I have been fed up repeatedly being asked the same silly question about caste system in Hinduism, so thought will write a post on it to clarify things once and for all.
Caste system as it exists in modern hindu society is definitely bad. It is wrong to label a person as inferior or superior based on his birth. No caste is superior or inferior.
Having said that, let me clarify that this has got NOTHING to do with the teachings of ancient vedas. Vedas have definitely said that ‘Brahmin’ refers to a intellectually superior person, but have never said that a person is ‘brahmin (superior) by birth’
It has been clearly said that ‘Janma Jaat Shudra Sarve, Karmenu Brahman Bhavati.’ – In other words, ‘every person is Shudra (inferior) by Janma (birth) and becomes superior (Brahman) ONLY by his Karma (deeds)’
A brahman or brahmin is a person who understands brahma or brahmand (i.e creation and universe). In other words a person is a brahmin ONLY if he is knowledgeable. Common sense tells us that knowledge is not gained by birth but by our deeds over a period of time.
Note that Valmiki who wrote Ramayana was not a brahmin by birth. Vyasa who wrote Mahabharata was not a brahmin by birth. The great sage Vishwamitra was not a brahmin by birth and yet he became a maharshi. Krishna himself was not a brahmin by birth either! The evil character Ravana in Ramayana WAS A BRAHMIN BY BIRTH i.e he was born to a knowledgeable brahmin father, yet he is said to have been evil and bad.
If ancient vedic hinduism had been discriminating people based on their birth, then would this have been allowed?
Note that a brahmin is also called a Dvija in the vedas. Dvija means twice born. The first birth is his natural birth and the second birth is the new birth he gains through the knowledge he attains. To become a brahmin one has to become a Dvija. To become a dvija one has to gain knowledge. If vedas had said that a person is brahmin by his birth, then they would have never called him a dvija. Note that even if a person is born to a brahmin, if he doesnt get the second birth by gaining knowledge, then he is NOT a brahmin.
Bhagavata clearly says in 7.11.35 that
yasya yal laks?an?am? proktam?
ad anyatr?pi dr??yeta
at tenaiva vinirdi?et
which means “Just because one is born to a brahmin doesnt automatically make him a brahmin. But he has more chances of becoming a brahmin (since his parents can transfer the knowledge and duties to him). But he MUST get all those qualifications of brahmin to become a brahmin. On the other hand if a person born to a non-brahmin possesses all the qualities of a brahmin, he/she should be immediately accepted as a brahmin.”
Varna (called caste today even though they are totally different) system was used where son of a doctor was preferred to be a doctor, son of a warrior was preferred to be a warrior, etc so that expertise gets collected over a period of generations. Knowledge gained in a particular field was passed on from generations to generations, and this kept adding up in every successive generation. But there were no restrictions for children to chose alternate professions.
Remember that vedas have said ‘Vasudaiva Kutumbakam’ which means ‘whole earth is a family’ and ‘Sarve jana sukhino bhavantu’ which means ‘May all humans live happily’
Existing caste system in India is a misinterpretation of ancient vedic system where powerful lobbies have mislead the society over a period of time for their own selfish gains. And now so called backward people want to remain backward permanently in the name of reservations.
Unfortunately, India is the only country in the world today where people prefer to be called as those belonging to backward castes due to the benefits and reservations available to them, and are afraid to be called brahmins due to the fear of lack of opportunities. Reservations are creating a second class knowledge society in India.
Solution to Caste System