Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Article 370 – the Part Larger Than the Whole

When Hindu rulers of the princely states signed the Instrument of Accession, they surrendered legislative, judicial and executive control of three subjects – Defence, Communication, External Affairs and Ancillaries. This in effect meant that the princely states would have the right to decide upon policies, implementation and administration with regard to other issues, through such arrangements as they deemed fit. One such arrangement would have on been for the rulers to frame constitutions for their erstwhile kingdoms; state constitutions, which would have given their arrangements a modern, legal framework.
But Sardar Patel, in the course of integrating all princely states into the Union of Bharat, persuaded the rulers to accept the Bharatiya Constitution in toto and integrate completely into the Union of Bharat, assuring them that not only would there be no minimising of their royal stature and privileges but that they could and indeed they should send their representatives to the Constituent Assembly and participate actively in the drafting of the Bharatiya Constitution. This, let us remember, Sardar Patel did after Gandhi adopted a dismissive and even contemptuous attitude towards the rulers of the princely states who met Gandhi to know his mind about the future status of kings and their kingdoms in the event of political independence from the British. Gandhi far from reassuring them, even made his intent known publicly in one of his prayer meetings that he was quite prepared to hand over all princely states to the Muslim League under certain conditions. Besides, Gandhi also appointed Nehru and the Nawab of Bhopal to choose 92 representatives from among more than five hundred princely states to the Constituent Assembly.
Deeply concerned by the negative bent of mind of both Gandhi and Nehru, the Hindu princely states decided not to participate in the Constituent assembly and that they would not send any representative. But Gandhi’s assassination in January 1948 gave Patel the space and the freedom to reach out to the princely states again with respect and reassurances. The rulers of the princely states were assured by Sardar Patel that the Constitution would provide for all their concerns and guarantee equal rights to all regions and all peoples. The princely states acceding to Bharat thus accepted the Bharatiya Constitution totally; except the state of Jammu and Kashmir. That was Nehru’s personal fiefdom and Patel was kept away by a determined Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah from dealing with that state.
A brief glance at the history of J&K at the turn of the century leading up to Sheikh Abdullah hounding the Maharaja out of the state and negotiating individually with Nehru will throw a great deal of light on the imponderables that caused Article 370 to be included in the Bharatiya Constitution. The root cause was Nehru’s intense hatred of Maharaja Hari Singh, Gandhi’s similar contempt for the rulers of the princely states and his overwhelming love for Nehru which made him hand over the affairs of the Kingdom of Jammu, Kashmir, Ladakh and the Tibets to Nehru on a platter.

The history behind Article 370

The RSS and its parivar organizations, except the BJP, is convinced that the only way to render justice to Jammu and Ladakh which have been victims of the Abdullah/Mufti Sayeed clan, is to trifurcate/quadrificate J&K into Jammu, Ladakh, the Kashmir valley and a homeland for the persecuted and displaced KashmiriPandits, carved out from the valley itself. Demands for such a division of J&K still ignites jiahdi fires in the Kashmir valley.
But what they conveniently choose to ignore is that the two-nation theory of which the J&K constitution, the separate flag, Article 370 are all symptoms, was already implemented in J&K when Nehru conceded every one of Sheikh Abdullah’s untenable demands which made the Muslim-majority state of J&K a special state in the Union of Bharat. And when the RSS calls for trifurcating the state and when the VHP calls for quadrificating the state, it is not to hand over the remains of the state to Pakistan. Hindu majority Jammu will be fully integrated with the Union of Bharat without the provision of the separatist Article 370; Ladakh will be made into a Union Territory while the Kashmir valley alone or what is left of it after a separate homeland has been carved out for Kashmiri Pandits, can retain Article 370 and its illusory privileges.
The Abdullahs and the secular section of the Bharatiya intellectual class are thrown into a panic as demands for division of the state are made every time jihad raises its head. They declare that such a division would deal a mortal blow to secularism. Implied is the proposition that it is a victory for secularism that the Muslim majority state of J&K chooses and continues to be a part of the Union of Bharat. And as for secularism, who are they kidding? The J&K state has rejected, from behind the fig-leaf of Article 370, that part of the 42nd amendment to the Bharatiya Constitution by which certain core changes were made to the Preamble which now includes the words ‘ socialist secular’ and ‘unity and integrity’.
The J&K state has steadfastly refused to recognize, uphold and defend the ‘socialist’, ‘secular’ and ‘integrity’ parts of the Preamble of the Bharatiya Constitution. That this does not apply to the state of J&K has been stated in the Restatement of the Constitution (Application to J&K) order, 1954, which is Appendix II of some publications of the Bharatiya Constitution. What does the secular brigade have to say about that considering they lose no opportunity to declare that secularism is the basic feature of our Constitution and the underlying principle of governance?
Beginning with the Preamble of the Constitution, Article 370 has defined the jurisdiction of the Bharatiya Constitution in J&K. Let us quickly take a look at some of the more important laws that apply and those that do not apply to the state of J&K. This will help us to understand better the implications and the utter futility of granting any ‘greater autonomy’ to the state or to even consider a return to the pre-1953 status.

