We frequently come across the label Brahmanism used as an alternative name for Hinduism. Most Western-Videshi, as also many, if not most, native-Svadeshi scholars echo the term citing each other (often in an endless cyclic process in symbiosis). As can be understood from this hybrid coinage, the “ISM” of Brahmanism is English and foreign. Obviously the term is a gift of Bharata-India’s erstwhile Colonial Rulers, and the legacy is diligently borne by wagging-tails either suffering from “Frog in the Well”-Syndrome or from a mental infection that knows no cure from Colonial Mentality. This western term does not have any Sanskrit equivalent. However, Sanskrit equivalents like Brahmanya-vada or Brahmanyavadi have been constructed to give a Deshi appearance. And when something is constructed, it cannot be without purpose.
The terms Brahmanism, Brahmanya-vada and Brahmanyavadi have been given derogatory connotation to signify the Hindu Hereditary Caste System and its defenders, and through that guise to carry on Anti-Hindu propaganda. In this article, we would understand the How.
It is well known, Sindhu was pronounced as Hindu (sapta sindhava as hapta hindu) by our ancient Persian counterpart of Vedic Civilization, the Zoroastrians, in Avesta, hence arose the word Hindu. The name ‘Hindu’ is thus not ‘foreign’. The term became acceptable because it fitted with Sanskrit etymology (for example, ‘Indu’ is Soma, Moon and Amrta). Moreover, ‘Hindu’ and ‘Hinduism’ have been recognized by the Indian Constitution and Legal System.
Now, what is the logic of further christening Hinduism as Brahmanism, or inventing terms like Brahmanya-vada or Brahmanyavadi?
In this article I will discuss that the coinage Brahmanism used as synonym of Hinduism or to indicate Hereditary Caste System or its defenders is absolute NONSENSE and is actually the product of Agenda and Agendalogy, unless it is ironically valid against the intent of such Agenda and of such nonsense-mongers. To put it simply: the term Brahmanism is only valid if Brahmana is understood as an Ideal (Adarsha) and not as Brahmin-Caste, and that too, not only a Hindu Ideal but also an Ideal of Buddha, Buddhism, Mahavira, and Jainism etc.
Let us first understand how the Agenda has been set and made to roll:
1. Brahmana is a Varna in Varna System from which evolved the Caste-System – no doubt on that point. Thus, to name Hinduism as Brahmanism creates an appearance of exclusion of the other three Varnas etc. The purpose is not just to create a rift between Brahmana Varna and the other three Varnas etc, but to create a rift between those identified as Brahmin-Caste and other castes in present times. The purpose is to make a point to the other castes that Hinduism does not consider them her part. The politicians and academicians (not different in most cases, and two sides of same coin in most cases) who try to create this rift provide food and fodder to Anti-Hindu and anti-Bharata-India forces, or those forces of other Religion with proselytizing motive;
2. Brahmana thus used as synonym to Hindu has the Agenda to hoodwink that Hinduism is all about Brahmana-Varna and Brahmin-Caste, and to Brain-Programming that Hinduism is all about a system of Caste-Hierarchy and therefore, not egalitarian;
3. The wider aim of this propaganda is to make Hindus feel apologetic or suffer from Inferiority Complex about their own Dharma, Religion, Itihasa, History and Tradition. This construction of memory enables the missionary forces of other Religion to proselytize and convert Hindus by claiming that they are egalitarian Religions. With Hindus remaining apologetic, they would clamour for Secularism, though in actuality Hinduism is already Secular by nature. The Hindus thus giving up their rights, and sacrificing their pride in tradition will thus provide the missionaries of other Religion a free playing ground in the name of their minority rights.
However, as I mentioned, there is an irony here, and it is through this irony that we can deconstruct this vicious ploy and Agendalogy of denigrating Hinduism in the name of the sacred and unifying word ‘Brahmana' [i] – in fact, the word that unified all children of the Vedic Civilization in pursuit of a common ideology. I am coming to this.
