Reality Check India

Brahmins in the age of incredible coolness

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on August 25, 2007

vmna.jpg

O Lord, the glorious One,
Make me glorious too.
Lord, you who are the custodian of sacrifice for the gods,
Even so may I be the custodian of Sacred Knowledge for men.

The Gayathri Mantra

This post has been in my drafts folder for months now. I am glad to get it out.

First, a personal story to prepare the stage.

Last year, I attended a Upanayanam (sacred thread) ceremony for a friends son. My friend (lets call him Rajesh) was your typical IIT/ Purdue/ Silicon Valley “success” story.  He is a genuine nice guy with a completely modern thought process. He has helped many people financially without expecting anything in return. He is completely westernized – used to play lead guitar, date American women, go skiing, eat hamburgers, married a Bengali girl, and owns a 6 bedroom house in the valley. There was one other thing : he was a loose atheist or atleast he revolted against tradition especially brahminical rules such as food restrictions, Sandhyavandanams, and temple rituals.  He made his views known to everyone – and that added to his coolness factor.

I asked him why he was wasting his “India trip” on this Upanayanam.  He said, “Yes, personally I am not a big fan of this stuff, but I want to do it for my son. When he grows up, I want to give him the choice of following tradition or choosing another lifestyle”.

His response really got me thinking. I knew there was something wrong with his line of reasoning. Yet, it seemed to hold up. What if his son did turn out to be interested in the Vedas or atleast not hostile to it ?

In any case, the event was a grand affair.  Rajesh dressed up like a brahmin, put on a temporary poonol (sacred thread), went through the motions of Brahmopadesam, Gayathri mantrams. There were a couple of jokes about the vaathiyars (purohits) and how one of them even had a Blackberry for crying out loud!  All these were of course in a lighthearted vein.

An overall enjoyable event, yet I had a sinking feeling.  Was the sanctity of the event torn to shreds ? The disinterested coolness without the required dose of faith seemed to cheapen the spirit of the event. Was I overanalyzing it ? Have I lost the ability to just have some fun ?

End of story

Everyone of us knows atleast a variant of the above story. There exists an extremely large population of “brahmins-by-birth” – who are uneasy with the rituals, and feel encumbered by the strict rules and what they perceive to be outdated rituals. Yet, they go through weddings, upanayanams, birth ceremony (punya-janam), and umpteen other events in the traditional way. A reasonable explanation is that people from their caste have always followed this routine.  Its a template – rubberstamp affair. Om Blah-Blah Swahaha.

Back to my friend Rajesh’s story. After some thinking I did settle my thoughts into a position that explained my uneasiness with his explanation. These rituals are not meant to have a “gap” like this. For centuries, it has been passed from father->son->father->son… based on caste only. The largely valid assumption was that a father from the brahmin caste would follow or atleast not repudiate the traditions. This was true then, but not true today. If a brahmin-caste father ridicules or displays a disinterest in the vedic traditions, he automatically loses the privilege of handing off to his son. Its like a 4x400m relay. You drop the baton and the race is over for your teammates downstream.

Time for another story : of Annamalai

I have another friend in our area. His name is Annamalai from Gingee area near Tiruvannamalai. He is from the Yadava (or Konar) caste.  He is a moderately successful building mason in Chennai. What is striking about him is his faith in the hindu religion. Every year, come what may – he collects money for his village temple, and takes off for a week to participate in the tiruvizha. He never touches alcohol or eats non-veg , even eggs. Come Aadi, and he blasts devotional songs from an old amp powered by a truck battery. His son is only 4 years old, but has already been to Sabarimala. His wife is even more religious than him.  I have known him for six years, and till date I have never seen him without the viboothi (religious mark) on his forehead –  even at 10 PM.

End of story

While comparing Rajesh and Annamalai, we should be careful to not search for virtue. Rajesh is a good man in his own right, he has helped many people with financial support. Annamalai is not perfect either, he does not believe in equality of sexes. What matters for this debate is, “What should the relative position of the two individuals be in the Hindu religion, esp with regards to the brahminical mandates ?”

Also note, this debate does not cover the present day Vaadhiyars (Purohihts), Sivacharyas, or other brahmins that are still involved in vedic activities (Vaideegam). The question is who is suited to enter their fold ? What is the connecting link between them and the ‘cool dude uninterested – brahmin-by-birth’ ?

I have forumulated several ideas that I want to share in the next post.

1. Make it really easy for a brahmin-by-caste father to opt out his entire future generation from brahminism.

2. Vedic rituals, which exhort tradition, devotion to gurukulams, pledges for brahminical austerity and sacrifice- cannot be bandied around to people who are clearly uninterested. In my view, this is more demeaning to the hindu religion than a thousand atheist movements.

3. Most importantly, the rituals / mantras containing pledges – must be offered to people like Annamalai. It is not a question of caste conversion. It is one of who is more likely to take the mantras containing pledges seriously.  When Annamalai’s son grows up, he will now have a choice of whether he wants to conduct upanayanam for his son or not.

4. When it comes to implementing this on the ground, there are problems but they are not insurmountable. Obviously, we need strong mutts – such as those in Karnataka as an enforcement point. 

Two implementation issues :

1) How do you identify “uninterested” brahmins-by-birth who cannot be administered vedic pledges ? Clearly public figures (like Mani Shankar Aiyar, Kamalahaasan, etc) should be stopped in their tracks, but how about others (journalists, bloggers, cine artistes) who are open in their disapproval / ridicule. Could there be a system like the CSI Churches which announce upcoming weddings and allow people to object in the interim. I like that idea.

2) How to you identify and evaluate others who are likely to take the vedic pledges seriously ? The example of Annamalai above is an anecdote, but there needs to be a formal system. Could we propose a system based on “pilgrimage points” ? How about all Sabarimala guruswamis automatically become eligible and can initiate others ?

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53 Responses

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  1. Apollo said, on August 25, 2007 at 1:57 pm

    Incredible article RC, I think u r saying that people should be able to take up or opt out of things in which they are interested or not interested respectively rather than it be given to them as an “entitlement by birth” or imposed on them as “duty by birth” as the case may be.

    It is a great idea. I think this will only help the Hindu religion and its adherents by giving “choice” to everyone based on their own interest and aptitude rather than bottle them up into pigeonholes by birth (read caste).

    But the reality is that caste is so ingrained into our society since millenia that it will be very difficult to get the people at large to give up this habit. It is going to be million times much tougher to get people out of this habit than it was to get the entire Chinese people off opium in the last century. Addiction dies hard. But then the Chinese themselves have a proverb “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”.

  2. Barbarindian said, on August 25, 2007 at 2:18 pm

    A very interesting proposal – one that can remove false stigmas from the religion and take away arsenals from rabid elements. Such ideas exist in other religions, the most common one being bestowal of a title upon learning the scriptures. I think Gyani Jail Singh did something like that too.

  3. realitycheck said, on August 25, 2007 at 2:29 pm

    Apollo

    >> or imposed on them as “duty by birth” as the case may be >>

    Absolutely, the message to current day brahmins-by-birth must be “Piss or get off the pot” (sorry for that analogy)

  4. realitycheck said, on August 25, 2007 at 2:36 pm

    Barb,

    Almost every religion has checks like these to prevent the “hollowing from inside” phenomenon. Ask Harbhajan Singh or even Manmohan Singh !

    It really gets me when people especially Brahmins from TN find it cool to yank around the poor Purohits. I want to grab them and shout, “Idiot ! Dont you realize they are the ones paying for your incredible coolness”.

