Pseudoscience & Religion

On Vivekananda’s Defense Of Caste

Vivekananda’s views on caste are instructive in that they sum up the views of today’s defenders of the caste system. Even among people who don’t defend the caste system, you will find rich echoes of thoughts that Vivekananda puts forth.

What is the point of this article? To show that Vivekananda was a casteist? If by being casteist, it means that one is wilfully justifying an inhuman practice, then no. Vivekananda is not a casteist in that sense. I don’t think he had any malicious intent and means well when he defends the caste system. The point of this article is to show that even though his defense is well meaning, it isn’t of any good.


So, what does Vivekananda say about caste? He readily accepts that the caste system as it exists has become corrupt. He stresses that caste is not by birth, but is based on qualities. He even says that one exhibits qualities of all varnas in their life. The beauty of the caste system is that it leads to a stable non-violent system and the end result is that it achieves good for all. To drive home this point, he says that a brahmana is a brahmana only when they share their knowledge and strive towards making everyone else a brahmana.

On the face, it is a convincing defense. If such a system is put in place, how could it go wrong?

Firstly there is a problem in the assumption underlying “ If such a system is put in place…”. Since the dawn of civilizations, many have given solutions to all of human-kind’s problems. None of them worked. That is the evidence we have with us. The reason why they didn’t work is they assumed an utopia, a world which has a very low probability of existing.

This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t aim for an utopia. We can, but not at the cost of ignoring reality. Vivekananda talks about an age where everyone was a brahmana, and implies that we now live in a degenerate age and if only we strive hard enough, the golden age can come back. Given human history, the golden age is just a myth. It never existed.

Even if we ignore that, and assume that a golden age is very much possible, Vivekananda’s defense is still problematic. To see why, consider his prescription to combat issues of privilege:

It is in the nature of society to form itself into groups; and what will go will be these privileges! Caste is a natural order. I can perform one duty in social life, and you another; you can govern a country, and I can mend a pair of old shoes, but that is no reason why you are greater than I, for can you mend my shoes? Can I govern the country? I am clever in mending shoes, you are clever in reading Vedas, that is no reason why you should trample on my head; why if one commits murder should he be praised and if another steals an apple why should he be hanged? This will have to go.

Ignore the naturalistic fallacy at the beginning, replace “mend a pair of shoes” with “manual scavenging” and see if the intent still remains the same.

There are certain jobs which are done out of necessity and not because one is clever in them. Equating these jobs with jobs which are not done out of necessity is a wrong comparison. The solution then is to eliminate the need for such jobs or make every effort to lessen the undesirability of the job.

Also it is not necessary that only some set of people do a certain job. One can be clever at quantum physics and at the same time one can also be clever at cleaning up their own refuse. Such jobs are not mutually exclusive.

So even after ignoring the golden age myth of an all-brahmana society, the caste system still remains problematic because it believes in another set of myths – that all tasks are desirable and that some tasks can be performed only by some people and not by all.

I won’t accuse Vivekananda of not knowing that some tasks are not desirable. I’m sure that he did. But what he did not know is that those tasks can be done by all, thereby eliminating the need of having a group of people do it, or invest resources to reduce the undesirability of the task or eliminate the need of humans in doing it.

And finally we come to the main reason why Vivekananda’s defense is of no good. He says:

To the non-Brahmana castes I say, wait, be not in a hurry. Do not seize every opportunity of fighting the Brahmana, because as I have shown; you are suffering from your own fault. Who told you to neglect spirituality and Sanskrit learning? What have you been doing all this time? Why have you been indifferent? Why do you now fret and fume because somebody else had more brains, more energy, more pluck and go than you? Instead of wasting your energies in vain discussions and quarrels in the newspapers, instead of fighting and quarreling in your own homes – which is sinful – use all your energies in acquiring the culture which the Brahmana has, and the thing is done. Why do you not become Sanskrit scholars? Why do you not spend millions to bring Sanskrit education to all the castes of India? That is the question. The moment you do these things, you are equal to the Brahmana! That is the secret power in India.

This again assumes a utopia. The non-brahmana castes have to just get more of something and they can also be a brahmana. How do they get that something? Be born with it? Or magically acquire it by delinking themselves with the real world and just assume that they can get that something by sheer force of will?

Except for a few cases, it doesn’t require much “brains” or “pluck” to do many tasks. All you need to do is train people in that task and they will do it. Now consider the time Vivekanada lived in. Some non-brahmana castes were actively denied education. Forget education. They couldn’t even drink water from the same well as that of the brahmanas. There existed a system which denied every opportunity to those people and yet Vivekananda is blaming them for not getting opportunities. He also blames that system (partly, not fully), but that is besides the point.

Consider this example – “Okay, you weren’t allowed go to school and learn math. Now you have a family to take care of and get little time for other pursuits. But why are you complaining that you can’t solve differential equations? Why quarrel in homes that you weren’t allowed to go to school? Instead of wasting your energy in such things, why don’t you just learn math and then solve differential equations?”

So the point is that even well-meaning individuals end up supporting a brutal system because they don’t rely on real world evidence and instead rely on myths.

 

About the author

Satish Chandra

69 Comments

  • Well I remembered the Dr Ambedkar when the second quote was mentioned.He has done the same thing. I do not think that Swami were wrong. Rather he was very specific when saying wait. He did not promote inaction as is suggested by the author. And life is a pause less struggle. So its better to fight and win in the end than to stop fighting and cribbing. And the Author should read “First break All The Rules” from gallup survey Before quoting “it doesn’t require much “brains” or “pluck” to do many tasks”. The example on differential equations is foolish. Such a person will never face any such condition as a differential equation. All i would say is that “Its just the laziness of few people coupeled with hard work of others that promoted this wrongfull system”.

    • I would like to see a source for your claim that Ambedkar said the same. Knowing his works, I would say it is highly unlikely that he would have blamed the victims like Vivekananda does.

      Also I’m not suggesting “inaction”, but rather pointing out the magical belief that people can get what they want just by trying hard while working against a system that actively suppressed them. If you’d like a technical take on it, you can read up on contra-causal free will.

      Solving differentials equations is a very apt analogy to bring out why Vivekananda’s prescription is built on myths. Solving those equations doesn’t require the brains of a Ramanujam. Just years of training in mathematics will do. Evidence can be seen from the fact that many students solve those equations every year as part of their curricula.

      • Satish Chandra, excellent article and I totally agree with you but I guess missed that Karan Babar didn’t say Ambedkar said something like that. He is just saying that Ambedkar did what vivekananda said and learnt while fighting a system trying to suppress him. But I would like to point out that not all Brahmins were reqd. to learn that and yet they were Brahmins, so that is unfair.

        Secondly I think Karan Babar is questioning the practicality of differential equation in real life. Well Mr. Babar, could you explain to me the practicality of Rigveda in real life. I know you could say that it contains philosophy that everyone could apply or something like that but then you could live life without Rigveda, too. So I would rather say it is not that practical either. So differential equation example is apt.

