Comments Posted By gauranitai1
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Akruranath ji and Pusta Krisna and Scooty Ram,
What I am speaking is the opinion of the three acaryas: madhva, ramanuja and sankara. Even Jiva Goswami says that even though the vaisnava surpasses a brahmana, he needs to be born as a brahmana in the next life to perform the Vedic sacrifice.
At the same time, I do not oppose the changes that Prabhupada made to this system.
However, we need to be consistent. Bhakti Raghava Swami and others have spoken so much about women needing to be submissive etc without saying why people born in foreign lands can be brahmanas and women cannot function like that. Selectively applying the teaching sounds quite strange to me. If we use the scriptures he is talking about, he would not be qualified to be a brahmana and would need to support the upper castes. For men, the birth based consideration is waived (being born in foreign lands), but for women it is not strangely.
Again there are two things
1) What was the classical view of traditional schools on the caste system at least from Sankara onwards (addresses in the Vedanta Sutra)?
2) What can function in today’s time?
I have given the sastric backing for 1) and I don’t know what will work in 2). So if people oppose my stand on 1), they are basically blaspheming all the acaryas from before (while Pusta Krsna ji accuses me of being lucky to escape Prabhupada. You should say Ramanuja,Madhva and Jiva goswami are lucky to escape Prabhupada, not me because I am giving you their opinion, not mine). Akruranath ji, you are not disagreeing with my opinion, but the opinion of these acaryas. So disagree with them, not with me.
» Posted By gauranitai1 On Jul 30, 2011 @ 3:23 pm
Why do guNas and karmas in the previous birth matter in determining
the varNa? Why can’t guNas and karmas in the current birth determine
one’s varNa? The answer seems to be that guNas and karmas in this
birth will determine the kind of family one is born into in the next
birth (as 6.41 says) assuming that one does not complete one’s sAdhanA
in this life. Birth in a particular family in turn means that one is
likely to imbibe the guNas and karmas of those family members. The
saMskAras that are performed for a person are done so even before the
person attains maturity – at that time, it is anyway impossible to say
what the guNas of a person are. The saMskAras are performed based on
birth. Thus, one’s svadharma in this life is determined by one’s
varNa. By performance of svadharma in the right spirit (the
description of “yoga” in the Gita), one can actually transcend the
three guNas completely, as Krishna recommends – traiguNya-vishayA
vedAH, niShtraiguNyo bhavArjuna (2.45).
It is notable that giving up of one’s karma is mentioned in the Gita
only in the context of a change in the Ashrama, not in the context of
a change in varNa. Arjuna simply does not have the option to change
his varNa. Being a kShatriya, he must fight. (2.31, 2.33)
Moreover, a purely guNa-karma based varNa-vibhAga does not explain the
historical fact of the varNa system being birth-based. Even today, the
orthodox traditions advocate a birth-based varNa system. There is no
record in our scriptures of people freely changing their varNas by
changing their guNas or karmas (barring a few exceptions). On the
contrary, even those who changed their karmas (like Drona, by fighting
in the battle) are still called brahmanas. It is only when janma plays
an important role in determining the varNa that it becomes very hard
to change one’s varNa. Modern groups are trying to interpret the
varNa-vibhAga as having nothing to do with janma, but this appears to
be a modern trend, not the historical view of the BG.
» Posted By gauranitai1 On Jul 20, 2011 @ 7:47 am
I think that the Gita doesn’t intend to toss away janma as a criterion
for varNa-vibhAga. There are other verses which do seem to assume
janma as important:
1. In chapter 1, the notion of jAti-dharma doesn’t make sense based on
a purely guNa-karma-based varNa-vibhAga.
(http://vedabase.net/bg/1/42/en) Why would jAti-based dharma be
mentioned as important to be preserved if birth doesn’t matter?
2. What does it mean for there to be varNa-sa~Nkara when birth is
irrelevant? In a birth-based varNa system, inter-caste marriage can
clearly cause confusion about the child’s varNa. But why would there
be confusion about the identity of a child’s varNa in a purely
guNa-karma based varNa system? His guNas should determine his karmas
and the identity of his varNa.
