Source : Vedanta Society of Southern California ( https://vedanta.org/what-is-vedanta/harmony-of-religions/ )
“Truth is one; sages call it by various names,” the Rig Veda, one of Vedanta’s most ancient texts, declared thousands of years ago.
We are all seeking the truth, Vedanta asserts, and that truth comes in numerous names and forms. Truth—spiritual reality—remains the truth though it appears in different guises and approaches us from various directions. “Whatever path people travel is My path,” says the Bhagavad Gita. “No matter where they walk, it leads to Me.”
If all religions are true, then what is all the fighting about?
The carnage inflicted upon the world in the name of religion has precious little to do with genuine religion. People fight over doctrine and dogma: we don’t see people being murdered over attaining divine union! A “religious war” is really large-scale egotism gone berserk. As Swami Prabhavananda, the founder of the Vedanta Society of Southern California, would smilingly say, “If you put Jesus, Buddha, and Muhammad in the same room together, they will embrace each other. If you put their followers together, they may kill each other!”
Every religion has a specific gift to offer humankind; every religion brings with it a unique viewpoint which enriches the world. Christianity stresses love and sacrifice; Judaism, the value of spiritual wisdom and tradition. Islam emphasizes universal brotherhood and equality while Buddhism advocates compassion and mindfulness. The Native American tradition teaches reverence for the earth and the natural world surrounding us. Vedanta or the Hindu tradition stresses the oneness of existence and the need for direct mystical experience.
“Universalism has been an integral part of Hinduism, in turn influencing western modern spirituality.” -Richard King
Recently, I came across some casteist minded persons who foolishly considered themselves to be superior because of their so called “caste”. Personally, I consider “caste”, “religion”, etc. as man made terms which should not be taken seriously at all.
Do animals have caste and religion? Are we not children of the same God?
Moreover in ancient times there used to be “Varna System” based on one’s occupation and there was no concept of superior, inferior, purity, untouchability, etc. In Kalyug, this system underwent an ugly mutation and became the stupid “caste system” and “untouchability”.
This cruel caste system is the reason why there is no dignity of labour among the Indian masses especially in villages where there is less literacy.
Indian saints belonging the Bhakti Movement era never paid heed to caste system and preached all living beings as equal before God.
After coming across these casteist persons with an ugly mindset, I decided to research some more as to whether the Vedas sanction:
- Varna system based on occupation with all being equal, no person or occupation considered as superior on inferior.
2. Caste system based on birth with concepts of superiority and inferiority.
I know that Hindu Puranas do not endorse caste system as we have several anecdotes like Lord Shiva giving darshan to Adi Shankaracharya in Chaandaal roop/form and Lord Ram accepting and eating the already tasted fruit offering from Shabari, a so called "lower caste" woman. Lord Ram declared Shabari to be at a higher pedestal than most Rishis, ascetics, saints, seekers, etc. Lord Shiva endorsed the Advaita Vedanta egalitarian philosophy of Adi Shankar by giving darshan in so called "lower caste" appearance surrounded by four dogs.
These are the answers I got from Quora on the question “Do Vedas endorse castes based on one’s birth?” :-
From my knowledge:
I know that there is a verse in Rigveda in which the poet mention separate occupations of his father, mother and himself. So all family members of that particular poet belonged to different Varnas.
Unfortunately, Vedas (by that extension Upanishads, Itihasas and Puranas) are the most misinterpreted texts in India today. The root cause for all this is the planned vilification and eradication of proper teachers (read Brahmins). There are many proofs, like Satyakama Jabali, Valmiki, Veda Vyasa etc. who were not brahmins (or at least one of their parents were). Yet they all get exalted position in all the narratives.
In Srimad Bhagavad Gita, which is considered the summary of all Vedic literature up to that point, Lord Krishna clearly states that the 4 Varnas were based on the work they do and their basic nature. It is not related to birth at all.
Varaha Purana talks about a story where a rishi’s wife ridicules a hunter for his meat eating habits. The hunter successfully argues that the rishi’s family himself was eating food after killing many germs and insects, hence he is accountable for it. He goes on to educate the brahmin rishi about the nature of all-pervading Parabrahman.
Sri Adisankara, in his Manisha Panchakam has also mentioned that birth doesn’t matter. It is the knowledge of Parabrahmam which makes one a Brahmin.
4000 Divyaprabhandam is hailed as “Dravida Veda”. One part of it is called “Thirumalai” (திருமாலை) composed by Thondaradippodi Azhwar. He mentions that even if one is born as a Brahmin and well versed in all the four Vedas, if he insults a devotee of Lord Vishnu based on the devotee’s birth, then he loses his Brahminism immediately.
All these point to only one thing – Varna was never considered by birth. All these wrong interpretations for Vedas and Suktas were recent creation. One has to open their mind and read these scriptures under proper guidance to realize the truth.
From Ramji Vinodh:
My answer is NO and let me explain based on my interpretation.
Most of the answers relating to society stratum is based on “Purusha Sukhtham” ( as its part of the Vedas) and the verses which is most quoted is as per below,
ब्राह्मणोऽस्य मुखमासीद् बाहू राजन्यः कृत
ऊरू तदस्य यद्वैश्यः पद्भ्यां शूद्रो अजायत
ब्राह्मणोऽस्य = Brahmins
मुख = Mouth
पद्भ्यां = Feet
शूद्रो = Shudras
and the above verse explains that Brahmans comes from the mouth, Kshatriya comes from the arms, Vaishyas comes from the thighs and the Shudras comes from the feet.
So, most have fixed up a hierarchy and they consider the fact that since Brahmins comes up from the top of the body (mouth) are considered superior and Shudras who comes from the feet are considered inferior as its in the bottom of the body.
So this claim also takes the fact that anything from “Feet” is inferior.
Lets now consider some spiritual activities and/or from Purana to explain some facts.
Have you ever considered why at Thirumala Thirupathi the priest always shows a special emphasis for the lord’s feet ?
If as per the above interpretation “Feet” is considered inferior why is there is special focus for the Lord feet
Most Purana stories shows that Godess Ganga is born from the feet of Lord Vishnu.
If the above interpretation is true, then Godess Ganga is also considered inferior.
Most of writers don’t consider reading the Purusha Sukhta completely
नाभ्या आसीदन्तरिक्षं शीर्ष्णो द्यौः समवर्तत
पद्भ्यां भूमिर्दिशः श्रोत्रात्तथा लोकाँ अकल्पयन्
पद्भ्यां = Feet
भूमिर्दिश = Earth and Direction
श्रोत्रात्तथा = Ear
And the interpretation of the above verse is that the whole of the earth is being sustained by the Lord’s feet, which in essense includes everyone born in this earth and not specific to people born from a particular section of a Purusha ( which is God in this instance)
If privileged communities have the the misconception that you are being considered superior – Please change your opinion
If under privileged communities have the misconception that you are being considered inferior – Please change your opinion
How I read such texts and how you should read ?
- Its well understood that Sanskrit scholars in India is less that 1% and mostly people fail to understand the true meaning of most of the verses and copy pasting a English translation will not serve the purpose. Just like one cannot understand a 100 page novel by reading only 10 pages and so is Purusha Shuktha as people reference one stanza and leave the rest which makes them fail to intepret the essence of the Sloka.
- I have a strong opinion how can a spiritual text teach negative aspects. If you think, something is negative, I can strongly confirm that such verses and/or text have either been misunderstood and/or misinterpreted.
I would like to thank both of the above learned persons for clearing my doubts.