'Brahman as the Cosmic Soul is universal, permanent, indestructible, unique; it is the primordial essence, the ultimate ground of existence. The final goal came to be considered as the realization of the unity between Brahman and Atman; the realization of "oneness" between the universal soul and the individual soul'.
If we look at the religious symbolism and terminology having been edited over a thousand---two thousand---three thousand years HINDI/BUDDHISM sounds just like MOVING FORWARD ONE WORLD ONE GOVERNANCE for only the global 1%.
LIVING IN THE PRESENT rather then LIVING FOR SALVATION or working toward building a FUTURE for children and grandchildren----is exactly what our 5% to the 1% global banking freemason/Greeks do and it is the TOP MANTRA of all societal change NGOS in US CITIES DEEMED FOREIGN ECONOMIC ZONES. Why fight for our US CONSTITUTION AND RIGHTS AS CITIZENS when we can simply LIVE IN THE PRESENT.
The top AFFORDABLE CARE ACT funding for preventable care only for 99% of WE THE PEOPLE is tied to these HINDI/BUDDHIST religious tenets......
As aging baby boomers living through these 1960s----1990s US FADS we embraced Buddhist meditation and reflection----Buddhist chant ----HINDI vegan food as BODY TEMPLE-----there is nothing wrong with these tenets just as there is nothing wrong with tenets tied to Islam, Judaicism, Christianity. Much of what is being MARKETED AS HINDI STANCES were written by global banking 1% AD MEN.
Buddhism and the Brahma concept
Ven. Bellanwila Wimalaratana Thera
The term Brahma occurs fairly frequently in Buddhist literature. There are many terms that are prefixed with the word Brahma. Some of the well-known are Brahma-cariya, Brahma-vihara, Brahma-kaya, Brahma-danda, Brahma-jala, Brahma-cakka and Brahma-sara. Even the Brahma world as well as denizens of such worlds known as Maha-brahma, Brahma-sahampati, Brahma-sanankumara are also mentioned.In phrases such as 'Brahmati matapitaro', the term Brahma is used to give it a special ethical connotation. What we propose here is to examine how this pre-Buddhist word came to be used in Buddhist literature and to discuss the changes it has undergone in this process of adaptation.
The 6th century B. C., the period to which the Buddha belongs is a period in which Indian religious and philosophical scene underwent a radical change. By this time the Brahmanic religious tradition had reached a very high stage of development. It began with the Vedas and developed through the Brahmanas, Aranyakas and reached its climax in the Upanishads.
It was at such a time that the Buddha appeared on the religious scene of India. During this period there were two distinct groups of religious thinkers: one group advocating the belief that salvation had to be attained through Karma marga or Yajan marga, i. e. through the path of sacrifice; and the other holding that salvation is possible only through the path of wisdom or Jnana-marga.
Besides these two religious paths, both put forward by the Brahmins, there was the path to salvation through ascetic practices put forward mainly by such groups as Ajivakas, Paribbajakas, and Niganthas. The latter group belonged mainly to the Sramana tradition which was opposed to the Brahmana tradition. Even the Buddha belongs to this Sramana tradition.
The Buddha who had mastered all the religious traditions of the time not only rejected the prevalent views on salvation, but presented a novel philosophy of emancipation. He discarded such views as divine creation, belief in a permanent self, determinism and annihilationism, and presented his teaching basing it on the fundamental doctrine of paticcasamuppada or dependent co-origination.
This fundamental doctrine formed the foundation for his other basic teachings such as karma, rebirth and freedom. Even the theory and practice of Buddhist ethics is founded on this doctrine of paticcasamuppada, which is the central philosophy of Buddhism.
The oldest scriptures that record the teachings of the Buddha are referred to as the Tripitaka (Three Baskets) written in the Pali language. When one examines the Tripitaka, it becomes quite clear that the Buddha's teaching is basically different from Vedic and Brahmanic teachings.
Yet, it becomes also clear that in spite of this difference, the Buddha himself had to adapt and use certain cherished beliefs, concepts and terms that were in vogue among the Brahmins, in order to put across his own teachings. Among such pre-Buddhistic concepts, the Buddha adopted the concept of Brahma occupies an important place. As mentioned before, the word Brahmao ccurs frequently in pre-Buddhist as well as in Buddhist literature indicating a wide variety of senses and context.
(1) The technical terms used in Buddhist literature can be classified into three groups.
(2) The terms that are common in form as well as in meaning in both Brahmanic and Buddhist literature.
(3) The terms that are common in form, but different in meaning.
Terms that denote completely a Buddhist meaning.
According to this classification the term Brahma falls into the second group. In Buddhism it is used in a sense quite different from the sense in which it is used in Brahmanism. Both Brahma and Brahman connote the idea of the Highest. In the earliest stages the term Brahman meant the universe. Hence the first beginning of the Brahma ideal could be traced to the Purusa Sukta which occurs in the 10th Mandala of the Rgveda.
It alludes to some kind of primordial universal matter. Gradually this idea developed and finally it came to be accepted that the Brahman or Brahma is the source of the whole universe. In the early Brahmana period Prajapati is considered more important and he is considered the primordial being and Brahma occupies a secondary place.
In the Satapatha Brahman it is clearly mentioned that Prajapati created the Brahma. But in later Brahmana texts their positions were reversed, Brahma superseding Prajapati, with Brahma being considered as the foundation as well as the source of the universe.
This idea reached its culmination in the Upanishad literature, where reference is made to the undifferentiated unity of Brahman and Atman, that is the Universal Soul and the Individual Soul, in other words, the macrocosm and the microcosm.
