Category Archives: Philosophy

Do Vedas endorse castes based on one’s birth?

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:

  1. Varna system based on occupation with all being equal, no person or occupation considered as superior on inferior.

OR

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.

  • From Sivakumar Ponaiyur Ramakrishnan:

Absolutely not.

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)

Conclusion :

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 ?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

-Ribhu Vashishtha

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Hindu prayer in English for non-Indian seekers / sadhaks

Intro : I have composed this prayer for non-Indian seekers of Hinduism in English. It is important to know that Hinduism (Sanatan Dharma) is a complex mix of many profound theologies, philosophies, schools of thoughts, etc. Contrary to popular opinion among Westerners, Hinduism is not polytheistic. It may be considered as henotheistic and panentheistic. Profound philosophies like Advaita Vedanta, Achintya Bhedabheda, Vishishtadvaita, Tantra, Vedic texts, etc. form the base of Hinduism (Sanatan Dharma). "Sanatan" means eternal and "Dharma" means moral order. Because Hinduism is henotheistic, its scriptures mention and praise numerous deities as if they are one ultimate unitary divine essence. While concentrating on one form of God, the devotion of a Hindu sadhak rises to such a level that for a particular period of time that form of God is worshipped as Supreme. There are a plethora of schools of thoughts in Hinduism which can be described as being monist, monotheist, henotheist, panentheist, etc. Different sects have different interpretation even though all of them are united as a single Hindu family. While making this humble attempt to compose an English Hindu prayer, I would like to clarify that I do not intend to disrespect any school/sect and I indeed respect and endorse all of them. All these sects/schools are like pearls tied together with a single string of Hinduism (Sanatan Dharma). Therefore like most Hindus, I respect all deities/names/forms as manifestations/representations of the same Supreme Divine. Most Hindus consider different forms as signifying different attributes/qualities of the same Supreme Divine. Thus, Hindus are secular in the sense that we see even non-Hindu names, terms and forms of God (of different religions of the world) as that of the Supreme Being itself. I recommend reading the Bhagavad Geeta (Advaita Vedantic interpretation) to understand the true essence of Hinduism.

Prayer

I begin by reciting the sound Om (ॐ), which is the divine cosmic sound containing all vibrations of the Multiverse and symbol of the cause of the Multiverse, essence of life, Brahman (God principle), Atman (soul), and Self-knowledge (Swabhaas).

I bow with folded hands (Namaste/Namaskar pose) before the One who is worshipped first (Pratham pujya) Lord Ganesha, remover of all obstacles in the path to righteousness (Dharma) and god of auspiciousness.

I bow with folded hands before Swamy (Lord Of Lords), Lord Vishnu, preserver of the Multiverse and Swayam Prabhu (God itself).

I bow with folded hands before Father Lord Shiva, destroyer and transformer of the Multiverse (Sanhaarak), Pashupatinath (Lord Protector of all beings), Rudra (mightiest of the mighty) and who is the essence of the world (Sansar saaram).

I bow with folded hands before Mother Adi Shakti (Parvati/Mahakali/Parashakti), protector of righteousness (Dharma) and force underlying the whole Multiverse.

I bow with folded hands before Mother Saraswati, embodiment and bestower of knowledge, music, art, wisdom and learning.

I bow with folded hands before Mother Lakshmi, goddess of abundance, wife of Lord Vishnu and bestower of wealth, fortune and prosperity.

I bow with folded hands before Lord Krishna, who is the embodiment of love and is Swayam Prabhu Purna Purushottam (God itself complete with all divine qualities).

I bow with folded hands before Mother Radha, supreme goddess of blissful devotion and soulmate of Lord Krishna.

I bow with folded hands before Lord Ram, who is the perfect ideal person (Maryada Purushottam).

I bow with folded hands before Gurudev (teacher/guide/expert/master) Lord Hanuman, the embodiment of devotion, knowledge, power, excellence, part incarnation  of Lord Shiva (Shivaansh) and supreme devotee of Lord Ram.

I bow with folded hands before Lord Narsimha, incarnation/avatar of Lord Vishnu and he who strikes terror in the minds of non-religious and non-righteous (adharmi).

I bow with folded hands before Lord Venkateswara Swamy, manifestation of Lord Vishnu and destroyer of sins.

