Origins of caste system and its various forms

Discussion in 'Hinduism' started by Operacast, Aug 18, 2011.

  1. Operacast

    Operacast Member

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    For some the origins of the caste system are found in the poem, Purusha Sukta, in the 10th book of the Rig-Veda, whose ten books are generally judged as dating back to the second half of the second millennium b.c.e. In the Purusha Sukta, the four chief castes -- the Brahmin (essentially, the religious/philosophical/teaching/scholarly sector), Ksahtriya (essentially, the political governing and warrior sector), Vaishya(sp.?) (essentially, the commercial/economic sector), Sudra (essentially, the service sector) -- are pictured as having come from the Lord's mouth, arms, middle and feet, respectively.

    Some view this as carrying the message that the current caste system in all its forms is validated by scripture, and that includes its most developed hierarchical form, in which some castes are viewed as literally superior to others, great stress, for instance, being put on the superiority of one caste's emerging from the Lord's mouth -- the Brahmin caste -- over the inferiority of another caste's emerging from the Lord's feet - the Sudra caste -- and so forth.

    Others view this poem as having been badly misunderstood. They read the poem as simply presenting the four castes in society as being each equally indispensable instead of reflective of any implicit or explicit hierarchy, the same way in which each of us would be unable to function with only our mouth, or only our feet, or only our arms, etc. We need all of these to function, and these parts of our body complement each other, neither being superior over the other.

    Read this way, great stress is laid on the apparent fact that it is only in much later times, after the age of the Vedic scriptures, that we eventually see castes being pegged to blood lines by heredity rather than pegged to natural aptitude, the latter clearly facilitating much better social mobility and clearly the original model found in the Rig-Veda. Pegging the caste system to heredity instead is thus viewed as the real source for the abuses in the caste system and a betrayal of the scriptures, thus exculpating the scriptures entirely from any culpability in the suffering that has been consequent from the caste system as known and practiced in later centuries.

    Finally, another reading of the Purusha Sukta is that its whole poetic style in the original is wholly alien to the poetic linguistic style of the rest of the Rig-Veda. Certain statistical tests have been run on its vocabulary and its turns of phrase, and what seems to emerge is a much later product, a product that could be as late as the first half of the first millennium c.e. Read this way, the poem is indeed a wholesale defense of the caste system as later practiced, blood lines and heredity ghettoization included. But it is not genuinely scriptural, being a cynical interpolation placed in the scriptures by unscrupulous writers out to foist a false scriptural rationale for the caste system on their readers.

    These three different takes on the Purusha Sukta beg the question as to whether one views the caste system as having originated simultaneously with genuine scripture or post-scripturally instead. They also beg the question as to when and why the caste system morphed into an hereditary system of virtual ghettos determined by blood lines, rather than by aptitude. The caste system as implicit in scripture -- and there are scriptural references to it outside the Purusha Sukta, including one reference at least in the Bhagavadgita -- is more specifically referenced as "varna", and for many readers, the caste system and "varna" are two separate things, "varna" being the scriptural form of this institution and the caste system being what we know today, warts and all. There appears, in fact, to be no explicit reference anywhere in scripture to the castes -- or more accurately, the varnas -- being determined by bloodlines or heredity at all. This makes the distinction between varna and caste yet more critical than ever in the minds of many.

    In showing that it was the hereditary angle that was both later and non-Vedic, a number of questions arise.

    Do we know precisely when and why the caste system became hereditary?

    And since both Mahavira and Buddha were already critics of the caste system in the middle of the first millennium b.c.e., do we know why they found it flawed?

    Was it the hereditary aspect that offended them? Or was it something different that offended them?

    Had the change to a hereditary system already happened when they came along in the middle of the first millennium b.c.e.? Or had it not happened yet?

    If the hereditary system was not already in place in the middle of the first millennium b.c.e., then what was it that so offended Mahavira and Buddha? If it was something different than heredity that so offended Mahavira and Buddha, then can one determine precisely

    1) what it was that did offend them,

    2) precisely when those aspects of the caste system that did offend Mahavira and Buddha first appeared, and

    3) under what circumstances and precisely why those aspects of the caste system that did offend Mahavira and Buddha first appeared.