Brahman as the Cosmic Soul is universal, permanent, indestructible, unique; it is the primordial essence, the ultimate ground of existence. The final goal came to be considered as the realization of the unity between Brahman and Atman; the realization of "oneness" between the universal soul and the individual soul.
The attainment of this undifferentiated unity is considered in the Upanishads as the goal and ideal of all Brahmins. It was said that there are two paths open to this goal. One is the path of Sacrifice (Yajna or Karma-marga) and the other the Path of Knowledge (Jnana-marga). The latter was followed by the Upanishad sages, the munis who practised severe ascetic practices.
The Buddha's attitude towards this long-cherished concept of Brahmais two-fold.
- Complete rejection of the Brahma concept.
- Giving new meanings to certain ideas connected with the Brahma concept.
Both as religion and philosophy, Buddhism is based on the "no soul" view. Therefore, the Buddhist attitude to the Upanishadic view of reality needs no examination. In the Vasettha-sutta of the Dighanikaya, the attempt to reach the Brahma that no one has seen is compared to the effort of a line of blind men. The Buddhist teaching that everything is impermanent rejects the belief in a permanent substance that underlines everything in the universe.
The Buddhist theory of causality shows that if there is a Brahma, he cannot be uncaused and similarly cannot be eternal. According to the Buddhist doctrine of paticasamuppada the universe is not the creation of a personal God or impersonal Godhead, but the outcome of causes and conditions.
Though the Buddha rejected this Brahma concept which was prevalent in pre-Buddhistc times, it is clearly seen that he used some aspects of this concept to put across his own philosophy.
Buddhism does not deny the existence of Brahma. It speaks of Brahma-lokas, refers to Maha Brahama as the Lord of the Brahama-lokas. In many suttas this supreme Brahma is referred to as Sahampati. He is represented as one who has cultivated his mind and as one who honours and pays reverence to the Buddha.
This shows that Buddhahood is higher than Brahmahood. The Buddhist texts also refer to many instances when Brahma came to meet the Buddha. Among these Brahmas are Sanamkumara, Ghatikara, Narada.
Reference is also made to the path leading to the Brahma World. The Tevijja Sutta says that the path to the Brahma World is through the development of jhanas pertaining to the five material spheres. The Brahma Worlds are known as Suddhavasas, the Pure Abodes.
It is said that the attainment of the First jhana leads to the Brahma Worlds called "Brahama-parisajja", "Brahma-purohita" and "Maha Brahma"; the Second Jhana to Parittabha, Appamanabha and Abhassara; the Third Jhana to Parittasubha, Appamanasubha and Subhakinna.
The Fourth Jhana is said to lead the non-Anagamins to Vehapphala and Asannasatta Brahma-lokas and the Anagamns to Aviha, Atappa, Sudassi and Akanittha Brahma-loka. This shows that Buddhism too has a parallel concept of the attainment of companionship with Brahma. But this, however, does not mean that Buddhism, like Brahmanism, admits the possibility of eternal companionship with Brahma.
What is meant by this jhanic attainment is the experiencing of a very high level of mental development through the jhanic process.
The teaching on the four Brahma-Viharas (four Sublimes States) is another instance which shows how the Buddha adopted another important aspect of the pre-Buddhist Brahma concept. Many scholars are of the opinion that the teaching on Brahma-Vihara is purely Buddhist. Perhaps this is more likely to be an adaptation of a pre-Buddhist concept to suit the Buddhist point of view. This becomes clear from Buddhaghosa's definition of Brahma-vihara:
"Why are these called Brahma-viharas? It is because they are supreme and faultless. These states constitute the best mode of conduct towards others. The Brahmas live with their minds freed of the five hindrances. The Yogins who are endowed with these states also live with faultless minds like the Brahmas".
As the parents have these mental attitudes towards their children, they too can be called Brahmas. In fact in comparing the parents to the Brahmas, the Buddha appears to have added a new dimension to the Brahma concept.
The Buddhist path leading to Nibbana is called the "Brahma-faring" (Brahmacariya). The Buddha addressing the first disciples who grasped his teaching said, "Come O! monk, the doctrine is well taught. Practise this Brahma faring for the perfect ending of suffering".
The five ascetics who were the first disciples of the Buddha were already following some kind of a restrained noble life. By inviting them to lead "Brahmacariya" a new Buddha seems to have made clear that his interpretation of the Brahma faring meant something different from what they were already engaged in. The Varnasrama dharma followed by the Brahmins divides the life into four stages.
These four stages are studentship (brahamacriya), householder (grhastha), forest entry (vanaprastha) and renunciation (sannyasi). Here, Brahmacariya meant merely the studentship, limited to the student days of one's life. But Brahmacariya in Buddhism is not limited to any particular period of life. It is valid for all stages of life and can be commenced by renunciation of the worldly life.
It is somewhat parallel to the sannyasi stage in the "varnasrama dharma" of the Brahmins. From this it becomes clear that the Brahmacariya in Buddhism, which developed from a pre-Buddhist idea, was identified as the path leading to the ending of defilement resulting in the destruction of suffering.
In general the term Brahma is used in the sense of Supreme, Noble, Highest, Holy and so on. This shows how important the idea of Brahma had been to the Brahmins and how much influence it exerted on Buddhism. It is also seen that in the canonical texts, the two terms Brahma and Dhamma are at time used co-terminously.
