Both Hinduism and the caste system cannot co-exist since Vedas refute the birth-based caste system. Therefore, if one identifies themselves with a specific caste discriminating against others, they shouldn’t consider themselves a Hindu and vice versa.
This article mainly focuses on debunking the ‘Hindu caste system’ narrative used to spread Hinduphobia in the yoga fraternity and the Western world, especially in American academia. I will also be demystifying the Varna system by providing various references to verses in Bhagavad Gita and stories mentioned in different scriptures.
What is Hinduphobia?
Hinduphobia is a set of antagonistic, destructive, and derogatory attitudes and behaviors towards Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism) and Hindus that may manifest as prejudice, fear, or hatred.
Some of the instances of Hinduphobia in America are Hinduism (Sanatana Dharma) had been grossly misrepresented in the middle school textbooks of California. Some of the professors from esteemed institutions spread false interpretations, translations depicting it as misogynist and racist. Also, the very same professors had tried to associate Nazi Hakenkreuz with the sacred symbol of Swastika in Sanatana Dharma. The Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, made the same attempt in the Canadian parliament by quoting Hakenkreuz as Swastika. Pranayama, which has been practiced in India for centuries, is termed ‘Cardiac Coherence Breathing’ rather than its original name, thus disassociating and severing it from its Hindu roots.
Sanatana Dharma, currently called Hinduism, is a way of life. Sanatana means which has existed for eternity, and Dharma, a complicated term with a broad scope, can be briefed as a set of principles, cultures, and philosophies that can be practiced in harmony with nature to understand the true nature of an individual. Therefore, it is not a religion but a way of life.
What are Srutis, Smritis & Puranas?
I think it is essential for everyone to understand the nature of the scriptures. Sanatana Dharma scriptures can be classified into Shrutis, Smritis & Puranas. It is not just the textual classification; instead, it is the philosophical classification.
Shrutis: These texts are considered basic principles. They are Sanatana Dharma, i.e., They are always applicable to all people, i.e., eternal. These are directly heard from the cosmos and recorded by rishis. Sruthi is something that was heard.
Vedas openly declare that any form of blind belief devoid of intellect and reasoning is a recipe of sorrow. Vedas are the ultimate truth, and they are the benchmark.
Smritis: These texts apply to some people at some times. Smriti means what you remember. They were the opinions of sages, do’s and don’ts, moral and immoral laws based on society and social norms prevailing in different times. These are opinions or statements given at times to deal with particular problems. They do have an expiry date, unlike Shrutis. Smritis doesn’t represent religion for eternity as they have expiry. Smritis change according to Yuga dharmas.
Ex: Manu Smriti, Bharadwaja Smriti, etc.
Itihaas: Itihaas in Sanskrit can be broken down into Iti=like this, iha=here, aasa=happened previously, i.e., recorded history through different periods.
Ex: Bhagavata purana, Mahabharata purana, Ramayana, Skanda purana etc.
Puranas and Smritis also consist of the philosophy obtained from the Shrutis, like how Mahabharata mentions Bhagavad Gita. However, ideas or laws present in Smritis will not appear in Shrutis as they are subject to change based on time. Dr. Janki Santoke says a sage tells us which are eternally valid and tells us things that are particularly applicable to us. It is for us to distinguish which statement is an eternal principle and which statement was an opinion given to certain people in a specific geographical location in a certain period and context. Religious conflicts arise when we mix these two concepts.
Varna System in Ancient India
As opposed to the popular belief that the caste system is innate to Sanatana dharma, the Varna system is inherent. Varna system is natural in any civilized society. There are multiple interpretations of the word ‘Varna.’ Varna’s literal meaning is ‘color,’ which refers to the character’s color and not the physical color of an individual. According to Hindu scriptures, a character comprises three qualities (gunas), namely Sathva, Rajasic, and Tamo, which are depicted with different colors: White, Red, and Neelam (dark blue or black. Physical color of Lord Rama and Lord Krishna as described in scriptures). Varna comes from the word ‘Vrinja,’ which means ‘choice,’ i.e., which Varna an individual belongs to is his choice and not based on birth.
