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This is addition over
What is your review of "Who Were Shudras" (Book) By Dr.Ambedkar?
In the book Ambedkar, citing Rigveda, Mahabharata and other ancient vedic scriptures, estimates that the Shudras were originally Aryans.
The Gist of the Book as epoused by Ambedkar -
"Undoubtedly the conclusions which I have reached as a result of my investigations. Two questions are raised in this book: (1) Who were the Shudras? and (2) How they came to be the fourth Varna of the Indo-Aryan society? My answers to them are summarised below.
1. The Shudras were one of the Aryan communities of the solar race"
2. There was a time when the Aryan society recognised only three Varnas, namely. Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas.
3. The Shudras did not form a separate Varna. They ranked as part of the Kshatriya Varna in the Indo-Aryan society.
4. There was a continuous feud between the Shudra kings and the Brahmins in which the Brahmins were subjected to many tyrannies and indignities.
5. As a result of the negligence towards the Shudras generated by their tyrannies and oppressions, the Brahmins refused to perform the Upanayana of the Shudras.
6. Owing to the denial of Upanayana, the Shudras who were Kshatriyas became socially degraded, fell below the rank of the Vaishyas and thus came to form the fourth Varna.Importantly, Ambedkar states that the Shudras of Hindu society are entirely different from Shudras of ancient Indo-Aryan Society. He writes,
"...Such an inference is without any foundation, for the Shudras of the Indo-Aryan Society are absolutely different in race from the Shudras of the Hindu Society. The Shudras of the Hindu Society are not the racial descendants of the Shudras of the Indo-Aryan Society. This confusion has arisen because of the failure to realise that the meaning of the word 'Shudras' in the Indo-Aryan society is quite different from the meaning it has in the Hindu society. In the Indo-Aryans the word Shudra was proper name of one single people. It was the name of a people who belonged to a particular race. The word Shudra, as used in the Hindu society, is not a proper name at all. It is an epithet for a low uncultured class of people. It is a general cognomen of a miscellaneous and heterogeneous collection of tribes and groups, who have nothing in common except that they happen to be on a lower plane of culture. It is wrong to call them by the name Shudras. They have very little to do with their namesakes of the Aryan society, who had offended the Brahmins. It is a pity that these innocent and backward people of later days have been rolled up with the original Shudras and subjected to the same penalties for which they had given no cause."
Now Let us analyze his Claims -
I wish to mention that since Ambedkar did not knew Traditional Sanskrit ,he would have studied the texts through translations of Western Indologists ,But here lies the problem .The Colonial Indologists missed the larger meaning that provides coherence to the Indian texts; this is why their mistakes have continued generation after generation. The great Indian Yogi Sri Aurobindo pointed out that the European interpretations of the Vedas are essentially worthless. Historically, the universities in Germany began the academic study of India and this serves as basis for western interpretations of ancient Indian history and traditions. In The Nay Science: A History of German Indology, Vishwa Adluri and Joydeep Bagchee chart the history of the discipline to show its questionable philosophical assumptions, anti-semitic and anti-Brahmanic attitudes, and racial prejudice.The Question arises why did the Indologists turned out to be so totally wrong in their understanding of the texts when Many of them were competent and patient scholars who were trying their best to make sense of what they had in front of them.Indian texts require navigating through their own protocols. This is where the guru or the teacher comes in, and oral instruction is extolled. The Indologist reads this somewhere and gets lost and thinks this means that there is no written stuff anywhere! They don’t get that the context is everything and the declarations within the tradition are not to be taken literally.
The answer is that the Indian texts have traps for the uninitiated. If the process of understanding involves many steps in a ladder, there is much in the texts that will let you believe you have reached the top at whatever step, if that is where you want to be. Thus, there is room in the texts both for those who believe that the ritual is only outer, and others who believe it is symbolic.When it comes to moral precepts, the dharmaśāstras present material that might be contradictory in details because different subsets of these precepts were embraced by different communities. It was a system perfected for diversity!
Check Blog by Subhas Kak -
This Book is the key in understanding Ambedkar’thesis - The Nay Science by Vishwa Adluri and Joydeep Baghchee
Book Review: The Nay Science by Vishwa Adluri and Joydeep Bagchee | IndiaFacts
What does VARNA means ?
Varṇa means the “colour” of one’s personality which is determined by one’s inherent qualities (guṇas) with which one is born — which are:
sattva (balance/goodness/spirituality/peace/compassion etc.),
rajas (passion/greed/aggression/control/domination etc.),
tamas (ignorance/dullness/laziness/maliciousness etc.)
And Karma — which is the work and activities to which one is naturally attracted due to one’s guṇas. So Varna is Nothing but the work you choose, determined primarily by your talent and aptitude, the division of labour based on available opportunities.
Varna has to be understood with the term “varNa-Ashrama dharma” whichdenotes two separate systems, the varNa dharma and the Ashrama dharma. The first one refers to categorization of people, whereas the second one refers to recommended stages of life for any person. The two are not interdependent, but are combined together to compactly express a predominant philosophy of an ideal life in Hinduism.Varnas are 4 in number acc. to theory..
The four divisions of society - Brahmina , Kshatriya ,Vaishya and Sudra
along with The four stages of life - Brahmacarya (student) , Grhastha (householder) , Vanaprastha (retirement) , Sanyasa( renunciate)
pursued with The four aims of human endeavor (purusharthas) - pleasure (kama), prosperity (artha), righteousness (dharma) and liberation (moksha).
This is the THEORY, in practice things were different and there was a complex web of interdependence.The varna-jati system was extremely complicated and there were different permutations and intersectionality. These r suggestions not commandements . It is advised that a person should live his/her life acc to them.But it was upto a person to decide what he/she wants to do . Eg -the famous adi Shankara took Sanyasa at a mere age of 8 years.
Perpetuation of a Caste System and Caste Based Discrimination - requires two essential ingridients :- (a) Community Power (b) Community Wealth
To openly suppress and follow a caste system rigidly and to ensure people of particular castes or varna dont follow their ambitions and remain downtrodden requires Physically having the ability to keep them there which requires Muscle and Power.Remember that varna was a social *theory*. The actual reality of society can never be mapped into a theory. This is why when the British started to map different jatis to different varnas there were thousands and thousands of letters in protest of the mapping.Take the standard narrative—"India had a "static caste system" for 5000 years (where wily Brahmins had installed themselves on the top)." Static for 5000 years. Wow. Then everyone would be really clear about their varna right? Why the hell were they protesting the mapping? It is intersting that Scheduled Castes were claiming themselves as Brahmin,Kshatriya when British were preparing their Census
Let us analyze from Hindu Texts -
RIG VEDA - :Let us take famous Purusa Sukta - There are 2 Translations
Here’s the British translation:
At the top of the hierarchy were the Brahmins who were mainly teachers and intellectuals and are believed to have come from Brahma's head. Then came the Kshatriyas, or the warriors and rulers, supposedly from his arms. The third slot went to the Vaishyas, or the traders, who were created from his thighs. At the bottom of the heap were the Shudras, who came from Brahma's feet and did all the menial jobs.
The real translation is as follows (paraphrased):
From this cosmic intelligence humans derive the four most desirable traits of character, namely wisdom (brahmin), nobility (kshatriya/rajanah), industry (vaishya) and innate talent or facility (shudra).
Regarding Construction of Hinduism Dharma as a religion,a very important point was missed,Quran n Bibile are the eternal word of the Almighty and omniscient creator who revealed it to his prophet and Son and a copy of it is kept in heaven. One author, one recipient – eternal.But in Hinduism,the Main Text VEDAS which are four volumes, the first being the Rig Veda, are the semantic poetic compilations of meditating humans — 329 Rishis (m) and 27 Rishikas (f). Compiled over 5000 years ago and transmitted orally since then till now. They are insights into ultimate reality they are the human aspiration towards the Absolute – not a revelation, command and control from top down. The Caste system as a Theory was constructed during Colonial regimes and later propagated by Marxists is based on a Famous PURUSA SUKTA of RigVeda which is composed by One RISHI.
Caste” is not a term associated with any Indian tradition. You may have to ask the Portuguese to define the term, and then the British to understand how they used the concept to “divide and rule”! Many in India think of “caste” as being the same as “community”. And there is no “community” of priests. Priests are there in every Indian community.
Varna is our spiritual orientation, our inner compass, one that manifests as our attitude, interests, values, develops as character, and is ultimately reflected in our actions, behaviour and pursuits in life.
Here “varna”, or spiritual orientation, means your inner compass that gives you direction in life. Varna together with Triguna (source of motivation or drive) gives you both direction and drive and these manifest as aptitude, interests, personality and behaviour or action . Eg -Kshatriya varna is a spiritual orientation that manifests as as a composite character, whose traits include nobility, courage, a concern for others, protectiveness, and so on.
VARNA is independent of sex, birth or breeding. It is determined by temperament and vocation and is not fixed determined by birth and heredity. Any Varna can be attained through proper Training and by cultivating discipline. Since Varna depends on Tri-guna(Sattva,Rajas,Tamas) , A person desirous of Sattva guna will have to cultivate those practises which generate it and eat food which is predominantly Sattvic.
We are all born Shudra, meaning, we are all born with some innate talent or facility. That’s what we can assert at birth. But what talent or facility? That takes time to materialize. Only when the child is 2–5 years of age do the parents get some idea of what holds the child’s interest. Some children develop an interest in sport, and the rough and tumble. Others like to remain indoors and read. As the child grows older, between 5–11 years of age, their aptitude and interests crystallize. In the ancient days, varna was the defining quality. Today, the modern field of HR calls its “behaviour-orientation”.
A child with a brahmin orientation would be a knowledge seeker.
A child with a kshatriya orientation would display a character ideal for a leader.
A child with vaishya orientation would make an ideal enterpreneur. Or else, the child can be left alone to develop his or her unique talent in whichever direction they wish to take it. Let’s change the Sadhvi’s archiac statement into a modern assertion:
If I call you an academic, you don’t feel bad.
If I call you a soldier/leader, you don’t feel bad.
If I call you an entrepreneur, you don’t feel bad.
If I call you a citizen, you feel bad.
Does it make sense now?
Only a small proportion of society become academics (or priests or counsellers), or soldier/leaders, or an entrepreneur. The rest of us citizens are happy selling our talents to the highest bidder. What do you think a “salary” is?
Shudra are the only people who can earn a salary or wage, doing work they think is the best expression of their talent. The others have a narrow, defined role to play in society.
“Brahmin” is a varna, our “spiritual orientation” or inner compass, one that gives us direction in life, defines our aptitude, interests in life. Those who have the “brahmin” quality are knowledge-oriented, the thinkers, the intellectuals, the wise. They exist in every tribe and community.
Shudra is a varna, meaning our “spiritual orientation”, the one from which we get our “direction in life”. It is an innate quality, one of the four most desirable qualities in humans. Everyone is born Shudra, meaning with some innate and unique talent or ability.
Everyone is born Shudra, meaning with some innate talent or ability that becomes evident as the child ages. However, as the child becomes, say 5–7 years of age, they display other qualities of which brahmin (wisdom), kshatriya (nobility) and vaishya (industry) are the most desirable from the communities perspective. Innate wisdom, nobility or industry cannot find expression unless these qualities are developed, enriched and given purpose in life. And this involves years of rigorous training in a gurukula.
But the child or the parents of such children may not be motivated to a life of “public service” with all its travails and privileges. The child may prefer to go into a family profession or trade, learn the ropes in a family business, utilize their innate talents at some firm (like many of us prefer to do today), or develop some specialized skill or ability that is useful for society, meaning, there is a market for those skills.
So even if the child has the brahmin quality, he or she may choose to do their own thing - hence a shudra-brahmin. And any field of specialization benefits immensely from such innate ability to process knowledge.
So who will be a shudra-brahmin today? The field of applied research is a great example, like experimental physicists. Agricultural science, industrial engineering, process automation, process industries, automotive and aerospace R&D, and so on. It’s not difficult to figure it out for yourself, once you understand the true meaning of these terms.
If you are of Kshatriya varna, you can opt for leadership roles in “public service”, which in the day were kings, administrators, ministers, ambassadors and military leaders. But public service is not something that interests everyone. As a Kshatriya you can also take up jobs just based on your innate talent, a Shudra, hence a Kshatriya-Shudra, even though he or she is an innate leader. Similarly, a Brahmin who does not opt for public service can be a Brahmin-Shudra and work in any field of his or her choice, even if they are innately knowledge oriented. Shudra is the purest expression of svadharma and the only one who can get a regular salary or earn a living on their talent. A shudra is thus a regular citizen.
Public service involves years of training in the dharma of public service. Those trained, the dwija, no longer have free will. Their will is the will of the people and the role they play in a state. If a person is oriented towards knowledge, he or she is a Brahmin. Those who are oriented to risk and profit are Vaishya varna, best suited to an enterpreneurial role. The rest of us Shudra (meaning born with some innate talent or facility) are free to go about our lives as ordinary citizens, doing whatever we wish to do with our lives.
The reason why Kshatriya left their traditional roles in society and took up other professions was because after the 1857 revolt against colonial rule, the British made carrying of arms illegal, and this policy was formalized and passed into law by the India Arms Act of 1878. Thereafter, only those who were loyal to the British were permitted to join the military and bear arms.
So what will be your varna if you become Hindu? Who knows what your special talent is, or what your aptitude, interests, motivations are other than yourself? Varna is your “spiritual orientation”, your inner compass that drives your aptitude and interests in life. In the ancient times, varna was an important determinant of your suitability for public service. Today, corporates are increasingly using “behaviour-oriented hiring” to acquire new talent. This is the new form of the old concept of varna. After all, your behaviour can display or at least give some evidence of your varna, or in the modern sense, your character, interests and aptitude.
In Ancient India - Niti shastra ie, jurisprudence, is a mandatory part of the program of study for those who seek brahmin or kshatriya jobs i.e., as intellectually-oriented (counselors, emissaries, record keepers, administrators, priests) or power-oriented (community organizers, politicians, administrators, military) public service officials.
If you remember our texts, the large masses of our citizens do not have the aptitude for the discipline and rigor of training for jobs involving high risk, privations and personal sacrifice (even though they came with a lot of privileges and respect from society). It is the same today, though many may think “government jobs” like the IAS/IFS/IPS are cool or that “military jobs” are glamourous! They are, but that is just on the surface. And if you have the right aptitude and an passion & attitude for public service, you will enjoy the challenges and thrive. Those that don’t will be miserable and unable to cope. It’s why these services have stringent selection process and long years of training and of being mentored. [PS: It is why these “coaching classes” people attend to qualify as administrators, engineers or soldiers are so wrong, but that is another topic.
