Nothing irritates me more than caste based discrimination. It is never okay to treat people as lesser beings based on their caste. It is never okay to think that we are better than other people just because we belong to a particular sect of society and above all, it is never okay to treat someone without love and respect.
There is no need to employ the usage of labels like “Shudra” or “Dalit” in our daily conversations, nor is there a need for us to mention caste at all, in light of the lifestyles we lead in the 21st century. Why highlight something that divides people and creates conflict? To be honest, I think that caste based discrimination is an insult to Indian culture that is built upon the foundations of non-duality(i.e. seeing no difference between oneself and God, and seeing everything in the universe as a manifestation of God).
At the outset, we must realise that the Vedas assign people into castes based on their Gunas(qualities) and Karma(activities), NOT birth. If you take a look at verses from the Gita, you will notice that it says;
ekavarṇama idama pūrvam viśvama āsida yudhiśthira, karmakriyāviśesena caturvarṇyama pratiśthitama
The whole world was originally of one class but was later divided into four divisions on account of specific duties.
chātur-varnyam mayā srishtaṁ guna-karma-vibhāgaśhah, tasya kartāram api mām viddhyakartāram avyayam
The four categories of occupations were created according to people’s qualities and activities.
In essence what this means is that the classes are based on innate temperament and role in society, not heredity! And really, this makes a lot of sense. I mean, you don’t become an engineer just because your father is an engineer. You can only become an engineer if you complete your degree and are qualified to take on the role right? Similarly, you can only assign yourself to a particular caste if your life reflects the activities that are associated with the caste.
So, let’s play a little game of “What Caste Do I Really Belong to?”
If Sattva(Divine) guna(quality) predominates your nature, and you live a life filled with acts performed in remembrance of God, then you are a Brahmin.
If your temperament is predominantly Rajasic(Passionate) with a tinge of Sattva guna and you are a brave warrior involved in upholding the safety of society, then you are a Kshatriya.
If your nature is predominantly Rajasic with a tinge of Tamas(inertia) and you are a trader or farmer, you are a Vaishya.
If Tamasic qualities predominate your character and Rajasic qualities are secondary and you are extremely efficient at serving others, you are a Shudra.
If you do not feel like you fit into any of the above categories, fear not! IT REALLY DOES NOT MATTER. Indian culture teaches us that divinity resides in the heart of ALL beings, and that we must respect and acknowledge this divinity in everyone (this is the significance of greeting people with Namaste). Love and respect is part of Indian culture, ignorance and hatred is not. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
And yes, we are all aware of the scriptural reference that describes Brahmins being born out God’s mouth and Shudras being born out of God’s feet, which creates much confusion in the minds of people who have misinterpreted this to mean that Brahmins belong at the top of a hierarchy and Shudras belong at the bottom. The reference is merely a METAPHOR. What it means is that all four classes have to work together for society to function efficiently, just like how all our body parts need to work together for us to operate!In all the fuss created around who belongs to what caste and what place each one should occupy in society, we seem to have forgotten what it means to be human.
Why do we forsake compassion for the sake of rigidity?It is time to let it go, it is time to be free. There is only one caste, the caste of humanity.