3. http://vedabase.net/bg/9/32/ (verse 9.32) refers to women, vaishyas
and shUdras as pApa-yonayaH. There is a clear connection here between
the lower varNas (vaishyas and shUdras) and birth/yoni (caused by
pApa). While I am aware that Sri Ramanujacharya has interpreted
pApa-yonayaH as a 4th category, Shankaracharya, Bhaskaracharya and
Madhvacharya have all applied the pApa-yonayaH to women, vaishyas and
shUdras. Even if one ignores the word pApa-yonayaH, it is notable that
women, vaishyas and shudras are decidedly considered as less likely to
attain the parAm gatim, since the “how much more so” applied to
brahmanas and kShatriyas in the next verse wouldn’t otherwise make
sense. Now for women, one can’t say that it is just their guNa and
karma that makes them inferior. The main difference between a woman
and a man originates from birth. Likewise the word pApa-yonayaH
applies to someone’s birth (caused by previous pApa). In a similar
way, shudras and vaishyas are also probably meant by birth.
But if this is so, how to reconcile the guNa-karma criteria with the
janma criterion? We can do so by saying that janma is determined by
guNa and karma. In fact, that is how the word pApa-yonayaH makes
sense. Previous pApa causes birth in a particular yoni. So it is not
contradictory to say that guNa and karma determine the varNas, and
that janma decides one’s varNa, because one can always say (as the
Gita does appear to say in 9.32-33 and 6.41) that one’s janma in a
particular varNa is determined by previous guNas and karmas. So varNa
being determined by birth is the same as varNa being determined by
previous guNas and karmas. In turn, one’s varNa by birth determines
the karmas one should perform in this life.
» Posted By gauranitai1 On Jul 20, 2011 @ 7:46 am
Now, the question is – are janma, karma and guNa independent criteria?
If so, the same person could be a jAti-brAhmaNa, karma-shUdra, and
guNa-vaishya. Any of the 4^3 = 64 possible combinations should be
On the other hand, if we say that guNa and karma are not independent
criteria, that would mean that the same person who is a guNa-brAhmaNa
is also likely to be a karma-brAhmaNa, the same person who is a
guNa-vaishya is also likely to be a karma-vaishya, etc.
Likewise, if we say that janma and karma are not independent criteria,
that would mean that the same person who is a jAti-brAhmaNa is also
likely to be a karma-brAhmaNa, and so on.
So the overarching question here is – what is the Bhagavad Gita’s
views about these three criteria? Are all of them independent
criteria? If so, which criterion is the varNa system based on? Are two
of them linked and independent of the third? If so, which two? Do all
three of them go together?
According to some interpretations, the Bhagavad Gita’s classification of varNas is
based on guNa and karma and NOT janma. This is supported by them based
on verse 4.13 – http://vedabase.net/bg/4/13/ . This means that they
think guNa and karma go together, and have nothing to do with janma.
The implication of a varNa-system based on guNa-karma vibhAga that is
independent of janma is that terms like shUdra would have a derogatory
connotation. No one would like to be called a shUdra, and everyone
would scramble to argue how he is a brAhmaNa. It would be kind of
self-contradictory to say that a shUdra has good qualities. Because
someone who has good qualities would be called a brAhmaNa, not a
I feel that it is correct to say that guNa and karma are
not independent criteria, as 4.13 says. This is also supported by
verses 18.41-44 where the karmas for the 4 varNas are described to be
‘svabhAva-jam guNas’ : http://vedabase.net/bg/18/41/en
But does this automatically imply that janma is totally irrelevant?
The Gita does not say explicitly that janma does not matter in
determining varNas. It is silent about janma in the above verses. This
could either mean that janma doesn’t matter, or it could mean that
janma is somehow automatically incorporated.
» Posted By gauranitai1 On Jul 20, 2011 @ 7:43 am
I think such issues are always difficult to tackle, because of variation in time and place.