Is Purusa Sukta Casteist? Detailed discussion given downbelow
Subhash Chandra Gautam's answer to Doesnot Purusa Sukta in Rig Veda is indicative of Caste system in Hinduism?
Now we move further with our answer - Analyzing Varna Through Scriptures
MAHABHARATA and BHAGVAD GEETA -
VARNA (character) was the natural propensities and talents with which an individual is born. (Discussed in Gita 18:42–43)
The brahminical qualities are: Serenity and restraint, self-discipline, purity, forbearance, integrity, wisdom, insight and faith in the Vedas.
The kshatriya qualities are: Valor, power, determination, proficiency and courage in battle, generosity and leadership.
The vaishya qualities are business acumen, proficiency in agriculture, cattle-breeding and trade.
The sudra qualities are those of the general public — self-interest, food and entertainment.
These r 4 metaphysical Qualities present in every Human Being.These qualities are specific to individuals and not groups per se - so the Bhagavatam says:–
yasya yallakṣaṇā proktā pūso varṇābhi vyañjakam | yad anyatrāpi dṛśyeta tat tenaiva vinirdiśet ||
If the qualities pertaining to a certain varṇa are seen in another varṇa, then the later are to be classified as belonging to the former. (Bh. Sk. 7; Adhy. 11; 35.)
The Mahabharata,also discusses the Varna system,The Epic offers two models on Varna.The first model describes Varna as colour-coded system, through a sage named Bhrigu,”Brahmins Varna was white, Kshtriyas was red, Vaishyas was yellow, and the Shudras’ black”.This description is questioned by another prominent sage Bharadvaja who says that colours are seen among all the Varnas, that desire, anger, fear, greed, grief, anxiety, hunger and toil prevails over all human beings, that bile and blood flow from all human bodies, so what distinguishes the Varnas, he asks?
The Mahabharata then declares,”There is no distinction of Varnas.This whole universe is Brahman.. It was created formerly by Brahma, came to be classified by acts.
“The Mahabharata thereafter recites a behavioural model for Varna, that
those who were inclined to anger, pleasures and boldness attained the Kshatriya Varna;
those who were inclined to cattle rearing and living off the plough attained the Vaishyas;
those who were fond of violence, covetousness and impurity attained the Shudras.
The Brahmin class is modelled in the epic, as the archetype default state of man dedicated to truth,austerity and pure conduct. Indeed, it goes on to assert that all men are children of Brahmins, which does not make sense, unless understood this way . In the Mahabharata and pre-medieval era Hindu texts,”it is important to recognize, in theory, Varna is non genealogical.The four Varnas are not lineages, but categories
The Bhagavad Gita describe the professions, duties and qualities of members of different varnas - There is no entity on earth, or again in heaven among the Devas, that is devoid of these three Gunas, born of Prakriti.Of Brâhmanas and Kshatriyas and Vaishyas, as also of Sudras, O scorcher of foes, the duties are distributed according to the Gunas born of their own nature.
The control of the mind and the senses, austerity, purity, forbearance, and also uprightness,knowledge, realisation, belief in a hereafter– these are the duties of the Brâhmanas,
born of (their own)nature.Prowess, boldness, fortitude, dexterity, and also not flying from battle, generosity and sovereignty are the duties of the Kshatriyas,
born of (their own) nature.Agriculture,cattle-rearing and trade are the duties of the Vaishyas, born of (their own)nature;
and action consisting of service is the duty of the Sudras, born of (their own) nature.
This means These r 4 metaphysical Qualities present in every Human Being.
The Famous Hindu Guru GORAKHNATH commented regarding VARNA -
The four varnas are perceived to be located in the nature of the individual, i.e. Brahmana in sadacara (righteous conduct), Ksatriya in saurya (valor and courage), Vaisya in vyavasaya (business),and Sudra in seva (service).A yogin experiences all men and women of all races and castes within himself. Therefore he has no hatred for anybody. He has love for every being.(Gorakhnath, Siddha Siddhanta Paddhati )
SAPTRISHI ATRI also described this beautifully when he classified Brahmins acc. to these-
He described a Brahmin engaged in fighting as KSHATRIYA-BRAHMINA
He described a Brahmin engaged in agriculture,trade n rearing cattle as VAISHYA-BRAHMINA
He described a Brahmin engaged in selling lac,salt,dyes like Kusumbha,milk ,ghee,honey,meat as SHUDRA-BRAHMINA
(Source: PV Kane's History of Dharmśastra Volume 2 Part 1, pg 131 on the discourse in the Atri Smriti.)
So this clearly means that VARNA was a theoretical construct.
If a person who was selling materials was SHUDRA at one point than at another point,the same person when he was enaged in cattle rearing was VAISHYA.This was just a reminder to a person.VARNA is basically a theoretical description of an Indiviudal.75% of people labelled as SHUDRAS were also involved in agricultural activities and kept Weapons for protection of their families during Medieval ages . So ,they were also Vaishya n Kshatriya acc. to VARNA. There was no Organization in India that distributed Varna certificates to people .No Hindu King made a list of people involved in varna . When the Hindu texts refer to People as Brahmin,Sudra etc ., they r referring to on the basis of the occupation or profession which that person is currently engaged with becoz Varna is not static n fixed. There never was any central organisation giving certificates of varna status to people.there never was an administrative structure in place to ensure the varna status of any person ,the problem with forced Varna label is- is that there has to be a central organisation and an administrative structure n bureaucracy in place to ensure the compliance of the people fixed with varna and with the imposed varna behaviour n duties. There was no organized state machinery so vast and pervasive like in Europe and Middle East that it could enforce any of those laws outlined in the Dharmashastras, which were merely theoretical textbooks. Think about this-India consisted of more than 1000’s of Languages,Very few People spoke Sanskrit which is the Languages of Smritis.
But Nobody on ground was interested in knowing about Varna of any person.
WHO IS A SHUDRA ?
As with word Brahmin , The Word Shudra is also used in many Contexts -
In a Hindu spiritual context every one who has not been initiated (upanayana) and is not observing the disciplines and protocols of an initiate (dvija) is a Shudra. That’s about 98% of the Hindu population.
Everyone is born a Shudra and it is through initiation alone (dikṣa) that one acquires the status of “twice-born”, but having acquired this status, one is also subjected to rules, regulations and rituals which one must observe perpetually for the rest of one’s life in order to retain that status. Any lapse in observance requires restoration and rectification (prāyaścitta). This was during early vedic times
In the social JAATIS context , a Shudra can refer to anyone who is born into a family whose hereditary occupations are service-based:– These include trading, farming, skilled artisans of all sorts, painters, sculptors, musicians, dancers, actors, entertainers, servants, builders, laborers etc. In fact everyone who is not a priest, in the defense industry or in finance. In fact the majority of any society. In PURANAS and SMRITIS which are written by Smarta Brahmins ,The Shudra word is used in this context. Smarta Brahmins are orthodox Brahmins who follow Smartism . Smartism describes those who follow the rules and regulations of personal conduct based on the texts known as the Smritis. They are predominantly from the Brahmin community.
the term sudra is also derived from – socat dravayati iti sudra - as explained by Traditional gurus , it refers to those people in society who are moved by seeing the suffering of others and are motivated to relieve it. Hence all the work done by us sudras relieves the discomfort and suffering of others.
In the Yogic terminology , a Shudra refers to a state of a person who is attached to his body i.e. enslaved to material desires and sense enjoyments.
People have misunderstood the concept of Shudratva and are seeing it only in a class context.Even a Brahmin is a SHUDRA when he is engaged in Service based occupationA Shudra is a person who serves others and since everyone of us is a servant to another in some capacity or other we are all Shudras - especially when that service is a livelihood and source of income. In Today's world - Even politicians and presidents are public SERVANTS - they are elected by the public to serve the public and therefore they are all Shudras.
As we already know -The 4 Varnas are located in nature of each individual but the Shudra varna is more predominant n natural as compared to other. Through training,a person can focus on any Varna of his choice
Before Moving on -We should note -
All Hindu philosophical state that the purpose of Life is attainment of MOKSHA which is not gender or varna/jaati/caste based - it is based upon Self-realization (ātma-bodha) i.e. the removal of cognitive error (avidya) which obfuscates the perception of one’s true essence. This implies union with BRAHMAN which makes a person a true BRAHMIN-The Knower of BRAHMAN. Gender or class or race has nothing to do with attainment of Moksha since all of these characteristics apply to the physical body only, and bodies disintegrate according to biological laws and do not participate in Moksha.That which attains Moksha is the consciousness and consciousness is devoid of material categories.The obstructions to Moksha are precisely all those illusory concepts of self-identity such as gender, race, class, caste, nationality etc.
EARLY VEDIC TIMES -
Human Society was primitive and Population was very less
Varna comes in case of those people who have taken Upanayana initiation through which they became Dwija . These people were following
Jñāna-Yoga – which is the study of philosophy and the development of right-view (dṛṣṭhi) and the practice and cultivation of a meditation practice.. According to the Upaṇiṣads there are 32 Brahmā-vidyas or meditation techniques . The requirement for learning and practicing these techniques required Upanayana (Initiation) and Nitya-karma - daily obligatory rituals like sandhya-vandana and rules and regulations restricting and regulating every aspect of one’s daily life. These strict observances purify the mind and establishes the discipline required for meditation.
Those people who have not taken Upanayana initiation and its rules and regulations - were obstructed from the practice of the Brahmā-vidyas. But people were free to take Upanayana initiation whenver they desired as such. For this, a person would has to approach any Guru who has practiced all the 32 Brahmā-vidyas or is authorised to teach them.
Such People would have opted
Karma-yoga - which is disinterested service and engagement with the world, the dutiful performance of all social and profession obligations and working for the upliftment and benefit of others. This produces merit which then accelerates one’s spiritual evolution by producing Karmic circumstances which foster and nourish spiritual growth. This is also the spiritual base camp for everyone today.
According to the HinduDharma Shastras the Universal Dharma or LOKA-DHARMA is the code of ethics whichapplies to all humans irrespective of their theological or philosophical orideological belief systems.
· striving forcontentment
· practicing forgivenessand compassion
· exerting self-control
· abstention from angerand violence
· abstention fromstealing and cheating
· observing physical andmental purity
· constant pursuit ofknowledge [concerning the world]
· pursuit of wisdom[concerning the Ultimate Reality]
This is the highestmoral code applicable to every society and all humankind. One is assured ofspiritual progress and the Divine Grace if one follows this code (Manu 7;92)regardless of one's theological or philosophical convictions or lack thereof.
There is a saying in Sanskrit that underpins all teaching in Indian culture — na pṛcchataḥ kaśyacit bruyāt — “without being asked do not say anything.” In all the Upanishads, Puranas and Tantra the teaching begins with the disciple approaching the guru in humility and requesting the teachings. Even in the Bhagavad Gita - Krishna does not start the teaching until Arjuna in dejection, surrendered to him and begged his instruction.
So ,we get
During Early Vedic Times(Modern Estimates 5000 BC or Hindu Estimates 10000 BC) when Society was very primitive (as is indicative by Fire Worship) ,Human Society consisted of very small population with no concept of Cities,villages. The primary medium of worship was the fire (Population consisted of 4–5 thousand people),there were no “Vedic” temples , there were only fire-sheds (yāgaśālas) erected when needed. In the oldest archeological sites found - IVC - there were no temples ,only fire altars.Varnas were than relevant ,becoz worship was based on sandhya vandana,n Dwija,savarnas concept were valid based on that.
A person became a DWIJA(trivarnika) through Upanayan initiation and he was formally initiated into Vedic studies. He was taught the gāyatri mantra and promises to protect the Spiritual treasure of the brahmins i.e. the Vedas. During this ceremony the youth will take vows - to observe strict discipline, to study the Vedas, to perform daily Sandhya vandana and worship of the fire (samidhā-dānam), to serve his guru, observe chastity, beg for his food.
This is also supported by Manusmriti .Manusmriti(which is considered to be oldest among DharmaShastras n Smritis) also states that one’s birth as Brahmin, Kshatriya and Vaishya (traivarnika) do not confer automatic privilege and status. That has to be confirmed by four things:–
Upanayana - initiation
Veda-adhyayana - study of the Vedas
Sandhya-vandana performed daily.
Ācāram - fulfilling all the rules and regulations incumbent on a traivarnika.
Failure to comply with these four conditions forthwith renders one an OUTCASTE (vrātya) - which is lower in status than a Sudra! .It was like a club membership where you would join and have to ensure certain obligations to remain a member.If you failed in that, you would be outcasted and you would have to take membership again . Here we need to understand that Varnas were mere descriptions ,eg -a person only busy in enjoying material life is technically a Shudra but one day he suddenly changes his mind and goes to a guru for a Upanayan initiation will become a Dwija.These things were so organic and in constant motion that no one paid attention about varna. During this Time ,people in any Varna could in principle would have performed any Varna profession. Anyone, of any birth, would have performed the priestly function and that the People lived in close cooperation. The first three varnas are described in the Dharmashastras as "twice born" and they are allowed to study the Vedas. Such a restriction of who can study Vedas is not found in the Vedic era literature.The Word DWIJA is not found in Vedas,Upanishads,Tantras etc..It is mentioned in later DharmaShastras.
Those people who have taken Upanayana initiation became Dwija and were following
At this time ,there were Vedic Brahmins (ahitagnis)
POST VEDIC TIMES -
Humans Progressed. Due to increasing Population ,A new Agamic Layer emerged apart from Vedic system . It came after Vedic layer and opened up for all .As the Vedic yajñas declined, temple building filled the gap and the Agamas took over from the Vedas. The Vedic Yajñas were restricted to the traivarnikas .i.e.those who have taken Upanayan initiation.With the decay of Vedic fire worship-i.e.Vedic religion .Agamas emerged,temples became the focus for religious life and the ICON took the place of the Vedic AGNI as a focal point of worship.
In the Vedic period, the yajña or sacrifice was the central motif of the Vedic religious experience, this being so, two major issues arose:—
The Vedas are considered to be the utterances of individual perfected sages (Rishis), they are not at all narrative or systematic, so there are many apparently conflicting statements in them. In relation to the sacrificial injunctions many controversies arose among the theologians as to the correct method of celebrating the yajñas.
The need arose for the systematic arrangement of the entire sacrificial paradigm and the allocation of specific functions to the various priests and other individuals involved.
These two forces gave rise to the creation of the body of literature known as the 'Brāhmaṇas' which aimed at systematizing the ritual and interpreting it in a cogent manner.
