Birth and Caste (was Re: [Advaita-l] RE: Vedic Shakhas ...)

S Jayanarayanan sjayana at
Wed Feb 2 23:58:45 CST 2005

--- "Jaldhar H. Vyas" <jaldhar at> wrote:

> On Wed, 2 Feb 2005, S Jayanarayanan wrote:


> No I'm not disputing the validity of genetics.  I'm asking
> what does that
> prove concerning dharma?  If we accept the brotherhood of man
> based on
> substantially similiar genetics, why not also accept the
> brotherhood of
> worm and man based on substantially similiar genetics?

The "similarity" in the genes between a nematode and a human is
*only* in the *number* of genes (24000 for humans and 19000 for
nematodes), NOT in the nature of the genes. I'm not sure why
you're saying there is a lot of similarity between the genes of
a human and a nematode?

The number of genes in two humans is not only identical, but the
similarity between the genes of two humans is about 99.9%
identical! There is very, very good reason to believe that there
is *some* relationship between two humans.

I got this info from

>  However scientific observations are
> value-neutral. 

Scientific evidence like DNA, ballistics, pathology, etc. are
brought in a court of Law for the sake of administering justice
-- a value-based judgment. 

Just wanted to point out that there is scope for science in
value-based judgments.

> We as
> humans attach values to them but we do so in a non-scientific
> way!

There are two statements: 

1) "By birth alone one becomes a BrAhmaNa or a Kshatriya".
2) "The ancestors of BrAhmaNas are all BrAhmaNas, and the
ancestors of Kshatriyas are all Kshatriyas."

The first one is value-based and hence cannot be judged using
science, but the second one is not value-based and can be judged
by science (Genetics).

If it so happens that the second statement is false, the first
statement is in serious doubt, and this is exactly why I brought
in genetics.

> > > > YudhishhThira's dialog with the Yaksha, etc.
> > >
> > > I believe we looked at that one too.
> > >
> >
> > And the conclusion was ...? In any case, there should be no
> > problem having the discussion again if there are any doubts
> in
> > this regard.
> >

Quote from above link, "I finally got around to looking at this
based on an electronic copy of the BORI critical edition of the
Mahabharata I have.  I also found a copy of this episode at which says at the end it is based on ch. 297 of
Prof. Tokunagas' files (apparently based on the BORI edition)
and ch. 313 of Pandit Kinjawadekars' edition.  Both sources do
not contain the above quoted shlokas."

How about the following shlokas from Book 3, Chapter 179 -- the
dialog between nahushha and YudhishhThira that I posted to the
list? As a matter of fact, the dialog *is* found in the Sanskrit
Documents Site at

1) YudhishhThira first defines BrAhmaNahood:

satya.n dAnaM kShamA shIlamAnR^isha.nsyaM damo ghR^iNA . 
dR^ishyante yatra nAgendra sa brAhmaNa iti smR^itaH .. 16..\\

"Yudhishthira said, 'O foremost of serpents, he, it is asserted
by the wise, in whom are seen truth, charity, forgiveness, good
conduct, benevolence, observance of the rites of his order and
mercy is a Brahmana."

2) YudhishhThira goes on to forcefully *deny* BrAhmaNahood to
one who does not have these qualities though he be born as one:

shUdre chaitadbhavellakShya.n dvije tachcha na vidyate . 
na vai shUdro bhavechchhUdro brAhmaNo na cha brAhmaNaH .. 20..\\
yatraitallakShyate sarpavR^itta.n sa brAhmaNaH smR^itaH . 
yatraitanna bhavetsarpata.n shUdramiti nirdishet .. 21..\\

"Yudhishthira said, Those characteristics that are present in a
Sudra, do not exist in a Brahmana; nor do those that are in a
Brahmana exist in a Sudra. And a Sudra is not a Sudra by birth
alone--nor a Brahmana is Brahmana by birth alone. He, it is said
by the wise, in whom are seen those virtues is a Brahmana. And
people term him a Sudra in whom those qualities do not exist,
even though he be a Brahmana by birth."

3) And finally, YudhishhThira affirms BrAhmaNahood to *anyone*
who possesses the aforesaid qualities:

yatredAnIM mahAsarpasa.nskR^ita.n vR^ittamiShyate . 
taM brAhmaNamahaM pUrvamuktavAnbhujagottama .. 32..\\

"Yudhishthira said, 'O excellent snake! Whosoever now conforms
to the rules of pure and virtuous conduct, him have I, ere now,
designated as a Brahmana.'"

So the above shlokas in the MahAbhArata are crystal clear on one
point: BrAhmaNahood is by conduct *alone*, and not by birth.


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