Reality Check India

Who’s a good Hindu

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on March 4, 2010

This incident happened to me a few months back – but it left a profound impact on me.

I am a frequent visitor to a particular rural area in Kanchipuram District. On one of my trips I ran into an acquaintance Rangan*.  We were chit chatting and I noticed he had a new calf tied in front of his house, I asked him when he got it.

What he told me next jolted me ?

He told me that this was a bull calf and had no use for him.  He was passing by a meat shop and saw the calf tied near it. He then approached the shop owner and brought the calf home for Rs 5000 ! Just spur of the moment.

This whole scene gave me the chills – the bull calf just playing around and looking at me with round eyes and his story.

Now Rangan is no rich guy, in fact he does odd real estate jobs and since the slump has been having a hard time. He has even asked me for loans now and then.

I realized I was looking at a real hindu and a real human being.  He is from the Yadava community – but this incident instantly placed him higher than most Brahmins I know.

The reason why I posted this was I have been wondering about the sanctity of the birth based brahmin concept for a while.  Two earlier incidents are recorded in this post :  https://realitycheck.wordpress.com/2007/08/25/brahmins-in-the-age-of-incredible-coolness/

* (names changed for no particular reason)

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48 Responses

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  1. floydverma said, on March 4, 2010 at 8:17 pm

  2. Jigish Parikh said, on March 4, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    Dear Sir,

    If you will, kindly allow me to carry this story on my blog. Please email me on the email above.

  3. froginthewell said, on March 5, 2010 at 2:13 am

    Very nice, heart warming story. I personally would like to see more Hinduism related posts here, but I totally understand that that might adversely impact your readership.

  4. Vivek said, on March 5, 2010 at 7:15 am

    Subtle yet profound.

  5. hUmDiNgEr said, on March 5, 2010 at 8:09 am

    RC,

    I have been a visitor for quite sometime and like your well informed and logical analysis of issues.

    However, you seem to miss a point this time. Who said one becomes Brahmin by birth? ofcourse, the present lot are brahmins just by birth but if you look at how scriptures classified people, you could not have written that sentence.

    The existing system is a social system eveolved out of entitlements, holier-than-thou attitudes and other such stupid things.

    Yes, Rangan is a great guy but why compare him with others? There can be many Rangans in Brahmins, vaishyas and others too. Identifying Rangan’s community sounds so much like loony left intellectuals.

    • froginthewell said, on March 5, 2010 at 1:13 pm

      hUmDiNgEr, that is not true. Manusmriti etc. lays down strictly who can marry whom, and the caste of the off-spring is more or less determined by those of his/her parents. Before you criticize Manusmriti I should say that greats like Adi Shankaracharya have quoted from it. Also the former Kanchi Shankaracharya, Sri Chandrasekhara Saraswati Swamigal, has upheld birth based caste system.

      According to him, one should not say this work is great and this work is low, all should do the assigned job as sons of God. That way nasty competition, inferiority complex etc. gets eliminated. And what is wrong with that?

      • Incognito said, on March 7, 2010 at 3:10 am

        “Manusmriti etc. lays down strictly who can marry whom, and the caste of the off-spring is more or less determined by those of his/her parents.

        As per Manusmriti Vyasa would be a nishada or something, below sudra. How come he was allowed to compile Vedas ?
        How come the Vedas compiled by him is transmitted down generations as something great ?

        Further, Vyasa sired Dhritarashtra, Pandu, Vidura. How come son of a nishada was allowed to become king ?

        How come Vidura, son of a nishada and a servant woman was given place of respect in raja sabha ?

        How come viduraniti is considered great ?

        “greats like Adi Shankaracharya have quoted from it.

        Adi Shankaracharya also considered a chandala as his guru. Was it as per manusmriti ?

        A smriti has its place and its relevance in a particular time.
        Outside of it, quoting smriti is not only meaningless, it may also be harmful.

  6. hUmDiNgEr said, on March 5, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    Sri Adi quoted from Manusmriti, so?? does that make Manusmriti better than Upanisads and Sruti??
    Leave alone scriptures and rules, look at history.
    Veda Vyasa, was he a born Brahmin?
    Valmiki, was he a brahmin by birth?
    Ravana Brahma was a Brahmin by birth, but he became a Kshatriya because of his valour and ambition
    King Kaushika has become Sage Viswamitra.
    Let’s travel in time a bit closer to us..
    Chandragupta Maurya was not a born Kshatriya but became one of the greatest kings we know
    Pushyamitra Sunga was a Brahmin by birth, he became a King and established Sunga dynasty.
    If you look into history and put things in perspective, you can come up with many such examples.

    I don’t criticize Manusmriti, but look it just like another opinion piece because it’s a smriti, simple.
    As an aside, Manusmriti has become famous of late because of the leftist historians.. you can do little research.

    My point is, the caste system that we have today is not at all in lines with the social stratification put forth in the scriptures or Itihasas.

    As a hint to you, read Vajra Suchika Upanisad…and I leave it to your judgment whether you want to consider Manusmriti more authoritative than a Upanisad.

    • froginthewell said, on March 7, 2010 at 6:03 am

      To you (humdinger) as well as incognito above : if one sees two things which are conflicting (eg. Manu Smriti and the non-shruti-examples you mentioned), one doesn’t just say that what he/she like is the correct interpretation. Instead one admits his/her ignorance and look to what great sages have said. And you find that there are both opinions among the great sages.

      I am aware that it is not clear if manusmRti was practiced to any non-trivial extent in India, but as long as many great sages, including Kanchi Periyavar, have deferred to its authority, no one who calls himself a Hindu should ignore it just like that.

      As for Vajra Suchika upanishad : there is also Allopanishad. It is difficult for me to accept any upaniShad just like that as one among the original shruti. I haven’t read it, but I will be interested if you quote the relevant text.

      As for Shri Nammazhvar’s Thiruvaymozhi being respected or Adi Shankaracharya accepting a caNDAla as guru : These things don’t contradict hereditary caste system at all. You are taking hereditary caste system to mean that shUdras cannot get respect. That is not what I am talking about. I think (too lazy to dig up links, so believe if you will) Adi Shankaracharya has commented somewhere that while Vedas are for the traivarNyas, while shUdras can get spirituality by reading the rAmAyaNa and the mahAbhArata. Indeed, these texts have been translated to local languages for a long time, and several saints have written local language commentaries of the bhagavad-gItA (which I am sure you will agree, gets at least as much respect as Thiruvaymozhi) for the common public including shUdras. Pathways have always been open for people of all castes to get highest realization, even under hereditary caste system.

