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VarNa - Is it by birth ?

madhav.vasudevan_at_sg.abb.com
Date: Sun Jan 20 2002 - 15:48:05 PST

SrI:
SrImathE Gopaladesika mahadesikaya namah:
Dearest srivaishnavas,
Given below is a post from Sri Anand Karalapakkam Swamin on the subject
Regards
Namo Narayana
aDiyEn
==========================================================================
SrI:
SrImatE rAmAnujAya namaH

namO nArAyaNa!

 Dear devotees,

 There was a query on this issue - Whether varNa (caste) is
 by birth. Already some articles have been posted on this.
 The appended response to the devotee has new contents.

 aDiyEn rAmAnuja dAsan,
 anantapadmanAbhan alias Anand.

-------------------------------
 In any SmRti (dharma SAstra work) by Rishis, the
 fundamental point of acceptance is that, varNa is based upon
 birth. It then prescribes the varNa dharmas in detail.
 There is no controversy as far as the traditional Vedantic System
 of thoughts like ViSishTAdvaita, Dwaita and advaita are concerned
 in this fundamental issue.

 Refer Purusha-SUkta wherein all the varNas are said to be
 created  by Lord Himself. To begin with, these four varNas
 will be there for sure. The SmRtis take much pains to explain
 various names of castes arising from the cross-marriages between
 these varNas to even two or three generations and prescribe the
 varNa dharmas for such castes too. This will be treated in
 SmRtis- Refer Manu, YAjn~avalkya, Aapasthamba etc.

 In dharmaSAstra works, which is basically a synthesis of
 principles from various SmRtis, this issue will also be discussed.
 You can refer such books also.

 PUrva-MImAmsa deals with the varNa issue to a good extent.
 They (Sage Jaimini and other commentators etc) have analysed
 various texts of VEdas related to varNa very well and have
 thoroughly discussed these things.

 I will just give one example for now on how this fundamental issue
 of varNa being based on birth is freely used in PUrva-mImAmsa :

 Lets take the rathakAra-adhikaraNam of pUrva-mImAmsa SUtras
 of Jaimini (6.1.12) :

  a. Background Details you may need on who is "rathakAra"
      (Refer any SmRti text) :

     The caste of the offspring born to a Kshatriya Male and
     VaiSya Women is "MAhiSyan".

    The caste of the offspring born to a VaiSya Male and
     SUdra Women is "KaraNi".

    The caste of the offspring born to a MAhiSyan Male and
     KaraNi Women is "rathakAra".

 b. This adhikaraNam discusses a text in Vedas which prescribes
     agni aadAnam for rathakAra (if I remember it right). Who is the
     rathakAra mentioned here ?

     Objection : Since the varNa of rathakAra is based on so many
     cross-marriages including SUdra, the Vedas wouldn't have
     prescribed the agni aadAnam for rathakAra varNa men, which
     it prescribes for the likes of BrAmhaNa varNa. Hence, we
     should not take the rUDi meaning (conventional meaning in usage)
     of the rathakAra, which denotes the name of the varNa; Instead,
     the yOga meaning (etymologically derived one) should be used.
     rathakAraH can be derived as "ratham karOti iti rathakAraH"
     ie. One within the BrAmhaNa etc three varNas, but who is
     capable <has the skill> of building a ratha ie.chariot is only
     referred.

   Reply : rUDi meaning is more powerful than the
               yoga meaning. Hence, we need to understand the text
               only in its rUDi sense and rathakAra caste (varNa)
               men should follow that injunction.

 This will be referred to us "rathakAra-adhikaraNa nyAya" in
 various works of VEdAnta as well.
-----------------

 We need not even go so deep. We can just understand these things
  from various episodes in IthihAsa-PurANas itself.

  King Janaka was a great bramha-jn~Anin and was highly
  sAtvik {Ref RAmAyaNa ; Or the King Janaka referred in
  Upanishads as disciple of YAjn~avalkya; Or in Gita}. He didn't
   perform the duties of a brAmhaNa; Instead, he performed
   the activities as befitting a King, since he was a Kshatriya {ie.
by
   birth}. His varNa didn't change just because he was a very
   great bhakta. For that matter, devotees of the order of Arjuna,
   who is a master of his senses was only advised/instructed by
   Lord KrishNa to perform duties befitting to his varNa ie. fighting
   a dharma-yuddha {but with the spirit of sAtvIka-tyAgam with
   aatma dhyAnam,bhagavad sEshatvam etc}. The devotees like
   Arjuna were never instructed to behave as brAmhaNas after
   observing very good sAtvik qualities in them.




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