        • Well Sir , going by your defination of ‘ practical ‘ ,air , water and food the only things having any practicality . One can live without clothes , shelter , basic education , electricity and so on …does that mean they are not practical? Of course not . In the same way the deep philosophies offered by vedanta are extremely practical . These philosophies can and should be practiced by all in everyday life and goes beyond the scope of Abrahamic Religions .

  • Indeed a depth analysis, courageous and fitting critics in need of this time.
    There was a hopeless situation for vedic and castic approach in the mid of 19th century and so on, that too after the sequence of world war and many scientific inventions, but, in my point of view all went off beam after the global speech by swamiji about Hinduism, vedas and Indian culture. Probably it was the real starting point for the hindu radicals to revamp their useless material into spread of useful propaganda across the world. We may believe that swamiji saved the refutation of india in the world stage, but simultaneously he opened a gate for hindu fundamentalists, a real obstacle to the development of Indian subcontinent.

  • “Muggle-borns, they are not that good at magic. Only pure bloods can do it properly.”

    Privilege blindness, it affects us all. It doesn’t make a person necessarily evil, but it does not help combating it.

  • Very neatly written. Vivekananda’s argument is similar to putting a person inside a prison with a window and then asking him why do you think you are imprisoned, sky is open to you.

  • Also known as the “why are you hitting yourself?” argument.

    Why are you hitting yourself, you lower castes? Why can’t you just learn our favorite dead language Sanskrit and learn our favorite debunked cosmology and physics and philosophy and then you’ll all be Brahmins! Except that Brahmins won’t consider you Brahmins, and no one will let you earn a living performing meaningless rituals.

    Oh you just want a decent life? Well why don’t you just send all your kids to good, expensive schools, and send them abroad to study medicine when they’re not in the top 1% of their class, and use your contacts to get them to set up a clinic when they’re done?

    What, you don’t have the money or the contacts? Well whose fault is that? Why are you hitting yourself?

    • If you read SwamiJi you will find that he did not mean that at all . He himself believed in concepts like valor and revolution ( ideas which inspires Subhash Chandra bose ), hence he is inspiring us to get up and fight and make society right by acquiring the education to do so . He offered similar suggestions to the Hindus in general , like he asked them to stop worshiping all sakar forms of Brahmn and begin the worship of India as the chief deity . Swamiji , like the ancient Vedic Sages believed in the idea of purushartha ….one of his favourite sanskrit saying was , ‘ Ayam may hasto Bhagwan , Ayam may hasto bhagwattrah..” My hands are god, Nay my hands are greater than god…..Its not only improper but also very cruel to judge a person based on few of his sayings while completely negating his/her others ideas , his/her whole personality and viewpoint .

  • There is a sanskrit sloaka:

    जन्मना जायते शुद्र:/
    सन्स्कारात द्विज उच्चते/
    वेदाध्ययनॊ विप्र:/
    भवति ब्रह्म: जानाति ब्राह्मण:// (there may be some grammatical errors)

    It means, by birth everybody is shudra. By culture, upbringing, environmental factors his becomes second birth. By learning (say science) he becomes learned one. Then he becomes/called Braahman when he learns the ultimate truth.

    Reality is different because every learned man (Say Braahman by birth) thinks that he knows the ultimate truth just as nowdays every athiest, scientist thinks that he knows the truth (though falsifiable one)!

    That is the tragedy of human being and his science which ends never!

    • If there are no means to ensure of equality of opportunity to correct for the vagaries of the accident of birth, then we end up with a society where the accidental circumstances of birth have an inordinate limiting impact on the career and lifestyle choices of individuals. Quoting from here:
      Far from repudiating hereditary privilege, the scriptures of this faith hold that the circumstances of one’s birth are not accidental but indicative of acquired merit
      The problem with defenses of Varna Dharma which arbitrarily posit that some unseen Providential wisdom underlies these accidental circumstances of birth, is that they end up perpetuating those very oppressive circumstances by preaching submission to them. When Vivekananda says ‘wait, don’t be in a hurry’, he in effect preaches conformism and submission of a sort that does not sit well with the received historical narrative of him being a preacher who awakened and galvanized.

      • Re: If there are no means to ensure of equality of opportunity to correct for the vagaries of the accident of birth, then we end up with a society……..

        There exists such a means called ‘knowledge’ which alone becomes the debating point based on which this aspect of caste, birth could be understood.

        Re: circumstances of one’s birth are not accidental but indicative of acquired merit…

        This is scientific. The quality of the seed is always affected by the parent seed, circumstances and future culture. Are you denying this?

        Re: The problem with defenses of Varna Dharma which arbitrarily posit that some unseen Providential wisdom………….

        Such a unseen providential wisdom exist ONLY FOR THOSE WHO BELIEVE IT. Once this belief is broken he is a braahman irrespective of his birth and equal opportunity becomes irrelevant to him.

        All great people like Vyasa, Valmiki, Vidur, Vashishta etc were shudra by birth and it were they who perpetuated this system for welfare of the people of lower class. I myself have been suffering from the Braahmans (by birth)who practice castism. My effort lies in realizing them their true caste.

        • There exists such a means called ‘knowledge’ which alone becomes the debating point based on which this aspect of caste, birth could be understood.

          In real life, that ‘means called knowledge’ is denied in a systematic and sinister way on grounds of birth. Consider watching this clip.

          The quality of the seed is always affected by the parent seed, circumstances and future culture. Are you denying this?

          Not very trait is heritable, especially the ones most relevant to scientific, literary or artistic achievement. Crucial ingredients of excellence and even basic competence in these disciplines must be painstakingly acquired, and to exclude acquisition of basic skills on hereditary grounds is indefensible. Misconceptions conflating biological and social evolution that led such an eminent thinker as Shaw to make ludicrous claims like ‘one day children will be born with complete language fluency’, also underlie the contemporary myth that heredity can transmit learned skills and that suitable environments cannot ever compensate for what maybe unfavourable inherited traits. As a historical aside, Shaw’s stance is debunked here.

          Such a unseen providential wisdom exist ONLY FOR THOSE WHO BELIEVE IT.

          The exact same thing can be said by patients of temporal lobe epilepsy. Consider watching this clip from BBC’s Brain Story. Individual testimony under the vagaries of such neurological conditions or the ravages of indoctrination cannot be a sound basis for public policy.

          All great people like Vyasa, Valmiki, Vidur, Vashishta etc were shudra by birth and it were they who perpetuated this system for welfare of the people of lower class.

          Please name some historical rather than mythical characters.

          My effort lies in realizing them their true caste.

          We repudiate the idea that there is ‘one true caste’. The idea is very demeaning to potential human versatility. Author Ophelia Benson, for example has worked in several occupations including a zookeeper. Society stands to become greatly diminished if such versatile contributions by individuals are rendered impossible by stifling them in strictures of caste.