Terms such as Brahma-cakka, Dhamma-cakka, Brahma-bhuta, Dhamma-bhuta, Brahma-kaya, Dhamma-kaya, illustrate such synonymity of the two terms. This clearly shows that the Buddha used the pre-Buddhistic Brahma concept to give a new dimension to certain important Buddhist concepts.
Below we see why our US HARVARD in BOSTON MA is filled with those TRIBES OF ISRAEL, TRIBES OF MALTA, TRIBES OF BRAHMIN------you know, those global 1% OLD WORLD KINGS AND QUEENS.
ASIAN HINDI is steeped in the most RIGID CLASS structure in any OLD WORLD RELIGION. If you are born to a class you remain in that class-----which as US 99% OF WE THE PEOPLE know is NOT the AMERICAN government, societal, and education system driven by opportunity and access for 99% of WE THE PEOPLE black, white, and brown------Jewish, Muslim, Protestant, Catholic, as well as Hindi and Buddha.
So, regardless of those BUDDHIST/HINDI FADS we think are indeed good practice for periods of our lives when they are needed------the GORILLA-IN-THE-ROOM issues for HINDI/BUDDHIST religious structures are massive injustice, extreme wealth extreme poverty, far-right wing authoritarianism, dictatorship----YOU KNOW ----JUST WHAT MOVING FORWARD US CITIES DEEMED FOREIGN ECONOMIC ZONES have as a goal.
LIVING FOR TODAY ---SACK AND LOOT CIVILIZED SOCIETIES TO ACCUMULATE WEALTH AND POWER ANYWAY YOU CAN----IS VERY BUDDHIST/HINDI.
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Colonial Boston – The Boston Common in 1768
The Boston Brahmin or Boston elite are members of Boston's traditional upper class.
They form an integral part of the historic core of the East Coast establishment, along with other wealthy families of Philadelphia and New York City. They are often associated with the distinctive Boston Brahmin accent, Harvard University, Anglicanism and traditional Anglo-American customs and clothing. Descendants of the earliest English colonists, such as those who came to America on the Mayflower or the Arbella, are often considered to be the most representative of the Boston Brahmins'.
Remember, we have discussed how global 1% OLD WORLD KINGS AND QUEENS CATO/NERO/SENECA-----or GLOBAL 1% OLD WORLD KINGS AND QUEENS from NORDIC Europe created that GREEK and ROMAN god and goddesses with mythology looking much like HINDI both created 3000BC. So, ANCIENT GREEK/ROMAN pagan religions much like HINDI.
Who are they?
The Brahmin people are a prominent community spread across the whole of India. The Brahmin are the highest of the four Hindu castes, made up of priests and scholars of Vedic literature and their traditional occupation is to concern themselves with the spiritual guidance of the people, conduct rites at marriages, births, deaths and other auspicious occasions.
In practice the caste and the profession are not to be treated as one. All Brahmin are not priests. In fact, a majority of them are not and there is a striking range of diversities in terms of status and occupation among the Brahmin all over the country.
They are also identified by names such as Pandit, Purohit, Pujari and Shastri. Two broad territorial divisions exist among the Brahmin: the Panch Gour (Five Northerner) and the Panch Dravida (Five Southerner). These two groups are separated by the central Indian Vindhya mountain range that almost bisects the country into two equal parts. The five northern divisions are Saraswat (belonging to Punjab and named after the mythical Saraswati River), Gaur (in the Delhi region), Kanyakubja (named after the ancient city of Kanauj in present day Uttar Pradesh on the banks of the holy Ganges River), Maithili (in the region north of the Ganges in Bihar) and Utkal (an ancient name of Orissa).
The term Brahmin meant originally “one possessed of Brahman” – a mysterious magical force widely known to modern anthropologists by the Melanesian word mana. The name Brahmin was given to the first specially trained priest who superintended the sacrifice. By the end of the Rig Vedic period dating 1500-1000 BC, the term was used for all members of the priestly class. Within the order there were other divisions. The Brahmins of the later Vedic period dating 900-600 BC were divided into exogamous clans that restricted matrimonial choice and dictated ritual. This system, which was copied in part by other classes, has survived to the present day. Later the Brahmin formed many associate castes, linked together by endogamy and other common practices.
The Rig Veda is the oldest and perhaps the most sacred of all Hindu scriptures. It contains the mythological origin of the Brahmin which is most interesting. According to the “Hymn of the Primeval Man” in the Rig Veda, the god Prajapati (Lord of Beings), who is often identified with Brahma, the creator in the Hindu trinity – was sacrificed by his children. From this sacrifice the universe was produced, and the Brahmin originated from his mouth.
According to Hindu law and tradition, the spiritual and intellectual power of the Brahmin is strictly separate from the temporal power of the Kshatriya, the ruler or warrior class. However, over time, the two have maintained an alliance. The answer to the question ‘who is a Brahmin?’ emphasizes that character and spiritual inclination, rather than caste is what makes a Brahmin. Despite this, Indian society continues to place a premium on the status at birth.
What Are Their Lives Like?
The Brahmin’s traditional occupation is that of a priest. Brahmins have a variety of occupations. In Orissa, West Bengal, and Uttar Pradesh, many Brahmin own land and practice agriculture, but an increasing number are also in white-collar jobs, government service, business, household industry and astrology. In Rajasthan, agriculture forms their primary occupation but a few are traders, bankers, sculptors of idols and makers of wooden seats for the idols. In Chandigarh the Brahmin are gradually diversifying into administration, teaching, business, and the legal profession.