When the sacrificial paradigm had degenerated and the circumstances of time and place had changed further — people had become more urban and societies had become more complex, the need arose for a clearer and more comprehensive explanation of the Vedic texts and the ritual and also the need to contemporize it in order to give it relevance. The focus shifted from Yajña to Dharma. This gave rise to the compilation of the 'Smṛti' literature — with all its rules and regulations regarding the daily life of the people — including social and criminal laws. This brought about the necessity also of regular study of these matters as bearing upon 'Dharma' or the duty of the people. It was at this junction that the Mīmāṃsa literature appeared with it's 1000 odd rules of Hermeneutics for the interpretation and correct understanding of what is stated in the Vedas as regards Dharma.
These rules were first formulated in a systematic manner by the sage Jaimini, in what is known as the Jaimini Sūtras (Mimāṃsa Sūtras). Jaimini did not invent the teachings, but for the first time reduced to writing the traditional interpretations that had for centuries been handed down orally through disciplic successions. Very little is known of his life aside from the tradition that he was a pupil of Bādarāyaṇa, founder of the Vedanta System. His actual date is quite unknown; however, the style of his writings assigns him to the Sūtra period
Once the Vedic yajñas had fallen into disuse and had become increasingly irrelevant in the lives of the people, the Vedas gave way to the study of the Tantras. But the principles of exegesis evolved by the Mīmāṃsa continued to influence all of the vast body of Tantric literature. Whenever any dispute arose regarding the interpretation of a certain text, the Mīmāṃsa principles were always applied.
Vedas come from NIGAMA — ascent of human aspiration towards the divine i.e. Vedas — they are the insights of Rishis in deep states of meditation and the articulation of those realizations in the form of poetry.
But Āgama is the descent of knowledge from above — all the Agama texts are in the form of dialogues in which Shiva, Vishnu or Shakti deliver discourses on four topics or pādas:.They are not developed by Brahmins
Jñāna-pāda — philosophy, theology, evolution and involution of the universe, Time etc.
Yoga-pāda — spiritual techniques, meditation, yoga, mantras, yantras etc.
Carya-pāda — one’s personal conduct in daily life — ethics morals etc.
Kriya-pāda — Temple building and consecrations, daily rituals to be performed, consecration of priests, festivals, offerings etc.
So, Vaishnavism ,Shaivism ,Shaktism are not developed by Brahmins.The concept of Moksha which is popular in Vedic Hinduism also changed -
In AGAMAS , the God to whom the devotee is attached and to whom he/she surrenders “saves” the devotee from repeated birth and suffering.This is known as concept of prapatti/śaraṇāgati through which a person obtains Moksha .The concept of Varna is completely irrelevant,But over the time,this was introduced in them . One Eg
śūdrā vā bhagavad bhaktā niṣādā śvapacā tathā | dvija jāti samā manyu na yāti narakāṃ naraḥ ||
I consider a Sudra, Nishada (tribal), Chandala (“untouchable”) or a brahmin equal to one another if they are devotees of the Lord. None of these ever enter purgatory. (Garuda Purana khanda 1. adhyaya 230;49).
The origin and chronology of Agamas is unclear. Some are Vedic and others non-Vedic. Agama traditions include Yoga and Self Realization concepts, asceticism, and philosophies ranging from Dvaita (dualism) to Advaita.We can say the ancient state of affairs 10000 + years ago in India was two parallel systems known as Nigama — Vedic System as described in the Smritis and various Brahminical texts — this system is also known as Brahmanism by scholars; and the Āgama — the matriarchal popular system of the masses.Tantra and Agama are basically the same but the term "Tantra" is specifically Shaiva/shakta and the Agama usually refers to the Vaishnava Tantra.Agama is more aligned with Vedic system. Agama is still left of centre when compared to the Nigama. At one time the difference was stark and demarcation clear. But like with all things Indian, through the ages the edges became successively blurred and cross-pollination was vigorous, fertile and rife.
The Agama literature is voluminous, and includes 28 Shaiva Agamas, 77 Shakta Agamas (also called Tantras), and 108 Vaishnava Agamas (also called Pancharatra Samhitas), and numerous Upa-Agamas, most of which are still untranslated.
Theology of sharanagati in brief -
Sharanagati is “Taking refuge in God” and it consists of 6 components as described in the following verse:-
ānukūlasya saṁkalpaḥ pratikūlasya varjanam
rakṣiṣyatīti viśvāso goptṛtve varaṇaṁ tathā |
ātma-nikṣepa kārpaṇye ṣaḍ vidhā śaraṇāgatiḥ ||
1.A prior conviction that one is helpless in achieving liberation from samsāra, and cannot effectively employ the means to achieve it that are taught in the Scriptures (Bhakti, Jñāna and Karma yogas as per Bhagavad Gita).
2. Having faith in the saving Grace of the Supreme Being - Sriman Nārāyaṇa (as promised in the Gita 18:66).
3. Invoking that saving Grace into one’s life.
4. Resolving to abandon all those acts which are contrary to the Divine Nature i.e. to abstain from wrong doing - causing harm to others, criminal activity etc
5. and harmonise one’s will with the Divine Nature - resolving to practice kindness, compassion and charity to all sentient beings etc.
6. surrendering completely to God. This can be illustrated by the simile of a drowning person who is struggling to save themselves and keep above water. The lifesaver swims out to save you. What do you do? You simply relax and allow the life-saver to do his job - if you continue to struggle than you risk drowning yourself and the saver as well. So once you have surrendered to God you need to stop struggling.
OK - so you have now surrendered and have stopped struggling to save and defend yourself and you are doing all the right things - loving kindness, compassion, generosity etc. Can you expect that all will go well?
No - there is still undischarged KARMA that you will need to requite - so after sharanagati, one accepts whatever positive and negative things happen to one with completely equanimity - one welcomes both the good and the bad like paying the bill for the use of services and utilities.
So in summary -
1. you accept and welcome everything that happens to you as recondite fruit of your own past actions.
2. Acknowledge that God is the Supreme Being and controller and conserver of the Universe and he has no need of your help in managing the world.
Having said that it doesn’t mean you remain indifferent to suffering around you - #5 requires us to practice Dharma for the welfare of others - loka-sangraha.
But everything you do must be done in a spirit of service to the Divine (Bhagavad kainkaryam) and without attachment to the outcomes (karma-phala-tyāga).
This is a huge subject which I have tried to simplify - in practical terms it means rejecting all fasts, pilgrimages, chanting mantras and religious activities with the aim of obtaining either grace of God or moksha.
Cessation of all reliance on astrology for divination or setting auspicious dates etc.
There is also so much more - but this will suffice to disorientate
The Way of Resignation(Shadanga yoga or Saranagati)
The Gita is consideredto be the Yoga Shastra par excellence. Lord Krishna gives clear and explicitinstructions regarding the three paths of Yoga. After expounding upon them ingreat detail, and acknowledging their difficulties, in the 18th Chapter Verse66 the Lord makes the Ultimate Statement (carama shloka);
“Abandoning all othermeans (dharmas) take refuge in me alone; I will liberate thee from the effectof all sins, grieve not.”
It is not merit (punya)which is the operative cause of Grace (daya) but the sense of one'sunworthiness (akincina), and the inability to follow the threeconventional Yogas and to liberate oneself. The Lord Himself is the way, themeans (upāya) as well as the goal (upeya) andPrapatti is the act of self-surrender to His grace. There is an intimaterelationship between the act of self-surrender to the Saviour and the flow ofDivine Grace.
The Three Componentsof Saranagati
1. Phala-samarpana — Abandonment of the hedonistic motivethat self-satisfaction in some heavenly realm is the supreme end of religiouspractice, and the rejection of the concept that self-surrender to God is ameans to achieve this end. One should renounce the ideas of agency (kartrtva),proprietorship (mamata) and self-interest (svartha).
2. Bhāra-samarpana — Renunciation of the sense of personalresponsibility in the act of salvation. Salvation comes from the SaviourHimself who is the Way and the Goal. It does not come by the will or desire ofthe individual. Prapatti obviates the burden of guilt, self-effort and theconsequences of error.
3. Svarūpa-samarpanam — The surrender of oneself to God who isthe real owner of the soul. This act of surrender brings about a radical changein one's life from an egocentric view point to the Theocentric view thateverything belongs to God, exists for His pleasure alone and is to be offeredback to Him.
The Agamic layer became the populist religion of the masses which disregarded or even challenged the status quo and adopted and adapted Vedic rituals and practices and opened then up to all and sundry. The 3 major schools of Agamas are Shākta (of the Goddess), Shaiva (of Shiva) and Vaishnava (of Vishnu).So now the earlier qualification of Varnas which composed of Sandhya Vandana n taking Upanayana initiation etc. collapsed.
It is not they become extinct but they were significantly reduced.Still there would have been significant Ashrams where common public could approach since everybody started to visit temples.The Āgamas also opened the way for the reception of the sacraments by all members of the Hindu community with the use of Tantric mantras in place of the Vedic ones making them DWIJA.The Sacraments have generally being administered to all communities with non-Vedic mantras. Over the centuries many local observances and customs were adopted — hence the remarkable variation noticed today in marriage ceremonies for example.
TANTRA was specifically developed by Shudras.There are hundreds of Tantric texts most of which remain untranslated and even unresearched . In the Tantra tradition, there is no varna for the sadhakas. They are classified as Pashu, Veeras and Siddhas, depending on the merits of their sadhana. The Tantric literature is no less vast than the Vedic one. Many great men in this tradition were born into non-Brahmin(Shudra) family. The tentacles of this tradition is widespread in many parts of India. In these communities, the Varnasharama is absent .
Over the time ,The Vedic and Agamic streams blended and became interwoven through constant interactions with Tantric Siddha equivalent to Vedic Brahmin(One who knows ultimate reality Brahman)
So ,The Question is Do People who have not taken Vedic initiation and practising Agamas-Tantra can be considered Sudras ? If yes ,than we can be sure Shudras were never opressed,.So we get to this point-Shudras were never oppressed as is indicative by DharmaShastras.Hinduism is like a complex Jungle.There was nothing Black/white here.For everything there was an exception
During British Rule in India ,British Officials Nelson also remarks that the groups considered to be Shudra may have their own scriptures propounded by their own Gurus and priests and may not avail of Brahmanic assistance in performing ceremonies and religious services.
[See: G Srikantan (2014), Entanglements in Legal History (Editor: Thomas Duve), Max Planck Institute: Germany, page 121–22]
The Tantras emerged and filled the gap and provided meditation techniques for all and sundry without any requirement. So those who were not inclined in taking Upanayana Initiation and were therefore barred from the Brahmā-vidyas could take up the Tantric practices instead.
Now, In this time, the SHUDRAS were the class of people in Indian society who were involved in various occupations such as:
· Engineering (nagaravAstushilpi) — civil works such building roads, bridges, dams, reservoirs, wells, etc
· Metal works (karmakAra or karmAra) — ore-smelting, smithy, forging, manufacturing of weapons, agricultural implements, vessels, etc
· Pottery (kumbhakAra or kulAla) — all kinds of vessels and containers as well as other public monuments
· Carpentry (takShaka, sthapati)
· Weaving (paTakAra or sUtrakAra or tantuvAya) — all kinds of clothing manufacture
· Construction (gRhavAstushilpi) — houses, temples, and other buildings
· Cart-building & chariot-building (rathakAra)
Still ,They were free to take Upanayan Initiation whenever they wanted.
New groups based on shaiva,shakta tantras emerged like Aghoris,Nagas,Kaapilaks,Pashupaalikas.Lingayats,Veershaivas,Nath Sampradays(It existed before gorakhnath) n several other Tanric movements throughout India.Similar Shakta sects emerged with creation of yogini temples throughout India such as the Eight Matrikas, the Sixty-four Yoginis etc.Several Vaishnava Sects also emerged throughout India.These had their own temples with their own Preists who were named as Archakas each having distinct practises.
1. Pancharatra — anyone could train to become priests. But during Vijayanagar period, the rulers created heredity temple appointments. Priests of Pancharatra are called Koil Bhattars, Bhattars.
2. Vaikhanasa — anyone could train to become priests. But during Pallava period, the rulers created heredity temple appointments.. It was re-instituted during the Vijayanagar period, after a gap when the Thirumala temple was closed for 12 years. Vaikhanasa is Vaishnava Siddhanta actually. Siddhanta cultures were always open to all.Priests of Vaikhanasa were called Nambimars all through Vijayanagar inscriptions. Today they are called Vaikhanasa brahmins.
1. Shaiva Siddhanta — Within this, different agamas have different entry requirements. For training in some agamas, adheenams take in boys who are orphans / with families but show inclination for spiritual life. For some agamas, there are strict requirements and only Vellalars by birth are trained into priests.. Even in chola period, there was no bar on upward social mobility. Strong men were promoted thru the ranks, could own land, and become part of the military ethos. Essentially, this is a classic case of priest-kings, in a society which permitted criteria-based entrants-exiters.
a. Priests of Shaiva Siddhanta are called Shivachariers (Sivacharyas), because they train in SiddhantAchara. Some become Gurukkals.
2. Siddha — open to all.
3. Lingayatism — open to all.
Folk religions — village goddesses like Mariamman have become full-fledged folk religions by themselves.they were always open to all. Rituals have become formalized and prayers have been composed. Anyone can become a priest. They are called Poosari (Pujari).Many of such variants would have been present in North India whch became extinct during Islamic Invasions.Different cults existed n still exist like Sri kula (sri sampradayam) and/or the Mahavidyas. Each have had their entry requirements. It was always open to anyone irrespective of any Jaati or Varna. Traditionally, these cultures came under the Vratya (non-vedic) classification. Some are/were also Vamachara. They are called Acharyas (note that Vama is also an achara as in VamAchara). Some of these merged into the cults of Shaivism and Vaishnavism because over time cults of some goddesses dwindled, or they were married off to Vishnu or Shiva paving way for mergers.
The archaka is an agamic priest who performs archana. An archaka who specializes in the ritual texts of one god does not officiate for another god. He trains in agamas or tantras specific to one deity. In addition to archanas, he performs the ceremonial bath (abishekham / thirumanjanam) and daily rituals required as per the agamas for the given deity.
The human body is thetemple for the Indwelling Spirit of God (Antaryāmin). So the temple as the bodyof God on earth is a similitude to the human body.
All the various partsof the temple structure correspond to various parts of the human body. Thetemple is the physical body which houses the presence of God. So the actualbuilding of the temple itself is a symbol of the presence of God in the world.
The temple with allits intricate imagery represents the universe in all its variety and just as onthe macrocosmic scale the universe is the body of the Lord so on amicrocosmic scale when the icon represents the manifested Lord; the temple isHis Body.
Image - 1
In the Āgamic(Tantric) practice, each and every temple is built to serve as a tīrtha, aplace to commune with the Devas and experience the niṣkala realm.Hence specific temples like Srirangam, Tirupati are called bhūr-lokavaikuṇṭham — “heaven on earth”. Wherever Hindus migrate in the world theycreate these fords or sacred places, they sacralise the land and through thecomplex rituals replicate the sacred landscape of India in America, Australia,Europe, England, Africa etc.
