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Hinduism and Varnashrama

 

Most of the people in India and abroad are made to believe that Varna system and Ashrama system are parts of Indian culture or parts of Hinduism. Actually both have their roots in falsehood. Indian priests and hermits propagated this falsehood to gain more honour and popularity.

(A) Varna System:

 In this system it is presupposed that God divided society into four varnas -- Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra. Here varna means class. Hinduism believes in classless society. But hypocrites by their own imagination made additions in Manu Smriti to perpetuate their self-interest. So Manu Smriti in present form gives a bad smell of divisiveness, conspiracy and degradation of thought. So called Manu Smriti says that the duty of the Brahmin is to study and teach, to sacrifice, and to give and receive gifts; the Kshatriya must protect the people, sacrifice and study; the Vaishya also sacrifices and studies but his chief function is to breed cattle, to till the earth, to pursue trade and lend money; the Shudra’s duty is only to serve the three higher classes.

Prof. A. L, Basham writes in his famous book, “The wonder that was India” that Indian religious texts were written by Brahmins and from the brahmanic point of view and represent conditions as the Brahmins would have liked them to be. Thus it is not surprising that they claim the utmost honour for the priestly class and exalt it above measure. Such boastful additions in religious texts ensured that “The Brahmin was a great divinity in human form. His spiritual power was such that he could instantly destroy the king and his army if they attempted to infringe his rights. In law he claimed great privileges and in every respect he demanded precedence, honour and worship.

The division of society into four classes got credibility in resurgent India because great scholars like Swami Dayanand, Dr. Radha Krishnan and Swami Nirvedanand stood as advocates in support of varna system. Swami Dayanand the founder of ‘Arya Samaj’ in his book ‘Satyarth Prakash’ gives lucid explanation about the significance of different names of one God. But he relies heavily on Manu Smriti to support Varnashram system. Dr. Radha Krishnan, a great philosopher writes in his book ‘The Hindu View of Life’ (Chapter IV Hindu Dharma II) – “The first reference to varna system is in the Purush Sukta, where the different sections of society are regarded as the limbs of the great self.  Human society is an organic whole, the parts of which are naturally dependent in such a way that each part in fulfilling its distinctive function conditions the fulfillment of function by the rest, and so in turn conditioned by the fulfillment of its function by the rest….The cultural and the spiritual, the military and the political, the economic classes and the unskilled workers constitute the fourfold caste organization….The serenity of the teacher, the heroism of the warrior, the honesty of the businessman and the patience and energy of the worker all contribute to the social growth. Each has its own perfection….The Brahmins were allowed freedom and leisure to develop the spiritual ideals and broadcast them….The Brahmins, as the advisers of the Government, point out the true interests of society….Hindu society made room for a group dedicated to the use of force, the Kshatriyas….The economic group of the Vaishyas were required to suppress greed and realize the moral responsibilities of wealth…..The unskilled workers and peasants form the proletariat, the Shudras….When a new group is taken into the fold of Hinduism, it is affiliated with one of the four castes.” Swami Nirvedanand in his book ‘Hinduism at a glance’ considers Varnashrama Dharma as part of Hinduism and it should be strictly followed by the Hindus who have family, means of livelihood and want to fulfill their desires.

Varna system has created dalits (the depressed classes) and other backward classes. They oppose varna system and hegemony of Brahmins in spiritual field. The spread of democracy at the grass root level has made these classes politically and economically strong. Now fight is for social justice. Groupings on the basis of upper castes and lower castes or forward castes and backward castes are made to get reservations in services. Even Brahmins are no more interested in the job of priesthood. In reality Brahmins have lost their hegemony in spiritual field. They have poor knowledge of Sanskrit. In northern India, ‘Ram Charit Manas’ written by Tulsi Das has been declared a religious book. This book is full of falsehood. It contains derogatory remarks against women. It broadcasts inequality and servitude in the name of religion and devotion to God. A favourite book of hypocrites it naturally supports varna system and ashrama system. To repudiate the false propaganda of divisive forces, it is necessary to know the reality:

(1) The supporters of varna system quote a hymn of Purush Sukta contained in Rig Veda which says----

Brahmin was his mouth,

Of his arms was made the warrior,

His thighs became the Vaishya,

Of his feet the Shudra was born.

Vedas say that God is formless. No one can see God. God expands himself to create the universe. This universe being the body of God, every thing is divine. If we wish to see God we should see all creatures, the earth, the sun, the moon, stars and galaxies, air, water, fire and anything else that our mind can conceive. God in this visible form is called Purush or Virat. First five hymns of Purush Sukta of Rig Veda say that:

(a)   God in material shape has innumerable heads, eyes and feet and all the things of the earth reside in his fingers.