To understand the Agenda of Anti-Hindu forces both within and without Hinduism, we will here use the word Brahmana in two ways to clearly demarcate two separate ideas – i) Brahmana – to denote the Brahmana-Ideal or Adarsha; and ii) Brahmin - to denote Brahmin-Caste or Brahmin-Class (- both ‘caste’ and ‘class’ being in use – another case of nonsense).
The Agendalogists and Anti-Hindu Forces deliberately confuse the two ideas of Brahmana and Brahmin, taking advantage of the nature of Sanskrit language that uses same word to connote multiple senses, contexts and perspectives. So, when the word Brahmanism is used, most people can hardly separate Brahmana and Brahmin, that is, Ideological Brahmana and Brahmin-Caste.
We would now expose this nonsense.
First, in Hinduism, Brahmana is not just Brahmana-Varna or Brahmin-Caste or Brahmin-Class, Brahmana is an Ideal – Adarsha; and this fact is obscured by the Agendalogists or Anti-Hindu Propaganda Machinery. For example, in RgVeda, the Rshi distinguishes True Brahmana and False Brahmana (priests parroting rituals without actual spiritual wisdom):
“When friendly Brahmans sacrifice together with mental impulse which the heart hath fashioned, They leave one far behind through their attainments, and some who count as Brahmans wander elsewhere (8). Those men who step not back and move not forward, nor Brahmans nor preparers of libations, Having attained to Vak in sinful fashion spin out their thread in ignorance like spinsters (9).” (RV. 10.71)
In short, True Brahmana is the one who is wise and connected with Heart – the Head and Heart Balance. This is a secular ideal and an ideal for all human beings.
Now, “men who step not back and move not forward” implies Stasis. Undoubtedly, these ‘shallow’ Brahmanas produce Exploitative Discourses on Dharma based on deliberate Superficial Interpretation, and from which emerged the Hereditary Caste System.
Mahabharata unequivocally cherishes the Brahmana-Ideal. For example, in Mahabharata in the Yudhishthira-Yaksha Samvada (3.297), the Yaksha asks Yudhishthira: “By what, O king, birth, behaviour, study, or learning doth a person become a Brahmana? Tell us with certitude!”
Yudhishthira replies: “Listen, O Yaksha! It is neither birth, nor study, nor learning, that is the cause of Brahmanahood, without doubt, it is behaviour that constitutes it.”
In Yudhishthira-Nahusha Samvada (3.177-178) too, Nahusha in snake form asks Yudhishthira the same question and gets same answer. [ii]
Nahusha snake asks Yudhishthira: “Who is a Brahmana and what should be known? By thy speech I infer thee to be highly intelligent.” [iii]
Yudhishthira says, “O foremost of serpents, he, it is asserted by the wise, in whom are seen truth, charity, forgiveness, good conduct, benevolence, observance of the rites of his order and mercy is a Brahmana.” [iv]
Nahusha finally declares, “Truth, charity, self-restraint, penance, abstention from doing injury to any creature, and constancy in virtue, these, O king, and not his race of family connections, are the means, by which a man must always secure salvation.” [v]
The Brahmana-Ideal is oft repeated: “The indications of a Brahmana are purity, good behaviour and compassion unto all creatures.” (12.182.17) [vi]
Thus Brahmana is a secular ideal and an ideal for all human beings.
Secondly, in Hinduism, though Brahmana is an Adarsha (Ideal), it is not the only Ideal, lest it becomes a static Ideal. There is Shishta, and there is also Dharmavyatikrami who defines Dharma – and both can be person from any Varna.
Shishta is higher than Brahmin-Caste. For example, Manu Smrti (Dharmashastra) attests category of Brahmanas on merit and quality (Guna): “Those Brahmanas must be considered as Shishtas who, in accordance with the sacred law, have studied the Veda together with its appendages, and are able to adduce proofs perceptible by the senses from the revealed texts.” (12.109) Evidently, Manu Smrti does not consider even Brahmin-Caste as a Class.
For example, Bauddhayana Dharmasutra defines Shishta as one who is “free from envy, free from pride, contented with a store of grain sufficient for ten days, free from covetousness, and free from hypocrisy, arrogance, greed, perplexity, and anger.” (22.214.171.124)
Evidently, Shishta is not only a secular ideal in Hinduism, it is an ideal for any human being.