So ,People were still free to do whatever they want - whether to
adopt Jnana Yoga -take Upanayana Initiation for practising Brahma-Vidya
or to take Tantra-Vidya
or adopt Bhakti Yoga - engage in Bhakti with AGAMAS taking approach of Sharanagati
or simply practise Karma Yoga.
At this time,The Brahmins were divided into Vedic Brahmins (ahitagnis) and temple priests (devalaka)
GUPTA PERIOD -
Other Civilizations started flourishing and Indian Society underwent a drastic change.There was an expansion of temple building which required huge investment, labour and workers as well as the congregants to supply the services and income. Commerce and international trade also flourished and expanded.The international spice trade was one of the major ventures as well as commodity markets and trade in luxury goods ,domestic wealth indicators rose so did the demand for infrastructure projects, luxury goods and services and fine arts . As society became more complex and more sophisticated jātis started developing to master specific skills required-We now have the proliferation of jātis — thousands of new professional guilds emerging in keeping with the ever increasing of goods and services.
The priesthood started diminishing with the decline in the Vedic religion and Brahmins (5% of the population) moved upward into administrative roles in the growing bureaucracy, education, law and some moved downwards into trade.
The Vaishyas moved from farming into shopkeeping and commerce, and many became the bankers and investors in the entrepreneurial ventures that were blossoming from the 3rd century onwards. The international spice trade was one of the major ventures as well as commodity markets and trade in luxury goods.
The Sudras began an upward mobility and moved into the previous Vaishya professional monopolies of agriculture and stock-breeding. Some became very wealthy landlords and merged with the Vaishyas that had remained in those occupations.
Gupta Dynasty saw the inauguration of social and class-mobility of the Shudras through the development and expansion of the cities and trade — the Shudras left off service and became the farmers, the skilled builders, architects, tradesmen, craftsmen, artists, navigators, ship-builders, temple builders, gold and silver-smiths and producers of fine goods etc. the Vaishya and the Shudra castes merged and became one homogenous population. Many Shudras became wealthy land-owners and merchants and exceeded the vaishyas in opulence. This is collaborated by Foreign travellers as well as by the High GDP of India , Gupta age was the Golden Age of India.
Since the 5rd century BC during GUPTA Dynasties when India began expanding international trade the most powerful and economically influential Jaatis were Vishvakarma Jaatis:– Goldsmiths, silversmiths, blacksmiths,CopperSmiths,zinc metal workers and other Jaatis like stone- masons, architects ,skilled builders, surgeons, doctors(vaidyas),temple builders,carpenters,artisans,craftsmen,sweet confectioners,grocery owners,Cloth makers,handloom weavers,handicraft makers,Ayurvedic HERB sellers, producers of fine goods n services etc were theoretically Sudras but became new Vaishyas , these also employed Brahmins,for conducting yajnas n paid money to them through which Brahmins maintained their families.Cattle rearers n Famers were Vaishyas,n together these Jaatis controlled the means of power n production.Power in ever society in invested in the economy and in those who control the means of production.The brahmins, although theoretically the “head” of the society were actually economically powerless as they were dependent upon the largess and patronage of the Sudras and vaishyas and thus were, and still are in their thrall.
We can correlate with Modern World - One of the most unbelievable examples of extreme social mobility is the medical profession! According to the Dharma Shastras Doctors, Physicians and Surgeons are SUDRAS. Nowadays every “high caste” Hindu family crave a doctor or two in the family! The other most desired professions which were also traditionally, “low-caste” are pharmacy and accountancy. Here’s an excellent example of caste-mobility.
With the rapid increase of population , There was introduction of“left-handed” professions such as scavenging, sanitation workers, meat-processing, tanning, leather-workers, sweepers, poor peasants et al. became the Panchama Varna. Even the brahmins were categorised , Not all brahmins were "pure" - those who deal with the rituals of death and dying and post-mortem memorial ceremonies (mahāpātras) are considered as "impure" and are shunned by other brahmins as well as all the other Jaatis.
At this time ,There were Vedic Brahmins (ahitagnis), temple priests (devalaka) and funeral priests (apara-prayogis - mahāpātras)
The Puranas also emerged wrt to Temples to quench the drive of Spiritual Materialism and gave ways and methods of devotion to deities for the gratification of the consumer needs of the common people. Along with Bhakti (devotion) and with the ultimate goal of engendering disenchantment with Spiritual Materialism they also prescribed the way of surrender to God and disengagement (vairāgya).The knowledge contained in Vedas was also passed through Puranas as Population was very huge to impart Vedas to each n every person.(This was a pre industrial world, an agragarian society when there were no printing press.Texts were written on palm leaves through hand.)
So , To Summarize
With massive increase of population and emergence of Cities, Most People shifted towards Bhakti Yoga which was easy n simpler than Jnana and Karma Yogas especially the Major production and land owning power - Vaishyas and Sudras.The Vaishya-sudra class also emerged as one singlesocio Economic bloc.
Bhakti-yoga – which is the path of devotion and surrender to God - a path open to all even animals, without prejudice or discrimination. This is considered by the later texts to be the easiest, highest and the most glorious of all spiritual paths.
the vast majority of people simply follow custom and tradition to the degree that they can negotiate the complexities of daily life to their satisfaction. Those rare individual that were dissatisfied by their academic condition would seek out a guru and humbly request teaching. The gurus would invariably test the prospective disciple to assess their worthiness and readiness to receive the teaching and then would do the needful.
I have written this to demonstrate How Things were going and keeping in mind status quo of Shudras.
So ,the Question is Do People who have not taken Vedic initiation and practising Agamas-Tantra can be considered Sudras from Vedic point of view ?
There is a lot of Permutation and Intersectionality involved.
For every Hindu belonging to any Varna , at any given time -
Hinduism advocates the path of personal liberation for every person through austerity (tapasya), meditation (dhyāna) and renunciation (sanyāsa) which is the true quality of a BRAHMIN acc. to Vedas themselves.SAPTARISHI ATRI denoted this as one who studies Vedanta, gives up all attachments n is engaged in reflecting over samkhya n Yoga.
In HINDUISM ,Two paths are laid out by the Rishis and these two depict those paths.
1. Pravṛtti mārga - the extrovert path refers to GRIHASTHA phase
2. Nivṛtti marga – introvert path refers to SANYASA phase
Pravṛtti mārga is world and life affirming. It is the life of the householder who is engaged in the material world and it is characterised by the incessant striving to accomplish fulfilment of the three desires:–
1. putreṣana - desire for progeny to perpetuate oneself.
2. vitteṣana – desire for wealth, pleasure and power
3. lokeṣana – the desire for acceptance, recognition and validation by others and for companionship.
Nivṛtti mārga is the path of renunciation of the material world and the pursuit of emancipation from bondage to the senses and their objects for attaining Self-realization (ātma-bodha) and for ultimate liberation (mukti) from samsāra. This is the life’s path of the monk and the recluse which involves the rejection of the three afore mentioned desires.
So Vishnu embodies the values of the world affirmers and Shiva the values of the world deniers. This differentiation is illustrated through their iconography in HINDUISM
A Person who is practising Brahma-Vidya or Tantra-vidya can be engaged in Shudra Occupation. He will be a SHUDRA acc. to Theory when he will be doing that
Persons who are trained Kshatriyas can only take to arms when they were needed, the rest of the time they took to agriculture and other crafts such as leather-work, carpentry, blacksmith etc. That was a time of mercenary armies and soldiers were paid through loot and booty, after the war was over they did not receive a retaining salary and so returned to their villages to maintain themselves by other means of service and trade. They were VAISHYA or SUDRAS ac. to theory
A person who is a trained Brahmin can be engaged in agriculture activity. He will be a VAISHYA acc. to theory when he will be doing that.
A Jaati can be engaged in a specific Varna Occupation like Farming,Trade or Service class while adopting AGAMIC Hinduism
A Jaati can perform all 4 Varna function in its fold ,having its own Temple and preists. In that , a specific person can be practising Tantra-Vidya while engaging in Shudra occupation.
HINDUISM is like a jungle .There is nothing black and white here.For everything ,there is,was an exception. No one was keeping track , database of who is doing what.Most people were comfortably living their lives untill someone approached them.
The Word Varna whether Brahmin or Shudra is used in many different contexts and can be interpreted differently depending on usage. This is becoz Sanskrit language is multidimensional, with many levels, nuances and interconnections. Varna can denote a person, a quality and an Occupation when used in different contexts .
We should refer to Mahabharata as a good example . The Pandavas were trained as Kshatriyas . In Mahabharata after Lakshagraha event ,the Pandavas lived as Brahmins for several years in a Village .
During their Agyaatvas ,the Pandavas lived in Matsya kingdom as Shudras,They were performing Shudra Jobs.
So we can see the Up and down between different varnas which was quite easy becoz nobody ever kept a record or list of who is belonging to which Varna. It was made static during British rule.
Let us take SHUDRA varna here.
janmanā jāyate śūdra saṁskārāt dvijaucyate –
everyone is by birth a Sūdra and through sacraments one attains “Varna” status as a dvija (twice-born).
This definition was relevant during Early Vedic Times.
After Vedic times,the definition of Shudra varna changed and it denoted Service based occupation.
People have misunderstood the concept of Shudratva and are seeing it only in a class context.Even a Brahmin is a SHUDRA when he is engaged in Service based occupationA Shudra is a person who serves others and since everyone of us is a servant to another in some capacity or other we are all Shudras - especially when that service is a livelihood and source of income.Even politicians and presidents are public SERVANTS - they are elected by the public to serve the public and therefore they are all Shudras.
The 4 Varnas are located in nature of each individual but the Shudra varna is more predominant n natural as compared to other. Through training,a person can focus on any Varna of his choice.
A person who has taken Upanyana initiation in Kshatriya varna , if is practising any service based occupation , than he will be a SHUDRA acc. to theory
Now we come to Question Who is a BRAHMIN - This words also has various meanings
The word Brahmin means many things to many people resulting in confusion. One of the reasons for this confusion is Sanskrit language. Many words in Sanskrit have many meanings. Depending upon the context one has to take the meaning of the word. The word Brahmana (hereinafter "Brahmin") means the God, one who knows God, one who has the knowledge of God, one who has the knowledge of Vedas, an intellectual, a priest, a teacher, a professor, a person belonging to Brahmin varna, a superior person, a text related to Vedas, and so on.
The standard n traditional view is - One who knows Vedas and knows how to conduct Rituals
Other definitons are -
athā kāñcanatām yāti kāṃsyā rasa vidhānataḥ | tathā dīkṣā vidhānena dvijatvā jāyate nṛṇāṃ ||
As bell metal is turned into gold through the application of an alchemical process, so one who is initiated in the proper manner attains to the status of a brahmana. Vaishnava Tantra (Cc.M.19.151. Maya 74.90B/SB.6.1.2
There is a character theory that those who are preponderantly sattvic - balanced and positively disposed, illuminated are Brahmins. Those who are predominantly rajasic - aggressive, assertive, pro-active are Kshatriyas.
Depending on the blend of sattva, rajas and tamas (illumination, action and inertia) one is classified as a Vaishya (more sattva and rajas, less tamas) or a Sudra (more tamas and rajas less sattva.) But qualities obviously describe the individual not the other way around. According to Hindu epistemology (theory of knowledge) - observation and reason are the primary sources of knowledge. We can observe on a daily basis Brahmins who are grossly tamasic and Sudras that are extremely sattvic.
satyam, dānam, kṣamā, śīlam anṛśāsyam tapo ghṛṇā | dṛśyante yatra nāgendra sa brāhmaṇa iti smṛtiḥ || yatraital lakṣyate sarpa vṛttam sa brāhmaṇas smṛtaḥ |
yatraitan na bhavet sarvam tam śūdram iti nirdiśet ||
O King of serpents, he in whom are manifest truthfulness, charity, forbearance, good conduct, absence of malice, austerity and compassion is a Brahmana according to the sacred tradition. One in whom this conduct is manifest is a definitely a Brahmana, those in whom this is absent – regard all such as Sudra (even though born in a Brahman family). (M.B. Aranya-parva 180. 20, 27.)
Confirmed in the Mahābhārata:–
The cause of brahmanhood is not birth, or sacraments, or learning or progeny, good conduct alone is the cause. (MB. Anusasana Parva 143:50)
He in whom is seen truthfulness, charity,forgiveness, good conduct, absence of anger, austerity and compassion; he is abrahmin. (MB Vana Parva179;21)
But here we will take VEDAS as supreme authority - What is Vedic view
tarhi ko vā brāhmaṇo nāma? yaḥ kaścid ātmānam advitīyam jāti-guṇa-kriyā-hīnam
ṣaḍūrmi -ṣaḍbhavetyādi-sarva-doṣa-rahitam | satya-jñānānandānanta svarūpam
svayam nirvikalpam aśeṣa kalpādhāram aśeṣa bhūty-āntaryāmitvena vartamānam
antar bahiścākāśavad anusyūtam akhaṇḍ-ānanda svabhāvam aprameyam
anubhavaika vedyam aparokṣa-tayābhāsamānam karatalāmala kavat sāṣāt
aparokṣīkṛtya kṛtārthatayā kāma rāgādi doṣa rahitaḥ śamādi-guṇa sampanno bhāvamātsarya-
tṛṣṇāśā-mohādi rahitaḥ dambh-āhākārādibhir asāpṛṣṭacetā vartate | evam
ukta lakṣaṇo yaḥ sa eva brāhmaṇa iti śāti smṛti purāṇetihāsānām abhiprāyaḥ |
anyathā brāhmaṇatva sidhir nāstyeva | saccidānandātmānam | advitīyam brahma
bhāvayet | ātmānam advitiyam brahma bhāvayed ity upaniṣad || 11 ||
Then, who, verily is called a Brahmin? Whoever he may be — he who, has attained selfrealization,and directly perceives the ātman like a myrobalan fruit in the palm of one’s hand.[Realising that the ātman is] of the nature of Truth, Consciousness, Bliss and Eternity, without a second, devoid of distinctions of birth, attributes and action, devoid of all faults such as the six infirmities,1 and the six states2 and devoid of all changes. [The ātman] is the basis of endless determinations. [The ātman] is the indwelling spirit of all beings. [The ātman] pervades everything within and without like space. [The ātman] is of the nature of unlimited joy, indivisible, immeasurable, and is known only by direct cognition.
VAJRA-SŪCIKA UPANIṢAD of the Sāma Veda
This clearly tells Brahmin potential is,was present in every person.This requires Sadhana,Tapasya which very few people r interested in or want to pursue later in their life.
