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Tuesday, January 5, 2010


Caste, I think, is the trickiest thing about this idea of converting to Hinduism. One cannot choose one's how does a person born into a country that has no caste system (or no explicit caste system, anyway), get one?

Supposedly caste is not as important in India anymore, but I'm pretty sure it still has a lot to do with who people marry, what kinds of jobs they do, and what their names are.

Caste and region both play a part in how one would express Indian culture.

India is a huge place and there is great regional variation. How can I behave with an Indian culture if I don't pick one of these regions to focus on? The food, clothing, language, and dance are all different.

Imagine someone outside America who loves American culture and decides to emulate it. Would he choose mid-west? South? North-east? West? All are tremendously different. Of course, living in his own country, where his neighbors probably know as little as he does, he could blend them all however he likes.

That's mostly the direction I go so far, but I'd like to focus more.

As far as the caste goes, I do not think I can just pick one. If left to pick, wouldn't all converts pick the most revered one? Could I look at my family and where I came from to determine what caste we might be labeled as? My own immediate family are intellectuals, however their parents were more working class. In America these things change too much based on the individual.

This problem of being too spread out will really come into play when it comes to ceremonies. Weddings, baby names, things like that are affected by region and by caste.

If I can become integrated with a particular temple then I can take on the culture it comes from. That's my general plan, but I still have not been brave enough to go to the temple I found online. I was supposed to go tonight, but I already know I will not have the courage.


  1. Actually caste is much maligned subject that has been misused for personal benefit.

    The 4th Chapter, 13th verse of the Bhagvad Gita explains it in simple terms. Krishna says that he created the 4 castes. This was used widely by many to spread a half truth. The full line is where he says that he created the 4 castes but the caste of a person is decided by actions and qualities.

    If one goes backwards and reads about who the authors of many of the books in Hinduism were, they were not born into the high caste families or blood lines. There are other controversial books but one has to see them contextually than in a generic all encompassing manner.

  2. Yes, I agree.

    "Chaturvarnam Maya Shristam Guna Karma Vibhagasah" means according to nature and action people are divided into four classes. Ignorant people have made it by birth.

  3. I'm a Hindu Indian and my knowledge on this topic comes mainly from my family and also what I gleaned from various books I read as a teen.

    In some Hindu literature, as Anil pointed out, "caste" (more correctly Varna) refers to how a civilized society needs a group of people who engage in industry (Vaishyas), who engage in the service of others and support society (Shudras), who pursue and spread knowledge and philosophy (Brahmins) and who lead and defend people (Khsatriyas). For e.g. a society with only Kshatriyas will only be fit to engage in War and cannot be a great people.

    The notion that one's Varna is determined by birth parents or shaped by one's opportunities in life is specifically refuted by Yudirashtra in a parable from the Mahabharata. Dharmaraj tests his son by asking "What makes a person Brahmin - birth, learning[or training] or conduct?" Yudirashtra correctly answers conduct. My interpretation on why Dharmaraj specifically mentions Brahmin is because Brahmins (by birth) tend to wear their caste with pride (so true today!) and need to be reminded of their duty to preserve the learnings of Hinduism. Therefore it is your intentions and actions in life that determine your Varna.

    If you're interested in a contemporary Hindu Caste Name, then it's usually triple barreled with some of following - Varna, which region your people come from, mother tongue, the God(s) your family actively worships (Vishnu or Shiva etc.). Indians who instead follow Islam, Christianity etc. drop the Varna part and add "Catholic" or "Shiite" etc.

  4. Oops that's supposed to be Yudhishthira not Yudirashtra.

  5. Very interesting information! Thanks, guys.

    It would be hilarious, I think, if I tried to come up with a name based on the region my family is from, my mother tongue, and which God I follow. It would turn out very not-Indian!

  6. HI Aamba

    in sanatan dharm there is nothing like caste
    it is JATII and VERNA. all human belong to same jatii i.e manusa(human)jatii.
    VERNA is no relation with birth
    Jaati means a classification based on source of origin. Nyaya Sutra states “Samaanaprasavaatmika Jaatih” or those having similar birth source form a Jaati.
    An initial broad classification made by Rishis is 4-fold: Udbhija (coming out of ground like plants), Andaja (coming out of eggs like birds and reptiles), Pindaja (mammals) and Ushmaj (reproducing due to temperature and ambient conditions like virus, bacteria etc).
    Similarly, various animals like elephant, lion, rabbits etc form different ‘Jaati’. In same manner, entire humanity forms one ‘Jaati’. A particular Jaati will have similar physical characteristics, cannot change from one Jaati to another and cannot cross-breed. Thus Jaati is creation of Ishwar or God.
    Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra are no way different Jaati because there is no difference in source of birth or even physical characteristics to differentiate between them.
    Later, word ‘Jaati’ started being used to imply any kind of classification. Thus in common usage, we call even different communities as different ‘Jaati’. However that is merely convenience of usage. In reality, all humans form one single Jaati.
    The actual word used for Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra is ‘Varna’ and not Jaati.
    The word ‘Varna’ is used not only for these four, but also for Dasyu and Arya.
    ‘Varna’ means one that is adopted by choice. Thus, while Jaati is provided by God, ‘Varna’ is our own choice.
    Those who choose to be Arya are called ‘Arya Varna’. Those who choose to be Dasyu become ‘Dasyu Varna’. Same for Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra.
    That is why Vedic Dharma is called ‘Varnashram Dharma’. The word Varna itself implies that this is based on complete freedom of choice and meritocracy.

