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Caste and Bhagawat Gita - Contributed to this site By Ambassador O P Gupta 

Supporters of casteism oftenly quote two slokas viz. (IV.13) and (XVIII.41) of Shrimad Bhagwat Gita to support four castes by birth. Let us examine. In sloka (IV.13) Lord Krishna says: "Chaturvarnyma mayaa sristam gunkarma vibhagsah" i.e. four orders of society created by Me according to their Guna (qualities/behaviour) and Karma (profession/work/efforts).

Lord Krishna does not say guna and karma of previous life. In sloka (XVIII.41) Lord Krishna says "Brahmana Kshatriya visham sudranam cha paramtapa, karmani pravibhaktani svabhavaprabhavaigunaih."

It means people have been grouped into four classes according to their present life karma (profession/work) and svabhava (behaviour). `The division of labour into four categories - Brahman, Ksatriya, Vaishya and Sudra - is also based on the Gunas inherent in peoplesí nature`. Had this division been based on birth, Lord Krishna would have naturally used phrase 'Janmani pravibhaktani' in the very shloka (XVIII.41).

In sloka (XVIII.42), Lord Krishna prescribes duties (karma) which one must do in order to qualify as a Brahman i.e. among other duties (karma), he must have studied Vedas and must teach Vedas to others. Thus, if a person has neither studied Veda, nor teaches Veda to others, he is not a Brahman.

Brahman categorisation is an acquirement through efforts like present day degrees of MA, MBBS etc. A teacherís son cannot be called a teacher by birth, a Generalís son is not a general by birth, son of an engineer is not an engineer by birth, son of an IFS officer cannot be called an IFS officer by birth.

Can he? Readers may note here Lord Krishna has clearly commanded that Hinduism is a missionary religion as sloka (XVIII.42) casts a duty on Brahmans to teach & propagate Vedas to others. Baba Saheb Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar is the first writer who struck me asserting that Hindusim is a missionary religion (Dr. Ambedkar: Life and Mission, Dhananjay Keer, page 270).

In slokas (XVIII.68) and (XVIII.69) Lord Krishna has again cast missionary duties on his devotees to preach His gospel all over the globe. RV (X.191) and AV (III.30) also impose missionary duties on Hindu priests to bring all under harmony i.e.under one flag.

Under Islamic law, anyone who attempts to convert a Muslim into a Kafir has to be killed. Feroz Shah Tughlak (1351-88) ordered to burn alive those Brahmans who tried to convert Muslims into Hinduism. In view of this Islamic capital sentence, Hindu priests perhaps permanently gave up missionary zeal. It was restarted by Arya Samaj but during the British rule as 'suddhi.'

Following are the two missionary shlokas of Gita:

(Gita: XVIII.68) He who, offering the highest love to Me, preaches the most profound gospel of the Gita among My devotees, shall come to Me alone; there is no doubt about it. Gita: XVIII.69: (Among men there is none who does Me a more loving service than he; nor shall anyone be dearer to Me on the entire globe than he.)

In sloka (X.20) Lord Krishna says 'ahamatama gudakesa sarvabhutaa sayasthitah' i.e. `Arjuna! I am the universal self seated in the hearts of all beings.` Here, Lord neither excludes sudra from `all beings` nor excludes Himself from being in hearts of sudra. In sloka (XVIII.61) Lord says `eshwarah sarvabhutaanaam hraddesearjuna tisthati` i.e. Arjuna! God abides in the heart of all living beings.

Again, sudras are not excluded. In sloka (XIV.4) Lord Krishna says 'of all embodied beings Arjuna, prakrti or nature is the conceiving Mother, while I am the seed giving Father.' Thus, Lord Krishna says that he is as much Father of sudras as he is Father of any other Hindu.

In sloka (XVI.18) Lord Krishna says: "Given over to egotism, brute force, arrogance, etc. they hate Me dwelling in their own bodies as well as those of others." Thus, Lord Krishna instructs that a Hindu must not hate others Hindus as he is there in bodies of all Hindus so Gita prohibits untouchability.

In sloka (XVI.19) Lord says "These haters, sinful, cruel and vilest among men, I cast (them) again and again into demonical yonies (wombs)." In sloka (XVI.20) Lord again curses Manu supporters that such Hindus never attain Me (i.e. moksha): "Failing to reach Me, Arjuna, these stupid souls are born life after life in demoniac wombs (asura yoni) and then verily sink down to a still lower plane."

