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Who are We? - Part II

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Chintana

Active member
Dear Posters,

Proceeding from the recent exchange between Sri KRS and I, I am laying out a few more clarifications.

To us, the first steps toward building up our community means we ACCEPT all members of our community FOR WHO THEY CURRENTLY ARE.

My personal take on this is that several of our members were born and raised under less than ideal conditions such as geographical dispersion due to migration, not having adequate resources flowing from the community - ranging from basic family/community communication such as explanations to our various rituals and practices to important materialistic conditions such as not having adequate contacts that could help secure a job or living. This state, to me at least, may have occured due to various reasons - probably a general sense of fear that prevented our community members from coming together at a crucial time, our small numbers AND their dispersal. The net result has been to lose a sense of bonding with our own kind.

It would be foolish of us at this forum to hold this against any member who has chosen to ally with other community members whether through marriage or business.

You are here with us now. That's what matters as it means a lot to us.

I respect all of those valiant Brahmins who have gone out there and made it out there on their own despite the persecution, the condemnation and all of the other hurdles, expressed and unexpressed. In this regard, I deeply respect Sri KRS's disclosure and would like to assure him that he is most welcome to have a home with us, if he should so choose.

We are happy to start providing you all with the community feeling that you have deserved all your life.

We invite you to be part of a conscious development of how we want to move forward TOGETHER (unlike in the past, when we were too shackled by environment (call it tradition, call it ritual, dogma...take your pick)).

In this effort, if some traditions make sense let us retain them. Lets debate it out in our threads. If our travels and experiences have taught us otherwise, let us match them up with our philosophy to see how we can fit that in ways that can change tradition.

This is YOUR home, YOUR community - through this forum we are glad to provide you with an opportunity to shape it - this time through proper communication, a sense of acceptance and tolerance if not love, a sense of responsibility and care.

We hope our wholehearted acceptance of all our members serves as a first step towards building a sense of TOGETHERNESS.
 

KRS

Well-known member
Dear Sri Chintana Ji,

Thank you for your kind words. I feel reassured that my ideas are welcome here in this Forum.

The reason for me to go in to my background, though distatsteful, is because I want folks to understand where I am coming from, in terms of my perspectives. I am proud to have been born a Tamil Brahmin, but then, I do not think that we should be an island un to ourselves. While preserving our culture, I think we should borrow what is good in other cultures. Because a culture that thinks that it 'knows' everything will eventually die. While celebrating our uniqueness, we need to realize that all the Tamils are our own brethren, whether they 'hate' us or not. We need to systematically show the rest of our brethren why 'they' are integrated in to us.

As we know, even within our community, we have divisions along the lines of philosophies. And even within these particular philosophies, we have divisions according to our Sutras. While these divisions should not matter, we all know that they do divide us culturally. As simple as who serves the 'annam' first or 'paruppu' first during dinner! And we follow these Sambradhayams, out of respect to our elders.

How to unite, while preserving our roots? This is why I started this thread, posing a question.

So, I will continue on with my fourth posting within the next couple of days.

Pranams,
KRS
 
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Chintana

Active member
Island

Dear Sri KRS,

While I do see the merit in your argument I'd like for you to be aware that Brahmins have perhaps had more of an open attitude toward other communities than they seem to have had toward us.

Brahmins are and have been constant targets of mockery in Tamil cinema and several other public oriented activities such as political speeches and such. And other communities stand by and watch them.

We have had an egalitarian attitude but have not been respected for that attitude. Instead we've been made fun of for 'not having been able to unite', for being 'weak' and 'ineffective'.

While we do not want to be an island unto ourselves as you put it, we also want to be clear about what our responsibilities are toward our community. To that end we want to find common elements amongst ourselves (all of the various factions that you mentioned) that we actively want to grow. Our existential confusions apart (which we can debate out in these threads), we NEED to figure out a practical platform which makes sense to all shades of adherents in our community.

Alliances, other communities oriented attitudes etc., they will come once we get up on our feet.

Currently we are bothered that any random person can harm a Brahmin and there is NOBODY to take up for that person.

We all agree that the reservation policy is lopsided yet we don't have a single efficient association from our community that can voice our opinion in TN.

I am upset that a Brahmin in Tamil Nadu is the butt of ludicrous jokes in TN that rob her/him of dignity.

We first want to address this issue. We want to look at community building ideas and thoughts because we want to provide a sense of safety, which we grossly lack today. That sense of safety is important for the community. Let us build our house first. Building relationships with neighbors will follow later.

Toward this end we also want to lay out what it means to be responsible toward the community.

I request you to kindly read my recent posts in the intra human marriages thread (I think a few posts starting from page 6 or 7 upto 10 or 11) and write me for more clarifications. Please also read my responses to Maruti's postings in this thread.

On another note, may I request that you break up your posts into smaller ones so that it will be easier to read? This is purely a personal request, doesn't have anything to do with forum rules.

Thanks.

Dear Sri Chintana Ji,

Thank you for your kind words. I feel reassured that my ideas are welcome here in this Forum.