As Lord Krishna says in Bhagavad Gita,
chātur-varṇyaṁ mayā sṛiṣhṭaṁ guṇa-karma-vibhāgaśhaḥ
tasya kartāram api māṁ viddhyakartāram avyayam
I created four Varnas based upon people’s qualities and activities. Even though I am the creator of these Varnas, know me to be the non-doer and eternal, which means that these Varnas are innate to nature and formed as a societal evolution.
It clearly says that Varna is not based on birth, contrary to popular belief; instead, it is based on one’s character or deeds. Let’s assume that these Varnas were not present in nature. Does that void the fact that every civilized society has classes of Intellectuals, administrators (or kings, rulers, military men), entrepreneurs, and workers?
brāhmaṇa-kṣhatriya-viśhāṁ śhūdrāṇāṁ cha parantapa
karmāṇi pravibhaktāni svabhāva-prabhavair guṇaiḥ
The duties of Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudras are distributed according to their qualities based on their gunas (innate nature of an individual).
These gunas mentioned above are of three types, namely Sathva guna, Rajo guna, and Tamo guna.
And the duties of these Varnas were mentioned as follows.
śhamo damas tapaḥ śhauchaṁ kṣhāntir ārjavam eva cha
jñānaṁ vijñānam āstikyaṁ brahma-karma svabhāva-jam
Serenity, control of the sense, austerity, purity, straightforwardness, knowledge, insight, and faith in the Supreme Being – these are the intrinsic qualities of work for Brahmins and are predominantly Sathvic in nature.
śhauryaṁ tejo dhṛitir dākṣhyaṁ yuddhe chāpy apalāyanam
dānam īśhvara-bhāvaśh cha kṣhātraṁ karma svabhāva-jam
Valor, strength, fortitude, skill in weaponry, resolve never to retreat from battle, large-heartedness in charity, and leadership abilities, are the natural qualities of work for Kshatriyas and have Rajasic nature.
kṛiṣhi-gau-rakṣhya-vāṇijyaṁ vaiśhya-karma svabhāva-jam
paricharyātmakaṁ karma śhūdrasyāpi svabhāva-jam
Agriculture, dairy farming, and commerce are the natural works for those with the qualities of Vaishyas. Whereas serving through work is the natural duty for those with the qualities of Shudras.
The Vaishyas were those whose natures were predominantly rajasic with a mixture of tamo guṇa. They were thus inclined toward producing and possessing economic wealth through business and agriculture. They sustain the nation’s economy and create jobs for the other classes. They were also expected to undertake charitable projects to share their wealth with the deprived sections of society.
The Shudras were those who possessed tāmasic natures. They were not inclined toward scholarship, administration, or commercial enterprise. The best way for their progress was to serve society according to their calling. Artisans, technicians, job-workers, tailors, artisans, barbers, etc., come under this category.
yo māṁ paśhyati sarvatra sarvaṁ cha mayi paśhyati
tasyāhaṁ na praṇaśhyāmi sa cha me na praṇaśhyati
For those who see me everywhere and in everyone and see everyone in me, I am never lost to him, nor they ever lost to me.
vidyā-vinaya-sampanne brāhmaṇe gavi hastini
śhuni chaiva śhva-pāke cha paṇḍitāḥ sama-darśhinaḥ
The truly learned sees a humble brahmin with a sense of humility possessing divine knowledge, a cow, an elephant, a dog, and a dog-eater with equal vision, i.e., a truly learned person endowed with spiritual knowledge sees them all as eternal souls and hence views them with a similar eye.