      In some sense, it is you guys who have been influenced by leftists and westerners. Because you tailor your interpretations to suit their egalitarian tastes, after all. I wouldn’t just like that throw away what greats like Kanchi Periyavar say. Also you are suffering from some western hypocrisy – even when they talk about dignity of labor, they view certain tasks as menial and certain as not. Please don’t be fooled by their hypocrisy.

      • Incognito said, on March 7, 2010 at 8:38 am

        “if one sees two things which are conflicting (eg. Manu Smriti and the non-shruti-examples you mentioned), one doesn’t just say that what he/she like is the correct interpretation. Instead one admits his/her ignorance and look to what great sages have said.

        haven’t sages said that smritis are time and place specific ?

        why overlook/disregard that ?

        ‘but as long as many great sages, including Kanchi Periyavar, have deferred to its authority, no one who calls himself a Hindu should ignore it just like that.

        No wonder Adi Shankaracharya did not call himself a ‘hindu’. Had he done so, he could not have accepted chandala as guru and thereby gone against the ‘authority’ of Manusmriti. Sri Rama likewise befriended ‘vanaras’, who were definitely ‘outside’ of Manusmriti’s varna system. But then Sri Rama never called himself ‘hindu’. So he could afford to do what he did.

        “You are taking hereditary caste system to mean that shUdras cannot get respect.

        Incorrect conclusion.

        The so-called ‘heriditary caste system’ is supposed to mean that sudras or those below them(for eg. chandala) cannot be considered as guru to a brahmana (Adi Shankaracharya), that the son of nishada and servant woman cannot be advisor to king(as Vidura was) and so on.

        That Adi Shankaracharya accepted chandala as guru, that Vidura was highly respected advisor to King Dhritarashtra, that Sri Rama considered vanaras as friends, took food with Shabari, etc., means that the so-called ‘heriditary caste system’ is bogus, or at least, was not followed in their times.
        When did it start then ? and why ??????

        “Adi Shankaracharya has commented somewhere that while Vedas are for the traivarNyas, while shUdras can get spirituality by reading the rAmAyaNa and the mahAbhArata.

        Does that mean varna system is heriditary ?

        There are two people, probably from your home state, Sri Narayana Guru and EMS. Who is a brahmana among them ?

        “it is you guys who have been influenced by leftists and westerners. Because you tailor your interpretations to suit their egalitarian tastes, after all.

        That is an accusation based on wobbly foundation provided by you, viz., ‘interpretation’ is to suit ‘egalitarian tastes’.

        Why drag in ‘egalitarianism’ ?

        Why accuse others’ statements as “interpretations to suit leftists and westerners’ egalitarian tastes” ?

        Why not consider the points in their own merit ?

        Lastly, when did westerners and leftists develop egalitarian tastes ? Last known they had developed taste only for selfish aggrandizement through subterfuge.

        namaste

      • froginthewell said, on March 7, 2010 at 2:40 pm

        Incognito :

        I don’t see a link to reply below your comment, so I am replying here.

        1. According to you sages have said that smRtis are time and place specific. I haven’t heard any sage saying that myself, it will be nice if you can provide a link. The closest I have heard is that bhAgavatam gives a list of smRtis to be followed for each yugam.

        2. Can you show me a passage from manusmRti that says that a brAhmaNa cannot accept a shUdra or a caNDAla as guru? Why are you keeping on claiming that to be against manusmRti? Same with shrIrAma befriending vAnaras, vidura getting respect. None of these things contradict hereditary caste system as I know it.

        3. About your question regarding mahAbhArata prescribed for shUdras : “Does that mean that varNa is hereditary”. But I did not use this to deduce that varNa is hereditary. I used this to say that nammAzhvAr’s authorship of tiruvAymozhi does not contradict hereditary caste system – because bhagavad-gItA is at least as sacred and allowed for shUdras.

        4. EMS and shrI-nArAyaNa-guru : As per hereditary caste system, EMS would be thrown away from brAhmaNa-hood for his actions. But wait a second, I am not saying that we revert to hereditary caste system. All I am saying is that one should not selectively quote from the texts to say that whatever our quotes indicate are the only thing therein. One should be more open-minded also to those Hindu texts that advocate hereditary caste system as well, and be ever prepared to learn from them. In some sense, neither you nor I are/am going to define how Hinduism should operate. It is best to be as open to all our sources of wisdom as possible. That is honesty, that is humility.

        5. Why I accused you of western egalitarian tastes – because you selectively look at what you want to look at and throw away a great book like manusmRti so casually; I can’t find any other reason for this than that the nonsense of (theoretical) egalitarianism has got into you.

        3.

      • Incognito said, on March 8, 2010 at 1:24 am

        ” The closest I have heard is that bhAgavatam gives a list of smRtis to be followed for each yugam.

        Does bhagavatam recommend manusmriti for this yugam ?

        Knowing that it doesn’t, why are you referring to manusmriti in this yugam ?

        The point is this- NOT that manusmriti is all wrong, only that it may be incorrect to refer to manusmriti in this yugam. There may have been a time when manusmriti was relevant.

        The examples given in previous comments demonstrate the inapplicability of manusmriti in this age as well as in some of the previous yugams.

        “Can you show me a passage from manusmRti that says that a brAhmaNa cannot accept a shUdra or a caNDAla as guru?

        Can you show me a passage that says it can be so ?

        According to Manusmriti, brahmana is considered more knowledgeable than chandala or sudra. Then on what basis is brahmana to consider sudra or chandala as guru ?

        Further, a guru has rights to punish the student. And student is supposed to serve the guru. Is it appropriate for a brahmana to serve a chandala and take punishment from him, according to manusmriti ?

        Essentially it boils down to this- manusmriti may not be appropriate to be referred to in this yugam and quoting manusmriti to support heriditary caste system is untenable. Especially when almost every spiritual text is written by people who are born to parents low in varna system. eg. Maharshi Valmiki was Sudhakara, jungle robber. Vyasa, Kalidasa, etc..

        Further, Ramayana, Mahabharata and puranas have various incidents that refute the idea of “heriditary caste system”.

