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Spirituality Forum

Hinduism, backdrop to the caste system

Original post by Subscriber robbie carrobie, 06 Jul '10 10:00
  1. Zen master
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    BROKEN PEOPLE
    Caste Violence Against India’s “Untouchables”

    With little land of their own to cultivate, Dalit men, women, and children numbering in the tens of millions work as agricultural laborers for a few kilograms of rice or Rs. 15 to Rs. 35 (US$0.38 to $0.88) a day. Most live on the brink of destitution, barely able to feed their families and unable to send their children to school or break away from cycles of debt bondage that are passed on from generation to generation. At the end of day they return to a hut in their Dalit colony with no electricity, kilometers away from the nearest water source, and segregated from all non-Dalits, known as caste Hindus. They are forbidden by caste Hindus to enter places of worship, to draw water from public wells, or to wear shoes in caste Hindu presence. They are made to dig the village graves, dispose of dead animals, clean human waste with their bare hands, and to wash and use separate tea tumblers at neighborhood tea stalls, all because—due to their caste status—they are deemed polluting and therefore “untouchable.” Any attempt to defy the social order is met with violence or economic retaliation.

    source: human rights watch - India


    It has been asserted that this has nothing to do with the religion, that the caste system, is a cultural phenomena. However this is not entirely the case, for there is a direct link to Hindu belief and to Hindu text, which forms the rigid stratification of society. What is perhaps more disturbing is that such a religious system not only tolerates such injustice, but perpetuates it as well. If you have a mind dear reader, read the entire report, but beware it is not for those with a weak constitution, prepare your mind!


    http://www.hrw.org/reports/1999/india/
  2. Joined : 11 Nov '05
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    Originally posted by robbie carrobie
    It has been asserted that this has nothing to do with the religion, that the caste system, is a cultural phenomena. However this is not entirely the case, for there is a direct link to Hindu belief and to Hindu text, for the rigid stratification of a society. What is perhaps more disturbing is that such a religious system not only tolerates such in ...[text shortened]... the entire report, but beware it is not for those with a weak constitution, prepare your mind!
    We have to differ religious beliefs with cultural and traditional customs.

    It's very common for people to say "I can do this, because it is in my religion to do so", making the religion the reason to do certain things. (Example: circumsition, male or femal, taboo of certain food, dress code, right to take land from others, patriarchy, and even kill certain people, etc) However, it is not religion. We live in a modern world. Why should we live by thousands of years barbaric traditions? I don't get that.

    The cast system of India is of traditional origen, not religious. (Please, correct me if I am wrong here.)
  3. Zen master
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    Originally posted by FabianFnas
    We have to differ religious beliefs with cultural and traditional customs.

    It's very common for people to say "I can do this, because it is in my religion to do so", making the religion the reason to do certain things. (Example: circumsition, male or femal, taboo of certain food, dress code, right to take land from others, patriarchy, and even kill cer m of India is of traditional origen, not religious. (Please, correct me if I am wrong here.)
    actually Fabian i welcome your intelligent questions, for it is both cultural and religious and what is more, what is practiced by those professing this belief system,

    1. The law of Karma, stresses that what a person did in a previous life equates to what they shall be born as in the next (a fundamental tenet of Hindhu belief), therefore if you are born into a particular caste, it is a result of your own actions and is inviolable.

    2. According the Rig Veda, the ancient Hindu book, the primal man - Purush - destroyed himself to create a human society. The different Varnas (castes) were created from different parts of his body. The Brahmans were created from his head; the Kshatrias from his hands; the Vaishias from his thighs and the Sudras from his feet.

    there are many social, historical reasons as well, but the defining point is the actual practices of Hinduism and how it affects those who must live under it. This is a far cry from someone reading the Rig Veda is some leafy suburban town as to what actually happens on the ground. It is a strict form of apartheid, of racialism, of intolerance, exploitation and subjugation. It is therefore, not possible to diminish responsibility by trying to state that it has nothing to do with actual belief, nor of text, nor in making comparisons with other religious bodies, it happens and is an integral part of both Hindu belief and more importantly of practice. If this is not the case, then i stand to be corrected.
  4. Joined : 11 Nov '05
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    Originally posted by robbie carrobie
    actually Fabian i welcome your intelligent questions, for it is both cultural and religious and what is more, what is practiced by those professing this belief system,

    1. The law of Karma, stresses that what a person did in a previous life equates to what they shall be born as in the next (a fundamental tenet of Hindhu belief), therefore if you a ...[text shortened]... belief and more importantly of practice. If this is not the case, then i stand to be corrected.
    Okay, robbie, then the cast system certainly is a part of the Hindu religion.