    I'm hoping that some here may have the requisite knowledge to address these queries.

    Many thanks,

    Operacast
     
  2. bhaktajan

    bhaktajan Active Member

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    I easily found multiple listings of the meaning of the sankrit word varna:

    But there is a major confusion:
    Four "Varnas" are indicative of the group's civic function.

    The tradition is called "Varna Ashrama"

    There are four 'natural' divisions of civic job-titles:

    Intelligencia (brahmins),
    Administration (kshatriyas),
    Mercantile (vaishyas),
    Artisan (sudra) . . .

    ALL FOUR MUST Pass throught the Four "Ashrams" [ideally, for those who are strictly-orthodox]:

    Studentship (brahmacari),
    Householder-ship (grihasta),
    Retirement (vanaprastha),
    Renunciant (Sannyasa) . . .

    All the four (particular) secular 'varnas'; and, all four of the (common) spiritual 'ashrams' must be passed through . . . So as to, provide all concerned parties a natural (near-effortless) progession toward moksha.

    Each concerned party must faithfully perform their individual dharma (alloted occupational duties) for all of society to be happy and functional.

    ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::
    Like Martin Luther's cause . . . at the start of Kali-yuga (actually, after 3,000 years had passed and after the Brahmana Class had virtually dissapeared to moksha ---due to their following Krishna's coat-tails after Krishna's pastimes had ended 3,000 BCE) . . . Brahminical knowledge and it's access was cut-off from the general population of the known world at that time in history, so, like Martin Luther's cause, there was a need to reveal the path of moksha to the common folks.

    Buddha facilitated that egalitarian offering and path to moksha.

    ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

    "Varna Ashrama dharma" refers to divisions of actually work, occupational work, a mode of work that is preformed by those with a natural propensity to do such work.

    So naturally, a Doctor would want his son to be a doctor also . . . but, if the son has no such proclivity to preform such work and its requisite study . . . then that son should not be recognised as 'qualified to be called a doctor' ---alas, many would assume to falsely ascend to and advertise themselves and to profit from the status of a higher 'Worker' without qualification ---and worse still, due to placing other petty goals in front of their alloted occupational duties.

    Lack of preforming one's own alloted occupational duty is called neglegence.


    Varnas & Ashrams are naturally perfromed as part and parcel of the whole, aka "Sanatana Dharma".
     
  3. Operacast

    Operacast Member

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    As follow-up to my previous inquiry, I have been studying the Suttas in the Sutta Nipata, generally viewed by modern scholars as among the earliest collections of Buddha texts. In the Vasala Sutta, Buddha remarks --




    ""Not by birth is one a non-caste; not by birth is one a brahman. By deed one becomes a non-caste, by deed one becomes a brahman."". (Vasala Sutta, 27)





    This is a pretty startling find for me. Evidently, Buddha here would not say "Not by birth" etc. if he were not addressing just such a practice already current in his culture in the middle centuries of the first millennium b.c.e. And he would not make reference to someone's being a "non-caste", i.e. an untouchable, if that caste had not already been established. Yet Dr. Sharma in his article (www.castewatchuk.org/documents/hcuktheca...) seems to strongly intimate that during the b.c.e. neither the birth distortion of varna -- the jati custom -- nor the establishment of the untouchable caste was in place yet. This early Buddha text shows that that is simply not correct.

    Just what is going on here, and how come I've seen similar claims to Dr. Sharma's elsewhere?

    Operacast
     
  4. Nick the Pilot

    Nick the Pilot Well-Known Member

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    Operacast,

    Buddha is saying the practice exists, but that it is wrong (and I totally agree). And I think what you are saying is that the caste system was not in place at the time of Buddha. I believe the caste system is much older than the time of Buddha (although it may not have had as many layers at that time as it has today). Perhaps the first caste system was only two-layered (Brahman and non-Brahman), and the other layers appeared later. It makes sense to me that the caste system would first appear in a simple, two-layered form, and then evolve into multi-layers as the centuries went by. I doubt the caste system was originally set up in its present multi-layer form.
     
