Sunday, October 20, 2013

Society & One-Legged Dharma-Part 4- Thoughts on Jati-Varna System

Nithin Sridhar

I will pen-down my comments and opinions on various social issues under the title "Society & One-Legged Dharma" pointing out how most of the ills of the society has been caused due to forsaking of Dharma by people. In Hindu scriptures, the Dharma represented by a Bull is said to stand on four legs in Satya Yuga, when most people practiced and lived life by Dharma. "Four-Legs" denotes that Dharma was firmly established in society. On the other hand, it is said that,in Kali Yuga, Dharma stands only on One-Leg. We have been witnessing this in our society, where qualities like truth, non-violence, compassion, honesty have lost their value and replaced by untruth, deviousness, corruption, violence etc.
The series of writings under this title is my humble attempt to revive Dharma by making people become aware of them.
-Nithin Sridhar


 Thoughts on Jati-Varna System
In the ideal Varna System, Jati is for vocations and not vice-verse. In a society there are multiple jobs that must be done by different groups of people. Only then, there will be smooth functioning. If every person is competing for some jobs and some other jobs are neglected, there will be unemployment, jealousy etc in the society.

Hence, in order to achieve effective division of labor Jati system was create. Jati refers to a group of people involved in a specific job. It was made hereditary as by this, it was easy to pass the skills required from father to son, generation to generation. Varna's as you know is determined based on Guna and based on it certain Duties/Dharmas has been allotted. But, a child's Guna is most affected by the environment in which it grows. Hence, the Jati was designed such that, generation after generation grew in that particular environment and did those jobs and contributed to the society. They lived a happy and content life. There was no jealousy, hatred or violence. As No Job can be said to be inferior or superior to another, no Jati was considered inferior or Superior. Hence, there was progress and harmony.

Of course, all these are in an Ideal Society with Varna-Jati System in place. But, this system has been decaying for many centuries now. In fact with each Yuga, Dharma declines. Yet, it can be seen that, even till few hundred years ago, till the time of coming of British, there was very less caste violence. The untouchability etc had already taken its ugly form. Yes. But, the situation was still better than today. After the arrival of Britishers, the situation became worse. People abandoned their dharma/duties. They all started competing for luxuries imported from the west etc. People left their Jati Dharma- heredity vocation and duties but held on to the Jati names. This was like cutting of head itself because of headache. Every system over time may develop some branches that decay. The solution is to take corrective actions and set right the mistakes and not abandoning the whole system. In India's case, because of development of social discrimination and rigidity in the Varna-Jati system and because of the temptations of the material comforts, people abandoned the whole system.This is the root of current mess. Today Jati is only in a name to be invoked during elections. The concept of simple life, Sva-Dharma as applicable to each Individual have been completely abandoned.

According to Sri Chandrashekara Saraswati Swamiji, the major blame lies with Brahmins, who first abandoned their Dharma. It is Brahmin's dharma to study scriptures, learn vedas and all the rituals and practice them, teach them and living life in a humble and simple way. They guided society by example. When, they abandoned their Dharma for material comforts, then even the other Jatis followed. Hence, the whole system ended in a mess full of jealousy, discrimination etc. In fact, it must be added that, for many centuries before British had come,the Caste system had become rigid. The Jatis were not supposed to be too rigid. And discrimination had already lifted its head. Hence, the society had marched towards slow decay.

The Ideal solution should be that everybody should return back to Varna/Jati system in its Original form devoid of distortions. Doing so, will remove all the present conflicts and other problem. But, of course this is not practical immediately. It may take a long time. So, he suggests that for the sake of protection and propagation of Dharma, a set of people must be fully dedicated for learning, practicing and teaching. He says, at least Brahmins must return back to their Dharma of Vedic learning. Brahmins must let their children learn Vedas and live life by teaching and performing Vedic rituals. Or a new Caste of Brahmins be created for the study and practice of Vedic Dharma. If this happens, may be in some future by seeing the example of Brahmin Jati who are doing their duties in humble and simple way, the other people of society will also return to the Varna fold.

But, till then everybody can try to live life in a simple way even in the midst of luxuries. Everybody should try to be content with what God provides. Everybody should earn money through Dharmic means and not by corruption or bribery. Everyone should try to practice Samanya Dharma- Truth, Non-Violence, Cleanliness, Control of Mind etc.

