universities that you don’t want any of their professors (with their own prejudices) to decide whether you can be a doctor or not. If you don’t qualify in their exams and are not given a degree in medicine, calling it discrimination wouldn’t be a wise choice.

      Reply
      1. Hari

        I did mention in my feedback that the current system is discriminatory. Caste plays a big role in Indian society today. I also find it odd that you are critical of my “false sense of equality” while presenting a theoretical view of how society should be organized according to the Gita. All systems have their flaws including the version presented in the Gita.

        Discrimination began the moment Krishna said that he created the 4 divisions in society (this gets even stranger when you consider that Krishna could be a mythical figure. Literate human beings (rare in the ancient world) with their own self interests to protect are writing the Gita and claiming to speak on behalf of the “gods”). What does common sense tell us about the system that they are proposing in the Gita?

        Can an individual choose not be a member of the four groups and still lead a normal life? Are the Gurukuls mostly run by Brahmins or did it have Gurus from all castes (you would not want a Brahmin to categorize a student as a Sudra if the Brahmin does not have hands on “Sudra” experience)? Can a Ksatriya change his caste when there is war looming? Will an able bodied Brahman be asked to help the Sudras perform menial tasks if there is shortage of labor? Can you be a Sudra and a Brahmin at the same time? Are the educational requirements and job descriptions available easily to the general public or is it all up to the Gurukul to decide? Is there a formal system of redress if an individual feels that he or she has been wrongly categorized?

        So in my personal opinion the reason for setting up the caste system (as explained in the Gita) is for the privileged to take advantage of the illiterate and the poor. I do not see a big difference between what caste system was supposed to be and what it is today.

        Reply
        1. Ambi

          I will address the rest of your comments in a detailed manner once I get back from work.

          What is it that you find odd?

          Common sense would tell that one cannot live without discrimination.

          Fact.

          If you believe otherwise, I am sorry but you are trying to level mountains with plains.

          The basis of your arguments is here:

          “Discrimination began the moment Krishna said … claiming to speak on behalf of the “gods”).

          You assume it to be that literate humans were rare or that Gita was written by some selfish people to further their own interests. I have heard this countless times before from people ingrained with the western ideology that Indian scriptures are nothing more than fables and mythologies.

          If that is the case, you have missed the entire point in studying the Gita.

          Reply
        2. Ambi

          Ok. Got a time out.

          I feel you are too much taken in to the ‘status’ attached with the ‘castes’.

          “you would not want a Brahmin to categorize a student as a Sudra if the Brahmin does not have hands on “Sudra” experience”

          Well, a teacher can have several experts under him who can train a student and then report on progress. I have seen it happen in modern times too!

          Drona was a Brahmana and a warrior too. Ajamila was a brahmana even by qualification but he led a life quite different… worse than a classless one. Satyakama Jabala was born to a prostitute but became a Brahmana.

          “So in my personal opinion the reason for setting up the caste system (as explained in the Gita) is for the privileged to take advantage of the illiterate and the poor.”

          Any one can have any number of opinions, but what is true remains the same. If feel so strongly about your stance, then I suggest you read through the entire Bhagavad Gita once at least and please let me know how you understood that the text is created by selfish privileged persons to assert their authority on illiterate and poor.

          Reply
          1. Hari

            I will mention once again that I believe discrimination exists in the world. It existed then and it exists now. So I am not trying to “level mountains with plains” as you put it. You have also insinuating that I am influenced by Western ideology. Just because a person likes the Bhagavad Gita or other Indian scriptures and has a positive opinion of it does not make that person any more of an Indian than a person like me who has doubts about these scriptures, their authors and their intentions. Dissent is a very patriotic act and there is nothing Western about it.

            Your article highlights caste system as it should have been according to the Gita. My point is that the system mentioned in the Gita is seriously flawed and discriminatory. When I mention that I have some issues with the intention of the author(s) of the Gita you are pointing out stories from the same Gita and other religious texts to prove otherwise:)

          2. Ambi

            My mention of western philosophy does not mean I am of the opinion that anyone who is Indian should like our scriptures. It is because I do not believe that you have come to this stance by your own intellectual effort, without any influence from other popular ideas, people or ‘modern’ education.

            And bringing in patriotism is irrelevant here.

            So, you believe that the scriptures (our vedas, Gita… all that) are just man-made creations which are meant for and propagated by a privileged lot. That’s fine. You are the not the first person I have come across to say that and you won’t be the last.

