The caste system of india


Published on

1 Like
  • Be the first to comment

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

The caste system of india

  1. 1. Most Americans believe in social mobility. Typical American children think that they can grow up to become anyone they want — a fire fighter, a brain surgeon, the president of the United States. Even kids from poor families have a chance of getting rich. Under the ancient caste system in South Asia, though, the idea of social mobility made no sense. People were born into strict social positions called castes, and their children belonged to the same social class. In fact, under the caste system, parents knew the jobs their kids would hold even before the kids were born.
  2. 2. The Hindu caste system (VARNASHRAMA- DHARMA) is ordered hierarchically, with Brahmins at the top and Sudras at the bottom. Untouchables, also known as Harijans or Dalits, fall outside of the caste system all together
  3. 3. Caste Parties  According to the Hindu religion, society should be divided into four broad classes called VARNAS. A person had the same varna that his or her parents had. And he or she had it from birth to death — there was no way to change it. Hindus did not question the varna system. It was simply considered a part of the way the universe works.  Hindus rank the four varnas from highest to lowest. In descending order of importance and prestige, they are the BRAHMIN (priests and teachers), the KSHATRIYA (rulers and warriors), the VAISYA (merchants, craftsmen, and farmers ) , and the SUDRA (servants).  Each varna must observe certain rules of purity. The Brahmins are considered so pure that they may never eat food prepared by anyone but another Brahmin. This means that Brahmins cannot go to a restaurant where the staff are not also Brahmins. Also, marriage outside one's one varna is usually forbidden.  Every member of each caste is written in the Rig Veda to be a manifestation or derivative of the universe symbolized by the embodied human spirit Purusha: The Brahmin was his mouth, Of both his arms was the (Kshatriya) made. His thighs became the Vaishya, From his feet the Sudhra was produced. (X.90.1-3)
  4. 4. Hypergamy and Caste The caste system is structured so that people marry within their own caste, but it isn't unheard of to marry outside of it. In fact, having a woman marry a man of a higher varna (hypergamy) is a way for a family to achieve social mobility.
  5. 5. Untouchables: The 5th Caste  There is a fifth major class in Hinduism, but it is considered so low that it doesn't even qualify as a varna. Most people call it the "UNTOUCHABLE" class because its members are forbidden to touch anyone who belongs to one of the four varnas. If a Brahmin priest touches an untouchable, he or she must go through a ritual in which the pollution is washed away.  The caste system is not described in the Hindu scripture. The system was originally devised to create an understandable division of labor and identify different groups of people.  Untouchables do all the most unpleasant work in South Asia. They are forced to live on the outskirts of towns and villages, and they must take water downstream from and not share wells with varna Hindus.  Many Hindus in the past believed that untouchables deserved this treatment — a treatment that is in many ways even harsher than that inflicted on African Americans before the Civil Rights Movement. Hindus think that a person is born to this class because of bad karma he or she earned in a pervious life.
  6. 6. Now for ―Jati‖-Dharma  To a Westerner, this system seems complicated enough, but Hindus actually divide each varna into many little subsections. These subsections, called JATIS, work a lot like the varnas. A person is born in to the same jati as his or her parents and remains there for life.  There are different jatis for every kind of job, such as blacksmith, farmer, shoemaker, and accountant. There may be more than one jati that does a particular job, but most jatis do only one.  Ideally, a person will marry someone in the same jati. This can sometimes be a problem when most of the people in the jati are related in some way. A father in South Asia must take responsibility for finding a good match for his children, and will work hard to find someone in the same jati who is not a close blood relative.
  7. 7. Future of Caste Westerners may find this complicated and sometimes cruel system hard to understand. A Hindu, however, accepts it as natural. In fact, Hinduism teaches that in order to be assured of a good life in one's next reincarnation, a person must do everything he or she can to live up to the expectations of his or her varna and jati. A Sudra should work hard; a Brahmin should study religious texts and pray hard.  The caste system has relaxed somewhat over the last hundred years or so. People can take jobs that are not exactly what their jati requires, especially as new kinds of jobs — such as computer programming, flying airplanes, and installing cable television — that have no traditional association emerge.  In fact, the caste system is officially illegal in India. Affirmative action programs have been adopted to create new opportunities for lower-caste Indians. Even the untouchable caste has had some success getting better jobs, including government positions.  But, the system is not dead. Two of the questions South Asians often ask about each other when they first meet are "What is your jati?" and "What is your varna?" Although most Westerners and many modern Hindus don't believe that the caste system can really say much about a person on the inside, knowing someone's caste gives one some idea of what his or her life and family are like.  The caste system existed almost unchanged for at least 2,000 years, and its effects can still be felt today. But in the last half century, the system has begun to change and the idea of social mobility has arrived in India.
