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Date: Wed Sep 25 1996 - 22:46:57 PDT

--------------------------begin Dileepan's quote

  This view is not correct.  While character is certainly 
  important, I am sure it is not stated anywhere that it is
  *the sole* criterion.  By birth you are eligible, and by 
  character you become one.  The converse is, if one is not 
  born a brahmin no amount of character will make him one.  
  There is a story in Mahabharatha to illustrate this.  
  Viswamithra is the only exception, but then he was intended 
  to be a brahmin by *birth*, but got switched.  The convertion
  was simply a matter of correcting the switch, not an outright
  change of caste.

  Emphasizing character to become a brahmin is troublesome.
  Why can't one become a shudra by exemplary behavior, say 
  like Vidura, or better yet, Nammaazhvaar.  It is this 
  Shudra's name that all Azhagiya Singars of Sri Ahobila Mutt
  adorn in their titles with great pride.

  Also, we often hear that the ultimate goal of all living
  beings is to reach the place from where "shudras" emanated! 
  (adikkeezh amarndhu pugundhEnE -- nammaazhvaar)  Thus, I
  don't know why anyone would or should want to strive hard
  to become a brahmin!

-----------------------------end quote

-----------------------------begin Srinivasan's quote

I appreciate Dileepan's bold and spirited reply on the above subject. 
 It represents our scriptural view better.  However, it must be 
emphasized that caste is immaterial for attaining the Lord.  There is 
ample support from the Bhaghavat Gita. On the other hand, I think the 
views expressed by Tatachar and Mohan Sagar on the above suject are 
politically correct, but unfortunately far from reality.  For 
example: How many arranged marriages that we see today are inter-

It is however possible that one day we may see a society (as it is 
headed today) sans distinction including that of the Gods.
---------------------end quote

I stand corrected in my use of the term "solely" in my comments on Mr.
 Tatachar's definition of a Brahmin.  There definitely is more to 
being a Brahmin than just character.  And, I would also agree that 
there is very little reason, within the context of SriVaishnavism, as 
to why one would want to pursue the aim of becoming one.  The intent 
of my statement was to answer Mr. Sairam's question in a manner that 
would not support the mainstream views of caste based on birth. 
Perhaps, it would be wise for me to elaborate on my personal views on 
the issue at this time.

When looking at Hinduism as a whole, the role of caste, whether it is 
defined as a product of birth or gunas, plays an extremely important 
role.  The definition of what a Brahmin is, even when it is based on 
gunas, is validated only when the position of Brahmin is recognized 
as being the highest within the society.

When SriVaishnavism is distiguished from Hinduism, however, a 
different picture comes into view.  Through the exemplary lives of 
our Azhwars, and the magnanimous attitudes of our Poorvacharyas, we 
see caste as having little or no value.  Indeed, it is the last thing 
that the community is concerned about in its adorations of the Lord 
and His devotees.  This is also clearly visible in the unique concept 
of Prapatti, which provides an opportunity for all human beings, from 
all walks of life, to realize Him. Consequently, I feel that to be a 
Brahmin, or even striving to become one, is meaningless.

To address Mr. Srinivasan's statement about arranged marriage, I 
think that marriage within one's community can be justified if one 
chooses to do so for the purposes of continuing the faith (not for 
maintaining caste), just as a traditional Jew or Catholic in this 
society would choose to find a partner within his/her own religion.

Daasanu Daasan,