CASTE SYSTEM IN BUDDHIST TEXTS WITH SPECIAL REFERENCE TO VAJRASUCHI The Indian society from the past has

been static and dominated by the idea of caste. The traditional fourfold order of priests, soldiers and administrators, merchants and agriculturists and menial workers was considered not only to be absolute, fundamental and necessary to society but was also given a divine sanction by being considered a creation of God (Brahma). God created the fourfold caste order with their specific aptitudes and functions , with the result that people born into the different castes have certain special biologically inherited aptitudes which eminently fit them to perform the caste functions which it is their duty to perform. !gainst this was the dynamic evolutionary conception of society as pictured in early Buddhism. The fourfold order is here not considered absolute since, as the Buddha says, in certain societies there are only two classes (Wo

va vaNNaM) " the masters and the slaves, and that not too rigid

a division since #the masters sometimes become slaves and the slaves masters.$ %or is caste divine in origin. The belief that caste was a creation of God and that the Brahmins were the chosen legitimate children of God, &born of the mouth of Brahma,' a conception which is as old as the (igveda, is denied in the Buddhist te)ts where it is said that the birth of Brahmins, as is well known, is in no way different from that of other human beings, and the Brahmins are referred to ironically as &the kinsmen of God' (brahmabandhu)*.

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+a,him %ikaya II *-.

!charya 8handrakirti. insects.T5.rasuchi.9. !ryadeva.him %ikaya -< 1ivyavadana. Buddhism conceived of caste divisions as being occupational divisions which arose owing to historical circumstances and considered the perpetuation of caste pre. 8iting various e)amples of the birds. 8I. but can human being be distinguished: .In place of this conception of a divinely ordained fourfold order.e. pg. !charya Bhavaviveka. Bibliothecia Indo"Tibetica 5eries. 4 .@< 6 - . animals. *. 5ardulakarnavadana of 1ivyavadana 6. The Buddha reali/ed the seriousness of the problem of such social ine0uality.>. is a soldier.3aidya. the 3asettha sutta. +a. whoever is good in archery. +ithila Institute. pg. edited by =. 3a.6*-.una. !svalayana sutta4 .udice and discrimination as being due largely to the sanctions given it by the early Brahmin priesthood.e further tells 3asettha that whoever ploughs the land is a farmer. we see how the Brahmins were claiming superiority for themselves and the Buddha logically defying their belief. The Buddha#s teachings continued to be e)pounded by his followers i. In 3asettha sutta. etc. !charya !shvaghosa and others who raised the issue to the level of academic honesty and reasoning. fishes. %agar. the Buddha says that all these can be distinguished through their physical characteristics. 4??@. The Buddha profusely taught on this issue and said that it was a myth created by ignorance and guided by the principle of egoism by a handful of people.9ogical reasoning was one of the master strokes of the Buddha. This can be substantiated in the Brahmana vagga of 1hammapada which says that 2 na jaaitn na gaaotona na jaccaa haoit ba`amhNaao…… 7ddana varga.

Thus he says that I do not call one a Brahmin on account of his birth or origin from a particular mother >. vol. page ***"**!mbattha sutta.obs in his household B Based on such dynamic background. 3a.1 and beyond. 5BE. If one were to follow your ancient name and lineage. +an is biologically one species and hence there can be no differentiation between color. Thus we can see that the Buddha opposed the caste system as derogatory mark on human beings. shape or si/e since these are minor differences. @ B . 5utta %ipataC trans. one of your ancestors was the offspring of one of the slave girls of the 5akyas.whoever does whatever deeds should be known by it. F. *<. The Buddha points out to his ancestry saying. Thus we can see that the Buddha has out rightly re. Buddhism continued to prosper for generations and the ideology was carried forward even up to the *st cent !. .rasuchi of !charya !shvaghosa is a uni0ue thought on social philosophy of ancient India and is of great significance for the study of > 3asettha 5utta. who studied in %alanda 7niversity.him %ikaya. ! sudra who could command enough wealth could easily have a Brahmin or Ashatriya servant to attend him or do menial .ected Brahmanism on account of caste or birth. the Brahmin who was proud of his caste. Acharya Ashvagh sa!s Va"ras#ch$% !charya !shvaghosa belonged to the *st cent !. did not show normal courtesies to the Buddha. !mbattha. 1igha %ikaya 6 +a. we can clearly see the myth of the purity of caste of which the Brahmins are so conscious. In the !mbattha sutta@.ence he says.1. Dausboll.

