Tuesday, July 17, 2012


    The four varnas into which Hinduism has divided its votaries are Brahma, Kshatriya, Vaisya, and Sudra. The Brahmana is declared to be the greatest and foremost of them on the authority of the Vedas and the Smrities. Now arises the question, who is a Brahmin? What characteristics attribute of his gives him a claim for the designation? Is it his Jiva, or body, or caste, or gnana, or karma, or dharma that makes a man a Brahmin? It cannot be his Jiva. In the innumerable incarnations past and present the nature of the Jiva has ever been the same. Nowhere do we hear that the Jiva changes. Ever being the same, it takes up different bodies according to its Karma. Furthermore, Jiva is the same in all corporeal beings. Is it then the gross body that gives the Brahmin the claim to his title? From the lowest Chhandala upwards, the bodies of all men being no more than the component of ashes, and gases and water, they are at bottom of the same nature and are similarly affected by old age and death. It has been said that the Brahmin is white, Kshatriya red, Vaisya yellow, and the Sudra black; but we well know this is no longer true. The inference therefore is that neither the colour of the skin nor its gloss gives the Brahmin his essential character. Is a Brahmin so called because he has the accident of finding himself born in a Brahmin family? If we trace the origin of great sages, we find that some of the greatest sages that have adorned this land and of whom we may justly be proud, whose lives are the highest ideals this world can show and whose transcendent piety and complete renunciation of the things of this world point to them as Masters for all times and ages, were not born in Brahmin families. Rishyasringa was born of a deer, Kausika of Kuca grass, Jambuka of a jackal, Valmiki out of antholes, Vyasa of a fisherwoman, Gautma of a hare, Vasishta of Urvasi, and Agastiya from a pitcher. All these and many others of similar origin were esteemed true and great Brahmin, their caste and origin notwithstanding. If, however, gnana be considered the distinguishing feature of the Brahmin, many Kshatriyas who have been known to be great 'Seekers after Truth' are entitled to be so called. So the possession of gnana is not the essential attribute of the Brahmin. It is his Karma then that make him a Brahmin? Everyone knows that all those that are living have sanchita, prarabdha, and agami Karmas, and actuated by these they preform Karma. Nor does dharma make a Brahmin. If that be so countless Kshatriyas who have given away immense wealth for charity should be known as Brahmins.

    Who, then, is the Brahmin? What are his defining attributes? The Upanishads throw light on the question. They say: whoever having realised the soul that is second less, destitute of caste, quality, and action, devoid of shadharma and shadhana, the former consisting of fondness, birth, increase, change, decrease and destructions, and the latter of hunger, thirst, grief, moha, old age, and death, who is an embodiment of Truth, Intelligence, Bliss, and Infinity lives having achieved the fruit of his actions, devoid of passions, desire, and the like bad qualities, possessed of shama and dhama, divested of malice and avarice, unspoiled by pride and I-ness, the person of this description and he alone is a Brahmin. So say also Srutis, Smritis, Puranas and Itihasas.

R. K.

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