[Assam] caste system

xourov pathok xourov at yahoo.com
Tue Apr 4 13:54:25 EDT 2006

--- Rajib Das <rajibdas at yahoo.com> wrote:

> Some responses to the points you have made:
> 1. As per my readings, earlier it used to be called
> just Dharma (not Varnashrama Dharma) and Dharma
> became
> Sanatana Dharma later when other religions came
> about
> on Indian soil which are also essentially Dharmic in
> origin. I haven't really found a reference to the
> whole of Hinduism being represented as Varnashrama
> Dharma anywhere. 

dharma is a general term that roughly means "duty"
(set of prescribed conduct leading to release from
life-death).  it does not signify any particular duty,
so it does not signify any particular religion. it has
been used by religions other than hinduism (eg
buddhism).  If it implied hinduism in particular,
buddhism would not have used it.

even if we ignored the other religions, dharma on its
own does not specify the hindu religion.  this is
because there are 4 different sets of dharmas for the
4 different varnas.  to specify the religion, you need
to specify the system that binds these different
dharmas together.  which is varnashrama.

"sanatana" means eternal.  so you are right, it was
another appelation used to emphasize the point that
Hinduism had no beginning, unlike say Jainism and
Buddhism.  It was the original religion.

> 2. No doubt - Manusmriti is where the Varnas are
> codified into an unjust social order. But Manusmriti
> came much much later and was not a part of the
> original scriptures - those that ONLY some consider
> as
> infallible in Hinduism. Manusmriti can be thrown
> away
> very easily. And that is where my questions were
> regarding what exactly did you find in the original
> scriptures (the Rig Veda if you may) regarding a
> hereditary system of Varna. And how much does it
> impact the core essence of Hinduism.  

according to accepted dates, the manusrimiti is closer
to the vedas in time than it is to the present. 
nevertheless, you will not find a pure original state
between the vedic and the manu times.  your
originalist attempt will therefore give you only half
a desired result and your choices will reflect your
present needs, not original edicts from the past.

i am actually not surprised that you want to just make
the varna system non-hereditary, and not remove the
varna system entirely. 

> 3. The fight for Dalits and Tribals is one of the
> many
> elements of the interest in throwing Varna out.
> There
> are others such as OBCs, SCs and in certain regions
> even Brahmins that clamor for change. By itself it
> is
> a noble enough cause for which there would be
> transformation. In fact, the VHP's highly successful
> strategy in the tribal belt of Gujarat is about 2/3
> things: Social Welfare, a non-Varna system and the
> restoration of the village deities. Is there
> anything
> wrong with the whole idea?

this is primarily a political issue.  a few decades
ago, there were anti-dalit riots in gujarat which
basically led to the KHAM electoral alliance and
decades of congress rule.  what the vhp was able to do
was turn some in the KHAM against the others.  the
muslims had protected the dalits from the rioters
then, but in the post-godhra riots, the dalits and the
adivasis turned against the muslims.  also, it turned
the fortune of the bjp party, which was reeling after
the cooperative bank scams.

so are you asking whether the "gujarat experiment",
which climaxed with the post-godhra riots, is wrong?

> I am not convinced with what has been presented that
> the Varna system as defined in the original
> scriptures
> (and NOT Manusmriti) is the most defining aspect of
> Hinduism. I am not convinced also that if the Varna
> system is thrown out or modified it will result in
> contradictions in the essence of Hinduism coming to
> the fore. My questions really was about addressing
> this point - not about whether in my personal
> capacity
> I am a Hindu or not.

its fine if you aren't convinced.  whatever makes you
happy :)


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