  5. Observer said, on August 25, 2007 at 3:01 pm

    I believe there is a self-correcting mechanism already in place. For example, in many temples, priesthood is restricted to the family, and secular Brahmanas-by-birth are not considered when positions open up. The division of labor envisioned 2500-3000 years ago was probably voluntary, and degenerated into a “trade-union” style group identity where each group protected their turf. It was also more efficient for a father to take on his sons as apprentices, which may have been the optimal way to pass on knowledge of the profession in the absence of other means of dissemination, which led to the professional boundaries hardening along hereditary lines.

    In the modern age, particularly with the easy availability of books, trade journals, Internet, DVDs, and other forms of media, apprenticeship may not necessarily be the optimal way of disseminating knowledge. As another example, I need not be born to an English father to be able to excel in English literature and art.

    Priesthood is also a profession, one in which merit and excellence must form the primary criteria of judging credentials, just as it should be for secular professions. If I had a choice between a hamburger-eating, wine-drinking, womanizing Brahmana-by-birth to officiate at a Hindu ceremony, and a non-Brahmana-by-birth who was devout, vegetarian, teetotaller and who took the time to deeply become familiar with the Vedas, it would be an easy choice for me.

    Many changes are definitely in the offing for Hindu society as urbanization and modernization (read Westernization) continues. In another 50 years, even in India I do not think there will be a “dhobi” caste, a “fisherman” caste, a “barber” caste, an “goldsmith” caste, and numerous other “trade-union” style sub-castes of yore. New professions have opened up, and there is no “IT-professional” caste, “Engineering” caste, “call-center” caste, “electrician” caste, or any other myriad professional avenues because knowledge for these need not be acquired by hereditary means.

    I do know that “barber”, “goldsmith”, “fisherman” etc caste-based quotas in those new professions however, are not going to help.

  6. Observer said, on August 25, 2007 at 3:23 pm


    Absolutely, the message to current day brahmins-by-birth must be “Piss or get off the pot” (sorry for that analogy)

    I do not think the Brahmanas-by-birth are treated any differently in secular professions. They undergo the same review-appraisal-promotion process as others in those fields. Also, I think very few secular Brahmanas-by-birth are going to revert to priesthood, so the hereditary link is already broken. I believe Hindu religion may eventually become a private affair, where families will self-officiate at their own ceremonies and will not need purohits. After all, the manuals and scriptures can easily be downloaded off the internet today, just like Yoga books. How many people really go to a Yogi to practice Yoga today?

  7. ஜடாயு said, on August 26, 2007 at 6:36 am

    Good thoughts. It is such ideas that will take Hinduism and humanity forward.

    Half-baked traditionalists will obviously fume at such proposals and call it sacreligious – they are to be neglected and opposed. The amazing thing abt Hindusim is that it has *always* allowed such manuvering of customs and practices to preserve and protect Dharma. A glance at the history of Bhakti movement itself would prove this.

    Swami vivekanada enviosioned such openness in Hinduism. To a question whether Vedas are for all, he thus quotes from the Sukla Yajurveda Samhita –

    “yathA-imAm vAcham kalyaNIm AdadAmi janebhyah;
    Brahma-rAjanyAbhyAm sUdrAya cha AryAya cha svAya-chAraNAya cha”

    Just as I am speaking these blessed words tothe people,
    in the same way you also spread these words among all men and women –
    the Brahmanas, kshtriyas, vysayas, Sudras andall other,
    whether they are our own people or aliens.”

    Thanks.

  8. xyz said, on August 26, 2007 at 3:43 pm

    These thoughts have been troubling me for sometime.More so,as i have pretensions of being orthodox.Like all pretensions,there is a huge gap between reality and my own fancies.

    My two paise thoughts on this.

    1) These thoughts must have troubled brahmanas many times in the past.Many would have left the brahminical fold and many others would have just held on to the shell of rituals.Many non-brahmanas would have had brahmana ancestors in the past.But the problem with brahmanism,like judaism,is that it did not accept new converts.

    2)of course ,there were bhakti movements,which attracted large masses.They were relatively egalatarian.promoted local languages,beliefs,customs,practices,rituals and had strong regional identity.Sri Vaishnavism is the case par excellence.To a lesser or greater degree,tamil saivism,veerashaivism in karnataka,madhvas in tulu country,the varkari movement in maharashtra and sikhism in punjab promoted the same ideals.

    3) As a tamil iyer,though having high regard for sri shankara,for his insight into vedantic truth,i have always been disturbed by the fact that advaita(with its vedic exclusiveness) is so cold and remote from ordinary human emotions.Personally,i have great regard for the jnanis of this tradition.Tirumoolars thought are way beyond ordinary men.Generally the Advaita tradition has a lofty attitude towards sectarian conflict,but it is unmistakebly elitist.The problem is in the real world.Only a few attain the icy heights,the rest are just pretenders.The austerity of this tradition seems to make no sense in the modern world.One can sense,even at this length of time,the relef sri ramanuja’s life and teachings,must have been to many followers of the vedic tradition.

    3)At the same time,i know at least a few brahmanas,who seem to have found a rare equilibrium between vedic austerity,spiritual contemplation and excellence in modern science.They are very few in number.

    4)Pehaps,if reservation had not given a new lease of life to caste identity,brahmanas,who are anyway so thorouhly secularised would have left the rituals/beliefs to the dictates of the indviduals conscience.

    5) Nowadays every one knows the meaning of ‘gayatri’ and i think in a generation or two,it will be only the spiritually earnest(of whatever caste) who will pass the torch to the next generations.I think this has to be the only way, for ritual purity has caused more injury than any other idea.

  9. Observer said, on August 26, 2007 at 8:04 pm

    In a sense, the recent TN order allowing anyone of any caste to be a priest is a symbolic but important step. Most Devi/Amman temples in villages anyway have pujaris of other castes. Only the brahmana priests in temples where Agama traditions are followed (Srirangam, Meenakshi temple etc), have opposed the TN order, but with time that opposition may become moot. In Karnataka, there are already many “OBC” mutts, who have liberally borrowed from the Sringeri mutt and also Dharmic/Vedic traditions, and have their own sangathis and conduct their own yagnas and consecrations and wedding ceremonies. So it is clear Hinduism is evolving on its own and it will continue to do so, as it belongs to all castes and is not an organized religion.

    Arya Samajis are another offshoot of Hinduism, who believe in going back to the original Vedic precepts, before castes and other ritualistic practices were ingrained into Hindu society. What was started a few thousand years ago on the banks of the sindhu river by tribes of a few thousand people, has morphed into something very different.

  10. srinias said, on August 27, 2007 at 4:54 am

    But these are all good ideas.But they are not practically possible.Who wants to become a priest in a small temple nowadays.It is no longer possible to survive with the income they get.Let the brahmins continue this as long as they

  11. realitycheck said, on August 27, 2007 at 4:55 am

    xyz,

    Thanks for your insightful comment.

    I think I failed to make my central point come across in this post.

    There are many brahmins-by-birth today who openly display contempt for vedic traditions in public, but switch and perform ceremonies which contain pledges in private (when no one is looking). The vaadhyars (bhattars) who are supposed to conduct these events from a position of a teacher receive scant respect from these new-age cool dudes/gals.

