In my previous article, we studied how Brahmanism originated and evolved to fulfill the desires of Arya people and protect them from evil of Dasyu. In this article we will study how in the course of next thousand years this Dharma decayed and itself became the evil that one needed protection from. We have witnessed this phenomenon of noble institutions decaying in the course of time even in our own lifetime. Congress Party, which was invented in the 19th century with the noble intention of winning independence from the British, itself became the ultimate symbol of corruption after India won independence in mid 20th century. Opposing political parties with lofty ideals, such as Bharatiya Janata Party, which were created to overthrow Congress Party, became even more corrupt and divisive -if that is possible- than Congress Party!
Greed takes roots in the heart of the upper classes
As the semi-nomadic tribes settled down and became civilized, kings became powerful and very wealthy. They fought wars with their neighboring kings to enhance their wealth and power. Brahmins made their living by performing petty Yajnas to please gods on behalf of Kshatriya royals to fulfill their desires and to protect them from evil. In other words, they made their living by eating the crumbs fallen from the tables of Kshatriyas. Now greed and jealousy sprouted in their hearts. Driven by these twin scourges of mind, Brahmins thought, “These Kshatriyas are wallowing in wealth while we Brahmins are living hand-to-mouth. Why can’t they share some of their wealth with us?” Begging for money was too demeaning as Kshatriyas already had low opinion of Brahmins. They must induce Kshatriyas to use their special ritual skills in return for hefty fees. The clever Brahmins told Kshatriya royals, “If you perform great sacrifices, not only will your prestige increase in the society, but also you will earn good Karmaphalam and enjoy a great life in your next birth on earth.” When some skeptic royal –mind you, there was no dearth for skeptic royals in ancient India- asked, “What if I earned more Karmaphalam than I can enjoy in my next life?” Brahmins scratched their baldheads and came up with a brilliant response (BG: 9:20): “Don’t worry. After your death, the surplus Karmaphalam will enable you to enjoy the company of gods in heaven before returning to enjoy life here on earth.” This was like telling a rich man, “If you donate ten lakh rupees to Congress Party, not only will your prestige increase in your own community, but also you will be the personal guest of the Prime Minister for three days. You will meet all political heavy weights before returning to your hometown.”
Yajnas become corrupted
Satisfied by this assurance, the royals began to perform various elaborate and ostentatious Yajnas with the goal of enhancing their prestige among their peers, earning for themselves a vacation in heaven after death, and enjoying power, wealth and happiness in their next life here on earth. They performed obscenely ostentatious Yajnas such as Ashvamedha, Rajasooya, and Vajapeya. These grandiose desire-driven Yajnas, performed against the ordinances of scriptures, came to be known as Kamya Karma (desire-fulfilling Yajna). Krishna, as the Upanishadic Guru leading the Upanishadic revolution to overthrow Brahmanism, explains the stupidity of these royals:
BG: 2:42-43: These ignorant people, who delight in the flowery words disputing about the Vedas say that there is nothing other than this (earning Karmaphalam by means of Kamya Karma). These desire-ridden ritualists perform various specific sacrificial rites to gain Karmaphalam such as pleasure and lordship here on earth and heaven hereafter.
In the words of the Buddha :
“Then came their ruin. Seeing bit by bit their king expand, with his finely decked women, his well-wrought chariots yoked with thoroughbreds, his colorful stitching, his palaces and well-laid-out chambers, thriving with herds of cows, waited on by bevies of comely women, those Brahmins began to covet that vast human luxury. They composed mantras then and there, approached Okkaka (king) and said, ‘Your riches are abundant. Sacrifice. You have much wealth. Sacrifice. You have much money!’ Prompted by the Brahmins, that king, a bull among warriors, sacrificed up horses, humans, and animals and offered Vajapeya in unbridled fashion; and he gave riches to the Brāhmins: cows, beds, clothes, finely decked women, etc.”