  5. Operacast

    Operacast Member

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    Actually, in Buddha's referencing the notion of a "non-caste", we seem to see a clear implication that there are already a fair number of other caste distinctions at that time, else the category of "non-caste" could not conceivably arise. There has to be more than just one in order for the "non-caste" to have a peg of its own. Yet here's Buddha in the middle of the first millennium b.c.e. already referencing such a thing as a non-caste.

    Cheers,

    Operacast
     
  6. bhaktajan

    bhaktajan Active Member

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    Buddha lived 500 years before Christ's time.

    BTW, What is wrong with caste?

    Let's rid gated communities? Be rid of apartment Flats' doormen? Be rid of bad-grammer? Be rid of laborers? Be rid of Book-worms & techno-geeks?
    Be rid of Macho & effete mannerisms?

    Civil injustice is civil injustice.

    Caste is being utilised by Kali-yuga ant colony drone as a desperate act of self-perservation.

    Caste refers to "Stratum of Work" ---it being miss-used in the way Union-Labor had been put-upon by the Administrative Classes.

    Each MUST do their obliged work ---and mutually provide for each other.

    The ideal freedom sought in democracies is NOT about reducing the obligations of the Smart vs the Dullwitted.

    The caste divisions allow for the proctections of ideal freedom "To Work" ---beyond ideologies.

    The caste divisions directly address the social need for goverment to provide work for persons with all levels of occupational skills.
     
  7. Operacast

    Operacast Member

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    What you're describing is varna, the aptitude of different individuals for different things, the different aspects of aptitude that make up the whole human family as described in the Purusha Sukta. Varna in the P.S. acknowledges that different human beings have different aptitudes. It also confines the varnas to four: the philosophical/thinker sector, the political sector, the commercial/economic sector and the mechanical sector. It doesn't explicitly confer any totem-pole hierarchy on these four sectors at all. Nor is there any place in the varna system for the non-castes, or untouchables, or for any other varna outside these broad four.

    By the time that Brihaspati, Mahavira and Buddha arrive (ca. 600 - 400 b.c.e.), the caste system, not varna, has become a rigid hierarchy in which the four varnas have been totem-poled rigidly, they have become castes through the freezing of the varnas along bloodlines rather than individual talent, and an additional caste has been added in below these four, termed the untouchables. That is the form of caste system that Brihaspati, Mahavira and Buddha address and criticize, and in its stunting of human talent, its ghetto-izing along blood-lines, this form of caste system is plainly immoral.

    Operacast
     
  8. bhaktajan

    bhaktajan Active Member

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    No one validates "All forms" ---there is four.

    "Homeless-bums" are outside these four.

    Common-sense behavior is to avoid the "Homeless-bums".

    Kali-yuga is filled with selfishness.

    Clans & Tribes & Gangs and labor-Union negotiations along with Tax-Structures all examplify this universal human condition of seeking self-preservation.

    Varna {aka, caste distinctions} are eternal designations that exist in Human Society.
    These designations cannot be rid of. They are a fact of life.

    Buddha's epoch in India occurred after the Brahman classes had disappeared; leaving un-qualified leaders to make a sham of their own lost traditions ---that is the very definition of the Age-of-Kali's characteristics.

    Black-humans were thought to equal to all other species of Human ---and thus, laws were past to protect that Truth ---this is NOT similar to the civil designations called "caste".

    There is no such thing as a "Caste System".

    There are castes ---these do not produce any type of "system".

    There is prejudice against personal association with those that a lacking Intelligence (Brahman); leadership skills (Kshatriya); Wealth (vaishya) and even gainful employment in a craft or Skill (sudra) ---what is complicated about this fact of life?

    If there is a need for a "Good Samaratan" then give facility to them.