Although the Brahmin can follow any profession or means of livelihood, no one except a Brahmin can be a socially accepted priest. This was the main reason why many opposed the decision by the BJP government to offer a university degree in Hindu priesthood. The wider community would never accept the services of a non-Brahmin or lower caste priest.
The Brahmin has always taken an active part in politics. During the British period, Brahmins were the first to respond to English education and the first to benefit from political and administrative power. Since India’s independence in 1947 there has been large numbers of Cabinet Ministers, Chief Ministers, MPs and Members of the State Legislative Assemblies (MLAs). The first and longest-ruling Prime Minister of India, Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru was a Brahmin. The current Chief Minister of Uttaranchal is also a Brahmin.
The Brahmin community is predominantly strict vegetarians. In Punjab and Himachal Pradesh the younger generation eats meat. Rice, wheat and maize are the staple cereals. In arid regions such as Rajasthan, coarse cereals like bajra and jowar, which are millets, form an important part of the diet as well as lentils, seasonal vegetables and fruit and milk and dairy products. Most Brahmin men usually abstain from alcohol and smoking but for women, it is strictly forbidden. It is customary for a Brahmin to be given a good feast at ceremonies. Brahma-Bhojana or feeding Brahmins is a socio-spiritual obligation.
No matter how many articles from global banking 1% EAST INDIAN/HINDI media outlets try to sell the idea these CASTE SYSTEMS have been cast aside in modern history----that any BUDDHIST/HINDI religious movements have tried to end what is the most ancient HARDENED CLASS STRUCTURE-----India is of course ground zero for ROBBER BARON few years of massive frauds and corruption moving all India's wealth to that global 1% bringing 99% OF INDIANS to poverty just as in US.
One thing that is universal indeed is how these GLOBAL 1% OLD WORLD KINGS AND QUEENS love calling themselves priests and teachers when most are LYING, CHEATING, STEALING, NO MORALS OR ETHICS, NO GOD'S NATURAL LAW-----that is the only talent these 'TEACHER/PRIEST CLASS have. Super-duper BIG DEAD HEAD needed badly by these global 1%.
As we see WARRIOR CLASS-----in a HINDI religion that sells great tenets for peace, love, and understanding.
This is why BRITISH COLONIZATION of 3 INDIAS fit nicely with those global 1% OLD WORLD KINGS AND QUEENS' PAGAN religions.
An unofficial poll of our 99% of Asian citizens being brought to US FOREIGN ECONOMIC ZONES to be enslaved just as they were in these HINDI/BUDDHIST nations -----100% voted to be FREE US CITIZENS WITH RIGHTS-----while practicing real early 99% HINDI religion. 100% voted to get rid of their GLOBAL 1% AND THE 5% ASIAN PLAYERS.
What is India's caste system?
- 20 July 2017
India's caste system is among the world's oldest forms of surviving social stratification.
The BBC explains its complexities.
The system which divides Hindus into rigid hierarchical groups based on their karma (work) and dharma (the Hindi word for religion, but here it means duty) is generally accepted to be more than 3,000 years old.
How did caste come about?
Manusmriti, widely regarded to be the most important and authoritative book on Hindu law and dating back to at least 1,000 years before Christ was born, "acknowledges and justifies the caste system as the basis of order and regularity of society".
The caste system divides Hindus into four main categories - Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and the Shudras. Many believe that the groups originated from Brahma, the Hindu God of creation.
At the top of the hierarchy were the Brahmins who were mainly teachers and intellectuals and are believed to have come from Brahma's head. Then came the Kshatriyas, or the warriors and rulers, supposedly from his arms. The third slot went to the Vaishyas, or the traders, who were created from his thighs. At the bottom of the heap were the Shudras, who came from Brahma's feet and did all the menial jobs.
The main castes were further divided into about 3,000 castes and 25,000 sub-castes, each based on their specific occupation.
Outside of this Hindu caste system were the achhoots - the Dalits or the untouchables.
How does caste work?
For centuries, caste dictated almost every aspect of Hindu religious and social life, with each group occupying a specific place in this complex hierarchy.
Rural communities were long arranged on the basis of castes - the upper and lower castes almost always lived in segregated colonies, the water wells were not shared, Brahmins would not accept food or drink from the Shudras, and one could marry only within one's caste.
Traditionally, the system bestowed many privileges on the upper castes while sanctioning repression of the lower castes by privileged groups.
Often criticised for being unjust and regressive, it remained virtually unchanged for centuries, trapping people into fixed social orders from which it was impossible to escape. Despite the obstacles, however, some Dalits and other low-caste Indians, such as BR Ambedkar who authored the Indian constitution, and KR Narayanan who became the nation's first Dalit president, have risen to hold prestigious positions in the country.
Is the system legal?
Independent India's constitution banned discrimination on the basis of caste, and, in an attempt to correct historical injustices and provide a level playing field to the traditionally disadvantaged, the authorities announced quotas in government jobs and educational institutions for scheduled castes and tribes, the lowest in the caste hierarchy, in 1950.
In 1989, quotas were extended to include a grouping called the OBCs (Other Backward Classes) which fall between the traditional upper castes and the lowest.
In recent decades, with the spread of secular education and growing urbanisation, the influence of caste has somewhat declined, especially in cities where different castes live side-by-side and inter-caste marriages are becoming more common.
In certain southern states and in the northern state of Bihar, many people began using just one name after social reform movements. Despite the changes though, caste identities remain strong, and last names are almost always indications of what caste a person belongs to.
Both are prosperous and politically dominant communities, but they support their demand for caste quotas by saying large numbers in their communities are poor and suffering.