The reason for me to go in to my background, though distatsteful, is because I want folks to understand where I am coming from, in terms of my perspectives. I am proud to have been born a Tamil Brahmin, but then, I do not think that we should be an island un to ourselves. While preserving our culture, I think we should borrow what is good in other cultures. Because a culture that thinks that it 'knows' everything will eventually die. While celebrating our uniqueness, we need to realize that all the Tamils are our own brethren, whether they 'hate' us or not. We need to systematically show the rest of our brethren why 'they' are integrated in to us.

As we know, even within our community, we have divisions along the lines of philosophies. And even within these particular philosophies, we have divisions according to our Sutras. While these divisions should not matter, we all know that they do divide us culturally. As simple as who serves the 'annam' first or 'paruppu' first during dinner! And we follow these Sambradhayams, out of respect to our elders.

How to unite, while preserving our roots? This is why I started this thread, posing a question.

So, I will continue on with my fourth posting within the next couple of days.

Pranams,
KRS
 

kashyap

Active member
Dear Sri Chintana Ji,
I am proud to have been born a Tamil Brahmin, but then, I do not think that we should be an island un to ourselves. While preserving our culture, I think we should borrow what is good in other cultures. Because a culture that thinks that it 'knows' everything will eventually die. While celebrating our uniqueness, we need to realize that all the Tamils are our own brethren, whether they 'hate' us or not. We need to systematically show the rest of our brethren why 'they' are integrated in to us.

As we know, even within our community, we have divisions along the lines of philosophies.
Dear Mr.KRS,

Your views are good. But the fact is brahmins have shown great tolerance and open mindedness for decades and centuries. Even if you look at recent history form the onset of British rule , you will find ample proofs for this. Brhamins were the first to fight against british in order to save their fellow brethren. Unfortunately due to british tactics and EVR incited jealousy, our bretheren dont consider us as such. As Mr.Chintana poited out you can find ample proofs for this discrimination in govt policies and even in popular media and also in day-to-day life by colleagues and classmates. If such things happened in western countries, the media and social activists would have been up-in-arms. But sadly the "intelligensia" here seem so apathetic and cruel.

I have great respect for you and your views. But the fact is Brahmins have always considered other Tamils as their brethren. Only the non-brhamins have never reciprocated so. They call us non-tamils , outsiders, aryans, northies, and what not. So if anything, this needs to be only told to non-brahmins very strongly and repeatedly.

Our community and culture is endangered, despite views and wishful thinkings from folks who do not want to believe so.
Hence whatever brahmins are doing through this forum is only to defend themselves which is nothing but the basic peaceful instinct -the instinct of survival -- of any living being.


thanks
kashyap.
 
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hariharan1972

Guest
Where did we miss out or mess up ?

While I do see the merit in your argument I'd like for you to be aware that Brahmins have perhaps had more of an open attitude toward other communities than they seem to have had toward us.

KRS Sir / Chintana ji,

I am a bit intrigued by this statement.

Being on this side of the "fence" i am able to appreciate / accept the first part of your statement while i want your perspective on the second.

Actually this was subject matter of one of the threads "Reasons for deep rooted hatred" but it got lost in myriad of deviations.

Why do you think other communities are "less open" towards us ?

Various postings by both of you give me a sense that Vanarashrama system did not originate out of caste hatred or casteism but more as a functional organization of the society.

Again from KRS sir's postings, the dharma of the brahmin to act as the "Guru" is well established.

Now which society will be less open to it's Guru ?

I can only think of the prevailing situation as either

a) Brahmins didn't reach out enough / connect enough with the masses

b) Brahmins didn't help in broadbasing knowledge & dharma. Though not intended, unwittingly they reserved their knowledge for the rulers thus causing deprivation for the masses

c) Brahmins could have been elitist

d) Brahmins didn't distinguish between respect & fear. They were perhaps more feared than respected. At extreme pressure points fear turns into hatred.

e) Brahmins were unconcerned about upliftment of the masses or in other words ignored their dharma - missed wood for the trees.

Apart from the KKKs who do it for political gains, talk us through a common, apolitical (i mean non KKK) NB - What does he think of the Brahmin ? Should he hate him for the past ?

Also how should today's brahmin conduct himself ? Should he go out of the way (as some suggest thru this forum) in proclaiming his non-casteist credentials or can he be what he is privately & leave his baggage behind in the public domain ?
 
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Chintana

Active member
Clarifications

Thank you for bringing this up Hari. My responses are in maroon italics below.

KRS Sir / Chintana ji,

I am a bit intrigued by this statement.

Being on this side of the "fence" i am able to appreciate / accept the first part of your statement while i want your perspective on the second.

Sure. My evidence is from personal experience as we don't have a systematic way of carrying data on such topics. My parents settled at a small place in South Arcot District for a variety of reasons, though both were Madras-educated. This place happens to be composed of a significant non-Brahmin population, primarily Pillamar (or Saiva Pillai) and a few Chettiyar families (They owned a large part of the business in that place). That place had very few Brahmin families - I think it was something like four or five families (definitely under 10) including the family of the temple priest. My father was a doctor, known for both, his skills and generosity and was loved by all. I have known him to help any and every person that asked for help - he was regarded as one of those chief people in town from whom an opinion was taken for all matters ranging from property disputes to settlement of quarrels between husband and wife. He did this for all communities. My dad was so busy that he didn't have much time for us children.

