Sunday, September 16, 2012

Dvija - Rescuing Varna from Jaati

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Thoughts continued from these previous posts.

My Priya Bandhujan,

Upanishad Ganga has begun churning minds. Here is a snapshot of this ongoing manthana in my mind after watching the episode of Chanakya and Varna-Vyavastha. More than the episode itself, this bharatvaakya of the episode had a lasting impact.

जन्मना जायते शूद्रः. संस्कारात् द्विजं उच्यते |
वेद-पाठात् भवेत् विप्रः ब्रह्म जानाति ब्राह्मणः| स्कंदपुराण ६.२३९.३१

Everyone is Shudra by birth. With Sanskaras (the system of 16 sanskaras in dharma) makes a person "Dvija". Mastering Vedas (knowledge) makes one "Vipra". One becomes a "Brahmana" as he attains "Brahma-Jnana".

applying modern context - 

Everyone is Shudra by birth. After enrolling in school (Upanayana sanskara) and graduation (Samaavartana) one becomes Dvija (twice born). After becoming a "master" of a particular stream of knowledge, one becomes a "Vipra". And after attaining "Brahma-Jnaana" one becomes Brahmana.

If one looks at most of the Smriti verses dealing with "dharmaarthik" theories pertaining to Purushaartha-trayi (Dharma-artha-kaama i.e. politics and economy, jurisprudence, personal lifestyle), the most frequent term used is "Dvija". 

Dvija is one who has initiated his formal education in an institution which is recognized by sociopolity of given space and time. Initiation of education is marked by Upanayana Sanskaara (admission to primary school in modern context) and Samaavartana sanskaara (graduation - HSC OR Bachelor's degree). All scriptures are unanimous at giving these two sanskaras to three varnas. In modern context, we have amended it to include all 4 Varnas (a welcome decision). 

In days of current dharma-shaastra (constitution of India and Hindu civil code suite), all those who have completed formal education up to at the least HSC and at the most Bachelor's level is a "Dvija". 

As far as Brahmanas are concerned, well, that is subjective. But all know such Brahmanas in and around our lives and times. That is "Adhyatmika" aspect and falls outside the scope of my capability and experience. Hence I respectfully tiptoe and desist speaking about it, until I have credible "Pratyaksha Pramaana".

Those who choose to specialize and become authorities in a particular field of knowledge (PhD, Post-Doctoral researcher, associate/assistant/ full professor, having published the fruits of his/her deliberations in a peer-reviewed platform) can be called as a "Vipra" (vip + ra - vaguely translated as praiseworthy brightness). In all these, categories, a person is expected to live on donations by parents, society, King and Vaishyas. And even in modern times, these guys do live off the donations (we call is grants). Ironically, the fact that most of our "vipras" now a days are busy applying for grants here and there, instead of spreading their luminescence (research), shows that this system too has begun its decline and will shed and evolve into something else shortly. 

In none of the above categories, does (rather SHOULD) one really care about "Jaati". One beautiful sentence from TV series Upanishad ganga - 

जो सत्य कह सके, सत्य सून सके, सत्य धारण कर सके, श्रेष्ठ ज्ञान का अधिकारी वही होता है   One who can speak truth, listen to truth, bear the truth, only he can attained greater knowledge.

This actually gives us platform to serially dismantle this distorted system. Jaati-System is here to stay. One has to dissociate the word "brahmana" from various jaatis like "Muhiyal", "Bhumihar", "Chitpavan", "Deshastha", "Vaidiki", "Niyogi", "Iyer", "Aiyangar", "Namboothiri" so on and so forth. All these are merely "jaatis" and should have no right to place the word "Brahmana" after them, unless they really follow the "dharma of brahmana varna". Of course, thanks to Britishers  the words Brahmana and Kshatriya are perhaps tainted permanently, we may need to find a new word which imply the meaning depicted in the opening Shloka of this post.

Varnashrama functions on ratio of Varnas in society. With onslaught of Saif-ud-Deen (sword of faith), this ratio was disturbed. The specialized Kshatriya classes of India either fell fighting OR migrated after defeat OR converted to newer faith OR retained their way of life by compromising on their Dharma and living to see next day. Same applies for other specialized classes, one of which is Brahmana Varna.

Looking logically, none of these responses are illogical and condemnable. All of us have had ancestors who compromised on Dharma and lived on (hence we exist) and some other ancestors who chose one of the other three options. 

The word "compromise" elicits a strong emotion, so does the word "selfish". But are these really "bad" words? What would one call of a "Jaati-dhaari Brahmin" (not varna), who took decisions which resulted in great troubles for some people of lower castes in his vicinity, but also preserved a rare manuscript(s) at the cost of his life, his property and even his honor from predatory hands of invader? What about those Veda-shaalas who kept the oral tradition of vedas alive, by gulping up the resources from local vaishya OR king instead of helping farmers in famine, probably by threatening him of religious excommunication and at times blackmailing the traders OR at times even legitimizing the deeds of a "Muslim ruler" committed against his fellow Hindu bretheren?