    MONSANTO knows the price of Rice in China ---go lobby that Corporate Conglomerate to hire & educate the poor & under-served communities.
     
  9. Nick the Pilot

    Nick the Pilot Well-Known Member

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    "If the hereditary system was not already in place in the middle of the first millennium b.c.e., then what was it that so offended Mahavira and Buddha?"

    "By the time that Brihaspati, Mahavira and Buddha arrive (ca. 600 - 400 b.c.e.), the caste system, not varna, has become a rigid hierarchy in which the four varnas have been totem-poled rigidly...in its stunting of human talent, its ghetto-izing along blood-lines, this form of caste system is plainly immoral."

    --> I think you have found your answer.
     
  10. bhaktajan

    bhaktajan Active Member

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    There was no-way for commoners to access the Vedas during Buddha's epoch (1,500 years after the start of Kali-yuga). This was the social situation at that time ---similar to the history of the accessibility of the Bible in Europe . . . until Martin Luther & Guttenberg's printing press.

    Caste is a mundane meaning for purposes of the mundane functioning of society.
    The soul is above and beyond such mundane functions.

    The problem has aways been in Kali-yuga, that un-authorised persons would assume the helm of a Caste Status without possessing the proper qualification to do so.

    "Caste by birth" is long argued to be wrong. Anyway, Caste is a function of the Deeds/Works one engages in as an occupation.

    If un-touchables are dis-allowed, by the governement & the local authorities, to acquire a proper education so as to rise above their stratum in society ---then we have a very old problem that must be resolved for the sake of those poor under-served members of society.

    Kali-yuga has just started (3,102 BCE) and it will get grosser & grosser as time goes by. Just use the 20th century as a case study of the Human Condition.

    Poor Stephen Hawking, no Cricket Club will have him as a team mate.
     
  11. Operacast

    Operacast Member

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    Please bump this. Thank you.
     
  12. Operacast

    Operacast Member

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    I'm sorry: I admit I'm confused on one point here. You say here ==========>

    ====================> that Kali-yuga starts 2000 b.c.e. Yet later in your posting, you say it starts a thousand years earlier =============>

    Please, what marks the start of Kali-yuga, and how is it defined? Thank you.

    Also, I always understood that 3100 b.c.e. was approximately the time of Krishna. In Krishna's grappling with and vanquishing the tyrant Kamsa, I've always viewed that as clearly a boon to humanity. So your implication here that something with negative consequences, Kali-yuga, coincides with the general time of Krishna's victory over Kamsa(!), which seems positive to me, leaves me puzzled.

    Thank you,

    Operacast
     
  13. bhaktajan

    bhaktajan Active Member

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    Kali-yuga [the age of Kali ---4th and last of 4-Ages] started 5,000 years ago (starting approx 3,102 BCE)

    Buddha's epoch was 2,500 years ago (approx 1,500 years after the start of Kali-yuga).

    Kali-yuga is famed as the age of quarrel & hypocracy. Kali-yuga will last a total of 423,000 years ---it began 5,000 years ago.

    After Kali-yuga ends ---the cycle of 4-Ages starts again.

    Krishna appeared in the Royal Dynasty of Ancient India just before the start of Kali-yuga.

    Krishna killed his maternal Uncle Kamsa when krishna was still a teenager, in a hand-to-hand public wrestling match.

    Later when Krishna was aprox 120 years old ---there was a civil war amongst Krishna's Cousins who all were from the Royal Court of the Capital known as Hastina-pura.

    See this link for a grafix of the Yuga Time-Line:
    http://www.interfaith.org/forum/4-yugas-14-manus-brahmas-12971.html

    Krishna (aka, God Almighty) spoke the following to his cousin the Prince Arjuna on the morning of the start of a great Civil war:

    "Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion--at that time I descend Myself". ---Bhagavad-gita 4.7
     
  14. Nick the Pilot

    Nick the Pilot Well-Known Member

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    According to my belief system (Theosophy), our present Kali-yuga began about 5,000 years ago and will last for a total of about 432,000 years, which is quite similar to bhaktajan's numbers.
     
