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Translations of various devotional texts.

Who is a Brahmana? - Vajra Sucika Upanisad

Keshava - Mon, 05 Jul 2004 10:47:21 +0530
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.)
anuraag - Thu, 15 Jul 2004 20:55:36 +0530
Who is a Brahmana?

janmanA jAyate zUdraH karmaNA jAyate dvijaH,
vedAdhyAyI bhaved vipro
brahma jAnAti brAhmaNah
Madhava - Thu, 15 Jul 2004 22:24:39 +0530
Sheer curiosity, where is this often-heard verse from?
anuraag - Thu, 15 Jul 2004 22:58:42 +0530
The fact that varna was not birth based can be seen in the smritis themselves.

manu smriti says a shudra attains the status of a brahmin and becomes entitled to his privileges if he possesses qualities of the latter such as complete knowledge and learning and a calm temperment etc.. and in the same way, a brahmin who has qualifications of a shudra, dullness of intellect, ignorance of ved, dependence on service of others etc. he descends to the position of a shudra (shudro brahmagaataameti brahmanashchaiti shudrataam...)

and apastamba sutras further say 'by acting according to truth and virtue, a shudra becomes fully entitled to by degrees to the rights of a vaishya, kshatriya and brahmin and the acts prescribed for these varnas.. similarly a brahmin belonging to the highest varna by acting against dharma goes to the status of the varnas below him and has to observe the duties laid down for them.. that conduct which is opposed to dharma causes a man to fall to the status of a lower varna' - (dharmacharyya jadhanyo varnah etc...)

explains the saying - janmane jayate shudra, karmane jayate dvijah..
we are all born shudras, and by actions we become dvija, twice-born. it's terrible hindus have allowed foreigners to rewrite their history for them. in the past, bharat never had these divisions of aryan and dravidian even when the caste system had deteriorated into birth-based discrimination. in the ved, arya is never ever used in the sense of race, tribe, caste or color.

Read more at the link - Caste and Varna

Jagat - Thu, 15 Jul 2004 23:09:35 +0530
Not in Manu, that's for sure.
Madhava - Fri, 16 Jul 2004 00:07:11 +0530
While there certainly are texts such as Vajra-sucika that are cited in favor of the theory of varNAzrama-division we are familiar with from Gaudiya Matha ("let every man have the brahmin string"), it would be interesting to read historical studies of the caste division in India. How far do such studies go?

It's terrible hindus have allowed foreigners to rewrite their history for them. In the past, bharat never had these divisions of Aryan and Dravidian even when the caste system had deteriorated into birth-based discrimination.

I wonder, though, how often do Indians try to cover over their own history by citing some references from various often ambiguous scriptural sources? One Upanishad and some references from here and there doth not the "past of Bharat" make.
Keshava - Fri, 16 Jul 2004 06:54:00 +0530
As the person who posted the translation of the Upanisad I would like to say that in fact this Upanisad is NOT recognized by very many as being authentic or ancient.

The idea of caste by birth seems to be definitely there in Manu. Otherwise how can the progeny of Anuloma and Pratiloma marriages be defined as different. Birth and ancestory certainly have something to do with it.

Except for GM/ISKCON who amongst the Gaudiyas bothers about caste anyway?

It is certainly an issue amongst Madhvas and Sri Vaisnavas. More so for Vadakalais than Tengalais. But my practical experience is that in general if you act like a brahmin you get respected as one.

Of course you always meet someone who tries to argue the point with you, but what can they do if you know your stuff. I have had so many debates with people about this in India. The problem is that they are unable to establish their own brahminhood because they don't follow all the brahmanical rites any more. So since I know that, I just challenge them right back when they challenge me.

The final conclusion is mostly that everyone is a sudra "kalau sudra sambhava". Yet this leads some to the conclusion that amongst the kali yuga sudras there are those who are brahmin-sudras and those who are sudra-sudras.