(b)   The past and the future rest in that Purush. He, the owner of immortality, expands Himself through food.

(c)   The exaltation of His might is so great that all animate and inanimate objects of creation depict only one-fourth of what He is.

(d)   The three of His four forms are invisible and above the conception of mind. In his fourth form Virat He pervades all beings, animate and inanimate (eaters and non-eaters).

(e)   He expanded himself into the universe which became his body. He is called Virat in this manifestation. The earth and all creatures become part of this body.

It is clear from these hymns that Purush Sukta has been composed in exaltation of Virat. It has nothing to do with theory of creation. Only these five hymns find place in all the Vedas. To be specific Sam Veda contains only these five hymns. Other hymns added in Purush Sukta are an interpolation. Any prudent reader can grasp the vicious motive behind it. Actually, the theory of creation finds place in Nasdiya Sukta (10-11-129), Hiranyagarbha Sukta(10-10-121) and Vishvakarma Sukta(10-6-81) of Rig Veda and the description has some scientific basis. Therefore, the divine theory of varna system is totally false. Vedas do not approve varna system or stratification of society into four classes. 

(2) Even if we accept Purush Sukta in its present form, we see that there is no mention of varna in the interpolated hymn. Mere mention of Brahman, Rajanya, Vaishya or Shudra in the hymn has no meaning unless it specifically says that the words are meant for division of society into varnas or castes. The formless God with the qualities of omni-presence cannot be given a human shape. Moreover, mouth organ cannot be said to be superior to feet. In human beings the dumb, the armless, and the lame are put under the category of the crippled. Thus a Brahmin cannot be said to be at the top in social stratification. AS Vedas do not allot any duty to so called four classes, the Manu Smriti in its present form is the work of divisive forces and enemies of humanity. The attempt of Swami Dayanand to support varna system on the basis of Purush Sukta and Manu Smriti lacks the prudence that he showed elsewhere in his book ‘Satyarth Prakash’. The statement of Dr. Radha Krishnan that being allowed freedom and leisure to develop the spiritual ideals, the Brahmins as the advisers of Government pointed out the true interests of society is also wrong. During the Gupta period Brahmins were put in a very exalted position. But what they did can be traced very easily. They professed untouchability to protect the interests of their uncouth sons and daughters. They wrote false stories of boons and curses to prove that asceticism gives supernatural powers. In these stories good persons were cursed on frivolous grounds by Rishis to become demons. On the whole of the earth India was the only country where demons were in plenty and Brahmins had to invoke Vishnu to take avatars to crush those demons. This was not enough. Goddess Durga became Mahishasurmardini. One God having the name of Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva or Indra was told to have separate entity. False stories of Shiva-Parvati marriage were written to promote dowry. Vedas believed in gender equality. But Brahmins lowered the position of women. They cast aspersions on their character. The story of test of Sita’s chastity by Ram and the story of Sita’s exile while she was pregnant were written by making interpolations in the Ramayana. The developed spiritual ideals of Brahmins fabricated stories of Sati Savitri and Satyavan. They wrote that wives of Krishna and Balram immolated themselves on the funeral pyres of their husbands. The word ‘sati’ means a virtuous woman. But it was propagated that it meant self-immolation on the death of her husband. Hindus were divided as Vaishnavas, Shaivas, Shaktas or Ganapatyas. Their gods liked flattery and accepted bribes in the name of bhakti. The names of Vishnu, Shiva, Indra, Ram and Krishna and also of rishis were misused to propagate deceit, injustice, revelry and voluptuousness. Puranas like Srimad Bhagvat unfold the minds of so called enlightened men. They wrote in the name of Vyas that Lord Krishna stole the garments of Gopies to see their nude bodies. They made Gopies as concubines of Krishna. They forced poor girls to marry with idols of gods in the temples and called them Devadasis. Priests were free to have sexual intercourse with them. They became gods of earth and made their kings avatars of Vishnu or Shiva. Thus priests of temples or Purohits among Brahmins and kings among Kshatriyas spent their time in luxury. The learned Brahmins wasted their time in defeating other scholars through shastrartha just to prove their acumen. The valiant kings filled with superiority complex fought with their rivals. No efforts were made for social and political unity. Selfishness of Brahmin scholars hindered the growth of Hinduism and egotism of various rulers threw India into servitude for hundreds of years. Hindus were exploited in the name of religion. Most of them became superstitious and coward. Actually the varna system based on falsehood, personification of gods, propagation of excessive dependence on God, spread of social inequality and untouchability produced distortions in Hindu society.

