Friday, February 5, 2016

View of Ramanujacharya on Lower Caste

View of Ramanujacharya on Lower Caste

(By Muktipada Behera)


Ramanujacharya of 10th century has a conflicting views on caste system. 

Ramanujacharya did fight against caste system. He has accepted many disciples from lower castes. He is quite liberal than Adi-Shankaracharya of 8th century who never accepted any non-Brahmin disciples. But I am seeing a contrary view in Ramanuja's writing - Brahma-Sutra-Vasya known as ‘Sri-Bhasyam’. It seems he tried to reform by accepting disciples from lower caste but could not do much against current social protocols. So he allowed the study of Puranas to his lower caste disciples, but he could not allow them to study Veda.


Ramanuja in his Sri-Bhasyam (Sutra 1.3.33- 1.3.39) discusses Adhikari [eligibility] for scriptural study and knowledge [Brahma Vidya]. He concluded, Shudra is not eligible to study Veda, so not eligible for Brahmavidya. In this book he denied Brahma-Vidya to lower caste by birth. So I am stunned to read this. 

Here we will summarize all seven sutras as commented by Ramanujacharya in Sri-Bhashyam.

1.     Sutra 1.3.33 – Refutes and denies to Shudra by caste, the right to Brahmavidya. Itihasas and Puranas only reiterate the knowledge derived from the Vedic studies and so, there is no chance of the Shudra getting this knowledge from them, without the necessary background from the study of the Vedas. Vidura and others had this knowledge on account of samskaras of a previous life.

2.     Sutra 1.3.34 – Janasruti gave many villages to the sage Raikva. This shows he was a man of position, a Ksatriya, and not a low-born Shudra.

3.     Sutra 1.3.35 – Janasturi is mentioned with Caitraratha Abhipratarin who was a Ksatriya. So the inference is that Janasruti is also a Ksatriya, as equals alone are mentioned together.

4.     Sutra 1.3.36 – Purification ceremonies like Upanayana etc. are for the three higher castes and not for the Shudra. “Shudra do not incur sin, nor have they any purificatory rites’ [Manu XIII.126]

5.     Sutra 1.3.37 – Gautama was convinced that Satyakama, though the son of a prostitute, yet was not a Shudra but a Brahmana.

6.     Sutra 1.3.38 – Shudras are debarred from hearing and studying the Vedas. ‘Therefore the Vedas must not be studied in the presence of Shudras’.

7.     Sutra 1.3.39 – Smrti also prohibits imparting Vedic knowledge to Shudras. ‘He is not to teach him (a Shudra) sacred duties or vows’ [Manu IV.80]

Adi Shankaracharya View

In this Vedic eligibility of Shudra context both Shankaracharya and Ramanujacharya are aligned. Shankaracharya and Ramanujacharya have borrowed various quotations from Sruti and Smrti to prove – Shudra is not eligible for Vedic study.

To know the view of Shankaracharya on Shudra please refer to -

Swami Vivekananda View

Swami Vivekananda has quoted a mantra from “Shukla Yajurveda 26.2” in which he urges that every Hindu of all castes including Shudra have rights on the Veda. [CW-3, Lectures from Colombo to Almora, THE RELIGION WE ARE BORN IN, Dacca, 31st March, 1901]. Swami Vivekananda challenged – “Can you show any authority from this Veda of ours that everyone has not the right to it?”

यथेमां वाचं कल्याणीमावदानि जनेभ्यः। 
ब्रह्मराजन्याभ्यां शूद्राय चार्याय च स्वाय चारणाय॥
yathomam vacham kalyanimavadani janebhyaha,
brahmarajanyabhyam shudrayacharyaya cha swaya charyaya cha”
“Just as I am speaking these blessed words to people (without distinction), in the same way you also spread these words among all men and women – the Brahmanas, Ksatriyas, Vaisyas, Shudras and all others, whether they be our own people or aliens(foreigners).”
In a ALMORA, 30th May, 1897, Swami Vivekananda wrote – “The Smrti and the Puranas are productions of men of limited intelligence and are full of fallacies, errors, the feelings of class and malice. Only parts of them breathing broadness of spirit and love are acceptable, the rest are to be rejected. The Upanishads and the Gita are the true scriptures; Rama, Krishna, Buddha, Chaitanya, Nanak, Kabir, and so on are the true Avatâras, for they had their hearts broad as the sky – and above all, Ramakrishna. Ramanuja, Shankara etc., seem to have been mere Pundits with much narrowness of heart” [CW-6]
A scholarly analysis on eligibility of Shudra on Vedic study is done here -


Brahma Sutras - According To Sri Ramanuja by Swami Vireswarnanda & Swami Adidevananda (Author), Ramakrishna Mission.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Vaishnavism and Buddhism

Vaishnavism and Buddhism

The analysis is done based on history centric opinions of western and Indian scholars. Also Swami Vivekananda has pointed many stuffs in this angle. In fact Swami Vivekananda is the first scholar to study Hinduism from a history centric point of view. It may sound different to mythology oriented people, but this is the true fact about ancient India.

To make long story short - we need to understand in details about three evolutions inside Hinduism - Brahminism, Tantra, Vaishnava.

Brahminism was an orthodox, conservative system, did not allow others to initiate into Vedic study. So others advent Tantra, a liberal system, but secret - worship of various deities through formal rituals - Shiva, Shakti, Ganesha etc are deities of Tantra. Vaisnava got developed later based on Purana, more liberal, and open in public - Vishnu as authority. And all these Puarans are written after Buddhism downfall. Shiva worship through Shiva-linga was present even before Buddhism. Buddhism had tried to dominate that Shiva worship. So they had built Buddhism monastery near to each Shaiva-peeta. e.g Buddha-gaya.