  8. 8. Laws of Manu & the Braham Smriti As the longest epic poem in the world, Mahabharata depicts the actions of Hindu human beings in times of dharmic conflict in a power struggle between two groups of cousins. (ARJUNA‘S DILEMA)  The incarnate Lord Krishna states that although he has absolute authority over the universe, human beings must perform the duties themselves and reap the benefits. Furthermore, in the ideal Hindu society, human beings ought to accept their "varna" and live life accordingly.  Krishna's dialogue with the people of different varna in the Bhagavad Gita, a part of the Mahabharata, instructs self- realization and reaffirms "varnashrama-dharma". It describes the human body as a suit of clothes on the atman, for the atman merely inhabits the body and assumes a new one after the death of the first. The precious atman must be cleansed and maintained pure by abiding to regulations set forth in the Vedas.  The God of the Hindu tradition selected human beings, their own creations, to uphold a system of DHARMA and thus Hindu life. As a direct consequence, Hindus benefited from their obedience to such social order and if followed, have a divine right to accomplish ―MOSHKA‖ or liberation.
  9. 9. Laws of Manu  The first chapter deals with the creation of the world by the deities, the divine origin of the book itself, and the objective of studying it.  Chapters two to six recounts the proper conduct of the members of the upper castes, their initiation into the Brahmin religion by sacred thread or sin-removing ceremony, the period of disciplined studentship devoted to the study of the Vedas under a Brahmin teacher, the chief duties of the householder - choice of a wife, marriage, protection of the sacred hearth-fire, hospitality, sacrifices to the gods, feasts to his departed relatives, along with the numerous restrictions - and finally, the duties of old age.  The seventh chapter talks of manifold duties and responsibilities of kings.  The eighth chapter deals with the modus operandi in civil and criminal proceedings and of the proper punishments to be meted out to different caste.  The ninth and the tenth chapters relate the customs and laws regarding inheritance and property, divorce and the lawful occupations for each caste.  Chapter eleven expresses the various kinds of penance for the misdeeds.  The final chapter expounds the doctrine of karma, rebirths and salvation.
  10. 10. The Stage is Set: The Gita  In the epic Mahabharata, SANJAYA, counselor of the KURU king DHRITARASTRA (blind king), after returning from the battlefield to announce the death of BHISMA begins recounting the details of the Mahabharata war. Bhagavad Gita forms the content of this recollection.  The Gita begins before the start of the climactic KURUKSHETSTRA WAR, where the PANDAVA prince Arjuna is filled with doubt on the battlefield.  Realizing that his enemies are his own relatives, beloved friends, and revered teachers, he turns to his charioteer and guide, Krishna, for advice. (Arjuna‘s Dilemma)  Responding to Arjuna's confusion and moral dilemma, KRISHNA explains to Arjuna his duties as a warrior and prince, elaborating on a variety of philosophical concepts (DHARMA)
  11. 11. Characters: Arjuna, of the Pandavas Krishna, Arjuna's charioteer and guru Sanjaya, counsellor of the Kuru king Dhritarashtra Dhritarashtra, Kuru blind king.
  12. 12. Themes in the Gita Dharma  The first reference to dharma in the Bhagavad Gita occurs in its first verse, where Dhritarashtra refers to the Kurukshetra as the 'Field of dharma'. -the eternal order which pervades the whole cosmos and is ultimately true and right. Therefore, 'Field of action' implies the field of righteousness, where truth will eventually triumph OR the 'Field of action' as the world, which is a "battleground for moral struggle"  Early in the text, responding to Arjuna's despondency, Krishna asks him to follow his swadharma. Swadharma literally means work born out of one's nature and in this verse, is often interpreted as the varna dharma or in the case of Arjuna, the duty of a warrior. Eighteenth chapter of the Gita examines the relationship between swadharma and swabhava or essential nature. In this chapter, the swadharma of an individual is linked with the guṇas or tendencies arising out of one's swabhava.  Gandhi found in the concept of swadharma, the basis for his idea of swadeshi. To him, swadeshi was "swadharma applied to one's immediate environment".  Sometimes viewed as a struggle between DHARMA & AHIMSA
  13. 13. MOSHKA:  Liberation or moksha in Vedanta philosophy is not something that can be acquired or reached. Ātman (Self), the goal of moksha, is something that is always present as the essence of the self, and can be revealed by deep intuitive knowledge.  While the Upanishads largely uphold such a monistic viewpoint of liberation, the Bhagavad Gita also accommodates the dualistic and theistic aspects of moksha.  A synthesis of knowledge, devotion, and ‗desire-less‘ action is given as a prescription for Arjuna's despondence; the same combination is suggested as a way to moksha.
