7.1.1 Hindu Teachings About Caste

The classic issue is that of caste. Some claim caste is purely hereditary, whereas others suggest it is a result of human behaviour. The Laws of Manu insist that the lowest castes, the untouchables, have no right to read the Vedas [Scriptures]. This to me is just as bad as the Roman Catholic church forbidding its members to read the Bible in earlier times, or insisting it be produced only in Latin so that common people couldn’t read it. We will see time and again that Hinduism shares many features in common with other misguided ‘religions’. Yet other Hindu writings seem to suggest that the untouchables can read them and thereby rise above their caste. Again, the vexed question of mobility between castes has sorely vexed Indian society- because there are contradictory statements about it in the Hindu Scriptures.

This passage from the Laws of Manu gives the punishments of those who stray from the duties of each of the four castes: priest, ruler (or warrior), commoner, and servant.

“But those classes who slip away from their own innate activities when they are not in extremity pass through evil transmigrations and then become the menial servants of aliens. A priest who has slipped from his own duty becomes a " comet-mouth" ghost who eats vomit; a ruler becomes a " false-stinking" ghost who eats impure things and corpses. A commoner who has slipped from his duty becomes a ghost " who sees by an eye in his anus" , eating pus; a servant becomes a " moth-eater" ghost”.

— The Laws of Manu, 12:70-72.

As we shall comment later, the meaning and value of persons is utterly debased by this kind of theology. Threats are held over poor people to insist that they remain in poverty; they are shamed into remaining within their social and low spiritual position by the most awesome threats. It’s akin to the way the Catholic church devised and uses the threat of a fiery, eternal hell fire of punishment to shame and scare their simpler members into blind, unquestioning loyalty. In passing, we note that the Bible speaks of “hell” as merely the grave; the punishment for sin is the eternal unconsciousness of death, not eternal torture. A God of love would never entertain such a human, revenge-based notion. Yet more progressive Hindu priests have seen the debilitating effect of the caste system on Indian society, and have insisted that Hinduism ought to elevate people rather than tie them into the caste system. Mahatma Gandhi, the most famous Hindu, was of this persuasion.

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