Ritualists become thieves
Thus the Yajnas originally meant to return the debt to the Devas for their bounty, turned into merry barbecue parties. Krishna, as the leader of Upanishadic revolution to overthrow Brahmanism, does not mince words when it comes to condemning the greedy ritualists who corrupted the ancient Dharma:
BG: 3:12-13: A thief verily is he who enjoys what is given by the Devas without returning them anything. The good that eat the remains of the Yajna (after sacrificing the main portion of materials to the Devas) are freed from all sins (bad Karmaphalam); but the sinful ones who cook food only for themselves (= who desire Karmaphalam for themselves), they verily eat sin (they earn bad Karmaphalam). 3:16: He who does not follow on earth the wheel thus revolving (= People-Yajna-gods-rains-food-people), sinful of life and rejoicing in the sensual pleasures lives in vain.
As the hero of the revolution to overthrow Brahmanism, Krishna scolds these ritualists mercilessly as infirm in mind (2:41), ignorant (2:42; 3:26), desire-ridden and addicted to sacrificial rites (2:43), devoid of discrimination (2:44), despicable (2:49), thieves (3:12), sinful (3:13; 4:36), vain (3:16), unwise (3:25), egoistic (3:27), dullards (3:29), men of small intellect (7:23), men who fall or perish (9:24), hypocritical, proud and arrogant (16:10), self-conceited, stubborn and ostentatious (16:17), insolent and egoistic (16:18); worst among men (16:19), so on and so forth.
Jealous rage (Krodha) enters the hearts of Kshatriyas
Sometimes the royals performed these Yajnas out of jealous rage against their rivals, thus destroying the purity of purpose of Yajnas. Krishna explains the perverted mentality of these haughty Kshatriyas:
BG: 16:12-16: Bound by a hundred ties of hope, given over to lust and jealous rage, they strive to secure by unjust means (Kamya Karma) hoards of wealth for sensual enjoyment. “This today has been gained by me; this desire I shall fulfill; this is mine, and this wealth also shall be mine in future (life). That enemy has been slain by me, and I shall slay others also. I am a lord, I enjoy, and I am successful, powerful and happy. I am rich and high born. Who else is equal to me? I will sacrifice, I will give alms, I will rejoice.” Thus deluded by ignorance (engendered by Kama and Krodha), bewildered by many a fancy, enmeshed in the snare of delusion, addicted to the gratification of lust, they fall into foul hell.
Animal sacrifices become rampant
To top it all, driven by greed to earn Karmaphalam, gruesome animal sacrifices became even more rampant and important part of Vedic sacrificial rites. Thousands of innocent horses, cows, buffaloes, bulls, goats, and birds were slaughtered mercilessly every year all over the land of Arya. Occasionally even humans were sacrificed. As described in Suttanipata:
“Cows sweet as lamb, filling pails with milk, never hurting anyone with foot or horn -the king had them seized by the horns and slaughtered by the sword.” This is how “Kshatriyas and self-styled Brahmins and others protected by rank destroyed the repute of their caste and fell prey to desires.”
Unholy nexus of Brahmins and Kshatriyas
As we read earlier, the first quid pro quo of Brahmanism was between the upper classes and their gods. Now a second quid pro quo came into being: between Brahmins and Kshatriyas. Since they needed each other in this whole sacrificial farce there developed an unholy nexus -I scratch your back and you scratch mine. Hankering after hefty fees, Brahmins performed various grandiose Vedic sacrifices against the ordinances of scriptures (16:23) for the benefit of vain Kshatriya nobles, and Kshatriya nobles deluded themselves that they would go to heaven and enjoy wealth and lordship in their next life on earth.
It is the same unholy nexus of politicians (modern day Kshatriyas) and bureaucrats (modern day Brahmins) that has today corrupted India’s government machinery (Yajna) and undermined India’s Constitution (Dharma). The machinery (Yajna) originally meant to nourish citizens (by serving them) and be nourished by them in return (by payment of taxes), has been converted into self-serving and corrupt machinery geared to exploit citizens. The government machinery (the police) designed to protect citizens from evil (thieves, murderers and other anti-social elements) has itself become evil. Amazing how the decadent ancient Brahmanic Dharma is still alive and well amidst us even after three thousand years!
Brahmins and Yajnas now control the entire universe!