Now, Dharmasutras and Dharmashastras are not Static but Dynamic. The Rshis envisaged the prospect that Stasis might creep in, so they have also provided deconstructive clues to the very concept of Dharma. For example, beyond Brahmana and Shishta, they have mentioned another higher category – the Dharmavyatikrami. One who has the Sahasa (courage) and Teja (strength of character) to transgress Dharmashastrik rules and define Dharma by own living and strength of character is Dharmavyatikrama. [vii]
Obviously, those scholars who regard Hinduism as Brahmanism in negative sense are absolutely ignorant of Hinduism, and are in fact wretched fellows with puerile Agenda.
Thirdly, Brahmin may be Brahmin-Caste derived from Brahmana-Varna, however, there is no historical existence of Brahmin-Class. This term – Class – is a Marxist interpretation of Hereditary Varna System. In Bharatavarsha and Bharata-India, the Brahmins have never been an integrated class. Needless to say, Bharatavarsha is a far ancient civilization and culture than the one Marx lived in. Marx himself had no idea about Bharatavarsha and Hinduism. [viii]
He was also a strong supporter of Colonial Rule in India. [ix] All that he knew was hearsay though he with his own Agenda took them at face value. It is quite logical then that Marxists with motives to import “ISMs” (Marxism, Leninism etc – as evident from the Constitution of any Marxist or Leninist Political Parties in India) from outside would misinterpret Brahmana – either through ignorance or Agenda or both – in applying the Marxist filter to Hinduism.
Fourthly, Brahmana is a Varna in Varna System and there is no doubt that the Caste-System evolved from it, but Varna System has several streams, and Caste-System or Hereditary Varna System is only one stream. So, to treat Varna System and Caste-System as synonymous is an utter lie and distortion of History.
For example, from various discourses on Varna System in Mahabharata, Dharmasutras, Dharmashastras, we can broadly classify Varna System as –
1) Single or No Varna System – in which, all men are Brahmana (Bhrgu: 12.181.10 [x]; Yajnavalka: 12.306.86a [xi] )
2) Orthodox Varna System – Varna System which is rigid and hereditary, and in which no upward mobility of one Varna to next higher is possible; however there is possibility of degradation. The Caste-System evolved from this Orthodox Varna System.
3) Liberal Varna System – which is of three types –
i) Transformable Varna System - apparently maintains status quo as to the ‘presentness’ of a Varna identity, yet with the possibility of both upgradation and degradation depending on character, as also transformed identity on the basis of conduct and character (of Parashara: 12.285; Narada: 13.131). According to this Doctrine, one who is born Shudra can become Brahmana in this very Life.
ii) Transformable Varna System – possibility of Varna promotion or demotion after seven or five generations irrespective of conduct. For example, Gautama Dharmasutra prescribes such promotion or demotion in five generations.
iii) Moralistic Varna System – retains the names of Varnas, and defines them entirely on the basis of an individual’s character and moral conduct (of Dharma Vyadha: 3.206.11; Bhrgu: 12.181.10-14). According to this Doctrine, one’s Varna Identity is What-One-IS, that is, character and conduct prevails over birth-identity.
iv) Varna System of Colour-Metaphor - which prefers Varna identity based entirely on character and moral conduct, and define the nature of conduct based on the Samkhya system of three Gunas in one’s self, further attributing Colour-Varnas to the Gunas (of Sanatakumara: 12.271.33-51; Bhrgu: 12.181.5; Vashishtha: 12.291.44-47). According to this Doctrine, if one, by Self-Action, changes the Varna (Colour) of one’s Inner-Self, one’s External Varna Identity changes. In Bhrgu’s doctrine, all are Brahmanas, and Varna System evolves from conduct and fall from Svadharma (12.181.10-14).
If Varna System has such multiple colours, obviously it cannot be termed as Brahmanism.
Fifthly, Varna has several connotations and contextual significances, and Varna cannot be flatly translated as Caste. The discussion under above point applies here too.
Sixthly, and perhaps most importantly, Brahmana is not just a Vedic-Hindu term, but also a Buddhist and Jain ideological term. The Agendalogists hide this fact with utmost care because if this information gains acceptance, then the whole edifice of Brahmanism as synonymous to Hinduism will collapse.