          • “We repudiate the idea that there is ‘one true caste’. The idea is very demeaning to potential human versatility.”
            On the one hand you acknowledge human versatility and on the other decry a system which honoured it! Strange.

            Vyasa, Valmiki, Vidhur, Vashishtha were “mythical characters”? What is the basis of this claim? Merely your persuasion? Who composed the Mahabharata and Ramayana then (which are existing works)? Mythical characters? If you’d have said the same about Ram and Krishna, I’d still be inclined to consider your point, but to claim the epics that exist in body were written by ‘no real person’ is incongruous!

            “The exact same thing can be said by patients of temporal lobe epilepsy.”
            That makes no sense and appears as an attempt at put down on a point which you insist on not comprehending. Believing is manifesting unless you believe positivism is the only admissible human experience.

            “Crucial ingredients of excellence and even basic competence in these disciplines must be painstakingly acquired, and to exclude acquisition of basic skills on hereditary grounds is indefensible.”
            “In real life, that ‘means called knowledge’ is denied in a systematic and sinister way on grounds of birth.”
            Who says this form of exclusion was practiced? How did Ambedkar get educated then? He was mentored and taught by a Brahmin (he carried his name!)
            How is it that some of the greatest empires in India were founded by people from among the lowest castes?

            “Not every trait is heritable, especially the ones most relevant to scientific, literary or artistic achievement.”
            True. But tendencies are. It is a fact that occupations became hereditary and were guarded closely for the most part.

        • A transparent revolutionary societies of west achieved many scientific and technological advancements. A cunning, selfish, impotent, retarded minded society of india run their life by degrading others and also sucking others bloods. What the rational mind will think after reading your command is, “crooked mind never change” even if we run into third time Slavism after mughal and british

      • Yes what you say makes sense but then again change is gradual. The New Testament is accused for not being an abolitionist document although it has the seeds for one. Apostle Paul’s advise to slaves and masters is highly controversial ‘ slaves submit to ur master as to God n masters love them as ur brother in Christ’ If the literalist camp preacher advised a slave to submit today it would be blasphemous. There was a context to writing such things under a roman imperial rule in the 1st century where one was only allowed to free one third of one’s slaves plus a TOTAL abolition was above their thinking capabilities within that era n culture. Of course Paul sowed seeds there with that word ‘love’ which is submission in another vocabulary. In later years we so wished the New Testament was more abolitionist than it was!!! with Europe and America using the very same Bible to condone slavery!! OFCOURSE totally ignoring Bible’s instruction on how the slaves were to be treated!! not a ‘good’ system BUT when something was too radical some form of regulation to prevent down right abuse. Later however later the abolitionists got the ‘spirit’ of what the total narrative was and finally the debate was won. Interestingly they too got their inspiration from the Bible’s narrative of ‘Man made in the image of God’ but it took some time for that seed to sprout.

        I’m just wondering if we are judging Swami Vivekananda by today’s moral standards.

  • It does not bear any point in blaming a system or supporting either. Vivekananda didn’t do either. His (and his Master’s) only motto was to raise the human being within any system using the good things in the system, by idealizing them, instead of trying to blame and snatch off the system altogether. It would be like removing our skin and skeleton all the sudden. We cant get rid of it, nor can we adhere to it unendingly.
    When I say idealizing, we dont have to turn our nose, instead it is a way of abstraction and there by giving better and more choices to individuals. If we take our Varna system (what Vivekananda tries is to explain Varna system, not the so called castes), the ideal of human acts and conducts is formed in brahminhood, (not in born brahmins as such) and nobody is denied by principle from raising himself to that level, and the more we stick to the principles, the better we ourselves will be off. He himself was a great example of this kind, being born as a Shudra and becoming what he is now.
    You cannot replace “shoe mending” with “scavenging” as the former is more of professional job, while the other is wicked consequence of caste system. After all, since when we started having toilets? and since when the varna system is with us? Shoe mending is one job which defined varna system, while scavenging is the result of caste system. Can we blame and root out (if at all possible, in first hand) a system for a specific result of it.
    And after all what we are gaining by proving that Vivekananda’s take is of no use, while not getting the true essense of it.

    • His (and his Master’s) only motto was to raise the human being within any system using the good things in the system, by idealizing them, instead of trying to blame and snatch off the system altogether. It would be like removing our skin and skeleton all the sudden. We cant get rid of it, nor can we adhere to it unendingly.

      That there exist countries which have achieved success in providing some level of equal opportunity shows that the system can be thrown away. So your assumption is just another myth.

      ..nobody is denied by principle from raising himself to that level, and the more we stick to the principles, the better we ourselves will be off.

      When there is no system of equal opportunity it is equivalent to denial in principle. But that point gets obscured in the vague thinking that some Indian philosophies encourage.

      He himself was a great example of this kind, being born as a Shudra and becoming what he is now.

      He was not born as a shudra. He was born into a kayastha family.

      You cannot replace “shoe mending” with “scavenging” as the former is more of professional job, while the other is wicked consequence of caste system. After all, since when we started having toilets? and since when the varna system is with us?

      Your unquestioning adherence to an ideology prevents you from asking a question like “Why weren’t there toilets?” Maybe because some set of people have been doomed to scavenging and there was no need to invent toilets.

      I also find your excuse that shoe mending is a more professional job and that it is defining of a varna system in its true essence dishonest to say the least. You can prove me wrong by filming a video of yourself setting up a shoe-mending shop by the road side and servicing other people’s shoes. My point is that some jobs are done out of necessity and society should try to get rid of such jobs or some conditions that go along with those jobs. That is possible only when you discard the myth that such jobs are essential and they should be done only by some people and not all.

      And after all what we are gaining by proving that Vivekananda’s take is of no use, while not getting the true essence of it.

      What we are gaining is a historical perspective of how relying on myths has damaged society. And that history is still relevant because the same myths are still believed today.

      • Your want of seeing me set up a shoe mending shop (even as part of argument) is because, you are hurt of thingking yourself doing that job. All of us do a perticular job out of necessity or as a hobby. It annoys us only when people look down at us of doing that job. Why wont we respect people doing all sort of jobs? Can you regard and love all with same viewpoint? Well that is one great improvement from one’s own side!!
        And have we not given apportunity to all, (even by legally imposing)? It is not always true the same solution works for all contries the same way.
        My point about toilets was at time there were no toilets and no job of manual scavenging.
        A good study of indian philosophies always removes the superstitions. One will understand only when he studies it.
        More over there is NO reliance on myth, and myth is NOT a false. And if you dig into earth we get both nutrients to grow the plants and also the garbage. We have to pick what we need.

        • I don’t like sitting in the heat and dust for hours on end. I don’t like other people doing it either. That’s why I said “My point is that some jobs are done out of necessity and society should try to get rid of such jobs or some conditions that go along with those jobs.”

