[Advaita-l] Personal - Advaita and Caste System

Sunil Bhattacharjya sunil_bhattacharjya at yahoo.com
Fri Oct 29 10:50:51 CDT 2010

You are right. As the Lord said "Guna"  and "Karma" decide the Varna. This means that the qualities and the actions tell us who is a brahmana. One belongs to a particular varna only if one has the qualities of that varna  and also acts befitting that varna.


--- On Fri, 10/29/10, padmanaabh <s.padmanaabh at gmail.com> wrote:

From: padmanaabh <s.padmanaabh at gmail.com>
Subject: Re: [Advaita-l] Personal - Advaita and Caste System
To: "A discussion group for Advaita Vedanta" <advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org>
Date: Friday, October 29, 2010, 1:06 AM

Pranaam to all !

Dear Suresh,

Ongoing exchange about caste system reminded me of an exchange between
Yudhisthira *and *Sarparoopdhaari Nahush *from* Vanaparva *of* Mahabharata.*

Thinking it to be relevant to the current discussion,

I am posting some relevant parts from that exchange. Please consider:


*sarpa uvāca *

brāhmaṇaḥ ko bhaved rājan …

*The serpent said, 'O Yudhishthira, say--Who is a Brahmana …? … *

*yudhi**ṣṭ**hira uvāca *

satyaṃ dānaṃ kṣamā śīlam ānṛśaṃsyaṃ damo ghṛṇā

dṛśyante yatra nāgendra sa brāhmaṇa iti smṛtaḥ


Yudhishthira said, 'O foremost of serpents, he, it is asserted by the wise,
*in whom are seen satyam, daanam, kshamaa, shilam, anrushansyam, dama, *
*and ghruna is a Brahmana*.

*sarpa uvāca *

cāturvarṇyaṃ pramāṇaṃ ca satyaṃ ca brahma caiva ha

śūdreṣv api ca satyaṃ ca dānam akrodha eva ca

ānṛśaṃsyam ahiṃsā ca ghṛṇā caiva yudhiṣṭhira


The serpent said, 'O Yudhishthira, *satyam *and *Brahman *are beneficial for
all the four orders. Above mentioned characteristics are seen even in the *

*yudhi**ṣṭ**hira uvāca *

śūdre caitad bhavel lakṣyaṃ dvije tac ca na vidyate

na vai śūdro bhavec chūdro brāhmaṇo na ca brāhmaṇaḥ

yatraital lakṣyate sarpa vṛttaṃ sa brāhmaṇaḥ smṛtaḥ

yatraitan na bhavet sarpa taṃ śūdram iti nirdiśet


Yudhishthira said, If above mentioned characteristics are present in a *
Sudra*, and are not present in a *Brahmana*; then, that *Sudra *is not a *Sudra
*and that *Brahmana *is not a *Brahmana*.

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. (And a *Sudra *is not a *Sudra *by birth
alone--nor a *Brahmana *is *Brahmana *by birth alone.)

*sarpa uvāca *

yadi te vṛttato rājan brāhmaṇaḥ prasamīkṣitaḥ

vyarthā jātis tadāyuṣman kṛtir yāvan na dṛśyate

The serpent said, 'O king, if you recognise him as a *Brahmana* by those
characteristics, then, O long-lived one, the distinction of caste becomes
futile as long as his conduct is not in accordance with those

*yudhi**ṣṭ**hira uvāca *

jātir atra mahāsarpa manuṣyatve mahāmate

saṃkarāt sarvavarṇānāṃ duṣparīkṣyeti me matiḥ

sarve sarvāsv apatyāni janayanti yadā narāḥ

vāṅ maithunam atho janma maraṇaṃ ca samaṃ nṛṇām

idam ārṣaṃ pramāṇaṃ ca ye yajāmaha ity api

tasmāc chīlaṃ pradhāneṣṭaṃ vidur ye tattvadarśinaḥ

prāṅ nābhivardhanāt puṃso jātakarma vidhīyate

tatrāsya mātā sāvitrī pitā tv ācārya ucyate

vṛttyā śūdrasamo hy eṣa yāvad vede na jāyate

asminn evaṃ matidvaidhe manuḥ svāyambhuvo 'bravīt

kṛtakṛtyāḥ punar varṇā yadi vṛttaṃ na vidyate

saṃkaras tatra nāgendra balavān prasamīkṣitaḥ

yatredānīṃ mahāsarpa saṃskṛtaṃ vṛttam iṣyate

taṃ brāhmaṇam ahaṃ pūrvam uktavān bhujagottama

Yudhishthira said, 'O mighty and highly intelligent serpent, in human
society, it is difficult to ascertain one's caste, because of promiscuous
intermingling among the four orders. Men belonging to all orders beget
offspring upon women of all the orders. And in human beings, speech, sexual
intercourse, birth and death are common. And to this the *Rishis *have borne
testimony by using as the beginning of a sacrifice such expressions as--of
what caste so ever we may be, we celebrate the sacrifice. Therefore, those
that are wise have asserted that character is the chief essential requisite.
The natal ceremony of a person is performed before division of the umbilical
cord. His mother then acts as its *Savitri *and his father officiates as
priest. He is considered as a *Sudra *as long as he is not initiated in the
Vedas. Doubts having arisen on this point, O prince of serpents, *Swayambhuba
*Manu has declared, that even after having gone through the ceremonies of *
samskaaras*, if above mentioned qualities do not manifest in a person then
in such a case there is a high degree of intermingling of orders/castes (*
varnasankarataa*).  O excellent snake! Whosoever has undergone the
ceremonies of *samskaaras* and also has attained above mentioned qualities,
him have I, ere now, designated as a Brahmana.'

*sarpa uvāca*

śrutaṃ viditavedyasya tava vākyaṃ yudhiṣṭhira

bhakṣayeyam ahaṃ kasmād bhrātaraṃ te vṛkodaram

The serpent replied, 'O Yudhishthira, you are acquainted with all that is
fit to be known and having listened to your words, how can I (now) eat up
your brother Vrikodara!"
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