We need to analyse these in a history centric way. Our tendency is inclined towards mythology centric study based on Puranas. But we need to ask question - what is the origin of Purana?

A section of Buddhism known as Hinayana, were involved in idol worship. They were worshipping Buddha as God in temples, though Buddhism core belief system does not accept God. In fact they had built many temples in India. In Vedic Hinduism, there was no mention of temples, only Asrama concept was there.

Those Buddhists were later merged into Hinduism as Vaishnava and they only declared Buddha as Jagannatha or Vishnu. In fact there was no Buddhism in India. That itself was considered as Hinduism because all Hindu people were involved in worshipping Buddha. They borrowed vegetarianism from Buddhism. Otherwise in Vedic era, people used to eat meat. Link -

Those worshipper Buddhists-cum-Vaishnavas wrote many Puranas. Those authors were called Suta-muni. Suta means lower caste people. For example Jagannatha temple in Orissa was a Buddhism temple, later converted into Vishnu. Link -

All this transition had happened over a five hundred years starting from 200 BCE. Later Buddhist worshipper groups formally separated from core Buddhism because they don't believe in God. And that was known as Vaisnava sect, worshipping Buddha as latest incarnation of Vishnu in various temples. Buddha is considered as one incarnation out of ten incarnation of Vishnu [Dasavatara]. When Buddhism was eradicated from India by Kumaril Bhatta, Shankara etc, they did not take Buddha name out of fear, but continued as Vishnu. In fact current Vaishnavism is denying any link to historical Buddha of 600 BCE. Rather it is replaced by a mythological Buddha.

Of late in 10th century, Ramanuja took birth in that Vaisnava group. Then Madhva, Chaitanya Dev etc gave more maturity to Vaisnavism. Now Vaisnavism is considered as a main stream faith system in Hinduism.

History vs Mythology - Ramayana and Mahabharat

History vs Mythology - Ramayana and Mahabharat

Ramayana and Mahabharat document the ancient Indian history. But those are not considered as formal history texts in Indian Universities. Why?

First of all Ramayana and Mahabharat is considered as Itihasa. Itihasa means old narratives. In a sense it is the history of India. But there are few differences which need to be addressed before marking these as formal history texts.

1. Human History - When we say history in academic sense, it is referred to Human history, documentation of Human civilization. It does not cover the history of deities or Devatas like Indra, Varuna etc and demons or Rakshasa like Ravana, Bakasura etc.

Whereas books like Ramayana and Mahabharat contain both Human history along with the history of Devata and Rakshasa. So people don't accept history of Devata and Rakshasa as natural evolution of civilization. Those are considered as a part of mythology.

2. Earthly events - Generally history documents social, political, economical, cultural events or protocols present in past civilizations on earth. It does not cover the supra-cosmic events happened in heaven or hell.

Whereas Ramayana and Mahabharat contain past events occurred on earth as well as from heaven and hell. For example - Arjuna going to heaven for one year, Dasaratha went to heaven to help Indra etc. Yudhistira went to hell with own body as a visitor, Krishna brought dead son of a Brahmin etc. Those are considered as mythology because it does not fit into normal human perception.

3. Teachings - The purpose of history is to document the past events without any interpretation. For example - King Ashoka killed all in Kalinga, converted into Buddhism and spread Buddhism throughout the world. But history does not extend to incorporate Buddha's teaching. Because teaching is an interpretation to be covered in other stream of knowledge. Those are not a part of history.

Whereas Ramayana and Mahabharat contain past events along with teachings. For example - Vishma was sleeping on arrow bed and Krishna met him along with Pandavas. Then teaching given by Vishma is described at length. Similarly in battle field Krishna-Arjuna discussion is narrated as sacred book Gita. So these books also incorporate philosophies, moral teachings, and spiritual teachings. So people don't accept those as history or mythology. Rather those could be fit into philosophy stream.

4. Consistency -  In any stream of knowledge consistency is a challenge. Historical events are studied keeping sequence of events, possibly with time period. Also information should be consistent across all authors or books.

Whereas Ramayana and Mahabharat contain a lot of inconsistent events. Rama ruled for 11,000 years. His father Dasaratha also was said to have lived for 16,000 years.  Krishna met Jambuban of Treta. Krishna was dancing with sixteen thousand girls and then got married to another set of sixteen thousand girls. Radha, the lover of Krishna is NOT mentioned in Mahabharat, but she is a popular character in today's Krishna temple. Many such events are conflicting in various Puranas like Bhagavatam etc. So rational mind considers those as mythology.

5. Miracles - History covers incidents. It does not covers accidental miraculous events.

Whereas  Ramayana and Mahabharat contain many such miracles. Krishna lifting mountain in little finger. Ravana was moving in a magic flight, Hanuman jumping Indian ocean etc. So people does not accept these because there is no such scientific explanation of these events.

We need to remove all super-natural events, characters from these two books to be considered as history. 

6. Authenticity - Any stream of knowledge must be authentic including History. For example the existence of Buddha is known from various stone images and writings presents on stone. Writings from stones, discoveries from various monuments, study of metals, soils gives clue about past. For example Harappan Civilisation.

Whereas events documented in Ramayana and Mahabharat do not mention source of information - What are places, which period etc. For example Ravana is from Sri-lanka or not? Was Rama born in current Ayudhya or some other place? Where is the birth place of Krishna in current India? There are no uniform answers to all these events. So people doubt authenticity of places and events.