          However, some people like sitting in their ivory towers and make grandiose proclamations that they see all people with love and respect. Well, then demonstrate that love and respect by being like the people you purport to love and respect. Should be easy enough right? You don’t have to do it permanently. Just for a day should do.

          And manual scavenging was just one example. I admit it wasn’t always there. But that is besides the point. Some set of people have always been forced to do unclean tasks like taking away animal carcasses.

          And have we not given apportunity to all, (even by legally imposing)? It is not always true the same solution works for all contries the same way.

          Ancient India, the time of the golden age where Varnashrama worked wonders, never had a system of equal opportunity. So what evidence do you have that Varnashrama which never succeeded in being an egalitarian system will succeed today? In fact all evidence points to Varnashrama becoming a non-egalitarian birth based system. As I said in the article, one of the myths is the assumption that Utopia had existed at one point and can exist again.

        • Why wont we respect people doing all sort of jobs? Can you regard and love all with same viewpoint?

          If only the supposed scriptures also did that! They clearly don’t. Consider for example the curious case of Verse 9:32 in the Bhagavad Gita, here and here. To have people swearing by such scriptures to sanctimoniously offer a counsel of equality of status to the rest of the world, is a grating irony.

          More over there is NO reliance on myth, and myth is NOT a false.

          It can be riddled with falsehoods though, which are part hilarious and part hazardous. Further, some parts which maybe true do not automatically testify for the authenticity of the remaining parts. Here is an explanation why.

  • Very interesting essay. A good critique of Vivekananda’s essay. As you rightly pointed out, Vivekananda is believing in a Utopia. Nothing good will come out of it. Even though he himself is not a casteist, he ended up supporting a terrible social inequality.

    It looks like as far as Vivekananda is concerned, all he sees is Brahmana-hood. Nothing else in the society seems to be of value to him (no wonder, ,since he was a monk). But hello, welcome to reality. Somebody has to till the soil and somebody has to clean the gutters. May be in a distant future when all annoying and repetitive work gets automated, then can all humans live in an utopia. But looking at the current state of mankind, I don’t think we can hope for any such thing. Of course, the technology exists, but there are too many social barriers to realizing our technological and scientific potential. Such social barriers include those that Vivekananda himself inadvertently supported.

    • Now a day’s shoe making become royal business, most of the so called orthodox are licking its taste and making money out of it. Repairing and replacements are now shop level businesses of orthodoxies, the affected are very few, hope they will come up. Human or animal excreta is a excellent renewable energy source and also very good manure, I think orthodoxies already filled resource vacancy in it. If not they shortly jump into business of collecting human/animal excreta and taste the profit out of it. So the money/luxuries matters! Orthodoxies compromise any level of downgrades.

  • Satish, these are valid criticisms of Vivekananda’s writings on caste from the early and middle parts of his life.

    However, I’m not sure if you have read some of the things he wrote about caste nearer to his death. It’s evident from them that he was beginning to abandon his previous ideas on caste and to see it as an unsalvageable evil.

    “The conviction is daily gaining on my mind that the idea of caste is the greatest dividing factor and the root of Maya; all caste either on the principle of birth or of merit is bondage.”

    This is an excerpt from a letter he wrote in 1897 (he died in 1902): http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Complete_Works_of_Swami_Vivekananda/Volume_6/Epistles_-_Second_Series/CXXIV_Sir

    The Hindutva people conveniently forget or ignore these strident condemnations of caste from Vivekananda.

    • Whatever is told about Vivekananda,Gandhi,Ambedkar etc.,always sadly ends up being hyperbole i.e. exaggerating their deeds/misdeeds.
      Though Vivekananda introduced himself as a Hindu /Vedantist it is to the contrary that he was another fellow Indaian Bengali middleclass person who was not just influenced by Ramkrishna & his wife & Iswarchandra but also by Arthur Schoppenhauer,Paul Deussen etc.
      In fact his own version of Advait Vedanta comes to take less or hardly any influence from Shankara,Shriharsha(all Classical Advaitista) but takes an immense infuence from non-brahminists like Ramkrishna and Western philosophers like Kant Schoppenhaer & Hegel.So in this view he was not even a traditionalist.
      He ultimately remains another indian who was aproduct of his society & time.All his views good or bad actually reflect what many English-educated Bengalis began to view themselves in the face of aggressive Protesatnts like Alexander Duff,Krishna Mohan Banerjee & Keshub Chandra Sen(obviously,Protestants too did their own goods too).
      FOR INDIAN SECULARISM & RATIONALISM TO EXIST FIRMLY , ABSORBING ALL THE GOODS OF ALL THE SOCIOCULTURAL GROUPS OF INDIA( the many so-called hindus,muslimS ,chritians,buddhists etc.)& AT THE SAME TIME RADICALLY SECULARISING THEM REMAINS A NECESSITY.
      The Indain freedom struggle was led by men (Lal-Bal-Pal,S C Bose,Gandhi,Bagha Jatin,& even M N Roy) who claimed inspiration from Narendranath Dutta’s writtings.IN LIGHT OF THESE FACTS NOT JUST THAT WE SHOULD WELL-CRITICISE HIS SPIRITUAL WRITINGS BUT AT THE SAME TIME SECULARISE HIS PORTRAYAL & OPPOSE HIS PORTRAYAL AS A HINDU SWAMI(even if this means to fight against his own creations-Ramkrishna Mission).He must talked about another Indian middleclass person who had his own goods/bads & not just another Hindu leader as against that Sri Sri.

    • ” …. all caste either on the principle of birth or of merit is bondage…. “. ” …. The Upanishads and the Gita are the true scriptures ….” I found these contradicting material in the link. Sorry, Bagawat Gita teaches casteism (by merit and otherwise). So Bagawat Gita cannot be true scriptures. All Sanskritan literature is full of caste, race, deceit and fantasy.

      To experience a very high and practical state of mind, one has to live practical and good life, here on earth and now. You have to read “Thirukkural” and other secular literature of olden day Tamil country to find support and guidance. Vivekananda wasted his time in Tamil country. (I am ashamed of my fellow Tamils who are also wasting time in their caste conscious behaviour!).

      “Manathathu Maasaha Maandaar Neeraadi Marainthu oluhum Maanthar Palar” (With dirt in their heart, there are plenty seeking to be holy and take bath in the rivers!). Oh my God, this applies to all those who follow Brahmanism, Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. What a great pretense people are making in the name of religion!

      • Thirukuraal though progressive for its time , is not secular as it is related to Jainism . No religion is secular , not even the so-called Rationalist Buddhism.

        Caste does not need any Brahminical scripture to stay alive.Tribal pride , Reservations , Politics etc are enough to keep it alive. It exists amongst Pakistani muslims & Sri Lankan Buddhists too . Actually Caste is a characteristic of South Asia , where Brahminical scriptures have only used caste in favour of the Brahmins.

        • “Reservations” keep caste alive? Sigh. Yet another manifestation of caste privilege.

