[Advaita-l] Advaita and Caste System

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Mon Nov 1 15:14:01 CDT 2010

It is typical of this kind of topic that everybody focuses on who is a good brahmin. Suresh has a much
more fundamental issue - the very existence of caste as a social system.
> I understand that caste system was an integral part of Indian society, but isn't it strange that advaitins did nothing to abolish it? I can understand dvaitins and the rest maintaining caste system - they believe in distinctions, not only between souls and God but also between the souls themselves. But advaita preaches a lofty ideal, namely oneness. 

Why should any ancient philosopher have been a social activist in the contemporary sense?
> How could such people preach the divisive (not to mention racist) caste system on the one hand and the noble idea of nondualism on the other? It is so contradictory and baffling.

I don't see how race enters into the picture of caste, unless you buy into outmoded ideas of the "races"
that populated the Indian subcontinent thousands of years ago.
Could you explain exactly what is contradictory and baffling? Which advaitin "preached" the caste system?
Do you think that the caste system came into existence because somebody or the other "preached" it to
the people? And if you think that advaitins should have worked towards abolishing the existing social
structure of caste, do you think they should have also worked towards abolishing gender and the color
of one's skin? All of these are determined by birth 
> I hope someone can shed some light on this. I also hope no one takes my post the wrong way. At least to me, advaita and caste system are like light and night - they seem to have nothing in common. So it seems to me that the advaitins, from Sankara to Vivekananda to the latest guru, all had a good chance to reform Hindu society - and failed to do so.
That's funny, because I have lost count of how many times Sankara and Vivekananda have both been
called reformers of Hinduism. 
In one sense, you are correct. The one who realizes ahaM brahmAsmi transcends all attributes, including
caste, gender and race, among other things. However, I fail to see why this means that any advaitin should
go about "reforming" whatever social conditions he or she happens to have been born in. Should advaitins
have also fought for an ideal of economic eequality where everybody gets paid the same, no matter what
job they do? After all, advaita has nothing in common with how salaries and bonuses are paid either. Does
"reform" of the world economy also become something every advaitin should attempt?

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