  14. 14. Allegory of war  ―The war within, the struggle for self-mastery that every human being must wage if he or she is to emerge from life victorious", and "The language of battle is often found in the scriptures, for it conveys the strenuous, long, drawn- out campaign we must wage to free ourselves from the tyranny of the ego, the cause of all our suffering and sorrow‖  Arjuna may also be seen as an allegory of Ātman, Krishna as an allegory of Brahman, Arjuna's chariot as the body, and Dhritarashtra as the ignorance filled mind.  Here in the Bhagavad Gita, we could find a practical handbook of instruction on how best we can reorganize our inner ways of thinking, feeling, and acting in our everyday life and draw from ourselves a larger gush of productivity to enrich the life around us, and to emblazon the subjective life within us.  Ambiguity of decisions: There may be no good choices in life, so we all MUST ACT according to our ―highest‖ nature. That nature is found in self-reflection and considers our disposition and dharma.
  15. 15. Yoga  Yoga in the Bhagavad Gita refers to the skill of union with the ultimate reality or the Absolute. Sivananda's commentary regards the eighteen chapters of the Bhagavad Gita as having a progressive order, by which Krishna leads "Arjuna up the ladder of Yoga from one rung to another.―  Upanishadic Learning is followed in the text:  Ready to Listed (deer in the forest)  Ruminating on Teachings (like a cow chewing its cud)  Synthesizing Information (like a bird building a nest)  Upa (―near) ni (below/determination) shad (to sit down) = guru/sisya relationship of transmitting secret/sacred knowledge  Yogis Progression?  Chapters 1–6 = Karma yoga, the means to the final goal  Chapters 7–12 = Bhakti yoga or devotion  Chapters 13–18 = Jnana yoga or knowledge, the goal itself  Do these account for all the different types of ―people‖ that can practice yoga? Or is this a progression?
  16. 16. Karma Yoga NONATTACHMENT  "inaction in action and action in inaction (4.18)".  To action alone hast thou a right and never at all to its fruits; let not the fruits of action be thy motive; neither let there be in thee any attachment to inaction Fixed in yoga, do thy work, O Winner of wealth (Arjuna), abandoning attachment, with an even mind in success and failure, for evenness of mind is called yoga. (2.47-8)  With the body, with the mind, with the intellect, even merely with the senses, the Yogis perform action toward self-purification, having abandoned attachment. He who is disciplined in Yoga, having abandoned the fruit of action, attains steady peace. (5.11)  When a man dwells in his mind on the object of sense, attachment to them is produced. From attachment springs desire and from desire comes anger. From anger arises bewilderment, from bewilderment loss of memory; and from loss of memory, the destruction of intelligence and from the destruction of intelligence he perishes"(2.62-3)
  17. 17. Bhakti Yoga The easiest and the highest path to salvation  And of all yogins, he who full of faith worships Me, with his inner self abiding in Me, him, I hold to be the most attuned (to me in Yoga). (6.47)  ... those who, renouncing all actions in Me, and regarding Me as the Supreme, worship Me... For those whose thoughts have entered into Me, I am soon the deliverer from the ocean of death and transmigration, Arjuna. Keep your mind on Me alone, your intellect on Me. Thus you shall dwell in Me hereafter. (12.6)  He who does work for Me, he who looks upon Me as his goal, he who worships Me, free from attachment, who is free from enmity to all creatures, he goes to Me, O Pandava (11.55)
  18. 18. Jnana Yoga  When a sensible man ceases to see different identities due to different material bodies and he sees how beings are expanded everywhere, he attains to the Brahman conception. (13.31)  Those who see with eyes of knowledge the difference between the body and the knower of the body, and can also understand the process of liberation from bondage in material nature, attain to the supreme goal. (13.35)
  19. 19. Samkhya Philosophy
  20. 20. Sankhya's Map of the Universe
  21. 21. The fundamental distinction in Sankhya philosophy is the separation of Brahman (oneness of all elements in the universe) into two distinct parts: Purusha (pure consciousness) and Prakriti (nature, primeval matter). Samsara or bondage arises when Purusha enters into a state of advidia (not knowing); losing its identity and confusing itself with the physical body - which is seen as a distinct evolute of Prakriti. Purusha becomes liberated when the discriminate knowledge of the difference between conscious Purusha and unconscious Prakriti is realized.