Skanda Purana Book 6, Chapter 239, verse 31 says:
janmanā jāyate śūdraḥ saṃskārāddvija ucyate |
śāpānugrahasāmarthyaṃ tathā krodhaḥ prasannatā
It says that everyone is born as Shudra. One becomes a Brahmin, Kshatriya, or Vaishya based on an individual’s education. The decision to get educated and enrolled in an ashram is considered rebirth called ‘Dwija.’
Neither Vedas nor Bhagavad Gita, a concise version of Vedas, supports the view that the Brahmins (priestly class) are of higher caste, while the Shudras (labor class) are of lower caste. The caste system doesn’t have any basis in Vedas as not even one mantra has justified the current birth-based caste system. The knowledge perspective is that even though the Brahmins conduct worship ceremonies, conduct research in various fields, the Kṣhatriyas administer society, the Vaiśhyas conduct business, and the Shudras engage in labor. They are all eternal souls who are tiny parts of God and hence alike.
A verse from the 2nd chapter of Garuda Purana says that among the Brahmins (based on intellect and not based on birth), the ones involved in the studies of Vedas and understanding of the Puranas lead a better life than one’s leading mundane lives getting embroiled in day to day living and squabbles. Much better lives are led by those who live steady lives along the path taught by scriptures come under the category of ‘mahamanya,’ and the most exalted lives are led by persons who have attained Brahma Gyan by leading dharmic life. Therefore, it is evident that only Brahma gnana, intellect, and practice with wisdom have been given paramount place rather than birth.
Stories from various scriptures which are against discrimination
I want to mention a few stories taken from Vedas, Maha Bharatha, which indicate that Sanatana dharma is against discrimination and God is omnipresent and present in everyone.
Story of Jabala Satyakama:
Jabala Satyakama is a Vedic sage mentioned in the Chandogya Upanishad, part of Samaveda, one of the four Vedas. Satyakama, unaware of his lineage, was born to his mother Jabala, a prostitute. When SatyaKama was a boy, he wanted to attend a gurukulam (an ancient traditional education institution) and went to Gautama Maharshi’s ashram. He expressed his desire to study under Gautama Maharshi. When asked about his whereabouts, he tells Gautama Maharshi about his mother and that he is unaware of his father and lineage. As soon as he said it, a few other children started ridiculing him about his ancestry and suggested that Gautama not accept Satyakama as his student.
Maharshi Gautama was very much impressed by Satyakama’s personality. Gautama said, “He who is not a Brahmana wouldn’t tell the truth. Since you told the truth without hiding anything, you not only proved your truthfulness but also proved that you are a Brahmin. Hence, I accept you as my student.” Maharshi Gautama had declared Jabala Satyakama as a Brahmin based on his exhibited qualities and not because of his birth.
Uttanka Maharshi meets Lord Krishna:
This story is taken from the Ashvamedhika Parva of Mahabharatha. When Uttanka Maharshi meets Lord Krishna after the Kurukshetra war in a desert, he is furious. He starts blaming Lord Krishna that he could not stop the war by bringing a compromise between Pandavas and Kauravas and was about to curse Lord Krishna. It is then that Lord Krishna explained the efforts he had put in to make a compromise between both sides and explained the necessity of war to restore Dharma. Convinced with Lord Krishna’s explanation, Uttanka bowed down to Krishna and asked him to show his Vishwa Roopa. Krishna then displayed his vishawaroopa and granted a boon to Uttanka Maharshi. Uttanka Maharshi asked Krishna to provide a water facility in the desert. Krishna agreed to Uttanka Maharshi’s request and vanished. When Krishna disappeared, Uttanka was waiting for a water facility to be created. From nowhere, a chandala (chandala is someone who deals with corpses) appears in the vicinity with a few dogs, dirt on his body, blood, and flesh oozing out of his body. When the chandala approached Uttanka, he opened his mouth, and water started flowing out. Out of disgust, Uttanka backed away without accepting that water. Now that the chandala vanishes, Sri Krishna appears and asks Uttanka if he has found water.