    Do we need to organize the mutts in a way that these rites are not administered to these individuals ? This way it makes it easy and official for these persons to break their entire chain (sons->grandsons->daughters) out of brahmism. Once this happens, they cannot perform upanayanams for their sons, or conduct weddings in the traditional way for their daughters.

    Administering these mantras to people who are not interested at best or openly contemptuous at worst is the worst insult to the religion in my view.(eg, Kamalahasan, Mani Shankar, many bloggers and journalists, communists).

    The next issue is : we need to allow people who display interest into the fold.

    The government should have absolutely no role to play in any of these issues in a secular state. The TN governments recent order just shows that the concrete returns from the dravidian ideology are diminishing.

    • seadog4227 said, on December 7, 2011 at 8:28 am

      Does a teacher stop teaching a student because he has no interest? Are people capable of changing with age? Is personal change possible?
      My 2 nephews from the US were administered their “poonuls” last year. They knew nothing till I explained the concept over a week. Now one of them follows everything, whilst the other is still hesitant due to peer pressure in the US. So, convincing a person, especially if one is following that tradition himself, is always possible.
      There is nothing wrong with hereditary functions as long as there is openness also. In fact, openness is the norm in our Bharat. Every kirana shop in my area does puja. They have their own rituals and bhajans. Sanatana Dharma is thousands of years old! Do not be taken in by propaganda originated by British missionaries and communists.

  12. realitycheck said, on August 27, 2007 at 5:06 am

    >> Who wants to become a priest in a small temple nowadays >>

    Srinias,

    Not a priest. I was saying that the religion should

    1) Not administer vedic pledges to brahmins-by-birth who are not interested. This would effectively cut off the entire tree of descendents of a father who displays contempt / ridicule / disinterest in the proceedings. As I said in my post, this is akin to the first sprinter dropping the baton in a 4×400 relay thereby ending the race for his/her teammates downstream. The brahmin caste has ended for this person. Finito.

    2) Come up with a framework to enable not-brahmins-by-birth who are demonstrably interested in the religion (all symbolism included) to enter the brahmin fold. For example : how about all Ayyappa temple guruswamis (those who have been 18 times to Sabarimala) automatically become brahmins and can initiate others into the fold. The above is just an example, there may be other ways to identify them.

    In hindsight, I should have written two posts instead of one.

    1nd post : Making exit easy and official for commies, atheists, individuals displaying ridicule or contempt. God knows, you cant rely on their personal integrity alone to jettison their caste.

    2nd post: Making entry easy and almost automatic for individuals who are interested in carrying out the brahminical mandate.

  13. madhu srinivas said, on August 27, 2007 at 5:24 am

    A prayer with a heart but without words is better than a prayer with words but without heart-Mahatma Gandhi

    Unfortunately the essence of this saying has been lost on many people today, this includes both the younger and older generations.Though the ritual is as improtant as the spiritual significance behind it , the former does not take precedence over the latter.The Half baked traditionalists have failed to realise this, insisting with mule like stubborness on the ‘proper’ conduct of the rituals without pausing to check whether there is any sincerity behind it.The result of this that the younger generation grows up to identify hinduism as religion riddled with stupid superstitions and unscientific practices like idolatry, casteism and what not.Result- they grow up to become pseudo secularists or loose atheists, like Rajesh.

    The only way to reverse this debilitating trend would be to bring about a change in the mindset of both the tradionalists and the present generation.
    Elders need to let go of their caste-centric mindset and be ready to impart knowledge to any sincere and willing student, after all most of the azhvars were non brahmins and even sri ramanuja himself is known to have had complete disregard for the caste sytem.The youngsters for their part should show willingess and enthusiasm by making an effort to learn more about their roots and their religion, esp the brahmin-by-birth.

  14. shadows said, on August 27, 2007 at 7:26 am

    RC ,

    Better if things turns back to how they were before the Islamic invasions of India. Caste system was rather flexible, so that you could be a Brahmin by profession, even if you were not by birth. The original intent of the caste system was never to bind a person to the caste.

  15. Revathi said, on August 27, 2007 at 8:06 am

    Dear RC,

    I dont know what is the translation source for the Gayathri that you have used. It seems to be quite different from others that say for example, the ,most simple
    “May we attain that excellent glory of Savitr the God:”
    “So may he stimulate our prayers.”

    or O God, Thou art the giver of life, the remover of pain and sorrow, the bestower of happiness; O Creator of the Universe, may we receive Thy supreme, sin destroying light; may Thou guide our intellect in the right direction.”

    Yours confused

  16. xyz said, on August 27, 2007 at 9:00 am

    Observer,

    i agree with your observations,except in one detail.Even the vedas,though having a paramount place in theory,is only one of the sources of hinduism.Perhaps it is a compilation or compendium of different traditions,as transmitted by a group of seers,who were themselves very diverse.

    Scholars say the rig veda is quite different from the atharva veda.The Yajur veda has an emphasis on ritual.

    RC,

    I understood clearly what you were trying to express.

    I was putting across a pretender’s view point.Like a true (!)pretender,let me put some possible objections.

    1)If some one is not interested in any sampradaya, he can leave it.But what moral authority does he have to “reform” that sampradaya in which he has no faith?
    2) Every tradition (including the vedic) has evolved according to the needs of the community it catered to.Hinduism is unique in having many layers.
    But even the semitic traditions had evolved,we know from modern scholarship.The unyielding rigidity of islam and christianity primarily arose,after they acquired political authority and refusal to acknowledge other knowledge system.
    3)I say this,many young people seem to think that the vedic thought had complete sway over all indian people at all points of time.This was not true.There were multiple hindu ideals competing at all points of time.Vedic ritualism was just one among them.In the recorded part of indian history,most rulers were paying lip service to ritualism.
    4)In fact, the Upanishads themselves question the exaggerated emphasis on ritualism.
    5)Neverthless, every community has to have some clear idea on what exactly the tradition is and how to preserve it for the succeeding generations.
    6)A broad consensus seems to have emerged in the community,in ages past,on the means to preserve it.Since the vast majority of others had their own particular traditions,and were only elliptically connected to the “Great” tradition,this was a very fine working arrangement.

    After all the vedic seers,Sri krishna had pointed out the limitations of ritualism.The temples were the point of contact of popular traditions and vedic religion.A separate group emerged to cater to the special needs.

    Other popular traditions did not require brahmana priests at all.

    In any organised religion, the priesthood has to have the twin virtues of purity and sacred lore.Perhaps,islam lays less emphasis on purity.

    Only in brahmana faith and judaism is it obligatory for the faithful to carry out many religious observances.Most of these have to do with life cycle ceremonies(the samskaras from birth to death).In any mercantilist societies,they will die a natural death.There are other ceremonies connected with communal life,like propitiation for rain or victory in war.

    Even today,most non-brahmanas(in TN) go through these life cycle ceremonies(birth,death) without brahmana priests.The devout call for the services of panchangakaran during marriages.The situation is quite different in north india where the jajamani system is very strong in the villages,which binds the pandit to the non-dalit population.

    I cant see much merit in teaching ritualism to a konar,if he is not sure of getting a clientele.The orthodox(and not so orthodox) brahmana would prefer an orthodox priest.The non brahmins do not have elaborate life cycle ceremonies.In our society, as it is today, a vellala ,thevar or a chettiar would still prefer a brahmana priest for his needs.

    Remember,the vellala,chettiar or thevar who has his own entrenched view point of purity,would(may) not prefer a konar.The non-believer would dismiss all this as superstitious..

