- Politics and Social Issues
India mired in Caste Quagmire - Lost heavily on Social and Economic Indicators - Part 1
Aham Brahmasmi - I am the Brahma the God Himself.
I am not an Atheist, in the strict Literal Meaning of the Word. Nor am I a blind Theist, to believe in all that is said by the Scriptures, by the Gurus, by the Politicians or by the proletariat. In my personal view, Religion is nothing but Faith. Individual Faith differs from faith by the masses in large numbers. Once, a group of people believe in the existence or non-existence of something never seen by any one nor may never be seen by any one, it is called Religion. Just as Believers of the one God or the other God formed into a particular Religion,under one nomenclature or the other, the non-believers too are a Religion of Atheism, as they have a strong Faith in the non-existence of God, in strict literal lingo. Then, where is the scope for eternal battles over the God, in whom we believe only just as we believe as toddlers that the Sun sets. When does the Sun set? If he sets in the East, He rises in the West. He is the untiring servant of Humanity. As long as we use our Faith to serve humanity and not severe the heads of humanity, our religion stands the test of times and survives. Religions that believe in severing the heads of people instead of serving their basic needs are bound to vanish from the world a day too soon.
Scriptures and strictures imposed therein are for the benefit of Society. This Blog is not about the Religions and the discard therein but the caste divisions in one of the oldest Faiths in the world, the Hinduism, of which I am a proud follower. And did the Scriptures of Hinduism advocate that the followers quarrel with each other in the name of caste, creed, place of birth and lineage? No! A firm no! Hinduism advocated that all humans are equal in the eyes of God, whichever faith they follow! It said, "Aham: Brahmasmi! "I am the God!" When the invisible phenomenon named God resides in every human being as "The Brahma", where is scope for caste divisions? In a way, we are ill treating one God of Hinduism in the name of caste. God does not have caste, then how can we, the manifestations of the same God have it? This is anti-thesis, within the thesis!
What does the Religion teach us?
Religion is a matter of faith. A faith that there is some Omnipotent force that is giving birth, sustaining and destroying the animate and inanimate. It is based on the "cause and effect" theory. Without cause there is no effect. So, for the Creation to to come into existence, to sustain and to perish there must have been an Omnipresent force.No one has seen it, but a belief that someone is supervising our actions does inculcate a sense of reason and responsibility in the human race. If the same faith leads us to internecine, perennial and self-destroying battles the very Faith loses its meaning. Here, some argue that these quarrels too are the result of the cause and effect and ordained by the God! It is not God but greed, the insatiable greed to dominate that is leading us to this pitiable conclusion.
Being born as a Hindu in an orthodox Brahman family, which according to the caste-abettors, is on the top of hierarchy. Please note that this "we-are-on-the-top" syndrome by virtue of lineage and ancestry and not by any special virtue, skill or knowledge. Lord Buddha said
" A foot feels feels the foot when it touches the ground"
This is a very meaningful quote. Unless one touches his Soul with His Creator, the God one can never realize his Inner Self! The Inner Self is the Truth that He is himself the God! In other words, each human being is manifestation of the same God! Whither the caste?
A more subtle meaning of the words of Lord Buddha might be that you, allegoric reference to the foot in the quote,will realize the you in you only when you realize the abstract truth that all beings are born equal and die equal and reach the same ground from where they were born.
To quote the Prime Minister of India, Sri Narendra Modi on the subject, in the backdrop of the caste politics being played by divisive leaders in India for creating vote banks to gain politically
All religions and all communities have the same rights, and it is my responsibility to ensure their complete and total protection. My government will not tolerate or accept any discrimination based on caste, creed and religion.
Ref: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/n/narendramo742532.html? src=t_caste
When Did The Division Of People On the Basis of Caste Assume Alarming Proportions
The very term Caste is not of Indian origin. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it is derived fro the Portuguese Casta, meaning " race, lineage, breed". There is no exact meaning to the word "Caste" but Indian Vedia Texts refer to the word "Varna: which means color. But the meaning "color" to Varna is not appropriate as Varna was based, not on color or lineage but based on the social duties they perform. For example all the knowledgeable, the Preachers, the Teachers, the Gurus were referred as Brahmans. Those who ruled and administered the people and protected them from enemies were referred to as Kshtriyas, artisans, merchants, tradesmen and farmers were referred to as Vaishyas and those who did labor for wages were called Shudras. No Religious text in Hinduism said that the son of a Brahman would be a Brahman by lineage and a son of Shudra would be a Shudra. They are interchangeable depending on the kind of profession they are engaged. The best example is that of Valmeeki. He was by profession a Shudra, a hunter. But he acquires immense knowledge by the grace of Lord Brahma. He writes the Epic Ramayana and he turns to a Brahma Rishi, a Brahman Sage.
The word "Jati" was a latter creation. True! The knowledgeable and the land owners perpetrated the Varna system out of immense greed and made it as "Jati" system, where lineage decided the Jati of an individual. For this we can not blame the Smritis and the Vedas. Till the arrival of the British and their "divide and Rule" policy in administration, the caste wars did not take ominous proportions. The word "untouchables" concept was a latter day creation and the Vedia Period did not define the untouchable concept based on lineage.
“History shows that where ethics and economics come in conflict, victory is always with economics. Vested interests have never been known to have willingly divested themselves unless there was sufficient force to compel them.”
― B.R. Ambedkar
This shows that "economics" plays a larger part than ethics when one man treats the other. This is the reason post-reservation period, "neo-rich dalits" has become a part of Indian society and the marginalized sections within them are getting ostracized from within. So, another class within the class has cropped up. (More on this in future hubs)
My tryst with Caste:
Being born in an orthodox Brahman (by lineage) family I had a tough time with my own family and society surrounding me as a toddler, who got radicalized too early in life. The "untouchability" concept prevailing in the villages made me an untouchable in my circles, as I was oposing the very concept. Much to the chagrin and discomfiture of my mother (my father was a Doctor and treated all alike) I used to eat in the families of those called Dalits or untouchables. This used to create a lot of friction in my family. I used to argue that the same blood flowed in all of us and only the food habits changed and I was telling her that when I was eating in their houses, they too were eating pure vegetarian food. That did not alter their alter-ego. this continued all my life with her until at last one fine morning when I started inviting these so-called untouchables (after I was a top banker) to my house and shared a plate of food with them, she left me for a decade only to to return accepting my stand.
The worst experience in my life came in the year 1987, when I was heading a Bank Branch in Warangal, a District Head quarters, in the state of Andhra Pradesh. I was having my Managerial quarters in the house owned by a Land Lord (Caste name not need to be mentioned). I performed a prayer in my house and invited my staff that included the sub-ordinate staff, who in most cases, used to be the so called Dalits. I invited my landlords and few customers too for lunch. In India, we have a system of sitting on floor and eating on such occasions. It so happened that the two Dalits wanted to sit by my two sides in the group lunch and this infuriated the land lord family so much that I had to search for a new quarters within a week.
Does Hinduism have a place for caste divisions? what are Varnas? What did the Scriptures say? How were the Scriptures misinterpreted to suit the egoists and the politicians over centuries? All in my coming Hubs!