Varna and one more

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Mon Oct 15 09:07:43 CDT 2001

On Fri, 12 Oct 2001, Sunny Bhardwaj wrote:

> Popular question (though don't know if it's appropriate for this list. If
> not, please ignore) -
> Is Varna determined solely by birth or can one move between the four castes
> during their lifetime?
> I've been trying to get authoritative information on this question but have
> found the two famous opposing views in equal measure.

The answer is yes.  But it gets more complicated than that.  See my other
posts in this thread.

> Second question -
> I'm a Brahman by birth and want to be one by action.

Bravo!  Don't be swayed by pessimists, it is possible to fulfill the
inheritance we have received form the Rshis even today.  It may be hard
going at first, maybe you won't be able to do everything, but if you at
least try your best it is enough.

> We are supposed to
> consult the Shastras to find out what to do. Where do I get these Shastras?
> I've been following several threads on this list and have heard quotes and
> references from various texts that I've never even heard of. Where do you
> all get access to these? (I'm at student at a university in the US)

You didn't say exactly which University but many of the bigger ones (and
some public libraries in big cities) have what is called a PL 390
collection.  When India became independent, the US loaned them a large sum
of money.  Instead of asking for the loan to be repaid in cash (which
India didn't have at the time) they asked for books.  So certain libraries
receive all the Sanskrit (and Hindi, Tamil etc.) books that are published
in India.  In such a collection, you will be able to find almost any
shastra you need.  Another source of books, is booksellers such as Messrs
Khemraj Shrikrishnadass of Mumbai.  (  They have
compendia of dharmashastra such as Dharmasindhu and Nirnayasindhu with
Hindi translation.

But relying on books alone will not necessarily give you an accurate
picture of what is to be done.  Personally, I think it is more fruitful to
investigate your family history.  What do your grandparents consider
Brahman kartavya?  What did their grandparents think and do?  Due to
historical circumstances, the Vedic tradition is considerably weaker in
North India than in the South but in places like Kashi, Rishikesh etc. it
is by no means dead.  Combining the living traditions along with the words
of the shastras will set you on the right path.

I heartily second Ravis' recommendation of "Hindu Dharma" by Swami
Chandrashekharendra Saraswati of Kanchi.  He was one of the brightest
stars in the Vedic galaxy in modern times.  It is available in book form
and online at

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at>

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