        “As per hereditary caste system, EMS would be thrown away from brAhmaNa-hood for his actions

        With that statement, are you not admitting that it is the actions of a person that determines his varna and not his parentage ?

        “One should be more open-minded also to those Hindu texts that advocate hereditary caste system as well, and be ever prepared to learn from them.

        Not if those texts are NOT recommended for this yugam. NOT if they contradict most other texts and are incongruent with past incidents involving rishis.

        ” In some sense, neither you nor I are/am going to define how Hinduism should operate.

        ‘hinduism’ is a construct of mleccha westerners. They have defined it to suit their interest, and they prescribed manusmriti as the main law book. And ‘hinduism’ at present operates the way westerners intended when they created it.

        “That is honesty, that is humility.

        It is neither honesty nor humility to accept everything that is given unquestioned and unthinkingly. It is a crime on yourself and adharma.

        ” I can’t find any other reason for this than that the nonsense of (theoretical) egalitarianism has got into you.

        Instead of seeking reasons to draw conclusions about the cause of other people’s comments, seek to reason those comments.

        namaste

  7. hUmDiNgEr said, on March 5, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    Just want to add
    Bhakta Nammalvar: The foremost of the Alvar Vaishnava saints, he was a Shudra by birth. His composition ‘Tiruvayamoli’, which is in the Tamil language, is considered at par with the Vedas by the Sri Vaishnava Hindus.

  8. realitycheck said, on March 5, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    humd-

    I didnt mean to assign virtue to his caste or to take away anything from the brahmin caste. That would be stupid of course.

    You have great points about past instances where caste was a fluid concept. I just think it is time we made a push again in that direction, because right now it is not happening.

    I think there are a huge number of people who are willing to be disciplined enough to handle the austerity and ritual required of a brahmin. We also need to make it easier for people to opt out their lineage. I guess what I am eventually getting at is we need at least a few mutts that can formalize this.

    Just a thought but even a few steps in this direction will cause a massive consolidation of Hindus and more respect to its ideals.

    Are you seeing Cho’s serial ?

    • hUmDiNgEr said, on March 6, 2010 at 6:13 am

      The problem with formalizing is we are leaving the judgment in the hands of few people. It’s like formalizing “freedom of speech”. Think you understand what I am driving at.
      The problem with the present day caste system is that it is based on entitlements and bargaining power.The system has become so rigid that it’s almost impossible for non-Brahmins to escape from their caste because the govt keeps tracking it. Brahmins can opt out or stay in but that doesn’t matter as far as the governance is concerned.
      Just a thought on your “cool Brahmins” post:
      I have seen many tam brams bashing caste system and Brahminical hegemony etc..but they still introduce themselves as “tam brams” 😀

      • realitycheck said, on March 6, 2010 at 7:27 am

        >> I have seen many tam brams bashing caste system and Brahminical hegemony etc..but they still introduce themselves as “tam brams”

        In isolation such labeling may not be bad, but they also go through the paces of brahmin rituals (from birth of son, to upanayanam, to marriage, etc, etc). There are a lot of vows in those mantras which obviously they care nothing about. They care for the pomp but not content. So the priests should ideally refuse to administer these to them ! They can however lead lives as normal Hindus (such as the commenter who eats hamburgers). (In Christian terms they can be the laity not the clergy). Even Mani Shankar, his brother etc drop the Tam Bram name frequently and follow it up with, but I like to eat beef. This cheapens everything.

        Why not induct the Sabarimalai Gurusamy whose devotion and faith is so obviously unshakable.

        I know there is no formal body to certify but many mutts have widespread following. Between a dozen of them a large majority of Hindus can be covered, no ?

  9. as said, on March 6, 2010 at 12:30 am

    What does a cow or bull has to do with Hinduism? Nothing.

    Hinduism is a way of life and a very loosely defined religion. I enjoy eating meat (including beef) and am as much Hindu as most pundits on the ghats of Varanasi.

    Anybody has a real reference to a Hindu doctrine that will suggest I am not a Hindu as I eat beef?

    • realitycheck said, on March 6, 2010 at 7:31 am

      Yes, no doubt can be a Hindu while eating beef. We are only talking about the people in whose custody we want to entrust Vedic duties, etc.

      • Abhi said, on March 10, 2010 at 11:32 am

        I came across your blog via a link. And the more I read, the more I feel that I am witnessing the thought processes of a biased, immature mind, who forms opinions not based on any concept of fairness, logic, rationale, but based on what he has been brainwashed into parroting.

        All the more dangerous, since you had at least one person referring to your half-baked ideas.

        What “Vedic duties” are you talking of, exactly? What would those be, and why do we need to “entrust” anybody with them? And why should the criterion be based on a fondness towards bovines?

        Most of us Hindus(or Christians/Muslims/Jains/Bahais/Jews/Shintos/you-name-it) are that, solely because we were born to parents of those religion and we chose to identify with that. Me and you, both. Period.

        I will not be a bad or good Hindu, based on your opinion of me, simply because that identification(Hindu) doesn’t means as much to me, as it obviously does to you. The feeling that you empathized with, and which you are so confused about is not “hinduism” but “compassion”. And if you think that compassion is important only when it is directed towards bovines, that is just a fetish instead of being a “good” hindu at any rate, and a pretty shallow understanding of Hinduism in the first place.

        If I asked you what a “good hindu” was, I strongly suspect you would be hard-pressed for an answer, because beyond a vague feeling that “he must love cows and not eat beef” you possibly have no idea.

        Anyone who actually has bothered to read the Mahabharata in full or Madbhagwat gita, the shiv, shakti and vishnu puranas or even knew the history of India would laugh at such simplistic notions of a “good hindu”.

        The caste fluidity you propose, is a pipe dream for the same reason that cause its disappearance in the first place. The son would always be most influenced by his father, and as such would as a rule take up his father’s profession. Which means barring few exceptions, the caste of the son would remain same as his fathers, even if caste was based merely on what you did. And over the centuries the distinction would disappear and you would be left with birth based caste system again.

        The best solution is to do away with the caste system altogether on the pretext that it is useless for present times and serves no purpose whatsoever. And that won’t happen as long as we have people like you extolling the virtues of good brahmins in their blogs, and preventing us from just forgetting about this useless nonsense relic of ancient times, that is used solely for discrimination today.