I bow with folded hands before Lord Vithoba (Vitthal/Panduranga), manifestation of Lord Krishna and guide towards the Supreme.

I bow with folded hands before Lord Mururgan (Kartikeya/Shanmukha/Swaminath/Skanda), son of Lord Shiva and god of war.

I bow with folded hands before Lord Brahma, creator of the universe.

I bow with folded hands before Brahman (pronounced “Brahm”), the highest universal abstract impersonal formless genderless pervasive infinite eternal true blissful principle/reality underlying the Multiverse and also existing apart from it.

Thus bowing before all the divine forms of the Supreme, I end by reciting Om (ॐ), concentrating upon Om (ॐ) and dissolving my whole being into Om (ॐ).

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-Ribhu Vashishtha

When He turns priority

Source : The Hindu

Krishna captures the wide range of human aspirations synoptically in the seventh chapter when He tells Arjuna about how people generally strive to achieve and attain what they think is close to their hearts. All these people have faith in God and seek His help to fulfil their aims. Some seek relief from distress, some seek wealth and worldly possessions and some wish to master empirical knowledge and so on.

But it is very rare that one seeks God for His sake and shelves aside all other desires, says Krishna. A jivatma would do well to fix his goal in life, pointed out Swami Mitrananda in a lecture.

No matter how one has spent his life, if at some point he realises that his goal is to seek God, and henceforth lives his life fixed on this goal, it would make him strong for the rest of his life. Even death, which is often dreaded and feared, becomes acceptable as a matter of fact occurrence; for the most intense thoughts sustained while living will surge at the time of death.

Worldly goals immerse us in a temporary delight and joy. At times, one even feels sad missing out on any of these.

But eventually, one realises that even after successful accomplishment, one is still restless and continues to want something which is difficult to identify. Sincere search for one’s real yearning, will lead one to seek God.

When God becomes the priority in one’s life and entire being, the whole perspective changes; one is filled with a sense of relief because worldly goals are no longer desirable. There is no need to seek anything from God except living life to attain God. Only the experience of meeting the divine is uppermost.

One now begins to feel restless and sad, not for missing worldly enjoyments, but because of missing God. This is the hallmark of a mumukshu.

Six blind men and One elephant story (Anekantvad) – Inclusive pluralistic Jain philosophy

“All perspectives are partially true but wholly wrong. Only Kevlin (liberated being) is wholly true “

ELEPHANT AND THE BLIND MEN

Once upon a time, there lived six blind men in a village. One day the villagers told them, “Hey, there is an elephant in the village today.”

They had no idea what an elephant is. They decided, “Even though we would not be able to see it, let us go and feel it anyway.” All of them went where the elephant was. Everyone of them touched the elephant.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Hey, the elephant is a pillar,” said the first man who touched his leg.

“Oh, no! it is like a rope,” said the second man who touched the tail.

“Oh, no! it is like a thick branch of a tree,” said the third man who touched the trunk of the elephant.

“It is like a big hand fan” said the fourth man who touched the ear of the elephant.

“It is like a huge wall,” said the fifth man who touched the belly of the elephant.

“It is like a solid pipe,” Said the sixth man who touched the tusk of the elephant.

They began to argue about the elephant and everyone of them insisted that he was right. It looked like they were getting agitated. A wise man was passing by and he saw this. He stopped and asked them, “What is the matter?” They said, “We cannot agree to what the elephant is like.” Each one of them told what he thought the elephant was like. The wise man calmly explained to them, “All of you are right. The reason every one of you is telling it differently because each one of you touched the different part of the elephant. So, actually the elephant has all those features what you all said.”

“Oh!” everyone said. There was no more fight. They felt happy that they were all right.

The moral of the story is that there may be some truth to what someone says. Sometimes we can see that truth and sometimes not because they may have different perspective which we may not agree too. So, rather than arguing like the blind men, we should say, “Maybe you have your reasons.” This way we don’t get in arguments. In Jainism, it is explained that truth can be stated in seven different ways. So, you can see how broad our religion is. It teaches us to be tolerant towards others for their viewpoints. This allows us to live in harmony with the people of different thinking. This is known as the Syadvada, Anekantvad, or the theory of Manifold Predictions.

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