Gita: XVIII.71: In sloka (XVIII.71), Lord Krishna opens His gates for all Hindus including sudras when he says "The man who hears holy Gita with reverence, he too shall reach happy world (shreshtha ewam shubh lok) of the virtuous (punyatmas). So how can Manusmriti or Gautam sutra or anything ban Sudras from listening to Vedas and Gita? In sloka (V.18) Lord says "The wise (who desire to achieve moksha) look with the same eye (samadarshi) on a Brahmana endowed with learning and culture, a cow and pariah (chandal) too." Therefore, those who look down upon sudra are neither wise nor can they achieve moksha.

Shrimad Valmiki Ramayan also says whosoever including sudra reads it will achieve greatness and get rid of all sins. Valmiki Ramayana: 1.1.98-100) Thus, Vedas, Ramayana and Gita confer authority on sudras to possess and read these.

In Ramayan, Lord Rama has Himself set following two lessons for all Rambhaktas Hindus which we witness every year in Ramlilas but never follow in our practical lives so we were defeated by foreigners. (For a comparision, see how steadfastly muslims adhere to and follow examples set by Prophet in Sunnah). Ravana was a grandson of risi Pulatsya. He was an expert on Vedas too. So, he was a Brahimin by birth under Manu definition as well as a Brahimin (educated) by qualification (veda-gyata) but he and most of his family members were killed by Lord Rama for their wrong doings.

So, the first lesson of Ramayana is that everyone (irrespective of his caste) is equal before law. Lord Rama visited Shabri, called her a mother (mata); ate food from her hands and washed feet of Nisadraj.

Lord Rama lived for years among vanvasi (tribals). So, the second lesson of Ramayana is that a true Rambhakta should never discriminate against SC/ST/Dalit Hindus, should never hesitate to visit and dine with them. See, Mahatma Gandhi always followed mansa, vacha and karmana both these two lessons of Ramayana and he became a Yug Purus.

Many SC/ST/Dalit Hindus are not even aware of rich contributions made by their ancestors to the three supreme Hindu scriptures. To cite just a few:

(i) Risi Kavas Ilusu was revealed Suktas (X.30) (X.31) (X.32) and (X.33) of Rigveda and sloka 453 of Samveda. Risi Ilusu Aksova mojvan was revealed Sukta (X.34) of Rigveda. Both, under current Manusmriti definition were sudra.

(ii) In Tandya Brahman (14.66) risi Vatsa has been called a sudra-putra. Revelations to risi Vatsa are there in Rigveda, (VIII.6) (VIII.11), Samveda (8,20,137,143, etc) and Yaj (IV.16-36), (VII.40), (XXVI.15).

(iii) Risi Kaksivat was son of risi Dirghatamas by a sudra maid servant (Brihaddevata IV.24.25). Risi Kaksivat was revealed many richas in RV (I.119 to 125).

(iv) Maharisi Vedvyas compiled all richas into four Vedas in the format currently available. He also composed Mahabharat, Shrimad Bhagwat Gita and all the Puranas. He was born to Satyawati daughter of a fisherman by risi Parasar. He was of dark complexion (Krishna Dwaipayan). Thus, as per Manusmriti definition, he was a dalit Hindu/Varna-sankar by birth. As we know, Kauravas and Pandavas were descendants of this Satyawati through Vedvyasa. But, Kauravas and Pandavas are accepted as Kshatriyas not on basis of birth but on the basis of their occupations (as rulers/kings).

(v) Maharishi Mahidasa Aitereya, a Maharastrian Sudra (perhaps a Mahar), composed Aitereya Brahman and chapters I, II & III of Aitereya Aryanaka. His mother was a maid named Itara.

(vi) Maharisi Valmiki who composed Valmiki Ramayan was not a Brahimin by birth.

Thus, no one has right to deny free access to SC/ST/Dalit Hindus to what their ancestors have contributed, nor, should one give up or run-away from his ancestral heritage on teasings by others. One does not give up his ancestral properties on false presentations/forged documents. 

The writer is currently Ambassador of India to Finland. The article are personal views of the author; and, not that of the Govt. of India.

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