A time came when my dad had to come to Madras for treatment - it happened to be a prolonged illness. Slowly the neighbors began to encroach on our property. Our immediate neighbor built a wall that was on our land. We had to go for an out-of-court settlement on that issue. Later, when life demanded more of my dad's presence in Madras, my mom followed him. We wanted to sell away our holdings in that place - we found bidders (relatives of those my family had helped) deliberately doing things to undercut prices and such. In the process of seeing our lives made extremely difficult we had a chance to witness an incredible clan attitude amongst non-Brahmins which conveyed to us in no uncertain terms that we were outsiders.

If there is a crisis there is no question about where their loyalties will lie (sadly this is not the case with us, Brahmins). I have seen this attitude played out several times over during our stint in this place. I also have to say we enjoyed very sweet memories and are still in touch with some of those families. But if we are in trouble we know we cannot go to them.



Actually this was subject matter of one of the threads "Reasons for deep rooted hatred" but it got lost in myriad of deviations.

Why do you think other communities are "less open" towards us ?

They don't mean to be that way. If it is any consolation very few people (despite the political propaganda) are actually propelled by a hatred toward Brahmins. The hatred reported in the newspapers does happen in a few places and is taught systematically to people by those with vested political interests. But non-Brahmins in general have their own in-fighting to take care of - The padayatchis will have nothing to do with dalits and the thevars will have nothing to do with padayatchis. The fighting between these groups is frequently bloody leading to loss of life and limbs (I have had a chance to witness some of these; my father has treated several of these cases).

Non-Brahmins simply are very loyal to their caste group. It is as simple and as annoying as that. They don't employ reason to find out if what their caste member did was right or wrong - nobody should hurt their caste member, that's all. If they do, the entire community will throw its weight behind that person. They may not even like the person they are defending but they will never let an external person say so.


Various postings by both of you give me a sense that Vanarashrama system did not originate out of caste hatred or casteism but more as a functional organization of the society.

Yes, it is, if Indian Sociology is to be believed.

Again from KRS sir's postings, the dharma of the brahmin to act as the "Guru" is well established.

Now which society will be less open to it's Guru ?

The society that does not know how to value its guru.

I can only think of the prevailing situation as either

a) Brahmins didn't reach out enough / connect enough with the masses

b) Brahmins didn't help in broadbasing knowledge & dharma. Though not intended, unwittingly they reserved their knowledge for the rulers thus causing deprivation for the masses

c) Brahmins could have been elitist

d) Brahmins didn't distinguish between respect & fear. They were perhaps more feared than respected. At extreme pressure points fear turns into hatred.

e) Brahmins were unconcerned about upliftment of the masses or in other words ignored their dharma - missed wood for the trees.

Good points. Let us also not forget that the concepts you have used such as "masses" "reach out" "broadbase" and "connect" are all ideas associated with mass media. Now, newspapers started in earnest a couple of decades before Independence in India. Radio, somewhere closer to World War I (perhaps). But Television didn't hit the Indian market until 1980s. So all this "reaching out" idea is fairly new. Brahmins, especially when they were at their prime, did not have these technologies at their disposal. The tools they did have were - the temple, the ashrams, the king's court and other points of public entry which I believe they did use.

I will never agree with the idea that Brahmin's were unconcerned with the upliftment of the masses. We were at the forefront of Dalit temple entry. Sri Rajagopalachari got his daughter married to Gandhi's son (or grandson?). Several of our community members have exhibited a strong service streak which is conveniently forgotten by the media as they rush to shine the spotlight on self-centered persons. Why? because it makes for a good story!

What the Brahmins didn't anticipate was the large scale unwillingness of other community members in supporting them. My guess is that our grandfather's generation must have be shocked at the betrayal. They must have been hurt and hence must have decided to leave the place. Inasmuch as there were rascals there were several Brahmins that were not just respected but loved by other communities (primarily because of their service orientedness).



Apart from the KKKs who do it for political gains, talk us through a common, apolitical (i mean non KKK) NB - What does he think of the Brahmin ? Should he hate him for the past ?

S/he must weigh both sides of the argument and make up her/his own mind.

Part II - continued in next posting
 
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Chintana

Active member
Continuation of previous posting

My responses to Hariharan.

Also how should today's brahmin conduct himself ? Should he go out of the way (as some suggest thru this forum) in proclaiming his non-casteist credentials or can he be what he is privately & leave his baggage behind in the public domain ?

Thank you for bringing this up. This is exactly one of the questions we'd like have answered through this forum. It is not a simple answer.

But I'd like to start off by saying that today's Brahmin must get more focused. Be proactive. Not just in the sense of career and family but in deciding what will be some of the things s/he will uphold. I believe some actions are in order and they should precede any efforts at public proclamations. We have to act to build credibility; then our voice will carry us farther than the airwaves.

One thing could be to decide to help one other Brahmin family in some way. And also to make a decision about not talking ill of our community to others (let's quit our little self-demeaning jokes about ourselves).