    But,as the upanishads point,anushtanas lead to chitta shuddhi(mental purity).Sri Krishna says work(duty) is to be done as sacrifice.Even in TN,ardent periyaarists(caste hindu landlords) are ardent admirers of Gita.It helps that Gita advocates division of labour.

    The situation is not very different in other hindu traditions.The veerashaiva tradition has become essentially lingayat.The tamil vellala tradition is almost exclusively vellala.The Sikh clergy is dominated by jat sikh.Why pick on the brahmana alone.

    As far as spiritual guidance goes,there always have been a plethora of traditions and gurus.My brother-in-law had ardent devotion for a non-brahmana bhakta.(The swami is no more).The indian spiritual tradition has always been pluralist.

  17. Gaurav said, on August 27, 2007 at 2:40 pm

    1. De-emphasize connection between caste and community (dont ask me how)

    2. Make everyone wear Janeyu, including females (I dont wear one)

    3. Give everyone guns. Teach all females Taekwondo

  18. xyz said, on August 27, 2007 at 3:35 pm

    I have fully exposed my prejudices,my fears and insecurities.I am surprised nobody has taken my arguments apart.I apologise,if i have hurt anybody.

    RC,
    you can delete my earlier post,if you find it offensive.

    Also,more than ever before,the mass of hindu population(in TN) are chanting Vishnu Sahasranamam,Bhagavad Gita,Lalita Sahasranamam etc.

    The Alwar pasurams and saivite Thevaram have always been available to the tamil literati.

  19. realitycheck said, on August 27, 2007 at 4:09 pm

    xyz,

    You comment is quite deep. I need to educate myself on some of the ideas in your reply (the Advaita philosophy) before I can respond. I dont find anything offensive in it at all.

    I want to draw your focus on this one issue,

    >>f some one is not interested in any sampradaya, he can leave it.But what moral authority does he have to “reform” that sampradaya in which he has no faith?>>

    Exactly. It is commonplace today both in the blogosphere as well as in our personal lives that brahmins-by-birth have a range of opinions on the rituals surrounding weddings/ temple rules /. They range from disinterest, amusement, irritation, to outright contempt and hostility.

    I can understand some of these frustrations, especially those of women. There is a legitimate basis to their role is these rituals.

    Should these un-interested individuals be checked ? As you point out, there is no authority to do that, unlike say the SGPC when it comes to Sikhs, the various muslim bodies, the CSI church, etc.

    Can we make it easy and official for an individual to exit the brahmin fold ?

    Why am I obsessed with this idea ?

    From personal experience : my extended family has many relatives who are not born-brahmins (all Pillais).What really gets their goat is when a disinterested cool-dude born-brahmin has no trouble getting his weddings, grahapravesams, last rites etc conducted in the vedic way, but even the devout amongst them cannot.

    They really have no problem with a interested or pretending-to-be interested brahmin.

    When they talk about birth-privileges this is a major part of what they mean !

  20. realitycheck said, on August 27, 2007 at 4:11 pm

    Revathi,

    I got that translation from a Sathya Sai website (the same place where I found the picture) I cant find it now !!

    • seadog4227 said, on December 7, 2011 at 8:36 am

      Please note: Different sampradayas has different meanings/ interpretations. Adi Shankara’s is most common on the net. Furthermore, there is shabdarth, anvayarth, nigamarth, sampradayarth etc
      Further, there is the common gayatri, the deergha gayatri (with sapta vyahritis) and lastly an added sentence which is given only to sanyasis/ yatis called the turiya gayatri.
      With best wishes to all!

  21. Observer said, on August 28, 2007 at 2:27 am


    From personal experience : my extended family has many relatives who are not born-brahmins (all Pillais).What really gets their goat is when a disinterested cool-dude born-brahmin has no trouble getting his weddings, grahapravesams, last rites etc conducted in the vedic way, but even the devout amongst them cannot.

    Why not?

  22. realitycheck said, on August 28, 2007 at 4:50 am

    Observer,

    I dont know why not. I have attended many events on both sides and they are just not the same. Even though the not-brahmin relatives are wealthier and are able to engage the services of a better Vaadhyar, the rituals are truncated versions. Unfortunately, I am not knowledgeable enough to pin point the exact mantras/pledges that are cut out.

    I will investigate soon and get back to this topic in a few weeks.

  23. daredevil said, on August 28, 2007 at 6:40 am

    hi RC,

    your blogs have been really informative and interesting.

    this 1 is the best of all.i have always wondered why people in india esp “brahmins-by-birth” start following the western culture so easily?why cant they be more possessive or be stronger about their culture,tradition,religion etc?bring others to follow us?

    I have always wanted to understand ppl like Rajesh.how can he give a choice to his son when he doesnt understand it or follow it?its like a teacher teaching a subject s/he hates?

    i feel the brahmins-by-birth have taken things for granted.”i’ve been given everything.i can do what i want with it.follow it,hate it,ridicule it but still perform it for the sake of it”. that is so unfair.

    hope in future there will be a way to solve this problem, to identify ppl who r genuinely interested from ppl who take things for granted just coz they belong to this religion.like going back to a time before caste became hereditary.

    I have been wanting to share these thoughts for quite sometime.hope I was able to convey it.thanks for this nice blog.somthing everyone should read.

  24. Revathi said, on August 28, 2007 at 8:50 am

    I would like to add here that “sampradaya” is not something static or untouchable- it has to evolve. If there are brahmin rituals that offend women/non brahmins/non hindus it is the sacred duty of the brahmin community to change it.
    It is good that the “cool brahmins” are still doing the rituals. Contrary to appearence, there is some belief in some corner of their personalities that induces them to do upanayanam for their sons. They feel that they owe their present rich status to an early form of discipline imposed on them by their parents and the thread is a part of this discipline. I have an adolescent son and if some one tells me that the thread is going to make him more spiritual- I would go for it- no matter what I may have felt at his age.
    Including women in an educated way in the ceremonies instead of treating them like puppets is not only politically correct, it is needed.
    Changing sampradaya is like adding or removing clauses from the constitution- the jewish clergy are constantly at it, so why are hindu clergy just reciting mindlessly?

  25. Sri said, on August 28, 2007 at 5:27 pm

    women/non brahmins/non hindus it is the sacred duty of the brahmin community to change it.

    Whoa Revathi,what about birds,animals and aliens?

    sacred duty???

    I would like to add here that “sampradaya” is not something static or untouchable- it has to evolve.

    Our sampradaya is not like the Muslim traditions that were tailored for a particular period (like wartime).Our sampradaaya is relevant even now..all these rituals and ceremonies have deep meanings.Efforts must be made to understand them.All this “evolution” and “outdated” bullshit must be stopped.It’s time we put more efforts into learning their meanings.It’s highly presumptuous on your part to call for their “evolution”.

    <Changing sampradaya is like adding or removing clauses from the constitution- the jewish clergy are constantly at it, so why are Hindu clergy just reciting mindlessly?

    FYI,there ain’t no Hindu clergy.

  26. Sri said, on August 28, 2007 at 5:29 pm

    RE-POSTING MY EARLIER COMMENT

    If there are brahmin rituals that offend women/non brahmins/non hindus it is the sacred duty of the brahmin community to change it.

    Whoa Revathi,what about birds,animals and aliens?

    sacred duty???

    I would like to add here that “sampradaya” is not something static or untouchable- it has to evolve.

