THE TRUTH ABOUT THE CASTE SYSTEM

As the Congress and the Media float all kind of accusations against Narendra Modi, to utilize the ‘caste card”, I thought it would be appropriate to republish an article of mine on castes:

Even more than the Aryans-Dravidians divide and the Vedas, the caste system has been the most misunderstood, the most vilified subject of Hindu society at the hands of Western scholars and even today by “secular” Indians that is the Congress, the leftists intellectuals and its instruments, the Media, particularly NDTV and TOI.

But ultimately if one wants to understand the truth, the original purpose behind the caste system, one must go back to the Vedas. “Caste was originally an arrangement for the distribution of functions in society, just as much as class in Europe, but the principle on which this distribution was based was peculiar to India. A Brahmin was a Brahmin not by mere birth, but because he discharged the duty of preserving the spiritual and intellectual elevation of the race, and he had to cultivate the spiritual temperament and acquire the spiritual training which alone would qualify him for the task. The Kshatryia was Kshatryia not merely because he was the son of warriors and princes, but because he discharged the duty of protecting the country and preserving the high courage and manhood of action, and he had to cultivate the princely temperament and acquire the strong and lofty Samurai training which alone fitted him for his duties. So it was for the Vaishya whose function was to amass wealth for the race and the Shudra who discharged the humbler duties of service without which the other castes could not perform their share of labour for the common, good”. (Sri Aurobindo)

Many Indian sages have even gone even further than Sri Aurobindo, arguing that in the occult relation India had with the Universal Force, each one was born in the caste CORRESPONDING to his or her spiritual evolution. There are accidents, misfits, errors, they say, but the system seems to have worked pretty well untill modern times when it got perverted by the vagaries of materialism and western influence. Can one accept such a theory? Sri Aurobindo, while praising the original caste system, does not spare it in its later stages: “it is the nature of human institutions to degenerate; there is no doubt that the institution of caste degenerated. It ceased to be determined by spiritual qualifications which, once essential, have now come to be subordinate and even immaterial and is determined by the purely material tests of occupation and birth…
By this change it has set itself against the fundamental tendency of Hinduism which is to insist on the spiritual and subordinate the material and thus lost most of its meaning. the spirit of caste arrogance, exclusiveness and superiority came to dominate it instead of the spirit of duty, and the change weakened the nation and helped to reduce us to our present condition…(India’s Rebirth, p 27). And the Barbarians came !

But finally, have the people who dismiss caste as an Aryan imposition on the Dravidians, or as an inhuman and nazi system, ever attempted to understand its original purpose and genius? Is it really worse than the huge class differences you can see nowadays in Europe or the US? And can you really exclude it today off-hand, when it still survives so much in the villages – and even in more educated circles, where one still marries in matching castes, with the help of an astrologer? Does the caste system need to be transformed, to recapture its old meaning and once more incarnate a spiritual hierarchy of beings? Or has it to be recast in a different mould, taking into account the parameters of modern Indian society? Or else, will it finally disappear altogether from India, because it has become totally irrelevant today ?

At any rate, Hindus should not allow it to be exploited shamelessly against them, as it has been in the last two centuries, by missionnaries, “secular” historians, Muslims, and by pre and post-independance Indian politicians -each for their own purpose.
FG

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2 responses to “THE TRUTH ABOUT THE CASTE SYSTEM

  1. Alain Danielou, also a Frenchman, a Hindu and India-lover went into details to explain truths about the caste system in his remarkable book on Hinduism: ‘India: A Civilization of Differences’. It is a collection of Danielou’s writings that builds a bold and cogent defense of India’s caste system, and looks at the Hindu caste system not as racist inequality but as a natural ordering of diversity. Also helpful is another collection of his writing on Indian tradition: ‘Virtue, Success, Pleasure, & Liberation: The Four Aims of Life in the Tradition of Ancient India’.
    As Hindus in the Hindu-bashing times of post-Independence India, grown up with so-called ‘secular’ ideals and forced to underplay and be ashamed of their own religion, it can take a long detour for modern Hindus to go back to their roots and discover the colossal gifts that Hinduism is to the world and all human beings. There is really a dearth of international writers depicting Hinduism in a clear light, much of the writing in the Western press is hate-filled, downright misleading and damaging. Among the Western writers writing on Hinduism, Alain Danielou and Linda Johnsen stand out with authentic and right perspective. Both of them lived in India, studied Indian philosophy, learned the languages, got initiated in spiritual practice and adopted Hinduism in real life.

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