Indian Caste System

Although many Hindus subscribe to the belief that one is born into a certain caste this belief is not supported by their scriptures. The caste system in India has degenerated into a system falsely recognizing men born in Brahmin families as Brahmins, even though they don’t exhibit the qualities of Brahmins. This has caused so many problems.

Brahmanas, ksatriyas, vaisyas and sudras are distinguished by the qualities born of their own natures in accordance with the material modes, O chastiser of the enemy.

“Peacefulness, self-control, austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, knowledge, wisdom and religiousness–these are the natural qualities by which the brahmanas work.

“Heroism, power, determination, resourcefulness, courage in battle, generosity and leadership are the natural qualities of work for the ksatriyas.

“Farming, cow protection and business are the natural work for the vaisyas, and for the sudras there is labor and service to others.

“By following his qualities of work, every man can become perfect. Now please hear from Me how this can be done.

“By worship of the Lord, who is the source of all beings and who is all-pervading, a man can attain perfection through performing his own work.

“It is better to engage in one’s own occupation, even though one may perform it imperfectly, than to accept another’s occupation and perform it perfectly. Duties prescribed according to one’s nature are never affected by sinful reactions.” (From Bhagavad-gita 18th chapter)

So the Vedas recognize different people have different skills and qualifications, but it is no by birth, it is by guna [qualification] and karma [work]. So if someone born of a sudra [worker] father becomes qualified [guna] and works as [karma] a brahmana he should be accepted as a brahmana… In the same way if the son of a brahmana doesn’t have the qualifications of a brahmana or work as a brahmana then he is not a brahmana. There are so many examples of this in the Vedic scriptures.

The current Indian system is something like accepting the sons of supreme court judges as supreme court judges… It’s nonsense. They have to be qualified, they have to attend the university and pass the course, then they have to work under a qualified judge and get the practical experience, then they may be able to become supreme court judges…

So there is actually nothing stopping anyone from bettering his position in the Indian system in the scriptures… But also there is no need for everyone to strive to be supreme court judges. Anyone, from any social position can be liberated by performing his own work…

You have the same system in America. You have intellectuals [brahmanas], you have administrators and military men [ksatriyas], you have businessmen and farmers [vaisyas] and you have workers. The Vedic system just recognizes these groups, that’s all. It’s quite natural. (Rajesh James) wrote:

> A question (no offense intended). I am familiar with the idea of the caste
> system as traditionally practiced: the child of a Brahmin being a Brahmin
> himself, the child of a Kshatriya a Kshatriya, etc. This system, while
> perhaps not compatible with present political sensibilities, at least had
> two points in its favor.

> 1) It is logically consistent. Although I certainly cannot prove that a
> sudra, for instance, arrived at his present situation in life as a
> consequence of his actions in past lives, once I make the assumption
> that reincarnation functions as the system implies it does, the
> system does not exhibit any glaring logical inconsistencies.

It is true that on takes his birth according to his previous karma [activities] so one gets birth in a Brahmin’s family because of his past activities. So mostly the son of a Brahman has the potential to become a Brahmin. But it requires training. And it requires the Brahman father to be actually a qualified Brahmin… But in any case the training and the proper observation of the samskaras [purificatory ceremonies] is required… It’s not automatic at birth as is generally accepted now.

                                                      prapya punya-krtam lokan
                                                      usitva sasvatih samah
                                                      sucinam srimatam gehe
                                                      yoga-bhrasto ‘bhijayate

“The unsuccessful yogi, after many, many years of enjoyment on the planets of the pious living entities, is born into a family of righteous people, or into a family of rich aristocracy.” (Bhagavad-gita 6.41)

These days, in Kali-yuga, the samskaras are generally not performed or not properly performed and the gurukuls, the training schools for the boys, are no longer in operation… So there is generally no training and also no purificatory ceremonies… So these sons of Brahmins who have no brahminical training have to be called “dvija-bandhus” or friends of the Brahmins… Unless they actually have the qualities of Brahmins and work as Brahmins they can’t be called a Brahmin. You may even be qualified as a lawyer educationally but if you don’t practice, if you don’t work as a lawyer, no one will accept you as a lawyer.

The qualities of a Brahmin are given in the Bhagavad-gita:

                                                      samo damas tapah saucam
                                                      ksantir arjavam eva ca
                                                      jnanam vijnanam astikyam
                                                      brahma-karma svabhava-jam

Peacefulness, self-control, austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, knowledge, wisdom and religiousness–these are the natural qualities by which the brahmanas work.” (Bhagavad-gita 18.42)

> 2) It is practicable. It is immediately apparent who belongs to what caste.
> If my father belongs to a given caste, I know that that caste is my own.