7. Author - Any information without author name is irrelevant. This is very important in case of History. People go by the authority of that person in that stream of knowledge.

Ramayana is written by Valmiki. Some says he wrote through visual meditation because he did not know Rama until Narada revealed it. It seems he also wrote beforehand what Rama is going to do in future. There are thousands Ramayana in Sanskrit and local languages. In one Ramayana in Sanskrit,  where Sita is Ravana's sister and Rama kidnapped Sita. So there was a fight between Rama and Ravana. Similarly Vyasa wrote Mahabharat through Ganesha from heaven. And same Vyasa wrote many Puranans, all are inconsistent. Buddha is mentioned by Vyasa in Bhagavatam. Then Buddha is before Vyasa or after Vyasa? Some say Vyasa is just a title of publishers. There were many Vyasa, many Suta-muni etc.

8. Rituals - It is mentioned in various Smritis and Sutras, during rituals, Kings used to arrange discussion and speech program as pastime. Because the rituals like Ashvamedha, Rajasuya, Putra-kamesti Yajna use to continue for months. And whole day people cannot chant mantra. So during the gap, as a refreshing or entertaining activities, people used to describe about past kings and past events. At later point of time those tales are documented as Ramayana and Mahabharat. Since these tales are associated with rituals, there were various narrators, so there are inconsistencies. Every preacher wants to highlight their lineages through exaggeration. People added a lot of miraculous stories on the top of real facts, diluted facts to get public attention, name and fame.

And in due course of narration they have also described the process followed in those rituals. For example in Ashvamedha Yajna, the queen had to sleep with dead horse over night for symbolic sex, killing of animals in yajna facing towards a particular direction, various objects required for those rituals etc. So these rituals cannot be a part of history. And people consider those as mythology.

9. Religion - People keep History subject as a secular subject. So people do not want to include spiritual process or methods like Yoga, Vedanta, Advaita topics into History.  Life of saints can be included, but the sadhana or paths followed by them should be kept out of history context.

Whereas Ramayana and Mahabharat contain spiritual topics, religious protocols, caste system, Svadharma based on caste etc. And many will NOT be interested in these Hindu religious topics. These books also do not include Buddha's method, Jain's method etc. So these texts are looked as belonging to a particular religious sect. These are not organized as a universal history book.

10. Foreign driven - The most interesting thing is our history is driven by foreigners. We have collected data from foreign visitors like Hiuen Tsang, Al-Biruni etc. Indian never documented anything other than few Sanskrit books.

Indian Sanskrit books talk of cyclic civilization like Satya-Treta-Dvapara-Kali. It includes both evolution and involution of human progress. So the time is cyclic. Whereas western thought process is linear civilization. That includes only evolution as a linear human progress. So their historic time is linear. Indians were never history centric, rather they were Purana centric. So Indians have to revisit their strategy to migrate from mythology centric to history centric study.

11. Ordinary humans - Generally History considers humans from all social layers in a balance way. It covers starting from Kings, businessmen, till ordinary human life style.

Whereas our Puranas are centered around few Kings as a major information. Ordinary human lives, social issues are not highlighted. So there is an imbalance in documentation. Whereas history centric people try to learn about ordinary citizens and their life styles, general politics, people culture etc. Those are missing from Ramayana and Mahabharat.

Rama left home to keep father's promise – obedient to father. Was it a normal life style for ordinary citizen or Rama was unique? Draupadi got married to five brothers - polyandry and she was paraded naked in Indian parliament in front of all ministers and her own five husbands – no dignity of women. Vidura was a Dalit, still became the India's PM – caste is not a bottleneck, Vyasa did sex with three dead cousin's wife to give birth to Dhrutarastra, Pandu, Vidura – Liberal sex life, Krishna kidnapped Rukmini – love marriage. Were these events common to general public or these were unique to royal family?

This is another reason, why people do not correlate these events to their day-to-day lives. They think these are not humanly possible for ordinary citizens. So whatever values or morals taught in these texts do not influence normal humans. So in India there is a lot of corruption, harassment, untouchability, because people are not inspired to practice these texts in action, though they preach these in words.  Basically people revere Rama, Krishna, Pandava, Vishma etc as role models. But they do not put into action thinking they were super-natural actors with special divine power. People do not accept those as history of common man, or actions from common man.

12. Conclusion

So we need to consider Ramayana and Mahabharat as a superset of History book. These contains past events, morals and spiritual teachings, religion, various Yogas, history of Devata, Rakshasas, miracles etc.

We need to filter all these super-natural facts to give it a status of history. And there are a lot of superstitions which are considered as tradition due these Puranas. Because people remember these facts eternally as Hindu tradition. For example, following caste system, believing in demons and various non-vedic demi-gods, practice of unhygienic rituals – e.g. throwing dirt into river Ganga in the name of purity etc. So we need to demarcate the ancient ‘secular’ social customs from ‘religious’ Hindu tradition. History must be analyzed in a secular, scientific and data driven method.

Swami Vivekananda nicely said - "The Smritis and the Puranas are productions of men of limited intelligence and are full of fallacies, errors, the feelings of class and malice. Only parts of them breathing broadness of spirit and love are acceptable, the rest are to be rejected. The Upanishads and the Gita are the true scriptures."

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Vivekananda was outcasted - A shame on hinduism

Vivekananda was outcasted due to foreign travel
A shame on Orthodox Hinduism

It is a little-known fact that Swami Vivekananda was "outcasted" by the Bengali orthodoxy upon his triumphant return from the Parliament of the World Religions in Chicago. The most dramatic consequence came in 1897, when he returned to Calcutta. The following is excerpted from A Comprehensive Biography of Swami Vivekananda by Shailendranath Dhar.

