Kerala Leads The Way In Turning Of The Tide In India’s Caste Struggles By Zile Singh



Recently, State of Kerala ( God’s own country) in India followed reservation policy in posting temple priests by appointing 30 priests from Other Backward Castes and 6 from Dalit community.  Thus, the wheels of temple revolution in Kerala  has been set  rolling forward by the Kerala Devaswom Recruitment Board.  The step must be appreciated by all  who believe in humanity and in equal rights for all irrespective of caste, colour, race  and sex.

In olden Hindu system,  life  was divided into four Ashrams: Brahmachari ( Physical and Learning)), Grihastha (Household ), Vanaprastha (Retired- no work ) and  Sannyasa (Meditation and forest life ).    Similarly, society was also divided into  four Varnas : Shudra (cleaner), Vaish ( service), Kshatriya ( security) and Brahmin (teaching). In practical terms this   cob-web  was as follows:

Brahmachari           Grihasth               Vanaprastha                    Sannyas

1                           2                              3                                    4


Shudra       No formal                 Yes                       No formal                      No formal

1                  Education                                               retirement                      sannyasa

Vaishya          Yes                        Yes                          – do –                             – do –


Kshatriya       Yes                        Yes                           Yes                                – do –


Brahmin         Yes                       Yes                            Yes                                 Yes


The  calculation of the Yes factor comes to:

1 x  1=  1  – shudra

2 x  2=  4  – vaishya

3 x  3=  9  – kshatriya

4 x  4= 16 – brahmin


The above- mentioned gradation  and the  division of society on the basis of  age and   birth   narrates  the  stagnant and  anti-affirmative sides of life.  The most revered prayer in the Hindu scriptures,  –  “Sarve bhavantu sukhina, Sarve santu niramaya.  Sarve bhadrani pashyantu, ma kaschan dukha bhag bhavait” does not approve the idea of the Varna system.  Because, how can one be happy, healthy, prosperous and free from sufferings in a graded society based on inequality and injustice?  Also, the often admired adage in Hinduism:-  “Vasudhev Kutambkam”:  “The whole earth is one family,” denigrates the Varna system.  How can a tightly compartmentalized society  become a  family unit where each and every member can share  happiness and unhappiness and success and failure?  The system plagued the Indian  society for thousands of years. It did more harm than the benefit.  The Society became static,  heterogeneous,  devoid of unity and fellow-feelings.  Life remained  in a denial mode for majority of the population for centuries.    In fact, in a method the system  was not mindful, in expression it was not compassionate and in essence, it was not wise.

Overtime,  with the  development of communication and other technologies,   revival of a new awareness and advocacy of human rights,   things  changed and a balanced Self-renewal of Life on the basis of the  following four principles; –   Physical ( exercise, nutrition), Mental ( reading, writing ), Social ( service, security) and Spiritual ( value clarification, meditation) took over  the age-old systems.

In the Self-renewal of Life’s paradigm, all the four activities of life are to run concurrently.  We all have to think to enhance physical, social, mental and spiritual aspects side by side from the beginning to the end of life.  The spiritual aspect is as important in the early life as in the later years of life; and the physical aspect is  equally important in old age.  The graded inequality propagated by the Varna system has changed dramatically.  Today, the inter-se seniority among society is in a  topsy-turvy situation.  Individuals, from the lowest strata of society;  illiterate once, have become literate, strong and spiritual.  Who were at the top  once,  have become ignorant,  weak and immoral.

Tearing  down the boundaries of Ashram and  Varna systems,  the following has  emerged:

Physical:  “ A healthy mind lives in a healthy body”.  Eating the right kind of food, getting sufficient rest and recreation and exercising on a regular basis as per individual’s requirement is how one can take care of this dimension.  Different types of exercises give us endurance, flexibility and strength.  Your regular regimen, without any break  of exercise will increase your self-confidence and will-power. The stage of life ( childhood to golden years); birth and the caste ( shudra to brahmin) have no role to play in enhancing our physical strength. Physical strength is required for all at every stage of life.

Mental:   “ Most folks are as happy as they make up their mind to be”- Lincoln.   Most of us stop our mental development as soon as we complete our formal education and enter any profession and start a married life, Grihastha.    To continue expanding our mental faculties it is necessary to remain tuned  up with the fast- changing technology.  Continuing education, reading and writing programmes will sharpen our mind.  Adult education is one of such programmes. If we can spare  one hour a day for a further development of our mental faculty, it will boost our overall well-being.   If we stagnate our learning process at the age of 25, there will be a doom in the long run.  There is a basic need to update our knowledge as we advance in life.

Social:  Our social dimension of life depends on the relationship how we live with others as a community and a society.   Our communication and creative cooperation  with them give us a sense of security.  To create a homogeneous atmosphere in society we have to understand  different viewpoints.   A life of trust and respect for others  is the most important factor for making a healthy society.  Without inter-personal relations, the society will lose its strength and everyone will have his own way leading the society to decay and  disunity.   In times of disaster, it will not be able to save itself and will fall prey to enemies like hate, bigotry and class and colour conflicts.

Spiritual:  Spiritual dimension is the most important factors in everyone’s life.  Though, it is totally a personal area, it draws upon a source that inspires and uplift us to the timeless truth of all humanity.  Love for literature, music, meditation, nature and scriptures is a great source of it.  According to David O. McKay, a religious teacher, “ The greatest battles of life are fought out daily in the silent chambers of the soul.”

Spirituality has taken over the religiosity.  By putting aside our orthodox and rigid points of view, we have to discern  as to which   way of living is more beneficial, compassionate, just and kind to all human beings.  For the happiness of all and for the welfare of all. “ Bahujan Sukhai, Bahujan Hitai”.

Zile Singh is a former Ambassador(Retd.) of India and a Vipassana Meditator. He can be reached at zsnirwal@yahoo.ca .



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