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Significance of Caste, and Questions Regarding the Sources of Self Sonsciousness

From: Nagarajan,Vasumathi,Ashwin (nagarajv_at_pathcom.com)
Date: Thu Feb 25 1999 - 14:28:20 PST

Dear Bhagavatas,

I saw several postings regarding caste, the distinction between Vdagali and
Thenkali, and what it means to be a Sri Vaishnava in January's list; I
thought that by sharing my perspective on the matter, based on the little
knowledge that I have acquired so far from my readings and contemplation on
the matter, I may refine my own understanding of these concepts (through
the comments and insights of others.)  Further, I will pose two queries at
the end of my posting regarding the two sources of consciousness; I will be
very happy if somebody can enlighten me as to the nature of the two types
of consciousness.

I will deal with caste in this posting and the other two subsequently.

Caste:

As far as I know, caste can only be applied to the Jagat (body), as gunas
are attributes associated with prakriti (matter) and not with the soul, and
this is true of any of three major interpretations of vedanta.  
The assignment of a body to an individual soul is determined, by the
ordainer, in accordance with the Prarabdha Karma (maturing load of Karma)
attached to that soul.  Now, the key things to note are:  caste denotes a
predisposition and not a guarantee, at birth, for spiritual progress. 
Further, predisposition towards spirituality is often misinterpreted as a
social status; our load of karma is such that we are almost one with
inanimate matter (we even have a highly contracted dharmi jnanam.)  It is
up to the individual soul (with contracted dharmi jnanam (self
consciousness) and contracted Dharam Bhuta Jnanam, or consciousness of its
own position relative to Ishvara and other jiva's) to exercise its will and
progress spiritually from the starting point (direction and speed of
progression depend on the prarabdha Karma and on the grace of god.)

Queries:

1.  Is the consciousness born of Cit the consciousness one has when ones
load of Karma is so strong that one identifies oneself with the gross body?

2.  Can the self consciousness arising from dharmi jnanam be thought of as
the first step in the spiritual progress, or is it always fully expanded?

*Please excuse any spelling errors or misinterpretations of terminology as
I am a neophyte.

Respectfully Yours,
Venkat