    i agree in today India caste system is a big problem it is due to some people who wanted to pass their power and control over to society to their descendents.
    as u can see it also occur in some countries which have political dynasty they want to be in power by what ever means


  7. I think in this dark age that all religions are clinging to misunderstandings and the worst parts of themselves. Hindus often cling to caste and give it so much importance when all it seems to do is cause misery. Other religions are also focusing on the worst parts or interpreting things very strangely.

    Thank you for the Facebook group, I think I'll join that.

  8. A birthless, deathless,immortal and infinite soul cannot possibly have any permanent caste.People are classed everywhere for convenience.A beggar in any part of the world is a lower caste except in India.

  9. Yes! That is exactly it, the soul cannot be captured by labels like that.

  10. There is no caste in this era of egalitarianism.

  11. In this world of words and symbolisms, misinterpretation and misrepresentation appears to be an accepted way of life. Majority of people do not have time or care not to contemplate and squeeze the gist out of the many religious verses, be it from Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism or any other religion. Thus somewhere in time the whole concept of caste too gotten into terrible twists. Based on my common sense, I would say caste refers to the state of our mind. So, accordingly people are grouped. Each individual can represent either one or more qualities associated with each caste. If one thinks that he is of high caste and distance himself away from the society, he automatically stoop to the lowest of lowliest.

  12. When it comes down to it, aren't we all ksatriyas? We all have battle to fight, and to not fight that battle would mean living out our days lost wandering aimlessly in the wilderness.

  13. That is a beautiful sentiment! I like it :)

  14. Hello Ambaa, Here's some detailed info about the Caste System - Check it out.

  15. Before anything else,let me be clear,if we were as intolerant in India as some people accuse us of being,every second or third persecuted religious/ethnic minority wouldn't have found a safe haven in India(Zoroastrians,Bahais,Syrian Christians & even Jews).
    WHat the british called Hinduism,refers to not just the beliefs of 1 specific group of people but many.They follow a few different dharmas.
    Some atheistic,some monistic,some monotheistic,some agnostic & some pantheistic or even polytheistic.
    I can't imagine Adi Shankara carign about 'caste' or clan/gotra.Monism,as described by the advait philosophy which means non duality has no scope for discrimination.If everything is one ,where is the scope for discrimination,that too on such flimsy grounds,ie. accidemts of birth.
    So,it is unfair to say that discrimination based on birth was common among ALL indians & has existed for millenia.
    Maharishi Vyas & Valmiki ,2 of the most revered & respected people in the dharmik spiritual literature & philosophy,were born in labour class or some even believe tribal households.Vishwamitra was not born in a brahmin household & chose his varna.Even in the era of certain pauranic literature,1500-2000 years ago,there were many instances of characters choosing their varna.It is not certain when this so called caste system actually started in the indian sub continent.
    To say that dharma of any kind -the umbrella term is hinduism-is responsible for or even remotely encourages/condones/appreciates discrimination based on birth in 'x','y' or 'z' household is absurd.
    According to the various different dharma,there is no hereditory varna system(I will explain varna too later in this comment).You don't inherit the varna of your father or mother.Everyone is believed to be born equal (shudra).The following applies to all dharmicas-
    Janmana jayate shudrah,ie. One is shudra by birth,hence equal.

    Samskarad dvija ucyate,ie. By observing certain behaviour one becomes eligible to associate oneself with a dharmik path(there are many).

    Vedapathi Bhaved viprah,ie. By studying/analysing the vedas & other shastras,& by obtaining knowledge(ved is also used to refer to knowledge), one becomes a vipra(sage or learned person).

    Brahma Janati Brahmana,ie. One who understands the dynamic attributes of God is a brahmin.
    No one becomes a brahmin by popping out of a brahmin mother's uterus.
    That's not enough,as I have explained.
    So anyone with the required skill set can become a brahmin.It is based completely on merit & individual choice.All the 4 classes of humanity are appreciated & are thought of as interdependent to different degrees.