        Oh, and cows were given such import in hinduism mostly due to our ancient culture being heavily agriculture based with no tractors etc around. Cows were source of milk and were used for tilling the land and worth their weight in gold in ancient times, since losing one meant your whole family starving to death. Something that would happen to a farmer today, should his tractor burns down or something. If you favour an animal species over another based on their merely whether they were useful to you or not, that is not religion but just catering to your selfish needs.

        Perhaps you should learn to be a better human being, or better Indian first and then try to decide how to be a better hindu.

      • Abhi said, on March 10, 2010 at 11:51 am

        Additionally, it comes usually as surprise to me to find see a Hindu to be obsessed about their expectations of how *others* should act regards traditions and rituals, irrespective of any other factors. Many are generally fervent about their vegetarianism, vrata, prayers and rituals but do not go ranting in disapproval of others who do not share their beliefs.

        In short, if I did not follow traditional rituals or practice vegetarianism, they would not start seeing me as a “fake hindu” and take it as a personal affront if I did practice some hindu ritual like praying to god during Navratri or during diwali. Because no tenet of Hinduism says anywhere that you have to force others to be a tradition-obsessed hindu too. Hinduism doesn’t has any concept of forced expulsions for not following all its rituals strictly, no matter how some obsessed folks wish for it.

        I am myself an agnostic. It is a brilliant philosophy that allows me to leave alone those who tend to be either atheistic or hyper-fanatically-religious, as long as they leave me alone too.

        And it is kind of hypocritical to claim to be a “good hindu” when you seriously believe that a woman’s place is in the kitchen and all women are mere proxy puppets of their father/husband/keeper. Because last I checked, hindism repeatedly states that you must respect women. Something that you don’t. Not really.

        So I don’t think you are in any moral position to determine who is a good hindu, and who is not.

      • Incognito said, on March 12, 2010 at 1:13 am

        Mr Agnostic above seems to be pretty strong in his views about how so-called hindus should behave, somewhat like how pretentious ‘believers’ are interested in dictating terms to the ‘pagan/heathen/kaffir’.

        >>>“the more I read, the more I feel that I am witnessing the thought processes of a biased, immature mind, who forms opinions not based on any concept of fairness, logic, rationale, but based on what he has been brainwashed into parroting.”

        a parallel to how the ‘enlightened’ neo-christians of europe censured those who refused to convert and burned them at stakes in the middle ages ?

      • Abhi said, on March 30, 2010 at 4:29 pm

        ah indeed.

        And Mr. Incognito seems to be fond of reading what was simply not written.

        “Mr Agnostic above seems to be pretty strong in his views about how so-called hindus should behave, somewhat like how pretentious ‘believers’ are interested in dictating terms to the ‘pagan/heathen/kaffir”

        Oh dear. I merely said that one should be a better human being/Indian first, before obsessing about who or who is not a Hindu(based on affection towards cows no less).

        I was not aware that you dislike the idea so much. Oh well, each to his own. I am not dictating anything, unlike RC and you, of course.

        “a parallel to how the ‘enlightened’ neo-christians of europe censured those who refused to convert and burned them at stakes in the middle ages”

        Indeed?
        So to question your stupidity is akin to burning you at the stakes? How so?

        Let us see what I said.

        1. Most of us are Hindus simply because we were born to Hindu parents. Much like most of us are Christians, Muslims for pretty much the same reason again. It is not like the kids are taught about all contemporary religions and then asked to pick one at say age 10. Just a statement of a fact here, btw.

        2. It is idiocy of the first order to summarize Hinduism as being all about affection towards cattle. RC is showing that he doesn’t even understands Hinduism, and plus is insulting it to boot.

        And I am talking as someone who has actually read the various Puranas and Ramayana, Mahabharata etc. in entirety. Let us see. As per Tulsi Ramayana, Ravana was cursed to be born as an asura because he mistakenly fed cow-meat to priests. Nowhere does it say that either the priests or even Ravana himself stopped being Hindus.

        See? Even to an actual believer, RC’s nonsense is pure drivel. Killing cows is a sin, as per Hinduism. But that is it. It doesn’t defines you as a fake or real Hindu.

        3. You are essentially claiming that one has to believe in all of the beliefs of Hinduism, or else he is not a Hindu. But how many actual tenets of it do you or RC personally follow to qualify even yourself?

        If you are even claiming that just believing in sacredness of cows is enough to be a Hindu, your mockery insults Hinduism much more than my agnosticism ever could.

        4. And here is the truly telling and incriminating part. I am a so-called Hindu… and I have zero comprehension and interest in fine intricacies the caste system, and therefore simply don’t know what yadavas are…besides being a Hindu surname. If someone told me they were Brahmins, I would accept that, because in this modern age, it doesn’t matters and neither do I care.

        But RC clearly notes the relative standing of everyone’s caste steadfastedly. “He is from the Yadava community”. Their actions thus, are judged under the light of their caste, as evidenced by that telling line.

        And then he complaints about the evils of the caste system. When it is people like you and him keeping the “so-called evil system” alive in the first place. Rest of us folks hardly care what caste anybody is.

        Stop propagating stereotypes of Hinduism, if you are unable to even understand it.

      • Incognito said, on April 26, 2010 at 2:36 am

        “Oh dear. I merely said that one should be a better human being/Indian first, before obsessing about who or who is not a Hindu(based on affection towards cows no less).

        Dear blog owner, have you become a ‘better human being/Indian’ yet ?

        No no, you cannot be the judge of that. It is Reverend Abhi who will tell you whether you are a ‘better human being/Indian’. Reverend knows best.

        “So to question your stupidity is akin to burning you at the stakes? How so?

        Your presumption of superiority of your intellect and your presumption of inferiority of others’- who hold different view point, that you call stupidity, leads you to condemn the others as lesser human beings, which is similar to the mind set that led people to burn others at stakes in europe.

        There were self-styled mouth pieces of an entity called ‘God’ then, who decided who will be burned at stakes, similar to the self-styled ‘Agno sticks’ now, who presumes others as stupid and lesser human being/Indian.

        ” It is idiocy of the first order to summarize Hinduism as being all about affection towards cattle. RC is showing that he doesn’t even understands Hinduism, and plus is insulting it to boot.

        Dear RC, would be obliged if you could point me to the lines that the Reverend is referring to, wherein you “summarized Hinduism as being all about affection towards cattle”.

