Sanatan Dharma, Casteism and Hinduism


In Vedic times, the Varna of individuals was determined by their capabilities. When it changed to the heredity-based caste system, no one knows. That sin was committed by leaders like meLying on a bed of arrows, sage Bhishma to Karna in the story of Mahabharata.

Hinduism is the World’s oldest religion and casteism too is old, and continues to be a scourge for the Indian society.

Why does caste discrimination arise?

Everyone is endowed with S, R, T components. The proportion of each determines the person’s level of internal excellence.

The S component denotes truthfulness, honesty, equanimity and steadfastness, while the R component encompasses attachment, bravery, ego, ambition, greed and a desire to live, and the T component includes Lying, cheating, causing injury in words or deed and sleep (source, The Bhagvad Geeta).

On a scale of internal excellence, the S component is at the top-end of the scale, T at the bottom- end of the scale and the various combinations of the three in between these two extremes.

The noble human beings are towards the top end of the scale, the wicked ones toward the bottom, and the rest of us somewhere in between the two extremes.

Just as human beings are endowed with the three components, S, R, and T, they are endowed with two emotions: Positive emotions and negative emotions.

Positive emotions include unconditional love, kindness, empathy and compassion while negative emotions encompass anger, hatred, hostility, resentment, frustration, jealousy, fear, sorrow and the like.

On a scale of emotional excellence, positive emotions are at the top, negative emotions at the bottom and the combinations of the two, in between these two extremes.

The S component positively and strongly correlates with positive emotions while R and T components positively and strongly correlate with negative emotions.

Thus, the scales of internal excellence and emotional excellence are entirely equivalent.

An individual with a low level of internal excellence is apt to engage in such acts as caste discrimination. The reader will now appreciate why racism in this country and casteism are close cousins.

Just as individuals have a specific level of internal excellence, so do societies, but when it comes to societies, we speak in terms of the average level of internal excellence.

Due to reasons that are extremely difficult to wrap our hands around, the S, R, T components of societies undergo transformation over time.

As the S component of a society increases, the society rises, but the S component cannot rise indefinitely, and when it reaches its peak, the T component takes over and the society begins to decline. The T component cannot rise indefinitely either, and so, when it reaches its peak, the S component takes over and the society begins to rise again.

The transformation of the three components induces repeated rise and decline of societies.

Sri Krishna asserts this in the Bhagvad Geeta and we have found substantial evidence of the rise and decline of societies in the Encyclopedia Britannica.

During Vedic times, the S component of the Indian society was very high, and the caste of a person or more appropriately, Varna, was determined by the person’s capabilities.

But, India eventually declined over thousands of years due to the transformation of the three components, and the Varna began to be associated with heredity in a warped understanding of the Varna system.

After being in decline for two thousand years or more, the S component has taken over and India is rising again, although, much progress remains to be made.

Can progress be hastened? Yes, it can, by enhancing the societal level of internal excellence, but it is not an intellectual exercise. The required positive changes have to come about from within.

But, how?

The S, R, T components cannot be measured, but emotions can, and this is fortunate as internal excellence and emotional excellence are strongly and positively correlated. Increase one, and you will increase the other.

The processes with which to enhance emotional excellence are yogic processes, such as meditation.

Now, onto to Sanatan Dharma.

The Sanskrit term, Sanatan, means eternal, and dharma refers to duty, and so, Sanatan Dharma refers to eternal duty.

What is the eternal duty of human beings?

As the companion paper, One World, One Family, explained, whatever is in the universe today was already there in the energy phase of the big bang event, unbelievably small, extremely hot and immensely dense, albeit in unmanifest form.

The Saamkhya hypothesis explains that all creation is comprised of the five principal elements and the three gunas (S, R and T). And this is true for human beings as well.

The principal elements are: Prithvi (matter, present elsewhere in the universe, is present here on Earth), Jal (water), Agni (Fire, heat), Vayu (air), and Akash (Consciousness & energy),

The eternal duty of a human being is to return to the source over many lifetimes.

In Hinduism, the process of returning to the source is called Jeeva Samadhi while in Buddhism, it is called Tukdam. See this article and the video clip as examples. Russian neuroscientists and His Holiness the Dalai Lama have studied the phenomenon of Tukdam.

The meditative processes of Sanatan dharma that a seeker uses in the hope of returning to the source are the same ones that enhance emotional excellence.

The societal embrace of these ideas, therefore, will have a positive impact on casteism.

Finally, how is Sanatan Dharma related to Hinduism?

Hinduism has been variously described as the world’s oldest religion, a philosophy, and a way of life.

There is also a more insightful definition: Hinaan gunaan dushyati iti Hindu (हिनान गुणान दूषयति इति हिंदु): Translation, one who considers the inferior Gunas (R, T) as defective is a Hindu. Implied in this definition is the notion that such a person will not only recognize that R and T components as inferior, but will also strive to enhance the S component at the exclusion of the R and T components.

Pradeep B. Deshpande

Pradeep B. Deshpande is Professor Emeritus in and former Chair of the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Louisville, and President and CEO of Six Sigma and Advanced Controls.



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