    Our sampradaya is not like the Muslim traditions that were tailored for a particular period (like wartime).Our sampradaaya is relevant even now..all these rituals and ceremonies have deep meanings.Efforts must be made to understand them.All this “evolution” and “outdated” bullshit must be stopped.It’s time we put more efforts into learning their meanings.It’s highly presumptuous on your part to call for their “evolution”.

    Changing sampradaya is like adding or removing clauses from the constitution- the jewish clergy are constantly at it, so why are Hindu clergy just reciting mindlessly?

    FYI,there ain’t no Hindu clergy.

  27. realitycheck said, on August 29, 2007 at 5:36 am

    Revathi,

    I agree with you wholeheartedly. My proposal for automatic inclusion of “qualified” persons like Guruswamis is an example of changing the Sampradayams. I also fully agree that women should be included more, even though I am not exactly sure which particular areas. For example : I have not formed by views yet on the Sabarimala issue. I think it will shatter many folks like my uncles who have been there over 20 times.

    Sri,
    Everyone including women is fully qualified to call for changes. The central issue is that “Is the person calling for changes a believer or not ?”

    I think I failed to get that point across in this post. The “cool-guy” strawman I tried to construct apparently failed. I dont mean “cool-guy” born-brahmin who believes/is interested in the ritual proceedings. I mean “cool guy” who is openly hostile and displays emotion ranging from disgust to ridicule.

    I will revisit this after some time.

  28. daredevil said, on August 29, 2007 at 8:34 am

    I totally agree with Sri. Sampradhaya has evovled over the years.I think we need to take time to understand it. Superstition, now that is something which evovles from some 10 people’s experiances.Something which we need to keep a check on.I think our task here is to find the original way this caste system was followed before it became hereditary.

  29. daredevil said, on August 29, 2007 at 8:35 am

    I totally agree with Sri. Sampradhaya holds good even to this day.its beyond time.I think we need to take time to understand it. Superstition, now that is something which evovles from some 10 people’s experiances.Something which we need to keep a check on.I think our task here is to find the original way this caste system was followed before it became hereditary.

  30. Jai_Choorakkot said, on August 29, 2007 at 10:36 am

    “… cool-dude born-brahmin has no trouble getting his weddings, grahapravesams, last rites etc conducted in the vedic way, but even the devout amongst them cannot. …”

    This surprising snippet seems to be the trigger, for what I see as an alarmingly control-freaky approach where RC advocates having some kind of high command structure in Hindu clergy to evaluate ones worthiness and *prevent* undeserving ppl from conducting rituals in the Vedic way.

    Couldn’t follow much else, regrettably am too cool dudish abt this. I wonder also if there is some irritation among believing Brahmins that all that awesome knowledge of chants and mantras is not materially improving their situation much and is less of an asset to them today than it was to their forefathers.

    regards,
    Jai

  31. realitycheck said, on August 29, 2007 at 11:19 am

    Jai,

    >> the trigger, for what I see as an alarmingly control-freaky approach where RC advocates having some kind of high command structure in Hindu clergy to evaluate ones worthiness and *prevent* undeserving ppl from conducting rituals in the Vedic way. >>

    Not undeserving people, but uninterested people.

    I would never advocate a structure to measure worthiness.

  32. Raghu said, on September 5, 2007 at 5:36 pm

    RC,

    I appreciate the depth and range of both your article and the various responses you have given. I am from an Iyengar family, and have been observing my maternal grandfather and father practice the traditional methods and have myself been invested with the Janeyu/Poonal. Frankly, my position is not very different from yours, except for the following questions:

    1) When you say interest in tradition, does it entail a systematic, careful, down-to-the-roots study of the Vedic Practices or does it simply mean imbibing the current practices?
    The reason I ask is because from personal experience and study I have found that many of the Sloka that are recited at most events have peculiar connotations and uncertain origins and are even further convoluted by improper articulation (partly caused by a lack of actual training in Sanskrit language). One simple example is the Sankalpam performed during the Upakarma. The Sankalpam (as I understand it, and I may be wrong) requires the performer to precisely indicate his geographical and temporal position. The geographical convention is based on the position of the mountain Meru. The calendrical convention followed is based on the Kalpa-Manvantara-Mahayuga computation. I have, to date, not found any precise text that helps convert from the Gregorian to the Hindu calendar, and although many texts claim the Kali Yuga began on February 21st 3102 B.C., they do not provide sufficient sources. Again, the position of Mt. Meru is hotly debated – some locate it in the Pamirs, some in the “Himalaya” and (this seems more accurate to me – I am writing a blog article myself on this) some place it at the North Pole.

    Coming back to the source question, if one must follow tradition, I believe it necessary to do so with a complete understanding of every single practice. The question that begs asking of course, is where does one find such accurate information and knowledge.

  33. realitycheck said, on September 6, 2007 at 5:44 am

    >> 1) When you say interest in tradition, does it entail a systematic, careful, down-to-the-roots study of the Vedic Practices or does it simply mean imbibing the current practices? >>

    As xyz has pointed out, it would be wishful thinking to expect that those born-brahmins who are administered vedic pledges to have a scholarly inquisitiveness towards the proceedings.

    My position is far below that high-water mark.

    I was really attempting to address the born -brahmin individuals who display :
    1) contempt at worst or
    2) amused disinterest in the middle or
    3) frivolousness at best

    I see this more and more today – perhaps pointing to the need to put in place a control mechanism to discern interest before the priests begin to engage these individuals.

    Your attempts to interpret the texts are fascinating. Please do blog about them (and post a link to your blog here). The future of these ancient texts lies with folks like yourself.

    Regards,

  34. Mahesh said, on September 7, 2007 at 7:22 am

    Very interestring discussion going on!
    WIKIPEDIA offers a variety of information regarding the ancient vedic geographical locations.

  35. Manu said, on November 10, 2008 at 7:08 am

    Well Guys, one of the best debates indeed in the blogosphere. THe fact that so many of us are even talking about our connection and disconnection with our culture itself is enough to know it will soon come back.

    I share the opinion of the writer of this blog that it is like a relay race. If a child doesnt see his father do sandhyavandanam with him, it will be difficult for the child to develop interest in knowing the ritual, let alone knowing beyond it.

    Let me share my story. My mother is an iyer and father, a georgian. My father passed away when i was young, and I was raised since I was 3 in India. My maternal grandfather was an IAS and my mother a doctor. My grandfather was already a cool 🙂 brahmin, and did sandhi only on avaniattam, shraddham and other special days. My cousins got their upanayanam done. I didnt, possibly because no one insisted, since we were cool brahmins or because my dad wasnt brahmin (probably more the reason). However I learnt the rudram, agnisuktam and srisuktam when i was 10. I felt I had a flair for it. While my cousins (more like my brother’s really) turned out to be cooler brahmins. I did sandhi 🙂 and recited the rudram (still no upanayanam though 😦 ) . I asked my grandfather if i could get my upanayanam done and he said “when you grow up and realise the importance, you may get it done”. Many years after he passed away, when i was about 17, I went to ask some doubts i had about some mantram to a local pundit and thats when I decided I’ll tell him about my mixed parentage and if i can get my upanayanam done. He probably realised my interest and told me to come and get it done.

    It is possible that I developed so much interest in traditions because I had to strive to get what others in my family were granted by birth. But it was still easier for me than for a boy who’d probably know much mroe than me but not have the fortune of being born in a brahmin family. Probably if parents did force upanayanam on the child, he’d develop interest himself.

