[Advaita-l] Re: Question: Swadharma

Krishnan Sundaresan krish.sundaresan at gmail.com
Sun Feb 5 22:55:46 CST 2006

On 2/5/06, Sanjay Srivastava <sksrivastava68 at gmail.com> wrote:
> For a believer in reincarnation, caste system is not inconsistent with
> the concept of justice. This world view helped hindu society to become
> a non-competitive society where occupations were decided on birth.

Are/Were occupations really decided by birth? This is an erroneous thought
that is perhaps the bane of our society today. The Bhagavad Gita clearly
mentions that varnas are to be decided according to an individual's guna and
karma (4:13). Swami Chidbavananda further qualifies this by saying that
varnas are based on quality of mind alone (also quite clear from 4:13 that
birth has nothing to do with caste) and that any human seeking realization
shall have to pass through these varnas during his quest.

Swamiji also gives an excellent view on this in his commentary on verse
18:44. I am paraphrasing below: "Among the 4 great yogas, the Karma yoga has
the characteristics of the Sudra dharma , Raja yoga contributes to a sadhaka
what the Vaisya contributes to society, the function Bhakti yoga and the
Kshatriya are alike and the Jnana yoga does to a sadhaka what a Brahmana
does to society". The varna/caste system, in its original form, was perhaps
meant to reflect this stratification of the society in terms of its progress
to spirituality.

I believe the system has been quite misinterpreted, intentionally or
otherwise. As far as I know, there is no direct mention of varnas/castes, in
the shrutis (except the cursory reference in the Rigveda/Purushasuktham) and
hence it may be safe to say that there is absolutely no (advaitic)
scriptural sanction to the caste system as we know it today. It is just a
question of wanting to follow a wrong path (knowing that it is indeed wrong,
as you have recognized below), perhaps out of the need to maintain the
status quo prevalent today.


> the flip side, this world view also gave rise to a complacency and
> condonation of excesses in the name of dharma. Ideally, I would like a
> system to have all the positive qualities without any negative
> repercussions. However, in practice, one is usually gained at the
> expense of the other.It seems somewhere we lost this balance.
> Fortunately, hindus of all hues have recognized that a rectification
> is needed. You rarely find someone who does not advocate to restore
> the balance of caste system.

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Krishnan Sundaresan, http://www.msu.edu/~sundare2
Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48823, USA.
Excuse me for butting in, but I'm interrupt-driven...

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