Lord Krishna then says that he appeared as chandala, and he says that he is present in everyone irrespective of their Varna. He wanted to give him water with elixir (elixir called amrutam in Sanskrit makes a mortal an immortal) had he accepted it from his chandala avatar(form). However, he grants him a boon that rainclouds would appear and bring rain showers whenever he wishes for water in the desert. This instance depicts that discrimination was not acceptable in any Sanatana dharmic scriptures.
Like any other religion, Hinduism also had a section of people who misused the system. They used the Varna system to assert their dominance and superiority over others. They had done it by propagating social evils like discrimination and untouchability based on either jaatis or fifth artificial Varna (which is nowhere to be found in any scriptures) in the olden days and caste currently for their benefit. Famous spiritual personalities like Ramanujacharya, Swami Dayanand Saraswati, Swami Vivekananda, etc., arose inside the dharmic fold and actively worked to eliminate such practices.
‘Jaati’ was first mentioned in Nyaya Sutra and not in Vedas or Puranas. According to Nyaya Sutra, entire humanity forms a single jaati. It refers to classification based on the source of origin. According to Nyaya Sutra, those with a similar birth source form a jaati, and a jaati share identical physical characteristics. Over time, ‘Jaati’ was used to infer any classification, and thus different communities are called different jaatis. According to Rajiv Malhotra, a renowned Indologist jaatis are the thousands of indigenous social-occupational groups which had dynamic nature, i.e., it allowed social mobility and occupational diversification.
It is one of the instances where the deity of Ranganatha Swamy (a form of Lord Vishnu) himself played the role of social reformer in eliminating discrimination. Thiruppan Alvar was a Tamil saint who lived probably 2700 years ago. This incident took place in Srirangam, Tamil Nadu, at the bank of Kaveri River, where a Brahmin priest named Loka Saranga Muni carries Thiruppan Alvar (who belongs to the current day backward caste) on his shoulder. Thiruppan Alvar was playing Veena on the banks of Kaveri River in Srirangam and was ecstatic when the Brahmin priest from the temple came out of the temple to get water from the river. Since Thiruppan Alvar was in his way, he asked him to move out of his way (three stories are being told, and the one I am narrating here is the most popular one). Since Thiruppan was ecstatic, the priest threw a stone at him, which hit his forehead, blood started dripping from his forehead, and he moved out of the way. When the priest goes back inside the temple with water, he observes that blood leaks from the idol’s forehead. He then prays to the deity and hears a voice that says, “you hit and hurt my devotee, and he should be brought into the temple.” The priest runs back to Thiruppan Alvar and begs him to come into the temple, describing everything that happened inside the temple. Thiruppan Alvar doesn’t want to create a controversy by stepping into the temple due to the prevailing discrimination based on birth and refuses the priest’s request. So, the priest convinced him and took Thiruppan Alvar inside the temple by carrying him on his shoulders from the bank. After seeing the deity of Ranganatha, he started singing ten poems on Ranganatha out of devotion and ecstasy. In the end, he leaves his mortal body and immerses in the Ranganatha diety. Since then, Thiruppan Alvar has been worshipped.
The list can go on and on with several instances where God himself was against discrimination based on Varna or jaati of an individual.
Many Marxist ideologists and anti- Hindus argue that all the scriptures in Sanatana or Vaidhika dharma were written by Brahmins, thus propagating their anti-brahmin stance. This anti-brahmin propaganda started in the colonial era to destroy India’s cultural and knowledge systems by attributing the spread of social evils like the caste system and untouchability in India to Brahmins. Besides, it is being used to propagate colonial power’s mythical Aryan invasion theory. They even went on to call out every practice of Sanatana Dharma as Brahminical, which is a derogatory term used to spread anti-brahmin and anti-Hindu sentiments. On the one hand, they say that discrimination is unacceptable, and on the other hand, they promote anti-brahmin and anti-Hindu ideologies. It is not fair to blame a single section of the society when everyone in the community was equally responsible for spreading the social evils. Prerna Thiruvaipati, a Dalit & women rights researcher, specializing in Dalit studies, expressed a similar opinion. Besides, Sanjeev Newar, founder of Agniveer, in his book titled ‘Dalits of Hinduism,’ also echoed the same view.