          Quoting something I came across sometime ago:

          Here is a quote from Ashwini Deshpande’s ‘Affirmative action in India’ – “As for the charge that affirmative action programmes promote casteism that they are designed to counter, this is a highly insidious and fallacious argument, also not unique to the Indian context. The utterly erroneous assumption this argument makes is that there is no casteism in the absence of affirmative action programmes. If this were true, the material reality of low castes would be the opposite of what it is at present and affirmative action would be redundant.”

          • I should have clarified better :-

            1) Reservation to lower castes ( the ones termed as SCs & STs ) is a necessity as caste is infact more concretely supported by the financial & political well-being of these communities. But should not now caste reservations for these communities be clubbed as “class criteria” to avoid its misusage by Middle-class SCs & STs.

            2) OBC reservation can be called as a political ploy , nothing more . How can you expect Jats to accept reservation for Yadavs & not for them ?? Given that the Yadavs & Jats had almost the same fate , they both were agriculturists as well as had made Kingdoms in medeival ages .If Jats rule Haryana then today Yadavs rule the politics of UP , Bihar & partly Rajasthan . Similarly , how can you expect a Rajput to accept reservation for Marathas & not for them??
            Similarly what do you have to say about Religion-based reservations for Muslims , when actually it should include Dalit Muslims & Teli Mulims only , but it is directed to include all Ashrafs(Arab-origin) & Ajlafs(upper caste Hindu-origin) as well.

            http://www.kractivist.org/the-backward-muslims/

          • **But should not now caste reservations for these communities be clubbed as “class criteria” to avoid its misusage by Middle-class SCs & STs.**

            No.

            **OBC reservation can be called as a political ploy , nothing more . How can you expect Jats to accept reservation for Yadavs & not for them ?? **

            When any criteria is used some will fall on one side and others who are very similar to them will fall on the other side. These are issues on the margins and these do not negate the need for affirmative action for bulk of OBC.

          • **Similarly what do you have to say about Religion-based reservations for Muslims , when actually it should include Dalit Muslims & Teli Mulims only , but it is directed to include all Ashrafs(Arab-origin) & Ajlafs(upper caste Hindu-origin) as well.**

            Never heard of religion based reservations. Seems to be a good idea. After all Muslims are discriminated against in India.

  • Why was the line “sisters and brothers of America” special? It was only “bhaiyon aur behnon” in English. How could that excite people enough, It didn’t sink in that their applause, and it can have been little more than that, was thereaction of a culture unaccustomed to sentiment in public speaking. Further probing revealed that the Parliament of Religions was a body of kooks, and not the equivalent of a religious United Nations that we think it was.

    In his 20s, Vivekananda learnt mysticism under Ramakrishna at Belur Math. Ma Sarada’s shrine there has a board outside. It says she encouraged her husband Ramakrishna and others to put her chappals on their head.

    In 1890, aged 27, Vivekananda travelled around India for a year. “He began to assume various names in order to conceal his identity that he might be swallowed up in the immensity of India,” according to Advaita Ashrama’sbiography. But this isn’t true. Romain Rolland wrote: “Like a diver he plunged into the Ocean of India and the Ocean of India covered his tracks. Among its flotsam and jetsam he was nothing more than one nameless sannyasin in saffron among a thousand others.” This is even less true.

    Vivekananda had no wish to be anonymous. He lived with nobility during this time, spending weeks at the palace of Maharaja Ajit Singh of Khetri, and then with Chamaraja Wodeyar, maharaja of Mysore. He was close to Bhaskara Setupati, Raja of Ramnad, who funded Vivekananda’s visit to Chicago. Common people did not interest him, and he spent his time with wealthy European socialites, urging them to give up sex.

    Vivekananda left for America in 1893, returning only in 1897. Coming from a nation that was 95% illiterate, whose people knew little about their history or culture before the British and Germans educated them, he lectured the West on the greatness of India. Should he not have addressed Indians instead? He left again for America and Europe in 1899, returning at the end of 1900, a few months before he died in 1902.

    One aspect of Vivekananda that shines through in his books is his vanity. He loved having himself photographed, preferably posing in studios. “Vivekananda as a wandering monk” reads a caption of him with a stage backdrop painted behind him. This is in Vivekananda: A Biography in Pictures. There are endless pictures of him playing holy man in full costume (like Sri Sri Ravi Shankar) around the world, always posing: pensive, meditating, with his hand stuck in his robe, like Napoleon, and that famous cross-armed posture.

    He complains (Letters of Swami Vivekananda) on returning from America, that Indians force him to wear a loincloth and that has given him diabetes. He does strange things, like memorizing Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers. Why? We do not know and it would be interesting to find out. But we are happy to worship his photographs instead.

    • I read this post a while ago. I liked it but did not comment on it before. We need more of this irreverent take down of these silly Indian gurus. Good one!

  • @indian
    I love this website because this is a forum for minority of intelligent people who actually think and take a stand based on what is right and not what is convenient.who don’t take sides and speak the truth however bitter it is for them or for people.India and world needs more of such people.
    However I feel(probably because I have a deep respect for Vivekanda)you on the other hand is a disgrace to such a society of open-minded people.I don’t know you but based on your comment I assume you are either a idiot under-achiever who did not do anything worthwhile in life and find pleasure in downplaying the achievements of great people or probably you are a Christian or a Muslim apologist.I am not criticizing Christian or Muslim apologists altogether but if you are one you are a horrible one.
    First of all,To everyone who is reading these comments ,this guy has not mentioned a single source or evidence to support his story…probably he got this from a writer or speaker with vested interests who knows(rightly so)that there are always intellectually inferior conspiracy nuts who are suckers for such things…just like Zeitgeist movement or alleged speech of Maculay in British parliament,Atlantis etc.
    Now coming to your story,
    Vivekananda did not give his speech in a jungle.Clearly it is well-accounted not just in books and accounts of historians or authors but also in popular newspapers of those times.I dont know why “brothers and sisters…” excited the crowd so much..but the history is that it clearly did.what can you do about it.
    “Further probing revealed that”
    By who?when?what was that probing?
    “Parliament of religions was a body of Kooks”
    After his speech in Parliament of religions his popularity soared not just in America but also in Europe.He met lot of distinguished people in America and Europe,not to mention big number of ordinary followers…He got lot of coverage in newspaper and even otherwise…A streer in America has been named after Vivekananda which is a living testinomy of his popularity and greatness…Now someone please tell me how come a speech in a function organised by the body of kooks bring so much popularity to a dark-skinned monk coming from a ultra poor country of superstitious, beggers,slavery and snake-charmers.
    He is also implying Vivekananda spent all his time with rich and noble living a life of luxury ignoring the common people.Even a glimpse into his life will tell you that this cant be any more further from truth.He repeatedly and on various occasion stressed the importance of service of poor ( mind you India was very poor and people were dying) more then other spirtual practices like meditation and yoga and useless religious discussions.When he returned to India Raja of Tranvancore personally pulled the chariot in which he was seated…too much respect for someone who just spends time in luxury.His heart went out for Indians and he was ambitious to rid India of it’s social garbages and poverty.And the allegation that he asked rich Europeans to give up sex is just ridiculous.
    Vivekananda’s feet in speed-reading and memory retention is legendary.He is supposed to have memorized the entire Brittanica encyclopedia in a matter of few days enabled by the great feats of concentration acquired by his regular engaging in meditation.It’s probably true probably not but whom did he hurt by memorizing Dickens.when did that become benchmark for evaluation whether a person is a true saint or not.
    He also has taken other cheap shots at the great saint with his baseless allegations only giving the alert reader a glimpse into his sick and perverted mind filled with so much inferiority and jealousy.
    I would like to request this person or anyone reading this to be responsible in what you comment and maintain the decorum of the website.Have your focus on upliftment of humanity in anyway possible,small or big.Life is too short and precious to waste it on puposeless mud-slinging.
    Have an open mind and when you listen to conspiracy theories,maintain the same skepticism as you do when a RSS chief speaks or Christian healer’s miraculous healing.

