Wednesday, October 10, 2007

#90, In America there is the best scope for caste to develop

Swami Vivekananda believed in caste system. One gets an impression that at some places in his Complete Works he supported the Birth-caste system and at some other placed denigrated it. We get an impression of his getting confused. He wrote from Chicago, to Justice Sir Subrahmanya Iyer, his PLan of Action for India.

"... In Sanskrit, Jaati, i.e. species. Now, this is the first idea of creation. Variation (Vichitrataa), that is to say Jati, means creation. "I am One, I become many" (various Vedas). Unity is before creation, diversity is creation. Now if this diversity stops, creation will be destroyed. So long as any species is vigorous and active, it must throw out varieties. When it ceases or is stopped from breeding varieties, it dies. Now the original idea of Jati was this freedom of the individual to express his nature, his Prakriti, his Jati, his caste; and so it remained for thousands of years. Not even in the latest books is inter-dining prohibited; nor in any of the older books is inter-marriage forbidden. Then what was the cause of India's downfall? — the giving up of this idea of caste. As Gita says, with the extinction of caste the world will be destroyed. Now does it seem true that with the stoppage of these variations the world will be destroyed? The present caste is not the real Jati, but a hindrance to its progress. It really has prevented the free action of Jati, i.e. caste or variation. Any crystallized custom or privilege or hereditary class in any shape really prevents caste (Jati) from having its full sway; and whenever any nation ceases to produce this immense variety, it must die. Therefore what I have to tell you, my countrymen, is this, that India fell because you prevented and abolished caste. Every frozen aristocracy or privileged class is a blow to caste and is not-caste. Let Jati have its sway; break down every barrier in the way of caste, and we shall rise. Now look at Europe. When it succeeded in giving free scope to caste and took away most of the barriers that stood in the way of individuals, each developing his caste — Europe rose. In America, there is the best scope for caste (real Jati) to develop, and so the people are great. Every Hindu knows that astrologers try to fix the caste of every boy or girl as soon as he or she is born. That is the real caste — the individuality, and Jyotisha (astrology) recognises that. And we can only rise by giving it full sway again. This variety does not mean inequality, nor any special privilege. ..."

Vivekananda mixed up "varieties among humans thrown out by nature" with caste, unnecessarily linking it to "Jaati" which meant "race (sometimes 'Nationality'). He apparently felt that Nature divided people into Priests, Warriors, Traders and Servants. It may be true that by birth some individuals may have some traits and not have some other traits.

People are forced to take up their professions and occupations by the customs of the society (birth caste and caste-based occupations), by market forces of demand and supply for different services, by operation of State laws like "laws of inheritance and succession".

Examples: Jamshedji Tata's son J.R.D. Tata became a steel maker. Due to his own aptitudes and interests he may add flying of airplanes etc. to his hobbies and businesses.

Shri Dhirubhai Ambani's sons Anil Ambani and Mukhesh Ambani became CEOs not because the Nature has created them as "Jaati (Vivekananda's meaning = caste), but because the family customs and inheritance laws made them CEOs. They continue the CEO occupations and add new areas and fields.

Mrs. Indira Gandhi became the PM of India because her family was perceived as the "Jaati of the Prime Ministers and Politicians" by some Congress minions. Crown was placed on her head by the circumstances and she proved her mettle. The same was the case with Late Rajiv Gandhi. It continues for Ms. Sonia Gandhi and Mr. Rahul Gandhi. Sometimes, people may withdraw from the inherited occupations and professions owing to lack of interest and skills. The interest and skills are the composite results of numerous factors like environment, education, friends, attitudes towards life etc. But basically, some people get the highest things in life without much labor owing to interplay of different forces in the society. By its very nature, the Capitalist and feudalist societies cause inequalities by allowing right of succession to estates, breeding inequalities.

On the other hand, a 12 year old child of a small-marginal farmer/landless laborer is sent to a master for wages, forced to drop out from the school, much against the child's wishes. This happens not because the child out of its free-will joyfully longs to do farm/dairy/sheep work but because there were forced circumstances. Now should we say that the Lord Krishna blessed the child with the Jaati of a person loving manual labor? Being born in a family which has awfully deprivated circumstances, is not the fault of the child. Then it cannot escape the situation, because the child does not have the wherewithal to resist the imposed Jaati (of the brand of Vivekananda). Suppose this child of the farmer has some histrionic talent. He will not become an actor automatically just as the son of Mega-Star Chiranjivi, becomes "Chiruta". The child has to put up extra-ordinary efforts, several times greater than the efforts of "Chiruta".

In USA also the position is same. Because of extreme inequalities of income and wealth, some of its citizens sleep under bridges or spend their whole lives in abandoned cars and wagons. If that is the fate of the people in a country like US where land, opportunities and resources are plenty, what will be the fate of poor in India where land is extremely scarce, opportunities are restricted and resources are locked up in the hands of selfish individuals?

Therefore, even if Gita says that the world will be destroyed if the caste system is removed, it cannot be correct. The world will not go anywhere. It will continue.

If astrologers fix the caste of just-born children and if astrology (jyotisha) recognises it, there can be no greater farce than it. Vivekananda wants to believe and support astrologers rather than the harsh realities of life in Indian society.

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