So we get ,The word Brahmin is used in two contexts - One who knows Vedas and one who knows the Ultimate reality BRAHMAN.
We should remember
There are 2 ways of attaining Brahminhood in Hinduism -
1 . Pravratti Marg - Grihastha Phase
2. Nivratti Marg - Sanyasa Phase
In 1 one , There are 3 ways to attain Brahminical status
Jaati , Varna ,Karma
A jāti-brahmin is one who is born in a brahmin family but is one in name only.
As an elephant made of wood, as an antelope made of leather, such is an unlearned Brahmana; those three have nothing but the names (of their kind). Manu 2:157.
A varṇa-brahmin is one who possesses the inherent qualities pertaining to a brāhmin and is ascertained from one’s horoscope (jātaka).
Discipline, austerity, self-control, generosity, truthfulness, purity, learning, compassion, erudition, intelligence and faith — these are the characteristics of a Brahmin. (Vasishtha Dharma Sutra. 4:23)
A karma-brahmin is one who practices or behaves as a brahmin regardless of birth.
Righteousness, truth (abstaining from injury and truthfulness of speech), self-restraint, austerity, delight in the happiness of others, modesty, forebearance, love of others, sacrifices, generosity, perseverance, knowledge of the scriptures — these 12 constitute the practice of brahmanas. (MB Ud.Parva. 43)
So ,Karma-Brahmin- is one who has mastered Vedas and performance of rituals.
We should note -
It took 12 years of arduous study to complete the study of the Veda - the life span was average 50 years, they also had to learn Sanskrit, Grammar, exegesis, philosophy etc. - For vast majority of population -they did not have facility for this. All they had time for was to learn their own profession and apply to to their daily maintenance. All the lessons of the Vedas are given in the stories of the Puranas which every illiterate peasant could listen to at the festivals. No need for the arduous and taxing discipline required to study Vedas. However some Individuals did make the effort.
In 2 one , acc. to Vajru-Succhika Upanishad of Sama Vedas
a Brahmin is one who has realized Brahman .This option is available for anyone by taking Sanyasa.
Writing was only developed in India in about 300 - 200 BCE. The entire sacred literature - i.e. Vedas had been transmitted orally for thousands of years before then. The primary function of the Brahmins was to learn the Vedas by heart and to transmit them to their disciples in an unbroken and perfect succession. So they were like walking libraries containing the entire culture in their heads.
In order to be the custodians and living vehicles of the Vedas they had heavy responsibilities and duties imposed on them .As national cultural treasures they were to be protected and given special privileges. If they neglected the study of the Vedas they were to be deprived of their privileges and treated as commoners.
Acc. to Hindu Cosmolgical View - Human Life is very precious n Man has come for no other reason except to know God.Human Life is not to be wasted only in earning Livelihood,hoarding Materials,enjoying luxuries n comforts which all other creatures do.
All hoarded things end in deterioration, rising in power comes to an end in downfall (all constructions end in demolition); all contacts and intimacies come to an end in separation and disintegration; life comes to an end with death.All forms of material pleasure and happiness and all material goals have seven defects known as Sapta-dosha these are: —
1. alpa — their end results are trivial
2. asthira — they are transient and impermanent,
3. asukara — not easily obtained, they require much effort and are time consuming.
4. asukhavasana — ultimately ending in grief and disappointments.
5. dukhanvita — accompanied by disappointments and supported only by struggle.
6. anucitam — incompatible with our essential being.
7. abhimana-mula — they’re based upon a false sense of self and lead to further perpetuation of this delusive sense of identity.
So Such People who r only interested in fulfilling their material desires without realizing the higher purpose of Life r called SUDRAS.They are enslaved to material enjoyments.Now cattle rearing n Agricultural activities like farming come under Vaishya occupation. The Sudra is interested primarily in satisfying his bodily needs and desires; the work that best suits his state of development is bodily labor. The Vaisya is ambitious for worldly gain as well as for satisfaction of the senses; he has more creative ability than the Sudra and seeks occupation as a farmer, a businessman, an artist, or wherever his mental energy finds fulfillment.The Kshatriya, having through many lives or through experiences in this life fulfilled the desires of the Sudra and Vaisya states, begins to seek the meaning of life; he tries to overcome his bad habits, to control his senses, and to do what is right. Kshatriyas by occupation are noble rulers, statesmen, warriors.The Brahmin has overcome his lower nature, has a natural affinity for spiritual pursuits, and is God-knowing, able therefore to teach and help liberate others.But one should remember these things are dynamic not fixed. So ,it was left upon people to do what they want,A person may want to enjoy material things in his life for some time,after that he would have changed his mind towards Agricultural occupation n later would have made up his mind towards renouncing material life n adopting Brahminical Life.
The thing is any person from above Jaatis could change his occupation when he wants ,can become a Vaishya by getting invlved in agricultural rearing ,can become a formal Kshatriya by getting enrolled in state army in which they r living. A Kshatriya is a person who wields a Kshatra(weapon) n knows how to fight . So, all the above Jaatis also kept weapons for protection of their families .It is like todays world where army n police keep weapons n guard citizens , but a citizen can also keep weapon n use it for his protection if he feels like so.and any person from above Jaatis could adopt Brahminical Life by taking a formal renunciation from material life-SANYASA i.e path of personal liberation through austerity (tapasya), meditation (dhyāna) and renunciation (sanyāsa) by studying Vedanta,giving up all attachments n engaging in reflecting over samkhya n Yoga which is the true quality of a BRAHMIN acc to Vedas themselves.
Generally a brahmin is a person who has realized BRAHMAN through extreme Meditation acc to Vedas but traditionally people called a person as Brahmin who has mastered Vedas n had knowledge over them n knew how to conduct rituals . It was expected that he was on path to BRAHMAN.anybody could do that but the life of a Brahmin is harder n subject to strict rules n regulations.If a person wanted to study Vedas or learn how to conduct Rituals.there would have been Universities where he could have enroll like Chinese travellers enrolled in nalanda etc.We should note this is a time before Industrial revolution when there were no printing press n these things were handwritten on palm leaves . When a person does these things is upto him or he just wants to live his life acc to his whims n desires n doesnot wants MOKSHA in this Life n wants tp fulfill his material wishes.People may simply want to worship a Diety n engage in bhakti,others may be interested in Japa,tapa etc
Ijyayācarā damohimsā dānam svādhyāya karma ca | ayaṃ ca paramo dharmo yad yogena ātma darśanam ||
Altruism (ijyacara), control of mind, non-violence, charity, scriptural-study (as well as introspection and self-analysis), work (preferably a job that benefits society), realisation of the Atman by means of Yoga — all these are supreme Dharmas.
TO SUMMARIZE -
Our tradition makes no distinction between enlightened persons (Jñānis) of different births or “castes”. Once a person becomes a Jñāni, he/she is beyond physical constructs, and joins the metaphysical non-duality. Our history is filled with people of various “high and low” births who attained the same unquestionable spiritual status. This is also supported by authority. The previous passage in this same text says that whoever realizes the truth “I am Brahman” surely becomes Brahman without distinction. Also, Śaṅkarācārya says in his Brahma-sūtra-bhāṣyam, “ज्ञाने सर्वेषामधिकारः jñāne sarveṣāmadhikāraḥ” — “Everyone is entitled to knowledge”.
However, the subtle point to be noted is that once the physical categories of duality have been created, every category “owns” a mode of operation. Hence, in the created universe, jumping across modes of operation is resented by definition. To simplify terms, what I mean is that although everyone is entitled to knowledge, not all the various modes of gaining that knowledge are open to all classes of people. This is an unfortunate and inevitable paradox of the created universe. The end state of equality is respected, but the means of reaching that end state have restrictions. In our tradition, we see three stages of development:
1. In the beginning, when society was simple (i.e. symbolized by a new creation), everyone regardless of birth had equal entitlement over knowledge (Jñāna) and modes of operation (Karma). This is when everyone studied Veda and performed yajña.
2. As society proliferated, the entitlement over knowledge (Jñāna) was still equal but the different modes of operation (Karma) were now “owned” by different categories. This is when everyone still studied Veda, but not everyone could perform yajña.
3. As competition grew in society, there was increasing monopolization of both knowledge (Jñāna) and modes of operation (Karma). This is when not everyone could study the Veda nor perform yajña. This is also when alternative parallel systems that provided the same knowledge as the Veda (e.g. Epics and Purāṇas) came into existence. This restored the state back to the one where everyone is entitled to, and has access to, knowledge.
So, Let us see the Transition from Shudra to different Varnas -
1. From Shudra to Vaishya - One will need some capital(money) to start a new trade or a farmland for doing agricultural farming n cattle rearing. These are Vaishya occupations. For this, a person has to approach his RAJA and ask him for Dana which is either in form of money or Land. In fact almost the entire Sudras which were originally engaged in manual labour, became affluent “vaishya” in the middle ages by becoming farmers, professional artisans, tradesmen, shopkeepers, merchants, contractors and landlords. The aspirational gap between the Sudras and Vaishyas was closed over 2000 years ago.
2. From Sudra to Kshatriya - A person needs a Kshatra(weapon) and some weapon training. This was quite a common transition . Many a times, Sudras were trained as soldiers for fighting battles .In fact at any given time,they may be called by King to defend Kingdom from some external attack. Infact ,Many of Sudras started their own Kingdoms and ruled over them.Prominent examples are Mahapadma Nanda, Mauryas, Palas & Marathas etc
3. From Sudra to Brahmin - A person needs to approach a Brahmin and ask him to teach Vedas. Remember The Brahmins were focused on their own practice (ācāram) and affairs, never caring what the others were doing unless they came into their ghettos (agrahārams). And most Hindus never listen to what the priests have to say anyway!!
the vast majority of people simply follow custom and tradition to the degree that they can negotiate the complexities of daily life to their satisfaction. Thos rare individual that were dissatisfied by their academic condition would seek out a guru and humbly request teaching. The gurus would invariably test the prospective disciple to assess their worthiness and readiness to receive the teaching and then would do the needful.
From Brahmins ,Kshatriya,Vaishya to Sudra -A person will have to take any Service based occupation most common would be like Selling lac,salt,dyes,milk,ghee,honey etc . This is the most easy and natural job for any person to do .
We should note many such up n downs n transitions were happening throughout History ,Nobody was interested in record keeping or maintaining lists on who is doing what type of work.
Most folks today see the ancient world retroactively throughthe lens of their current situation instead of doing a mental time-travel thingand putting themselves back in time. Life spans were short in them days (40 -50 years was very old) — and the imperative for most people was to learn atrade and get to work, get married at puberty - have as many kids as possiblebecause 1/3rd of them would die before their first birthday. In the old dayspeople had to walk for kilometers to rivers to wash clothes and fetch water -sometimes twice a day. Then there was milking, churning, cooking, cleaning,child-rearing - 24/7 … The only way to get an education was to learn the tradeof your father and your community. To study one Veda it took a full-time studyof 12 years ending at age 21. Most commoners were parents of numerous childrenby then. BUT there was a major revolution in 1439 when a German guy invented aprinting press - not long after, printed books began appearing in India and ina flash we arrive at the 21st century when all the Vedas and allied literatureis now IN PRINT!
Image - (3)
From Rajiv Malhotra's book - Battle for Sanskrit
Varna is a non-translatable term and attempts to translate it and put it in some rigid frameworks has caused confusion.
• It is a dynamic term and has been constantly negotiated and renegotiated in Indian history.
• A similar analogy is the concept of ‘rights’ in Western history with civil, economic and moral dimensions to that word, and has been repeatedly undergone changes in its meaning.
• Varna cannot be translated into caste, race, or privilege in simple terms.
• There are six levels of differences in the way Varna has been seen by tradition: 1. Historical changes have seen differing interpretations 2. Different texts have differed on the varna view 3. In the same text, varna definition has changed as per the context 4. In the same text, different people have interpreted varna differently as per the context 5. There have been gaps in actual theory and practice 6. There have been many social challenges and reformations throughout history.
• Varna is not a static classification system
• Shudras have built temples in which Hindus of all categories have worshipped.
• Shudras have been rulers and leaders of armies.
• Varna has been repeatedly redefined well within the Indian systems and today does not require foreign intervention to solve its social problems related to the caste system.
Incomplete knowledge is,was always very dangerous . After reading his book- I realized that Dr Br Ambedkar wrote his book based on Vedic stream of Hinduism after studying Vedas,Puranas and Smritis . In his book ,there is not a single mention of Agamas and Tantras.I guess he was not aware about Agamic stream of Hinduism.This is a very serious and fatal flaw which would render his book - hollow. So what mistake did dr BR Ambedkar made - Western Universalism as epoused by Edward Said in his book Orientalism where the imitation or depiction of aspects in the Eastern world are usually done by writers, designers, and artists from the West thorugh Judeo-Christian Values and Since Ambedkar primarily studied in USA ,he derived his views from Judeo-Christian World.The problem is coming from mapping of Abrahamanic world into Dharmic World
Ambedkar cherrypicked verses from Smritis and Puranas to derive his conclusions. Smriti writers were similar to Jurisprudence scholars of 17th Century suggesting various ways of making law and implementing them. Acceptance of those theories was in the hands of kings . Most such suggestions remained in theory only. The Smritis can say a whole lot of things, but Ambedkar failed to understood that “saying things” is not the same as “doing things”. Ambedkar equated Smritis as Law Books on par with Bible n Torah. This was a disaster as i explained here -
Subhash Chandra Gautam's answer to What are ur views on Manusmriti, DharmaShastras and Vyavhara Texts in Hinduism and The Discriminatory Anti-Shudra verses in them? Were DharmaShastras ever applied in India?
By reading the scriptures none can understand them. To understand them one has to serve a Guru. Dr. Ambedkar who was a nigura (non-disciple) who only babbled after reading some scriptures. The same scriptures mentioned clearly to learn the truth under the guidance of an accomplished and perfect Guru by serving him wholeheartedly. This Dr. Ambedkar did not do. He didn't even search for the truth. He thought reading books was enough. Truth is a matter of practice in thought, word and deed.Whatever a nigura feels, thinks, speaks and does is a complete projection of the mind, the senses and the ego. There is not an iota of truth in their works.For niguras, the riddle remains as a riddle forever.
The Smrti and the Puranas are productions of men of limited intelligence and are full of fallacies, errors, the feelings of class and malice.Traditional Scholars agree that only those parts of them which are breathing broadness of spirit and love are acceptable, the rest are to be rejected.Ambedkar took Puranas at Literal value without understanding the deeper symbolizms behind stories mentioned. The Puranas are (theoretically/originally) characterised by 5 major topics:–
sargaśca pratisargaśca vaṁśo-manvantarāṇica | vaṁśānucaritañcaiva, purāṇam pañca lakṣaṇam ||
(1) Creation, (2) Projection and Transformation of the World, (3) Genealogy of Gods and Heroes, (4) Reigns of the Manus or the original law-givers at different stages of the social development of the Human Race, (5) the lives and works of their descendants.
