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Date: Fri Oct 27 1995 - 22:39:12 PDT
This is a very interesting subject as it has implications on secular life also and is one of the terms imprinted on Hinduism. Also Purvacharyas, in the times they lived did not have to address this to the extent they have addressed other aspects of our scriptures which we are still struggling to even just understand. At least for the Sri-Vaishnava purvacharyas, as per the great tradition of total acceptance of Alvars etc., caste was immaterial. What mattered was PRAPATTI. Thus, as a group Chaturvarnya is a fertile area for our thoughts. Just as Modern Physics is there as a scientific basis of Vedanta Philosophy, we may say that Modern genetics in a way is supportive scientific basis for Chaturvarnya. Varna is determined at birth and is influenced by environment. God (Krishna) is the source of everything. He is saying that he created chaturvarnya, just to imply that He did not create all with same aptitude(and attitude). In other words, we are not created equal. This inequality is also Krishna's (God's) creation. This is a basic requirement for the functioning of a society. The Vedic Purushasukta already describes the four castes and which parts of Purusha went to make them (Brahmins from mouth of Purusha) BrahmanOsya Mukhamaseet(Warriors from the shoulders of Purusha) Bahu rajanya kritah (Business class from Thighs of the Purusha) ooru tadasyayadvaishyah (Serving class from feet or sole of the Purusha). his classification is for proper functioning of a society. each group is suppose to supply it's share of complement for the whole. Take the case of human body, we need normal and proper functioning of Kidney, if our brain has to work. Yet , we normally do not praise someone's kidney, although we may admire some one's intelligence. That intelligence will collapse, if the kidney fails! Each organ is for a specific function and they have to work in mutual compliance for the normal function of a body. The same is true for a society. Now comes how to determine one's caste? The answer to this is in the Gita. Chapter 18 describes the basic qualities of the four Varnas. One can easily figure out the caste he or she belongs to based on that. We may never find a 100% match, yet, in most cases, one caste trait will predominate over all others in us. That dominant trait is our caste. If what we do is quite opposed to our basic traits and thought, then we have cheated ourselves-a matter of self-deception. By this we have also deprived the society we live in by providing our low quality work and at the same time denying a useful contribution we could have made in a different area. At some time along the Indian road, our basic traits(determined by our genes at the time of birth) was molded by environment (nurture) mostly by parents and the society. It is easier for parents to raise their children with what they are familiar with. That is what they did and that is what we are doing to our children more or less. Even today it is happening in India, may be in a different tone. The previously underprevileged class (outcastes) has automatically become previledged. We told them then that they were not good enough (wrong), and now we are saying that they don't need be good, we promise to give you goodies just because you are here(wrong again). Among caste people also aptitude test is never heard of in India. Anyone who has money can join MBBS or BE, whether fit or not. I also remebber how the arts and commerce majors were basically looked down (this is post - post Brahmanical domination era!). At least in the USA, there is aptitude test which to an extent filters people from choosing areas against their varna(caste, basic traits). People all through their career are turned and tossed and at some point or the other, just like the water in an irregularly shaped container, everyone will find their level. Also parental pressure does not work that well. Incentives work, that is why we have some of the best brains wasted in the legal profession. People who could be making a better contribution are using their valuable faculties to come up with ways to rescue wealthy scounderels and also invent new divorce laws. No system is perfect. The ONLY system close to being perfect is that given by Krishna:Svadharme Nidhanam shreyah (not as interpreted by Sri Ramanuja), the more natural interpretation. I feel that Krishna is asking us to stay true to ourselves (SWA-STHA). For eg., if we love Science and intellectual enquiry, we should stay there instead of becoming a lawyer, just for the sake of MONEY. Ofcourse we have to be pragmatic to an extent and choose within the many areas we like-that which will help us to pay for our basic existance. Farther we deviate from our aptitude and attitude, more A-SWA-STHA (sick) we get. Then what should determine the caste? Obviously the basic aptitude(genes). Gita implies that , after all Krishna said he created chaturvarnya (individuals), not Chaturvarneeya vamshams(clones). Even the message of Gita, Krishna taught to a host of Rajarshis in the great past. Even BhagavadGita as we know is taught to us through a Kshatriya and by Krishna of Vrishni tribe. Vyasa is son of Parashara and a fisher girl, Matsya gandha (Satyavathi) outside the wedlocks. Yudhishtira clearly says in Yakshaprasna that behavior and not the birth that detrmines one's caste (while answering what makes one a brahmin). Elswhere in Mahabharat, we hear Duryodhana saying that all hero's belong to one caste (while talking to Karna, the suta putra). To day we know that all Test cricket stars or scientists in a given field belong to one caste irrespective of their race or religion! One of the greatest misconception has been pouring the caste of parents down the throat of their progeny. By doing like this we have lost so many who could have contributed to the society in other caste functions than the one they were wasted in. At the same time we also settled down for inferior performance of individuals who were backed by family and not by their own ability. Even to day we know how Nehru-Indira-Sanjay-Rajiv-Sonia(waiting her acceptance?) chain was laid on and accepted. it is noteworthy, here to quote king Bharatha (son of Dushyanta) says none of his son's were worthy of th ethrone and seeks to bring an outsider. The other Bharatha reigned for 14 years treating Rama's paduke as the real king. Our wrong notion of Svadharme nidhanam shreyah (ie., hanging on to parents caste rigidly, INSTEAD of hanging on to one's own individual caste) has costed us dearly. I am sure that in many cases the parents caste and the progenies caste more or less matched. After all the caste traits are not strict water tight compartments. I am only commenting an when it did not match at all or only poorly matched. It is here our misunderstanding of Gita has costed our society. K. Sreeekrishna.