Yes. That is there. But because one’s father is a supreme court judge one is not automatically a supreme court judge… He may have a good opportunity to become one. His father can help him, all the reference books are in his house, he is hearing about the law all the time… But he has to become qualified, he has to go to school, study the books, pass the exams, work as an apprentice under a qualified judge… If you just let any son of any supreme court judge sit in the supreme court that would be the end of the supreme court…

If someone, on the other hand, has a businessman as his father but he develops an interest in the law, attends the university, passes the exams, etc. If he develops the qualities and works as a lawyer, then one has to accept him as a lawyer, even though his father is a businessman. It is his guna [qualities] and karma [work] that are important, not his birth.

> Some individuals have said the traditional system is in fact a perversion
> of the idea of caste. Caste is instead a reflection of one’s intrinsic
> abilities and/or inclinations. In such a system, is caste any more
> meaningful than the idea that we all fit in some fashion into the divine
> plan? Is caste useful any longer as an organizing principle for society?

Yes. There are three modes of material nature, [goodness, passion and ignorance] and everyone of us is associating with material nature in a certain way. It is that mixture of our association with the modes of nature that determines our “caste”. It is undobutedly influenced by our parents guna and karma, but we can change it… One in the mode of goodness is a Brahmin, one in the mode of passion is a ksatriya, one in the mixed modes of passion and ignorence is a vishya and one in the mode of ignorance is a sudra. This system is everywhere, even in America. Unless it is recognized social interaction and the smooth running of a society become very difficult. It is true that certain people are suited to performing certain tasks… Someone has a very good brain, he can think analytically very nicely, so he can advise the government, he can be a judge in a court of law…

But if you put someone with no brain and little analytical thinking ability in that position he will not be very successful… Society will suffer…

This is one of the main problems in our society now [both in India and in the US]… No one knows who is who and so many jobs which should be being performed by Brahmins and ksatriyas are being done by sudras… It is said kalo sudra sambhavah, “In the age of Kali everyone is a sudra.” So it is a very difficult time. Mostly people are sudras, there may be a few vaisyas [businessmen] but almost no ksatriyas or Brahmins… This is the problem. We are not training them. The intelligent people are available, but instead of training them as Brahmins and ksatriyas we are training them as technologists. But these are sudra jobs…

> Furthermore, is there any restriction on my declaring myself to be whichever
> cast I wish to be? Is there any authority which can bar any person from
> declaring himself a Brahmin? If everyone chooses to adopt the “highest”
> caste, has the idea become a meaningless concept?

This is the biggest problem! Every sudra wants to be called a Brahmin! But they don’t want to follow the principals of brahminical life. In the Vedic age it was the kings duty to see that everyone claiming to be a Brahmin was qualified in terms of guna [qualities] and karma [work]. This safety mechanism has to be there otherwise unqualified “Brahmins” will spoil everything… It has happened in India so now many Indians want to get rid of the caste system altogether, because it has become a system being used by a few to exploit the others… But it is better to correct the system than throw it out. But where are the qualified Brahmins? That is the difficulty… So we should start training some. Srila Prabhupada wanted us to start “Varnasrama Colleges” to train Brahmins and ksatriyas… but it has not happened yet… But these colleges hold the key to the success of society in the future.

                                       varnasramacaravata purusena parah puman
                                    visnur aradhyate pantha nanyat tat-tosa-karanam

The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Visnu, is worshipped by the propper execution of prescribed duties in the system of varna and asrama. There is no other way to satisfy the Supreme Personality of Godhead. One must be situated in the institution of the four varnas and asramas.” (Visnu Purana 3.8.9)

But one also has to consider:

                               dharmah svanusthitah pumsam visvaksena-kathasu yah
                                    notpadayed yadi ratim srama eva he kevalam

“The occupational activities a man performs according to his own position are only so much useless labour if they do not provoke attraction for the message of the Personality of Godhead.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.2.8)

All things considered, Kali-yuga is a very difficult time for spiritual life and there are many faults. If despite all the faults we chant the holy names of the Lord (Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare/ Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare) then everything will be perfect…

                                            hare nama hara nama hare namiava kevalam
                                        kalau nasty eva nastya eva nastya eva gatir anyatha

In this age of quarrel and hypocrisy, the only means of deliverance is the chanting of the Holy Names of the Lord. There is no other way. There is no other way. There is no other way.”

Thank you. Hare Krishna!

Madhudvisa dasa


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