The Jekyll and Hyde of Article 370

Article 370 has two personalities, so to say. It is a double-edged tool. It is a legal paradox which both integrates and divides the state from the rest of Bharat. Like Sardar Patel said, it is a mechanism by which the President of Bharat can issue special Orders which extend several Bharatiya constitutional provisions that prevail in the rest of the country, to the state of J&K too. Under Article 370, the President, through the Constitution (Application to J&K) Orders of 1950, 1954 and several times thereafter up until 1994 has so far brought the state of J&K under the purview of 205 national Acts and laws. These include several important laws concerning Labour, laws concerning Customs, excise and other Taxes, The Negotiable Instruments Act, The Census Act, The Reserve Bank of India Act, The Imports and Exports (control) Act, The Banking Companies Act, The Finance Commission (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, The Representation of People Act, The Companies Act, and Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substance Act being some of the more important acts which has integrated the state of J&K with mainstream national laws. This is the Dr. Jekyll face of Article 370.
But, as I said, this integration is only one side of the tool, pardon the mixed metaphors. The other side is a dangerous weapon. It is this side which has caused the maximum damage not only to the state but to the national fibre. While on the one hand Article 370 has enabled the extension of several laws to prevail in J&K, it has also kept the Bharatiya Constitution from being implemented in totoThe Mr. Hyde face of Article 370 states that Parliament may make laws for that state only with the consultation or concurrence of the state government. There are several parts of the Bharatiya Constitution which do not apply to the state at all or apply with modifications. A very major section of the chapter on the Fundamental Rights of a citizen, enshrined in our national Constitution, does not apply to the state of J&K. Two very important provisions of our Constitution which deserve attention in this context, and which either do not apply to J&K or apply with modification, are Articles 352 and 360 relating to declaring a state of Emergency in the country as a whole or in any part of the territory of this country.
As per Article 352, if the President of Bharat is convinced that there is an imminent danger to national security either because of external aggression, possibility of war or because of armed rebellion from within the country, he may, upon receiving a written communication from the Union Cabinet, proclaim a state of emergency in the whole country or in any part of the country which is so threatened. But Article 370 has enabled the modification of this Article with respect to J&K in that while the President may declare emergency in the whole country in the event of a war or external aggression, he may not declare emergency in J&K without the consent of the state government in cases of internal armed rebellion. This means that even when terrorism brings the state to a point of total anarchy or breakdown of law and order, the President cannot declare a state of emergency in J&K without the permission or request of the state government.
As for Article 360 by which the President may declare a financial emergency in the whole or part of this country, it does not apply to the state of J&K at all. Given the runaway corruption in J&K afflicting all areas of governance and administration, and given the lack of political will to deal with it, a state of financial emergency can never be declared by the President even when the state teeters on the brink of a complete economic or financial breakdown. The CBI has no jurisdiction in J&K and neither do the CVC nor the Indian Penal Code. Not that alone; The Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 also does not apply to J&K.
If this were not enough, what has escaped media and academic scrutiny is the delimitation of Assembly and Parliamentary constituencies in Jammu and Kashmir. Though Kashmiris constitute roughly only 22 per cent of the State’s total population, the mechanism cleverly devised by Sheikh Abdullah’s National Conference Party in 1951 enables it to capture nearly half of the total Assembly and Lok Sabha seats. The National Conference, with the full complicity of Nehru and successive Congress governments has violated every norm set by the Delimitation Act (which had no jurisdiction in J&K then, courtesy Article 370), and carved out 46 Assembly segments in the small Valley as against 41 segments combined for the Jammu and Ladakh regions which are far bigger territorially and several times more populated than the Valley; and three of the six seats to the LokSabha have been cornered by the valley Muslims alone. This discriminatory nature of representation in the Assembly and Parliament is totally contrary to the rules framed under the Bharatiya Parliament’s Representation of People’s Act, 1951, and those under the relevant State Act of 1957.
This cornering of the major chunk of Assembly segments and Lok Sabha seats has ensured once and for all that the Muslims of the state have a decisive say in all affairs of the state. This not only violates all democratic norms but is also a violation of the principle of pluralism to which passionate lip service is paid by the secular brigade in the media and academia. But the valley is a Sunni Muslim majority region and even the remnants of Hindus after five centuries of violent and coercive Islam have today been hounded out altogether.