            If you think the caste system described by Krishna is seriously flawed and discriminatory, please do share the flaws and the reason why you think so. And if you have thought about it, share the alternative you suggest, which you think is better suited than the one given by Krishna.

            When you talk of intentions of the ‘author(s)’… How do you know for sure the intention of the scriptures or the ‘author’? what is your means of knowing whether your understanding is correct or not? How can you say for sure “You know what? Krishna wanted to do only this by telling this…”?

          3. Ambi

            I read this on your blog…

            “Science has proven that the theories of creation as described in almost all of the major religions are patently false. The earth is 5 billions years old and the universe as we know it is over 15 billion years old.”

            Can you tell me… how do you believe this to be true?

      1. mani

        Dear ole Ambi!:-). You are incorrigible aren’t you?
        @ Hari . Welcome to Ginger Chai. Don’t get taken aback by his response. He is a genius and like almost all genius he is eccentric.Otherwise he is quite harmless.Whatever he is, we all love him over here.

        Reply
        1. Ambi

          *blink*

          I am no genius… so credit for being called that goes to my teachers.

          Eccentric? incorrigible? Hey…well people say THAT a lot! I know my wife does, for sure!! Lol!

          There is a quote by an unknown person:

          “You laugh at me because I am different, but I laugh at you because you are all the same”.

          Not that I laugh at others… but yeah I guess it fits me in one sense.

          Reply
  8. Hari

    Please do not speculate about my intellectual effort or make assumptions on what influences my intellectual effort. I liked reading your article and I have made it a point to focus my responses on the content of the article and not on you personally or what motivates or influences your thinking or intellect. I respect your views as it is and I hope you respect mine.

    It is my personal opinion that the Gita like all other ancient scriptures of all religions are written by human beings and is subject to the flaws and biases of human thinking and the limitations of human knowledge of the time. As you mentioned I am not the first person to suggest this. I am not also the first person to question the existence of god.

    The concept of caste mentioned in the Gita is discriminatory because I think that human beings should not be segregated based on anything (I am not arguing that there is no segregation today). I also think that comparing the caste system in the Gita to the modern educational system is too simplistic.

    We should work towards a society that does not classify or group individuals based on their occupation, personal character set or physical and mental attributes (or race, skin color and so on). I am not talking about utopia. Some societies (even within India) have done a better job than others of eliminating some of these discriminatory factors. That is what we should aim for.

    Reply
    1. Murugan

      Ambi,
      Even though I don’t say all the Vedas, Gita are not true, I still am not sure if they are true as well. There are so much of contracditary literature in each religion. Even within Hinduism people accept Siva as the highest God also. Is that not we have different sampradaya’s even within people who accept Vedas and Gita. So how does ordinary people like me select the literature in first place.

      Even in Srila Prabhupadha’s arguments I have seen most of the time the quotes from Gita and Srimad Bhagavatam to prove a point. When people even question Gita and Srimad Bhagavatam giving quotes from the same is not going to help.

      With due respect for Srila Prabhupadha, I read some of his books and it looks like he does not have any respect for anybody. He always uses words like Rascals etc. I am not able to believe that one of the best acharyas of this century does not respect others. I hope I am missing something here. Can you clarify?

      I don’t have enough knowledge to be critical, I am trying to understand

      Reply
      1. Ambi

        Murugan,

        There are differences between sampradayas and I acknowledge that. You must understand that people have likes and dislikes based on their spiritual disposition, their position in the material world and how they are influenced by the 3 modes of nature.

        Even the puranas are classified (discriminatory?)on the basis of who are the target audience. How you select which literature to be the best revealing to you is dependent on so many factors… but it is not superficial like selection of books in a library or a store.

        Contradictions in the Vedic scriptures are apparent, but if you take time and guidance on study, you will see that the points always reconcile in to the proper truth. For example, Vedas say animal dung is impure and must not be touched. But it also says cow dung can be used for purificatory rites… apparent contradiction? Only on details, but they are ALWAYS reconciled in the principles.

        I do not share your opinion on Prabhupada that ‘he does not have respect for anybody’. He does use the terms ‘fools’ and ‘rascals’ liberally… but only for those people who mislead the general public on science or spirituality.

        It is the DUTY of an “Acharya” to be strong in his arguments so that he can help his disciples get over their doubts and make progress. BTW, ‘fools’ and ‘rascals’ are not strong enough in the current scenario! :) Being a bonafide Guru is a thankless job these days… and if you do a deeper study, nowhere will you see any ulterior or personal motive. His focus was only on delivering the philosophy unchanged and establishing the truth as it is.