Another thing could be to make an effort to learn something about the community's existing knowledge base - try to read at least one scripture, or learn a little bit of Sanskrit etc - this is knowledge which I think is important for self-help, clarity and convictions.

A third thing could be to inclucate a good Brahminical value in children (applies to geographically dispersed members especially) - such as service, thoroughness in the job (which comes as a direct result of an attitude of 'samarpanam' to God), high thinking, never to hold pride or grudge (for those are anathema to knowledge).

A fourth thing is to make a promise and an effort to practice cleanliness at home. Many tambram families sadly lack this esp in TN. (Awareness campaigns to this end will make for a good volunteering activity. This point is also a good example of bringing up issues in threads which find a place in the volunteering agenda).

A fifth could be, (perhaps this should be the first), make an effort to get a bit more spiritual. Intuition is a great guide during times of crisis and we'd do ourselves a great favor if we indulge in spiritual practices that help us act from "within". When we do that with the spirit of dedication to God, not only will our actions turn out right but they will lead us into opportunities that will magically open before us. We bring into our lives the things we attract. We attract the things we focus on. If we focus on hatred, we will attract hatred. If we focus on solidarity we will attract solidarity. If we focus on victory we will attract victory. But we must win it in our MINDS before we execute our actions. I believe some of our spiritual ways help us to tune in towards such things.

The list is endless; I just got us started.
 

mrifan

Active member
Cleanliness?



A fourth thing is to make a promise and an effort to practice cleanliness at home. Many tambram families sadly lack this esp in TN. (Awareness campaigns to this end will make for a good volunteering activity. This point is also a good example of bringing up issues in threads which find a place in the volunteering agenda).


I am puzzled by the above statement. In general there is a reputation for cleanliness and purity in Brahmana families, particularly in orthodox ones.
 
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hariharan1972

Guest
Cleanliness in Temples

I am puzzled by the above statement. In general there is a reputation for cleanliness and purity in Brahmana families, particularly in orthodox ones.

While i cannot comment about households, definitely the cleanliness in temples has left a lot to be desired.

As of now since Brahmins are predominantly in charge of temples, i feel they haven't driven this aspect aggressively.
 

KRS

Well-known member
Yes, our community is mis treated

Dear Sri Chintana Ji and Sri Kashyap Ji,

Please understand that I am not saying that we are to be blamed for the current circumstances in TN. But we need to really understand what had happened.

Even during the Muslim attacks, the different Jathis managed to live amicably without any rancour - remember, even during this time, the village life was fairly intact and the Brahmins were following their Dharma in general.

I think the English secular education, coupled with the call of the cities and the arrival of fast mobilty (trains, cars), started our community towards the path of getting educated the English way (which we were very good at, given our genetic background of scholorship), getting employed all over India and moreover, abandoning the agraharams in droves. This process continued even after the independence.

While we can not entirely blame our great great grandfathers for abandoning their prescribed Dharma for making money, they were caught in a terriffic change of culture and modernity, and in the process entered and competed for the professions reserved for all other Jathis. This, I think is where the rancour is coming from. EVR, for example created a hullabaloo, when my dad was awarded a coveted internship before independence by the British.

The anecdotal story about Sri Chintana Ji is well taken. But I would not generalize that to apply to all NBs. It just depends on the local community as I have some very good examples the other way.

I agree we need to take care of our withering community first. But at the same time we need to figure out how to mend our relations with the wider community. Again, this is not about being defensive or admitting guilt. But it is about how do we excel in the secular arena, while at least making others feel that we deserve the fruits of our labour. Otherwise, we will always be viewed with suspicion and envy. Just my humble thoughts.

Pranams,
KRS
 

KRS

Well-known member
Dear Sri Hari,

You have asked very pertinent questions. The single most important point we all have to keep in mind is this:

Brahmin's Dharma is to 'sacrifice' and live a very austere life and pray with mantras for the upliftment of the society. This is why the power of knowledge and the custodianship of the culture and arts were entrusted to them, willingly by other Varnas.

They were supposed to 'know' all the secular sciences and teach them to other Varnas (time was allocated each day to do just this), but they were not allowed to 'do' those activities for livelihood.

This is why we need to look at our successes in the modern secular world with in this context and without too much of pride. We were set up to succeed, so to say. The equivalent example in the west are the Jews. They have also gone through (or going through) a similar condition like our community. While the whole community suffered, their 'priestly' class in particular suffered much.

Pranams,
KRS
 
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Chintana

Active member
Who are we? - Part II

Posters to the Who are we? thread, please pick up your discussions here.

Chintana
 
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lotus_quartz

Guest
A: With changing times, definition of brahminism must change.

B: IMHO, a true brahmin is one who can climb up to the apex of maslow's hierarchy of needs and can contribute to the welfare of human race through his thoughts, deeds and actions.

C: All other activities which are linked to brahminism and taken as symbols of a brahmin (e.g., dietary habits, lifestyle, garments, rote learning of vedas, elaborate rituals for every important occasion in life etc.) are exactly that only i.e., extraneous symbols for the benefit of the unlettered and little more than that.

So long as brahmins retain their ability to discern between B & C and generally stick to A & B, the future of brahminism is assured.
 