There are many such complex points in history where choices of individuals arose out of the "cost-benefit ratio" calculations being played out in his mind and he taking the decision based on his understanding of this equation and grasp over situation. In fact, this entire domain of history wherein the flame of Dharma was kept burning (at least the memory and resources required to resurrect it when time is ripe) at "ALL COSTS" is full of such instances. Hence it makes it difficult to categorize them as "good" or "bad".

Dharma sustained due to these so called compromisers. Dharma also sustained due to so called "Aakramana-Kaari". There is space-time for "compromise" and there is space-time for "Aakramana". Those who keep on compromising (or advocate doing so) in space and time of "Aakramana" are real Dhimmis. Those who advocate Aakramana in space and time of "compromising" are real "Martyrs". And both "Dhimmis" and "Martyrs" are necessary as "examples" so that the message of Dharma is delivered and wheel of Dharma starts rotating (Dharma Chakra Pravartana).

The moral of the story is, we need to dismantle this distorted understanding of varna and "brahmin" and need to rebuild the cadre by drawing and training individuals from wide spectrum of Jaatis. May be a new word, but the connection between Jaati and Brahmin should and will severe.


PP said...

jathi encompasses occupation, customs including dress, food, Gods, mode of worjship, place of worship and the intellectual property carried over the millennia. So when the author calls for jathi to be igrnored, he wants Hindus to reject one part of their Varnashrama dharma. We all what is currently wrong with the education system in India. No one is taught to respect their ancestors' ideas, including their jathi based setup.does the author wants Hindus to follow the same path?another point regding current westernised system is that the boy & girl spend their most productive years 'trying to become an expert in something & fighting for the same goal -career. How is it going to do any good, for the society to survive?

Kal_Chiron said...

PP ji,

I agree with your assessment. However, I did not call for ignoring OR dismantling Jaati-vyavastha.

All I called for is dissociating words like "Brahmana" from certain "Jaatis".

If you read my previous article which is cited in this essay - India a civilizational state, I have stated that India is a desha where number of Jaatis coexist using a mutually supportive code of conduct called as Dharma.

Jaatis and their interdependence is hallmark of India. What is wrong is, certain "jaatis" which claim the respect reserved for "Varna" without living the vigorous lifestyle prescribed to that Varna and without earning it. I am for dissociating this. Brahmana as a Varna is someone who has rised above all these parochial attachments, who is a knowledgeable person living a very strict and austere life on grants given to him by state and other three Varnas. Conduct, Character, Knowledge and Nature of a person should be criteria and not community he is born in (which is implied by the word "Jaati").

As far as your second point of education system is concerned, it is effect of growing population and not being able to expand outside due to the incumbent system of nation-state. If you read my series on Hindu-Marriage, I have quoted a story of Naarada and Prajapati and how Narada asked Prajapati's children to move out of India and expand. There are many regions outside India which are practically empty. But this nation-state system makes it difficult, thereby increasing the competition. I guess system will revert back to older, biologically friendly times when time relieves this demographic pressure on nation-state.

PP said...

You are correct that the jathis are not functioning according to their Dharma. But atleast till British broke their back, their ancestors did follow it and its not wrong for current descendants to own it up. In addition to that, they need to realise the existential threat faced by Hindus and revert to their ancestors' vocation instead of running behind IIT and MS. Are they upto it? I don't think so the reason being the Macaulyte education.
I don't agree that HIndu population is growing.Its declining and what is growing is non-Hindu population. HIndus could have gone to other places, ages ago when they didn't face the threat from monotheists. The same cannot be held true now. When their religion's history is tied up with Bharatvarsha, how can they live in peace in other lands? Exactly why you see HIndus flocking to all sorts of religious classes when they are abroad.IN my opinion, what needs to be done is to restore the pride in each's jathi and work as a whole to face the threat of extinction. Can't be done again,as one set of ppl will hanker after the honey of western development, having acquired a taste for it which in turn will lead to competition among others to get a part of the same pie. Exactly what is happening now.

PP said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
PP said...

One more thing I would like to point out. Lots of well English educated Hindus have moved out to places in USA and Europe. They have no qualms in building temples and attending them w/o fail every week and harp on the philosophical greatness of Hinduism. But how many of their offspring are ready to pursue being temple priests? They would rather import these priests from India. Is it fair to Hindus in India? Already people are leaving their Vaidic duties in search of $.On top of it, the priests are being exported out of India.So what is needed is enforcing pride in their jathi's tradition rather than try to delink the Varna and jathi connection.

Raj M said...

Just wanted to refer to this sloka form Mahabharath when Yudhistra responded to Nahusha as below:

Janmana ja:yathe: su:drah
Samska:ra:th dvijamuchhathe:
Vidya:bhya:sa:th vipraha
BrahmaNa ja:yathe: bra:hmaNaha

'By birth one is a Su:dra
By samska:ra:s becomes one a Dvija (twice-born)
By education one becomes a Vipraha (pundit)
One who knows Brahman becomes a Bra:hmaNa'