This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.
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.