Everyone has got India’s Caste System completely wrong. Castes – the four: Brahman (teacher/intellectual), Kshatriya (fighter/Law Enforcement), Vaishya (Businessman/Trader) and Shudra (Blue-collar worker) – have been prevalent in every society in all times. Never has a society existed without these four predominant roles and people who fall in these categories broadly. Some straddle, but mostly these are the four inherent vocational tendencies that people perform.
The scourge of Caste System was NOT because there were castes, but because there was immobility between them. For most of India’s ancient and medieval history, the Rishis and Gurus were all from the “lower castes” (Blue collar). From Ved Vyas to Valmiki to the later Gurus, most were from families doing menial work. The Ashrams and the Universities during those times taught kids different skills. And based on what you learnt, you got into that profession. Getting into a Guru’s disciple-ship was predicated on the Guru’s discernment of who was or wasn’t suitable for that vocation inherently. Subjective yes, but isn’t entry into which University subjective even today?
When the invasions occurred, the Ashrams and Universities like Nalanda and Taxila were destroyed. The vehicles for mobility between castes were destroyed as well. That created castes frozen in filial and hereditary lineage. Moral of the Story: When Open education system is destroyed, Caste System is a verity.
In the race to browbeat the Indian caste structure without properly understanding why its nasty ruins manifested due to social upheavals – we miss out on something that has kept this culture and civilization in place. The primacy of Intellect in governance. Every King had a Royal Guru, whom he consulted.
I am sure people will charge on saying – “Well, afterall he was too interpreting scriptures”. Sometimes, not always. Even when he was, the scripture in Indian / Vedic sense did not equate to an Abrahamic scripture. Vedic scriptures consist of two components – Smritis and Shruti. Shruti is the unchangeable component (includes Vedas), while Smritis are contextual to a time and culture it comes about (Arthashastras, Puranas etc). Shruti is the articulation of the source that an enlightened being.. any enlightened being “taps” into. What Valmiki touched, what Krishna touched, what Buddha touched, what Mahavir touched, what Nanak touched or Ramana touched is unchanging Source of Creation. Its articulation is Shruti. That never needs to be in memory. Every enlightened being – no matter how educated or how illiterate (Nanak or Kabir for example) can experience and articulate.
Anything else with social relevance is of memory. So, Smriti. It is of a time and of a place. That which belongs to one place, is also changing. That is why Smritis have changed and will always change.
So, while Royal Gurus were Enlightened beings – and so articulated the source of creation, they also created the Smriti of their times. Their particular tradition. That wisdom was the work of a Guru. And the Guru was at the helm of the whole Governance system. The warrior (i.e.; King) was guided by him. Rules for the rest were inspired by the wisdom of the intellect and higher consciousness of a Guru and enforced by the Ruler.
This served this culture really well for many millennia. It takes some doing to remain a consistent civilization for over 7000 years.
The American Elections Field and Intellect
Today we saw the first GOP debate for the 10 candidates for nomination in the Presidential race. The front-runner was Donald Trump. He came from behind and has already surged ahead of Jeb Bush and indications are that he will continue to surge ahead.
When asked about his business practices – specifically his filing of many bankruptcies – he said: “I used the prevalent laws”. He also boasted of how he paid many politicians, “including many on this stage”! He made it apparent that he was very rich. $10 Billion rich!!
Looking at Obama, one saw how an intellectual – a well-educated person – was at the helm of affairs. A Brahmin in his ways. He may not be an enlightened being, but he has a steady head most of the times. That intellect guided the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces that he is.
Barring Ronald Reagan, most of the Presidents in the US history have been intellectuals. Those who weren’t (including Reagan) have created greater long term mess while sorting out short term problems.
Looking at Donald Trump it became apparent to one that the pendulum was shifting to a place where the Vaishya was to be at the helm. Having the money and making the money needs a lot of compromises of consciousness. Such a person cannot have the balance needed to hold the steering wheel of the nation with a steady hand. Only a sharp, well informed and conscious intellect can do that.
Trouble in Future for US Generations
The US Education system is as stacked against mobility now. The poor cannot fully access the best universities. Some can and they – like Obama – are exceptions. And only they make the mark. Unbeknownst to most, the US society is now experiencing the beginning of the era of fossilized castes. Lawyer’s kids will inherit their law practice. Politician’s kids become politicians (Clinton, Bush, Kennedy) and so on.
In such a time, we have a wave in the social universe of US which is buoying up a leader who cares for “profits at any cost”. Will the intensely “proud of his wealth” guy leave his business interests outside the gates of White House? I surely doubt.
The rich-poor gap is enlarging and will continue to grow. So will structures in the society be hardened. As will the ideologies.
No matter who comes in as the next President of the US of A, the future remains bleak in my eyes… unless one of the jokers who makes it to the White House can find a real Enlightened Being to lean on!
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