Question: 3 – The Caste System
The origins of the complex hierarchy of the Hindu caste system can be tracked back to the Vedic ages. The principle of the caste system is based upon that a person’s status in society can be placed in a block of a pyramid, the higher you rise up the pyramid the closer you get to reaching Moksha.1 Moksha is the ultimate spiritual goal for a Hindu, where the soul is liberated from the cycle of death and rebirth, and the soul mergers with the Supreme Reality.2 Caste placement is hereditary; you cannot switch out of the caste you are born into. Women were not considered part of the caste system; they led the lifestyle of the caste affiliated to their father or husband.1 Thus, being born to a higher caste was an indication that one had lived their previous lives in a sacred manner. So those who belonged to the higher castes had to be very careful and diligent to lead a virtuous life to keep good Karma, so they would not regress to a lower caste in the next life cycle, or even worse, reincarnate as an animal.3 The law of Karma is the notion that our actions today will have a direct effect on how we will lead the rest of our life, and which caste we will be placed during the next reincarnation.2 The caste system consisted of four main classes:
1. The highest level of caste being the Brahmins; they are “priests and philosophers, specialists in the life of the spirit”1. Dharma is the responsibilities and duties of a Hindu according to the caste he is born into; this is done to control the social, moral and cosmic order.2 The Dharma of a Brahmin was to study the Vedas and perform the religious rituals, and maintain high customary standards of ritual purity.3 2. “Valour, chivalry, forgiveness, ability to rule are the characteristics of the Kshatriyas”, this is the second most important caste consisting of kings, warriors and vassals.3 Dharma of the Kshatriyas was to act as the protectors of peace.1 3. Vaishyas, is the caste group of...
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