However, on careful observation, one can notice that one of the most revered sages, like Krishna Dvaipayana, known as Veda Vyasa, Suta Maharshi (narrator of Puranas), Valmiki, and poets like Kalidasa falls into the backward caste of the colonial caste system.
Krishna Dvaipayana, also called Veda Vyasa, was responsible for bringing all the rishis together to divide the Vedas into Rig, Yajur, Sama, and Atharmana Vedas. Maharshi, who had also written Mahabharatha, Bhagavatham, was born to Satyavati, a fisherwoman, and Parashara Maharshi (Mahabharata Adi Parva, chapter 104). Even though he was not a Brahmin by birth, he was termed Brahmin because of his intellect and Brahma gnana. Veda Vyasa summarizes the essence of 18 Puranas in Sanatana Dharma in two sentences:
Paropakara punyaaya paapaya parapeedanam
It means that helping others is good and harming others is sinful.
Similarly, the author of Ramayana, Valmiki Maharshi, was also not a Brahmin by birth. He was a hunter and was born in a tribal household. He later became Brahmin through his gunas and karmas by attaining Brahma gnana. He went on to pen Ramayana, one of the most revered scriptures in Sanatana dharma.
Kalidasa, a famous Sanskrit author, was not a Brahmin by birth. He was differently-abled, born in a shepherd household. Nevertheless, his works became one of the critical works in Sanskrit literature, and he is called the Shakespeare of India.
Vishwamitra, another well-known sage in Sanatana-dharma scriptures, was not a Brahmin by birth. Instead, he was a King, i.e., Kshatriya, who eventually became a Brahmin (Mahabharata Adi Parva, chapter 71(30), chapter 136(14)). Several examples in Vedic scriptures clearly show that Varna is not based on birth; instead, it is based on qualities and work.
A section of people argues that there have been discriminatory verses in a text written by sage Manu called Manu Smriti, which is used to tarnish entire Hinduism. I want to bust some myths that agenda-driven individuals have been propagating.
Myth 1: Manu Smriti propagates a rigid birth-based caste system.
Manusmriti chapter 10, verse 65:
A Sudra attains the rank of a Brahmana, and (in a similar manner) a Brahmana sinks to the level of a Sudra but know that it is the same with the offspring of a Kshatriya or of a Vaisya.
Myth 2: Manu Smriti advocates 5th Varna, i.e., untouchability.
Manusmriti chapter 10, verse 4:
Brahmana, the Kshatriya, and the Vaisya castes (Varna) are the twice-born ones, but the fourth, the Sudra, has one birth only; there is no fifth (Varna or caste).
Different stages of spiritual evolution are Shudra, Dwija, Vipra, and Brahmana. Everyone is a Shudra by birth. Once they decide to get educated and enroll in an ashram (or today’s school), it is considered a rebirth, called ‘Dwija.’ When they graduate after eliminating ignorance present in an individual, that stage is called ‘Vipra.’ The final stage is called Brahmana, which is attaining Brahma gnana. It is a complex term that can be simplified as a stage where an individual can see God in everyone and everything and see everyone in God, as mentioned in Bhagavad Gita (6:30).
