Tuesday, 9 April 2013

The Shackles of the Warrior - Book Trailer

The Shackles of the Warrior book will be available in all book stores from April 15th.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Varna system 4: Caste coding : Mahabharat Era

The discrimination of Varna system is a hot topic. More questions and answers on this subject is given here….

Q:-Ekalyva was refused admission by Dronacharya on the ground of caste – is this  not discrimination?
A:-Brahmins have the attribute of ‘goodness’ (sattwa), the second order Kshatriyas have the attribute of “Passion” (Rajaas), the third vaishya have a mixture of the two – goodness and passion (Sattwa and Rajaas), while the lowest order sudhras possess the remaining attribute viz, “Darkness” (Tamas).

But note this key line – A Sudhra is not a Sudhra by birth alone, Brahmana is not a Brahmanaby birth alone. If the virtue of goodness is not prevalent in a Brahmana, he is considered as Sudhra.

Varna is character driven, while caste (Jathi) is birth driven. Our education system determines the Varna. A Brahmin by Jathi may adopt a warrior’s role. Look atDhronacharya - a Brahmin who took up a warrior’s role. His Varna is warrior, but by Jathia Brahmin.

Depending upon the characteristics tested and certified by the Gurukul and endorsed by the education council, citizens of the kingdom take up their position in life. The qualities of people as tested are matched with their profession. Aligning the profession to the skill possessed by people is not discrimination.

If we say that a member of the Kshatriya caste can only be a warrior all his life, then we are definitely discriminating. However, the kingdom believes that the father’s occupation need not be pursed by the son. The kingdom of Krishna never recognizes disparity between people.

In fact, even on the political front, the kingdom elects its leader; while King Ugrasena is the ceremonial king, the elected leader is Lord Krishna, who has been elected by the people.
Where is the discrimination here?

 Let me give you some more example, Vyasadeva was the grandson of a fisherman. His father Parashara was born from a woman who was a dog-eater.Vashishtha was the son of prostitute…

Other sages like Kanada,Shringi, Mandapala, and Mandavya have all had questionable births, and yet all of them are highly qualified Bhramhins and recognized as such.

Likewise, several historical instances are known where the Varna of an individual changed due to circumstances such as adoption. The Brahmana Jathi, Rishi Bharadwaj became a Kshatriya, when he was adopted by King Bharata. His descendants were also considered as Kshatriya and were called Bharata Kshatriyas.

King Vishvamitra was a Kshatriya but became a Brahmana as a result of his spiritual austerities. Nabhanideshtha a Vaishya, his son Bhalandana and grandson Vatspari became Brahmanas of the Atri lineage, and are considered to be Sages to whom the Vedic hymns were revealed.

On the question of Ekalyva’s admission, please note that individual liberty cannot be overruled as long as it does not affect social justice. A master has liberty in choosing his students.

The teacher and a prospective students’ communications, the student’s limitations and other factors count in the admission process. It is a personal liberty issue.

Had Dhronacharya admitted Ekalyva and not given equal education to all his wards, it is a social justice issue, but not admitting Ekalyva is an individual liberty issue.

Varna system 3: Caste coding : Mahabharat Era

Few of the questions on Varna system of Mahabharat age is raised and answered here ….

Q:- In the ancient days, there used to be unique caste system with color codifications for each class. Can you explain the basis of this codification?
A:- ‘Before, I go into details, let me first tell you about Varna. Varna literally means “color”. It refers to the distinct qualities (guna) that the four functional classes possess in their hearts and minds.

There are four different varnas for human beings – white, red, yellow & black.

White (Sattva = truthful) represents the quality of purity, love, faith and detachment. Those belonging to this Varna seek true knowledge and often possess a spiritual temperament. Those that belong to this Varna, belong to the Brahman class.

Red (rajas = energetic) represents the quality of action, will, aggression and energy. Those belonging to this Varna seek honor, power and status and exist in people with martial and political temperament. Those that belong to this Varna belong to the Kshatriya class.

Yellow (rajas) represents the same quality as the red color but those in this quality seek communication, interchange, trade and business instead. This color exists in those of commercial temperament. They make up the Vaishya class.

Black (tamas = inert, solid) represents ignorance and inertia. Those belonging to this color are dependent on the others for motivation and seek nothing. They make up the Shudra class.

Q:- But this Varna system is like discrimination – All humans are equal, is it not?
A:- ‘Varna also means “veil”. It shows the four different ways in which the Divine self is hidden in human beings. By this, it refers to the ways in which his four body parts make up the four classes, depending on the nature or values that the human holds. The Brahmans hold spiritual and intellectual values and are in charge of teaching Vedic Sanskrit, and thus represent the lord’s head.

The Kshatriyas are the warriors who protect their kingdoms and thus represent the lord’s arms. The Vaishyasare the farmers and merchants in the production nature and represent the almighty’s belly, while the Shudras are the laborers who perform manual labour and thus symbolize his legs’. In the Mahabharat era, the division of Varnas was only for practice of occupation and no such divisive thinking entered their day to day living. A perfect harmony amongst the people prevailed as one could observe from ancient scriptures.

All the five fingers are of different lengths, but when all fingers are together, the strength is more and no one finger can claim supremacy over the other. Much in the same way, though different Varnas existed in the society, all the people lived together, happily. There was a perfect display of unity in diversity and co-existence of diverging competencies.

