[Advaita-l] Re: Question: Swadharma

Krishnan Sundaresan krish.sundaresan at gmail.com
Mon Feb 6 21:55:34 CST 2006

On 2/6/06, Ram Garib <garib_ram at yahoo.co.in> wrote:

> Sir! Swami Chidbavananda was a great soul. Like him
> many have interpreted scriptures out of compassion.
> With due regards to him, let me submit that historical
> and scriptural evidence is quite otherwise. If I start
> giving contrary evidence, it will fill volumes and may
> be inconsistent with the list policies. Suffice it to
> say that interpretation where caste is based on birth
> is much stronger and more universally accepted.

I do recognize that the widely prevalent interpretation is that caste is
based on birth. Sadly, no less a person than the Kanchi Paramacharya was
apparently of the same view (
http://www.kamakoti.org/hindudharma/part20/chap3.htm). As much as people
like Swami Vivekanada and other swamijis at the RK mission have tried to
cleanse this scrouge (misinterpretation of the caste system) from within,
literary and often out-of-context interpretation of the (many) scriptural
passages that you mention, often by people on both sides of the divide that
are capable exerting a considerable influence on the masses, seems to have
trumped the reformist's good intentions.

Secondly, what was the basis of caste in some ancient
> time can at best be of academic interest now. Much
> more important is the issue of how it is iterpreted
> and implemented tody?

I believe that it is not only of academic interest to understand/uncover the
real "basis" of caste as it was when the system was envisaged, but also of
social interest. For starters, it may help to set right a few wrongs.
However, I do agree that these are easier said and written about by armchair
"social reformers" (me included) than done practically in any reasonable

Thirdly, even assuming that caste was based on guna-s
> and karma-s and not birth, does not solve the issue.
> As I said, many scriptural passages violate the basic
> human dignity of non-dvija-s. Surely, we do not want
> to argue that violation of basic human dignity is not
> permissible for non-dvija-s based on birth but is
> acceptable for non-dvija-s based on guna-s and
> karma-s?

As advaitins, giving paramount importance to interpretation of dharma
according to shrutis, I see no reason why other scriptural works (like those
of manu) should be taken as a reference for interpreting the caste system.
Surely, you would agree that there is no reference in the shrutis about what
a dvija or non-dvija should or should not do. If anything there are
authoritative statements that all varnas are to be treated equally. For
example, in saying the following, it clearly supercedes Manusmriti's
lead-in-the-ear punishment for a non-dvija hearing the veda, by asserting
that vedic knowledge is for everyone: "yathomam vacham kalyanimavadani
janebhyaha, brahmarajanyabhyam shudrayacharyaya cha swaya charyaya cha"
(Shukla Yajurveda 26.2). Translation: "I do hereby address this vedic speech
for the benefit of humanity – for the Brahmanas, the Kshatriyas, the
Shudras, the Vaishas, the kinsfolk and the men of lowest position in
society. May I be dear to the learned in this world".


With regards,
> Ram Garib
> __________________________________________________________
> Yahoo! India Matrimony: Find your partner now. Go to
> http://yahoo.shaadi.com
> _______________________________________________
> Archives: http://lists.advaita-vedanta.org/archives/advaita-l/
> To unsubscribe or change your options:
> http://lists.advaita-vedanta.org/cgi-bin/listinfo/advaita-l
> For assistance, contact:
> listmaster at advaita-vedanta.org

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...

More information about the Advaita-l mailing list