  22. 22. These 25 elements were further simplified into two other maps of the body-mind-spirit: the three Shariras (bodies) and the five Koshas (sheathes). These both identify layers within our experience, which correlate with each other and the tattvas. The Shariras and the Koshas are both used to draw one‘s awareness inside, traveling from the physical, to the energetic and casual bodies, towards the very essence of our being, which Sankhya tells us is Brahman, pure undivided oneness. This moving from the physical to the subtle deeper experiences of the body is an important tool in the practice of meditation and inner contemplation.
  23. 23. The Koshas: Five Sheaths
  24. 24.  Food  Anna means food. All of the physical aspects of life come and go, and are consumed by another aspect of external reality. Thus, the outermost of the koshas is called the sheath of food, or Annamaya kosha.  Prana (energy)  The next of the koshas is Pranamaya kosha. Prana means energy. It is the vital force that produces the subtle vibrations related to breath, and which are the driving force behind the physical aspect of the senses and the operation of the physical body. It allows the invisible indweller, our True Self to be able to animate in the external world. At the same time, however, it allows the eternally still, silent center of consciousness to be mistakenly identified as the moving, visible physical body.
  25. 25.  Mind  The next of the koshas is Manamaya kosha. Mana means mind. It is the level of processing thoughts and emotions. It is in direct control of the operation, through the prana, of the physical body and senses. It is like a supervisor in a factory, in that it gives instructions, but is not supposed to be the manager of the factory of life. Because of this, it naturally has doubts, and created illusions. When it receives clear instructions from the deeper level, it functions quite well. However, when it is clouded over by its illusions, the deeper wisdom is clouded over.  Wisdom  The next of the koshas is Vijnanamaya kosha. Vijnana means knowing. It is the sheath of wisdom that is underneath the processing, thinking aspect of mind. It knows, decides, judges, and discriminates between this and that, between useful and not useful. It is also the level of ego consciousness, meaning the powerful wave of I- am-ness. This I-am-ness itself is a positive influence, but when it gets co-mingled with the memories, and is clouded over by the manas, it loses its positive strength.  Bliss  Anandamaya kosha is the most interior of the koshas, the first of the koshas surrounding the Atman, the eternal center of consciousness. Ananda means bliss. However, it is not bliss as a mere emotion experienced at the level of the sheath of mind. Ananda is a whole different order of reality from that of the mind. It is peace, joy, and love that is underneath, beyond the mind, independent of any reason or stimulus to cause a happy mental reaction. It is simply being, resting in bliss called ananda.
  26. 26. Nadis!
  27. 27. The Way of Discernment(ch2)  Dualist perspective in which the best known scholar, Shankara outlines the nature of the universe in which IGNORANGE (avidya) is the root of all evil. It has the powers of both concealment and incarnation. –Samkhaya  In the Vaishnanva tradition in contrast (monist) the divine is in everything and therefore everything is divine. (Ramanuja)  If actions are not inherently good or bad, then how might we discern between ―right action and wrong action‖? (question of the Gita)
  28. 28. The Way of Action: Ch3  All change/creation/transformation comes through sacrifice. So here in this chapter, RIGHT ACTION is understood as sacrifice. Those actions which create TAPAS and allow transformation. Even Krishna engages in ―action‖ even though none is ―needed‖ 3:22-24  Sacrifice is SELFLESS ACTION  ―one acts according to ones own nature, even a person of knowledge. For beings follow their nature- what shall repression accomplish?  Better to fulfill ones own dharma impe5rfectly than attempt to perform the dharma of another.  Inaction…IS action
  29. 29. The Way of Knowledge: Ch4  Here Krishna continues to refine his ideas about Sacrifice and the attainment of knowledge as a “path”  The nature of action based on KNOWLEDGE  Sacrifice is found in Action 4:18, 4:21-23  Kinds of Sacrifice:  5 components of vedic sacrifice ○ Ladle ○ Butter ○ Pouring ○ Fire ○ Perfect mediataion 4:24  Worshipping divinities-Vedic 4:25  Sacrificing senses-Dhyrana 4:26  Sacrificing Actions of the senses-Pratyahara 4:27  Sacrificing material possessions (renunciators) 4:28  Sacrificing breath (pranayama) 4:29  Kriyas 4:30  Sacrifice culminates in knowledge: transformation 4:31-33, 3:37-38