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mrifan

Active member
No such thing

A: With changing times, definition of brahminism must change.

B: IMHO, a true brahmin is one who can climb up to the apex of maslow's hierarchy of needs and can contribute to the welfare of human race through his thoughts, deeds and actions.

C: All other activities which are linked to brahminism and taken as symbols of a brahmin (e.g., dietary habits, lifestyle, garments, rote learning of vedas, elaborate rituals for every important occasion in life etc.) are exactly that only i.e., extraneous symbols for the benefit of the unlettered and little more than that.

So long as brahmins retain their ability to discern between B & C and generally stick to A & B, the future of brahminism is assured.

Point A is meaningless, and the above is a tautology:

"So long as the group of humans who think of others' welfare first stick to thinking of others' welfare, the future of the principle of thinking of others' welfare is assured."

given the definition of Brahmanas by point B above "Brahmanas = humans who think of others' welfare"

So we are back to square one, which is the topic of this thread, "Who are we"?, if we are not Brahmanas?
 
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hariharan1972

Guest
A tad unconvinced

Let us also not forget that the concepts you have used such as "masses" "reach out" "broadbase" and "connect" are all ideas associated with mass media. Now, newspapers started in earnest a couple of decades before Independence in India. Radio, somewhere closer to World War I (perhaps). But Television didn't hit the Indian market until 1980s. So all this "reaching out" idea is fairly new. Brahmins, especially when they were at their prime, did not have these technologies at their disposal. The tools they did have were - the temple, the ashrams, the king's court and other points of public entry which I believe they did use.

I will never agree with the idea that Brahmin's were unconcerned with the upliftment of the masses. We were at the forefront of Dalit temple entry. Sri Rajagopalachari got his daughter married to Gandhi's son (or grandson?).

Chintana,

If i may so say, i am a tad unconvinced about this.

When i meant Brahmins didn't connect enough, i was obviously referring to Father Time.

Couldn't brahmins, for example, ensured that education was within the reach of the deprived sections ? Functional divisions aside, couldn't they have done more to the cause of education ? If only, my guess, if only, brahmins had taken the lead on "Education for All", perhaps, we will all live in a more egalitarian society without any need for Quotas ? Or am i being too simplistic, i don't know.

I have a lingering doubt whether brahmins played too much by the rule book. Yes, mass media options weren't available but were Gurukuls open to ALL ?

Regarding your point about brahmins being in the forefront of movement to uplift masses, i completely agree. But my point is whether it was "sustained" ? We had a Ramanujar, Bharathiyar et all but how much did our ancestors "follow every aspect" of what they said ?

(Side track - Dunno what point you are making about Rajaji's daughter marrying someone from Gandhi's family, both were brahmins, weren't they, so what's the fuss except that it broke the language barrier. Am i missing your point ?)

I still haven't got your perspective of where you think we missed or messed ? Or do you think we haven't ? (KRS Sir, would like your views too !)

Having said all of this, i am a firm believer that the only way is way forward. So should we really care about what happened ? (Me to myself : Kozhappavadi da nee !!!)

As a community how do we go forward from here ? Are we still missing or messing ?
 

KRS

Well-known member
Dear Sri Hari,

Gandhi's family was vaishya.

It is important we think about the inter dependency we have with other communities, to move forward. As I said each and every forward community have had their own share of blame for this mess.

If we all think that 'Brahminism' is worth retaining (I think a lot of us do think so), then we need to figure out what that means. It is not just about learning Vedas. It would be a 'life style' change.

Pranams,
KRS
 
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Chintana

Active member
On Convictions and such

My responses to you, Hari.

Chintana,

If i may so say, i am a tad unconvinced about this.

When i meant Brahmins didn't connect enough, i was obviously referring to Father Time.

Couldn't brahmins, for example, ensured that education was within the reach of the deprived sections ? Functional divisions aside, couldn't they have done more to the cause of education ? If only, my guess, if only, brahmins had taken the lead on "Education for All", perhaps, we will all live in a more egalitarian society without any need for Quotas ? Or am i being too simplistic, i don't know.

First of all, the idea of "education" itself has undergone a huge change pre- and post-independence India.

During pre-Independence times, actually pre-British times, education was equated with vocational training. So we had carpenters, weavers, traders, blacksmiths and gold-smiths. We also had Brahmins - their specific vocations were priestly, scholarly and advisory activities. All caste members respected every other group and recognized the function that each performed in society. Access to reading and writing was not considered a big deal as the society was economically prosperous even otherwise. We were a rich group of kingdoms.


It was during British time literacy started getting equated with education. It so happened that the Brahmins were the only group that could read and write. That was a skill considered essential for Brahminical way of living and did not mean that that was the route to money and power. But it was considered a valuable skill by the British. The Brahmins were just as prepared or not prepared for British oppression. Brahmins, by the time the British conquered India, had gotten used to working for a patron for a living. The patrons, i.e., the Indian kings were replaced by the British.