In my opinion, even the chAturvarNyam verse in Gita is not undermining birth-based system. Rather, it can be taken as saying that the 4 varNas (which are implicitly assumed to be birth-based, recall my reference from chapter 1 of Gita) were created based on guNa and karma divisions. i.e, the brahmana varNa is endowed with sattva guNa and paThana-pAThana-yajana-etc karma and so on. So as long as there is absence of sa~Nkara or admixture between the birth-based varNas, these guNas and karmas will remain intrinsically with such birth-based lineages. guNa and karma is not independent of janma. The three were seen as going together.
What the Bhagavata religion did was to open the doors to mokSha for all varNas by saying that devotion to Krishna can make one transcend the guNas and karmas.
There are three different criteria that one could hypothetically use
to divide the society into 4 varNas. Depending on what criterion you look at, the 4 sets
you get may be composed of different individuals.
1) Janma: This uses birth as the criterion to classify the 4 varNas.
A jAti-brAhmaNa is one who is born in a brAhmaNa family.
A jAti-kShatriya is one who is born in a kShatriya family.
A jAti-vaishya is one who is born in a vaishya family, and so on.
2) Karma: This uses work or the type of profession to classify the 4 varNas.
A karma-brAhmaNa is one who does the brahminical duties of teaching
the scriptures, conducting yaj~nas, etc.
A karma-kShatriya is one who performs military and administrative duties.
A karma-vaishya does agriculture, business, etc.
A karma-shUdra does service.
3) Guna: This uses qualities to classify the 4 varNas:
A guNa-brAhmaNa is one in whom sattva-guNa is prominent – he is
interested in knowledge, reflection, solitary living, relatively
inactive lifestyle conducive for study and meditation.
A guNa-kShatriya is one in whom “shuddha” rajas is prominent – who
wants to live an active lifestyle, but who is generous towards others
A guNa-vaishya is one in whom “ashuddha” rajas is prominent – who
wants to live an active lifestyle but who is selfish.
A guNa-shUdra is one in whom tamas is prominent – who is lazy,
lethargic, ignorance-dwelling, etc.
Now, the question is – are janma, karma and guNa independent criteria?
» Posted By gauranitai1 On Jul 20, 2011 @ 7:41 am
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This certainly is a very complex issue. There a lot of nuances to the varnashrama problem.
For the most part varna is birth based. Therefore, by the logic, people not born in brahman families should not be given brahman threads. Women should not be the only ones following the varnashrama dharma then. There is some evidence from the sruti that women like Gargi could debate with her husband Yajnavalkya on philosophical matters, but traditional schools consider women like Gargi to be rishi patnis with special veda-adhikara not meant for other women. I feel all these factors will be needed if we really want to implement the varna-ashrama dharma completely. I think it won’t be that easy to do. Therefore, it maybe better to focus on ecologically sound agrarian communities rather than adopting the varna system. Will kshatriyas be allowed to gamble, drink wine, marry multiple wives and eat meat in a devotee community? There were allowed to do so in traditional varnashrama. Part I
Though the Chandogya Upanishad does present a quality-based ascertainment of caste via Satyakama Jabala’s story, even in that story, Gautama first asks Satyakama for his gotra, indicating that this was the general test. Satyakama goes back to his mother, who says she doesn’t know his gotra since she was busy in “paricharya”, which could be interpreted as “I was so busy in serving my in-laws that I did not get the time to ask your father about the gotra, and he is no more now to ask him” (Shankara’s interpretation, if I remember) or “I was serving or having sex with so many men that I don’t know who conceived you, and so I don’t know your gotra”. In any case, Gautama then is pleased by the boy’s honesty and takes him as his student. Now, *if* birth was not the criterion in that time, then it makes no sense for Gautama to first ask the boy about his gotra. Also, if upanayana is to be done by 8 yrs, it is difficult to believe that at such a young age, there could be a reliable test of the child’s qualities. It was probably because of the Brahma Sutras’ authoritative influence that the differing strands in the Upanishads were reconciled in favor of birth-based system (which was probably the dominant system, although by no means the only system, as references from Chandogya, Mahabharata, etc
» Posted By gauranitai1 On Jul 20, 2011 @ 7:38 am
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