  15. Operacast

    Operacast Member

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    Thank you very much. This has certainly clarified your point.

    With respect to Krishna's statement here, it's regrettable that the earliest (known) moment of human irreligion appears to be the philosophy of Brihaspati roughly a century before Buddha. And ironically, the few words we have from Brihaspati suggest that the immediate catalyst for Brihaspati's irreligion appears to be exasperation with the hierachical caste version of Varna, post-Purusha Sukta. The whole Lokayata philosophy that Brihaspati inaugurates appears to emerge from a grudge match -- in certain quarters -- between the Kshatriya and the Brahman castes, each vying for supremacy -- as if any hierarchical supremacy was even involved in varna at first!

    This grudge match might not even have transpired absent the hierarchical pressures of the post-scriptural distortion of varna into caste. So the lesson learned here is that any attempt to wrench out extremist hierarchical totem poles (i.e., "this group of people is totally better than that"(!), etc.) from any original doctrine, which may initially be innocent of such hierarchy, will inevitably bring on its own reaction involving heightened resentment all around and just as extremist doctrines at the other end of the spectrum (i.e., "there's no point to feeding the indigent or sheltering the wanderer"(!), etc.).

    Cheers,

    Operacast
     
  16. IowaGuy

    IowaGuy Hunter-Gatherer

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    What happens if there is a nuclear war that kills everyone on planet earth sometime in the next 400,000 years?
     
  17. Operacast

    Operacast Member

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    And that is one of the best reasons not to be fatalistic about the evils of social dysfunction, whether from the caste system or something else. Thank you.

    Essentially, we each of us still have free will. And while humanity is around, it always has a moral obligation to ameliorate suffering any way it can. The current caste system causes suffering. The morphing of authentic scriptural varna into this monster of hereditary caste is an entirely man-made evil and as a man-made evil, it is correctable.

    Operacast
     
  18. bhaktajan

    bhaktajan Active Member

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    The tradition is called "Varna Ashrama"

    There are four 'natural' divisions of civic job-titles:

    Intelligencia (brahmins),
    Administration (kshatriyas),
    Mercantile (vaishyas),
    Artisan (sudra) . . .

    ALL FOUR MUST 'Varnas' pass throught the Four "Ashrams"
    [ideally, for those who are strictly-orthodox]:

    Studentship (brahmacari),
    Householder-ship (grihasta),
    Retirement (vanaprastha),
    Renunciant (Sannyasa) . . .

    All the four (particular) secular 'varnas' must be passed through all four of the (common) spiritual 'ashrams', so as to, provide all concerned parties a natural (near-effortless) progession toward moksha.

    Wiki mentions:
    "An Ashrama (āśrama) in Hinduism is one of four stages in an age-based social system as laid out in the Manu Smrti and later Classical Sanskrit texts."

    Ashrama (stage) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
     
  19. Operacast

    Operacast Member

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    Most of what is written in this newest is word-for-word what's found in the first half of the first response in this thread on the first page.

    What's the point?

    Operacast

     
  20. bhaktajan

    bhaktajan Active Member

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    varna-ashram dharma

    aka,
    the dharma of
    secular duty-spiritual sacraments.

    The western school books refer to castes in India as the the 4 secular divisions:
    Brahmin
    Kshatreeya
    Vaishya
    sudra

    The western schools refer to these 4 secular divisions WITHOUT EVER MENTIONING the 4 spiritual "ashrams" ---that all 4-Secular castes must go through.

    Together [4 secular "varnas" + the 4 spiritual "ashrams"] they are synonymous with "Sanatana-dharma" ---it is known as 'Varnashram Dharma'.

    Again weather one works as a Brahmin, Administrator/Warrior, merchant, artisan ---on MUST progress through the 4 sacramental stages of life, known as, brahmacharee, grihasta (housholder), vanaprasta, sannyas.

    That is my Point.

    Did you get my point already?

    Did you have a desire to halt me from reiterating & saying so?
     

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