I don't have the exact data for the following statements (or any of the above for that matter) but my educated guess is that they continued to work for their new patrons in order to survive. The British were also careful to see that they did not completely dismantle local traditions to ensure that there wouldn't be any revolt. So the Brahmins learnt English, kept their traditions and offered their services to their new masters. Through Civil Services I believe several of them did what they could under the rules of the British Raj. Some may have lost faith in community service and may have worked to fulfill their own interests. That is a possibility.

I don't think that the Brahmins ever had executive powers like the kings did; they only had advisory powers. So the "education for all" idea was never in the power of the Brahmins to execute. The British took care of that. With freedom movement came a lot of discourse on 'caste should go' - so the survival of Brahmins was at stake. EVR drove Tambrams out of TN - they settled in Delhi and Bombay and other places to make a living.

Such movement away from home town had broadened their knowledge and experience base - so when the country was ready for globalization they have been the first group of people to capitalize on it. Not because of any conscious design - because their life experiences and conditions gave them the opportunity for it.

Bottom line - first of all I don't think there was any conscious intention to deprive everybody of education. The definition of education and the value we have come to place on it have changed. So has the method of instruction, of learning.

Secondly, I think other communities/politicians have made survival a huge issue in the lives of Brahmins which, frankly is not a great motivator for people to go out and help others.

Don't get me wrong. I do believe that some members of the community ill-treated other castes.

But they were not the only group to do that - the kings did that - the anointed warrior classes did that, the zamindars did that. Till today Vanniyars (padayatchis) can't stand Dalits (harijans).

I don't know who set the standard for this kind of inequality but the Brahmins like others have also been a product of their times. I believe those Brahmins at the forefront of issues have always spoken against it and practiced it in their lives - we have had different shades of Ramanujacharis in the past. But history has its grip on all groups of people alike. There is only so much a conquered group can do under such constant stream of invaders.

So why is one group being made to take the rap for circumstances that were not under their control to begin with?
 
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Chintana

Active member
On Convictions and such - Part II

This is a continuation of my previous response to you, Hari.

I have a lingering doubt whether brahmins played too much by the rule book. Yes, mass media options weren't available but were Gurukuls open to ALL ?

The Gurukuls were open to the twice born castes - i.e., the Brahmins, the Kshatriyas and the Vaishyas.

Regarding your point about brahmins being in the forefront of movement to uplift masses, i completely agree. But my point is whether it was "sustained" ? We had a Ramanujar, Bharathiyar et all but how much did our ancestors "follow every aspect" of what they said ?

For that matter how many of our ancestors accepted Ramanujachari and Bharati? Brahmins followed who/what they accepted. Like every other community Brahmins were also caught in blind superstition (I think that was because of a lack of communication). But nobody has monopoly over stupidity! We have had our share!

(Side track - Dunno what point you are making about Rajaji's daughter marrying someone from Gandhi's family, both were brahmins, weren't they, so what's the fuss except that it broke the language barrier. Am i missing your point ?)

Gandhi's family, as KRS pointed out, was Vaishnava - or Vaishyas. There are sort of a Baniya community.

I still haven't got your perspective of where you think we missed or messed ? Or do you think we haven't ? (KRS Sir, would like your views too !)

I think we have been caught unawares. We have tried to reconcile several societal/historical influences at different points in time and lost track of a larger goal - self improvement through community development. Added to that we have never really seen the merit of a collective resolution for constructive purposes.


Having said all of this, i am a firm believer that the only way is way forward. So should we really care about what happened ? (Me to myself : Kozhappavadi da nee !!!)

Only to the extent that we avoid those mistakes. And only to the extent that we prepared to meet with negative attitudes from others by learning to build sound arguments in our defence.

As a community how do we go forward from here ? Are we still missing or messing ?

I think we are missing a few things. Like the importance of coming together. The super sharp/more successful members of our group cannot afford to dissassociate from our less sharper/less fortunate brethren.

Second we need to learn how to mobilize support, plan and act in ways that are effective - within the society and outside of it.

Some first steps towards these - (1) - start building an information base pertaining to the needs of the community - we need to be able to construct sound arguments from historical evidence (2) build awareness within community members by publishing stories about the plights of some of the community members (3) demonstrate what we can do by achieving targeted change through volunteering activities - let people within the community know that we are doing good work and that hope for them is not lost.

More as we go along.
 
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Chintana

Active member
Direction

Thanks, Sri KRS.

I think the lifestyle change that you mentioned should precede our relations with our neighboring communities. Right now the way things are with other communities can continue - we have decent relations with others - we don't have to invest energies there.

My humble opinion.

Dear Sri Hari,

Gandhi's family was vaishya.

It is important we think about the inter dependency we have with other communities, to move forward. As I said each and every forward community have had their own share of blame for this mess.

If we all think that 'Brahminism' is worth retaining (I think a lot of us do think so), then we need to figure out what that means. It is not just about learning Vedas. It would be a 'life style' change.

