Avoid strife, Who is a Brahmin?
Modern caste distinction is a barrier to India’s progress. It narrows, restricts, separates. It will crumble before the advance of ideas.
I full agree with the educated classes in India, that a thorough overhauling of society is necessary; but how to do it? The destructive plans of reformers have failed. My plan is this. We have not done badly in the past, certainly not. Our society is not bad but good, only I want it to be better still…….Take the case of caste, in Sanskrit, Jat, i.e. species. Now, this is the idea of creation……….. So long as any species is vigorous and active it must throw out varieties. When it ceases or is stopped from breeding varieties, it dies. Now, the original idea of Jati was this freedom of the individual to express his nature, his Prakriti, his Jati, his caste; and so it remained for thousands of years. Not even in the latest books is interdining prohibited; nor in any of the older books is intermarriage forbidden. Then what was the cause of India’s downfall?-the giving up of this idea of caste. As the Gita says, with the extinction of caste the world will be destroyed….The present caste is not the real Jati, but a hindrance to its progress. It really has prevented the free action of Jati, i.e. caste, variation. Any crystallised custom or privilege or hereditary class in any shape really prevents caste (Jati) from having its full sway; and whenever any nation ceases to produce this immense variety, it must die……..Every frozen aristocracy or privileged class is a blow to caste and is not caste. Let Jati have its sway; break down every barrier in the way of caste and we shall rise…..Every Hindu knows that Astrologers try to fix the caste of every boy or girl as soon as he or she is born. That is the real caste-the individuality; and Jyotisha (Astrology) recognises that. And we can only rise by giving it full sway again. This variety does not mean inequality, nor any special privilege.
The Brahmanahood is the ideal of humanity in India, as wonderfully put forward by Shankaracharya at the beginning of his commentary on the Gita, where he speaks about the reason for Krishna’s coming as a preacher for the preservation of Brahmanahood, or Brahmananess. That was the great end. This Brahmana the man of God, he who has known Brahman, the ideal man, the perfect man, must remain; he must not go. And with all the defects of the caste now, we know that we must all be ready to give to the Brahmana his credit, that from them have come more men with real Brahmananess in them than from all the other castes. We must be bold enough, must be brave enough to speak of their defects; but at the same time we must give the credit that is due to them…….Therefore, my friends, it is no use fighting among castes. What good will it do? It will divide us all the more, degrade us all the more.
To the non-Brahmana castes I say, be not in a hurry; do not seize every opportunity of fighting the Brahmana, because, as I have shown, you are suffering from your own fault. Who told you to neglect spirituality and Sanskrit learning? What have you been doing all this time? Why have you been indifferent? What do you now fret and fume because somebody else had more brains, more energy, more pluck and go, than you! Instead of wasting your energies in vain discussions and quarrels in the newspapers, instead of fighting and quarrelling in your own homes-which is sinful-use all your energies in acquiring the culture which the Brahmana has, and the thing is done. Why do you not become Sanskrit Scholars? Why do you not spend millions to bring Sanskrit education to all the castes in India? That is the secret of power in India. Sanakrit and prestige go together in India.
The only safety, I tell you men who belong to the lower castes, the only way to raise your condition, is to study Sanskrit, and this fighting and writing and frothing against the higher castes is in vain; it does no good, and it creates fight and quarrel; and this race, unfortunately already divided, is going to be divided more and more. The only way to bring about the levelling of caste is to appropriate the culture, the education, which is the strength of the higher castes. That done, you have what you want.
It is culture that withstands shocks, not a simple mass of knowledge….We all know, in modern times, of nations which have masses of knowledge; but what of them? They are like tigers, they are like savages, because culture is not there. Knowledge is only skin-deep, as civilisation is; and a little scratch brings out the old savage; such things happen; this is the danger. Teach the masses in the vernaculars, give them ideas, they will get information; but something more is necessary, give them culture. Until you give them that there can be no permanence in the raised condition of the masses.
To the Brahmanas I appeal, that they must work hard to raise the Indian people by teaching them what they know, by giving out the culture that they have accumulated for centuries. It is clearly the duty of the Brahmanas of India to remember what real Brahmanahood is. As Manu says, all these privileges and honours are given to the Brahmana because, “with him is the treasury of virtue”. He must open that treasury and distribute its valuables to the world. It is true that he was the earliest preacher to the Indian races, he was the first to renounce everything in order to attain to the higher realisation of life, before others could reach to the idea. It was not his fault that he reached ahead of the other castes….But it is one thing to gain advantage, and another thing to preserve it for evil use. Whenever power is used for evil, it becomes diabolical; it must be used for good only. So this accumulated culture of ages of which the Brahmana has been the trustee, he must now give to the people at large; and it was because he did not give it to the people, that the Mohammedan invasion was possible. It was because he did not open this treasury to the people from the beginning, that for a thousand years we have been trodden under the heels of every one who chose to come to India; it was through that we have become degraded, and the first task must be to break open the cells that hide the wonderful treasures which our common ancestors accumulated; bring them out, and give them to everybody; and the Brahmana must be the first to do it. There is an old superstition in Bengal that if the cobra that bites, sucks out his own poison from the patient, the man must survive. Well then, the Brahmana must suck out his own poison.
