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Thursday, July 14, 2005

Caste, Religion Etc...

This post is in response to the discussion thread initiated by Senthil. This response is a bit long, bit more philosophical. Would urge people to read it through the end and think it over and come to whatever is their own conclusion.

Related Reads : Self, Realization, Zero, Summa Theologica

Here is what i think about it. Since i've been tagged the diplomatic guy, i will try to be sensitive to the question and emotions involved.

Bottomline : Should we need caste system. If yes, why, If no, do we need another system or how to abolish/eradicate the existing system.

Let us think about it.

1) What is religion
Religion is belief in God.

2) What is atheism
Atheism is belief in non-existence of God

3) What is Science
A Methodical way of explaining any phenomena.

4) Can Science define an absolute 'right' or 'wrong'
No. What is 'right' today - may be 'wrong' tomorrow. There is nothing that has continued to stay and has not not-changed. The only non-changed activity over the test of time is 'death'.

What was a rectangle,box is now sphere (Earth).
What had no water (ask all our lyricists) has now ice (Moon).

Like that, all things are susceptible to change. Can we even say that there exists something that is never susceptible to change. I am not sure. May be, we might even be able 'defeat' 'death'.

5) If there is no absolute 'right' or 'wrong' , is religion right
For those who adopt a religion it is right

6) If there is no absolute 'right' or 'wrong' , is atheism right
For those who adopt a atheism it is right

7) If there is no absolute 'right' or 'wrong' , is Science right
The method may always be right, but that does not imply the explanation may always be right.

8) Has Science enabled you to write this and communicate this

9) Who created science

10) Who created humans
Evolution /God ( depends on you being atheist or a believer)

11) What is the single-most-parent-origin of evolution
we don't know

12) Do Humans change

13) Does Science i.e. method of explanation change

14) What does this all mean
we are trying to work on assumptions, that are subject to change, and hence all the conclusions are themselves subject to change. Every human works towards satisfying his own good. If you feel that, your primary objective in life is to help others, you help, because you feel good if you help others or rather, you don't feel good if you dont help others :-)

Nothing is to say, that, how we now say Earth is not box and it is actually sphere, all our assumptions may be voided in future by some other school of thought.

Keeping all of the above in mind......

15) Why was caste system put in place by our ancestors
We can only go by the historical literature, which says, caste was based on the profession and people were grouped

16) Why did our ancestors feel the need for a caste based grouping system
At that time, based on what they knew as science and what they felt as rational, they put in a system, that they felt addressed a need.

17) Is caste applicable now
Wait till you get to question Q.22

18) What do you get by belonging to any caste
You get a sense of belonging. You get to have an identity outside of your name & your deeds. You get to follow a certain set of practises . You feel like you are part of community

19) Why do you need an identity outside of your name & deeds
Humans are social animals. They need to be with some other living beings.

20) Why do you need to belong to a community
Building on the answer in Q.19, humans have 'egos'. And people feel that when they are a part of community, people with similar beliefs, practises and customs are together and that gives them even more security since it vindicates what they do :-)

Their egos always would like to make them feel superior that someone else. They feel superior to animals. If there were no animals, they'd feel superior over the trees. If not trees, then soil and so on. Why ? Because we think we have the ability to 'reason'. Just because we can 'reason' are we superior ?. We are different yes, but are we superior ?.

Now, even amongst our species, we feel 'oneself' is superior than 'otherself'. These are basic/primal insticts. Think of the world where everyone/everything knows they are all equals. But they also know that each one of them gets to live different life-styles and gets to live for different life spans. They would never know why there is this discrimination. That brings to the next question

21) Why is there discrimation in the Universe. Why can't everything in the universe (all of us) be trees or all of us be animals or all of us be humans. Why is there a need for a dog, a cat, a mango, an apple, a male, a female. Why can't all of it be the same ?

If there was no difference amongst everything in the universe, can the universe exist ?
If there was no different amongst everything, everything exists and everything does not exist.

22) Do we need caste now
Question should be, do we need discrimation. We are, by nature, born discrimated. Positively or negatively. We are born into this universe along with many other living beings. There will be discrimination.

23) Do we need to discriminate
As long as we realize, being different does not mean positively different or negatively different, discrimination is a way of life same as why universe is bundle of discrimination.

24) Why should a discrimination be positive or negative
One question i dont think i have reasonable answer.

We all live, knowing fully well, we all die, but not knowing what to do while we live. We have all devised what is 'acceptable' behavior during our lives.

