By Periyava

Translation from Tamil: V. Krishnaraj



வர்ண தர்மம் : தெய்வத்தின் குரல் (முதல் பகுதி)

Varna Dharma: Deivathin Kural part 1

In olden days, the fuel for the hearth was hay, cow dung patties…In the rainy season, it was difficult to light the hearth. When four sparks rise, the housewife uses a fan to coax the sparks to become a flame. To prevent the dying of the flame of Sanatana Dharma, my great desire is to make the few sparks of it in a few of our elders into a spreading flame by blowing on the sparks. That is why I tell all these things.

Our Sanātana Dharma has Varna Dharma as its unique feature, no other religions have. The social reformists declare it should be discarded and we should make our religion like others.

The Healers of the Soul. Sanatana Dharmam is the Panacea.

What is religion? Religion advises on the eradication of disease afflicting Ātmā. Only the physician can diagnose and treat an illness. Our Ṛṣis with world welfare on their minds and Dharma Sastra Meisters without self-aggrandizement, living a life of great self-dedication, and thinking only about world welfare, gave us the medicine called Sanatana Dharmam (as a panacea). In other countries, different physicians (healers of the soul) gave different religions as the medicine. When you tell your doctor what treatment the other doctor gave, would he listen to you? Medicine is an art and differs from doctor to doctor. The treatment modalities are varied: Fasting, bitter medicine, sweet medicine…Instead making all the treatment modalities into a single uniform and unified treatment protocol, let the patient continue his treatment protocol prescribed by his doctor. Cure is achieved by any other method. 

Other religions have listed essential general Dharmas for the fauna. Our Vaidika religion has declared the application of general virtues (Sāmāṉya Dharma) to all people: Ahimsa, purity, control of the senses, prevention of hoarding beyond one’s needs, devotion to God, loyalty to parents, and equal love for all living beings. Besides, in the name of ‘Varṇam,’ the society is divided based on Varna Dharma, each Dharma following its traditional hereditary vocation with application of Visēṣa Dharma (special requirements applicable to each Dharma, variable from one to another) on each one of them. (The Varnas are bound by General and Varna-specific requirements.)

Were the varna-specific requirements (Varna Dharma) part of the general requirements (Sāmāṉya Dharma = uniform code of general ethics), no one would have observed them. Let me present to you an illustration.  In Buddhism abstaining from meat was declared as part of the General Requirements. What do we see in Buddhism. All are meat-eaters. Our Ṛṣis and Dharma Śāstirars know human nature well. Therefore, they advocated in Visēṣa Dharma abstaining from eating meat for some only.  Emulating others and observing this, others (the meat eaters) forego eating meat on special occasions: Vows, ceremonial fasting, honoring deceased ancestors…

All those old native religions in each country with the advocacy of general requirements or uniform code of ethics for all, tumbled face down.  Greece’s Hellenic religion and Middle Asia Hebrew religions are nowhere to be seen. In the east, Confucius religion and Shinto religion barely exist. Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism replacing these religions have only one Dharma, but the Varna-specific Visēṣa Dharma application of codes of conduct (for each Varna) do not exist. But, these religions in disparate countries give fulfillment to the local people. The non-believers in these countries are growing in strength. They are not atheists but many have received no fulfillment in their religion. They gravitate towards our Yogam, Bakthi Mārga (devotional path), Jñāṉa Visāram (inquiry into truth) … In these countries, no one knows how long the followers of historical religions will last. I am not saying this because I am the Hinduism’s representative. I see no need to talk low of other religions.  I hope and desire that others should stay in their own natal religion and attain soul development. I invite no one to come to my religion. My opinion is such calls are against the basic tenets of our religion. Nothing in this world happens accidentally or for no reason.