Pranams,
KRS
 
"Life style"

KRS-ji,
I believe you have nailed the issue: 'life style'
I was reading a sociologist's narrative: he defines 'caste' - as a distinctive 'life-style'. For instance in the agraharam he describes several distinctions: Iyers: Vadama, Vathima, Brihatcharanam (and of these: Kandrmanickya, Mazhanattu), Astasahasram, Iyengars (Vadagalai, Thengalai), Bhattachar, Gurukkal, Telugu (Konaseemadravida, Velanadu, Mulahanadu) - and each group - despite living on the same street and constituting a single community - was endogamous!
Apparently as late as the early 60s - it was fairly unheard of for a Kandramanickya Brihatcharanam to marry a Mazhanattu Brihatcharanam !!!
Today I do not know which I am!
Subtle differences in lifestyle stemmed from: source of income/geographical origins/philosophical beliefs/linguistic differences/cultural practice etc
Given that all these have undergone profound change: landownership, priesthood (hence the knowledge base), living in an agraharam, geographic mobility (and hence: attire, food-habits, commensal restrictions, language, ritual observances, social distances), religion having receded to the private/personal sphere, the non-availability of a community at large (births/deaths/marriages/festivals largely being attended by immediate family), hence inability of the community to enforce/reinforce (positively/negatively) norms/mores/traditions - I rather doubt if we will ever recapture our "life style".
If we manage to converge upon a geographic location - some recovery may happen in time. If on the other hand social "atomization" is here to stay - then we will evolve into something quite different from our origins.
But this is happening on a much larger scale - Brahmins, Jews, Egyptian Copts, Persians, Turks - all uprooted from their origins struggling to establish "identity" ...
If we all think that 'Brahminism' is worth retaining (I think a lot of us do think so), then we need to figure out what that means. It is not just about learning Vedas. It would be a 'life style' change.

Pranams,
KRS
 

mrifan

Active member
Education argument

It is true that Brahmanas were not in power to issue orders to the public at large in general. It was the king's duty to do that. Crossing the king could invite severe punishment, since rebels were not easily tolerated. It is a natural law, followed even in the animal world. Manu (of Manu Dharma) was a kshatriya. India was quite prosperous as documented in www.worldeconomy.org until about 1600 AD. In any system, when there is plenty to go around, hostility and oppression is rare. By definition, "oppression" means denying others control over their own personal freedom and choices relative to others.

For example, education until 12th standard today is available to anyone who desires it. There are plenty of schools, since the primary education market is fully liberalized. Hence there is no oppression in the primary education segment, and there are no protests for quotas or divisions in opinion for primary education. Now, when we come to the secondary education market, it is important to note that the secondary education market did not exist in its modern form until a 100 years ago. Many sciences and specialties taught today like Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, Aerospace Engineering, Biotechnology, Industrial engineering, Nuclear engineering, Biomedicine, Immunology, etc did not even exist a 100 years ago.

So it is important to understand the reason behind the demand for quotas in secondary education, particularly in Engineering and Medical fields. Most likely it is that the most lucrative employment opportunities today exist in the above fields. And also, a primary education is not enough nowadays to secure a lucrative job in general. Even though the syllabus of 12th standard today, would be comparable to that taught in a top college a 100 years ago. Because it happens to be still called "education" is just coincidence. Also, by necessity, a lucrative commodity has to be either rare, or require a great deal of effort. Otherwise, it will not be lucrative any more. Engineering "education" and Vedic "education" share the same suffix only by coincidence, there is nothing common in these two forms of "education". Previously, vedic education had little practical value, and Brahmanas rendered a service to others in terms of religious rituals which was reciprocated with gifts. But two things changed after the British came.

a. The introduction of common law, where stronger people like kings, soldiers, chieftains etc could not arbitrarily confiscate wealth from anyone who became conspicuously wealthy. Wealth could be passed down safely through generations, or kept in a bank, or converted into property, with property protection available to all through common law.

b. Brain vs brawn. The shift to the knowledge economy, where information started becoming more valuable, and brute strength of lesser value. Also, the recognition that possessing information led to greater long-term wealth building capability.

Faced with the above two changes, what does a larger group do which realizes this too late, and becomes very jealous of the success of another smaller group, particularly when confiscation of wealth by force is outlawed? That's right, a "quota" in the means of wealth gathering is sought. It is quite possible that in another generation or so, particularly if the secondary education system is also liberalized, just like primary education, then Brahmanas will no longer be discriminated in the secondary education field as they are today. Also, Brahmanas will lose their special status as "targets", and may end up being just another one of the endogamous groups that inhabit the world.


Couldn't brahmins, for example, ensured that education was within the reach of the deprived sections ? Functional divisions aside, couldn't they have done more to the cause of education ? If only, my guess, if only, brahmins had taken the lead on "Education for All", perhaps, we will all live in a more egalitarian society without any need for Quotas ? Or am i being too simplistic, i don't know.

First of all, the idea of "education" itself has undergone a huge change pre- and post-independence India.

During pre-Independence times, actually pre-British times, education was equated with vocational training. So we had carpenters, weavers, traders, blacksmiths and gold-smiths. We also had Brahmins - their specific vocations were priestly, scholarly and advisory activities. All caste members respected every other group and recognized the function that each performed in society. Access to reading and writing was not considered a big deal as the society was economically prosperous even otherwise. We were a rich group of kingdoms.

Bottom line - first of all I don't think there was any conscious intention to deprive everybody of education. The definition of education and the value we have come to place on it have changed. So has the method of instruction, of learning.
 