Think of purpose of living as follows. It is like i write a number on a piece of paper and seal it in an envelope. And you start saying, ok let me guess what the number is and you start writing out some numbers. Now i make sure you can never get to the envelope by destroying it and i refuse to talk about it (Mission impossible huh?)

Whatever number you write down, there is no way of saying that, it is the right number, since you will never get to know the number i wrote. For all we know, you indeed got the same number i wrote in the envelope, but
how do you know, unless i told you or you got hold of the envelope ? :-).

*1) What if i never asked you to guess the number ? You thought you just had to find the number without me doing anything
*2) What if i never wrote a number on the envelope, but just let you imagine i actually did ?
*3) What if i never existed and the envelope never existed ?
*4) What if more than one person attempts to guess the number and in the process believe their methodology to get find the number is better than others ? or their number is right and other's is wrong ?

Think Think Think, for all you can think, can only yeild what you think as answers. One other person can agree with you. Thousands can agree with you. Millions can agree with you. Entire universe can agree with you.

*5) Have you achieved anything by finding out why i wrote the number on the envelope ?. The very same envelope you are not sure that it even exists ?

Do you see a pattern between questions *1 through *5 as familiar ? Does it describe what we do in life ?

Please tell me if you did find answers to these questions *1 through *5 :-)

P.S : Ofcourse, there will always be people who do not buy these arguments or answers to the questions. They can choose to believe they are 'right' and am 'wrong'. I fully understand and appreciate their 'belief's while i still believe in what i wrote is 'reasonable' if not 'right' :p

Related Reads : Self, Realization, Zero, Summa Theologica


Raman said...

Interesting view point. As I have always maintained - You are what you are and not what someone else says you are.

Most people follow certain tenets that "their community" would like them to adhere to and then there are those who want to break from the type cast mould. These folks would like to be more "individual". It is up to the person as to what path he deigns is the right one.

As you have mentioned, nobody knows now what is the right path. We just believe that we are on the right track while all other deviants are on the incorrect one. And they believe the same of us.

And btw, did you notice, both of us seem to have kind of sidestepped on a direct answer to the bottomline question! We would just like to believe that we have answered the question. But, maybe we have not. It's all relative and it's all perception!

SamY said...

wow u'v got patience man ;) ... to me every answer spurts from what defines an INDIVIDUAL ... there is no absolute as to right n wrong ... it only a perspective of an individual ...

every individual defines his own value system and beliefs ... which refines over age (maturity)... those things in the world that concur with these are 'right' and those that do no not become 'wrong' (which is y ppl differ in opinions) ... n that which the majority believes in gains acceptance in society ...

in my world, ans to q's r a perenial search ... the ans to the 1st 5 q's as of *2day* wud be ... god is a concept for me ... 4 I wudn't take side of either school ... the pattern I observe in ppl is that we belive more in god as we tend to belive less in self ... when everything seems to fail n a miracle happens our prayers to god seem to be answered ...

to me god is an entity (that which exists or is only a figment of my imagination instigated by believers) which helps me in my search of worldly pursuits ...

truth be told god is that ideal person who listens to us unstinted ... n tells us what to do (which usually is the inner voice of instinct while some choose to belief in chance) ... find a person who can do that n one wud need less reliance on god ...

humans dun all trust humans ... coz humans falter ... god is one who does not so ... belief in such a person is uninanimously accepted by many ...

science answers when rational works out right n we expect god to answers when the rational is defeated ... n change is the only thing in the world which is *constant* ...

dividing ppl well ... divide n conquer!!! ... thatz how u rule the masses ... if the world of a quixotic communist comes true ... there wud be no competetion ... no purpose ... untimately the society WILL cripple ...

every living entity is in search of its purpose ... purpose is all ... I want to be famous, I want to do odds / ends ... I was serve the society ... I want to make the world a better place ...

itz ABSOLUTE in my world *2day* ... all that arvi just spoke about ... religion, atheism, science, caste, discrimination ... all yield to defining the purpose of one life ... or rather give ppl a purpose to theirs ... coz life does not exist without purpose ...

in fact love (purpose being the one whome you love), hate (puspose being the one whome u hate) n many emotions of rules by ones purpose ... n its this purpose which defines ones world of rules that I started with ... so the circle is complete ...

this is what is said in the movie "The Matrix" .. tho I wudn't vouch on if it were intentional ... this is my belief ... phew I'v got patience 2 :)

sen said...

I havn't seen such a clear post in my life :).Dude i got confused exponenetially with every point.Is there any way you can compress this answer to a 2/3 line one.Need winzip?? :)

sen said...