Depending on the variable nature of maturity of Jīvars, Bhagavan makes them take birth in various religions. It is my belief that everyone can obtain Ātma Kṣēmam (Supreme Bliss of the soul) by following the precepts of one’s own natal religion. Since I mentioned features in Hinduism not found in other religions, it is not meant to condemn other religions. It is not for inviting them to Hinduism. The followers of other religions do not understand the special features of Hinduism but indulge in condemning our religion. When I see Hindus accept such criticism of our religion, I make a mention of the goodness in and clarify the special features of Hinduism. Because the foreigners accept the Karma and the Incarnation theories, no harm will come to their religions’ basic precepts. What is the highest and loftiest principle in all religions? It is belief in and devotion to God. Our theories will do no harm to that belief and devotion. Devotion is the most important feature of other religions.

Why am I saying all these? It is not my stand that the religions of the world countries struggle to survive. There is no satisfaction or happiness in it.  I mentioned the opinions of Toynbee, Paul Brunton, and Kostler.  All over the world, non-believers and atheists are increasing daily. Toynbee et al say all religions face struggle for survival. I just repeat what they said.

In our country too, there is an increase in the struggle for Hinduism to survive. There is a consensus among the researchers who say that in India, there is still more religious affinity than in other countries. The Sadhakars from those countries still come in large numbers to India seeking solace.

Reflecting on the religious front, there is a decline in Varna Dharma in the society. There is an increasing feeling that all Varnas should be consolidated into one.  This will result in decrease in religious affiliation with the rise of atheism beyond any doubt.

Here is a paradoxical situation.  If a religion divides people (into Varnas), we think there will be no mutual support and unity (among people of different Varnas). It appears the internal rivalry within the religion will facilitate its downfall from the rot inside. Alexander and other invaders from foreign religions invaded our country and came in waves. Our religion should have been dead, buried and long gone out of existence under those circumstances. The reality is the opposite of what was expected. The great religions of the world which advocated and practiced uniform observances for all their followers were washed away in the great inundation of time. The surviving religions’ intellectuals say that their religions are in grave danger. Our religion which advocates and practices division and separation by Varnas holds its breath and lives, defying the prognostication of imminent death. We should analyze this survival against all odds with clarity of mind and emotional stability.

We have been practicing Varna Dharma for millennia. What is the secret for its long life, beauty, (youth) and charm? The Brahmins were not in the majority but were the purveyors and protectors of Sastras as a sworn duty. They did not have the power of the weapons. They did not even have the agricultural prosperity. A Brahmin accumulating wealth is a recent phenomenon. According to Sastras, a Brahmana must remain poor.  The Brahmins who had no wealth, no power, no weapons, no majority…imposed the Varna Dharma. Why did the public accept and follow the minority-imposed Sāstraic divisions? Did all the rest remain the dupes over millennia? Assuming they were dupes, a Buddha, a Jīṉar and men of that caliber could have come and declared, ‘there is no need for Yāgam, Vedam… We will keep the Sāmāṉya Dharmas. No need for Sanskrit. We will support and nurture our languages like the Prakṛtic (Bāli)… Though the people were enticed to join the new religions, their splendor faded gradually and disappeared due to erosion. Look at the old Vaidika religion which rears its head and declares, “Look at me, I am not dead yet.”

Periyavar sang: It is a great wonder that life exists in a body with nine holes. Life exiting the body is no wonder.  Divided by Sastraic injunctions and invaded with no respite from outside, it is not a wonder if Hinduism died. It is a wonder it did not succumb to death.

If it is analyzed impartially, what is apparent? Does it not mean something is present in Hinduism, missing in other religions, considering the disappearance of other religions in India and foreign countries and the continuation of our religion over millennia? Looking at the essential element in our religion, it is the existence of Varna Dharma as the unique feature. Though the neophytes declare that the cause for deterioration of the society is Varna Dharma, our society has stability and integrity due to Varna Dharma.  Do the neophytes realize and accept that something in the old Varna Dharma was appropriate and good for the society, instead crowing about equality in the modern times? Because of it, our religion with many divisions and multiplicity of opposition does not fall and remains alive and well.