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Article XLI: The Caste System

The caste system is one of the most criticized aspects of Hinduism because it is said to be rooted in the Vedas themselves. Although the Rig Veda alludes to the creation of different types of people from Purusha, the Cosmic Being, the philosophy of the caste system has degenerated into a cultural institution of discrimination. Vedanta philosophy asserts that each person is born with different vasanas (tendencies), samskaras (impressions), and proportions of the three gunas (qualities): satwa (purity), rajas (activity), and tamas (inertia). Depending on those characteristics, one is best suited for different types of contribution to society, hence the four divisions of people as described in the Rig Veda. "His mouth was the Brahman, his arms were the Rajanaya [Kshatriya], his thighs the Vaisya; from his feet the Sudra was born." (Rig Veda, Book X) Philosophically, Vedanta takes this to mean that people are suited for different roles in society and should follow their dharma (duty) to contribute to society in the best way possible. ACCORDING TO VEDANTA, CASTE IS NOT PREDETERMINED BY PARENTS' CASTE. It is determined by vasanas, samskaras, and resulting proportions of satwa, rajas, and tamas, all of which is based on karma from previous births. Hence, a Brahman with dominant satwa can be born to Sudra parents with dominant tamas, and vice-versa. The current state of the "caste system" is based on the misinterpretation that one is born into a caste based on one's parents. It is also believed that there were fewer problems with caste prior to British occupation of India, wherein the British distorted the caste system by encouraging Brahman superiority to create intercaste hostility and facilitate control over Indian people. The cultural institution of the caste system as it exists today does not even resemble the philosophical intentions of caste as described by the scriptures and interpreted by Vedantins.

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