Sorry dude iam a non philosophical simple mind.But actaully iam trying.I have made a project plan.The chart shows that i would need atleast 2 months to understand this :).

Eshwar said...

well one thing is for sure. There are no absolutes. There is no such thing as cut and dry !!

Anand Ramamoorthy said...

the original conception of caste seems to have been more along jung's personality types
even the gita does not place any emphasis on birth. besides what was fourfold to begin with has now become a fountain of madness. I guess we gain nothing by indulging in any scholastic hair-splitting over this.
calling yourself as belonging to a community is not wrong if you do not intend to demean others. one can be traditional without giving into the ugly charms of fundamentalism. my humble opinion is that all answers to our problems can be found by carefully studying the Gita. if you can lead a traditional life without hurting anyone I strongly suggest you go for it.

ROBBIE said...

I agree with Senthil, every argument of yours has been supplied with a counter argument. Essentially, there is no right or wrong, and it is just perception that matters, Isnt this what you are trying to say? Then I would say that the perception has to change with the times and caste system is one such thing. We cannot hang on to it for in the current world it is more of an identity than an indicator of profession. It is therefore best to discard it (I am not talking about discarding your identity though). In simple terms, let us not make caste our identity, or the key to the way we operate with the others in this world. Amen!

Ganesh said...

you have valid points there.
But I need more time to digest.
caste initself is not bad as per your points, the problems comes when people discriminate and demean other fellow human beings.
Even going by puranas there are case when people of one caste rose to the highest order in society.
example Vishwamitra.
Anyway to do away caste it should start from the individual, in their homes. That will be a first step, leave your beliefs at your home when you step out.

Kasthuri Srinivasan said...

I can understand what goes in your thought. The central point in your post is about the existence of duality in nature (good-bad, life-death, vice-virtue, etc.), or relative things. These dualities (relativeness) come into picture only if you assume 'death' as an end to existence. Question death and you will have all the answers with you. Life will be a fun to play with. For I know where the answer is, it is just a matter of 'getting it out'.

Arvind said...


Each one has to do his own thinking to find out what he should do in life. What is 'right' for him and what is 'wrong' for him,

The only thing we can pass on to others is the fact above :-)

Good one there, though, my point is, why do we have to 'assume' that there is 'purpose' to life ? goes back to questions *1 through *5 - how do we know whether there is the person who wrote it, how do you know whether there is an envelope etc :-)

The answer is not binary. You can't say it is 0 or 1. (Because there is nothing other than 0 :P -idhu epdi irukku)

Simply put it means, you have to do thinking for yourself identifying what you feel is necessary. :-)

Arvind said...

22) Do we need caste now
23) Do we need to discriminate

those two arguments, answer my stand on caste. Caste is not evil, the discrimination based on it is evil.

Hence my question, since there is no 'good' or 'bad' no 'right' or 'wrong' why should one person/ thing different from the other think of themselves as superior. Why are 'we' superior than animals ?

Discrimination is because one feels superior than other and one feels inferior than other. If only we all realize, that we are all 'different' not superior/inferior world would be a better place !

let us not make caste our identity...Good, let us make thinking our identity.

Superbly stated, Senthil wants you to leave it out of your home as well ;)

Kasthuri Srinivasan,
Dude how do i address you ? :-)
Anyway, what is in a name, just lazy to type it out ;)

For I know where the answer is, it is just a matter of 'getting it out'. ..Good to know that you have thought it out :-)

(what the envelope is and how to assess the 'rightness' of the 'answer' :P)

Yes, bottom line is no absolutes. But then it pops the question, why not ?

Kasthuri Srinivasan said...

Why should things be seen relative at all? I believe there a thing which is absolute, which is the notion that "I exist". This inherent absoluteness doesn't have any contradiction or relativeness. One may question its validity but the moment you do that, you assume you exist and you are questioning (try this). So, there is atleast one absolute. The moment we believe in an absolute everything falls in its place. If you think one will cease to exist after one dies, I would say that is a very superficial thought (I have just now put a post on this), which is the cause of all confusion and chaos. You can address me by what ever you want, for name is just a reference as you pointed out :-)

Arvind said...

Kasthuri Srinivasan,

You have asked the right question, why should things be seen relative at all and So, there is atleast one absolute

Well, here is my take on that. For anything to be relative, there should be an absolute and a there should be a difference from absolute. i.e. for anything to be measured, you need a zero and something other than zero.