        ‘And I am talking as someone who has actually read the various Puranas and Ramayana, Mahabharata etc. in entirety.

        Just as a leaky container will never hold water how much ever it is immersed into the river, a presumptuous mind never hold wisdom how much ever it reads books of wisdom. Max Mueller and Wendy Doniger would have self-realized otherwise.

        ‘Nowhere does it say that either the priests or even Ravana himself stopped being Hindus.

        Does it mention when the priests and Ravana himself started being ‘Hindus’ ?

        ‘See? Even to an actual believer, RC’s nonsense is pure drivel.

        When did Agnosticks become spokespersons for ‘actual believers’ ?

        ‘Killing cows is a sin, as per Hinduism

        What is sin, Reverend ?

        ‘But that is it. It doesn’t defines you as a fake or real Hindu.

        Thanks for the clarification, Reverend.

        ‘You are essentially claiming that one has to believe in all of the beliefs of Hinduism, or else he is not a Hindu.

        RC, would be obliged again if you would point out the lines where the knowledgeable Reverend noticed you “essentially claiming that one has to believe in all of the beliefs of Hinduism, or else he is not a Hindu.”

        ‘If you are even claiming that just believing in sacredness of cows is enough to be a Hindu, your mockery insults Hinduism much more than my agnosticism ever could.

        If you are even claiming that you are some super agnostick Poope who will sit in judgement over pagan infidels and define ‘hinduism’ for them your mockery insults yourself much more than anybody’s reply ever could.

        ‘ I am a so-called Hindu… “,/i>

        You also are schizophrenic, alternating between identities of ‘hindu’ and ‘agnostick’

        ‘ If someone told me they were Brahmins, I would accept that, …

        Not surprising, considering your intellectual development.

        namaste

    • Confused Desi said, on March 7, 2010 at 3:33 am

      1. Why not be better than all Pundits on the ghats of Varnasi? why only most pundits?

      2. And if Hinduism is a way of life then which Hindus are you talking about?

  10. xyz said, on March 6, 2010 at 5:48 am

    @ as,
    What does ‘a’ and ‘way of life’ mean in ‘a way of life’?You will be condidered a renegade by many other hindus.Some hindus might not care one bit about the diet of others.

    But there is truth in what ‘as’ says,though not the ‘entire’ truth.Clearly we have one here who has contempt for sensibilities of many hindus.But then we are entering dangerous territory.For all we know,’as’ might be directing the debate to his comfort zone of endless talking and debunking of hinduism.

  11. xyz said, on March 6, 2010 at 5:50 am

    As far as I know,no pundit in Varanasi or for that matter in any part of India eats beef.

  12. Incognito said, on March 7, 2010 at 3:08 am

    “I realized I was looking at a real hindu and a real human being.”

    If that is the criteria, Maneka Gandhi can lay claim to be the ideal hindu.

    Also all those foreigners who work for PETA, WWF etc., likewise can stake that claim.

  13. Incognito said, on March 7, 2010 at 3:27 am

    “Who’s a good Hindu”

    More relevant question is “Who is a Hindu” in the first place.

    Like the commenter ‘as’ says above, “Anybody has a real reference to a Hindu doctrine that will suggest I am not a Hindu …” ?

    Is there any spiritual text that lays down who is a hindu and who is not ?

    Did Sri Rama, Sri Krishna, Adi Shankaracharya, etc., consider themselves ‘hindu’ ?

    why this affinity to this word that is not even a derivative of samskritam nor of this samskriti ?

    If you want to identify yourself, identify yourself as bharateeya. Or maybe travel the path of ancient rishis who realized themselves as brahma.

    Accepting a word given by people who were considered mleccha by the bharateeyas of the past is a sure indication of depravity that pervades this land at present.

    namaste

    • Barbarindian said, on March 7, 2010 at 3:51 am

      This sort of argument can be easily turned on its head: for instance you could say it is a sign of magnanimity of “Hindus” that they do not object to being called by a name given by past aggressors.

      Religion is a dynamic system, any religion that refuses to part from a primitive book remains a primitive one. Hinduism has undergone an amazing variety of changes over time. The problem is that we became a “liberal secular democratic” republic before the religion could be fully adapted to modernity. The Indian state to some extent stalled the progress of Hinduism by picking winners (caste groups, popular swamys) and by making religious discourse almost a crime.

      • Incognito said, on March 7, 2010 at 4:52 am

        it is a sign of magnanimity of “Hindus” that they do not object to being called by a name given by past aggressors.

        When a dog responds to the name given by his ‘master’, it is not considered as a display of ‘magnanimity’ on the part of the dog.

        “Religion is a dynamic system, any religion that refuses to part from a primitive book remains a primitive one.

        books are not, the ideas conveyed therein are, important.

        When those ideas are given the go by, what is left is not what was there originally, even if it is ‘officially’ termed religion.

        “Hinduism has undergone an amazing variety of changes over time.

        Something that does not have an existence of its own can afford to dress up in many styles, in fact it has to. Like an artist who does not have an individual style copies other masters’ styles.

        “we became a “liberal secular democratic” republic

        ‘we’, perhaps, have begun to believe our own lies.

        ‘india’ is a vassal state of western ideology today. And western ideology likes to couch itself in various self-laudatory terms like ‘liberal’, ‘democratic’, ‘secular’ and such others.

        “…before the religion could be fully adapted to modernity

        creating something called a ‘religion’ and pitting it against another creation-‘modernity’, is an old trick of the west.

        other similar creations are – God x Satan/Devil, believer x pagan/heathen/kaffir so on.

        According substance to such meaningless creations of west is a result of today’s western education. Believing such fanciful creations to be substantial and acting thereafter is like chasing mirage.

        namaste

    • Barbarindian said, on March 7, 2010 at 5:09 am

      Perhaps you did not read my comment correctly, the reference to “liberal secular democracy” was sarcastic.

      I do not believe in dogmatic opposition to Western civilization. Even blogs are creation of Western civilization, if one is so touchy feely, he should stay off the internet.

      • Incognito said, on March 7, 2010 at 7:18 am

        “Western civilization

        oxymoron.

        There is nothing ‘civilised’ there.

        western ideology, what bharateeyas call mleccha behaviour, is self-centered self-aggrandizement.

        It is not about a person. It is about the motivations that shape person’s behaviour.