The 6th cent. BCE period of Bharatavarsha was a spiritually and intellectually fertile period, and several great men and philosophers lived at that time, like Gautama Buddha, Purana Kassapa (Amoralism), Makkhali Gosala (Ajivika), Ajita Kesakambali (Lokayata), Pakudha Kaccayana (Shashvatavada, Anuvada), Sanjaya Belatthaputta (Agnosticism, Ajnana, Amaravikkhepavada), Mahavira Nigantha Nathaputta (Jain, Anekantavada) and many others.
In this part of the article, I will mention only a few references to show how all of them had the Brahmana as their Ideal, and all of them were regarded as Brahmanas. In the next part, I will discuss this point in details.
Buddha viewed himself in line with Hindu Avataras. For example, he claimed to be incarnation of Dasharathi Rama (Dasharatha Jataka, No. 461) and Krshnadvaipayana Vyasa (Kanhadipayana-Jataka, No 444) – both hailed as Narayana-Vishnu’s Avataras; and he also claimed to be Ghatapandita [in which incarnation, Sariputta was Vasudeva-Krshna] (Ghatapandita Jataka, No. 454).
It is interesting to note that in a conversation with Sundarika Bharadvaja, Buddha calls himself Brahmana – “a brahman who has abandoned the stain of grief” and says that being such a Brahmana, he is the Tathagata who deserves the sacrificial cake from Sundarika Bharadvaja (Sutta Nipata, 3:4 Sundarika Bharadvaja) [xii].
In Cuá¸·asaropamasutta (of Majjhima Nikaya 30), the contemporary teachers like Purana Kassapa (Amoralism), Makkhali Gosala (Ajivika), Ajita Kesakambali (Lokayata), Pakudha Kaccayana (Shashvatavada, Anuvada), Sanjaya Belatthaputta (Agnosticism, Ajnana, Amaravikkhepavada) and the Nigantha Nathaputta (Mahavira, Jain, Anekantavada) are all regarded as Brahmanas (and Shramanas).
In Brahmana Sutta (Ud 1.5 PTS: Ud 3), Buddha regards his best disciples as Brahmanas. One day while Buddha was staying near Savatthi at Jeta's Grove, Anathapindika's monastery, Buddha saw Ven. Sariputta, Ven. Maha Moggalana, Ven. Maha Kassapa, Ven. Maha Kaccayana, Ven. Maha Kotthita, Ven. Maha Kappina, Ven. Maha Cunda, Ven. Anuruddha, Ven. Revata, and Ven. Nanda coming to him, and on seeing them, told his monks: "Monks, those are Brahmanas who are coming. Monks, those are Brahmanas who are coming." [xiii] A certain monk who was Brahmana by birth asked Buddha: "To what extent, lord, is one a Brahmana? And which are the qualities that make one a Brahmana?" [xiv] Buddha replied: “Having banished evil qualities, those who go about ever mindful, awakened, their fetters ended: They, in the world, are truly Brahmanas.” [xv]
Buddha further equates ‘Buddha’ and Brahmana: “He who has cut off both bond and strap, halter as well as bridle, who has removed the barrier, himself a Buddha - that is what I call a Brahmana.” [Dhammapad, 26. Brahmanavaggo, 16/398] [xvi]
Similarly, the Brahmana is an Ideal to Vardhamana Mahavira and Jainism too. The Buddhist Devadaha Sutta (of Majjhima Nikaya) attests that the term Brahmana (and Shramana) refer to Niganthas or Jains [xvii]
Vardhamana Mahavira is regarded as Wise Brahmana who declared Dhamma (Dharma) in many Jain Suttas of Shvetambara sect (for example, Acaranga Sutra, 7th Lecture, 2nd Lesson, 5). Mahavira is the wise Brahmana, the Venerable One, who is free from attachment. [xviii] Mahavira is called both Shramana (4) and Brahmana – “Always well controlled, he bore the different sorts of feelings; overcoming carelessness and pleasure, the Brahmana wandered about, speaking but little” (10), “the wise Brahmana, the Venerable One, who is free from attachment” (16). [xix] Mahavira is the Brahmana who “being averse from the impressions of the senses, wandered about, speaking but little.” (3) [xx]. “When a Brahmana or Shramana, a beggar or guest, a Candala, a cat, or a dog stood in his way (11), without ceasing in his reflections, and avoiding to overlook them, the Venerable One slowly wandered about, and, killing no creatures, he begged for his food.” (12) [xxi]
Like Buddha, Mahavira also defines Brahmana and opines that such Brahmana attains Nirvana: “He should be enlightened with eternal objects, and not trust in the delusive power of the gods; a Brahmana should know of this and cast off all inferiority. Not devoted to any of the external objects he reaches the end of his life; thinking that patience is the highest good, he (should choose) one of (the described three) good methods of entering Nirvana.” (25) [xxii]
In view of above discussion, Brahmanism or Brahmanya-vada cannot be used as synonymous to Hinduism owing to their negative sense which the Agendalogists and Anti-Hindu forces have deeply inculcated in Cultural Memory, particularly by associating and persuasively suggesting Brahmana as coterminous with Caste-System.