More questions and answers on Varna system to follow …..

Varna system 2: Caste coding : Mahabharat Era

Q:- How are the codes different for these four Varnas?
A:- Here is a list of attributes for each of the Varnas.

Role: Teach Vedas, officiate religious ceremonies, receive charity, and provide advice to kings
Beliefs: Truth, Ahimsa, Purity, contentment, austerity and simplicity
Eating Habits: Vegetarian
Mark: Sacred thread made of munja grass
Demigods worshipped: Agni, Prajapati & Brahaspati

Role: Wield weapons protect and administer the people and country.
Beliefs: Valor, passion, fights righteous wars, justice, and courage.
Eating Habits: Rajasika food including meat
Mark: Sacred thread made of bow strings
Demigods worshipped: Indra, Varuna, Soma, Rudra, Yama and Mrtyu
Role: Agriculture, dairy farming, trade, money-lending.
Beliefs: Financial acumen, generosity, honesty in financial transactions.
Eating Habits: Vegetarian
Mark: Sacred thread made of hemp or wool
Demigods worshipped: Vasu Aditya Maruti

Role: labour.
Beliefs: Attachment to material and physical pleasures.
Eating Habits: Non-vegetarian Rajasika foods including meat
Mark: No Sacred thread
Demigods worshipped: Ashivn Pushan

Q:-But how and who monitors this Varna or Jaati (Caste)?
A:-A Varna council settles disputes on inter-caste issues. Caste is determined by their birth but it is only a family identity. The Varna council endorses the true Varna after the completion of education at the age of fifteen based on certain proficiency tests that assess the suitability of every person to a specific profession.

Every male in the kingdom of Krishna belongs to a designated Varna from ages fifteen to sixty. At sixty, their occupation comes to an end and thereafter they can opt for vanprastha. No Varna applies to individuals after turning sixty. Moreover, in this kingdom, there is no Varna for women and children.

Their caste is determined by their parent’s caste. If any inter-caste marriage occurs then, we have a mixed caste category; in short we have a very flexible caste system.There used to be an armband which identifies the Varna and Jathi. The metal and colour of the armband is different for every Jathi.

Q:-What about‘Inter caste marriage’ in the ancient India?
A:-Today we find men of the so called lower castes ascending to positions of eminence and authority. Only three of the Vishnu’s incarnations come from the so called high caste; most of his incarnations are even animal incarnations. God does not discriminate between his own creations. Many ancient sages come from humble background as well.

Sage Viswamitra – a warrior by birth practiced austerities like a Brahmin and was recognized as a great rishi. Sage Vysyawas born to a fisher woman, Rishi, and Valmiki the original composer of Ramayana came from a family of hunters. Drona, the great guru of the Pandavas was a Brahmin by caste but excelled in marital arts.
I can go on citing examples from our rich ancient past. However, lately, the flexible caste system of the past is slowly giving way to a more rigid caste system.

Our Sanatandharma is about setting up an egalitarian society and these man made rules are against the intentions of our dharma.

In short ‘Varna’ is skill driven, ‘Jathi’ is birth driven, Mother’s womb did not fix the occupation in the Mahabharat era. ‘Jathi’, caste is a family identity, that is birth driven. But ‘Varna’ was proficiency driven. Anyone can provide any occupation subject to proficiency tests.

Why castes were created: Varna system 1

The Varna system is a controversial subject and it is the most misunderstood one. The number of years for each of the four Yugas is in the ratio of 4:3:2:1.

The avatars of Lord Vishnu also were in the ratio 4:3:2, the last one is yet to come. But the Varnas were supposed to be in the reverse order of 1:2:3:4. The first Yuga ‘Satya’ was an immaculate age. Every creature was contented. There was only one Varna – all Brahmins.

In the next Yuga ‘Treta’ the evil enters the world. There was three potion dharma and one portion adharma. Avarice and passion rose, violence erupted. Hence to rule the earth a new Varna ‘Kshatriya’ were created.

The one Varna became two Varnas in the second Yuga. The third Yuga ‘Dwapara’ was an age of conflict. The dharma and adharma were in the ratio of 1:1. The third Varna ‘Vaishya’ came up.

Towards the end of last Yuga and the beginning of Kali Yuga four Varnas – Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Sudhra started. The dharma and adharma will be in the ratio of 1:3 in this Yuga. 

Knowledge, weapon, wealth and land were divided. 

The person who handles one of these four subjects should not be in possession of other.This rule became the code. Thus knowledge has to be dealt with by Brahmins, weapons by khastriyas, wealth by Vaishyas and Land tilling by Sudhras. 

The Kshatriya king has to oversee the Varna system and maintain the Law and order. The Kali Yuga has therefore four Varnas. There is not supposed to be a degradation of any Varna. The Avatar of Vishnu had only two Brahmins, three Kshatriyas and the rest of them are in the form of animals. 

The Varna system does not derecognize any human being. The key questions here are –
-          What is the basis of the codification of the caste system?
-          Is Varna system – Not a discrimination?
-   Ekalyva was refused admission by Dhronocharya on the ground of caste – Is this not discrimination?
-          How are the codes different for the Varnas?
-          Who monitored the Varna or Jaati during Mahabharat period?
-          How about the inter caste marriage during Mahabharat period?
Each of these questions will be addressed on the series of articles to follow …….