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Caste-system: Manmade or God-made?

Posted on: 09 Dec 2018
O Learned and Devoted Servants of God,

Discourse Podcast

 

Dr. K. V. Prasad (USA) asked: In the Gita, God Krishna said in the verse “Cāturvarṇyam...” that He is responsible for the caste system and yet, not responsible for it. What is the meaning of this mutual contradiction?

Swami replied: In this verse, the first two lines say “Originally, I have created the caste system based on qualities and deeds (Chaatuvarnyam...)”. The word ‘Srushtam’ indicates the stage at the very beginning of creation or sṛṣṭi. The next two lines of this verse say “Even though I am responsible for this caste system, I am yet not responsible for it (Tasya kartaaramapi maam...)”. On careful analysis, we can resolve the mutual contradiction seen in this verse, which is that God is responsible and yet not responsible for the caste system.

In the beginning of creation, God created the caste system based on the classification of qualities and deeds. Souls interested in preaching spiritual knowledge to society were called braahmanas. Souls interested in fighting to protect justice were called kshatriyas. Souls interested in doing business and distributing commodities were called vaishyas. Souls interested in agriculture and public service were called shudras. Since the soul’s qualities and the consequent professional work done by the soul, are the basis of the caste system, caste is not decided by birth. It is decided by the possessed qualities and the resulting deeds performed by the soul. Any person born to anybody can come under a particular caste based on his or her interest, acquired qualities and resulting deeds related to the specific interest. God says that He is responsible for this original caste system based on qualities and deeds.

Then why did God say that He is not responsible for the caste system? The word caste in this context does mean the same caste system described above, which is based on qualities and deeds. What He means exactly is that He is responsible for the caste system based on qualities and deeds, but He is not responsible for the caste system based on birth, which appeared in due course of time. The original quality-based caste system had degraded to the birth-based caste system due to people’s misunderstanding. If Lord Krishna had meant that He is the establisher of the quality-based caste system, and at the same time, He is not responsible for the same quality-based caste system, it would inevitably be a self-contradiction. It would mean that God is mad! Since the omniscient God can never be mad, it must mean that a different type of caste system had evolved later on, for which He said that He is not responsible. The new caste system that evolved, was based only on birth, and not on the soul’s qualities and deeds. According to this subsequently-evolved caste system, the child of a braahmana was accepted to be a braahmana, irrespective of the child’s qualities and deeds.

What is the reason for the evolution of this new caste system based on birth? There is a valid reason. Any quality is always imbibed by a child from its surroundings. The atmosphere in a braahmana family is congenial to acquire the qualities and deeds corresponding to a braahmana. Moreover, the parents are also very much interested in inducing their qualities into their child. Hence, the soul imbibes the qualities of a braahmana from the parents from its very childhood. This makes it appear as if a braahmana always produces a child who grows up to become a braahmana in quality. This is a coincidence that makes us think that a braahmana produces a braahmana child through the transfer of genes which carry the qualities from parents to the child. But this is totally wrong since genes carry only physical characteristics and certain mannerisms; not the soul’s qualities. The qualities are always imbibed by the soul only from the surrounding atmosphere. The qualities corresponding to a certain caste, appear in a soul from its childhood since the child is surrounded by all family members belonging to the same caste. They provide a congenial atmosphere for developing the qualities corresponding to that particular caste. As a result, the soul develops qualities and interests corresponding to that caste. It misleads us into thinking that the child acquires the qualities of the caste due to his or her blood relationship with the members of that caste. In reality, it is only the effect of the congenial atmosphere provided by the family for the imbibing of those particular qualities.

This misunderstanding of caste based on birth and blood relationships can remain only as long as the children born in a certain caste continue to express the qualities corresponding to that caste. When exceptions are observed, that is, when a child expresses qualities that are completely different from those of its family and caste, analysis is required to find out the truth. The actual truth is that the caste system is based only on the imbibed qualities and corresponding deeds, and it is not based on birth or blood relationships.

Bhuurishrava was born in the family of pot-makers or shudras but he became an excellent Vedic scholar. The surrounding atmosphere of his family was not at all congenial to his special interest and quality. Yet the surrounding atmosphere could not influence him to develop an interest in making mud pots. Such strong special qualities appearing in a soul come from the soul’s previous birth. They can be very strong and might not be affected even if the child is born in a family with a completely different atmosphere. These strong qualities too were imbibed by the soul from the the surrounding atmosphere during its previous birth. During the time of the Mahabharata, the braahmanas who were conducting a ritual sacrifice in the Naimisha forest were sages. They knew the true concept of caste. Hence, they elected Bhuurishrava for the post of Brahma, which is the presiding authority for the ritual sacrifice. The sages were great scholars who knew the truth. They were never misled by the superimposed concept of caste by birth. They did not reject Bhuurishrava believing him to be of the shudra caste just because he was born in a shudra family.

Sage Gautama declared the young boy Satyakaama Jaabaala to be a braahmana and selected the boy as his student to teach him spiritual knowledge. Satyakaama’s biological father was not known, so his caste based on birth could not be determined. Gautama’s identification of the boy as a braahmana was based on Satyakaama’s quality of speaking the truth, which was in accordance with the actual quality-based caste system as created by God. Sage Raikva called king Janashruti a shudra even though the king was born to kṣatriyas. The word shudra comes from the root ‘shuk’, which means worry or sorrow. So, a shudra is a person who is filled with materialistic worries. Janashruti was filled with materialistic worries, so sage Raikva called him a shudra. It again shows that sage Raikva followed the original God-given caste system based on qualities.

So, in the verses from the Gita, God says that He is the establisher of the original caste system, which is based on the soul’s qualities and deeds. He later says that He is not the establisher of the subsequently-evolved birth-based caste system, which was developed by misled souls. Thus, the apparent contradiction is resolved.

 
   

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