        This motivation shaped aggrandizing roman empire, it caused alexander’s and ceaser’s campaigns, constantine’s crusades, the church, islam, capitalism, communism, nazism, fascism, imperialism.

        This is the western ideology that destroys civilisations, that turns humans into greedy selfish entities.

        That does not mean every person born in western geography inherits this trait.

        Alternately, it does not also mean that every person born ‘hindu’ is devoid of such motivations.

        In this light, ascribing blogs as creation of western ideology is incorrect.

        dhanyavaad

  14. Hindu ? « Comments said, on March 7, 2010 at 3:53 am

    […] March 7, 2010 in Uncategorized | Tags: Adi Shankaracharya, bharateeya, Brahma, hindu, meccha, samskritam, samskriti, Sri Krishna, Sri Rama “Who’s a good Hindu ?” asks realitycheck […]

  15. xyz said, on March 7, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    Kupa manduka,
    I am entering dangerous territory,i know.But why should kanchi periyavaa’s words be construed as Gospel Truth.

    Even among tamizh brahmanas,Iyengars are skeptical about some of Periyavaa’s teachings.I am a brahmana,whose poorvikam is from North Arcot to Tirunelveli-a Vadadesha Vadama.My family was in the good books of Kanchi periyavaa.I have had the privilege of being blessed by Him.Yet,as a devotee of Sringeri acharyas and in particular,Sri Abhinava Vidyatheertha Mahasvaminah,I know for sure that devotees of Sringeri Acharya do not consider Kanchi periyavaa’s words as Gospel Truth.

    Honestly,Advaitic truth has very little to do with varnashrama dharma.Sankara was born when India was politically divided and the sun was setting on a cultural epoch.His life had twin objectives:defending the purest vedantic doctrine against sectarian interpretations and 2)preserving the vedic social order-it was a sort of defensive,conservative measure.It is very easy to criticise shankara,and easier to misinterpret him.But he was defending something in decline which had precious elements in it.

    The difficulty in judging Sankara is because all ancient religions save Hinduism have perished and we are facing aggresive onslaught of semitic ‘religions’

    • rc said, on March 7, 2010 at 3:57 pm

      xyz,

      I have been impressed by your knowledge from early days of this blog. Here is another question I have.

      Is it a must to have a Guru in order to understand the texts ? If you do not have a Guru, how exactly are we supposed to interpret ?

      To be honest , I like current Kanchi Shankara Mutt Head Pontiff Jayendra Saraswathis work and ideas (put social work in front, bring Dalits into fold, run hospitals and schools, open charity work like giving textbooks, sewing machines, etc, etc ) – but a lot of older generation go with the previous head of the mutt. Is such a modernization looked down upon ?

  16. xyz said, on March 7, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    Many civilisations have perished.India has shown the incredible capacity to renew itself,discard the unwanted.

    I am no one to judge who is a brahmana or shudra or the relative merits of shruti/smrithi.I fully sympathise with the konar(tamizh yadava) lad and his faith in sanatana dharma.Particularly his faith in go-rakshana,his ‘svadharma’ is touching,particularly so because konars are not in apex positions in the social pyramid in the dravidian fairy land of social justice.

    I thinking prescribing svadharma or commending manusmrithi is not my cup of tea nor would it be palatable to many other brahmanas.

    The tenets of manusmrithi were applied in letter and spirit only in some parts of North India and it made little sense in most other parts and it has been so for most of our recorded history,ie by ‘modern’ accounts.I see no point in resusciating every line of manusmrithi to the level of Mandukya,Mundaka or Brihadaranyaka Upanishad.

    The great acharya,Sri Chandrashekhara Bharathi of Sringeri was most orthodox.On the other hand,Sri Abhinava Vidyatheertha Mahasvaminah supported Govt action punishing those who denied dalits their basic rights.Sri Krishna Himself said Guna and Karma decide Varna.There can be multiple interpretations of Scriptures and Great Ones have been guided by the Highest Truth which is immutable and yet eternal,which means it is relevant to men of conscience who face problems all their lives.

    • rc said, on March 7, 2010 at 3:59 pm

      Sir, If you dont mind me asking,

      Who was/is your guru ?

  17. xyz said, on March 7, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    RC,
    Thank you very much for your kind words.Honestly,how I wish i were worthy of it.I am not in a position to answer your questions with any degree of certainity.I will try.

    In Hinduism,it is not expected that everyone who is born as a human being will be interested in ‘salvation’.Rightly or wrongly,this is the ‘justification’ for varna system.How did the Hindu seers arrive at the above fact? Was it by observation at the very ‘dawn’ of history or in some epoch when groups of men faced profound questions affecting their communal existence or by some deep extra-sensory insight-revelation?

    I cannot even venture into explanations.But somehow the Hindu seers were convinced that the renunciate was a rare specimen who had gone beyond mundane existence by the desire to be ‘liberated’.But the seer was not judgemental about others.

    Now the question of ‘Guru’.The Guru has no intrinsic importance except as to make the disciple see Truth or make the disciple better than what he was.The Scriptures and their injunctions have ALWAYS been fluid.Karren Armstrong has written a book called ‘GOD’ about Abrahamic religions where she has stressed the fact that even the people of the BOOK have had fluid interpretations until recent times.Martin Luther’s great grievance was the Catholic Church denied access to BIBle for the common man.The eastern orthodox church gave more importance to the Gospel as experienced in the community of followers.

    Until the rise of protestant christianity and indvidualism,religion was always tied to the community.Remember Bernard Levins laments in Anna Kariena.

    Yet all religion inevitably fossilises and conflicts arise because of conflicting interests in the community.And the process is endless.Will Durant refers to this in his work on history.Many western historians have recogonised this for quite some time.It is atleast partly if not more due to awareness of Indian philosophy from late 18th century.

    Now why should scriptures interest you?If you have learnt scriptures as a part of discipline or prayer,then they will always stay with you.Or as a reiteration of fundamental values-in Vedic religion,it is ethics and ecology in the sense of harmony and equilibrium which seems to have been important in Vedic thinking-that one offers ones shraddha-discpline in return for nature’s bounties.A strain of indvidualism might see this as primitive.But it is tone of the sources of religious spirit.

    Scriptures are not important in themselves except as a record of the thoughts and feelings of our ancestors as indviduals and members of a group.So a Guru becomes important only if you feel any of these urges and no one in your immediate family or social group is not able to satisfy these queries and instincts and urges.