Article 32, the pernicious Article 35 A and what it means

By far the most offensive and the root cause of all major problems in J&K lies in the modification of Article 35 of the Bharatiya Constitution through the mechanism of Article 370. Not that alone, to Article 35 is added 35 A which carries the cancerous cell that has sapped the state of J&K of its vitality and life-force. These changes, like other amendments effected through Article 370, are not a part of the text of the Constitution. Therefore, any reader who does not care to read Appendix II of the Constitution of Bharat will never know that a very pernicious and undemocratic change has been made to Article 35 or that together with 35 A they constitute the root cause of the evil side of Article 370. It is because of the changes made to Article 35 and because of Article 35 A of the Bharatiya Constitution that Article 370 has to go and its roots, the J&K state constitution. This may be the right moment to raise the question whether these major changes and amendments made to the Bharatiya Constitution through Article 370 and which are contained only as Appendix I and II, are even a part of the Bharatiya Constitution. And as such, are these changes constitutional?
The modification made to Article 35, the inclusion of Article 35 A and the fact that Articles 12 to 15 of the Bharatiya Constitution do not apply to the state of J&K must be taken and read together to understand why the J&K constitution is a perversion of democracy. Democracy’s underlying principle is equality before law. By completely disregarding the fundamental democratic principle of equality, the National Conference, whose brainchild the state constitution is, continues to preside over a feudal political arrangement. The ultimate perversion lies in the fact that there is no judicial redress for the affected people of J&K whose fundamental rights have been violated and who have been denied the basic right to equality. Let us take Articles 35 and 35 A apart, piece by piece, to see the perversion clearly.
As per Constitution (Application to J&K) Order of 1971, clause (3) of Article 32 will not apply to the state of J&K. Article 32 specifies the remedies available to every citizen for enforcement of rights conferred by the Constitution and contained in the chapter on Fundamental Rights. Clause (3) of Article 32 says that while any citizen whose fundamental rights have been violated or who has been denied his fundamental rights may approach the Supreme Court for redress and while the Supreme Court shall have the power ‘to issue directions or orders’ for the enforcement of these rights, Parliament too “may by law empower any other court to exercise within its local limits all those powers conferred on the Supreme Court to enforce these rights”. This means not just the Supreme Court alone but any other court in a state or union territory can be empowered by parliament to assume the very same powers as those of the Supreme Court to enforce the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution.
The chapter on Fundamental Rights in the Bharatiya Constitution lists the constitutional rights to which every Bharatiya citizen is entitled. These rights can be enforced through judicial intervention and parliament has the right to make laws for any part of the country or for the country as a whole to protect and enforce these rights. These rights are inviolable except in situation of a state of Emergency in the country. Article 35 declares that parliament has the right and state legislatures do not have the power to make laws for enforcing these rights, for prescribing punishment for acts declared to be offences under this part and so on. But using the provision of Article 370, the state of J&K has refused to allow Parliament to make laws for the state under clause (3) of Article 16 and clause (3) of Article 32, both of which, besides Articles 33 and 34 are matters mentioned in Article 35A (i) as being areas for which Parliament has the right to make laws.
By refusing to accept the jurisdiction of clause (3) of Article 32, the state of J&K has violated the fundamental rights of a section of the citizens of Bharat residing in J&K, and who do not belong to a category created by the National Conference called ‘permanent residents’. The National Conference may disclaim any responsibility for the creation of this category with the explanation that ‘permanent residents’ is the new name given to the category of residents of J&K previously known as ‘state subjects’ which was created in 1927 when the state was ruled by the Dogras. But this argument is fallacious because while the Maharaja may have had very good reasons for creating this category (shall come to this shortly), there was no reason for continuing with this classification of the residents in J&K as ‘state subjects’ and non-state subjects’ in independent Bharat governed by the Bharatiya Constitution.