The Puranic Stories cannot be taken literally on par with Bibilical Legends which ambedkar did as explained here
Rami Sivan's answer to Is it true, Hinduism is only a mythology?
The Purāṇas have been added to and expanded by various authors and are more like encyclopaedias in their breadth of content. The Puranas also contain a mass of secular matter like geography (although nothing corresponding to reality), botany, herbalism, animal husbandry, geology, history, legends, myths, entertaining narratives etc.
Puranic stories are narrative mnemonics, a way of remembering the more complex philosophy of the Veda. It was silly to assume these stories are real. The Purana texts do contain historical timelines, but they are not itihasa texts, like Ramayana and Mahabharata. It isd imp to note that even the itihasa texts were written to elucidate important spiritual concepts, albeit using a very relevant and illustrative historical timeline. The texts contain personification of higher human ideals and traits of character, and it is not difficult to discern when Valmiki or Veda Vyasa is switching context to illustrate such concepts.
Some Examples to understand -
Rami Sivan's answer to How are we to understand the bizarre geography of Srimad Bhagavatam 5:16 - oceans of wine and treacle, etc.?
Rami Sivan's answer to Are Hindu legends about gods to be taken literally, or is their significance purely symbolic? The stories are very inspiring, but they lack scientific realism. -
Rami Sivan's answer to Why is there emphasis on the difference between Dhana Lakshmi and Varalakshmi Pooja, the time of year when it is done and the Vidhan?
Rami Sivan's answer to Was Shiva Praying To Another God?
Rami Sivan's answer to Is it possible to separate philosophy, theology and mythology in Hinduism? Does Hinduism have a theology in the first place?
Rami Sivan's answer to Why do most of the Hindu scholars on Quora defend obvious myths in Hindu Puranas?
Rami Sivan's answer to Is Hindu mythology true?
The Europeans mapped the protestan experience of India and we internalised it as fact. Tyranny of the church becomes tyranny of Brahmins, fiefdom and serfdoms of land owners in Europe becomes caste system in India, decentralised polity becomes corruption and so on.We have internalised the colonial experience where the Europeans saw only misogyny, caste and corruption. This says more about European society of the time rather than India. This is precisely the case. From priestly class abuse to racism & Feudalistic Casteism to women as second rate to their numerous divisions all of these are superimposed onto Indian Civilization and hegemony established during colonial rule is misused to give credence to it. Shudra’s were in no way allowed to rule acc to current discourse. But there are several examples in the history wherein the person belonging to lower class learned Vedas and trained as fighters as Kshatriya and ruled the kingdoms.
Hinduism never had a top-down Control n Command Structure n there never was an enforcing bureaucracy ever enforcing DHARMASHASTRAS in India unlike in Western n Islamic World where this was the common norm . In Middle East and Europe, Catholic bishops n Muslim Ulemas,Maulanas,Qazis had fatwa-like powers to give death sentences to normal public. They had police powers, and controlled the definition and enforcement of public law.The tendency due to western colonisation is to analyse India through western lenses and it doesn’t work. One cannot compare the “clergy” of ancient India to the clergy of Europe n Islamic World who themselves had absolute power through very rigid organisational structures and even over the King himself who was subject to the Pope n Ulemas In the Catholic system the power of the clergy derives from their essential role in the salvation of an individual — extra ecclesiam nulla salus — “outside the Church there is no salvation”. Similar case with Islam where beleive in allah n Prophet Muhammad is required. Hinduism never had a “Church power-hierarchy” since there was never a central religious authority but rather thousands of different sects. The Brahmins never had any power other than over their own disciples and followers. The Kings may have enforced certain aspects of the varna-jāti system which suited them economically. In Hinduism the traditional Brahmins play no role whatsoever in the spiritual progress or liberation of the individual they are irrelevant. The only power-role they had in Vedic times was to bolster the power and legitimacy of the Kings through their yajñas. The Kings were independent and made independent laws - they only took advice from their brahmin advisors or Viziers , one or two brahmin king is a deviation from the rule. Individual brahmins may have had power due to wealth and influence but as a group, brahmins had no power other than spiritual influence over their particular yajamānas.Hinduism advocates the path of personal liberation through austerity (tapasya), meditation (dhyāna) and renunciation (sanyāsa) which is adopting true Brahminical Life .
In Hinduism there never was CENTRAL Governing body that oversaw training and appointments,regulatesion and monitoring of KPI’s.There was no one in charge, no organizing body no supervisors, no moderators, no authority figures, no controllers - everything just happened, functioned like an organic unit and then overnight dismantled and decamped. It had no founder and no management structure, or Central Command and Control syndicate. INDIA was never a Law based society,Becoz There was no Central Organization enforcing rules in India. The absence of a central authority was the main reason for the survival of Hinduism despite centuries of terror and genocide . Hindus were notorious for their lack of religious bureaucracy and indifference to the religious practices of others and there were no compulsory catechisms to study, daily masses and confessions to attend and no way to test or to monitor the knowledge of dogma and practices of the converted as in case of Islam and Christianity. It was the decentralised, stratified and compartmentalised structure of Hindu society which was not operating under any book which prevented it from being converted and culturally assimilated by the invading cultures.Other Centralized Book based Systems collapsed like Egypt,Persia and Mesopotamia.
After Gupta period,the concept of varna remained only in theory - Farming and cattle-rearing are Vaishya occupation which everbody was doing after Gupta Period.This is indicated by History, Cattle rearing is a Vaishya occupation but historical evidence clearly shows that the people now labelled as Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Shudras also owned and reared cattle and that cattle-wealth was mainstay of their households. 19th century British records show that even Charamkars ,who are now listed under Scheduled Castes also owned land and cattle and were active agriculturalists.
Varna is only a theoretical description based on what the person was currently engaged with.There never was any central organisation giving certificates of varna status to people.there never was an administrative structure in place to ensure the varna status of any person ,the problem with forced Varna label is- is that there has to be a central organisation and an administrative structure n bureaucracy in place to ensure the compliance of the people fixed with varna and with the imposed varna behaviour n duties. There was no organized state machinery so vast and pervasive like in Europe and Middle East that it could enforce any of those laws outlined in the Dharmashastras, which were merely theoretical textbooks. Think about this-India consisted of more than 1000’s of Languages,Very few People spoke Sanskrit which is the Languages of Smritis.
The pre-colonial written record in royal court documents and traveller accounts studied by professional historians and philologists like Nicholas Dirks, GS Ghurye, Richard Eaton, David Shulman and Cynthia Talbot show little or no mention of caste.
Social identities were constantly malleable. "Slaves" and "menials" and "merchants" became kings; farmers became soldiers, and soldiers became farmers; one's social identity could be changed as easily as moving from one village to another; there is little evidence of systematic and widespread caste oppression or mass conversion to Islam as a result of it.All the available evidence calls for a fundamental re-imagination of social identity in pre-colonial India.
Impact of Colonial Rule on Caste System -
Although the varnas and jatis have pre-modern origins, the caste system as it exists today is the result of developments during the post-Mughal period and the British colonial regime, which made caste organisation a central mechanism of administration.
Starting with the 19th century, the British colonial government passed a series of laws that applied to Indians based on their religion and caste identification.These colonial era laws and their provisions used the term "Tribes", which included castes within their scope. This terminology was preferred for various reasons, including Muslim sensitivities that considered castes by definition Hindu, and preferred Tribes, a more generic term that included Muslims.
The British colonial government, for instance, enacted the Criminal Tribes Act of 1871. This law declared everyone belonging to certain castes to be born with criminal tendencies. Ramnarayan Rawat, a professor of History and specialising in social exclusion in Indian subcontinent, states that the criminal-by-birth castes under this Act included initially Ahirs, Gurjars and Jats, but its enforcement expanded by the late 19th century to include most Shudras and untouchables, such as Chamars, as well as Sannyasis and hill tribes. Castes suspected of rebelling against colonial laws and seeking self-rule for India, such as the previously ruling families Kallars and the Maravars in south India and non-loyal castes in north India such as Ahirs, Gurjars and Jats, were called "predatory and barbarian" and added to the criminal castes list.Some caste groups were targeted using the Criminal Tribes Act even when there were no reports of any violence or criminal activity, but where their forefathers were known to have rebelled against Mughal or British authorities, or these castes were demanding labour rights and disrupting colonial tax collecting authorities.
The colonial government prepared a list of criminal castes, and all members registered in these castes by caste-census were restricted in terms of regions they could visit, move about in or people with whom they could socialise. In certain regions of colonial India, entire caste groups were presumed guilty by birth, arrested, children separated from their parents, and held in penal colonies or quarantined without conviction or due process. This practice became controversial, did not enjoy the support of all colonial British officials, and in a few cases this decades-long practice was reversed at the start of the 20th century with the proclamation that people "could not be incarcerated indefinitely on the presumption of [inherited] bad character". The criminal-by-birth laws against targeted castes was enforced until the mid-20th century, with an expansion of criminal castes list in west and south India through the 1900s to 1930s. Hundreds of Hindu communities were brought under the Criminal Tribes Act. By 1931, the colonial government included 237 criminal castes and tribes under the act in the Madras Presidency alone.
While the notion of hereditary criminals conformed to orientalist stereotypes and the prevailing racial theories in Britain during the colonial era, the social impact of its enforcement was profiling, division and isolation of many communities of Hindus as criminals-by-birth.
Eleanor Nesbitt, a professor of History and Religions in India, states that the colonial government hardened the caste-driven divisions in British India not only through its caste census, but with a series of laws in early 20th century. The British colonial officials, for instance, enacted laws such as the Land Alienation Act in 1900 and Punjab Pre-Emption Act in 1913, listing castes that could legally own land and denying equivalent property rights to other census-determined castes. These acts prohibited the inter-generational and intra-generational transfer of land from land-owning castes to any non-agricultural castes, thereby preventing economic mobility of property and creating consequent caste barriers in India.
Nicholas Dirks has argued that Indian caste as we know it today is a "modern phenomenon," as caste was "fundamentally transformed by British colonial rule." According to Dirks, before colonialism caste affiliation was quite loose and fluid, but the British regime enforced caste affiliation rigorously, and constructed a much more strict hierarchy than existed previously, with some castes being criminalised and others being given preferential treatment.
De Zwart notes that the caste system used to be thought of as an ancient fact of Hindu life and that contemporary scholars argue instead that the system was constructed by the British colonial regime. He says that "jobs and education opportunities were allotted based on caste, and people rallied and adopted a caste system that maximized their opportunity". De Zwart also notes that post-colonial affirmative action only reinforced the "British colonial project that ex hypothesi constructed the caste system".
Sweetman notes that the European conception of caste dismissed former political configurations and insisted upon an "essentially religious character" of India. During the colonial period, caste was defined as a religious system and was divorced from political powers. This made it possible for the colonial rulers to portray India as a society characterised by spiritual harmony in contrast to the former Indian states which they criticised as "despotic and epiphenomenal", with the colonial powers providing the necessary "benevolent, paternalistic rule by a more 'advanced' nation".
SOME EXAMPLES OF INTERPRETING PURANIC STORIES -
How are we to understand the bizarre geography of Srimad Bhagavatam 5:16 - oceans of wine and treacle, etc.?This is one of the most frequently asked questions by Krishna devotees. This chapter 16 details geographical descriptions of the world/Universe that every 10 year old school girl knows is completely ridiculous - so how do we understand it since Bhagavatam is supposed to be a perfect scripture.
We need to use the exegetical tools provided by Mimamsa in order to understand this obviously mythological description. The first principle of Mimamsa is that ALL knowledge must have a practical application in order to be considered as valid knowledge (pramā). If it doesn’t have a practical application then it is either rejected as irrelevant or parked in a garage until some use can be discovered for it.
The first rule in exegesis is to examine the introduction and conclusion to discover the context of the statement.
So we have Parikshit asking a question from Suka about the dimensions of the earth etc;–
3. For if the mind is drawn to the external universe constituted of Prakriti (Material nature) as the gross body of the Lord, then it can concentrate easily on his transcendantal spiritual aspect which is beyond Prakriti, and which is extremely subtle, of the nature of pure conscious luminosity and which is known by the name Vāsudeva (that which pervades the entire cosmos). Hence O master kindly describe this to me.
So here we have the context — the Universe is the “Body” of the Supreme Being (pan-en-theism) who is beyond time-space continuum and is pure luminous consciousness, and seeing THAT is incomprehensible how do we MEDITATE upon that?
Mediation is the basic spiritual practice so in a practical sense how do we conceive of the Universe as the “Body” of the Divine? — so this is a question about comprehension and visualization for application to the process of meditation (dhyāna) - it has nothing to do with physical geography.
It is for the creation of a Mandala — this is the purpose of Mythology — stories and ideas that describe abstract philosophical concepts and form maps of meaning and practice.
Are Hindu legends about gods to be taken literally, or is their significance purely symbolic? The stories are very inspiring, but they lack scientific realism.
The narratives about the gods are technically “myths.” A myth is a story which people tell about themselves or their gods which convey psychological truths or inculcate cultural values. They are often true in the spiritual or psychological sense but not historically or scientifically true. They are also told to explain natural phenomena in a pre-scientific age.
Why is the sea salty? Well a wicked Asura once hid in the sea and the sage Agastya who had the amazing ability to consume anything, drank the sea to reveal the Asura which Indra killed. He then pissed the water back into the void to refill it — hence the sea is salty. Or another myth is there about mountains flying randomly about and Indra cutting off their wings in the interests of public safety.
All the Hindu myths have three levels of meaning
According to Mīmāṁsa which is the Vedic science of exegesis, the essence of Vedic Scripture is to give us instruction about how to live the good life. All the descriptions of heaven, hell, blessings, curses, punishments, rewards etc. are simply narrative devices to encourage us to follow beneficial courses of action and to discourage us from the harmful — they have no literal or spiritual value in themselves — these texts are known as arthavāda.
In later Bhakti literature — the Purāṇas — the purpose of the stories is additionally to foster belief and to inculcate devotion to a particular deity.
The general back-ground to the stories is the cosmic struggle which is not between good and evil (God vs the Devil) as in dualistic religions like the Abrahamic ones, it is between the forces of Chaos represented by the Asuras and Order represented by the Devas.
So for example the Vedic story of Indra combating Vrtra. Indra represents the mind (indriyas) and Vrtra (lit. “to cover”) represents ignorance. Vrtra steals the cows of the gods - the cows represent beneficent wisdom. Without beneficent wisdom chaos ensues in the 3 worlds. He hides them in a cave - representing the sub-conscious mind. The conscious mind i.e. Indra then battles Vrtra killing him with the Vajra - diamond weapon - which represents the sharpness of intellect which can destroy ignorance but cannot itself be destroyed. After vanquishing Vrtra, Indra returns the cows to the gods and order is once again established in the cosmos.