Some say the caste system would have disappeared by now if the fires were not regularly fanned by politicians.
At elections, many caste groups still vote as a block and are wooed by politicians looking for electoral gains.
As a result, what was originally meant to be a temporary affirmative action plan to improve the lot of the unprivileged groups has now become a vote-grabbing exercise for many politicians.
'The works of a Brahmin () are peace; self-harmony, austerity, and purity; loving-forgiveness and righteousness; vision and wisdom and faith'.
If we look we see above the same description of our FAKE OLD WORLD KINGS AND QUEENS royals CATO/NERO/SENECA all pretending to be righteous, pure, austere, peaceful but never quite able to EVER BE ANY OF THE ABOVE.
'Brahman as the Cosmic Soul is universal, permanent, indestructible, unique; it is the primordial essence, the ultimate ground of existence. The final goal came to be considered as the realization of the unity between Brahman and Atman; the realization of "oneness" between the universal soul and the individual soul'.
As we discussed------although HINDI place a great deal on describing each class and the steps to achieve NIRVANA BUDDHIST class----our 99% of HINDI people remain in these brutal lower classes forever being told it could take thousands of years and reincarnations to be one of those GLOBAL BANKING 1% BRAHMINS.
We can LOVE meditation----we can admire yoga-----we can strive for VEGAN -----we can think KARMA is simply our Christian GOD making what goes around come around------but not even our 99% of HINDI/BUDDHIST citizens want this societal structure to continue ----and will not put LIPSTICK ON THIS PIG of global banking 1% OLD WORLD KINGS AND QUEENS' 4000 years of refusing to EVOLVE.
Our 99% US WE THE PEOPLE black, white, and brown citizens will take those good HINDI/BUDDHIST tenets like KARMA-----and we want our 99% of new immigrant HINDI/BUDDHIST citizens to feel free to practice their HINDI beliefs----while TAKING A BOOT TO HINDI/INDIAN CASTE SYSTEM tied to keeping global 1% KINGS AND QUEENS always having all the wealth and power killing our 99% of WE THE PEOPLE.
WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND-----ROBBER BARON FEW DECADES OF SACKING AND LOOTING CIVIL SOCIETIES WITH CONTINUOUS CIVIL UNREST CIVIL WARS -----THAT KARMA BRINGS SOME POWERFUL RECOURSE.
Culture Club - Karma Chameleon
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This article is long but please glance through to get a general understanding of HINDI CASTE SYSTEM and the terms used to describe them.
The Caste System and
the Stages of Life in Hinduism
The pattern of social classes in Hinduism is called the "caste system." The chart shows the major divisions and contents of the system. Basic caste is called varn.a, , or "color." Subcaste, or jâti, , "birth, life, rank," is a traditional subdivision of varn.a. Sometimes "caste" is avoided as a word for varn.a. Whether or not that is done, it is common for "caste" to be used for the subcastes. Combined with the four "stages of life," the âshramas, , the system becomes the varn.âshramadharma, , the "dharma of classes and orders." One's duty, or dharma, , in life depends on the variables of caste, sex, and stage of life.
The Bhagavad Gita says this about the varn.as:
 The works of Brahmins, Ks.atriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudras are different, in harmony with the three powers of their born nature.
 The works of a Brahmin () are peace; self-harmony, austerity, and purity; loving-forgiveness and righteousness; vision and wisdom and faith.
 These are the works of a Ks.atriya (): a heroic mind, inner fire, constancy, resourcefulness, courage in battle, generosity and noble leadership.
 Trade, agriculture and the rearing of cattle is the work of a Vaishya (). And the work of the Shudra () is service.
[chapter 18, Juan Mascaró translation, Penguin Books, 1962]
There are literally thousands of subcastes in India, often with particular geographical ranges, occupational specializations, and an administrative or corporate structure. When Mahâtmâ Gandhi wanted to go to England to study law, he had to ask his subcaste, the Modh Bania, for permission to leave India. ("Bania", means "merchant," and "Gandhi" means "greengrocer" -- from gandha, "smell, fragrance," in Sanskrit -- and that should be enough for a good guess that Gandhi was a Vaishya.) Sometimes it is denied that the varn.as are "castes" because, while "true" castes, the jâtis, are based on birth, the varn.as are based on the theory of the gun.as (the "three powers" mentioned in the Gita). This is no more than a rationalization: the varn.as came first, and they are based on birth. The gun.as came later, and provide a poor explanation anyway, since the gun.a tamas is associated with both twice born and once born, caste and outcaste, overlapping the most important religious and social divisions in the system. Nevertheless, the varn.as are now divisions at a theoretical level, while the jâtis are the way in which caste is embodied for most practical purposes. Jâtis themselves can be ranked in relation to each other, and occasionally a question may even be raised about the proper varn.a to which a particular jâti belongs. As jâti members change occupations and they rise in prestige, a jâti may rarely even be elevated in the varn.a to which it is regarded as belonging.