What are the implications of clause (3) of Article 32 not being applicable to J&K? It means that those citizens of Bharat who are resident in J&K but who are not ‘permanent residents’ as defined by Section 6 of the J&K state constitution, cannot challenge in any court the denial by the state government of the fundamental rights guaranteed to them by the Bharatiya Constitution because the J&K state constitution has its own version of fundamental rights which is not guaranteed to all residents of J&K. Only the ‘permanent residents’ of J&K are so privileged. And those residents of J&K who are denied these fundamental rights, cannot approach either the Supreme Court or any local court within J&K for redress because Article 370 has made it impossible for any court to offer redress.The fundamental rights as per the J&K state constitution is discriminatory and there is nothing that any court can do for those who are denied these rights in the state.
And it is this defiance of the basic spirit of the Bharatiya Constitution which has been sanctified and legitimised as Article 35 A about which nobody knows, certainly not the shouting secular brigade. Article 35 A is not a part of the official text of the Constitution. Article 35 A says:
“Saving of laws with respect to permanent residents and their rights.- Notwithstanding anything contained in this Constitution, no existing law in force in the State of Jammu and Kashmir, and no law hereafter enacted by the Legislature of the State,-
(a) Defining the classes of persons who are, or shall be permanent residents of the State of Jammu and Kashmir; or
(b) Conferring on such permanent residents any special rights and privileges or imposing upon other persons any restrictions as respects-
(i) Employment under the state government;
(ii) Acquisition of immovable property in the State;
(iii) Settlement in the State; or
(iv) Right to scholarships and such other forms of aid as the State Government may provide,
shall be void on the ground that it is inconsistent with or takes away or abridges any rights conferred on the other citizens of Bharat by any provision of this Part.”
Readers are urged to note the tone and content of Article 35 A. It says the state government has classified its residents as first class and second class citizens; those Bharatiya citizens living in J&K who are categorised as ‘permanent residents’ are first class citizens with special privileges. This perversion has been enshrined in the state constitution and notwithstanding anything contained in the Bharatiya Constitution, no law existing in the state of J&K and no law which may be made in the future with regard to the matters contained in Article 35 A, can be rendered void by Parliament or the Supreme Court on the grounds that it violates or abridges the rights guaranteed by the Bharatiya Constitution to all citizens. What Article 370 is doing is enabling the state constitution to thumb its nose at the Supreme Court and at Parliament, and above all at the Bharatiya Constitution. It is in effect saying that the denial of the fundamental rights of the Bharatiya Constitution to that section of Bharatiya citizens in J&K who are not “Permanent Residents” is not justiciable and cannot be enforced.
Sardar Patel saw only the Dr. Jekyll side of Article 370. He either did not see or remained silent about Mr. Hyde. Article 370 derives its evil nature from the state constitution. There is no point in demanding abrogation of Article 370 without demanding that the J&K state constitution be rendered null and void too. Article 370 is only the symptom. The malaise is the state constitution which is completely out of line and not in tune with the basic spirit or structure of the Bharatiya Constitution.
It was criminal culpability on the part of our leaders that they did not stipulate any conditions for the state constitution, had no say in the terms of reference of the state constituent assembly and did not insist on representatives as observers of the proceedings in the state constituent assembly to ensure that the state constitution was in line with the basic structure of the national constitution. Article 370 thus is the root cause of some of the more acute problems in J&K; the root-cause entrenched by Article 35 A pointing in the direction of the J&K state constitution.
Article 35 A tells us by inference that persons categorised as non-permanent residents of J&K cannot buy immovable property in J&K, are not eligible for employment by the state government, cannot contest or vote in local body or Assembly elections, cannot avail of scholarships and other grants offered by the state government to its state subject residents and above all cannot seek redress in any court, local or national. This then is the reason why there is little or no economic or industrial development in the state. No businessman or industrialist from the rest of Bharat will ever invest a rupee in a state which will not allow him to own property there.
J&K is wholly dependent on Government of Bharat funds not only to meet Plan expenditure but also non-Plan expenditure. Any investment in industry or economic development comes solely from the GOI. Whatever little indigenous trade or industry existed in the state by way of its orchards, carpets and tourism, have been almost destroyed by terrorism and continuing self-pity and apathy. Considering that the state has neither the financial nor natural resources to exist independently of the rest of Bharat, it is greater integration with Bharat that is called for and not greater autonomy. And this can be effected, some thinkers believe, only by abrogating Article 370. But that leaves the question of the mechanism by which to integrate the state constitution with the Bharatiya constitution if you abrogate Article 370 but allow the J&K state constitution to remain?