In the evening of march 21, 1897, Swami Vivekananda and the Maharaja of Khetri, accompanied by a large party, paid a visit to the temple of Kali at Dakshineswar which, as is well-known to our readers, had been the scene of Sri Ramakrishna's sadhanas and where the saint had lived for forty years.

In the reception given to Swamiji at Dakshineswar, as described above, there was a discordant note which did not reach his ears but which became loud soon afterwards and produced an unpleasant controversy in the press. Babu Trailokya Nath Biswas, the proprietor of the temple, who had been informed about the impending visit earlier in the day, had actually come to the temple and was present when the visit occurred but did not personally receive Swami and his party, which included a princely personage, viz., the Maharaja of Khetri.

"In an indirect way," wrote Trailokya to The Bangabashi newspaper, "Swami and his followers were driven away from the temple, but not in a direct way as stated by Babu Bholanath [in the same newspaper]. I never ordered anyone to welcome Swami and the raja, nor did I myself do it. I thought that I should not have any, the least, intercourse with a man who went to a foreign country and yet calls himself a Hindu. While Swami Vivekananda and his followers were leaving my temple, Babu Bholanath Mukherjee told them that they would have no interview with me.... Your account of the re-abhisheka of the Deity [i.e., the evening worship was repeated to purify the temple] is perfectly true."

A member of the family of Rani Rashmani protested in a letter which was published in The Indian Nation on April 12, 1897, against Trailokya's claim that the temple of Kali at Dakshineswar belonged to himself. He asserted that it belonged as much to him as to any other descendant of the late Rani Rashmani and that the recent scandal would not have taken place had it been under the management of any other member of the family.

Notwithstanding well-meant efforts to ease the situation, the story of Swamiji's alleged expulsion from the Kali temple gained ground. While The Bangabashi and other Bengali newspapers who opposed Swamiji kept it alive by continually writing on it, his old "friends," the Christian missionaries, had a new dart in their quiver for attacking him. Dr. Barrows who, as we know, had lately arrived in India and had turned against Swamiji [having originally supported him at the Parliament], took it as one more proof of the correctness of his theory that Swamiji was not a true Hindu and had not preached Hinduism in America.

It seems that, even for some time after he had heard about the row kicked up against him by the orthodox people, Swami Vivekananda took little notice of it. His attitude was even one of defiance of these critics, as we find it expressed in a letter dated May 30, 1897, "Our books tell us that the practice of religion is not for a sudra. If he discriminates about food, or refrains from foreign travel, it avails him nothing and it is all useless toil for him. I am a sudra and a mleccha (a non-Aryan, a barbarian)--why should I worry about observance of these rules? What matters it to me if I take the foods of the mlecchas and the untouchables of Hindu society?"'

A few months later, when he came to know about the propaganda that was being carried on by Dr. Barrows and the missionaries to the effect that he had been outcasted in India, he wrote on the latter point to Mary Hale on July 9, 1897 as follows, "As if I had any caste to lose, being a sannyasin!" He added, "Not only no caste had been lost, but it has considerably shattered the opposition to sea-voyage--my going to the West. ... On the other hand, a leading Raja of the caste I belonged to before entering the order got up a banquet in my honor, at which were most of the big bugs of that caste ... It will suffice to say that the police were necessary to keep order if I ventured out into the street! That is outcasting indeed!"

In earlier chapters we have dealt with the campaign of vilification carried on against Swami Vivekananda by the Christian missionaries and by Pratap Chandra Majumdar [of the reformist Brahmo Samaj] in America and also in India. In their present campaign they reiterated their old charge that he was not a true representative of Hinduism, bolstering it with the arguments they borrowed from the charge-sheet drawn up by the Hindu orthodox opponents of the Swami in their own campaign against him. There was something funny in Christian missionaries and Brahmo reformers who did not believe in caste attempting to belittle one for non-orthodoxy in such matters as eating un-Hindu food, dining with mlecchas, going on sea-voyage, etc.

References -
  2. Life History of Swami Vivekananda

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Swami Vivekananda on caste discrimination and untouchability

Swami Vivekananda on caste discrimination and untouchability

(by Muktipada Behera)


Swami Vivekananda has raised his voice on caste discrimination and untouchability. It appears that He was more serious about caste anomaly than any other reformers. Probably in Indian history, Swami Vivekananda is the first person to covey the truth and realities without any prejudice and fear after Buddha. In his words - "I have a message for the world, which I will deliver without fear and care for the future. To the reformers I will point out that I am a greater reformer than any one of them. They want to reform only little bits. I want root-and-branch reform. [CW-3]"

Swami Vivekananda clearly discouraged caste system. He write in a letter, ALMORA,  30th May, 1897 - "the conviction is daily gaining on my mind that the idea of caste is the greatest dividing factor and the root of Maya; all caste either on the principle of birth or of merit is bondage. [CW-6]" Link -

Voice against Caste oppression

Swami Vivekananda wrote in a letter “BARANAGORE, CALCUTTA, 17th Aug., 1889 to Pramadadas Mitra of Varanasi, - “I have no doubt that according to the ancient view in this country, caste was hereditary, and it cannot also be doubted that sometimes the Shudras used to be oppressed more than the helots among the Spartans and the negroes among the Americans! As for myself, I have no partiality for any party in this caste question, because I know it is a social law and is based on diversity of Guna and Karma. It also means grave harm if one bent on going beyond Guna and Karma cherishes in mind any caste distinctions.” [CW-6] Link  -

Society has its own momentum

Veda does not talk of caste system. Smrtis like Manu Smriti enforces caste discrimination. We think first Smritis are written and given to people. And next morning all people started following it. Not true. Rather Smritis document the customs already prevalent during that period and authors put few of their suggestions to add some values. Author doesn't or cannot suggest a drastic change in society. It should be at per what society follows. The logic behind it is if today Swami Vivekananda says something, how many Indians will follow it. To be more accurate suppose today Manu will direct something through another edition of his book, do you think that whole world will follow him? It is difficult to change the society completely. Society has it’s own flow and that cannot be changed overnight. Given a situation, society or people holds the immediate available solution without thinking for whole humanity and it’s future consequence.

