Why casteism (varṇa system) is based on birth instead of present guṇa-s & karma-s?


Better we talk about Sukshma Sharir in prior. It is made up of Manas, Buddhi & Ahamkar + 5 tanmatras. A soul (Jeevatma) leaves the body in this form after death. This is a bag whose content decides the next birth of the soul after death. This is explained by Swami Vivekananda (The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda/Volume 2/Jnana-Yoga/The Cosmos: The Microcosm) here. -

...Again, if in the bioplasmic cell the infinite amount of impressions from all time has entered, where and how is it? This is a most impossible position, and until these physiologists can prove how and where those impressions live in that cell, and what they mean by a mental impression sleeping in the physical cell, their position cannot be taken for granted. So far it is clear then, that this impression is in the mind, that the mind comes to take its birth and rebirth, and uses the material which is most proper for it, and that the mind which has made itself fit for only a particular kind of body will have to wait until it gets that material. This we understand. The theory then comes to this, that there is hereditary transmission so far as furnishing the material to the soul is concerned. But the soul migrates and manufactures body after body, and each thought we think, and each deed we do, is stored in it in fine forms, ready to spring up again and take a new shape. When I look at you a wave rises in my mind. It dives down, as it were, and becomes finer and finer, but it does not die. It is ready to start up again as a wave in the shape of memory. So all these impressions are in my mind, and when I die the resultant force of them will be upon me. A ball is here, and each one of us takes a mallet in his hands and strikes the ball from all sides; the ball goes from point to point in the room, and when it reaches the door it flies out. What does it carry out with it? The resultant of all these blows. That will give it its direction. So, what directs the soul when the body dies? The resultant, the sum total of all the works it has done, of the thoughts it has thought. If the resultant is such that it has to manufacture a new body for further experience, it will go to those parents who are ready to supply it with suitable material for that body. Thus, from body to body it will go, sometimes to heaven, and back again to earth, becoming man, or some lower animal. This way it will go on until it has finished its experience, and completed the circle. It then knows its own nature, knows what it is, and ignorance vanishes, its powers become manifest, it becomes perfect; no more is there any necessity for the soul to work through physical bodies, nor is there any necessity for it to work through finer, or mental bodies. It shines in its own light and is free, no more to be born, no more to die...

Therefore since it is the soul or JeevaAtma that has conditioning or attributes, it is clearly evident Varna is solely dependent upon the soul, not the body of parents, as that is the soul which has accumulated all the past impressions in it, not body & fixing the womb according to its resultant accumulations. Now this answer concludes the same which say conduct alone tells the Varna of a person. This concept is further backed up by Lord Shiva as well (from this answer) -

Endued with knowledge and science, purified from all dross, and fully conversant with the Vedas, a pious Kshatriya, by his own acts, becomes a Brahmana. It is with the aid of these acts, O goddess, that a person who has sprung from a degraded order, viz., a Sudra, may become a Brahmana refined of all stains and possessed of Vedic lore, One that is a Brahmana, when he becomes wicked in conduct and observes no distinction in respect of food, falls away from the status of Brahmanahood and becomes a Sudra. Even a Sudra, O goddess, that has purified his soul by pure deeds and that has subjugated all his senses, deserves to be waited upon and served with reverence as a Brahmana. This has been said by the Self-born Brahmana himself. When a pious nature and pious deeds are noticeable in even a Sudra, he should, according to my opinion, be held superior to a person of the three regenerate classes. Neither birth, nor the purificatory rites, nor learning, nor offspring, can be regarded as grounds for conferring upon one the regenerate status. Verily, conduct is the only ground. All Brahmanas in this world are Brahmanas in consequence of conduct. A Sudra, if he is established on good conduct, is regarded as possessed of the status of a Brahmana. The status of Brahma, O auspicious lady, is equal wherever it exists. Even this is my opinion. He, indeed, is a Brahmana in whom the status of Brahma exists,--that condition which is bereft of attributes and which has no stain attached to it.

One can upgrade one's mind through rigorous Sadhna, devotion & love & thus become Brahmin in this birth alone. Further, if parents which were born Shudra but devoted to their life to the divine their progeny would be Brahmin or near to Brahmin because of the explanation above ( Jeevatma would fix into the womb according to its accumulation). This too has been supported by Mandukya Upanishad.

The Sound “U” is Dreaming / Subtle: Taijasa is the consciousness experienced during the dreaming state, and is U, the second letter of Om. This intermediate state operates between the waking and sleeping states, reflecting some qualities of the other two. One who knows this subtler state is superior to others. For one who knows this, knowers of Brahman, the Absolute Reality, will be born into his family. (Verse 10).

Thus it is evident from the above explanation Gunas only describes one's Varna.

