Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Plague of Casteism, Part 2

In the last post I began talking about caste in Indian Society. Caste was a way to control what was considered by the Indian world to be the greatest resource, knowledge. Knowledge is the doorway to enlightenment and moksha, which is why it seemed to so important to control. Secondly, caste became a way to explain all the inequalities in the world. Why are some people born in poor and uneducated families? The caste system explained that it was due to the fruits of previous lives. An untouchable is an untouchable because they committed evil deeds in their past and therefore had to be born as an untouchable to reap those fruits. It is a very self-affirming system.

The first three castes (brahmana, kshatriya and vaishya) were also called dvijas or twice born. Upon reaching maturity dependant on the caste, these three castes were invested with the sacred thread which allowed them to gain Vedic Education and entry into Spiritual Knowledge. Sudras and the Untouchables were denied this and thereby denied the ability to gain moksha and spiritual knowledge, according to the traditional view. They were considered impure and spiritually inferior. Shankaracharya, the 8th century mystic and paramount philosopher, also felt that non-dvijas and women cannot receive salvation because they were denied access to the Vedas and Vedic Knowledge. It was not until Ramanujacharya, a 11th century mystic, reformer and philosoper, that the orthodoxy threw open the doors of salvation to all people. Ramanuja argued that devotion and self-surrender was the key to salvation and all people are entitled to that. Following him were scores of reformers who tried to eradicate caste from Hindu and Indian mind but sadly it hasn't had the effect that is needed.

To this day, caste exists even though it is a legal non-entity. It exists in the mind of many hindus and if it exists in their mind then it will issue out into their actions and social views. Caste is the one massive anchor which is weighing Hinduism down from achieving its place as the Universal faith. Caste is social, spiritual and religious evil that has plagued hinduism for nearly 2600 years. It is about time that it is destroyed and wiped off the face of this earth. We have to confront this evil as we would any other evil or oppressive force, with unwavering conviction and courage to fight it with all our abilities. The weapons to combat this evil are education and compassion but ultimately it is acceptance of this evil and the ability to show its proponents how caste stands in opposition to everything Hindu Spirituality is. The task is set but now is the time to began the battle.

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