**** SKIP IF YOU DON'T LIKE READING LONG POSTS, OR DON'T CARE FOR HINDUISM, RELIGION IN GENERAL, ETC. ****
Originally Posted by Ape in space
Generally you should be skeptical of any source that claims that caste is a fundamental part of the religion. It is really nothing more than a class system of the type that existed everywhere in ancient times, which became more rigid especially during the period of foreign rule. There is nothing sacred about it and the Hindu tradition itself recognizes the fluidity and changeability of social orders.
There's a lot of confusion about Hinduism and the caste system, and it is actively promoted by (who else?) Christians and other adherents of proselytizing faiths (Islam, Buddhism). Normally I just shake my head at the ignorance and move on since I don't really care to discuss the matter with a bunch of fanatics, but I'll just put this out there in an attempt to clear the waters.
So let me attempt to clear this up a bit.
First things first, it is illegal
in India to discriminate by caste. It was made illegal a loooong, loooong time ago, and officially outlawed in the Indian constitution when India gained independence. This was around 1947-50, when Americans were still segregating Black Americans and lynching them
. I usually burst into hysterical laughter when I see a typical American baptist blather on about the caste system. It's like me telling a modern American "yeah we know lynching non-white people is your pastime". Only worse, because not only was the caste system outlawed way before non-white discrimination was legally outlawed in the West, but the Constitution of India is written by a man who was a Buddhist convert and a member of the lowest caste when he was born. That's like the Constitution of America being written by a Black American who is a member of the Nation of Islam
. Let that sink in. Heck, I doubt that present-day americans would even let an amendment from a black or non-christian interest group be added to their constitution.
So, it is really quite tiresome to see people from the West go on and on about the caste system. I don't even have the energy to argue with someone who is obviously that stupid.
Now a few things about the Vedas, Upanishads, etc.
1. The first thing to remember is that the Vedas are not prescriptive, i.e. they do not explicitly tell you what to do and what not to do. They are descriptive of their times and mostly contain mythology, hymns, and instructions for the proper way to carry out rituals. They are nothing like 'the book' in the 'book religions'. There is no THOU SHALT NOT and THOU SHALT stuff in there. They are not manuals to live your life by. They are manuals to conduct rituals and prayer.
2. There is a difference between 'Hinduism' and the 'Vedic religion'. They are very similar in practice, but quite different in beliefs. Hinduism mostly comes from around the 3rd or 4th century CE and texts like the Bhagvad Gita and the Puranas. The Vedic gods and mythology are somewhat different from that of Hinduism. There is some overlap, but much of the stuff in the Vedas is not done now.
3. With that established, there is
a caste system being described in the Vedas, it's called varna (वर्ण
). Which is really not that surprising because the Vedas are super old and society back then was like that. But, there is no prescription
that this system must be maintained and is applicable to all times blah blah blah. It is just mentioned
because the text comes from a society where that system was applicable.
4. There is prescription
of the caste system in the Manu Smriti
, which is a text from around the 3rd century CE, i.e. thousands of years after the vedas. What is important to note is that 99.999% of the practitioners of Hinduism don't even know of the book
, and it has practically no authority in mainstream Hinduism. Books in general have little authority, since the religion is not organized.
Of all these books, the average Hindu has read about 0 of them. I was raised a Hindu upto the age of 17 (after which I saw religion as a pointless annoyance) and I might have seen one copy of the Bhagvad Gita in my life, which of course, I didn't care to read.
Hindu gods are not like the Abrahamic god. You don't have to
worship all of them or whatever. Basically, Hindu mythology is a soap opera (that has already happened, isn't continuing now), there are gods, their families, their enemies, their emotions, betrayal, backstabbing, death, rebirth and all that crap. And yes, they even have teh secks with their honeys.
Another thing to consider when listening to a typical baptist whine about demon worship in India, India has had a relatively
tolerant society for a long time. This mosque
is apparently from the time when Mohammed was alive. Believed to have been constructed by the earliest proselytizing Muslim traders. There was a population of Jewish refugees
from before the construction of the second temple, i.e. 2500 years ago. Ironically, the people who discriminated against them most were their own kind
. They recently migrated to Israel, and Israel was suspicious that they were "fake jews" because of course, they don't look like the Ashkenazi or Sephardi jews. There is a community of Zoroastrian refugees
, from the time of the Islamic conquest of Persia. Apart from these there are pre-Catholic church Christian (Syriac Christians) refugees and settlers. Who were again, ironically, persecuted by their own people
instead of the locals. Proselytizing was never banned. Buddhists have been hawking for converts since half a millennium before Christianity was even born.
One thing to stress about this is that none of these populations were ever told to assimilate, like you hear so frequently today in the modern Western countries ("foreigners don't bother to assimilate, if they want to live like that why don't they go back to where they came from"). They were never forced to marry or mix outside their own community. The Zoroastrian community I mentioned above has significant problems with finding suitable partners because the community is so closely knit and inbred. And it was their own decision to keep themselves racially "pure". Their own clerics will testify to that fact.
In a nutshell, all I wanted to say is that yes India is a ****hole and a crap place to live in, yes Hinduism is definitely as bat**** as other religions, and no it is not paradise over here. But, Indian society is far more tolerant and accommodating of aliens than any other I've seen. I don't have a patriotic bone in my body, and don't care for nationalism, but it just smacks of ignorance when some chump from the West decides to bring up the caste system to try and occupy the moral high ground. The feeling I get when I hear someone say something like that is like I'm having my skull bashed in with a sledgehammer of stupidity.
Sorry about the rambling, but I like talking about religion. I don't follow religion, but I do find it intriguing in an academic sense and I like to learn about it and how it shapes society and culture.