The urge to deny that varn.as are "castes" is part of a larger apologetic that we can understand as a project to reform the more disturbing characteristics of traditional Hinduism. Given the eternity of the Vedas, it should be, strictly speaking, perplexing why and impossible that they need to be "reformed." If it can be denied, however, the morally objectionable practices were ever proper parts of Vedic religion, then we get both reform and eternal truths at the same time. Thus, the theory of varn.as was descriptive of individual talents and vocations, not of social station by birth. And, since, indeed, things like Untouchability are not even mentioned in sacred texts, such as the Bhagavad Gita, their illegitimacy is self-evident. Satî, ("suttee"), was not a traditional sanctified practice of burning widows, but a desperate measure by women to avoid rape by British soldiers [note]. "Thugee" was not a plague of murder and terror by devotees of Kâlî but a fiction invented by the British to discredit Hinduism. All of this may not seem entirely honest as history; but as a strategy for reform, its point may be sympathetically well taken. The habit of such creative interpretation, however, elicites less sympathy when it merely serves a nationalistic mythology, as discussed elsewhere.
Associated with each varn.a there is a traditional color. These sound suspiciously like skin colors; and, indeed, there is an expectation in India that higher caste people will have lighter skin -- although there are plenty of exceptions (especially in the South of India). This all probably goes back to the original invasion of the Arya, who came from Central Asia and so were undoubtedly light skinned. The people already in India were quite dark, even as today many people in India seem positively black. Apart from skin color, Indians otherwise have "Caucasian" features -- narrow noses, thin lips, etc. -- and recent genetic mapping studies seem to show that Indians are more closely related to the people of the Middle East and Europe than to anyone else. Because Untouchables are not a varn.a, they do not have a traditional color. I have supplied blue, since this is otherwise not found, and it is traditionally used for the skin color of Vis.n.u and his incarnations. Chief among those is Kr.s.n.a (Krishna), whose name actually means "black" or "dark," but he is always shown blue rather than with some natural skin color.
The first three varn.as are called the twice born -- dvija, . This has nothing to do with reincarnation. Being "twice born" means that you come of age religiously, making you a member of the Vedic religion, eligible to learn Sanskrit, study the Vedas, and perform Vedic rituals. The "second birth" is thus like Confirmation or a Bar Mitzvah. This understanding may be interestingly compared with the assertion of the Shatapatha Brâhman.a that:
Unborn, indeed, is a man so long as he does not sacrifice. It is through the sacrifice that he is born, just as an egg first burst. [Patrick Olivelle, The Âs´rama System, Oxford, 1993, p.39]
But sacrifice is performed by a householder, not by a student. The Brâhman.a posits three births, first from the womb (which is compared to a fire and even to an altar in its own right), then from sacrifice (on the household fire altar), and finally in the cremation fire. But if we compare this to the four stages of life, there is a curious parallel. The student is born again but actually labors in preparation to become a householder, who is characterized by sacrifice (which cannot be done without marriage). This parallels the stage of the wandering ascetic, who ritually dies at the moment of renunciation but then labors in preparation for actual death and cremation. So, if cremation is a form of rebirth, then renunciation is the rehearsal for this as studenthood is for sacrifice. I am not aware, however, that much is ever really made of this comparison.
According to the Laws of Manu (whose requirements may not always be observed in modern life), boys are "born again" at specific ages: 8 for Brahmins; 11 for Ks.atriyas; and 12 for Vaishyas. A thread is bestowed at the coming of age to be worn around the waist as the symbol of being twice born. The equivalent of coming of age for girls is marriage -- although women are not always considered part of the âshrama system at all. Nevertheless, the bestowal of the thread is part of the wedding ceremony. That part of the wedding ritual is even preserved in Jainism. Ancient Iran also had a coming of age ceremony that involved a thread. That and other evidence leads to the speculation that the three classes of the twice born are from the original Indo-European social system -- the theory of Georges Dumézil. Even the distant Celts believed in three social classes. The three classes of Plato's Republic thus may not have been entirely his idea. Although there must have been a great deal of early intermarriage in India, nowhere did such an Indo-European social system become as rigid a system of birth as there. The rigidity may well be due to the influence of the idea of karma, that poor birth is morally deserved.
According to the Laws of Manu, when the twice born come of age, they enter into the four âshramas, , or "stages of life." I notice that dictionaries I have, both of Sanskirt and Hindi, say that these apply to Brahmins. But there is no doubt, from the Laws of Manu and from the history, that all they apply to all the twice born. Nevertheless, various anomalous constructions of the system occur.
Thus the Vâmana Purân.a confines the stage of wandering ascetic to Brahmins, denies studenthood to Vaishyas, and allows householdership to Shudras. Denying studenthood to Vaishyas and allowing any âshrama to Shudras contradicts almost every authority on dharma, including other parts of the Vâmana Purân.a itself. These provisions apparently result from the kind of systematizing beloved of the tradition, i.e. that Brahmins live four stages, Ks.atriyas three, Vaishyas two, and Shudras one. An element of that may reflect the actual debate that, since marriage defines householdership, and since Shudras do legitimately marry, then they legitimately become householders. Nevertheless, the âshramas were only rarely allowed to include the once born, and at times Shudras were sanctioned with death for ascetic practices. More orthodox but still anomalous is the version in the Vaikhânasa Dharmasûtra, which allows all four âshramas for Brahmins, the first three for Ks.atriyas, and the first two for Vaishyas. This excludes Shudras and provides studenthood for Vaishyas, but it limits or abolishes the ascetic stages outside the Brahmin varn.a.
Less systematized was how long the stages should each last, and various versions can be found. The Nâradaparivrâjaka Upanis.ad specified 12 years for a student and 25 years for both householder and forest dweller. Adding the 8 years of childhood for a Brahmin, this adds up to 70 years -- coincidentally the Biblical "three score and ten." The ideal Indian lifespan, however, was more like between 100 and 116 years, which leaves a very long time for the Brahmin to be a wandering acetic. I suspect that it would have been unusual, however, for a Ks.atriya or Vaishya to have lived with a teacher even as much as the share of the first 20 years allowed by their later coming-of-age.