However, ironically, Brahmanism is correct synonym of Hinduism if it speaks of Ideological Brahmana, and if Buddhism and Jainism are considered two of the many streams of Hinduism. Like the words and concepts, Dharma, Arya, Mlechha, Nirvana, and characters like Brahma, Shakra, Krshna, the other shared words of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism are Shramana and Brahmana.
In view of above discussion, if one wants to use the term Brahmana and Brahmanism, one should now remember that Brahmana is not just Hindu, but Buddha and Mahavira and all those great men of their time generally considered non-Hindu or even Anti-Hindu like Purana Kassapa, Makkhali Gosala, Ajita Kesakambali, Pakudha Kaccayana, Sanjaya Belatthaputta are Brahmanas too, and therefore, Brahmanism connotes Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Ajivika, Ajnani, Lokayata – and all possible philosophies and doctrines and Religions that ever flourished on Earth. Given that Brahmana is a secular ideal of conduct, even all messages of other prophets of other Religions or messages of materialist philosophers and atheists, whether within or outside Bharata-India concerning and prescribing good conduct and thinking of Social Welfare are Brahmanik.
If someone equates Brahmanism with Hinduism, then all Religions in the World known by whatever name, and all philosophies of the World known by whatever name, are only different streams of Hinduism and all persons professing such Religion or doctrine are Hindus.
If to be Brahmana is the goal of a human being, then all people in the World are aspiring to be Hindu, and then Hinduism is the past, present and future of the World.
(to be continued …)
[i]Brahmana stems from brahman connoting “'growth', 'expansion', 'evolution', 'development' 'swelling of the spirit or soul', from √brh; pious effusion or utterance, outpouring of the heart in worshipping the gods, prayer” (in Rgveda, Atharva Veda, Vajasaneyi Samhita, Taittiriya Samhita). Besides, brahm connotes “to go, move” (Naigh. ii, 14). Taken with all associative sense, Brahmana can be defined as the wise person with knowledge of Atma, one who is Dynamic in spirit and evolving, one who has quality of Heart (not just Brain, rather Balance of Brain-Intellect and Heart-Feelings), and one who possesses Vak (Speech, Words, and Language).
[ii] na jatir na kulam tata na svadhyayah shrutam na ca / karanani dvijatvasya vrttam eva tu karanam // 3,177.14d@19_45-46
[iii] brahmanah ko bhaved rajan vedyam kim ca yudhishthira / bravihy atimatim tvam hi vakyair anumimimahe // (3.177.15)
[iv] satyam danam kshama shilam anrshamsyam damo ghrna / drshyante yatra nagendra sa brahmana iti smrtah // (3.177.16)
[v] satyam damas tapo yogam ahimsa dananityata / sadhakani sada pumsam na jatir na kulam nrpa // arishta esha te bhrata bhimo mukto mahabhujah / svasti te 'stu maharaja gamishyami divam punah // (3.178.43-44)
[vi] shaucena satatam yuktas tathacarasamanvitah / sanukroshash ca bhuteshu tad dvijatishu lakshanam // (12.182.17)
[vii] 1. Gautama Dharmasutra - drshto dharmavyatikramah sahasam ca mahatam (1.1.3) 2. Apastamba Dharmasutra - drshto dharma.vyatikramah sahasam ca purvesham / tesham tejo.visheshena pratyavayo na vidyate (126.96.36.199-8). Apastamba also cautions that weaklings should not imitate them because those weaklings who imitate them do fall (Ap188.8.131.52).