    As you seem to know about this topic, I have to respectfully ask: Is this cast system practiced by other people than the Hindu believers but in the same geopgraphical region? Like muslem or christian belivers?

    If I were to work there, with a western employer, am I to respect this cast system too? Or can I, as a foreigner, bring home lesser cast into my home?
  5. Zen master
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    Originally posted by FabianFnas
    Okay, robbie, then the cast system certainly is a part of the Hindu religion.

    As you seem to know about this topic, I have to respectfully ask: Is this cast system practised by other people than the Hindu believers but in the same geographical region? Like Muslim or Christian believers?

    If I were to work there, with a western employer, am I to respect this cast system too? Or can I, as a foreigner, bring home lesser cast into my home?
    yes there is evidence of caste in other belief systems and societies, even in our own (ever tried to marry or get to know royalty? in the west money or social status acts as a kind of caste system) But it is not as divisive as in India. for example my wife is Pakistani Christian, her caste is Muttu (farmers from Jalandhar), there are also Sikh castes and Muslim castes. The only prohibition put on my wife is that she may not marry another Muttu, for they are considered brothers and sisters. Apart from this there is no distinction and no apartheid.

    if you were to work as a western employer there are many factors that you would need to consider, and yes a consideration of religious practice would be important, but then again it depends on so many things, the nature of the employment etc etc. As a westerner you are of course free to invite anyone into your home and it would be up to others if they wished to act upon this by embracing it or boycotting it.

    i tell you an interesting thing, i had a friend, a Hindu, a family i used to visit in Glasgow, man was a Hindu, he sadly died and wife was a Sikh, he told me that his mother used to put the metal dishes of lower caste persons in a fire to cleanse them after use and he himself shocked the entire family by drinking water from the same vessel. I relate it to you in order to illustrate what might be done on an individual basis, but collectively its an entirely different scenario.
  6. Joined : 11 Nov '05
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    Originally posted by robbie carrobie
    yes there is evidence of caste in other belief systems and societies, even in our own (ever tried to marry or get to know royalty? in the west money or social status acts as a kind of caste system) But it is not as divisive as in India. for example my wife is Pakistani Christian, her caste is Muttu (farmers from Jalandhar), there are also Sikh cast ...[text shortened]... what might be done on an individual basis, but collectively its an entirely different scenario.
    All these rules... If I ever come into contact with the core Hundu cast system, I have to tip toe in order not to affend anybody. But if I have to go against my own principles (that one that everyone is worth the same as the other), then I don't know...

    Well, every religion has its own merits and its own dis-merits.
  7. Zen master
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    Originally posted by FabianFnas
    All these rules... If I ever come into contact with the core Hundu cast system, I have to tip toe in order not to affend anybody. But if I have to go against my own principles (that one that everyone is worth the same as the other), then I don't know...

    Well, every religion has its own merits and its own dis-merits.
    you would be fine. Where is the compassion, the humanity, the justice of such a belief system. i really dont know.
  8. Joined : 11 Nov '05
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    Originally posted by robbie carrobie
    you would be fine. Where is the compassion, the humanity, the justice of such a belief system. i really dont know.
    Neither do I know.

    We all live in a modern world. Think of a new Einstein is born in the wrong cast, does that mean that future Nobelprize is wasted? The Hindu cast system would hinder a progression to a modern society.
  9. Zen master
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    Originally posted by FabianFnas
    Neither do I know.

    We all live in a modern world. Think of a new Einstein is born in the wrong cast, does that mean that future Nobelprize is wasted? The Hindu cast system would hinder a progression to a modern society.
    yes because there would be little or no chance for the young new young Einstein to develop his talent. I suspect India is changing, but the progress is very very slow.