    I may be not interested in every part of the veda or some obscure vedic rite.Of course,they will always have some value.It is quite possible that they have some deep ‘hidden’ meaning.

    The Scripture and the Guru are ultimately connected to our instincts and urges.So why do you want to understand scripture?If you want some meaning,a translation might suffice.But if it is something deeper,then your quest is real.But then I have no idea.

    I can quote a Mahapurusha whom I deeply adore:If you genuinely search for a guru(scripture is less important),and pray to Iswara,the Guru will appear before you in no time and dispel your doubts.If you think by intellect alone,he will be at your doorstep that might be futile.The Guru might even satisfy your deepest intellectual cravings.Then who knows,you might even give up being a Data Nazi or may be take it up in a public platform for the good and justice of society as a whole!

  18. xyz said, on March 7, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    In the Hindu religion,Guru is NOT essential.Sri Ramana had NO Guru.It is possible to work out ones own salvation.The Guru is the gift of Ishwara or Nature.It is not necessary to even yearn for salvation.I am 100% sure Barb is more religious than me.One who does righteous karma for ends like artha and karma is far better than a hypocrite.

    Sri Jayendra Saraswathi had all the right ideas.But IMVVV……VHO,I say this with infinite humility,he should have walked out of his monastic order in 1987.The core of Sankara philosophy has little do with social charity.There is nothing in Sankara’s thought which is against it either.Needless to say the lofty thoughts can never co-exist with meanness or brutality.There have been many Jnanis of this traition who have practiced noble charity and taught ethical and useful living.

    Sri Jayendra Saraswathi,IMVVVHO himself was confused about his ideals-renunciation or social service.It is not easy to renounce the infinite charms of life.

    I want to apologise to Reason in particular,if I have hurt him in any way,and beg his pardon,if I have implied something unfair to Sri Jayendra Saraswathi.

    I think HH did many noble things which can never be forgotten and are always inspiring and no way can they be construed as anything less than most important,in their own right.

    • rc said, on March 7, 2010 at 6:40 pm

      Just read your reply a couple of times more. You have very lucidly explained about relative importance of scripture.

      One more question for you.

      Would you agree the average interested Hindu has a inbuilt need for a Guru in addition to temples and rituals ? People flock to Sai Baba, Mata Amrita, Ramakrishna Mutt, Kanchi Mutt, Ramana ashram, searching for something. Maybe just association. I am not sure.

    • froginthewell said, on March 7, 2010 at 6:48 pm

      xyz, it is impressive that you are a devotee of and been blessed by the great H. H. Abhinava Vidyateertha Mahaswaminah. I have been blown away by a book recording his narration of his experiences to one of the brahmacAris at the shRngEri Ashramam.

      Let me reiterate that I neither said that caste system was necessarily hereditary nor that we should accept the Kanchi Periyaval’s words as gospel truth. All that I said is that just based on a few examples and our gut feeling that religion has to be egalitarian, we should not dismiss what Kanchi Periyaval says. Sages are divided on caste system. We don’t have enough grounds, as of now, to just dismiss his position on this issue.

  19. rc said, on March 7, 2010 at 6:04 pm

    Thanks for the long reply,

    >> So why do you want to understand scripture?If you want some meaning,a translation might suffice.But if it is something deeper,then your quest is real.But then I have no idea.

    My question was not clear because my thoughts are not very clear.

    I am a newbie. Lack of knowledge about hindu scriptures is one critical weakness (among others) I have while trying to defend attacks on faith. I know this sounds petty, but this is where I am at the moment.

  20. xyz said, on March 8, 2010 at 3:15 am

    Dear FIW,
    I was never ever close to Sri Abhinava Vidyatheertha Mahasvaninah or for that matter Sri Kanchi Periyavaa.They are way beyond me.Once,I had the privilege of being blessed by Kanchi Periyavaa when I had Darshan of Him with my father.

    RC,
    The Hindu sociey needed reform about 200 years back.Many aspects had fossilised.Otherwise why did we have Vivekananda,Bharatiyar,social reform in every part of India?What is wrong in admitting that some aspects needed drastic overhaul?

    But as you know very well,the British pitted one caste against another.But have we done better after Independence?Definitely,Yes. but we still need to root out the sense of entitlement and quotas based on population divided into mutually exclusive groups.The real problem is not Hinduism but reservation without data.Ha! Ha!Look at whom I am lecturing to!Christians and muslims want to jump in.And who are encouraging them? Congress,Yadavs,Karu,Paswan.etc

    This egalitarian stuff in Islam and christianity-it is a joke.There was some theoretical equality qualified by infinite facets of reality and add brutality towards others.

    I differ from you on one count.Reservation for Scs has to be monitored.In the very same kanchipuram area,you must be seeing the proliferation of churches.The dalits have real choices.The beef eating christists are doing far better than rangan,thanks to munificient evangelical funding.I dont grudge funding to dalits.But why preferential treatment to bc,obc,mbc christists or the rubbish called dalit christians or even mobilising christist vote.But who is to blame?It is the shortsighted Congress or DMK or OBC politician,who is invariably Hindu.But I think inevitably,the tide will change.

    From a poor obc view point,even the dalit is privileged and the christist is doubly privileged.

    Yes,
    I agree the average indvidual looks for guidance.In the most basic level,that is why we send children to school and then we graduate to higher education.

    That is why there is hunger for gurus,swamis and ashrams.That is why there are infinite churches in US.It is a free market-a super market of ideas.Hindus have been generally been comfortable with multiple sampradayas and plethora of acharyas.They are bound to vary.Nothing is static.Even the same tradition might ebb and flow.This does not mean an indvidual does not have steadfast faith in his guru.

    Our most ancient scriptures,accept plurality of views on the ultimate meaning of life.Hence the sanskrit word-mata-opinion.(the word matdan-voting on choices is derived from here).The sophisticted,but more correctly the fundamentally honest seers advocated righteousness as the bedrock of all religion.

  21. xyz said, on March 9, 2010 at 5:35 pm

    RC,
    If you expect ringing declarations and pronouncements of equality from ancient scriptures,you will be dissappointed.There is a famous verse from Rigveda,which says that people from the same family had different vocations-poet,artisan,agriculturist.