Priest-craft has nothing to do with Spirituality 

Swami Vivekananda was intelligent enough to understand the degradation of Hinduism is due to priests. Priests act as middlemen in religion without any divine authority. They confuse people, out of ignorance they indulge others into superstitions, twist the liberal meaning of scripture, and become an obstacle to the real teachings given by Vedic Rishis. He understood clearly unless the priest-hood is not destroyed completely, there is no rise of India. He named it as Râkshasas in the shape of the Brahmin priests. 

His Inner views from his letters

Letter date: 10th July 1893:

"Come, be men! Kick out the priests who are always against progress, because they would never mend, their hearts would never become big. They are the offspring of centuries of superstition and tyranny. Root out priest craft first. [CW-5]" - Link -

Letter date: 1895

"Remember the Vedic Ashvamedha sacrifice – ‘Tadanantaram mahishim ashwa-sannidhau patayet’ etc! And Hota, Pota, Brahma, Udgata etc do worse things while drunk. Brother, Janaki had been to forest, Sri Rama celebrated Ashwamedha alone – hearing this I am free from stress, Brother.

All the Brâhmanas mention them, and all the commentators admit them to be true. How can you deny them? [CW-6]" Link - ( Please look into Bengali version below as it is not translated into English Bengali Link -

It looks like - priests were doing terrible act with queen in the name of Ashvamedha Yajna. You can find reference in web about Aswamedha Yajna. Where the queen has to sleep with dead horse over night. She has to do a symbolic sex with dead horse. Since the dead horse could not do it, it seems was done by Vedic priests to give birth to a child from Horse. This process is known as Niyoga []. Manu Smriti talks about it. Also Purana mentions the Vedic sage Vashishtha had niyoga with the queen of king Kalmashapada. Swamiji was thanking Sri-Rama, that He deserted Maa-Sita by that time of Yajna, otherwise she could be a victim of priests overnight. Still they were desperately searching her and finally managed with her golden image.

In same letter Swamiji mentions - " A girl of eight is married to a man of thirty, and the parents are jubilant over it.... And if anyone protests against it, the plea is put forward, "Our religion is being overturned." What sort of religion have they who want to see their girls becoming mothers before they attain puberty even and offer scientific explanations for it? Many, again, lay the blame at the door of the Mohammedans. They are to blame, indeed! Just read the Grihya-Sutras through and see what is given as the marriageable age of a girl. ... There it is expressly stated that a girl must be married before attaining puberty. The entire Grihya-Sutras enjoin this.....What I mean by mentioning all this is that there were many good things in the ancient times, but there were bad things too. The good things are to be retained, but the India that is to be, the future India. must be much greater than ancient India. [CW-6]"

Letter date: 6th July 1890:

He writes “Priests, those idiots are beast. Don’t believe them at any cost”

Letter date: 22 August, 1892:

"Poor fellows! Whatever the rascally and wily priests teach them — all sorts of mummery and tomfoolery as the very gist of the Vedas and Hinduism (mind you, neither these rascals of priests nor their forefathers have so much as seen a volume of the Vedas for the last 400 generations) — they follow and degrade themselves. Lord help them from the Râkshasas in the shape of the Brahmins of the Kaliyuga. [CW-8]" Link -

Consequence of Caste Division

Swami Vivekananda - "The caste system is opposed to the religion of the Vedanta. Caste is a social custom, and all our great preachers have tried to break it down. From Buddhism downwards, every sect has preached against caste, and every time it has only riveted the chains. Caste is simply the outgrowth of the political institutions of India; it is a hereditary trade guild. Trade competition with Europe has broken caste more than any teaching. [CW-5]"

According to Swamiji, due to western exposure, industrialization, international competence, the caste system is fading away. 

During his visit to Kerala, Swamiji found severe untouchability.  Kerala is a place where Brahmins used to walk on road with shouting, “Apasara Apasara-move away, move away” from a distance. Swami Vivekananda has mentioned Kerala is a “lunatic asylum”

Those Brahmins even don't touch the shadow of lower-caste people. These lower caste people were forced to hold a pot on their neck to avoid spitting on road and broomstick on the waist so that they can clean impurities on the road while walking.  Lower caste women were not allowed to cover breasts. On seeing a Brahmin on road, they were told to remove upper garments as a show of respect. The strange part was the breast tax to cover breasts. One girl cut off her breasts to protest against the inhuman mulakkaram (breast tax) and died. [Link -].  

Swami Vivekananda wrote in a letter to Pandit Shankarlal of Khetri, from BOMBAY, in 20th September, 1892 – “To what a ludicrous state are we brought! If a Bhângi comes to anybody as a Bhangi, he would be shunned as the plague; but no sooner does he get a cupful of water poured upon his head with some mutterings of prayers by a Pâdri, and get a coat on his back, no matter how threadbare, and come into the room of the most orthodox Hindu — I don't see the man who then dare refuse him a chair and a hearty shake of the hands! Irony can go no further. And come and see what they, the Pâdris, are doing here in the Dakshin . They are converting the lower classes by lakhs; and in Travancore, the most priestridden country in India — where every bit of land is owned by the Brahmins, and the females, even of the royal family, hold it as high honor to live in concubinage with the Brahmins, nearly one-fourth has become Christian!. [CW-5]”  Link - BOLD RED marked line is not translated into English - It is present in Original letter published in Bengali language.