    I agree with the “Rajesh”‘s thought in the blog- it is possible for the child to also develop interest, since a child is influenced by many factors, not home alone. A child develops many bad habits including ridiculing tradition, mostly from outside, and this is looked down upon by the traditional parents, thereby developing a rift – there you’ve created a monster! In much the same way, a child can also understand the importance of dharmam by looking at the adharmam outside and the possible peace it would being if only everyone understood it and a few safeguarded it.

    Recently I read in the papers, 50 children not of brahmin birth were converted to Namboothiris by the council in Kerala. This was a measure taken to reduce caste-based divisions and also to allow children truly interested in the Vedas to join in the fold. Also the fact that Namboothiri traditions were such that they had become very few in number over so many years and they were probably afraid of gradual decline of culture.

    The Arya Samaj also does upanayanam for those interested, although they dont do it for “Shudras”. THey define the term not based on caste, but based on thought and exposure. If a monkey’s given a garland of flowers, it wont know the importance, would it. Much in the same way, a person should know fully what it is to be confered with the yajnopaveetham. It demands, personal as well social commitment to dharma. It is perhaps this concept which existed before the caste system became heriditary. And the reason for its heriditary nature, many say was possibly heirloom and also the fact that not many would want to be brahmanas or kshatriyas by choice 🙂 as it is today. Social dynamics are inevitable, we should learn to make the best of it. THe vedas are the ultimate source of all knowledge, we should all join and take it up as a sacred duty to contribute in whatever way possible to make people realise its importance and set them on their track.

    And always remember that passing on rituals in the first step. Hollow rituals mean nothing. I end my comment, before it turns into another blog :S

    Om tatchakshur devahitam purastat chhukramuchharat. (Yaju)
    pashyema sharadah shatam jivema sharadah shatam
    buddhyema sharadah shatam rohema sharadah shatam
    pushyema sharadah shatam Bhavema sharadah shatam
    Bhuyema sharadah shatam Bhuyasih sharadah shataat(Atharv)

    The ever watchful eye, pure that watches over the deeds of people, right and wrong. May we witness a hundred autumns! May we live for a hundred autumns! May we keep on enhancing our knowledge for a hundred autumns! May we keep on prospering for a hundred autumns! May we keep on acquiring strength for a hundred autumns! May we continue enjoying embellishment for a hundred autumns! May the autumns be more than hundred! May we accomplish all this.

  36. Manu said, on November 10, 2008 at 7:10 am

    Well Guys, one of the best debates indeed in the blogosphere. THe fact that so many of us are even talking about our connection and disconnection with our culture itself is enough to know it will soon come back.

    I share the opinion of the writer of this blog that it is like a relay race. If a child doesnt see his father do sandhyavandanam with him, it will be difficult for the child to develop interest in knowing the ritual, let alone knowing beyond it.

    Let me share my story. My mother is an iyer and father, a georgian. My father passed away when i was young, and I was raised since I was 3 in India. My maternal grandfather was an IAS and my mother a doctor. My grandfather was already a cool 🙂 brahmin, and did sandhi only on avaniattam, shraddham and other special days. My cousins got their upanayanam done. I didnt, possibly because no one insisted, since we were cool brahmins or because my dad wasnt brahmin (probably more the reason). However I learnt the rudram, agnisuktam and srisuktam when i was 10. I felt I had a flair for it. While my cousins (more like my brother’s really) turned out to be cooler brahmins. I did sandhi 🙂 and recited the rudram (still no upanayanam though 😦 ) . I asked my grandfather if i could get my upanayanam done and he said “when you grow up and realise the importance, you may get it done”. Many years after he passed away, when i was about 17, I went to ask some doubts i had about some mantram to a local pundit and thats when I decided I’ll tell him about my mixed parentage and if i can get my upanayanam done. He probably realised my interest and told me to come and get it done.

    It is possible that I developed so much interest in traditions because I had to strive to get what others in my family were granted by birth. But it was still easier for me than for a boy who’d probably know much mroe than me but not have the fortune of being born in a brahmin family. Probably if parents did force upanayanam on the child, he’d develop interest himself.

    I agree with the “Rajesh”‘s thought in the blog- it is possible for the child to also develop interest, since a child is influenced by many factors, not home alone. A child develops many bad habits including ridiculing tradition, mostly from outside, and this is looked down upon by the traditional parents, thereby developing a rift – there you’ve created a monster! In much the same way, a child can also understand the importance of dharmam by looking at the adharmam outside and the possible peace it would being if only everyone understood it and a few safeguarded it.

    Recently I read in the papers, 50 children not of brahmin birth were converted to Namboothiris by the council in Kerala. This was a measure taken to reduce caste-based divisions and also to allow children truly interested in the Vedas to join in the fold. Also the fact that Namboothiri traditions were such that they had become very few in number over so many years and they were probably afraid of gradual decline of culture.

    The Arya Samaj also does upanayanam for those interested, although they dont do it for “Shudras”. THey define the term not based on caste, but based on thought and exposure. If a monkey’s given a garland of flowers, it wont know the importance, would it. Much in the same way, a person should know fully what it is to be confered with the yajnopaveetham. It demands, personal as well social commitment to dharma. It is perhaps this concept which existed before the caste system became heriditary. And the reason for its heriditary nature, many say was possibly heirloom and also the fact that not many would want to be brahmanas or kshatriyas by choice 🙂 as it is today. Social dynamics are inevitable, we should learn to make the best of it. THe vedas are the ultimate source of all knowledge, we should all join and take it up as a sacred duty to contribute in whatever way possible to make people realise its importance and set them on their track.

    And always remember that passing on rituals in the first step. Hollow rituals mean nothing. I end my comment, before it turns into another blog :S

    Om tatchakshur devahitam purastat chhukramuchharat. (Yaju)
    pashyema sharadah shatam jivema sharadah shatam
    buddhyema sharadah shatam rohema sharadah shatam
    pushyema sharadah shatam Bhavema sharadah shatam
    Bhuyema sharadah shatam Bhuyasih sharadah shataat(Atharv)

    The ever watchful eye, pure that watches over the deeds of people, right and wrong. May we witness a hundred autumns! May we live for a hundred autumns! May we keep on enhancing our knowledge for a hundred autumns! May we keep on prospering for a hundred autumns! May we keep on acquiring strength for a hundred autumns! May we continue enjoying embellishment for a hundred autumns! May the autumns be more than hundred! May we accomplish all this.

  37. Bharathi Vaidyanathan said, on December 23, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    Lead a righteous life as spelled out commonly by all religions if you dont want to follow the complicated rituals and mantras the meanings of which only some care to learn. Hinduism is a way of life. If a brahmin man does not want to wear a thread the woman has done away with with her bindi. Who minds the look of a widow rubbed on one’s forehead? Symbols and sounds were significant. if one wants to do away with all these, well and good. Dont confuse your children and children’s children. Be brave and lead a righteous life for the Paramatma (the one things that runs through all things as Wordsworth said) is in every one, whether a tree, animal or human. Show love, care and concern around you, show patience, and share a fourth of what you earn with the have nots. Is this not dharma??

  38. Kumar said, on March 15, 2010 at 10:30 am

    Great discussion here.