    • Dear Actual Indian,

      I think you truly represent the mentality of India where people are blindly following and dont want to hear anything negative about their Heros. If we look back to our history post Buddhist period people have become such fools that they follow everything the saint says from sati, devdasi prostitution, castism without asking any questions as the saint words are to be followed not challenged…..

      Vivekananda may have said some good things to hear, but remember saying good things has done no good but implementing those good things in society is what makes good. I would bet you that Mamta Banerjee would get more applause when she says “My brothers and Sister’s” than Vivekananda got in USA. That does not make her better.
      Most of Vivekananda’s teachings were good, it was in fact so good that it was fit to be utopia rather than reality. He had no idea about the history and social conditions of people when he says that lower caste didn’t use opportunities, neither he sees the reality that it was the opportunity of living like humans which was denied by the religion he preaches. Ramakrishna was an enlightened man not Vivekananda. If you consider him great then he was but someone who feels that doing great work is more important than just speaking about utopia, Vivekanand wouldnt qualify for it.

      • @Nameless
        It is true that there is infact too much hype about Vvekananda these days , mostly his appropriation by Hindutvavadis , Communists & caste Hindus(mostly middle-class ones)…Truly speaking his political activism lasted only 8 years but in these 8 yrs his own views on many subjects changed dramatically from that of traditionalist to that of a more modern or say less traditionalist. see the following:
        http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Complete_Works_of_Swami_Vivekananda/Volume_6/Epistles_-_Second_Series/CXXIV_Sir

        His writtings influenced the Indian freedom struggle at least it taught to both take pride in Indianness( as understood then as Hindu-Buddhist-Jain-Sikh culture) as well as social reforms….The former was always missing in early reformers…..M.N. Roy ,Meghnad Saha,Gandhi,Tilak,Bipan Chandra Pal,& especially Bose ,all were influeced by him at some point of their life…..
        Moreover those ignorant fools who say that he influences all hindus especially traditionalists, they should perhaps actually study the hindus….Only the middle-class hindus (the lot from which the above-mentioned men came) are influenced by him & not in the religious sense but culturally…..By the way “Vivekananda , not belonging to any sampraday, does not represent any strand of Hinduism”.

    • Please read, if you would, the following:

      Narasingha P. Sil, Swami Vivekananda: A Reassessment (Selinsgrove: Susquehanna University Presws, 1997)

      Rajagopal Chattopadhyaya, Swami Vivekananda: A Corrective Biography (New Delh: Manohar, 1999)

      Rajagopal Chattopadhyaya, Nythmukta Bibekananda [Vivekananda without Myths]. In Bengali.(Kolkata: Author, 1998).

  • @Nameless
    When I say I have a deep respect for Vivekananda.I dont mean to say he is my idealized hero.Nobody is beyond questioning and enquiry. Growing beyond the paradigm of immediate society is not easy.great leaders only transend this threshold in degrees.Enen Gandhi was influenced by the society when it comes to treating his wife.My criticism were to a comment by particular user called Indian and not to the author of the article.
    regards

  • Indina has simply blabbered. It has become fashionable these to criticise famous personalities.

    Crazy things like he loved to pose for photos etc., needs to be treated with contempt.

    Swami Vivekananda spoke his mind fearlessly & influenced & continues to influence an entire generation.

    His views on caste system is very true.

  • Vivekananda’s aim, it seems to me, was to inspire people. He made people strong. He could inspire even a rock. He was giving speeches, not writing philosophical treatises. A speech is made up of heart and brain. Philosophy does not value the heart part. There are many loopholes in Vivekananda’s arguments. Common men cannot be inspired by mere arguments. The audience wanted resonance, not proof.

    • **Vivekananda’s aim, it seems to me, was to inspire people. He made people strong. He could inspire even a rock. He was giving speeches, not writing philosophical treatises. A speech is made up of heart and brain.

      Reading the article it seems to me that Vivekananda was defending the brutal caste system. Did you miss that point completely? Or do you mean that this inspires you?

      • This does not inspire me. My writing is not accurate enough to express my thoughts and so you misunderstood my thoughts (though you read and understood my loosely bound words perfectly).

        But that exactly is why I am here, to think more clearly 🙂

    • @Something,
      You’re right that Swami Vivekanand ji was a but a product of his times, thus had to explain himself in a manner that the people of that time understood. I admire his praise of personal effort and individuality greatly, as opposed to the passive, status-qouist nature of then Hindu samaj.

      However, I respectfully submit that he definitely *was* casteist. He saw enough to realise that caste heredity was the source of the downfall of the Indian people, but he could not bring himself to attack its roots, for those roots are the roots of Hindu Dharma (of that time) itself. Maybe in some hypothetical times this was not the case, but in Vivekanandji’s times, caste was definitely a monster.

      Uncritical adulation of Swamiji, thus, is unwise. I dare say that if he were alive today he would himself strongly repudiate these views of his, but that is only my opinion. Facts are facts, and they stand against him. He was a firm believer in Karma, but unfortunately used it to justify caste—a fallacy many *still* commit.

      • Yes, you are right, Vivekananda’s stand is certainly wrong.

        But did it have only negative influence on the people as the article indicates? I don’t think so. I felt like he gave a provocative push to the lower caste people. He kind of challenges them to improve. I guess it was just my perception! The article never alluded to the effect of his words, and I made a mistake by thinking about the effect he had on the people.

        Anyway, this site deals with facts. Facts are facts, as you say, and thanks to you, I understand better now.

        • **But did it have only negative influence on the people as the article indicates? I don’t think so. I felt like he gave a provocative push to the lower caste people.**

          Are you saying that Vivekanamda’s defense of caste system had the positive effect of inspiring lower caste people?

          • I should explain myself it seems.

            Vivekananda did not always give the most definitive answers or the most self contained answers. His focus was on changing lives than on the correctness of his statements. Without understanding that point, tearing apart his words seems nothing more than a time pass.