The super-arrogated excellence of birth of any caste in India is only pure myth, and in no part of India has it, we are sorry to say, found such congenial soil owing to linguistic differences as in the South……We believe in Indian caste as one of the greatest social institutions that the Lord gave to man. We also believe that though the unavoidable defects, foreign persecutions and above all, the monumental ignorance and pride of many Brahmanas who do not deserve the name, have thwarted, in many ways, the legitimate fructification of this most glorious Indian Institution, it has already worked wonders for the land of Bharata and is destined to lead Indian humanity to its goal…..
Vivekanand divided India only on two communities Brahmana and Non-Brahmins.
Anyone who claims to be a Brahmana, then should prove his pretensions first by manifesting that spirituality and next by raising others to the same status. On the face of this it seems that most of them are only nursing a false pride of birth, and any schemer, native or foreign, who can pander to this vanity and inherent laziness by fulsome sophistry, appears to satisfy most.
Beware Brahmanas, this is the sign of death! Arise and show your manhood, your Brahmanahood, by raising the non-Brahmanas around you-not in the spirit of a master, not with the rotten canker of egotism crawling with superstitions and the charlatanry of East and West-but in the spirit of a servant. For verily he who knows how to serve knows how to rule. The non-Brahmanas also have been spending their energy in kindling the fire of caste hatred-vain and useless to solve the problem-to which every non-Hindu is only too glad to throw on a load of fuel. Not a step forward can be made by these inter-caste quarrels, not one difficulty removed; only the beneficent onward march of events would be thrown back, possibly for centuries if the fire bursts out into flame. P-67
It is true that the caste-system becomes essential in the ordinary course of nature. Those that have aptitudes for a particular work form a class. But who is to settle the class of a particular individual? If a Brahmana thinks that he has a special aptitude for spiritual culture, why should he be afraid to meet a Shudra in an open field? Will a horse be afraid of running a race with a jade?
Every action that helps a being manifest its divine nature more and more is good; every action that retards it is evil. The only way of getting our divine nature manifested is by helping others to do the same. If there is inequality in nature, still there must be equal chance for all-or if greater for some and for some less-the weaker should be given more chance than the strong. In other words, a Brahmana is not so much in need of education as a Chandala. If the son of a Brahmana needs one teacher, that of a Chandala needs ten. For greater help must be given to him whom nature has not endowed with an acute intellect from birth. It is a madman who carries coal to Newcastle. The poor, the downtrodden, the ignorant, let these be your God.
Our aristocratic ancestors went on treading the common masses of our country under foot, till they become helpless, till under this torment the poor, poor people nearly forgot that they were human beings……..With all our boasted education of modern times, if anybody says a kind word for them, I often find our men shrinking at once from the duty of lifting them up, these poor downtrodden people. Not only so, but I also find that all sorts of most demoniacal and brutal arguments, culled from the crude ideas of hereditary transmission and other such gibberish from the Western world, are brought forward in order to brutalise and tyrannise over the poor, all the more…… Aye, Brahmanas, if the Brahmana has more aptitude for learning on the ground of heredity than the Pariah, spend no more money on the Brahmanas education, but spend all on the Pariah. Give to the weak for there the entire gift is needed. If the Brahmana is born cleaver, he can educate himself without help. If the other is not born clever, let them have all the teaching and the teachers they want. This is justice and reason as I understand it. Our poor people, these downtrodden masses of India, therefore, require to hear and to know what they really are. Aye, let every man and woman and child, without respect of caste or birth, weakness or strength, here and learn that behind the strong and the weak, behind the high and the low, behind every one, there is that Infinite Soul assuring the infinite possibility and the infinite capacity of all to become great and good. Let us proclaim to every soul-“Arise, awake! Awake from this hypnotism of weakness! None is really weak; the soul is infinite, omnipotent, and omniscient. Stand, assert yourself, proclaim the God within you; do not deny Him! P69
Our mission is for the destitute, the poor, and the illiterate peasantry and labouring classes; and if after everything has been done for them first, there is spare time, then only for the gentry. Those peasants and labouring people will be won over by love….”One must raise oneself by one’s own exertions”- this holds good in all spheres. We help them to help themselves….The moment they will come to understand their own condition and feel the necessity of help and improvement, know that your work is taking effect and is in the right direction. While the little good that the moneyed classes, out of pity, due to the poor, does not last; and ultimately it does nothing but harm to both parties. The peasants and labouring classes are in a moribund condition; so what is needed is that the moneyed people will only help them to regain their vitality, and nothing more. Then leave the peasant and labourers to look to their own problems, to grapple with and solve it. But then you must take care not to set up class-strife between the poor peasants, the labouring people and the wealthy classes, Make it a point not to abuse the moneyed classes.