Another brief insight — anyone who has the slightest knowledge of Sankhya philosophy upon reading the Ramayana would immediately recognize that the three Rakṣasa brothers at the center of the story represent the 3 guṇas. Vibhīṣaṇa = sattva (harmony), Kumbhakarṇa = tamas (inertia) and Rāvana = rajas (activity).
Why is there emphasis on the difference between Dhana Lakshmi and Varalakshmi Pooja, the time of year when it is done and the Vidhan?
There are 8 forms of Lakshmi - each presiding over different aspects of “prosperity” - different vratas (vows or celebratory practices) emphasis one form above the others for the edification and delight of the Bhaktas.
Its a psychological thing - people seek patterns in everything and rejoice in variety so the Dharma, in order to be attractive to all people, provides for these psychological needs.
Hinduism is primarily a psychological enterprise. The ancient Rishis were psychologists - they sat around without the distraction of FB, twitter, Instagram, tiktok etc. and in their spare time what did they do? They meditated. Meditation is an internal expiration of the mind and consciousness. They discovered the great mysteries of how people think, about the origination of desire and passion, of attachments, of human motivations, goals and aspirations. The source of suffering, it’s causal chain and how to diminish it, and increase and enhance human happiness and flourishing.
They then sat some more drinking tea and eating mūrku, and they discussed and argued about these topics, agreeing on the commonalities and basics but differing on the outcomes and the solutions.
They then formulated festivals, observances, sacraments and ceremonies to mark the passage of time and to install Dharmic values in the common folk. They formulated doctrines and teachings suited to all the psychological types that they had identified.
They confected stories to convey their insights and philosophical conclusions for the entertainment and value-education of the illiterate commoners - they presented them in the form of the epics (itihāsas) and Puranas. They provided icons with profound symbolism and meaning for contemplation and worship.
This is how we ended up with this vast complexity of festivals, legends, and narratives, ceremonies and icons.
The problem is we lost the key to unlocking, sorting and filtering this huge mass of stuff in the godown which is modern Hinduism.
The secret is that not everything in the warehouse applies to everyone , there is no one-size-fits-all, we only take what we need and that need is based on three important factors.
The confusion that arises with Hinduism is that people are standing in the doorway looking at the mountain-like jumbled collection of stuff with no idea of how to sort it out. So now you know the secret.
Was Shiva Praying To Another God?
This question is another indication of why the Purāṇas should be avoided ignorer to avoid confusion.
There are three different ways in which the Gods are introduced and understood.
Theologically the Trinity (Trimūrti) are the three Principles of BEING.
Brahmā = creative force, Vishnu = conservative /preservative/sustaining force and Shiva = the transformative force and therefore recreative energy of the cosmos.
They are clearly depicted functionally through their iconography.
All three are equal aspects of the ONE Ultimate consciousness of the Universe in its state of manifestation, and so all three are ONE in essence. So in other words BRAHMAN the ground-of-Being or conscious substrata of the Universe manifests itself in these three hypostatic forms and in their binary aspects as puruṣa (male) and prakṛti (female).
Mythologically in the Purāṇas and epics (Rāmāyana and Mahābhārata) hundreds of different anonymous sectarian authors have confected stories about them. First splitting them into three distinct persons and then comparing, contrasting and pitting them against one another in “The War of the Worlds” cosmic game scenario.
There are some narratives about Vishnu becoming Shiva’s podiatrist, Shiva is denigrated into Vishnu’s doorkeeper, Brahma is denounced as an incestuous, dithering and senile old man - unsuitable for having devotees. Brahmā and Vishnu squabble egoistically about which of them is supreme, Shiva then manifests as a pillar of light to prove that he is the Supreme etc. etc. etc.
Then there are the truly philosophical and reconciliatory passages which affirm and emphasise that the three are all ONE with different functions - like the digestive system functioning as metabolism, catabolism and anabolism.
So the Purāṇas create nothing but confusion, division and sectarianism. The latter has actually manifested over the centuries in overt conflict between the devotees of Vishnu and Shiva with real time persecutions.
I find myself constantly pointing out and emphasising the difference between the two views - Philosophical versus Mythological. Unfortunately the majority of Hindus and the opposition only have and cling to the mythological perspective with all its contradictions, convolutions, absurdities and confusions.
Mythology does indeed have an important part to play when it illustrates the Philosophical tenets and principles and the working of the psyche, which is it’s primary function, but is objectionable when it degenerates into Harry Potter series.
So Mythology in the hands of an insightful teacher can be a wonderful tool for illustrating and illuminating the unconscious, but as a DIY study regime results in confusion and distraction from true Philosophy.
Please put aside your Purāṇas and start studying Vedānta - you will find it a lot more exciting and edifying than confusing, contradictory and fantastical stories.
Is it possible to separate philosophy, theology and mythology in Hinduism? Does Hinduism have a theology in the first place?
Philosophy and theology are mixed in Hinduism and are known by the term DARSHANA - which means “A View” of reality. Hinduism acknowledges that there are different “views” of reality which are conditioned by many factors such as the personality (svabhāva), the level of education and experience (bhūmika) and capabilities (adhikāra) of the viewer.
Some views are simply wrong and others are just different, but no single “view” has a monopoly on truth. Darshana is the core and the bedrock of Hinduism which is a fellowship or co-operative of many different sects with varying views.
Mythology is merely a vehicle for philosophy and theology. Its a pictorial and narrative form for conveying teachings in an entertaining and attractive way to the common people. The sages realised that most people are captivated by entertainment (note the proliferation of “gaming”) and so they wove philosophy, theology, ethics, common sense teachings etc. into charming and entertain narratives and legends and propagated them for the masses. These myths were turned into themes for dance, drama and song and in this way popularised and introduced the lofty teachings even into the huts of the poorest people.
The same teachings can be delivered neatly, efficiently and succinctly when stripped of all the mythology. This is being done by all the modern Vedānta and Yoga institutes around the world.
Hinduism stripped of its mythology still shines in all its glory - but is a lot poorer for it I think.
Why do most of the Hindu scholars on Quora defend obvious myths in Hindu Puranas?
There is a MAJOR confusion about what exactly is meant by Myth. Myth in daily parlance means false, misconception or imagined. Mythos in Greek simply means a story.
There are 2 ways of acquiring knowledge, analysing it, thinking it through, communicating and application in one’s life — mythos and science. These are two complimentary ways of arriving at truth — they are not mutually exclusive. The one deals with the external dynamics the other deals with humankind’s perennial search for meaning.
Science (sakala) is the critical intelligence; the rational, pragmatic and scientific approach to life that enables us to function well in the world in which we live. Science relates to facts and figures and corresponds to the objective world of our common experience. Science looks ahead and tries to improve and discover new ways of being, and doing. More efficient ways to manipulate and exert control over our environment. It’s function is to improve, to invent and innovate. The scientific approach cannot solve the existential problems of human existence — unhappiness. It can assuage physical and mental pain and suffering through medication and technology, but it cannot answer questions about the ultimate value of human existence.
Mythos (niṣkala) is the creative intuition; the source of inspiration. It’s primary concern is with what is timeless and constant in our existence. Mythos is retrospective and deals with the origins of life, to the source of a culture and to the content of the collective unconscious. It responds to the questions: Who am I? Why am I here? And what do I do next? How should I live my life? How should I relate to others? Myth is not concerned with pragmatic day to day issues but rather with meaning. Mythos provides a spiritual context that helps us to make sense of our day to day lives.
The mythological stories of the Purāṇas and Itihāsas deal with psychology and the unconscious mind — they are attempts at comprehending the inexplicable and integrating it into our lives.
Is Hindu mythology true?
There seems to be an insurmountable confusion and misunderstanding on Quora about the academic nature and role of MYTHOLOGY.
Myth - Wikipedia
There are, for the individual, two sources of TRUTH - science and religion.
Every religion consists of three parts.
The foundation of all religions, including the Abrahamics is their theory of God, creation, nature of humankind, God’s plan for the world, the nature of evil, final things, Day of Judgement and destination of souls.
This THEORY is then expressed and given form through MYTHOLOGY - The majority of characters and incidents mentioned in the Bible and the Quran are mythological, from Adam and Eve, Noah, through Abraham and Moses to Jesus and his miracles, his death and resurrection and ascension to heaven through the clouds. And dare I say, like many of the incidents in the life of the prophet - like his ascension through the seven heavens on a Buraq - a horse with a woman’s head. All accounts of miracles and supernatural intervention are myths. There may be kernels of “truth” in some of the stories but they are expressed through the language of MYTHOLOGY.
The myths of a religion are dramatized through the ritual and practice.
Likewise the basic foundation of Hinduism is VEDANTA - the philosophical teachings of the Vedas, the pantheistic nature of the universe, the connection between individual selves (jīvātma) with the Supreme Self (paramātma), the doctrines of Karma, Dharma and reincarnation. The psychic composition of the individual and her psychology, the cycles of evolution and involution of the universe, the cyclic nature of time and the multiple levels of spacial dimensions etc. etc. etc.
All this theory is expressed through the MYTHOLOGY of the Vedas and especially the Puranas, and as I said before, there may be kernels of historicity in them but they are embellished and expressed through the language of Myth.
Mythology then forms the basis of Hindu religious practice - sacred sites, pilgrimages, festivals, fasts and ritual practices are ALL based on the theoretical view of the Universe and our place in it. All art, music, poetry, drama in Indian culture is based on Mythology.
So we need to go beyond the ancient narratives, accept them for what they are, enjoy them, learn from them, be entertained by them but stop trying to critically analyze, rationalize and politically deconstruct them.
So many Hindus seem to be obsessed and tyrannized by the Puranas! I wish they would stop reading them, pack them up in trunks and store them away, and pick up some books on Hindu Philosophy - and start studying DHARMA - that would be far more profitable than all this tiresome nit-picking about ancient narratives and arguing about who did what to whom and why!!
Is it true, Hinduism is only a mythology?
Hinduism has an extremely rich mythology which is illustrative of its philosophical bedrock which is Vedanta. The philosophical truths and values of Vedanta are conveyed to the general public in the form of mythological narratives. If you erase all of the mythology, Hinduism stands unshakable — except that it is less juicy! Dry philosophical discourse soon induces sleep!! In fact the average Hindu would only know about 1% of the vast body of Mythology - so it would be irrelevant anyway.
The Abrahamic religions on the other hand are theologies (not philosophies!! ) grounded in mythology. If you subtract all the mythology in their 2 Holy Books their religions collapse.
This is what happened in Europe with the dawning of the Age of Reason from the 1600’s onwards. The great philosophers and intellectuals began question the myths upon which their faith was based and found them wanting — Christianity is very much on the wane today.
Adam & Eve, Noah and the flood, Exodus from Egypt, King Solomon and his wisdom, talking donkeys and snakes, Job and the test, Jonah being swallowed by a fish, God being born from a virgin, his death and resurrection, riding on clouds, horses with a woman’s head carrying prophets through 7 heavens — these are all clearly Myths which are promoted as History. If these are removed what remains?
HINDU PURANAS DEAL WITH PSYCHOLOGY
There is psychology scattered throughout the Puranas and Upanishads but the primary sources of Hindu psychology are the Sankhya Kārika and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. The sūtras are very terse and pithy aphorisms which require elaborate commentaries - so the ideas of Patanjali are elaborated upon in the Vedanta texts. In India psychology and philosophy are inseparable — both in Buddhism and Hinduism.
Indian philosophy is essentially pragmatic. All the philosophical systems begin with the default ontological state which is called duḥkha. Duḥkha is derived from two roots:– duḥ = bad or negative, and kha = space. This refers to the mental state of unease, discontent, unhappiness, confusion, malaise, depression etc. which is common to all of us - a low level neurosis!!
So Hindu philosophy is an analysis and solution to a psychological diagnosis.
The drives common to all sentient beings are the desires to be happy and to avoid suffering. Yet no matter how hard we strive to achieve abiding happiness we are unable to do so. All our goals and achievements and happiness projects bring only temporary relief and pleasure and then we are off on a new project. This is called the hedonic treadmill - always striving but never attaining abiding sukha - “good-space”. SO we are perpetually seeking but never finding happiness.
So why is this?
Its because of avidya - root nescience - i.e. spiritual ignorance - not seeing the world as it really is, distorted cognition which leads to the creation and assumption of identities — asmita. This concept covers every sort of identity that we assume to give meaning to our lives — such as caste/class, race, gender, nationality, religion, relationship, hobby etc. etc. All these identities are false - they are distorted self-perceptions which cause us to see the world in as a binary — those who are with us and those who are against. We are attracted to anything or person which validates our identity (rāga) and we are repulsed by any one or thing that challenges our identity (dveṣa). This binary force leads to a state of confusion, delusion and cognitive conflict in which we become possessed by our ideology and become further entrapped in the cycle of suffering, stress, anxiety and depression (abhiniveśa).
The way to break this cycle and to achieve abiding happiness and well-being is to study the teachings of Vedanta and to discover our true nature.
So this is the basic paradigm of Hindu psychology.
The other very important concept which every Hindu should know is the formation of saṁskāras and its relation to KARMA. A saṁskāra is defined as a “subliminal activator.”
Every experience that we have has the threefold effect upon us — it either produces pleasure, pain or is neutral. A positive or negative mental impression produces a “seed” or a saṁskāra which sinks into the unconscious mind. Every saṁskāra is conditioned by the time (kāla), the place (deśa) and the other characteristics (paristhiti). Later on, the event of any one of these connected condition will cause the saṁskāra to arise and activate a desire (iccha) either to repeat the experience or to avoid it.
Every repeated experience then reinforces the saṁskāra which then arises much more easily, eventually resulting in an habitual pattern formation (vāsana) - an addiction - either negative or positive.
Karma is the mass of saṁskāras and vāsanas which are located in our subconscious mind which are not erased upon our death. These saṁskāras and vāsanas constitute the kāraṇa śarīra (causal body) which leads to further rebirth and determine how we will act and react.
So when a baby is born it already has a svabhāva - a character or disposition with desires, habitual patterns, intelligence, phobias and attractions etc. which gradually manifest as it grows and matures.
So the focus of our spiritual practice (sādhana) is working with our saṁskāras and the best way to do that is through meditation (dhyāna) - which consists in watching our thoughts and recognizing the saṁskāras that spontaneously arise. When they arise, both the negative and the positive we just allow them to pass away without playing with them or reaffirming them.
Just a very short insight into some basic concepts of Hindu psychology.