color has taken an ugly form in today#s society.rasuchi is that it is not confined to ancient history aloneC it has more relevance in today#s social structure. Brahmins were considered ne)t to the Gods. or one#s knowledge or due to his profession or mastery over 3edas. The scholarship and intelligence of !shvaghosa can be proved by the fact that in the entire 3a.sociology and both " the historians and the sociologists who have failed to give it the due respect that this te)t deserves. The discrimination on grounds of birth.rasuchi starts asking by what is a brahmana: whether it is a soul.rasuchi deliberately starts the te)t by 0uestioning the presence of Brahmin.ence !charya !shvaghosa in the 3a. !charya !shvaghosa goes on .rasuchi te)ts. not once did he refer the Buddha or any of his predecessorsC however he did talk from the Buddhist view point on caste and human e0uality. . In fact they declared themselves as Gods of the 9and (bhudeva). Based on the reasoning done by the e)isting te)ts which were revered by the Brahmins. The beauty of 3a. 3a. or due to one#s actions.ustice from humanitarian grounds. body or whether one should be called a brahmana after being born to a brahmin woman. the 3a. It is in this conte)t that 3a.rasuchi merely does not talk of social . They had an ego of supremacy and their very presence made the caste system very prominent. Va"ras#ch$ Th&'&% In the caste based Indian society.rasuchi acts as an eye"opener to the illogical reasoning of supremacy of the Brahmins. social status. but reasons out sharply and demolishes the opponent#s grounds by taking help from their very own te)ts. !charya !shvaghosa#s 3a.rasuchi is a remarkable te)t in a sense !shvaghosa used the authentic Brahmanical te)ts to show the sheer contradictoriness in claiming their supremacy as Brahmins.

chakravaka. manners. !gastya. The +anusmriti says that one who is born of a non Brahmin mother and a brahmana father is a brahmana. !charya !shvaghosa beautifully enlists the birth of various rishis who were revered by all. (isisringa. 3ishwamitra. the swan all were reborn as Brahmins in Aurukshetra. knowledge. the deer. The sage !chala. animals or grass. Indra were animals in earlier life who became godsC also the seven hunters in 1asarna. soul. (ama. Gautama.the challenge each definition with conte)t to all the te)ts and e)plains why one particular thing i. claiming to go by the te)ts namely the 3edas. +anavdharma. In 3a. profession cannot make one a brahmin.e uses the same logic of the revered te)ts to pinpoint the failure of right definition of a brahmana. Thus !shvaghosa cleverly confirms that birth cannot be a brahmana.e then goes on to e)plain that the soul cannot be a brahman because as per the 3edas and +ahabharata.e birth. Ausika. 1ronacharya. knowledge. Aesapingala.e then goes on to e)plain the real definition of a brahmana and concludes by invoking the readers to be honest and accept his e)planation only if it is reasonable. Tittiri. who is a brahmana: is it a soul. +ahabharata. action or 3edas: . moon. 3yasa. the sun. he asks " 5ince Brahmana is the principle of all castes. !shvaghosa cites various e)amples of the past where a brahmana had relations with a non"brahmana woman and if . This transformation from animal to gods and animals to Brahmins confirm that soul cannot be a brahmin.unatha. Then. etc.rasuchi. . The Brahmins had always held the notion that they were Brahmins due to birth. 3asistha were not born to a brahmin womanC in fact they were all born from low caste women or from birds. Aapila. 5mrutis. a body. Aausika. 5hrutis. body. . !charya !shvaghosa starts the te)t by paying homage to +an.

then there were also few low caste 5hudras who were well versed in the te)ts and they could be Brahmins by definition.their child is also a brahmana. . 9ikewise !shvaghosa further 0uestions if knowledgeable means brahmana. because if it was so. then he counters saying that the present brahmana#s status itself is a 0uestion.