In another lecture “The future of India” he said “Was there ever a sillier thing before in the world than what I saw in Malabar country? The poor Pariah is not allowed to pass through the same street as the high-caste man, but if he changes his name to a hodge-podge English name, it is all right; or to a Mohammedan name, it is all right. What inference would you draw except that these Malabaris are all lunatics, their homes so many lunatic asylums, and that they are to be treated with derision by every race in India until they mend their manners and know better. Shame upon them that such wicked and diabolical customs are allowed; their own children are allowed to die of starvation, but as soon as they take up some other religion they are well fed. There ought to be no more fight between the castes. [CW-5]” Link (This article clarifies further details - )

To escape from this severe untouchability, many Dalits got converted into Islam and Christian religions. After conversion they were getting respect from so called upper layer Hindus.

Opening the door of Liberation for All

First time in Indian Hinduism history Swami Vivekananda allowed Sudra (the 4th varna) to join as monks in Asram and worship in temple. Even He initiated many untouchables into Gayatri mantra and gave them sacred thread at Kolkata during the holy birthday of Sri Ramakrishna  and converted them into Brahmin. He said - "Whoever will come here on this sacred birthday of Shri Ramakrishna I shall invest him with the holy thread. These people have fallen from their true status....Each Hindu, I say, is a brother of every other, and it is we who have degraded them by our outcry, "Don't touch, don't touch!" And so the whole country has been plunged to the utmost depths of meanness, cowardice, and ignorance. These men have to be uplifted; words of hope and faith have to be proclaimed to them. We have to tell them, "You are men like us, and you have all the rights that we have. [CW-7]". 

Earlier Veda, Upanishads study were prohibited for Surda. Smriti holds that Veda is not to be read in the vicinity of a Sudra. “Shudra is a living corpse. His tongue is to be slit if he pronounces it; his body is to be cut through if he preserves it.” Swamiji broke this tradition and published Upanishads for the access of all. It was not a simple task to break this old age tradition. Swamiji was highly criticized during his time by orthodox Brahmins and many of his good friends deserted him. But He did not care for the consequence and decided to clean Hinduism single handedly without any fear. (Detailed article – )

Why Shudra suffers?

Another interesting thing is pointed to by Swami Vivekananda - Prodigies born in Shudra community have kicked out own community and joined upper layers. Whereas worthless from upper layer have downgraded into Shudra based on Smriti laws... So Sudra community acts as a dustbin in Hinduism. This community is never benefited by the prodigy it has created. So lower caste always remain as lower. He put few queries for lower caste people to seek - "Who told you to neglect spirituality and Sanskrit learning? What have you been doing all this time? Why have you been indifferent?"

This is known as Sanskritization in sociologist terminology, a particular form of social change found in India. It denotes the process by which castes placed lower in the caste hierarchy seek upward mobility by emulating the rituals and practices of the upper or dominant castes. It is a process similar to passing in sociological terms. Link -

Swami Vivekananda - "Therefore, it is no use fighting among the castes. What good will it do? It will divide us all the more, weaken us all the more, degrade us all the more. The solution is not by bringing down the higher, but by raising the lower up to the level of the higher. And that is the line of work that is found in all our books, in spite of what you may hear from some people whose knowledge of their own Scriptures and whose capacity to understand the mighty plans of the ancients are only zero. What is the plan? The ideal at the one end is the Brahmana and the ideal at the other end is the chandala, and the whole work is to raise the chandala up to the Brahmana. Slowly and slowly you will find more and more privileges granted to them." Link -

The Swami Vivekananda defines Brahmana as the knower of Brahman, the highest truth - Brahman Janati Iti Brahmana. In his language - "This Brahmin, the man of God, he who has known Brahman, the ideal man, the perfect man, must remain.[CW-3]"

He has clearly discouraged Brahmana caste. Swamiji said to Brahmin caste in "THE FUTURE OF INDIA - "The day for these privileges and exclusive claims is gone. The duty of every aristocracy is to dig its own grave, and the sooner it does so, the better. The more it delays, the more it will fester and the worse death it will die. It is the duty of the Brahmin, therefore, to work for the salvation of the rest of mankind in India. If he does that, and so long as he does that, he is a Brahmin, but he is no Brahmin when he goes about making money.[CW-3]"

Special Privilege and Reservation

Swami Vivekananda, a great visionary, who was the first to talk of special privilege to be granted to unfit community to uplift them into main stream social life. Later Govt of India adopted this concept to provide reservation to lower caste communities. The provisions made in the Articles 16, 335, 338, 340, 341, 342 of the Constitution relate to reservation, protection and safeguards of “socially and educationally backward classes”.