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gurumurthyji

Guest
Who are we - Part II - Where are you Sri K.R.S.Sir..?

Dear Sri.K.R.S. Sir,

During your postings in March you said you will

" In the next posting, we will discuss what the 'modern' Hindus (Bhagawan Vivekananda and Gandhi Ji) say about the 'charecteristic' of a Brahmin."

I know you may be in the midst of your other commitments. Your postings are thought provoking to persons who are" I am what I am". Most of us are simple persons and our younger generations who are as simple as I am only follow what we say and do. Please spare some time and start your postings soon.

GURUMURTHYJI

 

KRS

Well-known member
Dear Sri Gurumurthy Ji,

I was thinking the other day that I should do the next posting. I will definitely continue this week end. I must apologize for my tardiness, but I have had rarely a block of continuous time over the past few weeks to post a detailed continuation - but I will do it soon.

Thank you for your encouragement.

Pranams,
KRS
 

KRS

Well-known member
Continuation of 'Dharma'

Folks,

We will analyze Swami Vivekananda Ji's concept of Dharma in the present times, with specific views of Dharma from different religions and different countries. We have to unfortunately do it with several postings, as the text is very long.

Let me first post here a story He told us, which illustrates what Hindu concept of Dharma is:

"The only way to rise is by doing the duty next to us, and thus gathering strength go on until we reach the highest state. A young Sannyâsin went to a forest; there he meditated, worshipped, and practiced Yoga for a long time. After years of hard work and practice, he was one day sitting under a tree, when some dry leaves fell upon his head. He looked up and saw a crow and a crane fighting on the top of the tree, which made him very angry. He said, "What! Dare you throw these dry leaves upon my head!" As with these words he angrily glanced at them, a flash of fire went out of his head — such was the Yogi's power — and burnt the birds to ashes. He was very glad, almost overjoyed at this development of power — he could burn the crow and the crane by a look. After a time he had to go to the town to beg his bread. He went, stood at a door, and said, "Mother, give me food." A voice came from inside the house, "Wait a little, my son." The young man thought, "You wretched woman, how dare you make me wait! You do not know my power yet." While he was thinking thus the voice came again: "Boy, don't be thinking too much of yourself. Here is neither crow nor crane." He was astonished; still he had to wait. At last the woman came, and he fell at her feet and said, "Mother, how did you know that?" She said, "My boy, I do not know your Yoga or your practices. I am a common everyday woman. I made you wait because my husband is ill, and I was nursing him. All my life I have struggled to do my duty. When I was unmarried, I did my duty to my parents; now that I am married, I do my duty to my husband; that is all the Yoga I practice. But by doing my duty I have become illumined; thus I could read your thoughts and know what you had done in the forest. If you want to know something higher than this, go to the market of such and such a town where you will find a Vyâdha (The lowest class of people in India who used to live as hunters and butchers.) who will tell you something that you will be very glad to learn." The Sannyasin thought, "Why should I go to that town and to a Vyadha?" But after what he had seen, his mind opened a little, so he went. When he came near the town, he found the market and there saw, at a distance, a big fat Vyadha cutting meat with big knives, talking and bargaining with different people. The young man said, "Lord help me! Is this the man from whom I am going to learn? He is the incarnation of a demon, if he is anything." In the meantime this man looked up and said, "O Swami, did that lady send you here? Take a seat until I have done my business." The Sannyasin thought, "What comes to me here?" He took his seat; the man went on with his work, and after he had finished he took his money and said to the Sannyasin, "Come sir, come to my home." On reaching home the Vyadha gave him a seat, saying, "Wait here," and went into the house. He then washed his old father and mother, fed them, and did all he could to please them, after which he came to the Sannyasin and said, "Now, sir, you have come here to see me; what can I do for you?" The Sannyasin asked him a few questions about soul and about God, and the Vyadha gave him a lecture which forms a part of the Mahâbhârata, called the Vyâdha-Gitâ. It contains one of the highest flights of the Vedanta. When the Vyadha finished his teaching, the Sannyasin felt astonished. He said, "Why are you in that body? With such knowledge as yours why are you in a Vyadha's body, and doing such filthy, ugly work?" "My son," replied the Vyadha, "no duty is ugly, no duty is impure. My birth placed me in these circumstances and environments. In my boyhood I learnt the trade; I am unattached, and I try to do my duty well. I try to do my duty as a householder, and I try to do all I can to make my father and mother happy. I neither know your Yoga, nor have I become a Sannyasin, nor did I go out of the world into a forest; nevertheless, all that you have heard and seen has come to me through the unattached doing of the duty which belongs to my position." "

We will discuss more of Swamy Vivekananda Ji's concept of Dharma next.One interesting note about the above story, which forms the part of Bhagavat Gita. Many scholors feel that the comment about 'becoming a Sanyasin and going to the forest' was very important as the Hindu society at that time was dominated by folks who left their normal lives and 'disappeared' in to forests to meditate. The emphasis on Karma Yoga by Gita (even though other Yogas are mentioned) with the impending 'action' of war as the setting in the scene, was deliberate to 'balance' things out.


Pranams,
KRS
 
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