        Reply
        1. Murugan

          Thanks Ambi for your explanation. I definitely understand Srila Prabupadha does not have any personal motive. When I gave a book of him to one of my uncle who was following Vethathiri Maharishi, he was taken aback by the choice of his words. So I wanted to clarify.

          Reply
          1. Ambi

            Murugan, understand this carefully.

            People have an idea that if one is spiritual, one must be having a smile always, nodding one’s head slowly here and there, always using flowery words… these are all stereotyped impressions. Add to it the current tendency… “oh, there is no right or wrong… just everyone should agree on everything and do what is good for oneself”… and you can see what a mess it has become now.

            If you read carefully the books, you will see the context in which such strong words are used in contexts where either people are misled on the basis of ‘scientific’ opinion or philosophy is misrepresented.

            Fault finding is not a desired quality… but being a Guru means one needs to show what is right and what is wrong, without caring for niceties or how people perceive him. That quality was actually what attracted to me to his books in the first place.

            In that light, I don’t see a problem with Prabhupada’s chastising words.

    2. Ambi

      I was merely mentioning that the mentioning of “western philosophy” was just to show that your opinions are not based purely based on your intellectual effort… this has nothing to do with assessment of your capabilities as an intellectual. If you felt that way, my apologies to you.

      Personal opinions do not have any role in discussing objective truth.

      You cannot live without discrimination in this material world. If you try, it will be a disaster. The only level of equality is at the spiritual level… which if you cannot accept, then this discussion has no further reason to go on. Feel free to debate it how much ever you want, but it will be futile since we have no common ground to discuss.

      Btw, my next article was prompted by your comments. Thank you.

      Reply
  9. Pingback: Ancient Wisdom, Modern relevance – Role of faith in Science | Ginger Chai

  10. Murugan

    It will be good if you write an article about what should we do in our mordern life practically to reach the spiritual world

    Reply
  11. Lakshmi Rajan

    Interesting discussions !

    @ Hari

    Going through your viewpoints. The main point you find the caste system as discriminatory is that you do not want a guru with his or her own prejudices to decide what I can do with my life. Fine. Lets see this through some of the modern day practice.

    A student completes his high school. According to his percentage, he is given admission or denied admission for various higher studies. Do you view this as discrimintory? As per your thought on caste system and guru , here in this case the education department must be rated as discriminitaroy. Bue we don’t view it that way right?

    Second scenario. You take an organization. You have clerks, executives, managers, CEOs. Each one is assigned the rank based on his skills and knowledge. Is it discriminatory?

    Life in vedic times where much simpler than moderndays. Simpler in various job profile, social status etc. So a guru after many years of gurukul education, allocates each one his position according to his capabilities. The thing is we tend to confuse caste system as practiced now with the way it was envisaged in ancient times.

    Reply
  12. Hari

    @ Ambi
    No apologies required. Peace.

    @ Lakshmi
    My problem is not with the Guru itself but with the flawed system proposed in the Gita. The caste system mentioned in the Gita is similar to the scenarios you mentioned (education, organization and others) only if you are looking from afar. But I see major differences upon closer observation.

    The educational system or the system of dividing our organizations into groups is the system we created democratically. We have also set up checks and balances to prevent abuses within the system and also set up a legal system to hold people accountable for violations. The caste system was set up earlier for reasons like “Krishna said so in the Gita” (this was during a time when the knowledge contained in the Gita was only transmitted to select individuals and a vast majority of the people could not read or write and therefore did not have the knowledge or opportunity to question the system that was imposed on them).

    Krishna’s caste system has a couple of inherent biases. Let us assume that there is a father and son who are both Sudras. The grandson now wants to be a Brahmin. What are the chances of the grandson becoming a Brahmin compared to the grandsons of other Brahmins? The chances are very low. When you are in a particular field or group (like a Brahmin, electrician or doctor) you pass on certain knowledge, insight, network, contacts and skill sets to your children. The Sudras grandson can become a Brahmin but it is going to take a lot more time and effort (the reality is he will return home from the Gurukul as a Sudra). This is something that anyone in the teaching profession today in rural India knows very well.

    So Krishna’s system is designed to benefit those who want to stay in the same group versus those who want to switch from one group to another. This is a critical flaw since it violates the assumption that it is the Guru or the Gurukul that makes the primary determination. When a kid walks in to the Gurukul he/she already possesses a strong predisposition towards their own group irrespective of their natural ability.

