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Caste system of India


I loved India and am a product of its caste system in that I was born into a Brahmin family. But Mahatma Gandhi's example shows that banias can also be seekers of truth. Whatever its origins the caste system gave society some structure and stability in olden times and if one believed in karma that people were born to the life they deserve on the basis of their conduct in past lives there could be no valid arguments against it. Whether a country has a caste system or not is a matter for individual choice multiplied over the population of the country. Measures to counter it have been taken by governments, but the caste system had survived upheavals, as Hinduism itself survived Buddhism despite being heavily promoted by King Ashoka centuries after Buddha's life.


It is for the individual to decide whether he should or should not believe in untouchability depending on the stage of development of their search for truth. At one stage I believed that Brahmins in deep search were right to keep their bodies pure and clean and therefore contact with others was to be avoided. This practice was however not possible living in the UK where one needed to shake hands with all kinds of people as a custom of society. To be one with the truth meant that one had to extend ones hand as a gesture of friendship. In my job too for Shell Wigmore, I had to have contact with customers in accepting payments and giving change when one would inadvertently touch people, although I strived to minimise contact. Ultimately belief in untouchability may prove to be the product of ignorance since God was all-pervading. Equally to call the untouchable caste as God's specially loved harijans displayed ignorance on the part of Mahatma Gandhi because everyone was a child of God and God was everywhere and in every being.


Mahatma Gandhi was a brilliant politician who wished to achieve goals such as rights for Indian workers in South Africa and independence for India. To be at one with the truth would have meant that these were undesirable goals. Further, he misunderstood the meaning of brahmachari in describing it to mean one desiring to practise self-restraint, rather than one seeking Brahma and practicing Brahmanism. He wished to give up drinking milk to curb his animal passion, as he put it in his autobiography. It was his conviction that procreation and the consequent care of children were inconsistent with public service. He preached non-violent satyagraha and whilst this proved to be highly successful tactics it was actually a weapon of warfare against the British. He was a much needed thorn in the flesh of the British Empire for the sake of the world, and the British were derogatory about him, even describing him as the half-naked fakir because he did not wish to conform to British ways of dressing and conduct. He united India and changed Indian society by his actions such as promoting indigenous industries (such as the khadi homespun cotton movement) and describing the 'untouchables' as harijans. Years later laws were passed for positive discrimination in favour of scheduled caste and other low caste people in education and government jobs. This slowed down the pace of development of the Indian economy but the laws may also have prevented the poor from agitating and stopped India's slide towards Communism. Mahatma Gandhi was finally killed by a fanatic religionist for promoting the idea that Muslims and Hindus could live together in harmony and that India and Pakistan should remain as one country after independence because the people had a common history and both their ways of life were based on religion rather than the materialism of the west.


Mahatma Gandhi ideas were what the country needed at the time and elements of the caste system had broken down naturally. Sri Sathya Sai Baba had also said that humanity was one caste. But the caste system was deeply ingrained in the Hindu psyche and it would take a long time before it gets dismantled. And whatever the rights and wrongs of the partition of India in 1947, the situation was unlikely to change now with Kashmir continuing to remain a part of India.


Mahatma Gandhi was fighting evil in combating the British occupiers of India and he was also a seeker of truth. But he did not find the ultimate truth which is a state of being that seeks to be at one with the truth. To seek the truth by experiments and to be at one with the truth are entirely different stages of worship. And he was not a saint. History records him as the Mahatma but other great souls of that era were equally revered by ordinary people such as Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa, Swami Vivekananda, and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. They too contributed to modern India in different ways and were great souls, of the Number 8 or 9 category in my karmic ladder of souls. These individuals (and others) made India the great country that it was for they provided and continued to provide stability to a culture of religion that was largely 'lost' by the interventions of the Buddhist philosophy, the Muslim domination, and the British occupation over the centuries.



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