Manu himself announces in the Manu Smriti that Vedas alone form the foundation of Dharma and that Manu Smriti has an expiry. There are many such verses in Manu Smriti, which were explained in detail by Sanjeev Newar in his book. He also mentions that the current day Manu Smriti had been interpolated, adulterated by the British empire in 1794 through William Jones, and 60% of the current version is a sham. He mentions that Dr. Surendra Kumar, who authored a detailed translation of Manu Smriti in Hindi, had concluded that 1485 shlokas out of 2685 shlokas were adulterated. Many western Indologists Macdonnell, Keith, Buhler, American historian Thomas Roger Trautmann, etc., have expressed the same. Both pro-casteist and anti-casteist groups use this fake Manu Smriti, which was already expired, to justify their prejudices. The irony is that most Hindus (99.99%) neither follow Manusmriti nor have it in households. It is primarily the agenda-driven individuals who carry the interpolated versions of it and use it against Hinduism.
Debunking interpolations in Purusha Suktha
Whenever an individual searches on Google with keywords ‘caste system,’ the first picture they get to see is a triangle and hierarchical structure mentioning different Varnas from top to bottom. Another common misinterpretation made by both Western Indologists starting from Max Mueller to current day Marxist school of authors to malign Sanatana Dharma. This is based on Purusha Suktha from Yajurveda. Purusha Suktha describes the origin and continuation of creation, including human society. It consists of 16 shlokas which appear in all four Vedas with slight variations. It is the 11th shloka that is grossly misrepresented and depicted as a hierarchical division. It says:
“Brahmin was his mouth.
Kshatriyas were created from his arms.
Vaishyas came from thighs and
Shudras were born from his feet.”
The previous shloka 31.10 asks who the mouth, hand, thigh, and leg are, and 31.11 shloka answers the question.
Brahmins form the brain, head, or mouth that think and speak in society. Kshatriyas include the hands that protect, Vaishyas or business people create the thigh that supports and nurtures. Shudra or Labor force forms the legs that lay the foundation and make the body run, i.e., to provide support and basic infrastructure for the society. It must be noted that according to Vedas, a hard-working individual is a Shudra (Yajurveda 30.5), and that is the reason Shudras are considered as the foundation of human society. Also, according to Vedas, everyone belongs to all the four Varnas since the same person exhibits the traits of four Varnas in different situations. Besides, according to Vedas (Yajurveda 40.8), God is formless and omnipresent. So, if God doesn’t have a form, how can he have a body with head, arms, thigh, and feet? Therefore, this shloka should be taken as a symbolism instead of a literal meaning. It was neither mentioned that one Varna is greater than the other nor is it based on birth. (‘Dalits of Hinduism’ has a clear and further explanation on debunking this narrative which also cites ‘Introduction of Vedas by Swami Dayanand Saraswati’ for a more logical and detailed description.). Moreover, one must note that Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya, and Shudra should be interpreted in terms of qualities and not individuals, i.e., Brahmin represents intellect, Kshatriya represents strength, and valor, Vaishya represents management, balance, and stability. In contrast, Shudra represents the rest of the qualities.
Caste System and Its Origin
The word ‘Caste’ was derived from the Spanish – Portuguese word ‘casta,’ which means lineage, race, or breed. It is a social construct to classify the society into self-contained units or ‘castes.’ Herbert Hope Risley, a British civil servant, introduced the caste system to India under British colonial rule. In his book ‘Breaking India,’ Rajiv Malhotra states that as a staunch advocate of scientific racism, Herbert Hope Risley used the ratio of the width of a nose to its height to divide Indians into different castes. Risley’s work was the aftermath of the invention of ‘Race Science’ by European scholars, which was ultimately used by the colonial powers to divide and rule the colonized communities.
Another colonial administrator and scholar whose work formed Risley’s basis were Max Muller. Max Mueller and Risley tried to fit their Caste framework based on their distorted view of jaati.
Max Mueller was primarily responsible for distorting Hindu scriptures with inaccurate translations to support his evangelical motives. In his view, caste:
‘Which was hitherto proved an impediment to the conversion of the Hindus, may in future become one of the most powerful engines for the conversion not merely of the individuals, but of the whole class of Indian society.’
