Thoughts on caste

Dennis Waite dwaite at INTERALPHA.CO.UK
Thu Feb 13 16:29:35 CST 1997

Padmasheela Rayala asked (amongst other things) in the Digest of 11th Feb
'Do you guys really mean to tell me that any person who is not a
brahman(brahmin..)by birth is not eligible to attain moksha?'.

I do not have any of the personal knowledge of the caste system or academic
learning on the subject possessed by many of the learned members of this
group and must ultimately defer to them. However, since no-one has put
forward the point of view which I have heard and found most reasonable, I
offer this as an acceptable explanation which should allow you to continue
to belong to the group and, as I have, continue to learn many useful things
from the often excellent input.

This view is that the modern (last few hundred years?) understanding of the
caste definitions is a total distortion of the original intent. This is that
people *by their nature* differ in their abilities, according to the
relative proportions of the guna present in their make-up. Thus, the
brahmana have a predominantly sattwicka nature, the kshattriya mainly
rejasika, vaishyas more tamasika and shudras principally tamasika. This
principal is, of course, world wide, not restricted to India. The idea was
to recognise this and thus allow an intelligent division of labour and
natural progress of humanity, and also presumably making optimal conditions
for each person to fulfil his suadharma (e.g. Krishna telling Arjuna it was
his duty to fight, being a kshattriya). It was never intended that there
should be any rigidity or mechanical assumption that such characteristics
were inherited. However, this has happened. The flexibility has been lost
and the system made rigid and compartmentalised.

This seems a reasonable interpretation of the state of affairs. Please note
I do not wish to cause anyone any offence by naive understanding and
certainly would not wish to trigger any of the arguments which have raged on
the Sanskrit mailing list! I wish peace to all!


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