The first is the brahmacarya, , or the stage of the student (brahmacârî ). For boys, the student is supposed to go live with a teacher (guru, ), who is a Brahmin, to learn about Sanskrit, the Vedas, rituals, etc. The dharma, , of a student includes being obedient, respectful, celibate, and non-violent. "The teacher is God." The student is supposed to be respectful of the teacher even behind his back. A comparable status of the teacher, without quite the same religious dimension or obligation, can be found in China. For girls, the stage of studenthood coincides with that of the householder, and the husband stands in the place of the teacher. Since the boys are supposed to be celibate while students, Gandhi used the term brahmacâri to mean the celibate practitioner that he thought made the best Satyagrahi, the best non-violent activist. There may be an echo in this of the provision in the Laws of Manu that a student, a Brahmin in particular, may remain with his teacher's family for his entire life. This is one of the points in the tradition that conflicts with another proposition in Manu, that "if a twice-born seeks renunciation without studying the Vedas, without fathering sons, and without offering sacrifices [i.e. discharged the "three debts"], he will proceed downward [The Law Code of Manu, translated by Patrick Olivelle, Oxford, 2004, 6:37, p.101]. In completing his time with a teacher, the student takes a ritual bath, and thus becomes a , snâtaka, a "bath-graduate." This may be regarded as the equivalent of becoming a householder, but it is distinct both from the ritual return to the parents, the samâvartana, and from the marriage that genuinely establishes a householder. These ritual separations are also consistent with the practice of disfavored alternatives, such as continuing as a student for life or renouncing ordinary life as a forest dweller or wandering ascetic. Because of this possibility, one dharma authority called the pre-graduate student a vidyârtha, , "desirous of knowledge," and only the post-graduate student a true brahmacârî. This distinction, however, did not catch on.
The second stage is the gârhasthya, , or the stage of the householder, which is taken far more seriously in Hinduism than in Jainism or Buddhism and is usually regarded as mandatory, like studenthood, although debate continued over the centuries whether or not this stage could be skipped in favor of a later one (especially with Brahmins). Being a householder is the stage where the principal dharma of the person is performed, whether as priest, warrior, etc., or for women mainly as wife and mother. Arjuna's duty to fight the battle in the Bhagavad Gita comes from his status as a householder. Besides specific duties, there are general duties that pay off the three R.n.a, , "Debts":
a debt to the ancestors, the Manes in the comparable and probably related Roman practice, that is discharged by marrying and having sons. One may not be regarded as a true householder until married;
a debt to the gods that is discharged by the household rituals and sacrifices, which in general cannot be performed except by man and wife together; and
a debt to the teacher and the seers that is discharged by becoming a student and then appropriately teaching one's wife, children, and, for Brahmins, other students.
The three debts are sometimes associated with the three Gods of the Trimûrti -- the ancestor debt with Brahmâ, the gods debt with Vis.n.u, and the teacher debt with Shiva. One way the debts were discharged is through the five daily Mahâyajña, , or "Great Sacrifices":
the pitr.yajña, , offerings of food and water to the ancestors, without which the Manes were originally believed to suffer in the afterlife, a reference to which still occurs at Bhagavad Gita 1:42;
the devayajña, , sacrificial offerings to the gods, as a fire oblation, requiring that a sacred fire be kept in the house (like the Persian fire altar), a ritual act that, again, can only be performed by husband and wife together;
the brahmayajña, , Vedic recitation or study as devotion;
the bhûtayajña, , offerings to all beings, the bali, , offering, which may be food thrown into the air and largely consumed by birds; and
the manus.yayajña, , human (manus.yâ) offerings, through charity or hospitality.
What we do not see in these specific practices it anything that would discharge the debt to the teacher, unless it is the brahmayajña. Nevertheless, while the number the debts is all but universally given as three, there are texts that add a debt of hospitality as a fourth. Thus, there is a curious connection between the three debts and the five sacrifices, which is reminiscent of that between the three gun.as and the five elements, seen elsewhere. The original three elements clearly match up with the gun.as, but later expand, while the sacrifices may easily be seen as discharging particular debts -- hence the temptation to posit a debt of hospitality. The two systems, however, have resisted complete systematization and identification.
The burden of the debts and the sacrifices addresses the first and socially most important of the four aims or values of life, the purus.ârtha, . While it has become common to link the purus.ârtha to the âshramas, this is a recent occupation that is based on no classic texts. Nevertheless, it is reasonable to wonder how the aims and the stages of life do relate to each other.
dharma, , the manner of one's duties, determined by caste, sex, and stage of life. Dharma applies in being a student, a householder, and, in attenuated form, a forest dweller. The wandering ascetic is beyond dharma and beyond caste but, however, is restricted to men.
artha, , is material success in life, and the word can mean business, work, profit, utility, wealth, money, and also political experience and knowledge. It can involve practical wisdom at both the personal and public level, like in Greek. As such, it is a concern only for householders, and not in the least for students, forest dwellers, or wandering ascetics. The householder, indeed, surrenders his possessions to his sons on becoming a forest dweller. However, the wisdom of the forest dweller or even the wandering ascetic sometimes may have application in public affairs. The study, theory, or text on artha is arthashâstra, . Although previously including works that might be compared to Machiavelli's The Prince, in Hindi, arthashâstra now just means "economics." For politics, Hindi has a new word, râjtantra, , which is the tantra, the "basis, chief doctrine, theory," of râj, "kingship."
kâma, , is pleasure, which is a concern that also may be confined to the householder, but it can also exist in attenuated form, or as a matter of yogic practice, in the forest dweller.
moks.a, , is liberation or salvation, which in Hinduism (as in Jainism and Buddhism) will mean leaving the cycle of rebirth. This is the primary concern and occupation of the forest dweller and the sole concern of the wandering ascetic. The doctrine of karmayoga, , expounded in the Bhagavad Gita, means that liberation can be obtained by the householder in the course of practicing his dharma. Also, we would expect that the life long student, who never becomes a householder, would also have this as an exclusive focus, even while fulfilling his duties to his teacher. Karmayoga, however, has not been a popular practice in modern religion, and is sometimes not even regarded as a means to salvation.
