I have lived outside India now for 36 years and have had the opportunity to observe the behavior of people from varied walks of life as well as from several countries and cultures. Cases of inhuman behavior by Humans are exhibited everywhere, here in the USA too, from time to time. Often a gang of white Supremacists will beat a non-white even causing death. The police are not always effective; in fact they themselves are at times part of the problem. On occasion the other side reaches its limit and takes revenge. When we have the opportunity to live in more than one country, certain ways of our Human Species become more disturbing as one no more has the luxury of blaming a particular group, though some cultures seem to be more prone to quick and cruel reactions than others. Often, encouraged by wrong interpretations of religion by unscrupulous leaders!
In the case of India, mostly the blame is ascribed to the Hindu caste system. Let me first say a little about this monumental subject as the whole incident revolves around misunderstanding of the issue. The भगवत गीता says rather clearly: “चातुर वर्ण्यं मयासृष्टं; गुण कर्मा विभागशः" - Gita 4.13
This is the first line of श्लोक number thirteen in chapter four. The meaning is, that the four Varnas have been created by ME—through a classification of Gunas and duties. There is no mention of caste by birth at all. There is enough literature to prove in a hundred ways that this system worked to create a very peaceful society for a long time and there was free movement between the various Varnas.
I use the word Varna - वर्न rather than the word caste, because caste is what the Europeans had, not the Hindus, and to a certain extent have it even now. Their whole concept has revolved around the superiority of the White races. Not finding an equivalent word for the वर्न व्यवस्था prevalent in India at the time of Muslim and then European invasions, the Colonizers used inappropriate words for many ideas inherent in other ancient cultures, like the Native American and innumerable other indigenous peoples of the world. (in fact Hindus are the only surviving ancient culture out of some 46 that we know about)! As English gained predominance the members of these cultures read about themselves through the highly prejudiced literature written by people who wanted to subjugate them.
In Bhaarat this took the form of discrimination on the bases of the type of work done within the same people.
Fortunately, we in Bhaarat, have had a very large, very well entrenched tradition and at least some of us remember what is true and what is not. As fewer and fewer of us understand our vernaculars well, we risk being misunderstood more and more about who we are and what our संस्कृति stands for.
The word वर्ण, if looked up in a Sanskrit dictionary, gives several meanings like शोभा, शुक्ल, व्रतम, स्तुति, वेश्या and so on. In a Hindi to English dictionary one of the meanings is caste (presumably given to us by Europeans since we usually have to consult the Native speakers until we know). In a country with the concept of धर्म , the thinking was that a society works well if each section performs the assigned duty based on their inborn qualities and their choice of work. This was our thinking about families too; each member was committed to a role. We know that Hindus have produced a highly analyzed and most extensive sacred literature known to this world. Similarly we know clearly, the fact that Hinduism, along with some other ancient cultures, was an oral tradition; one of the most elaborate if I may point out. Families were assigned to preserve certain texts—all in their heads via memorizing! The whole Vedic Literature , consisting of not only the four Vedas, a huge text in itself, but also the Vedangas, the सूत्र literature of पाणिनि, पतंजलि and many more, was kept in the Hindu memory for a very long time. In India there are still people who have the अमृत शब्द कोष, a Sanskrit Dictionary, committed to memory as well as the whole ऋग वेद - Rig Veda . This could not have been possible without a वर्ण व्यवस्था. For anyone knowing any vernacular of भारत, the word व्यवस्था has to be familiar, still in common use for- arrangement. So it was a way to organize a society around the needs of the time to function efficiently. We survived because of this phenomenal system that was not by birth and was not at all rigid.
I think the Caste system should be dismantled, as it is not indigenous to India anyway. In fact the Supreme Court has already done so and no thinking Hindu supports it. However, the वर्ण व्यवस्था based on disposition of the mind and chosen work is universally existent in all humanity. Just think if it was not so, then why don’t all citizens of the USA become scientists, engineers, doctors of medicine and computer experts, instead of having to import them from other nations? People are not being let into this or any other affluent country out of sheer charity. This is especially true of people of Indian origins, for we are allowed in mostly because of our education and abilities. In fact, if you study the record of immigration policies of the USA, Australia, and most European countries, they have been heavily favored towards the white nations. Even non-English speaking Eastern Europeans are more welcome here! This is obvious to anyone living here who cares to be reading and observing and not perpetually shopping in our gigantic malls!
So as deplorable as the Dalit lynching is, they are not a “Hindu only” phenomenon. I would say Hindus feel terrible about it because our sense of justice is better developed. We have been told to respect others and their religions, even those that deserve no admiration. Hence when any one of us behaves badly we feel more ashamed. Lacking any news media that will give us a voice we lash out at our own instead of explaining or teaching to people who do not know and create bigger problems for all. The western media—ever ready to show others down, picks up these items to start Hindu bashing again and again.
In the article, ‘Jhajjar victim’s kin denounce Hinduism ’, which prompted me to write this piece, there was a wise comment as follows:
Dissent came from within too. A section of वाल्मीकि youth openly termed the conversions a “शाम” . “This is a disgrace to every वाल्मीकि. How will conversions change our daily existence? Can we stop doing business with cast Hindus? Will Muslims give their daughter to Khairalla in marriage?” asked Vijay Kumar.
Perhaps a youth like Shree Vijay Kumar should be in charge of his community and open up dialogue with members of other communities to resolve problems permanently. Other approaches are what we here in the United States call “Band Aid” approaches where the wound does not heal; it only gets covered up temporarily.
There is a lesson in this horrible act. As Indians move away from Hindu ideals, India will become more dangerous to all who live there. It can become another Pakistan or Afghanistan without the Hindu ideals of live and let live. May it never be so. Only the अद्वैत वेदान्तिक Hindu concept of cultural unity with full freedom to worship in our chosen ways can give our troubled world even a semblance of Peace. All should contemplate on this: Hindus themselves, other religions, and other nations. Most nations are now very multicultural and multi-religious and that is the only way for prosperity. The tremendous wealth created in the USA is the result of not one group from one country but a multitude of people from nearly the whole world. India too has been a country that accepted people and ideas from every part since ancient times. In this century we will be forced to adopt a philosophy of acceptance of other ways.