Swami Vivekananda has preached of special care for lower caste people in his talk 'THE MISSION OF THE VEDANTA' - "if the Brahmin has more aptitude for learning on the ground of heredity than the Pariah, spend no more money on the Brahmin's education, but spend all on the Pariah. Give to the weak, for there all the gift is needed. If the Brahmin is born clever, he can educate himself without help. If the others are not born clever, let them have all the teaching and the teachers they want. This is justice and reason as I understand it [CW-3]. Link -

Swami Vivekananda writes – “If there is inequality in nature, still there must be equal chance for all — or if greater for some and for some less — the weaker should be given more chance than the strong. In other words, a Brahmin is not so much in need of education as a Chandâla. If the son of a Brahmin needs one teacher, that of a Chandala needs ten. For greater help must be given to him whom nature has not endowed with an acute intellect from birth. It is a madman who carries coals to Newcastle. The poor, the downtrodden, the ignorant, let these be your God. [CW-6]" Link - 

Caste Conversion

Swamiji has also talked of caste conversion as per Vedic Varna system. He suggested few ideas.

1. Revert back to Brahmin-hood: We are all Risi-putra. "The solution is not by bringing down the higher, but by raising the lower up to the level of the higher [CW-3]." The goal is to uplift everyone into the higher dimension of divinity. We need to manifest the Brahmin qualities as mentioned in Gita 18.42 - Peacefulness, self-control, austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, wisdom, knowledge, and religiousness-these are the qualities by which the brāhmaṇas work. We need to reach a civilization where proper Vedic Varna system based on Guna-Karma will be in place. Then only caste-less India will be possible.

2. Continue self-declaring: "There are thousands of castes, and some are even getting admission into Brahminhood, for what prevents any caste from declaring they are Brahmins? Thus caste, with all its rigor, has been created in that manner. [CW-3]". Instead of crying foul, people can self-declare or correct their castes based on Vedic Varna definition.

3. Rename the whole Community: "Let us suppose that there are castes here with ten thousand people in each. If these put their heads together and say, we will call ourselves Brahmins, nothing can stop them; I have seen it in my own life. Some castes become strong, and as soon as they all agree, who is to say nay? Because whatever it was, each caste was exclusive of the other. It did not meddle with others' affairs; even the several divisions of one caste did not meddle with the other divisions. [CW-3] (Article -

Facing the Criticism

Swami Vivekananda was never appreciated by orthodox people during his time. In the beginning orthodox dignitaries were denying to come forward to support him publicly due to his liberalness towards caste. But Swamiji did not compromise his ideal. Few orthodox was attacking him saying, - 'He was a Shudra, so he has no eligibility to read and teach Veda.'

The most unfortunate part is – He was not allowed to enter into Dakshineswar temple at Kolkata by those priests. Please note, in the same temple his Guru Sri Ramakrishna was living for a long time. Later Swamiji bought a separate land at Belur for Ramakrishna Mission. After this event, Swamiji did not went to Orissa to visit any temples. So conservative Hindu society even treated him as out-caste. (Article -


1. Complete works of Swami Vivekananda, Nine Volumes.
2. Book - Caste, Culture, and Socialism, Author: Swami Vivekananda,

Sunday, September 27, 2015

God Incarnation and Ordinary Guru - a contrast

God Incarnation and Ordinary Guru
(By Muktipada Behera)


The theory of Isvara Avatara (God Incarnation) is quite old. It is described in detail in Purana and Itihasa like Srimad Bhagavatam, Bhagavad Gita etc. It is also described in Bhakti Sastra like Chaitanya Charitamrita, Sri Ramakrishna Kathamrita and Bhakti Yoga by Swami Vivekananda. There is no mention of Human Avatara in Veda. May be those portions of Veda mentioning God incarnation on earth is lost. However, Kena Upanishad, Chapter 4 mentions God incarnation as Yaksha in heaven. Devas could not recognize him. So Brahman personified as Uma Haimavati instructed Indra on the eternal truth behind all that is perishable and said – “That Yaksha was Brahman”.

It is undoubtedly true that God comes down to earth in a human form, as in the case of Krishna. And it is true as well that God reveals Himself to His devotees in various forms. But it is also true that God is formless; He is the Indivisible Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute. He has been described in the Vedas both as formless and as endowed with form. He isalso described there both as attribute-less and as endowed with attributes.

Gita 4.7

yada yada hi dharmasya glanir bhavati bharata
abhyutthanam adharmasya tadatmanam srjamy aham

Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion—at that time I descend Myself.

Gita 4.8

paritranaya sadhunam vinasaya ca duskrtam
dharma-samsthapanarthaya sambhavami yuge yuge

In order to deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion, I advent Myself millennium after millennium.

Everyone is also an avatara based on its past Karmas. Avatar is for devotee, not for Jnani. A Jnani (Individual with supreme knowledge) knows Brahman has become everything including all Human beings.

Explanation of Avatara:

God Incarnation can be explained through the illustration of the ocean and the ice.

Satchidananda is like an infinite ocean. Intense cold freezes the water into ice, which floats on the ocean in blocks of various forms. Likewise, through the cooling influence of bhakti, one sees forms of God in the Ocean of the Absolute. These forms are meant for the Bhaktas, the lovers of God. But when the Sun of Knowledge rises, the ice melts; it becomes the same water it was before. Water above and water below, everywhere nothing but water. Therefore, a prayer in the Bhagavata says: 'O Lord, Thou hast form, and Thou art also formless. Thou walkest before us, O Lord, in the shape of a man; again, Thou hast been described in the Vedas as beyond words and thought.'

Difference between Guru and Avatara:

Even though Vedanta talks of “Each soul is potentially Divine”, there is a clear difference between God incarnation and ordinary Human Guru. Here we will outline few differences.

(1)   General Guru descents on earth based on their past Prarabdha Karma. But God incarnation descents on earth due to “Samasti Prarabdha – cumulative Karma” of whole society at that point of time.

