brahman by birth or guna and karma

Ramakrishnan Balasubramanian rbalasub at ECN.PURDUE.EDU
Fri Nov 22 14:05:22 CST 1996

Vidya wrote:

> > Vidya - can you give actual reference to this in Mahabharata.  Ekalavya and
> Nahusha, an ancestor of the Pandavas, captures Bhima in the form of a
> serpent, and asks a few questions of Yudhishthira. If I remember right,
> both in this dialogue and in the Yaksha Prasna, there are references to
> brAhmaNa-hood being determined by conduct/knowledge.

Why, even Vyasa was the son of a fisherwoman. And yes, I too remember the
Yaksha Prashna in which Yudhishtra talks about brahmin-hood. Ingenious
speculations and explanations notwithstanding, brahamana hood does not depend
on birth. There is nothing buddhistic about this, infact. One common
misconception is that the Buddhists were against caste system. That's untrue.
Buddha in one of his discourses says people who do good deeds will be born as
brahmins or kshatriyas. The only thing is that he holds kshatriyahood higher
than brahmin hood. A careful reading of Buddhist texts will reveal this fact
(ignoring the usual mis-info spread in text books of Indian history, published
in India and pop-culture myths). In fact, sociologists speculate that the whole
Buddhist and Jainist movements were to assert the superiority of kshatriyas
over brahmins (See Ghurye, Caste and Politics in India (?)) and not an
anti-caste movement per se.


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