(3) There is no difference between varna and caste so far as the Brahmins and Kshatriyas are concerned. Even conservatives among both the communities easily agree for savarna marriages. Same is not the case with Vaishyas and Shudras. Actually there is no community or caste of Vaishyas or Shudras. This would again prove that varna system is imaginary and based on falsehood. The word Vaishya is derived from Sanskrit word ‘vish’ which means group or mass of people. In monarchy it refers to subjects. In democracy it refers to general public or citizens. This word has nothing to do with earning of wealth through trade, commerce or business. Business community alone cannot claim to be Vaishyas. In the same way the word Shudra has no connection with working class or people engaged in service. The word Shudra is derived from the Sanskrit root ‘Shudh’ which means to purify or to cleanse. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad says that this earth is Shudra because it purifies everything. A farmer also cultivates and cleanses his field to grow and have a good crop. Thus only agriculturists can be called as Shudras. In any case the words ‘Vaishya’ and ‘Shudra’ do not refer to lower layers of society.

    Those who call themselves dalits(the depressed) or backward should muse over one thing. “The same flame kindles in them as it kindles in forward or upper classes.” They should shed their inferiority complex. When India was under British rule, Indians like Mahatma Gandhi suffered humiliation. India herself was called the country of snake-charmers. Now the whole world recognizes the potentiality and prowess of India. In democracy all are the masters of their own destiny. Feelings of high and low hinder the progress and unity of a country or of a community. One should not abuse Hinduism for one’s predicament. New generation of Brahmins is by and large progressive in outlook. Poor Brahmins are themselves struggling for their livelihood. Stray incidents of misbehaviour by priests of temples depict not only their ignorance but also the superstition of devotees. In the last it is again pertinent to know that Hinduism believes in social equality and varna system is the propagation of falsehood only.           

(B) Ashrama System:

It is supposed that human life has a span of about one hundred years. Ashrama system divides the span of human life into four stages or Ashramas namely (a) Brahmacharya or the period of training and learning (b) Garhasthya or the period of work for the world as a householder and of enjoying married life (c) Vanprasthya or the period of retreat for loosening of social bonds and (d) Sannyasa or the period of renunciation and expectant awaiting of freedom or moksha. Prof. A. L. Basham commenting on this system writes, “This scheme, of course, represents the ideal rather than the real. Many young men never passed through the first stage of life in the form laid down, while only a few went beyond the second. Many of the hermits and ascetics of ancient India were evidently not old men, and had either shortened or omitted the stage of householder. The series of four stages is evidently an idealization of the facts, and an artificial attempt to find room for the conflicting claims of study, family life, and asceticism in a single life. It is possible that the system of Ashramas was evolved partly as a counterblast to the Unorthodox sects such as Buddhism and Jainism, which encouraged young men to take up asceticism, and by-pass family life altogether, a practice which did not receive the approval of the orthodox, though in later times provision was made for it.”

Vedas do not approve Ashram system. Swami Dayanand takes the help of Manu Smriti to explain the conduct and duties of each Ashram. Actually Manu as a rishi or as a great king never existed. Like the story of Adam and Eve, the story of Manu and Shatarupa is an imaginative creation. One example may be enough to prove that this system cannot be an ideal for Hindus. Suppose a man leads a celibate and austere life as a student at the home of his teacher till he attains the age of twenty-five years. Then he marries and spends his life as a householder till he becomes about fifty years old. It is also prescribed that his wife should be younger to him. Considering the time of menopause she would be producing children even if her husband crosses the age of fifty. The ashram system says that thereafter the third stage of life begins and the man along with his wife should go to forests. Now the question arises who will nurture the children. After completing the age of seventy-five years one is supposed to become sannyasi or homeless wanderer living on alms. Think of the burden imposed on the householder. People of other three ashrams would be directly or indirectly dependent on householders. The three stages of life adding nothing to national income would put pressure on the national resources. If ashram system is accepted as an ideal people would become poorer and poorer. Poverty would cause malnutrition. Malnutrition may lead to poor health and loss of stamina. Such citizens of a nation cannot defend their nation’s honour, integrity or independence. Vedas actually say that being engaged in work one should long to live for hundred years. Thus Ashram system was introduced to befool Hindus. Ashram system promotes only indolence and inertness..   

 

 

Article written by Sushil Kumar Srivastava, author of Book "Gauravshali Bharat"  published by 'Sahitya Sewa Sadan', Nirala Nagar, Rae Bareli
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