    A few comments:

    1.@RC: About the ‘truncated rituals’ for non-Brahmin ceremonies, I have seen this phenomenon in Andhra Pradesh as well. I even asked my cousin who is a purohit by profession and his response was that typically among non-Brahmins, there is usually a lack of proper ritual structures and the grihastu (householder) doing the rituals wants the entire program to be finished in an hour or less (for marriages to give an example).Especially in case of homams, they just want to do the sankalpam, and then look after the guests or the feast, than be happy to sit in front of the fire, listen to the hymns and perform the homam. Obviously my cousin was generalising there, but he was speaking from his experience.Even among Brahmanas, this has become a trend recently. If any non-Brahmin householders want to perform the lengthy rituals for any Graha Shanti or Homams (some times running into 3-4 days), the purohits, I am sure, will be more than happy. However, the strict rules about not preparing and/or consuming non-vegetarian food may make it a bit difficult for many patrons.

    2.@Raghu – about the Sankalpam for any type of pooja- I think that part is basic Sanskrit and even if a person has not studied Sanskrit properly, he/she would be able to decipher it. Meru dakshina digbhaage- to the south of Mouunt Meru- is common across South India.(Not so sure about North but just listen to any pooja cassette/CD in Hindi and you can notice what they say).

    As for the rest of the Sankalpam- the date connotation goes like this and it should be common across the world – Sveta Varaha Kalpe (the Kalpa of the White Pig) – Vaivasvata Manwantare ( The manvantaram named after Vaivasvata)- Kaliyuge- Prathama paade…and then the exact thithi of the day.

    For geographical coordinates, if I am in Andhra Pradesh, I would say – Srisailasya (the nearest Jyotirling ), and then indicate the two major rivers on either side of your location (For Hyderabad, it is Krishna-Kaveri madhya bhaage)..

    The Internet has solved a lot of difficulties associated with knowing the meanings of specific chants.And if we want more insight, I am sure we still have a few vedic scholars in most of our cities. The need of the hour is to make the Vedic profession/s more rewarding.

    To respond to RC’s original arguments, I think those are great ideas.The tricky issues are in implementing them.

  39. Hanuman Sastry Maduri said, on September 14, 2010 at 6:26 am

    Sincerely, I have not read all the comments, but the main post.

    Most of the religions believe in Punarjanma (birth after this life/death).

    The following is applicable only to those who also believe in Punarjanma.

    With our present knowledge (??) we need to go to the Core Point. That is, the analysis of Varnashrama Vyavastha in vedic tradition.

    As my thinking takes me to the extent, I put the following for further thinking by the readers.

    In Gita, Bhagavan says “Chaturvarnyam maya srushtam GUNA KARMA Vibhagasah”

    What are GUNA and KARMA

    To me,

    GUNA are the aspects one imbibes by birth. That is Genetic qualities codified in DNA. A combination of Sattva Rajas and Tamo Gunas in different proportions. As an example, a Color displayed on Computer screen with RGB levels. With our 0-255 restriction for each of RGB, we are getting almost infinite colors. when 0-255 restrictions are not there, we can imagine how many types of Combinational entities can be made, out of which we inherit one Color (Caste).

    KARMA are the aspect what we do between Birth and Death, which are optional and decided by us, like the profession we choose or prompted by Parents or society or even by our inherited GUNA.

    To analyse, the KARMA aspect, we can take help of Artha Sastra written by Kautilya or Chanakya.

    In that book, he mentions the do’s and don’ts (Professions) of Each of the Four Castes (Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaishya, Sudra)

    For Brahmins : Yajana – perform Yajgnas, Yaajana – Help others perform Yajgnas, Adhyana – Study and Learn Vedas, Adhyapana – Teach the Knowledge to the entitled, Daana – Give donations to the needy, Pratigrahana – Receive Daanas

    and so on and so forth for all other three castes.

    These were the Do’s and Dont’s for Castes.

    We can now decide about ourselves in the indirect way, like, which caste we belong to, from KARMA point of view.

    Mostly, anybody who makes a living by “Earning” by doing some job with salary (naukri) or by performing any art/music etc. is classified as “Sudra” and other details can be sought from the book.

    So, what we have now ?? Most of us (the likes of Rajesh of the original story) now have a conflict in what we were programmed to do by our genetic GUNA aspect and What we are doing by our (selected) KARMA aspect which is described in GITA as “VARNA SAMKARAM”.

    In fact, Bhagavan has done the rectifying action by his teachings in GITA to Arjuna. (Arjuna being Kshatriya has onorous responsibility to up hold Dharma and destroy Adharma. But he choose to be silent to Adharma – a type of Varna Samkara, in a way).

    With this background, we can expect the Rajesh’s of our society (including me) will get Sudra birth in the next Janma, and with the same logic, Annamalai’s will get Vaishya or Kashatriya or Brahmin in the next Janma. That is proceed towards shuddha sattva guna janma in further janmas.

    A further thinking about what is the ultimate goal of our lives. It to me is attaining “Shuddha Sattva Guna”. A person living from birth to death, in that “Shuddha Sattva Guna” style is called “Vid” meaning Gjnani. He, then becomes Brahmam. (“Brahma veda, Brahmaiva bhavati”) and no further janmas to him (Mukta or Moksha).

    That is why, at least in the third or fourth ashrams (Vana prastha or Sanyasa) of our present life, we are advised to lead our life in Sattva guna way.
    That is why, the Sanyasi has no caste (or beyond caste)

    In this type of thinking, almost all of us are facing the dilemmas created out of Varna Samkara, the Conflict of our inherent GUNA aspect and the chosen KARMA aspect, thanks to the dilution of Vedic concepts by the Non-Vaidic influence.

    We can comprehend this concept in another plane of thinking.

    All that is happening around us (or in the universe) has three ingradients. The padartha (Matter), The Shakti (Energy) and the third The Jgnana (Knowledge in a vague definition)

    Einstein could perceive it in E = M * C2, though the relational aspects like “=” or “*” are !!!!????~~~~.

    C in the above is related to Jgnana (synonymous in vedic literature as light).

    The person leading life by giving most weightage to C, i.e., Jgnana is a practicing Brahmin,

    and

    The person leading life by giving most weightage to M, i.e., Padartha (material) is a practicing Vaishya

    and

    The person leading life by giving most weightage to E, i.e., Shakti (Energy) is a practicing Brahmin

    and

    The person leading life by giving variable weightages of each of M, C , E at variable times is a practicing Shudra.

    My sincere advise to all the readers is as follows :

    Always try to think the way Manu (or the framer of the vedic rules of society) from the other end. If your boss reprimands you put yourself in his place and try to think before concluding which is or who is right.

    My experience is that my elders being veda pundits, resist or deny to speak veda over loud speakers or record them on cassettes. During my 20’s I also thought that they are doing so to keep their supremacy. When I was shittng in my latrine, some body played the Vadic Mantras over loud speakers and they had to enter my ears (I or for that matter, any body has any no option to shut the ears). Naturally, you can not digest such happening unless you are already a yogi. This made the realization of the rules framed not to recite Vedas for public hearing at all occasions.

  40. Hanuman Sastry Maduri said, on September 14, 2010 at 6:51 am

    There was a typogrphical mistake,

    The person leading life by giving most weightage to E, i.e., Shakti (Energy) is a practicing Kshatriya and not Brahmin as given in my earlier post

  41. gritaeyu said, on September 19, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    Do not forget the Chaarvaakas and the freedom they

    enjoyed during the Vedic Period in renouncing the

    Brahmin tradition and its school of thought.

