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Re: On Caste and Karma theory

From: Hari Krishnan (
Date: Sat Jan 19 2002 - 23:39:02 PST

Dear Friends,

Our ancient literature - and this is not limited to religious literature alone - abounds with messages, dicta, axiom or whatever other name one wants to call it by.  Let me quote a well known verse from the Pura-naanUru, four hundred verses on themes other than that of pure romance and romance-related love.  It is estimated that these verses belong to a period at least 200 years before the birth of Christ.  In particular, the second verse of pura-naanUru mentions that king Perum-chOtru-udhiyal-am-Cheran sent foodsupplies from the South, when the Pandavas and Kauravas were engaged in a fierce battle.  This means, the time of these verses run much much deeper back in the majestic river of Time.

yaadhum uurE yaavarum kELir
theedhum nandrum pirar thara vaaraa

Any land is our land.  Everyone is our kith and kin.  Anything good or bad is not the making of others.

That is, 'I make no difference between this land and that.  All are same to me'.  The 'land' mentioned here is not the soil.  It means people.  And 'the people - whoever they are - are my kith and kin.'

The second line is of deeper significance.  'Neither good nor bad is caused to me by others,' it says.  I am responsible for what I am.  I am responsible for what is good or what is bad in my life.  I do not have anyone else to blame.  

Theories of Karma - and fate - have not been properly understood by the West.  What is known as 'fate' to the Hindu is so totally and materially different from what a Westerner understands it to be.  

Take for instance the Tamil word 'oozh' for what is known as 'fate' in English.  'Oozh' simply means 'sequence' or natural order.  If one is followed by two, two must be followed by three which in turn must be followed by four.  If four is followed by seven, then there is something wrong.  It is what is known as 'oozhal'.  oozh+al.  That which is not in order. The English word 'fate' is not potent enough to convey the full import of its Tamil counterpart, 'oozh'.  That holds good for any language.  The Sanksrit 'dharma' and the Tamil 'aRam', though seemingly synonymous are in fact same flowers of different fragrance.  Like malli and nithya malli  both belong to the jasmine family but they smell differently.

The karma, vidhi or oozh theory is not for discriminating people from people. It is laid down as a rule for the individual (we will discuss this separately, if at all it is needed) and not for the society and for social relationship. If Thiruvalluvar says 'What is stronger than fate?  If we think of an expedient (to avert it), it will itself be with us before (the thought).' (Kural 380) and in the next breath says 'They who labour on, without fear and without fainting, will see even fate (put) behind their back,' he is not contradicting one statement from the other. Both are valid in individual contexts.  They are context sensitive and should not be interpreted out of it.  

This is not any different from what Jesus told the Satan, 'Man does not live on bread alone.'  and on the other hand remembers to ask in the daily prayer, 'Give us this day our daily bread.'  The Hindu understands the validity of both statements and does not look at it quizzically. He won't ask, 'If man does not live on bread, why do you ask for it in your prayer to your Lord?' He perfectly understands that in the first statement the emphasis is on the word 'alone'.  Which really means, 'man DOES live on bread ALSO; but that is not the ONLY thing in life.'  He therefore understands the validity of the prayer 'Give us this day our daily bread,' for one has to live, after all! 

Our society has been such that it took whatever is good from other religions. It is thus that what was good in Buddhism and Jainism and numberless other relligions were assimilated into this religion.  But this religion, unfortunately, did not receive the same kind of treatment from others.

Without malice, hatred or ill-will, I would recommend a study of the biography of Roberto de Nobili, the first missionary who studied Hindu scriptures (of course with his own purposes behind it) and the way our scriptures were represented from then on - if at all one wants to understand the nature and purpose behind the anecdote that Mr. Greg Micel heard.  I would only say - Allegory is not an argument and anecdote need not necessarily be part of history or custom.

In case someone needs particulars of the book on Nobili, here are the details: A Pearl to India by Vincent Cronin, published by Darton, Longman & Todd Limited, 64 Chiswick High Road, London W4.

I once again want to lay emphasis on one fact.  I write this without the least little trace of malice towards other religions.  I respect the Bible, in fact have read it as zealously as a Christian. If at all one wants to understand other religions - even one's own religion for that matter - one should have a very open heart and mind.  That was why Mahatma Gandhi could say, 'I read the Bible and my understanding of the Gita increased a thousand-fold.'


Hari Krishnan

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "MK Krishnaswamy" <>
To: <>
Sent: Sunday, January 20, 2002 12:24 AM
Subject: On Caste and Karma theory

| Dear Members,
| Greg Michel, in his posting on 'Social Justic' regrets that there is no Vedic equivalent of the Christian directive to 'love your neighbour as yourself'.

[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

           - SrImate rAmAnujAya namaH -
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