Now if everything was indeed zero, and hence the same, why do we need a 'form' called 'zero'.

why do we need 'zero' if there is nothing else other than 'zero' ??

Why should there be existence, Why universe, Why should there be anything ? finally Why should there be an Absolute ?

Kasthuri Srinivasan said...

Well I guess you are the right person to talk philosophy (I was looking for someone for a long time).

"Why should there be existence, Why universe, Why should there be anything ? finally Why should there be an Absolute ? "

I'll simply ask "why not ?". I guess one can answer only by negation for some eternal questions. This is because of the 'completeness of the reasoning part' in the human mind. I mean, The question 'why' comes from some part of the mind which is
constantly focussed on reason and logic and it cannot go beyond that. But once we start observing the mind for a while, we can see better things, appreciate more beauty and be happy. Life can never be explained completely but can be understood logically.

Arvind said...


Thanks :-) do bounce off your thoughts :-)

I'll simply ask "why not ?".

Almost, for every other time this question is asked, i'd have sure, if you can ask "why" you can also ask "why not"

The question 'why' comes from some part of the mind which is
constantly focussed on reason and logic and it cannot go beyond that.

I guess "why not" also comes from the same part of mind :p ?

The reason for asking the "whys" is to essentially prove something by its absence a.k.a in the absence everything in the world being absolute (in which case, there would be no nothing - which in itself is oxymoron), 'relative' is here to stay ;)

p.s : Summa Theologica is a must read for you.

Arvind said...


Good thinking there, very positive signs indeed :-)

Subha said...

Actually Arvind,
you are making a lot of sense here. The trouble is not with the caste system but with people who think it makes them superior/inferior! This is one of the more balanced, thought-out blogs I've seen on this subject. I've seen people just go way over on one side of the argument. However simplistic and appealing that may be, reality comes in shades of grey. There's no black and white!

Arvind said...


Thanks :-), just to throw in more argument to the ring, why should gray be any different than black or white :P - jk

Good point there :) You must read the self, realization and zero as part of this post (available on this post)

Aishwarya said...

The Ontological Argument (Arvind, as you may have encountered in Summa Theologica) in itself defines everything in relative terms; there has to exist an absolute for any idea to be elaborated/processed parallelly or perpendicularly. And bam! Well put: we are but different, not superior/inferior to :)

A good instrospective post, thanks.

Ram.C said...

Too many theories had gone behind your post on the caste system.. I
appreciate the same. And so many detailed comments too.. well, I envy people having so much time to comment immediately.

I agree that Caste system originated due to the various professional requirements in the olden days. A system which started to discriminate the profession has ended in discrimination of people. But, that would be the result of any evolution. You start an activity for some purpose and end up with something else.

Obviously, discrimination of people had hurt several quarters in the world - Whether it is a Jewish state or a Muslim state or India? If you take India, that discrimination had prompted birth of more revolutionary thoughts during the past few decades, which has brought so many welfare schemes for their upcoming.

Eventhough it had helped a lot of people to come up in their life,
during the last 6 decades, the system which was administering that
change has got rotten. Too much of corruption in the system is not
helping everyone, nowadays. The benefits are not reaching everyone as designed. Rather it is affecting a new breed of generation - which are economically weak.

To conclude, I would say there is nothing wrong in having a caste
system as long as it doesn't hurt anyone's sentiments or upcoming in
the society. It can exist, to have a sense of belonging to a particular group of people. However, this calls for a change in
reservation systems in favour of economically weak, rather than based on caste system.

Everybody talks about caste now, due to this reservation system only. If this change of reservation system comes to effect, the caste system
will be forgotton completely.

But will it happen...? It may take a looooooooooong time

Arvind said...


Thanks, yes Universe exists due to differences :-)


That was a very nicely thought out comment and your conclusion was very relevant..." Caste is not the evil, discrimination is !"

Padmasani said...

The hindu cast system, originally was on the basis of occupation only. When it became a birth right is not known. It could have made sense as long as the offsprings of the family adhered to the occupation as a family tradition in a unified way.

Today if the cast system is to be applied then in a single family one can find all the chaturvarnas (Four casts) incorporated. :)

Arvind said...


"Today if the cast system is to be applied then in a single family one can find all the chaturvarnas (Four casts) incorporated. :) "

LOL :-)

Sriram C S said...

Arvind - Clear and lucid thought process buddy! I won't comment on the post seriously, fo it is something that has to be thought of and understood by an individual. But I have found the answer for questions 1 to 5. The answer is... forty-two!!!! ;)

Arvind said...


1942 a love-story eh ? ;)