[viii] In ‘The British Rule in India’ (Karl Marx in the New-York Herald Tribune 1853), Marx wrote: “...a world of voluptuousness and of a world of woes, is anticipated in the ancient traditions of the religion of Hindostan. That religion is at once a religion of sensualist exuberance, and a religion of self-torturing asceticism; a religion of the Lingam and of the juggernaut; the religion of the Monk, and of the Bayadere.”
[ix] Note Marx’s observation on India: “England has to fulfill a double mission in India: one destructive, the other regenerating - the annihilation of the old Asiatic society, and the laying of the material foundation of Western society in Asia” - Karl Marx, New York Daily Tribune, August 8, 1853
[x] na vishesho 'sti varnanam sarvam brahmam idam jagat/ brahmana purvasrshtam hi karmabhir varnatam gatam (12.181.10)
[xi] sarve varna brahmana brahmajash ca; sarve nityam vyaharante ca brahma (12.306.86a)
[xii] Sutta Nipata 3.4, Puraá¸·asa (sundarikabharadvaja) Sutta [Yamhi na maya vasati na mano,/Yo vitalobho amamo niraso;/Panunnakodho abhinibbutatto,/Yo brahmano sokamalam ahasi;/Tathagato arahati puralasam]
[xiii] "Ete bhikkhave brahmana agacchanti, ete bhikkhave brahmana agacchanti"
[xiv] "kittavata nu kho bhante, brahmano hoti? Katame ca pana brahmanakarana dhamma?"
[xv] Bahitva papake dhamme ye caranti sada sata,/ Khinasamyojana buddha te ve2 lokasmim brahmana'ti.
[xvi] Chetva naddhim varattanca sandamam sahanukkamam / Ukkhittapaligham buddham tamaham brumi brahmanam [Dhammapad, 26. Brahmanavaggo, 16/398]
[xvii] Buddha tells his disciples: “Bhikkhus, there are some Shramanas and Brahmins (samanabrahmana) who hold such a doctrine and view as this: “Whatever this person feels, whether pleasure or pain or neither-pain-nor-pleasure, all that is caused by what was done in the past. So by annihilating with asceticism past actions and by doing no fresh actions, there will be no consequence in the future. With no consequence in the future, there is the destruction of action. With the destruction of action, there is the destruction of suffering. With the destruction of suffering, there is the destruction of feeling. With the destruction of feeling, all suffering will be exhausted.” So speak the Niganthas, bhikkhus. [Santi, bhikkhave, eke samanabrahmana evam-vadino evam-ditthino: yam kincayam purisapuggalo patisamvedeti, sukham va dukkham va adukkhamasukham va, sabban tam pubbekatahetu; iti purananam kammanam tapasa vyantibhava, navanam kammanam akarana ayatim anavassavo, ayatim anavassava kammakkhayo, kammakkhaya dukkhakkhayo, dukkhakkhaya vedanakkhayo, vedanakkhaya sabbam dukkham nijjinnam bhavissati’ti. Evamvadino, bhikkhave, Nigantha.]
[xviii] Acaranga Sutra, Eighth Lecture, (Called) The Pillow Of Righteousness. First Lesson
[xix] Acaranga Sutra, Eighth Lecture, (Called) The Pillow Of Righteousness. Second Lesson
[xx] Acaranga Sutra, Ninth Lecture, called the Pillow of Righteousness. Fourth Lesson
[xxi] Acaranga Sutra, Ninth Lecture, called the Pillow of Righteousness. Fourth Lesson
[xxii] Acaranga Sutra, Seventh Lecture, called Liberation, 8th Lesson