[Advaita-l] Advaita and Caste system (reply to Vidyasankar)

Suresh mayavaadi at yahoo.com
Tue Nov 2 10:22:22 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.

Thank you. At least, one person knows what this is all about.
> 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.

That theory could well be true, considering Indians look so different from one another: a Kashmiri looks nothing like a Tamil. But that's another matter altogether. My point is that caste is simply another name for race. Without race, how else is a person's caste determined? 
>Could you explain exactly what is contradictory and baffling? Which advaitin "preached" the caste system?

It is so contradictory because, on the one hand, advaitins preach oneness and such glorious concepts; yet on the other hand, they do nothing to abolish the caste system, which is an affront to humanity.

>Do you think that the caste system came into existence because somebody or the other "preached" it to
>the people? 

How it came into being isn't the issue. Many things like sati, dowry also came into being, but we knew better than to tolerate them. Shouldn't we apply the same standards to caste system as well?

>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 

There are other evils, no doubt, but I mention caste because it is inextricably linked to the religion of the vedas. And since advaitins belong to that fold, would it not be better to do some reform?
>That's funny, because I have lost count of how many times Sankara and Vivekananda have both been
>called reformers of Hinduism. 

I meant reformers in this specific context only. Did they ever question the need for caste system? Never! Vivekananda may have attacked the behavior of corrupt Brahmins; he and other leaders may have advocated a 'softer and more tolerable' form of caste system where there is equality among all castes. But did any Hindu reformer ever question the system itself? I am afraid none of them went that far, not even the so-called progressive ones. That's my beef ... if you'll excuse the pun.
>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?

The problems you mention aren't religious in nature, are they? They are basically political and economic, but if advaitins can get involved in those, more power to them. It would be very noble. But it is only caste system which has a religious sanction, so that's why I mentioned it specifically. 


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