There came a time when the greedy priests gave so much importance to the performance of the increasingly complicated Yajnas in violation of their original intent that they claimed that without their performance the universe itself would be destabilized! The performance of sacrificial rites became more important than even the gods for whom they were supposed to be dedicated! Besides, for every affliction of society, there was only one cure: performance of sacrifices (2:42); more sacrifices, and more elaborate, expensive, vulgar and pompous sacrifices:
BG: 16:15-17: Thus deluded by ignorance, bewildered by many a fancy, enmeshed in the snare of delusion, addicted to the gratification of lust, they fall into foul hell. Self-conceited, stubborn, filled with the pride and intoxication of wealth, they perform sacrifice in the name of ostentation, disregarding ordinance.
Society suffers from Shokam, Dwandwam and obsession with Karmaphalam
The net result of all this was that epithets such as Kama (lust for wealth), Krodha (jealous rage against enemies), Sangas (attachment to sense objects), Moha (delusion of possession) and Sankalpa (design of Yajna for a specific fruit such as wealth, children), came to be associated with the decadent Brahmanism in general and performers of Kamya Karma in particular. Due to their attachment to wealth, power and heaven, the upper classes suffered from Dwandwam (restlessness, stress, mental fever, instability of mind, loss of wisdom); and gaining Karmaphalam by means of Kamya Karma became an obsession with them. At the same time, helplessly witnessing the loss of innocence and decline of the ancient Dharma, a large section of the society suffered from Shokam (grief). In the Bhagavad Gita, as the spokesperson of the Upanishadic and Bhagavatha revolutionaries, Krishna tirelessly condemns the Brahmanic doctrines of the Gunas and Karma as the cause of these three maladies (Tapatraya) of mankind.
Discerning eyes can see the same three maladies in modern India. The rich minority is Dwandwam-ridden due to their entanglement with wealth and power, and is obsessed with earning Karmaphalam in their actions. The poor majority is suffering from Shokam due to loss of faith in their own government.
As the nexus of Brahmins and Kshatriyas developed pathological vested interest in perpetuating the class system, there brewed much disaffection for Brahmanism in the society. Due to their elitism the upper classes became progressively alienated from the rest of the society. Besides, as more people were born from class admixture, the population of the outcastes increased. The lower classes suffered untold injustice in the hands of the upper classes. We can see such injustice even in the 21st century India. To no small extent this exclusivity led to the revolt and establishment of egalitarian Dharmas such as Buddhism and Jainism. Buddhism insisted that one must be judged by his conduct and character, not his birth class. In fact, Hinduism, which was born out of this chaos, made a special effort to be an inclusive Dharma (BG: 7:21-23; 9:32) devoid of class and caste, before Brahmanism thoroughly corrupted it.
The ancient Dharma becomes Adharma
Gradually the sacred ancient Vedic Dharma, known as Sanatana Dharma, which was invented to bring Law and Order in the chaotic society, itself degenerated into despicable Adharma. The Brahmanic Dharma that was created to fulfill people’s desires and protect them from evil had now become the evil one must get rid of.
Now you know the true meaning of the revolutionary shloka uttered by Krishna as the Lord of beings of the Upanishads:
BG: 4: 7-8: Whenever there is decay of Dharma and rise of Adharma, then I take birth. I take birth age after age for the protection of the innocent and destruction of the wicked and to establish Dharma.
Suffice it to say that by 500 B. C. E. Brahmanism was on deathbed and north India was in turmoil. And out of this chaos was born India’s freethinking spirit. There were revolts, rebellions and revolutions in the air. A thousand new ideas and philosophies burst forth from the fertile soil of India’s intellect. There were brilliant rationalists, atheists, agnostics, nihilists, ascetics, sophists and mendicants all over the land. In the articles to follow, we will review these ancient movements whose main goal was to neutralize or overthrow Brahmanism, and discover how Brahmanism survived all these attempts and systematically crushed them one by one. The modern day rationalists have a lot to learn from the genius of Brahmanism and the mistakes of their equally brilliant opponents!
(To be continued)
Dr. Prabhakar Kamath, is a psychiatrist currently practicing in the U.S. He is the author of Servants, Not Masters: A Guide for Consumer Activists in India (1987) and Is Your Balloon About Pop?: Owner’s Manual for the Stressed Mind.