The third stage is the vânaprasthya, , the stage of the forest dweller, or vaikhânasa, , the anchorite. This may be entered into optionally, according to Manu, if (ideally) one's hair has become gray, one's skin wrinkled, and a grandson exists to carry on the family. Husbands and wives may leave their affairs and possessions with their children and retire together to the forest as hermits. A hermit cannot step on plowed land. This does not involve the complete renunciation of the world, for husbands and wives can still build a shelter, have sex (once a month), and a sacred fire still should be kept and minimal rituals performed. This stage is thus not entirely free of dharma. The Forest Treatises were supposed to have been written by or for forest dwellers, who have mostly renounced the world and have begun to consider liberation. I am not aware that forest dwelling is still practiced in the traditional way. The modern alternatives seem to consist of the more stark opposition between householding and becoming a wandering ascetic. Forest dwelling is an institution that doesn't really develop as such in Jainism and Buddhism, although we do have the Buddha repairing to a forest outside the traveling season -- a practice that will develop into Buddhist monasticism. Hinduism, which might be said to now lack true monasticism -- i.e. there are no monasteries or convents -- nevertheless has mendicants and hermits, where the hermits include these forest dwelling married couples. The idea that husbands and wives would engage in ascetic practices together, without celibacy, would appear extraordinary. In those terms, it is an unfortunate loss if the institution does not continue in modern Hinduism. We see a good deal of forest dwelling in the Mahâbhârata, where Pan.d.u, who himself is on a kind of retreat with his wives in the forest, hoping to overcome his strange reluctance to consummate his marriages, accidentially kills an adept and his wife, who have assumed the form of animals, in the very act of their copulation -- and so is cursed. Pan.d.u and his wives had previously accepted (non-sexual) instruction from this very couple. Such an episode not only illustrates various uses for forest dwelling, but it reveals that specifically sexual practices can be among them. It is ironic that forest dwelling should have become obsolete, when the term âshrama, , originally meant a "heritmage," and when it continues in modern usage, as Hindi âshram, to mean a spiritual retreat, not unlike the original forest dwelling. The modern Ashram, however, is not seen as part of traditional life and is often associated with non-standard or even disreputable teachings and practices from popular and sometimes heterodox gurus.
The fourth stage is the sannyâsa (sãnyâsa), , or the stage of the wandering ascetic, the sannyâsî (sãnyâsî), , sâdhu, , or biks.u, . If a man desires, he may continue on to this stage, but his wife will need to return home; traditionally she cannot stay alone as a forest dweller or wander the highways as a mendicant ascetic, begging for food. The sannyâsî has renounced the world completely, is regarded as dead by his family (the funeral is held), and is (usually) beyond all dharma and caste. He (usually) surrenders the sacred thread he received when he came of age, and all the sacrifices and rituals of daily life are abandoned. Not just ritually but legally the sannyâsî is released from debts and contracts, cannot enter into legal transactions or be a witness in court, and is supposed to be immune from fines, tolls, and taxes. Indeed, with no possessions, it is not clear how an ascetic could be responsible for the latter. When a sannyâsî enters a Hindu temple, he is not a worshiper but one of the subjects of worship. Not even the gods are sannyâsîs (they are householders), and so this is where in Hinduism, as in Jainism and Buddhism, it is possible for human beings to be spiritually superior to the gods. It has long been a matter of dispute in Hinduism whether one need really fulfill the requirements of the Laws of Manu (gray hair, etc.) to renounce the world. The Mahâbhârata says that Brahmins may go directly to Renunciation, but it also says that the three debts must be paid -- and the debt to the ancestors could only be paid with husbands and wives living together either as householders or, if renunciates, as forest dwellers (indeed, the Pân.d.avas are all born in that way). There are definitely no such requirements in Jainism or Buddhism. The Buddha left his family right after his wife had a baby, to the distress of his father, which would put him in the middle of his dharma as a householder (today there would be lawsuits). Buddhism and Jainism thus developed monastic institutions, with monks and nuns. For a while, it looked like something similar might develop in Hinduism. By the 8th century AD, a Brahmin might enter a monastery, a mat.ha, ; but such institutions seem to have died out, and the dharma authorities never recognized a renunicatory way of life apart from mendicancy. Today, while wandering ascetics are rather like mendicant monks, we lack monasteries and nuns, and the Hindu ascetics are, ideally, supposed to have already lived something like a normal, lay life. Of course, there is no certification or enforcement of this, as historically it has been often disputed. Chapter Three of the Bhagavad Gita embodies a debate of just such an issue. What if someone renounces the world and changes their mind? Having abandoned caste and dharma, he does not get them back. The authorities regarded an ascetic "apostate" as an Outcaste; and if he marries, his children will also be Outcastes.