Initially, Risley had a strong resistance from the native Indians. However, with time native communities had to give up because to get any services from the British government, one had to be classified into a specific caste. The caste system was forced on the Indians to the extent that people who resisted it, saying that they did not fit into the description of a specific caste proposed by the British government, were declared as ‘criminal tribes.’ Unfortunately, this colonial-era system is still practiced in India due to political lobbying.
Influence of Vedas on American Transcendentalists
Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, who were the pioneers of transcendentalism in the USA, were influenced by the Vedic philosophy, namely Vedas and Bhagavad Gita. In his book ‘Walden,’ Henry David Thoreau even mentioned that Transcendentalists owe to Indian religions. Besides, he followed various Hindu customs, played flute, and practiced Yoga. Similarly, Ralph Waldo Emerson was influenced by the Upanishads and Vedanta.
This article intends to provide various stories and verses from some of the scriptures to counter the propaganda of the ‘Hindu caste system.’ My motive is not to discount that the colonial era stratified caste system is still being practiced in Indian society and the challenges or discrimination some castes, especially those at the bottom of the system, have been facing today. According to Prerna Thiruvaipati, caste discrimination is not just present between current-day upper and lower castes but also present among different communities in the lower castes. Not only the lower caste but everyone in the society had been suffering due to constant criticism from propagandists identifying the current generations as accountable for the caste system. In contrast, a significant portion of the current generations are against it.
It is time for the truth and reconciliation efforts to occur, have civilized dialogue, and end the caste system rather than different communities continuously being at loggerheads or blaming other communities. Many Hindu spiritual gurus were clearly against the caste system and called for eliminating it. Spiritual gurus like Ramanujacharya, Swami Dayanand Saraswati, and Swami Vivekananda (who in a particular instance had eaten food offered by the so-called untouchables in those days), etc. were against untouchability and caste-based discrimination. It is time to decolonize our minds, follow in their footsteps, and work towards creating a better tomorrow free from the artificial, birth-based discriminative caste system. Both Hinduism and the caste system cannot co-exist since Vedas refute the birth-based caste system. Therefore, if one identifies themselves with a specific caste discriminating against others, they shouldn’t consider themselves a Hindu and vice versa.
I want to reiterate that Sanatana Dharma neither endorses discrimination nor a birth-based caste system. Instead, it subscribes to the Varna system based on the qualities and work of an individual. The caste system practiced in India today is a product of Colonization. Attributing the caste system to Hinduism is like attributing Slavery in the western world entirely to Christianity instead of viewing it as a social evil. Slavery was also spread by the colonial powers using the Hamitic myth from Bible. (According to this, the descendants of Ham were cursed by Noah into everlasting Slavery. This was abused and exploited by colonial powers to such an extent that an estimated 20 million Africans were captured and transported to the Americas between 1517 and 1840). I want to end this article by mentioning a quote said by Swami Vivekananda, ‘Sanatana Dharma is not about believing. It is about being and becoming.
Loka Samasthaha Sukhino bhavanthu = Let the entire world be happy.
Anyone interested in Sanatana Dharma should understand it better from a Sanatani perspective through a guru (not a professor) and not from the esteemed institutions with Abrahamic lenses that are neither spiritual nor the Sanskrit experts. It is not just the language expertise but also the semantics that plays a crucial role in interpretation/interpolation. Furthermore, the difference between symbolism & taking the literal meaning would be explained better in a Hindu guru tradition with a dharmic lens. Besides, several words in Sanskrit do not have an exact translation in English, including the word ‘Dharma.’ All these factors combined with an agenda and many other factors had contributed to the misinterpretations/interpolations to malign Sanatana Dharma/Hinduism.
By Sri Sivani Charan
Sri Sivani Charan is an Indian Hindu belonging to Sudra Varna who currently lives in the US. In response to the growing Hinduphobia and anti-India propaganda in the Yoga fraternity, academia, and some media outlets, Sri chose to stand up and speak against it.
Photo by Tom Chen on Unsplash