(a)   Brahma sutra 3.3.32 Shankara Bhashya says – Yavadadhikaramavasthitiradhikarikanam.
Perfected souls may take a corporeal existence for divine mission. Of those who have a mission to fulfil existence, they take rebirth in due course of time based on need. Examples are – Vasishtha, Narada, Shankaracharya and Swami Vivekananda etc.

(b)   Brahma Sutra 4.4.17 says - Jagadvyaparavarjam prakaranadasannihitattvaccha.
The liberated soul attains all lordly powers except the power of creation, maintenance, and dissolution of cosmos. Only God has those cosmic powers. So there is a clear division of the ownership between liberated soul and God.

(2)   God Incarnation has three main purposes – (a) paritranaya sadhunam – to save pious human beings; (b) vinasaya duskrtam - destruction of spiritual obstacles; (c) dharma-samsthapanarthaya - Rejuvenation of spirituality. Ordinary Guru is not capable to fulfill this high cosmic demand.

(3)   God incarnation is of Saguna Brahman – Vishnu. Various incarnations get manifested with different power and different qualities or Kala based on social need. For example, Krishna was manifested with complete sixteen Kala – so he was known as Purna Avatara, Rama was born with twelve kala.

(4)   Ordinary Guru transmits spiritual power through Ista Mantra or teachings. Isvara Avatar transmits energy though touch or mere wish. The person can be uplifted immediately and get divine vision. Like Arjuna got the vision from Krishna, Vivekananda got from Sri ramakrishna, on Kalpataru day many got instant spiritual vision by the grace of Sri Ramakrishna, Chaitanya Dev did same for Nityananda.

(5)   God Incarnation has a power to liberate other humans out of grace. They are like a huge ship that can carry many others in bondage. Ordinary guru is compared with a small boat which cannot accommodate many. Human Guru is not capable to liberate others through mere grace.

(6)   God Incarnation demonstrates the moral and spiritual paths relevant to current society. They can change the thought-wave of the society. And then Smritis and other teachers tend to follow that path of reformation. Without God incarnation, ordinary Guru does not have enough power to change this huge cosmic thought-wave.

(7)   Ordinary Guru is a one-man show. Avatar comes with his own group - already illuminated disciples, like Swami Vivekananda along with other fifteen direct disciples of Sri Ramakrishna; Hanuman, Bharata etc came with Sri Rama; Gopis, Arjuna etc came with Krishna; same with Buddha and Chaitanya etc. So the teachings preached by an Avatar has a very strong power and future generations get benefited even after the Avatar has left his mortal body.

(8)   God incarnation has ‘oneness’ from birth. They are aware of their divine nature from childhood. They don't need to practice any Sadhana to get it because they are already liberated and came here to help others.

(9)   An ordinary spiritual Guru gets illumination through Sadhana and initiates his disciples in his realized path. Once the Guru departs the physical body, his followed path becomes weak and does not remain as a strong spiritual current for future generation. Normal Gurus will be popular while they are alive. After their death, people usually forget them and their followers are reduced.  

The preaching done by God incarnation will continue forever even after his death. He will become more popular and get more followers over time. For example, Buddha, Krishna are still popular even if they lived thousand years before. Gita preached by Krishna, life of truthfulness taught by Rama - are still influencing Humans.

How to recognize God Incarnation:

(1)   There is no clear way of knowing who God incarnation is or not. Only another enlightened one can say through his divine vision that somebody is a God incarnation. We must look for a reference from another enlightened person or accept it after having proper clue through own Sadhana.

(2)   Most of the time God incarnation reveals himself to their close disciples while alive. For example, Christ, Krishna have disclosed their real nature to their close disciples. Only ten Rishis knew that Rama was an incarnation.  Ordinary human beings could know them after they are dead.

(3)   Based on qualities seen in earlier God incarnation, Hinduism has developed some standards to judge an Avatar. For example, God incarnations always demonstrate the extreme sense of morals or spiritual values, which ordinary human Gurus cannot achieve in their lifetime. Examples are - Krishna dancing with sixteen thousands Gopis, lifting mountain on little finger, Chaitanya dev extreme adherence to ascetic rule, Sri Ramakrishna keeping Brahmacharya while sleeping with his wife, Buddha’s demonstration of highest compassion, Jesus ready to be crucified alive etc.

It is generally seen - every organization tends to declare their originator Guru as God incarnation out of reverence.

(4)   There are scriptural proof and documented incarnations. Well accepted names are (1) Rama (2) Krishna (3) Buddha (4) Christ (5) Chaitanya (6) Ramakrishna etc. They had imparted tremendous power to reform this world. So they will be followed eternally.

(5)    There are so many Avatars incarnated in India. We don’t worship all of them. We worship the Avatar who is incarnated with his divine consort (Shakti) like Krishna with Radha, Rama with Sita, Ramakrishna with Sarada etc. Whereas Parshurama, Kapila muni, Vyasa deva were also Avatar and we don’t worship them because they were partial incarnation (without associated with Shakti)


All power Lord descends on earth to do Leela, to play with Humans – his children. It is wonderful to play with the creator. Upanishads say - Raso-vai-Sah - He is like nectar. He is the source happiness or bliss.

"One who has been kissed by Thee, his thirst for Thee increases for ever, all sorrows vanish, and he forgets love for everything else but for Thee and Thee alone." Ay, forget first the love for gold, and name and fame, and for this little trumpery world of ours. Then, only then, you will understand the love of the Gopis, too holy to be attempted without giving up everything, too sacred to be understood until the soul has become perfectly pure. People with ideas of sex, and of money, and of fame, bubbling up every minute in the heart, daring to criticize and understand the love of the Gopis! That is the very essence of the Krishna Incarnation.” – Swami Vivekananda.