    Krishna’s caste system also has another hidden bias. The 4 castes are based on skill set and ability. But as we know all skills sets are not equal and portability is not the same. By favoring ability (versus say color of the hair), the Gita makes it easy for a Brahmin or a Kshatriya to become a Vaishya or a Sudra but makes it difficult for a Sudra or Vaishya to become a Brahmin or Kshatriya. So I think that the system as proposed in the Gita is rigged in favor of the Brahmins and Kashtriya’s.

    In my personal opinion the system of caste according to the Gita is only valid for a few generations after with it becomes a rigid system. But most importantly the caste system as we have today is not a corruption of Krishna’s caste system but a natural progression of Krishna’s caste system. It is easier for a Brahmins kids to remain a Brahmin than a Sudra’s kids to become a Brahmin. As a self admitted creator of this system, I hold Krishna responsible for this mess:)

    We should also examine what was going on in India during the time when the Gita was written. The Gita was composed anywhere between 5 century BCE to 1st century ACE (based on which expert you talk to). Experts also disagree on whether Gita was part of the Mahabharata or inserted later on. I am not an expert (I have only read the English translation of the Gita). But I am aware that during the same period there was another philosophy that was gaining ground that promised a caste-less society. We today call this philosophy Buddhism. Based on the rapid growth of this movement we can make an assumption that the caste system was a problem for the general public very early on (at least 2500 years ago).

    Reply
    1. Ambi

      Hari,

      You are given in to so much speculation that you missed the point.

      “So Krishna’s system is designed to benefit those who want to stay in the same group versus those who want to switch from one group to another.”

      If you read my post carefully, this is exactly opposite of what was actually in place. And there is nothing like ‘wanting’ to be a Brahmin or Sudra… it was based on their natural tendency that people were classified.

      “this was during a time when the knowledge contained in the Gita was only transmitted to select individuals and a vast majority of the people could not read or write and therefore did not have the knowledge or opportunity to question the system that was imposed on them).”

      And you know this… how? Show me proper references.

      Who are these ‘experts’ you talk of? What is their expertise? How did they conclude what they did?

      Its all a matter where you place your faith on.

      Reply
    2. Ambi

      And I might add this…

      “When a kid walks in to the Gurukul he/she already possesses a strong predisposition towards their own group irrespective of their natural ability.”

      True… but that does not necessarily mean the kid is stopped from becoming what he is good at.

      “But most importantly the caste system as we have today is not a corruption of Krishna’s caste system but a natural progression of Krishna’s caste system.”

      Besides, your attempt at understanding the caste system or any other teaching of the Bhagavad Gita from a bodily standpoint (democratic, will be futile… since the first level of understanding that Gita teaches is we are not the body.

      “But most importantly the caste system as we have today is not a corruption of Krishna’s caste system but a natural progression of Krishna’s caste system.”

      Again, this is because you believe in the so-called ‘casteless’ society… I am beginning to think you have mixed up ‘class’ and ‘caste’.

      Also note that there are just the 4 castes… there are also 4 ashramas that are in the equation, but were not mentioned in the post because of the scope of this article.

      This caste system is mentioned in Chapter 4? Have you read the chapters beyond that up to the 18th? There are oh-so-many things that are mentioned by Krishna which ultimately show the viability of such a system.

      You say you are not an expert… but you accept someone to an expert, is it not? So I would like to know on what basis did you do that.

      Reply
  13. Ambi

    I missed this statement from Murugan:

    “When people even question Gita and Srimad Bhagavatam giving quotes from the same is not going to help.”

    Why not? If you read a book on Electromagnetism, and if there are any questions on a particular topic, it is logical to search and find the answer in the same book… if not, at least another book on Electromagnetism. It is hardly logical to say “hey, how can you quote from the same book? take up a physics or literature book and tell me how this is to be solved”.

    Vedic knowledge is not got by research and development. It is apaurusheya… meaning ‘not man made’ and is perfect in all sense (even with ‘apparent’ contradictions, which I explained in a previous comment). It is not got by empirical methods or mental speculations of some cunning individual who wanted to rule over all. But this requires that one study it properly through prescribed process. Superficial study and comparing it to our mundane knowledge will not work.

    Vedic methodology (shabda-pramana (hearing from authoritative sources))says and can prove (for the honest open minded seeker) that it is superior than the other methods of gaining knowledge (namely pratyaksa (direct perception, empirical method); anumana (induction i.e. arriving at conclusions using hypothesis, logic and examples, historical records etc.).

    So we don’t have to ‘prove’ anything in the Vedas empirically… which doesn’t make sense anyway since the subject matters of the Vedas and modern scientific theories are at different dimensions.

    Reply

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