Saturday, September 27, 2008

DEIVATHIN KURAL # 146 (of Vol 2) Dated 31 August 2008

DEIVATHIN KURAL # 146 (of Vol 2) Dated 31 August 2008

(These e-mails are translations of talks given by Periyavaal of Kanchi Kamakoti peetam, over a period of some sixty years while he was the pontiff in the earlier part of last century. These have been published in Tamil by Vanadi Padippagam, Chennai, in seven volumes of a thousand pages each, as Deivathin Kural. To day we are proceeding from page number 985, of volume 2, of the Tamil original.)

The Varna / Caste System in the Hindu Religion.

1. In our religion, there are four Varna-s, namely Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vysya and Sudra, which is wrongly known as the system of Caste / Jaati. Actually Jaati and Varnam are different. The four mentioned above are Varna-s. Within them there are many Jaati-s. Amongst Brahmins there are Iyer, Iyengar, Rao, Deekshidar and so on. In the fourth Varna itself there are many Jaati-s such as, Mudaliyar, Pillay, Reddy, Naicker, Nayudu, Koundar, Padayatchi and so on. With the influx of the western system of first / second and or middle / last names, every peculiar name has almost come to represent a family name, with some connotations of caste! Since this has become rather widespread, I am also using the word Jaati to mean Varna / Caste.
2. The four Jaati-s have their own Do’s and Don’ts as per the Saastra-s. So, within the Hindu religion, there are many differences between these various Jaati-s, some as per the Saastra-s and many more arising out of traditions, habits, and regional tendencies. They cannot eat each other’s food. Inter caste marriage is not done. They cannot do each other’s work and so on. So, the points of differences many and varied. But, presently these differences are getting confusedly mixed, some rightly and some for the wrong reasons.
3. The four Varna is only in name. There are thousands of variations, which are happening all of the time! Thus, this Hindu Religion is a peculiar rarity of a very complex order. The idea that this was the only religion all over the world, is difficult to accept. Then to take note of the fact that this religion has given accommodation to so many other religions, to take birth and proliferate under its very banyan like coverage; is totally beyond our understanding and comprehension. Comparing it with other religions, one is at times likely to be smitten by embarrassment.
4. In other religions too, there are Do’s and Don’t’s. But those rules and regulations are common for all. There are ‘Ten Commandments’, in the Christian religion, applicable to one and all without exceptions. The rules of Quran are also universally applicable to the whole lot of them. But in our religion, the same set of Do’s and Don’t’s do not apply to all the people. An action which is approved Dharma for one is forbidden Adharma for another. If one chap wears the Ygnopaveetam and chant the Veda-s it is Dharma. For another, to do so is Adharma. The one who chants Veda has to undergo many deprivations, abnegations and fasting. If he does not do so, it is Adharma. There is no requirement for the hard working physical labourer to fast or even bathe everyday. Despite all these differences, it is surprising that this religion is still alive and kicking!
5. That reminds me of a humorous statement by a poet. He says that, it is not surprising that we die. With nine holes in our body, it is more surprising that life continues to stick to this body, instead of leaking out! The holes are big enough and then there is the skin with millions of holes! “navadwaare sareere asmin aayuhu sravanti santatam I jeevatee iti adbutam tatra gachchati iti kim adbutam? II” Similarly, that this Hindu religion after so many tens of thousands of years, still survives and is flourishing, despite all the differences and doubts, is a miracle indeed!
6. For some it is a sin to leave chanting Veda-s and for certain others, it is a sin to chant the Veda-s. Like that there are many seeming inconsistencies that, we often wonder as to why it is so? We are often ashamed to accept such glaring incomprehensible situations and find it difficult to explain away when questioned! We rake our brains as to how to get rid of these differences. Some people say that our religion would have won the hearts and minds of the whole world for being so exceptionally advanced intellectually and conceptually, but for these smudges! So, it is irritating the minds of many, all of the time. Some people with some knowledge, give some explanations. Some get annoyed and either become agnostic or embrace other religions. Their criticisms are more pungent and biting, because of their knowledge of all possible answers! It hurts those who are still sticking on to this religion, without any knowledge of any of the possible answers!
7. On occasions, some sincere persons with deep rooted loyalty towards this religion say, “Lets get rid of this Varna Ashrama Dharma. Let all castes be considered at par. Like all other religions, let us also become one Jaati!” They say, “Veda-s, devotional rituals and so on, let us make them all common to all. Let us not have differences in practices, austerities, rituals etc., based on castes.” They go one step beyond and say, “If you go back in time, this used to be acceptable in our own ancient times. When our ancestors could identify the oneness of individual human beings as Jeevaatmaa and God as Paramatmaa, would they have differentiated humans so much? They and Krishna Paramatma too in the Gita, classified beings into four castes based on their characteristic Guna and not based on birth!” Thus they talk as though the very system of Caste-s as a lter day aberration in our religion!
8. Let us now carry out an analysis of all these factors impinging on the Caste system!
(To be continued)


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