Hence, those who have desire to gain wealth must do so in a Dharmic manner with an attitude of surrender to God. Those who are in political power must perform their work in a unbiased way for welfare of society again with attitude of Surrendering to Lord. This same is applicable to everyone in all the jobs be it defense or corporate sector. Everyone should do their work in dedicated way and try to be content with what they have. This is not to say they should not desire for better life but such a desire should be fulfilled by honesty and hard work. And people should perform some form of sadhana/bhakti and learn to control their desires.

And among the vast masses, if a few feel desire to learn scriptures, they should learn and practice them and propagate them. Society as a whole must make little efforts in protection and propagation of Vaidika Dharma. Only Dharma can save us.


P G Kutty Nair said...

A good attempt at explaining the true intent of the Varna and Jaati system. However, the Varna and Jaati are two different concepts. Varna system has scriptural approval (Chaaturvarnym maya srshtam...)whereas Jati system evolved from socio-economic compulsions. And the latter was not forcibly created by the upper castes to exploit the lower castes etc., as is popularly believed. In fact, even Jawaharlal Nehru has pointed out in his 'Discovery of India', based on the pre-Buddhist Jataka tales, that Jaati evolved from the attempt to protect a particular work skill from encroachment by others, which gave rise to even separate villages of potters, carpenters, smiths, etc. In a social environment where the 'skill' meant security of livelihood, this was a necessity. But an undesirable fall-out of this was that, as is typical of human nature, the upper-lower classifications of castes set in according the nature of their jobs and the class of people with whom they maintained contact (eg. the Goldsmith dealt with the well-to-do section of society, while the Blacksmith had workers and farm labourers as his clients). As you have rightly pointed out it was not meant to discriminate between different groups of people. The tragedy, however, is that the original concept underwent distortions and became an instrument of exploitation and oppression, and became part of a degenerate Hindu society. Therefore, while Hindu society has to own up responsibility for the caste system practised on the ground, Hinduism is blameless in that respect. You will find even some Upanishads dedicated to illuminate the folly of caste discrimination. Examples abound even of popular stories whose objective is the same.
The very fact that you have given a thought to this subject, which is a weapon in the hands of the Hindu baiters, deserves praise.

Nithin.S said...

Thank you Sir. I have been doing some reading. I feel the Original Varna system as well as its Jati form i.e. hereditary nature is supported in scriptures because everyone is said to have sva-dharma. The Jati was a practical implementation of Varna system. As you rightly said, it was meant as protection of work and reduction of competition.But, later it got corrupted. Today there are so many Jatis that many of them do not even represent a particular profession. Today's caste system is a highly complicated phenomenon. Jati and Varna are different but related. Varna aims to classify people according to Guna's and allot them their respective duties. And the most practical way of doing this is Jati/Hereditary. A Son learned skills of father as well as his Gunas. Jati was based on simple concept that, different group of people must work on different jobs. This is applicable even now. We can have Doctter's Jati, Armymen Jati etc. All we need to do is to align them with the Varna system and specifically define their material and spiritual duties. Varna-Ashrama Dharma is very backbone of Sanatana Dharma.

The present state of confusion, violence, discrimination must end.

Nithin.S said...

Just like to add that, I am neither advocating the caste discrimination nor advocating the untouchability. In fact I have no love for the present for of caste-system.

In the past when Varna-Jati system was practiced, people practiced their respective duties without feeling of any superior and inferior feelings. Today, Jati is only in a name. People have forgotten Dharma. There is only violence, hatred-ness, jealousy etc.

I am supporting Varna-Jati system, it is in its Ideal sense free from rigidity and corruptions and not today's version of caste system.

Even, if a hereditary system is not possible or proper today, it is undeniable that, division of labor and dedication of specific group of people for specific jobs is necessary. We already have Doctor's community, Engineer's community etc. We need to align it with Varna Dharma. Further, We need to have people who dedicate to study of scriptures and propagation of Vaidika Dharma.

Anonymous said...

While I understand your views and perspective and recommendation to return to the original guna/jati/varna model, it is not practical and dare I say, impossible. Why do Brahmin kids have to limit themselves to studying vedas and continue the tradition? And similarly for the other jatis?

I think the essence you are suggesting is that the work be continued. i.e. someone in society lead the study of vedas and set an example for the dharmic way of life and become a role model. This can be anyone in society and not limited to specific jati descendants.

As our elders have shared 'Pandita putra parama Suntah'. We need to look for the right character to lead this rather than limit it to descendants. While there are positives to generational continuity of tasks and traditions, I feel the broader model is better.

Posting under anonymous to avoid creation of another id!