    i saw a wonderful Einstein quote on the wall of my gym the other day,

    insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting the same results
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    Today I visited a Hindu temple, and was assured by the gentleman who showed me and a class of year 8 children around that (a) Hindus worship one god, though in many aspects, and (b) that the caste system is emphatically not a part of the Hindu religion, but is in fact merely a social convention. Just thought I'd pass that on.
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    Originally posted by avalanchethecat
    Today I visited a Hindu temple, and was assured by the gentleman who showed me and a class of year 8 children around that (a) Hindus worship one god, though in many aspects, and (b) that the caste system is emphatically not a part of the Hindu religion, but is in fact merely a social convention. Just thought I'd pass that on.
    how does he explain what is written in the Veda? how does he explain that untouchables cannot enter into a Hindu temple? how does he explain that a Brahman cannot drink from the same utensil as a lower caste Hindu? Social convention, his bum! and my dear bad ol putty cat, you may pass it on.
  12. Joined : 09 Apr '10
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    Originally posted by robbie carrobie
    how does he explain what is written in the Veda?
    The question did not arise, I am afraid. He did not suggest that there was any doubt however, and the other Hindus we met there didn't disagree with him.
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    Originally posted by robbie carrobie
    how does he explain what is written in the Veda? how does he explain that untouchables cannot enter into a Hindu temple? how does he explain that a Brahman cannot drink from the same utensil as a lower caste Hindu? Social convention, his bum! and my dear bad ol putty cat, you may pass it on.
    If it bothers you that much Rob, why don't you take yourself to your local Hindu temple to ask your questions and maybe have a cup of tea with them?
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    It seems RC really doesn't care about the facts. As I've repeatedly tried to explain to him, from what I've read, the Indian caste system is not supported by Hinduism proper. Rather it something that became ingrained in the Indian culture partly based on a false understanding of the scriptures.

    From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caste_system_in_India
    None of the Hindu scriptures endorses caste-based discrimination,[3][4][5][6] and the Indian Constitution has outlawed caste-based discrimination, in keeping with the secular, democratic principles that founded the nation.[7] Nevertheless, the caste system, in various forms, continues to survive in modern India because of a combination of political factors and social perceptions and behavior.


    From multiple other sources, I've gathered that references to "castes" in Hindu scriptures are speaking of divisions based on "temperament and capacity" rather than "bloodline". An example might be that an aggressive person is better suited to be a soldier than a passive person. So it is really about finding suitable roles for given temperaments and capacities.

    As I posted in another thread which RC chose to ignore.
    From http://www.vedanta.com/vital.php
    Q - Does Vedanta accept the Indian caste system or does it reject it as incompatible with religious ideals?

    A - Caste, as described in the Gita, is concerned with the division of work according to a man's temperament and capacity. In this sense, caste will always exist not only in India but everywhere in the world. There will always be spiritual leaders and teachers, politicians and soldiers, traders and artisans, and laborers. The Gita says that, regardless of caste, all mankind is born for perfection. Each shall attain it by following the duty of his own nature, if this duty is performed as worship of God.

    What is usually thought of as the caste system some castes regard others as inferior and discriminate against them is a degeneration of the original idea. As you know, since India gained independence, caste has been practically abolished. But traditionally, monks have been regarded as beyond caste; and they have often been instrumental in teaching harmony and understanding to the prejudiced and intolerant. This reminds me of an incident which I will tell you.

    It happened in our Ramakrishna monastery at Madras while Swami Ramakrishnananda was the abbot. On Sri Ramakrishna's birthday, a group of Brahmins and a group of untouchables came to attend the special worship.

    The two groups stayed at opposite sides of the prayer hall. Then hymns were sung, and Swami Ramakrishnananda went into an ecstatic mood. He began to dance, first toward one group, then toward the other. An intense spiritual atmosphere was created. Responding to it, the Brahmins and untouchables forgot themselves, and moved closer to one another. Finally, all were dancing together, united in the thought of God.

    This is what happens when you give people true spirituality: ignorance and prejudice leave of themselves. Reform by legislation does little; we must begin reform at the roots.



    No doubt RC will continue his crusade regardless of how many explain to him that he is misinformed.
  15. Joined : 09 Apr '10
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    Originally posted by robbie carrobie
    how does he explain what is written in the Veda? how does he explain that untouchables cannot enter into a Hindu temple? how does he explain that a Brahman cannot drink from the same utensil as a lower caste Hindu? Social convention, his bum! and my dear bad ol putty cat, you may pass it on.
    Since you raised the point I've done a little light reading on the subject, and it appears to me that the original vedic teachings related to a far more flexible caste system than you allude to, one in which mobility between castes existed. The Purusha Sukta, the part of the vedas to which I assume you are referring, appears to belong to the later vedic tradition and is generally considered to be a later interpolation. Furthermore, these verses appear to directly contradict core Hindu values outlined elsewhere in the vedas and the bhagavad gita. But of course, I'm no expert on Hinduism. What I would say, is that the fellow I spoke to today seemed to emanate love and fellowship in his words, gestures and actions, implied brotherhood with all men (and women) regardless of religion. I feel sure that he would not judge your beliefs in the way you appear to judge his.
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