The Doctrine of the Diamond Needle
(translation by Rama Ramanuja das)
1.I shall describe the Vajrasuci — the diamond needle doctrine which destroys ignorance, condemns those who are devoid of the knowledge (of Brahman) and exalts those endowed with enlightenment.
2. The Brahmana the Kshatriya, the Vaishya and the Sudra are the four classes (castes). That the Brahmana is the chief among these classes is in accord with the Vedic texts and is affirmed by the Smrtis.
3. In this connection there is a point worthy of investigation. Who is, verily, the Brahmana? Is he the individual soul? Is he the body? Is he the class based on birth ? Is he the [possessor of] knowledge ? Is he the [performer of] deeds (previous, present or prospective) ? Is he the performer of the rites ?
4. Of these, is the Jiva or the individual soul the Brahmana? No, it is not so; for the Jiva is one and the same in the large number of previous and future bodies. Since the Jiva (the individual soul) is the same in all the various bodies obtained through (past) karma, and in all these bodies the form of the Jiva is one and the same. Therefore the Jiva is not the Brahmana.
5. Then is the body the Brahmana? No, it is not so, because the body which is composed of the five elements, is the same in all classes of human beings down to the chandalas (outcastes), etc. Since old age and death, virtue [dharma] and vice [adharma] are found to be common to all mankind. There is also no absolute distinction (in the complexion of the four classes) that the Brahmana is of the white complexion, that the Kshatriya is of the red complexion, that the Vaishya is of the tawny complexion, that the Sudra is of the dark complexion. [If the body is the brahmana] the sons and other kinsmen would becoming guilty of the murder of a Brahmana and other (sins) on cremating the bodies of their fathers and other kinsmen. Therefore the body is not the Brahmana.
6. Then is it birth that makes the Brahmana? No, it is not so, for many great rishis have sprung from other castes and orders of creation. We have heared that Rishyasrnga was born of a deer, Kaushika of Kusha grass, Jambuka from a jackal, Valmiki from an ant-hill, Vyasa from a fisher girl, Gautama from the back of a hare, Vasistha from Urvashi (the celestial nymph), Agastya from an earthen jar. Among these, many rishis outside of the caste-system have been accounted as the foremost among the teachers of the Divine Wisdom. Therefore birth does not (make) a Brahman.
7. Then is it knowledge that makes a Brahmana? No, it is not so, because among Kshatriyas and others there are many who have attained cognition of divine truth. Therefore knowledge does not make a Brahmana.
8. Then do actions (karma) make a Brahman? No, it is not so, since the prarabdha karma which gives rise to the present birth, sanchita (accrued) karma, and agami karma — commenced in the present lifetime which will fuctify in a future embodiment is common to all mankind; and that people perform works impelled by their past karma. Therefore actions do not make a Brahmana.
9. Then does the performance of religious duties (dharma) make a Brahmana? No, it is not so; for there have been many Kshatriyas and others who have given away gold [in charity]. Therefore the performer of religious rites is not the Brahmana.
10-11. Then, who, verily is the Brahmana? Whoever he may be – he who, has attained self-realisation, and directly percieves the Atman like a myrobalan fruit in the palm of one's hand. [Realising that the Atman is] of the nature of truth, consciousness, bliss and eternity, without a second, devoid of distinctions of birth, attributes and action, devoid of all faults such as the six infirmities*, and the six states** and devoid of all changes. [The Atman] is the basis of endless determinations. [The Atman] is the indwelling spirit of all beings. [The Atman] pervades everything within and without like space. [The Atman] is of the nature undivided beatitude, indivisible, immeasurable, and is known only by direct cognition.
He who having attained self-actualisation becomes rid of the faults of desire, attachment, etc., and is endowed with the six virtues***. Who having overcome emotion, spite, greed, expectation, desire, delusion, etc., with the mind unaffected by pride, egoism and the like. He alone, who is possessed of these qualities is the Brahmana. This is the view of the Vedic texts and tradition, ancient lore and history. The attainment of the status of a Brahmana is otherwise impossible. Meditate on the Self as Brahman who is being, consciousness and bliss, without a second; meditate on the Self as Brahman who is being, consciousness and bliss without a second. This is the Upanishad.
* six infirmities: (1) old age, (2) sorrow, (3) delusion, (4) hunger (5) thirst and (6) death.
** six states: (1) birth, (2) being, (3) growth, (4) change, (5) deterioration and (6) perishing.
*** six virtues; (1) Sama - tranquility, (2) dama - self-control, (3) uparati - cessation of dependance upon rituals (or continence), (4) titiksha - fortitude, (5) samadhanam - meditation, and (6) sraddha - faith.
(It is valuable to recall the teaching of this Upanishad which repudiates the system that consecrates inequalities and hardens contingent differences into inviolable divisions.)