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Tue Jan 20 15:11:51 CST 1998

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Copy of the Article published in the Newsgroup: Soc.Religion.Hindu
Author: Chandan Bandopadhyay <cbando at>
Date: Fri, 20 Jan 1995 02:50:45 -0500 (EST)
Subject:  Shubhashito (Noble Thoughts): Hinduism & Untouchabality

Shubhashito (Noble Thoughts): Hinduism & Untouchabality
In the early Vedic times different members, belonging to one family,
used to undertake different occupations of Chaturvarna(four castes)
according to their inclinations and ability. Each member of a family
was at liberty to adopt any profession he/she liked best without any
obligation. Born of the same parents, one son/daughter used to end the
cattle and still the soil; another, being of an enterprising nature,
defended his/her hearth and home against undesirables and mintained
peace and order of the country; and a third son/daughter gifted with
intellectual and spiritual disposition, pursued the priestly
profession. In course of time, when the Vedic Aryans, having grown in
overwhelming numbers, scattered throughout the whole of Aryavarta,
they divided themselves into four divisions according to their
different qualities(gunas) and actions(karmas) in order to organize
their society upon a sound basis. This fourfold division has been a
predominant factor of the Hindu social fabric.

Sri Krishna, the great incarnation of God, said: "The four castes were
created by me by the differentiation of qualities and actions; though
I am the author of them, know me to be actionless and
changeless"(Geeta). Thus he supported the basic principles of the
Vedic Rishis who organized the Hindu society according to the
qualities and actions suited to diverse temperaments and tenders of
different classes of people. The great law giver Manu also bears us
out on this point when he says: "Internally or externally one's own
cast should be determined by one's own actions(Manu Samhita). Kulluka
Bhatta, a renowned authority on Smirii and a commentator of the Manu
Samhita, lays down: "If any body's caste cannot be discriminated all
of a sudden, it should be done by the actions of that person"(Manu
Samhita). Even the celebrated social re-former Ballal Sena, the
emperor of Gauda Bango, arbitrarily re-adjusted the Hindu society of
Bengal upon theses principles.

While studying our scriptures, one can find that many distinguished
sages of ancient times could not trace their birth to any decent
origin. But it was their qualities and actions that can better be
summed up in one word 'character' which placed them in an elevated
position in the Hindu society and lifted them even to the rank of
highly venerated Rishis, the teachers and guides of man kind. In days
of yore, a dangerous outlaw like Ratnakara could be turned in to
Valmiki Rishi, and a meat-seller Tuladhara might be the spiritual
guide of Jajali Rishi. Veda Vyasa, the versatile compiler of Vedic
lore, was the son of a fisher-man's daughter, and Vashishtha, though
born of a divine courtsean named Urvashi., was highly respected Rishi
of his age. We read in the Chhandogyopanishad that Jabala, who is the
best known by the name of Satyakama, although ignorant of the identity
of his father, was the founder of a renowned school of Yajurveda.
Kripa, Drona and Karna, the great heroes of the Mahabharata did not
know the names of their fathers. In the Aitareya Brahmana we find that
Kobhadha Alusha, a low born Shudra, raised himself to the rank of a
Rishi by his unimpeachable character and high spiritual attainments.
It is distinctly stated in Harivamsa that Nabhaga and a son of Arista,
though of low birth, were admitted into the Brahmin class Guhaka
Chandala enjoyed the friendship of Ramachandra, was highly respected
by Sri Krishna who occupies a unique position in the Hindu pantheon. A
careful study of our various scriptures will convince any open-minded
were actuated by the same inner urge of constructing a magnificent
Hindu social edifice or Varnasharma Dharma upon the principal basis of
the qualities and actions of men. Let us quote here a few sayings from
our scriptures to show clearly how a man lower or higher class could
be promoted or degraded according to his good or bad qualities and
action :
        "Man gets into a higher class by virtuous deeds."(Mahabharata,
Shanti Parba)

    "A Shudra attains the rank of a Brahmin and Brahmin sinks into the
level of a Shudra. Know the same in the case of the children of
or a Vashya. (Manu Samhita)

    " By doing religious deeds men of a lower class rise to the higher
class and should be considered as such; by doing irreligious acts men
of a higher class fall to the lower one and should be treated so."
(Apastambha Samhita)

Even a Brahmin, guilty of wicked acts and taking bad food, falls from
Brahmin hood and becomes a Shudra. Even a Shudra, whose soul has been
purified by virtuous deeds and who has his senses controlled, is to be
served as a Brahmin." (Mahabharata)

Not by high parentage , nor by class but deeds one becomes a Brahmin.
a chandala, O Yudhisthira, becomes a Brahmin by good conduct."

We need not multiply quotations to vindicate that according to our
Varnashrama Dharma many a Chandala, by virtuous deeds, may become a
Brahmin. Can there be any stronger evidence to justify the uplift of
the depressed class than this? Is it not then meet and proper that any
lower class, which deserves to be promoted to a higher rank for better
qualities and actions, should be raised to that social status? It is
clear from our scriptures that every member of a society can, by pious
or impious character, become member of a higher or lower class. Every
class of the Chaturvarna in ancient India had its code of conduct;
neither birth nor right was the ground for any one to be called a
Brahmin or a Kshatriya or a Vaishya or a Shudra, but conduct was the
only criterion.

The Hindus should remember that the all-pervading influence of the
later-day degraded Buddhists and other allied sects, and also that of
foreigners who ruled over India, has contributed substantially to
demolition of the old structure of the Hindu society. As a result of
the repeated internal revolutions and external invasions which
threatened the very existence of the Hindus, the old laws, the old
laws of the Varnashram Dharma became inoperative in the Hindu society
long ago. Now, certain blind and meaningless customs and practices, as
also some local prejudices and usage have taken the place of pristine
laws and begun to govern the society everywhere.

As regards the origin of the present caste system, Dr. B. S. Moonje
opined: "There has been one more result, equally terrible of
Buddhistic propaganda in India: we see it in the sociology of the
Hindus. As a non-violent repulse to ferofious violent attacks of
forcible proselytisation persistently indulged in throughout the
Moslem period of seven hundred years, the Hindus evolved a system
known as the Cast System being concious of their inability to repel
violence with violence". This cast system, in the opinion of a section
of sociologists, put a check to proselytisation of non-violent Hindu
masses to some extent during the period of Moslem supremacy, but it
bred many serious evils and damned them into perpetual slavery. It has
been the root cause of division of Hindus into innumerable warrinng
sects, which, in turn, have brought about their degeneration and
downfall. Analysing the defects of the cast system, Rao Bahadur C. V.
Vaidya, the celebrated historian of Maharashtra, in his History of
Medieval Hindu India, says: "The result of the Cast System is that,
about 10% of the population is fit and disposed to fight; while the
remaining 90%, by nature and heredity, is not fit to fight and is,
therefore, ready to accept the rule of any nation which happens to be
successful." So, serious attempts need be made to reform the Hindu
society in a manner consistent with the changed condiions of the time
as well as with our traditional religion and culture.

            This part is taken from the book: Hinduism and
            Written by Swami Sundarananda
            Publisher: Ramkrishna Math

He, who sees Shiva in the poor, the weak and the diseased, really
Shiva; and if he sees Shiva only in the image, his worship is
  - Swami Vivekananda

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