    There is one verse by the seer Vashishta addressed to Vishnu which is very dear to me.The poet invokes Vishnu to show mercy on the weak and powerless.I have believed(not any Guru’s interpretation) this verse to be the ‘source’ of ‘all’ Vaishnava piety.I read these verses in general anthologies.In general most verses represnt the longings and beliefs of a pastoral and agricultural society and general human kind-long life,health,grains,progeny,prosperity.

    In a way,Vedas though the fountainhead of so many belefs in Hindu society,do not have the evangelical character of New Testament or Koran.You will be at a great disadvantage if you are going to use Vedas to argue the case for Hinduism with zealots.

    The popular religion in Tamilnadu for instance is supplemented immensely by Alwar prabhandams,tirumurais,the temple culture and saints and traditions.In fact this rather than the vedas is the mainstay of Hindu faith for the great majority of Hindus.This is the strength of ‘Hinduism’ and also its ‘weakness’-the lack of ‘formal structure’.

    Long back,I had made a post on Tamil literature-its uniqueness and the fact that its earliest literature was mostly secular though there were fragments of religious poetry-like tirumurugattrupadai and paripatal.You had appreciated it very much.

    The Tamil literati,cognoscenti and big shots had seen Vedas and its purveyors as exemplars of conduct,though that is a simplistic perception.

    There can be two explanations for that :1)Brahmanas were northern arrivals who were co-opted into tamil society and they accepted the terms in which they were integrated.This would explain the oppression of the lowest and it would explain ramanujas movement as a protest WITHIN the system.2)Hinduism and Vedas were natural evolution and when a society has reached a fairly stable equilibrium,the emphasis is on preserving it rather than propounding anything revolutionary.We would be wrong in comparing with young and possibly ‘immature’ systems like islam and Christianity.

    But most liberal and broadminded Hindus have not taken such a view point.For most uppercaste hindus,the Western enlightenment rather than the religions of the Book have been the reference point.And have tried to rise to the challenge thrown out by modern thought than the principles of semitic revelation.Throughout the freedom movement,in the words of Andre Betille,the sociologist,the upper castes were at the receiving end of Brtish manipulation and had first hand experience of their intolerance rather than the purported ‘egalitarianism’ of west or Christianity.
    Infact the brutal introspection of the vedantic thinkers,made them realize that there can never ever be equality in ordinary life.The highest kshatriya can aspire to be a raja rishi,but there are accounts in our scriptures of both righteous and venal kings.The Bhagavad Githa is extremely conscious of the fickleness of human mind and its lofty tone has always inspired men of action and goodwill.You might know that it has always been held in respect by traditional mudaliars,thevars and gounders conversant with the sanskritic traditions.After all these OBCs were the ‘ kshatriyas’ of tamil land and not surprisingly its message has resonated well with the traditional rulers,landowners.
    In modern times,neo-vedantic thinkers like Vivekananda have seen in the Upanishads and Githa an ethical and moral faith suited for the regenewration of Indian people on the basis of knowledge and awakening rather than simplistic egalitarianism.This is not surprising given the background and orientation of the vedantins who wanted reform,not revolt.But between the Spartan vedantin and landless labourer there are numerous overlapping categories, some in conflict with the modern because they are retrogressive or have no relevance for the day.Reality is not always neat.It can be messy.
    The modern world also throws out challenges to systems evolved in ancient times.While Hindu thought has always permeated India,the sort of political unity and political systems and fads of the day add to pressures and challenges never encountered in the past,which had the luxury of relative isolation.
    Perhaps this will also give an idea of the pressures faced by a centralizing entity like Congress or even for someone like you if you are going to engage in debate.
    Let me add that the exclusiveness and purity associated with Vedas is a peculiarly south Indian Brahmin orthodox phenomenon.The Arya Samaj teaches Vedas to one and all.The Ramakrishna mission is open to all aspirants who meet the rigors of the order.It is extremely common to see Vedic chants by groups of laypersons,both men and women,in North Indian gatherings,both social and religious.The Brahmana has slowly but surely lost his distinct identity in north India.Vedic chanting of select verses is common in many schools in TN,particularly outside Chennai,in the kongu belt etc.The powerful OBCs are aspiring hindus and the devotion is genuine as you have rightly noted.
    Though I am a liberal in most cases,the question of non-brahmin vedic priests is too revolutionary for me.It is also a fact that the dominant OBC castes are perfectly comfortable with Brahmin priests in temples.And in all the major temples,there has been no change.
    We have gone through this before-the delicate question of purity and devotion and expertise in rituals.The traditionalists are happy with the status quo.
    But I believe you are asking a very relevant question.It makes me uncomfortable but nobody can deny such demands have a genuine ring about them.

  22. xyz said, on March 9, 2010 at 6:35 pm

    Rig Veda 7-100-4-In Vishnu the humble people trust for safety-Ralph Griffith translation,sacred-texts.com

  23. Sib said, on March 11, 2010 at 11:01 am

    I’m not sure the question even makes sense: just because he bought a calf he is a “good hindu”? Pray, what is the connection? All the people that didn’t buy the calf, the person who sold the calf, you who are discussing this with him, we who are discussing this over this forum of your blog, could all very well be (and not be) Hindus. There is no connection one way or the other.

    Please do not propagate stereotypes.

  24. Dinesh Dharme said, on August 25, 2010 at 8:08 am

    http://www.harekrsna.com/sun/features/11-08/features1189.htm

    Excerpts:
    Naga: “O Yudhishthira, say, Who is a Brahmana?”

    Yudhishthira: “O foremost of Nagas, he, it is asserted by the wise, in whom are seen truth, charity, forgiveness, good conduct, benevolence, observance of the rites of his order and mercy is a Brahmana.” Naga: “O Yudhishthira, truth, charity, forgiveness, benevolence, benignity, kindness and the Veda which worketh the benefit of the four orders, which is the authority in matters of religion and which is true, are seen even in the Sudra.”

    Yudhishthira: “Those characteristics that are present in a Sudra, do not exist in a Brahmana; nor do those that are in a Brahmana exist in a Sudra. And a Sudra is not a Sudra by birth alone, nor a Brahmana is Brahmana by birth alone. He, it is said by the wise, in whom are seen those virtues is a Brahmana. And people term him a Sudra in whom those qualities do not exist, even though he be a Brahmana by birth.” Naga: “O king, if thou recognise a person as a Brahmana by characteristics, then, O long-lived one, the distinction of caste becometh futile as long as conduct doth not come into play.”


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