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Re: Digest bhakti.v010.n019

From: Srinivasan Iyengar S3 Inc (
Date: Mon Sep 30 1996 - 13:42:38 PDT

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>From iyengar Fri Sep 27 11:10:54 1996
Date: Fri, 27 Sep 1996 11:10:52 -0700
From: iyengar (Srinivasan Iyengar  S3 Inc (408)980-5401 x3643)
Subject: Re: Digest bhakti.v010.n019
Cc: iyengar

>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,


>From my limited reading of our texts I would like to point out a few
details in Sri Mohan's post.

First the "position of a Brahmin" is NOT the highest in the society,
according to Varnaashrama Dharma. The learned ones have said that
all the 4 varnas are accorded the same status as per Varnaashrama
Dharma. No one caste is high or low. The Brahmana is given respect
as one who preserves the VEDA and as one who is a repository of the
knowledge of SRUTI. This was the exclusive responsibility of the 
Brahmana. The Veda is for the benefit of all mankind and he,
by performing the functions of svaadhyaaya and pravachana unselfishly,
for no personal gain, but for the benefit of all mankind, lived a
life of complete sacrifice. This is why the Brahmana was respected
and accorded a high status in society by virtue of the selfless
service he performed for the society. I am talking about the concept
of Varnaashrama Dharma - not what it could have degenerated into, in
practise a few centuries ago or the state it is in today.

Secondly, it is painful to see a statement with the words "Srivaishnavism
distinguished from Hinduism". Srivaishnava Sampradaya is inseparable from
Sanatana Dharma / Vaidika Dharma. Our Azhwaars themselves observed all the
rules of Varna Dharma where Veda Adhyayana is concerned even though they
knew Vedaartha and spoke to the Lord Himself. One Azhwaar's charitram
(pardon my ignorance for not being able to name him) cites an incident
when some local Brahmanas stopped chanting as this Azhwaar walked into
their village on observing that he was a Chathurtha. Azhwaar being a 
parama bhaagavata, this became a bhaagavata apachaaram and the Brahmanas
could not recollect where they had stopped chanting. i.e. Sruti hid itself
from them. On seeing their plight the Azhwaar, who could easily have chanted
the section, instead chose to point out the meaning of the place where 
the Brahmanas had stopped by taking a grain of paddy (nellu) and opening
the husk. By doing so, he adhered to Dharma and rules of Veda Adhyayanam.
We can take it that he showed us by example how to respect Sruti, inspite
of knowing the meaning and the essence of the Veda.

In the opinion of our PoorvaachaaryaaLs too Varnaashrama Dharma is paramount.
It forms one of the basis of Sanatana Dharma. Everyone is equal irrespective
of caste where devotion to the Lord is concerned. We adore all those who are
devoted to the Lord. This is in the realm of Bhakti. On a social level our
PoorvaachaaryaaLs have done nothing to dismantle the smooth functioning of
Varna Dharma from the point of view of the Karma one performed (according
to one's Varna). Their Greatness lies here. They did not hesitate to bow
down and adore anyone irrespective of Varna as devotees of the Lord. And
yet they did not tear up the fabric of society and create chaos by destroying
Varna Dharma. I speak here of the functions each Varna performed ( Work ).

Srimad Bhaagavatam gives us the example of Dharmavyaadha - a butcher from whom
the Brahmana Kaushika learns the finer points of Dharma. The Chandogya and the
BrihadaaraNyaka upanishads tell us the story of Gautama - a Brahmana learning
the Panchaagni Vidya from Pravaahana Jaivaali - a king (Kshatriya). Bhagavaan
Ramaanuja refers to this in his Sri Bhaashya too.

In the Srimad Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna says that destruction of Varnaashrama Dharma
would mean destruction of society.

To sum up, our Maharishis treated Varnaashrama Dharma as a system where every
Varna complemented the other and gave strength and stability to the whole
fabric of society. No one Varna was superior or inferior. Each had its responsibility
to fulfil the functions alloted to it selflessly in a spirit of service to
Sri Bhagavan and to the society. A Brahmana who swerved from his Dharma did
not receive the respect due to him. One has only to read the insults Bhima heaps
on Dronaacharya just after Yudhishthira announces that Ashwatthama was dead.

Please forgive me for the mistakes I may have made in writing this up.

Sri Ranganaatha Sri Paadukaabhyaam Namaha.

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