Then Why birth based?- Actually, one can only know about Varna of oneself ( if one is honest) but can't know about others. Others can act as being of a nobleman as well. Here comes a birth-based social structure of Varnashram due to impracticality to know someone's Gunas or nature. But birth based works if & only if

  • One is strict in following one's prescribed duties on physical, mental & intellectual level so as to exhaust Karmic debt. ( Explained above)

In such a case, a noble impression accumulated Jeevatma would always fix dvija womb & chaos won't be created. But in Kaliyuga, due to Adharma, Brahmin parents downgraded to Shudra before procreation results into Shudra progeny. And similarly, Shudra born parents become Brahmin by noble deeds before procreation results into Brahmin progeny (using the above explained concepts) by l direct inference. But birth based casteism can again be revived but with two modifications - Upgradation & Downgradation of Varnas based on present deeds because the influence of Kali & the grace of Lord both are very intense, sufficient to change one's Varna in the present life alone.

**Mahabharata incident-** The above explanation is strongly supported by the following dialogues between Yudhishtir & Serpent (Nahusha) narrated [here][4].

The serpent said, "O Yudhishthira, say--Who is a Brahmana and what should be known? By thy speech I infer thee to be highly intelligent."
Yudhishthira said, "O foremost of serpents, he, it is asserted by the wise, in whom are seen the truth, charity, forgiveness, good conduct, benevolence, observance of the rites of his order and mercy is a Brahmana. And, O serpent, that which should be known is even the supreme Brahma, in which is neither happiness nor misery and attaining which beings are not affected with misery; what is thy opinion?"

The Serpent ask again-

The serpent said, "O Yudhishthira, truth, charity, forgiveness, benevolence, benignity, kindness and the Veda which worketh the benefit of the four orders, which is the authority in matters of religion and which is true, are seen even in the Sudra. As regards the object to be known and which thou allegest is without both happiness and misery, I do not see any such that is devoid of these."
Yudhishthira said, "Those characteristics that are present in a Sudra, do not exist in a Brahmana; nor do those that are in a Brahmana exist in a Sudra. And a Sudra is not a Sudra by birth alone nor a Brahmana is Brahmana by birth alone. He, it is said by the wise, in whom are seen those virtues is a Brahmana. And people term him a Sudra in whom those qualities do not exist, even though he be a Brahmana by birth. And again, as for thy assertion that the object to be known (as asserted by me) doth not exist, because nothing exists that is devoid of both (happiness and misery), such indeed is the opinion, O serpent, that nothing exists that is without (them) both. But as in cold, heat doth not exist, nor in heat, cold, so there cannot exist an object in which both (happiness and misery) cannot exist?"

An interesting question again asked by the serpent -

The serpent said, "O king, if thou recognize him as a Brahmana by characteristics, then, O long-lived one, the distinction of caste becometh futile as long as conduct doth not come into play."

To which Yudhishtir replies -

"In human society, O mighty and highly intelligent serpent, it is difficult to ascertain one's caste, because of promiscuous intercourse among the four orders. This is my opinion. Men belonging to all orders (promiscuously) beget offspring upon women of all the orders. And of men, speech, sexual intercourse, birth, and death are common. And to this the Rishis have borne testimony by using as the beginning of sacrifice such expressions as--of what caste so ever we may be, we celebrate the sacrifice. Therefore, those that are wise have asserted that character is the chief essential requisite. The natal ceremony of a person is performed before the division of the umbilical cord. His mother then acts as its Savitri and his father officiates as a priest. He is considered as a Sudra as long as he is not initiated in the Vedas. Doubts have arisen on this point, O prince; of serpents, Swayambhuba Manu has declared, that the mixed castes are to be regarded as better than the (other) classes, if having gone through the ceremonies of purification, the latter do not conform to the rules of good conduct, O excellent snake! Whosoever now conforms to the rules of pure and virtuous conduct, him have I, ere now, designated as a Brahmana."
The serpent replied, "O Yudhishthira, thou art acquainted with all that is fit to be known and having listened to thy words, how can I (now) eat up thy brother Vrikodara!"

Moreover from the above narration, we conclude & note -

  • The serpent was satisfied with the answers implies answers were correct as the serpent was none other than Nahusha who was known as wise, virtuous, learned, etc. ( Qualities that made him King of heaven )
  • Answerer was none other than highly learned Dharmaraj. which strengthens the answers.
  • Dharmaraj actually answering based on wise's words of that time, implies the true theory of casteism in the eyes of wises.

Therefore final answers are.

  • There is no proof all ancestors were strict with their allotted castes & it doesn't matter as long as the current progeny has according conduct. Conduct is sufficient to determine one's caste.

  • Birth based classification is necessary as alike soul fixes into alike womb. But this classification should be flexible in the manner - a Brahmin would fall from his varNa on any act contrary to scriptural injunctions.

  • Varna Dharma or class system is eugenics - it is a pivot of Dharma because, without one's Varna, one's occupation (Swadharma) can't be asserted & when a larger population stray away from its swadharma, adharma escalates that eventually leads to sufferings & evils in the society. Equality is deception; Shouldn't wise secure a higher level in the hierarchy than ignorant ones?

PS: Answer will continually be updated.

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