Let me take a few core foundation stones and tenants of Hinduism as practiced today and explore the difference between what the Vedas teach and our daily practice.
a) The caste system
• Attempts at reformation by various Gurus and God himself (Vishnu as in the dasha avtara)
• Divisions between Vaishnavits, Shaivaits and the non-existent Bhramanites.
CASTE- The biggest divider and discriminator in Hinduism
We are all aware of caste system. We wear it proudly on our shoulders if we come from the higher ones, and hide it when we do not belong to the elite casts. We are born’ into it, live and die by it. Did our ancient wise forefathers sanction the way we practice it today? Here are some excerpts from the Vedas -
Chapter IV, verse 13 (above) in the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna tells Arjuna, depending upon a person’s guna (aptitude) and karma (actions), there are four varnas (castes). As per this shloka, a person’s varna or caste is determined by his guna and karma, and not by his birth. Chapter XIV of the Bhagavad Gita specifies three gunas viz. satva (purity), rajas (passion and attachment) and tamas (ignorance). These three gunas are present in every human in different proportions, and determine the varna of every person. Accordingly, depending on one’s guna and karma, every individual is free to select his own varna. Consequently, if their gunas and karmas are different, even members of the same family can belong to different varnas.
Notwithstanding the differences in guna and karma of different individuals, Vedas treat the entire humanity with the same respect and do not sanction any birth-based caste system.
If the interpretation of caste in Bhagwad Gita as related by Krishna is yet not yet clear to some of us. Here is Madhwacharaya the founder of the Dwaita Madhwa bhramins
Madhwacharya’s interpretation of Chapter 4 verse 13 Bhagwad Gita
Lord Krishna is the origin of the four classifications in Vedic culture as spoken here. Those of sattva guna or the mode of goodness are designated as Brahmins or priestly class. Those of mixed sattva guna and rajas guna or the mode of passion are known as ksatriyas or warrior class. Those mixed with rajas guna and tama guna or the mode of ignorance are the vaisyas or mercantile class and those in tama guna are the sudras or service class.
Guru Madhwacharya is clear in his description. It’s YOUR aptitude, YOUR attitude and YOUR actions in this life that determine your cast. If you do business, like I do, you are a vaishya, If you are a monk you become a brahmin irrespective of your birth circumstances. . If you are in the military, you are a kshatriya. If you spend your time doing nothing or perhaps you are involved in administrative functions in society, or as a way of living, you are a Sudra.
If the point is yet not clear, let me go on………
Rig Veda mantra 10-13-1 addresses the entire humanity as my divine children. Shrunvantu vishve amrutsya putraha
Mantra 5-60-5 in Rig Veda, the divine poet declares, “All men are brothers; no one is big, no one is small. All are equal.”
In any society, for the safety and prosperity of society 4 basic functions are performed. Those who are the knowledge keepers are the brahmins. Those who defend the society are the kshatriyas, those who bring it prosperity by generating money are vaishyas, The ones who maintain day to day administrative functions are sudras. Since every role is equally important in the maintenance of a healthy society, everyone is treated equally in a Vedic society. . People can at any time of their choosing switch cast. For e.g. Parsurama choosing to become a Kshatriya after being born a brahmin.
Mantra 16.15 in Yajur Veda reiterates that all men are brothers; no one is superior or inferior.
Mantra 10-191-2 in Rig Veda calls upon humanity to be united to have a common speech and a common mind.
Mantra 3-30-6 in Atharva Veda commands humankind to dine together, and be as firmly united as the spokes attached to the hub of a chariot wheel.
I wonder when was it cooked up that sudras should not enter others kitchens (no puns intended) or enter temples.
All over the scriptures it’s written repeatedly that it’s a sin to discriminate. YOUR caste is based on YOUR actions. Your birth and family means nothing.
Shloka (6) of Chapter 2 in Manu Smriti, “Veda is the foundation of the entire Hindu Dharma.” Shloka numbered 2(13) of Manu Smriti specifies that whenever Shruti (Vedas) and Smritis differ, Vedas will prevail over smritis. In view of this position, anything discriminatory in Manu Smriti or anywhere else is Anti-Veda, and therefore, is not sanctioned by Hinduism and has subsequently been inserted with unholy intentions, and deserves to be weeded out.
This paragraph above was written for those who quote lower scriptures as superior to the Vedas to justify their own vested interests. Manu was pre-empting them.
Manu Smriti X: 65
As the son of a Sudra can attain the rank of a Brahmin, the son of Brahmin can attain rank of a sudra. Even so with him who is born of a Vaishya or a Kshatriya.
The verse above is a clear sanction for vocational caste system as against the hereditary caste system. Vasistha the guru of Rama was born a sudra but was treated as a brahmin as he lived the life of a monk and a guru.
Paramahansa Yogananda also opposed what he called to the un-Vedic caste system as we know it today. He taught that the caste system originated in a higher age, but became degraded through ignorance and self-interest. Yogananda said:
"These were (originally) symbolic designations of the stages of spiritual refinement. They were not intended as social categories. And they were not intended to be hereditary. Things changed as the yugas [cycles of time] descended toward mental darkness. People in the higher castes wanted to make sure their children were accepted as members of their own caste. Thus, ego-identification caused them to freeze the ancient classifications into what is called the ‘caste system.’ Such was not the original intention. In obvious fact, however, the offspring of a Brahmin may be a Sudra by nature. And a peasant, sometimes, is a real saint.”- Conversations with Yogananda, Crystal Clarity Publishers, 2003.
It is astounding that in spite of such an avalanche of clear instructions in all Hindu Holy Scriptures and repeated reminders by gurus the caste system is allowed to continue by vested interests. Nearly 95% of Hindus are not aware of this consistent clear message being transmitted by all genuine Hindu religious sources. This is literal proof of our absolute ignorance of the scriptures.
Here are some more interesting highlights on the issue of caste. It is a fact that more than 70 per cent of the ancient Hindu Rishis, or enlightened masters of India, belonged to the lower castes.
Valmiki who was a low cast robber became the first man to record a sloka in sanskirta and then he went on to write the Ramayana. Vyasa the author of the Mahabarata was the son of Satyawati, the daughter of a fisherman and a wandering sage Parashara, Narda the great saint, was the son of a maid servant of a group of bhramans in a ashrama .Krishna was a Yadav (cowherd). Drona was a Kshatriya. Buddha was a Kshatriya. Vasistha the guru of Rama was born a sudhra. Vishwamitra the author of the mandala in the Rig Veda was a Kshytria who tried to steal the cow Kamadhenu and Nandi from the asrama of Vasistha.
So why are we still hanging on to something that is being repeatedly mentioned as wrong over and over again?
…………………..It’s our obstinacy touched by our ignorance.