The Gita 'As It Is'- A Travesty of Caste

It is a safe bet to say that while most might have heard about Bhagavad-Gita, hardly any would have read it (much less apprised it as can be seen here) though it contains no more than seven-hundred verses that is not counting the unnumbered opening one in its thirteenth chapter! Not only that, this, possibly, over-two-millennia-old classic could be the only epic in the world that is admired without application of mind and debunked with understandable misunderstanding as it, as it is, sanctions the inimical caste divisions in the Hindu polity as opposed to the Torah, the Bible, and the Quran that seek to inculcate unity amongst the respective communities.

The sore point to those at the rough-end-of-the-caste-stick in the ‘in vogue’ Gita (short description of the Bhagavad-Gita) is God Krishna’s alleged owning the creation of the very discriminatory caste system thus:

chatur-varnyam maya srushtam guna-karma-vibhagashah
tasya kartaram api mam viddhyakartaram avyayam (Ch 4 v 13)

Well, the plain reading of this Sanskrit sloka indicates that based on the (human) qualities and (mundane) activates he had created the four varnas (castes), and although he was the creator of this system, he remains a non-doer and unchangeable.

However, Gita’s modern-day protagonists, mostly hailing from its pampered castes, seeking to cover up this embarrassing reality aver that the envisaged caste system is based not on one’s station of birth but on the state of his human evolution etc. Granted, but if indeed it is their conviction that caste only symbolizes an evolutionary human state then they should have been at the forefront in fighting against the birth oriented caste system. Besides, why there is no advocacy whatsoever on their part that the much evolved Shudras that abound in the intellectual arena of the day should be absorbed into the Brahmin social fold? Moreover, have not many of the twice-born, who by their unbecoming conduct, having become Shudras (as per their interpretation) are fit to be shunted out of the Brahmanical arena, but is there any move in that direction? So their lip service to the Gita-hurt Hindus while exposing their hypocritical whitewash of the birth-centric caste system confirms that the said sloka means what it means that is in spite of their nonsectarian spin to it.

Moreover, towards the very end in Ch 18, Krishna is said to have detailed the human qualities and mundane activates of the people of the four castes as –

Of Brahmins, at the apex of the caste pyramid - Tranquility, restraint, austerity, purity, patience, integrity, knowledge, wisdom, and belief in a hereafter (v42)

Of Kshatriyas, the second in the pecking order - Valour, strength, fortitude, skill in weaponry, resolve never to retreat from battle, large-heartedness in charity, and leadership abilities (V43)

Of Vaishyas, the third in line - Agriculture, dairy farming, and commerce are the natural works for those with the qualities of Vaishyas.

Of Shudras, at the caste base - Serving through work is the natural duty for those with the qualities of Shudras. (V44)

Note: Unlike in the case of Brahmins and Kshatriyas, the (human) qualities of Vaishyas and Shudras are not spelt out, maybe owing to the fact that all the best of them were already bestowed upon the first two.

Thus, it can be said that the Gita as it is unmistakably propounds the caste system and unambiguously details the caste characteristics that is besides the earmarked social occupations / obligations of its members. Hence, one should ponder - would have Krishna chosen to reduce Shudras, his own people, literarily that is as Krishna himself was a Shudra, as menials even as Jehovah, having enabled the Jews to come out of slavery, made them his Chosen People!

Well, one need not go beyond the Gita for the right answer.

To begin with, vague and intelligible as ‘he remains a non-doer and unchangeable’ in the said contentious verse, elsewhere in the Gita he was unambiguous in affirming that –

Varied I made vicissitudes
As the case with attitudes.(Ch 10 v5)

Willed I birth of progenitors all
Seven seers great ’n elders four
Not to mention sovereign fourteen. (Ch 10, v6)

Was not the manner of proclamation of the creation of ‘four caste system’ uncharacteristic of Krishna?

Besides, having proclaimed that –

Self-Imperishable is Brahman
But dwells it yet there in beings
Brings that forth is Act Supreme. (Ch 8 v3)

Skies in rooted wind as spreads
Dwell in Me though disperse all. (Ch 9 v6)

In beings all ’n objects too
Within He lies, without as well,
If one comes to grasp this well
It’s perception that’s Supreme. (Ch 13 v15) -

would have Krishna maintained in the same vein that he was also the creator of the discriminatory four caste system?

Also, contrary to the above cited caste characteristics, elsewhere in the Gita, he affirms that:

Noble or naughty it’s thy make
Self thus thine but shapes thyself (Ch 6 v5).

That being the case, how could Krishna have branded every Brahmin as virtuous and tagged all the Kshatriyas as valourous?

More damningly, as against Krishna’s alleged creation of the four castes based on individual (human) qualities, the Gita characterizes only three human proclivities namely, virtue, passion and delusion.

Virtue, passion so too delusion
Send I forth though all of them

Come to dwell in none of them (Ch 7 v12)

To tie the Spirit ’n body tight
Uses Nature as its threads
Virtue, passion as well delusion (Ch 14 v5)

Above all is this faux pas; having belittled women folk in Ch 9 v32 thus:

Even those who are born of sinful origin – women, Vaishyas, and also Shudras, they attain the supreme state by taking refuge in me,

Would he have glorified them as well thus -

I’m the death that devours all
As well brings forth that beings
Besides what makes woman’s glory –

in v34 of the very next chapter i.e. Ch 10?

Whatever, if as implied, Brahmin and Kshatriya women (no exemption to them as they are clubbed with Vaishyas and Shudras, men and women together) were to be born of sinful womb (actually it is paapa-yoni, sinful vulva, in the sloka), it goes without saying that their male siblings would not have been differently born, right, but the Gita declares Brahmin men as worship-worthy! Yet this nonsensical verse 32 of chapter 9 is taken as Krishna’s word by the foolish world, and what is worse, understandably the Shudras have come to grudge the Gita on that score as well.

If only Gita’s proponents read it instead of roting it, as advised therein

Scores thought over mere roting
Betters meditation awareness too
What helps man to find moorings
Are acts his with no axe to grind. (ch 12 v12),

and its opponents realize the true nature of godhood is -

None I favor; slight I none
Devout Mine all gain Me true (Ch 9 v29),

then it would be crystal clear to both how the vested interests had miscarried Krishna’s message to mankind conveyed to the world by Vyasa, also the progenitor of the latter.

So, it makes a case for them to own up the work albeit after ridding it of its inane interpolations as was done in this writer’s Bhagavad-Gita: Treatise of Self-help that’s in the public domain as free ebook from which the quotes in verses in this article are excerpted, and those in prose are from others sources.

For further perspectives on the Gita, the readers may also read on-line the writer’s Absurdity of Bhagavad-Gita’s Caste Biases, Badnam-Gita’s Spoiler Slokas, and Dichotomy Between Hindu Religiosity and Gita's Spirituality, and mundane distortions in the Divine discourse.


More by :  BS Murthy

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