  42. V V RAMANA RAO said, on November 14, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    You have echoed my very feelings. Yes, there is a need to keep such people out. This is the only way to keep the position of Brahmanas the way it should be. I subscribe to the view, that all professions are equal and contribute equally to the well being of the society. A skilled cobbler is a joy to watch and merits the same respect, as for a learned purohit. Anyone who does not have faith in his ancestral profession cannot and should not be allowed to continue in that cast.

  43. Vijay Kumar said, on July 20, 2011 at 8:37 am

    Pretty much, the article amounts to saying that Upanayanam cannot be and should not be given to a child, but should be given to ANYONE of any caste/race etc who as adults are willing to live life of a brahmin. This is not a easy thing. Will there be similar voluntary Enrollment for other castes too? This also means that caste names should not be used. Also matrimonial ads should feature a voluntarily chosen caste etc. None of this is even a remote possibility.

  44. Anonymous said, on July 21, 2011 at 8:57 am

    The thoughts (I call leftist!) are laying the foundation for destroying the culture.

    India, being a nation with diverse traditions and a great culture, is losing it day-by-day. Globalization is good, but the culture must not be kept at stake. May be after some years later, no person belonging to his/her caste will be able to say about why they were brought under that particular caste. I am not supporting the caste based feelings and discrimination here. Only point I want to zero down on is that we must preserve the culture, which taught us many things and is the reason for India’s great name in this modern world.

  45. Sam said, on November 28, 2011 at 8:31 am

    Why discriminate – The crux of the problem is getting into the rules of who should be brahmins or not – who are we to decide this – if we frame new rules – isnt that going against the vedas or books? If you can frame new rules, you might as well as abandon the caste system rather than make it even more complicated. Any culture that divides and provides reason to put down selective people will face opposition from that selective group. I understand the jappas, mantras have positive effects but even service to the needy can be put on par.

  46. Vijay said, on February 8, 2013 at 6:43 am

    I have followed most of your articles …. But not completely agree with this one. I have 3 points to make.

    First, a son may be more intelligent than his father. If the son has to make the choice for himself, that would happen only when he is mature enough to decide for himself. Being different from his father he might (as you say) choose to follow the rituals. But rituals are not studies, they are practices. It is same as saying I will allow my son to choose the stream of education to choose without providing primary education. Now, if a son who is more intelligent can pick up math more easily than his artist father, is it right for the father to restrict his son from getting basic math education and allow his son to choose math at a later stage. Inculcating rituals is nothing but providing options. I agree with Rajesh’s decision.

    Second, what do the rituals mean. This is the reason we have these thoughts of “brahmins by birth” among us. The lack of knowledge of what these writings in Sanskrit mean is the problem. And believe it or not they actually are very simple. Traditionally who is a brahmin. One who celebrates the vedas. If one has to celebrate anything he should know what it is. A brahmin’s life is about understanding and interpreting what vedas stand for. That is the reason we have so many bhashyas on most of these texts. Although I am not an expert, a little bit of literal understanding of vedas that have acquired indicate a celebration of what is provided to us by nature. The gods are mere pointers these aspects of the physical world (most of them not in our control). Eg. Varuna refers to wind, pressure differences. But I digress bcz I feel the vedas propose the greatest unification theory ever thought by man. And every ritual (that define a brahmin) imbibes that theory.

    Lastly, Manu’s idea of creating 4 pillars what to maintain a balance. Movement between them was not prohibited. But a healthy population in each is essential and jati by birth was the easiest means of maintaining that balance.

    I think we should start thinking of these ideas and theories and start asking what instead of asking why, and stop taking them as sacred books impervious to questioning. A theory proposed by a social engineer and accepted by a majority today might be challenged by others after a millennium. But Manu’s theory has stood the test of time. The geniuses of India’s golden era accepted this idea. Whatever proposals we make must be universal and not just cater to present conditions.

    • kavade said, on November 25, 2014 at 4:20 am

      Yes! Father is an atheist, but the son is interested because of superficial reasons like friends, cousins are getting to wear the thread..what looks like superficial interest today, may develop into a deeper interest as he grows up. Should such a child be kept away from upanayanam because the father doesn’t believe in it?

  47. Vidyut said, on February 8, 2013 at 7:43 pm

    Very interesting. I do think Hinduism is ready to continue its evolution that had paused and gone into pickle mode since the advent of the British. By virtue of being a religion capable of evolving, it makes no sense to decide to stagnate, as we are.

    The idea of returning to the castes in terms of roles chosen rather than by birth is fascinating. It may also provide much needed rejuvenation for Sanskrit and regional languages and arts, which are often deeply entwined with belief.

    Given the possibility of renewal and creating better practices, the obsession with moral policing will also relax, in my opinion. A defensive, preservative mindset generally indicates a lack of progress. If avenues of progress open there is little fear of loss of identity/power.

    There is also a need to rescue Brahminism as a whole from the demonization imposed on it (allways easier to push something down to appear high rather than rise) in our attempts of combating caste discrimination. While some of the demonization is well deserved, the utter lack of appreciation for the role of Brahmins in creating much of the culture as we know it kind of attempts to wipe out our history, which helps no one, really. Not to mention reverse discrimination is not justice.

    Something like this would most certainly help.

    A way of creating acceptance among many Kannada mutts might indeed lie in the Bhakti movement. Madhvacharya had similar ideas, though mutts following him today look down on lower castes. A possibility might lie in studying his work and evolving new ways from it (as opposed to IT engineers telling the priests what to do, which might be a firm kick in bottom :p

    It might just serve to heal society as well in terms of social cohesion…. if we create that.

  48. Vicky Vivek said, on February 8, 2013 at 8:49 pm

    very nice nice and wonderfully drafted out… But whats wrong with a priest having blackberry ?

  49. The"Anti-Wannabeiconoclaust"!! said, on March 25, 2013 at 11:37 am

    Wow! You people are pathetic..there is so much rhetoric going on here and your “friend” or whoever sounds like such a wannabe modern guy, its so sad, I am starting to believe in the Indian have an IQ of 83 study!..Besides

  50. KR Dasharathi said, on April 6, 2015 at 2:22 pm

    The best way for person born as hindu is to follow the scriptural injunctions which are eternal. Due to affliction of science and westernised education which is only oriented towards materialistic prosperity and sensual enjoyments (in spite of it giving a better life), many hindus have discarded religion as old fashioned and as such not relevant for the day. Many have become atheists for the same reason. This is a short sighted illusion as the hindu ideals are eternal truths unalterable by ratiocinations of logic. Vedas & Shastras have to be accepted in toto as there is no half way in religion. Particularly, the wise Brahmins have to be careful in preserving their dharma which can only protect them ultimately and nothing else. They should not worry about meat eating, liquor ridden and fallen Brahmins as it is their own funeral since we believe in re-births. This philosophy is very difficult to comprehend and hence the multitude of criticism of hindu religion arise. Similarly, brahmins should not follow adharmic neo hindu gurus who twist the shastras to match their fancies and practice what is forbidden in the scriptures. They have to pay for breaking the laws. Astonishingly, the prediction for Kali yuga has all these and no appeal of any kind to correct the maladies will be taken by majority of people. An appeal to the hindu society in general is not to blame Brahmins for every unacceptable religious code (which exists from time immemorial, with no conclusive proof that it the creation of Brahmins) in the modern eye, but to leave them alone, as no special privileges are being given to them in any way. For that matter anyone is free to practice anything is the order of the day. The Brahmins can practice their religious rites as per the scriptures in their homes as the genius of Adi shankara has advised Brahmins to accept the scriptures without arguments


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