MYTHS IN HINDU PURANAS -
Why did God create the asura or demons in Hinduism? Did God create them as evil or did they choose to be evil of their own free will?
Creation” is an inappropriate translation for what we term sṛṣṭhi – “projection”. The Universe is a projection of the divine consciousness not a “creation from nothing”.
The Universe in order to be manifest and to function requires polarities - positive and negative, day and night, good and evil, centrifugal and centripetal, evolution and devolution etc.
The grand narrative in the epics is the conflict and tension between CHAOS and ORDER.
You are thinking of Hindu deities like people living in the sky. Bob and his two wives Jane and Mary.
The Hindu deities are personifications of natural (objective) and psychological (subjective) factors of which the world is comprised. Here a knowledge of Sanskrit would have solved all your quandaries.
An example of the natural is AGNI (fire) he has two wives - SVAHA - the offering to the deities and SVADHA the offering to the ancestors.
An example of a psychological factor is one of the most powerful of all the deities who even oppressors them — KAMA-DEVA - the personification of desire - the root of all suffering and perpetuation in the cycle of samsāra. He too is a bigamist and his wives are PRĪTI = love and RATI = erotic desire.
The other most popular bigamist is SKANDA - the embodiment of skilful action (kuśala karma) - his two wives are DEVASENA who embodies the formal and conventional practices and VALLI who represents the informal and popular practices.
The Devas or Suras (gods) are the forces of ORDER and the Asuras (anti-gods) are the forces of CHAOS. It is important to note that the Asuras are not “evil” in the Abrahamic sense, as in devils or forces of wickedness, they are the forces which disrupt order and within ourselves they are representative of the psychological forces such as selfishness, anger, delusion, hubris, envy and greed.
So the stories of the battles between the Devas and Asuras represent the inner-conflict that we all deal with on a daily basis between integration and the dissipation of energies
Why did Goddess Durga kill Mahishasura?
questions about iconography and mythology in relation to Durga.
Sanskrit etymology is very important.
DUR-GĀ means “hard to reach” or “hard to vanquish” - she represents our higher Selves. The story is well known so I will just highlight some aspects to engender insight.
Mahishasura means the buffalo-demon and the buffalo is a proverbial symbol of ignorance (avidya) and intertia/sloth (tamas). He kept on shape-shifting while battling Durgā. So he is representative of the unenlightened mind lacking in insight and wisdom – he represents the demons which are skulking in the hidden recesses of all our minds. We are all capable of wickedness.
When our egos or assumed-identity games are challenged we find a myriad of ways for self-justification and rationalization to preserve our fictitious egos and maintain our psycho-dramas we inhabit. But eventually with perseverance and supreme effort we can and must confront our demons and destroy them.
The spiritual path is not for snow-flakes who seek out “safe-spaces” and teddy-bears and comfort food. The spiritual path is one of transformation through struggle and combat - the path of the vīras or heroes!
The Upanishad loudly declares “nāyam ātma balahīnena labhya” — the realization of the Self cannot be obtained by the weak!
The power of Durgā is required to break through our delusion and cut ourselves free from attachments!
The other demon who plays a role in the story is Rakta-bīja which means “blood-seed-demon”. Every time a drop of his blood fell on the ground another demon like him would arise. This symbolizes DESIRE and its dynamic - we are comprised of desires, and each time a desire is fulfilled it gives birth to another - like it and mostly even stronger. Durga became enraged and from her forehead Kali emerged. She struck off the demon’s head and drank his blood - thus solving the problem.
This indicates that desires can only be terminated through sublimation and integration - not through fulfillment. So a desire for revenge needs to be sublimated into something creative and beneficial. A desire for personal gratification and pleasure can be integrated into serving others etc. etc.
There is an axiom in the metaphysical literature - devo-bhūtvā devam yajet — to worship a god one must become a god. The purpose of these images is to act as meditation devices. In meditation we visualise the Goddess, contemplate upon her virtues and strengths and then absorb or introject the Shakti into our unconscious minds - to empower, to embolden us and enable us to relentlessly pursue our spiritual goals.
Doesnot Purusa Sukta in Rig Veda is indicative of Caste system in Hinduism?
ANALYSIS of PURUSA SUKTA
The principal verse inthe Veda describing the VARNA system comes from Rig Veda 10:90:12
ब्राह्मणोऽस्य मुखमासीद् बाहू राजन्यः कृत
ऊरू तदस्य यद्वैश्यः पद्भ्यां शूद्रो अजायत
It says that the four Varnas are the limbs of society like that of the Cosmic Being. How does it describe them?
Brahmaṇo’sya mukham āsīt —the brahmins “were” - āsīt i.e. came or arose from the mouth of the cosmic purusha. From the mouth of the Social Being - the Brahmins arose.
bāhū-rājaṇya kṛta —the kṣatriyas were “made” - kṛta from the arms. From the arms - the Kshatriyas were created.
ūrū tad asya vaiśyaḥ —the vaiśyas were also from the thighs (made) . From the thighs the Vaishyas too[were created]
padbhyāṁ śūdro ajāyata –from the feet were the śūdras “born” - ajāyata. So the qualifier BORN is only applied to the Sudras not the others who were “made” or “became”.
From the feet - the Shudras were BORN.
So this seminal verse on the varna-system clearly states that the 3 varnas are “created” but only the Sudra Varna is born.This is the case of uniformity of birth established — EVERYONE is born a Sudra by DEFAULT. This is then confirmed in the Upanishads (Vajra-sūcika Upaniṣad) many Smritis and Itihasas and that famous verse from Skanda Purana
everyone is by birth a Sūdra and through sacraments one attains “caste” status as a dvija (twice-born).
If the qualities pertaining to a certain varna are seen in another varna, then the later are to be classified as belonging to the former. (Bhagavatam Sk. 7; Adhy. 11; 35.)
The cause of brahmanhood is not birth, or sacraments, or learning or progeny, good conductalone is the cause. (MB. Anusasana Parva 143:50)
He in whom is seen truthfulness, charity,forgiveness, good conduct, absence of anger, austerity and compassion; he is abrahmin. (MB Vana Parva179;21)
(Vajra-sūcika Upaniṣad) makes this crystal clear
We need to understand word SHUDRA here -
Coming back on subject matter -
Furthermore in the Brihad Araṇyaka Upaṇiṣad discusses the concept of the four divisions of society and says that Brahma created the Brahmā (Brahmanhood or spiritual power) but he could not flourish, so he created the principle of kṣatra or temporal power represented by the gods Indra, Varuna, Soma, Rudra,parjanya,Yama, Mrtyu and Iśāna. — yet still he could not flourish so he created the principle of viś which means a settlement of agriculturalists and herders represented by the groups of gods known as the Vasus,Adityas(among them Vishnu), Vishvedevas and Maruts and so on.
Let us look at the following passages of Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad 1.4: which is imp.
ब्रह्म वा इदमग्र आसीदेकमेव तदेकं सन्न व्यभवत् । तच्छ्रेयोरूपमत्यसृजत क्षत्रं यान्येतानि देवत्रा क्षत्राणीन्द्रो वरुणः सोमो रुद्रः पर्जन्यो यमो मृत्युरीशान इति । तस्मात्क्षत्रात्परं नास्ति तस्माद् ब्राह्मणः क्षत्रियमधस्तादुपास्ते राजसूये क्षत्र एव तद्यशो दधाति सैषा क्षत्रस्य योनिर्यद् ब्रह्म । तस्माद्यद्यपि राजा परमतां गच्छति ब्रह्मैवान्तत उपनिश्रयति स्वां योनिं य उ एनं हिनस्ति स्वां स योनिमृच्छति स पापीयान् भवति यथा श्रेयांसं हिंसित्वा । ११
“Brahman alone was indeed all this in the beginning. It being alone did not prosper. Hence it created a better form than itself, called Kṣatra. These are the deities who are Kṣatra — Indra, Varuṇa, Soma, Rudra, Parjanya, Yama, Mṛtyu and ĪĪśāna. Hence, there is nothing higher than the Kṣatra, and that is why the Brāhmaṇa worships the Kṣatriya from below in the Rājasūya — he bestows that glory on the Kṣatriya only. The Brahman is the origin of the Kṣatra. Hence, even though the king is raised to superiority, in the end he seeks refuge in his origin, the Brahman. He who harms him, he harms his own origin and becomes sinful just as by harming one’s elder.”
स नैव व्यभवत्स विशमसृजत यान्येतानि देवजातानि गणश आख्यायन्ते वसवो रुद्रा आदित्या विश्वेदेवा मरुत इति । १२
“He still did not prosper. He created the Viṭ (i.e. Vaiśya). These are the Viṭ deities — the ones enumerated in groups — Vasus, Rudras, Ādityas, Viśvedevas and Maruts.”
स नैव व्यभवत्स शौद्रं वर्णमसृजत पूषणमियं वै पूषेयं हीदं सर्वं पुष्यति यदिदं किंच । १३
“He still did not prosper. He created the Śūdra varṇa. The deity who is Śūdra is Pūṣan. This earth is indeed Pūṣan, because she nourishes everything that exists.”
तदेतद् ब्रह्म क्षत्रं विट् शूद्रस्तदग्निनैव देवेषु ब्रह्माभवत् ब्राह्मणो मनुष्येषु क्षत्रियेण क्षत्रियो वैश्येन वैश्यः शूद्रेण शूद्रः …. । १५
“This then is the Brahman, Kṣatra, Viṭ and Śūdra. Brahman became Agni among the deities, and among humans it became the Brāhmaṇa. Similarly, from the Kṣatra deities came the human Kṣatriya, from the Vaiśya came the Vaiśya, and from the Śūdra came the Śūdra.”
So ,we get the concept of the four divisions of society and that Brahma created the Brahmā (Brahmanhood or spiritualpower) but he could not flourish so he created the principle of kṣatra ortemporal power represented by the gods Indra, Varuna, Soma, Rudra, parjanya,Yama, Mrtyu and Iśāna. — yet still he could not flourish so he created theprinciple of viś which means a settlement of agriculturalists and herders represented by the groups of gods known as the Vasus, Adityas(among them Vishnu), Vishvedevas and Maruts.Yet still he could not flourish so hecreated the Sūdras:–
1:4:13. sa naiva vyabhavat | saśaudraṃ varnaṃ asrjata pūṣaṇaṃ | iyam vai pūṣā | iyam hīdam sarvaṃ pūṣyati yadidaṃ kiṃ ca ||
He created the śūdra order, as Pūṣan.Pushan is also a form of the Sun.Verily this (earth) is Pūṣan, the nourisher, for she nourishes everything that is.This links up back to the Purusha Sukta where the earth and the Sudras were linked together.
So ,According to the Purusha Sukta of the Veda, the Sudras were born from the feet of the cosmic Being - along with MotherEarth(Bhū-devī) and the ever pure sacred Ganga. These feet are the prominent part of Lord Vishnu that are worshipped and are featured in the caste mark of Vaishnavas who place the feet of Lord Vishnu on their heads.
According to the ancient texts, Pushan(The Nourisher) who is a form of the Sun, is a Sudra -because “Sudra” means “one who nourishes society”.
Then finally he created DHARMA by which all should live and flourish.
I fail to understand how on Earth Purusha Sukta is understood to be casteist ‘Purusha Sukta’, which is the 90th Sukta of the 10th mandala in the Rig Veda, and it talks about the entire universe as the body of God (Purusha), and of all creation as emerging fromHim.
For the ignorant the verse before 10/90/12 asks "What" and not "who" implying "Varna" is quality/properties not any class.
The verse Rg Ved 10/90/11 says -
When the all pervading Ishwar is imbibed/absorbed in qualities by Human, what changes happen in him.Does he become different than other fellow Human. Does he posses greater strengths, qualities than others. What becomes/happens to his mouth, is it same as others. What becomes/happens to his arms, does it poses same strengths as others. What happens to his abdomen/thighs/stomach. What happens to his legs/feet, does his movement changes. How does he differ from others.
Of an enlightened being having realized Ishwar, What becomes his mouth?What becomes his arms?What becomes his stomach/thigh/abdomen?What becomes his legs/feet?
And now the supposed disputed verse, the supposed fake originator of casteismRg Ved 10/90/12
Of an enlightened being having realised IshwarMouth becomes the BrahminArms the RajanyaThighs the VaishyasFeet the Sudras.
Only a silly, ignorant,stupid or colonized reading of verse would define this as a hierarchical system of classes with the Brahmins occupying the most prestigious position and the Sudras being the most inferior as they emerge from the feet. And this has pretty much become the dominant understanding of the verse among academics.The best way to demonstrate the silliness of this interpretation of the 90th Sukta, is to actually assume it to be correct and then see where that leads us in terms of understanding the rest of the hymn. Thus, if the above verse indicates a hierarchical system, then presumably the body parts of the God (Purusha) from which everything in creation emerges, or the order in which the names are mentioned, or both, ought to be indicative of its superiority or otherwise.
Let us test this understanding against translations of the next two verses from the 90th‘Purusha Sukta’:
Of his mind, the Moon is born
Of his eyes, the shining Sun
from his mouth, Indra and Agni,
And of his life-breath, Vayu
Space unfolds from his navel
The sky well formed from his head
From His feet, the earth and His ears the Quarters
Thus they thought up all the worlds.If our assumption above were true, then the moon ought to be superior to the sun because the mind is superior to the eyes, and also because the moon is mentioned first. Moreover, based on where they emerge from, Indra ought to be inferior to both Chandra (moon) and Surya (sun) and on par with Agni (fire),which also is illogical.
A similarly absurd comparison of the space, sky, earth with the ‘four directions’ will arise fromthe second verse. If the earth comes from the God’s (Purusha) feet, is it then inferior to the moon which comes from the mind?Hence, There is clearly no hierarchy intended, but only symbolic meanings.
So The point to note is the great spiritual and physical status of the Śūdra varṇa. Not only is the god Pūṣan called Śūdra and identified with Mother Earth who sustains all life, but the text says that the human Śūdras are descended from the divine Śūdra, just as the other human varṇas are descended from the divine varṇas.So, all the varṇas are philosophically and theologically equal in status and dignity.
According to all Traditional Hindu Scholars of Veda they are like four experts sitting around a table not an hierarchy. They are the four essential economic divisions of any society or industry. The best example of how this works in reality is to take the IT industry in which it seems most Indians are employed :-)
If one takes the IT industry as an example, there are the innovators and developers = brahmins; there is the security division dealing with cyber crime and hacking = kshatriyas; there is the marketing and merchandising division = vaishyas; and there are the technicians & workers who build the hardware and the supply chain the gets the product to market = sudras.
The problems associated with every hierarchical structure are the same - all based on greed and self-interest — exploitation, oppression, prejudice, discrimination, dissimulation, cruelty etc. etc.
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