            Sometimes his statements edged provocative statements to challenge the fundamental beliefs of the other person.

            “””
            When I was in Boston, a young man came up to me, and gave me a scrap of paper of which he had written a name and address, followed by these words: “All the wealth and all the happiness of the world are yours, if you only know how to get them. If you come to me, I will teach you how to get them. Charge, $5.” He gave me this and said, “What do you think of this?” I said, “Young man, why don’t you get the money to print this? You have not even enough money to get this printed!” He did not understand this. He was infatuated with the idea that he could get immense wealth and happiness without any trouble. There are two extremes into which men are running; one is extreme optimism, when everything is rosy and nice and good; the other, extreme pessimism, when everything seems to be against them. The majority of men have more or less undeveloped brains. One in a million we see with a well-developed brain; the rest either have peculiar idiosyncrasies, or are monomaniacs.
            “””

            See how Vivekananda replied the young man? He did not say, “Your claim is a fraud because if you really knew how to amass large amounts of wealth, you would have not come to me” or “I am a monk. I am not interested in money”. He said the thing he said to expose the helplessness of the other person (not in a mean way). He also implicitly suggests or inspires the other person to change. (Yes, it depends on the person who heard it, yes, yes).

            The two quotes in this article come from where, I don’t know. I don’t know the context. Without context I can’t truly believe that Vivekananda was trying to “defend the caste system”. Who said he was defending the caste system? My guess is that this was just a side topic of his main speech. I think by taking these two quotes and tearing them apart without context distorts in someway the original expression.

            If poor, low caste people made most of his audience, people who first all have to fill their bellies in the evening, all Vivekananda can do for them is suggest them to improve themselves. And the way he chose to tell them is provocative as in the example incident above. He wasn’t aiming at rigorousness of his arguments; if he was, he wouldn’t have been as popular as he was.

            “There existed a system which denied every opportunity to those people and yet Vivekananda is blaming them for not getting opportunities.”

            From mere words, we sense Vivekananda is blaming. But similarly, this also is blaming then:
            “Young man, why don’t you get the money to print this? You have not even enough money to get this printed!”

            But we don’t know in what manner he was telling these words.

            Vivekananda’s and this site’s aims are in conflict. Vivekananda was helping men with “undeveloped brains” (in his own words) and this site is pursuing the truth (whatever it means).

          • Something,

            I seriously hope that the Boston story in your post is not an actual quote from Vivekananda.

    • Captain Mandrake said:
      “I seriously hope that the Boston story in your post is not an actual quote from Vivekananda.”

      I don’t understand the reason for your hope. It is a quote from “Steps to realisation”, a class-lecture of Swami in America.

      I read it here: http://www.ramakrishnavivekananda.info/vivekananda/volume_1/lectures_and_discourses/steps_to_realisation.htm

      If the source is invalid in some way, please let me know. If you think the Swami’s answer was ridiculous, please help me understand better.

      • **There are two extremes into which men are running; one is extreme optimism, when everything is rosy and nice and good; the other, extreme pessimism, when everything seems to be against them. The majority of men have more or less undeveloped brains. One in a million we see with a well-developed brain; the rest either have peculiar idiosyncrasies, or are monomaniacs.**

        So the message is that one in a million have fully developed brains and the rest have undeveloped brains. And you are telling me this inane comment inspires you?

        • Though I never claimed that the above comment inspires me, I accept the question. The way you ask that question is such that I can’t say yes. The culprit is the word “inane”. Because if I say yes, then I would implicitly agree that I’m the one to believe in inane comments. These adjectives!

          Let me ask you a question. Do you perceive all sentences literally? I understand that it is fun to imagine yourself examining “propositions” with all seriousness to reach rational conclusions. But, come on, this was in a speech for the common man! Its aim itself is different from that of a philosophical exposition.

          Do you really think Vivekananda was as bad as our author pictures him to be?

          “So the point is that even well-meaning individuals end up supporting a brutal system because they don’t rely on real world evidence and instead rely on myths.”

          I really hate the adjective “brutal” here. Vivekananda never supported a “brutal” caste system.

          Maybe the wrong thing inspires me. And I agree I have to work on myself to get rid of that. Thanks for your discussion, surely it helped me, even if a little, towards light 🙂

          • There is no such thing as a “non-brutal” caste system. Swamiji was an apologist for the caste system, and that system was brutal. Was he a bad man? No! Was he a fool? Not at ALL! That is the main problem. When a good man of such exceptional intelligence as Swamiji dared not attack the caste-problem directly, he sent the wrong message to those less capable than him. He falls into the trap of assuming that the casteless are in misery by *choice* or laziness, rather than by external force.

            As I said earlier, it is fine to admire Swamiji’s views on individual effort and the value of hard work, but uncritical adulation is unwise. He was not alone in justifying caste (even today people use the same arguments), but he was wrong on this.

            Re: Undeveloped brains. Most intellectuals even today consider the majority of Indians to be insufferable fools. This insult to the collective Indian intelligence is a mix of arrogance and hubris, and is the cause of much Government stupidity in India. Such a comment is as unacceptable from Swamiji as from Shri Katju. The lack of critical thinking is solely due to the poor quality of education in India, not any lack of capability. In a sense, education should “develop” the brain, which otherwise remains “undeveloped”, but Swamiji was not referring to this interpretation.

        • Something,

          You were the one who brought up the Boston story and Vivekananda’s lecture on developed and undeveloped brain as some sort example of how provocatively inspiring he was. I find nothing inspiring in either the story or his lecture. But since you brought it up I ask you what is so inspiring in the story and the lecture.

          Yes, I do think Vivekananda’s views on caste system are quite troublesome irrespective of the context in which these words in the quotes were uttered.

  • “The Untouchables (Dalits) of India want economic, social, political, religious and educational equality in Society, not in the eyes of God.”
    (Harbans Lal Badhan)

  • Sir I agree with most of your article regarding it being unjustifiable to defend a caste system…it is wrong to deny ppl opportunities solely on the basis their birth…but swami Vivekananda’s philosophy is not a utopia…on the contrary wat he is says is the only practical way in which the world could work…u say that some jobs are undesirable and nobody wants to do them…but then they need to be done…i agree if i were forced to clean the gutters i would feel discriminated against but wat is the solution sir…the swamis philosophy of caste based on merit may be idealistic but instead of throwing it out of the window we need to understand that the alternative is impractical…would like to hear wat could be the possible alternative to the caste system that would not be utopic in ur opinion…

    • but wat is the solution sir

      Let the free market take care of it. If no one wants to do a job, just increase the pay scale until someone who needs that money takes it. Just pay more for both unwanted jobs, just as we do for difficult, high-risk and skilled jobs, rather than force via an ossified culture and eliminate free choice.

  • As pointed out in the comments section by Ingersoll, Swami Vivekananda changed his views about caste in the later stages of his Life.

    http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Complete_Works_of_Swami_Vivekananda/Volume_6/Epistles_-_Second_Series/CXXIV_Sir

    Hence, can I request this article be modified to include the above information?