  16. VARNA-Varna is derived from the root -vrinja- meaning choice.Varna is a choice & not to be imposed.Brahmins are those that contribute tot he universe positively through their intellect & knowledge,ie. the intelligentsia or scholars.
    Kshatriyas are those who do the same through their strength & valour.
    Vaishyas do the same through their management,balance & stability.
    Shudra's would be the labour classes,ie. labour oriented people.
    Humans have all 4 varnas within us,of differing magnitudes.There is no human who does not have any of these components/properties within him/her.We have the option to increase or decrease their magnitude & pick 1 as our primary contribution to the universe,as per what is so popularly called DHARMA.
    So essentially,any system which provides equal roles & responsibilities to these 4 properties or people representing these properties is a dharmic or a vedic system.
    Some people who fall into 2 categories are responsible for the caste system which is based on birth & STILL EXISTS in certain parts of India-
    (Pardon my language)
    1)Twats=People who couldn't understand the scriptures &the doctrine of the dharmicas & hence believed they were superior because their grandfather was intelligent.
    2)Cunts=People who understood that varna is a choice but deliberately misinterpreted dharmica philosophy so as to enable an unchallenged run at the top of society.
    Glad to have helped

  17. After reading all of these comments it is evident that this Varna System is Twisted to form a birth based ...However Varnas are scientific but I Agree with AryaSamajis on this Point now we no more need Varnas Also as it is more vulnerable to corruption so We all Hindus belong to the default one Arya....So Amba you are Arya which means Noble People..As I am also Arya...Your full name can be like Amba Arya

  18. Amba,I feel that In todays Indian Society Caste doesn't matter...even in case of your Marriage...The Gotras do matter as it is to avoid same blood marriage...There is a good awareness in between Indian Hindus about this Corrupted Caste System....However I want you to read Little bit about AryaSamajis...Now only Politicians / Christian & Muslim Missionries uses it to misguide gullible Hindus ... Anyway in other few year it will be completely off from India..

    1. Yes Ambaa ....We Hindus are aware of this Corrupted Caste System which is being Introduced by Invaders during British /Muslim Colonical Rule in India to Divide hindus..Varnas were never Birth Based Ravan was Born to a Bhrahmin Family but he was considered being a Rakshas...Prahlada was born to a Rakshasa but he was considered as Saint...Parshuram was a Brahmin but he picked Weapon ..he was considerd as Kshatriya.....Varna System is a Scientific System which says that to Run a Society successfully the People must be qualified by their Responsibility...Every One is Born as Shudra (means Ignorance)...The person who chooses to learn and Teach Vedas and other stuff are considered as Bhrahmin..To Defend the people those people who picked Arms are Classified as Kshatriya..etc...Here Social status of all person remain same but Due to Nature of their Work they are classified in Varnas.. for e.g In a software company One can be a Manager whose responsibility is to manage People and a Software Architect whose responsibilty is to Design Software..There responsibilty is diff. but there Status being Same in Company.......The Caste System which Normally Missionary people use against Hindus...was Basically never was a part of Hinduism...and One more if there some ill practices followed in a part of region why accuse Hinduism..Best way is to aware the follower What Exactly Arya Samajis and our saints like Swami Vivekananda and Swami Dayanada did...Any way Hinduism is Not limited to India..Hindus are also present in Malasia,Bali,Indonesia etc it is same like the christianity that is practiced in India is Some what different from Europe...Here if South India you will find many Churches which has Dhwaja Stambh...which is seen in Hindu Temples....However Regarding your Question If you are new Convert then what Caste one will refer to...So As this is evident ..The Caste system is Not a Part of Hinduism ..So this Question is itself is Invalid...If you still want to sub qualify your self within Hindu fold .you can be Shavite,Vasihnav etc...In India itself this Invader induced caste System is a thing of Past...however you will find some politicians,Missionary people talking about this because this is the only thing which can win them some converts..however even Muslims and Christians also have caste among them in India...Anyhow Hindus are moved on now by this Now thanks to the efforts of Saints like Swami Vivekananda /Swami Dayananda etc ..They told Hindus what is Sanatan Dharma when they feel Hindus are Not on the path of Dharma...and fall in these ill tactics of Intruders....However if you ask me my Caste then I will say I am Arya (Means Noble Person)...The Caste ..the only thing that is considered is it is very simple to choose..and Gotras never refer to your social status but help to trace your family or Group Lineage.. ..please read for the details

    2. I found this book is great and Good explanation for new converts.. ...I feel they have mentioned whole process how to Convert to Hinduism /Santan Dharma

    3. I am very fond of the Himalayan Academy and all their resources. Their book, Dancing with Shiva, was one of the first texts I read that made me start to realize I was a Hindu.

      They are not the same branch I am and I have not entirely agreed with their ideas for a conversion process, but I think they are great and their material is well worth reading.