There is no caste system in Sanatana Dharma. There is only one caste. The caste of humanity.
“Caste” is casting a very wrong notion about Hinduism (Sanatana Dharma) today.
Wait a sec, what does sanatana dharma say?
Sanatana Dharma says we are “children of immortality”.
It does not divide people on the basis of a caste system. Not at all. Such a concept of division and disunity is totally absent in sanatana dharma.
It teaches us how to look at the One appearing as many, to seek the oneness in the diverse appearances.
It specifically exhorts us to live together, to grow together, to achieve great things together and to not develop disharmony among us. It reminds us constantly of this truth when we use words such as jaati, varna, yoni and kula to describe ourselves.
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So, what is my job as a human being then?
I have a body with a life-force (yoni), born in a certain family/lineage (kulam) with certain differentiated characteristics (skin color, physical appearance, personality and character traits) (varna) to experience the truth that I’m not the body but really the birthless entity (jaati) that is beyond the body.
To experience this truth I must follow certain rules of life – living in consonance with my conscience (jaati neethi), doing no harm to the family and lineage I’m born in (the kula dharma), disciplining and using my characteristic tendencies for the benefit of society (the varna dharma)
How is helping my society help me do my job?
My well-being is intricately and unbreakably woven with the well being of all beings all around the world. Immediately though, for my well-being I depend on the society I live in.
A society is more than a bunch of people grouped together. Well-developed, society is a joyous expression of harmony, comfort and peace itself.
The society I live in does four fundamental things for me
- Helps me to gain spiritual knowledge
- Ensures my safety and security
- Produces food, generates wealth, supplies clothes and shelter
- Supplies physical labor to support these activities
These are the four basic actions a society does to support my quest to live well. If I look at these four functions as the four wheels in a car, then I understand that all of them are equally important, none more or less so than the rest.
Spiritual teachings are imparted to me by people who have the natural bent of mind and the characteristic tendencies, the varna, to learn and teach them. I must have the same varna to be interested to seek this teaching and learn. This varna is called the Brahmin. One does not become a Brahmin because of the lineage (kulam) he /she is born in or because of erudition and scholarship. It is only the Brahminic conduct, a truly loving and harmless disposition in the company of God, that makes a Brahmin.
Safety and security are provided to me by people who have the natural bent of mind and the characteristic tendencies, the varna, to do this work. They could be the leaders of the society and the country I live in, people of the armed forces, the police etc who put their lives at risk for my safety and security. This varna is called the Kshatriya.
The farmer who tills the land and grows my food corps has a natural aptitude for that. There are traders and businessmen who seem to be “naturals” at what they do. The varna or the bent of mind and characteristic tendencies associated with such work is called the Vaisya.
Physical, manual work is required in doing the various activities of the society. The characteristic tendencies, the varna, that shine in the manual labor is the Sudra.
When I do the work that are aligned with my innate characteristic tendencies, then not only do I do the work very well but I also truly enjoy it.
The functioning of the human society is designed on this basis – alignment of work with one’s natural characteristics or varnas. The designer is Bhagavan Himself. The purpose is the well being of the human society so all can live together in harmony, comfort and peace.
Sri Krishna explains this in the Bhagavad Gita (4.13)
Aligning fully with man’s predominant natural tendencies, a societal support system consisting of four distinct division of labor has been put in place by Me.
chaaturvarnyam mayaa srushtam gunakarmavibhaagasah
My acknowledgement that such a basic division of labor exists in society or acceptance of it is immaterial. My agreement or disagreement with it is irrelevant. This is what is happening in all societies in all countries around the world.
Seriously? Is this what is happening in all societies in the world?
Examples of Brahmins from around the world
Examples of Kshatriyas from around the world
Examples of Vaisyas from around the world
Examples of Sudras from around the world
Tell me, what is a Varna again?
The four varnas are the four dominant characteristic tendencies on the basis of which society’s division of labor has been set up. The varnas are not limited to one geographic area of the world. They apply to the whole of humanity. The varnas paint devotion to labor, not division of labor. The varnas denote characteristic tendencies, not physical bodies of human beings or their family/lineage.
In fact, these four characteristic tendencies, the four varnas, are worshipped as four effulgences of divinity itself, says the Purusha Suktam. It illustrates this Form of Effulgence with a comparison to the human form,
- The Brahmins, the characteristic tendencies promoting knowledge, is Its face.
- The Kshatriyas, the characteristic tendencies providing security and safety are Its shoulders.
- The Vaisyas, the characteristic tendencies providing food and wealth are Its thighs.
- The sudras, the characteristic tendencies providing manual labor, are Its feet.
Brahmanosya mukham aaseet | Baahoo raajanyah krutah | Ooroo tadasya yatvaisyah | Padmyaam sudro ajaayata || [1.13]
The face, shoulders, thighs and feet of my body employ their different characteristics in harmony so my body can function well. In the same way, these four varnas operate in harmony providing knowledge, security and safety, food and wealth and manual physical labor. Every society in every country in every nook and corner of the world operates on this divine design.
Each one of the four varnas is distinguishably different from the rest. But they do not fight with each other because of their differences. Instead, they sing and dance in absolute harmony with each other the same way the different parts of my body do.
This teaching from the Vedas gives an insight into how the four varnas – four divine effulgences in nature – provide sustenance so we can lead our lives on earth.
The Varna music
However, I don’t hear this divine Varna music that is being played in nature . I’m immersed in the noise I’ve created myself. I’ve conned myself into thinking that I am not the caste I truly am, the human caste.
- I mix up my characteristic tendencies to be my caste, when they are not.
- Born in a certain kulam, I do not observe my kula dharma but mix up my kulam to be my caste which it is not.
- Unable to accept differences on an equal footing, I discriminate. I falsely claim one set of characteristic tendencies is superior to the rest. I introduce terribly misleading phrases such as “lower caste”, “upper caste” etc.
- I fail to learn from the basic teaching of nature all around me. There is differentiation in nature, but no discrimination.
- Perpetuating discrimination, I fight with my own kind.
How can I hear the Varna music over my own din then?
Our cultures are many no doubt. But we have only one caste. The caste of humanity.