    While I agree with the criticism in this article, it is necessary to inform readers that Swami Vivekananda condemned the caste system at a later stage. Some readers avoid the comments section and this important piece of information might be missed.

  • So what do you think is the solution? And don’t say that directly attacking the caste system “verbally” or any other intellectual medium like raising people’s consciousness about it is going to change it….. Because these are things people don’t think of, but do out of Reflex….You do have an alternative, right? I mean to say since you are lighting the fire, you should have the means to dowse it too…

  • Swamiji’s personality is like a vast ocean, unfathomable and illimitable. If we take his words only in parts, we are bound to miss the true purport. So it is advisable and desirable for us to go through his works comprehensively, coupled with deep thinking.

    Now coming to caste system. Modern caste system which we see around us is the degenerated one. The caste system originated in our society depending upon the type of work and the nature of persons. This has reflected as class system in many other societies. However the caste system in the course of time became hereditary irrespective of one’s nature and the type of work a person undertakes.

    Swamiji was completely against this degeneration form of caste oppression and untouchability. To this he says-
    “Modern caste distinction is a barrier to India’s progress. It narrows, restricts, separates. It will crumble before the advance of ideas.”
    (Source- Complete Works Vol.5, India and England)

    Ignorant peoples says “Vivekananda supported Brahminism”. While Swamiji himself says in a letter addressed to Paramadasa mitra- “As for myself, I have no partiality for any party in this caste question, because I know it is a social law and is based on diversity of Guna and Karma.”

    Source-“http://belurmath.org/complete_works_of_swami_vivekananda/volume_6/epistles_second_series/009_sir.htm”

    Many people are mis-understanding the very word “Brahmin”. The Brahmana caste and Brahmanya qualities are two distinct things. By Brahminism, swamiji meant “IDEAL BRAHMINHOOD”. Swamiji says-“Our ideal is the Brahmana of spiritual culture and renunciation. By the Brahmana ideal what do I mean ? I mean the ideal brahmananess in which worldliness is altogether absent and true wisdom is abundantly present. That is the ideal of the Hindu race”…….Ideal brahminism about which Buddha describes in “Dhammapada-Brahmana Vaggo”. You may refer- http://www.buddhanet.net/dhammapada/d_brahmi.htm

    And in this modern age, Swami Vivekananda, who has severely criticized all casteism and untouchability, has upheld the brahmanatva ideal of human evolution. He says in his lecture on “The Future of India”-

    “The Brahminhood is the ideal of humanity in India, as wonderfully put forward by Shankaracharya at the beginning of his commentary on the Gitâ, where he speaks about the reason for Krishna’s coming as a preacher for the preservation of Brahminhood, of Brahminness. That was the great end. This Brahmin, the man of God, he who has known Brahman, the ideal man, the perfect man, must remain; he must not go.”

    And referring to the evils of casteism, especially to the claim of special privileges of the higher castes, he says-

    “The day for these privileges and exclusive claims is gone. The duty of every aristocracy is to dig its own grave, and the sooner it does so, the better. The more it delays, the more it will fester and the worse death it will die. ”

    According to Swamiji, everyone of us must make progress without stopping, and that from the highest man to the lowest Pariah, every one in this country has to try and become the ideal Brahmin. This Vedantic idea is applicable not only here but over the whole world. Such is our ideal of caste as meant for raising all humanity slowly and gently towards the realisation of that great ideal of the spiritual man who is non-resisting, calm, steady, worshipful, pure, and meditative. In that ideal there is God.

    Swamiji says- “If the Brahmin has more aptitude for learning on the ground of heredity than the Pariah, spend no more money on the Brahmin’s education, but spend all on the Pariah. Give to the weak, for there all the gift is needed.”
    (Source- http://belurmath.org/complete_works_of_swami_vivekananda/volume_3/lectures_from_colombo_to_almora/the_mission_of_the_vedanta.htm

    Here also he refers to the selfish brahmins. For, true Brahmins, i.e., Brahmins in spirit belong to a different category.
    They are enlightened souls.

    Atri-Smriti says :
    Janmanaa jaayate shudrah samskaaraat dwija uchyate |
    Vedapaathi bhaved vipro brahma jaanaati braahmanah ||

    It means “By birth a man is born a Shudra, an ignorant man; through purificatory rites he becomes a dwija, the twice-born; through study and knowledge of the scriptures he becomes a vipra, a scholar or a poet; through the realization of the Supreme Spirit he becomes a Brahmana, a knower of Brahman”.

    So we see that swamiji speaks about ideal Brahmin hood, to which everyone of us must attain oneday…….which the Mahâbhârata says that the whole world was in the beginning peopled with Brahmins, and that as they began to degenerate, they became divided into different castes, and that when the cycle turns round, they will all go back to that Brahminical origin.
    Moreover you may visit-“ http://muktipada.blogspot.in/…/swami-vivekananda-on…”

    Accusers of swami Vivekananda miss a in-depth knowledge about his gigantic personality and abuse him hereby incurring sins of abusing great souls.

  • I came accross this article while doing some quick research in the context of the ongoing emotionally charged debate. I find the article quite balanced and analytical. Having said that I can not agree more with Mr.Durga Prsad that Vivekananda’s thoughts are like an ocean, and there is always a risk to analyze his views based on isolated quotes. As several respondets have pointed out, Vivekanada’s views on caste syatem were undegoing a change towards the later part of his life. And we must not foget that he died at a very young age of 39. Had he lived longer, perhaps we might have seen a completely different Vivekananda.

  • The article was good and logical. But, since I have read both Vivekananda’s message and his life, not convinced with the conclusions reached by the author. In understanding Vivekananda, one must use both head and heart because he was led by both.

    Vivekananda had real world evidence. He was not living in a mythological world. He did not study India and its problem in school textbooks or from the medias. He travelled throughout India for more than 4 years and mingled with all strata of the society. He lived in the poor men’s huts as well as palaces of kings. He had suffered enough in his life to know the cruelty of the society. What he offered as the solution, is not impracticable. Those who want to raise themselves with sheer will force, have proved it that they can do it. Their number may be negligible, but it is possible.

    On the other hand, consider the countries which have ‘equal opportunity’ for everyone. According to a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Education and the National Institute of Literacy, 32 million adults in the U.S. can’t read. That’s 14 percent of the population. 21 percent of adults in the U.S. read below a 5th grade level, and 19 percent of high school graduates can’t read. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/06/illiteracy-rate_n_3880355.html)

    Another point the author has overlooked. In that particular speech, Swamiji was not thinking about those non-brahmanas who were even denied drinking water or education. He said ‘Instead of wasting your energies in vain discussions and quarrels in the newspapers’. Now, I can’t imagine how those who were denied even drinking water or basic education can spend their time in ‘vain discussions and quarrels in the newspapers’.

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