Is it possible to abrogate Article 370?

1. The first and most obvious course of action would be that which is contained in Article 370 itself: The President of Bharat, by a public notification can declare that the Article ceases to be operative. But here is the catch –the President can issue such a notification only upon the recommendation of the state constituent assembly. But the state constituent assembly has been dissolved and no longer exists. The question then is – can the President issue this notification unilaterally considering that it is not possible to procure the recommendation of a non-existent body? Or should we understand that because the state constituent assembly has been dissolved, the President can never ever issue such a notification? It is a crying shame that as a nation, we have still not worked through the nuances of Article 370.
2. The second option rests on the assumption that the rights and responsibilities of the state constituent assembly have been handed over to the state legislature. In which case, the state legislature can issue the recommendation to the President asking him to issue the notification which will render Article 370 inoperative. But considering that the National Conference has given the Muslim majority valley 46 assembly seats against the 41 allotted to Jammu and Ladakh together, no state legislature dominated by the Muslims of the valley will ever seek to abrogate Article 370 under whose dispensation they are the most privileged category of the residents of J&K.
3. The third option would be to take recourse to Article 368 of the Bharatiya Constitution which empowers Parliament to amend the Constitution and also lays down the procedure to be adopted. One would think that Article 368 empowers Parliament to adopt the procedure laid down in Article 368 and amend the Constitution by abrogating Article 370. But Article 370 itself has enabled through the Constitution (Application to J&K) Order, an amendment of the Constitution in such a way that Article 368 applies to J&K only in a modified manner. Clause (2) of Article 368 says that after the Bill for amending the Constitution is tabled in either house of the Parliament and after it has been passed by a two-thirds majority in both houses of Parliament, the President may give his assent to the Bill seeking amendment to the constitution. But, and here is the catch again, the President’s Order on the applicability of the Bharatiya Constitution to J&K says that as far as J&K is concerned, the President may issue such an assent only as per clause (1) of Article 370 itself which means that the President can issue amendments to the Bharatiya Constitution through his Constitution (Application to J&K) Order, only in consultation with or with the concurrence of the state government. Back to square one. Even Article 368 takes tortuous twists and turns and comes back to Article 370 again.
4. But the cutest trick lies in the amendment effected to Article 249. Article 249 declares that Parliament is empowered to legislate “in the national interest” even on matters enumerated in the state list. Article 370 has made this Article applicable to J&K with the modification that instead of ‘state list’ the clause should read that Parliament, in the national interest may legislate on that matter “which is not enumerated in the Union List or in the Concurrent List”. Very clever, this. Who will read the fine print of Appendix II to understand the ‘puppy chasing its tail’ futility of trying to get rid of Article 370 through the constitutional route? “Any matter not enumerated in the Union List or Concurrent List” indeed! As far as these two lists go, the final position has been stated and adopted by the Restatement of the Constitution (Application to J&K) Orders up until 1994. The only list that remains is the State list and the State List does not apply to J&K at all because unlike the other states in the Union of Bharat, the residuary powers with regard to J&K lie not with the Center but with the state, rendering the State List meaningless. So how can Parliament legislate with regard to any matter in the national interest as far as J&K goes, if it should not find place in the Union List or the Concurrent list? What other list is there, pray?
Trying to get rid of Article 370 taking the constitutional path is futile and unproductive. We have created and fattened the grossest aberration whereby the miniscule part is larger than the whole. Article 370 is larger than the Constitution because there seems to be nothing in the Bharatiya Constitution into which Article 370 can be subsumed or by which it can be made to go away. We also have the grossest aberration in that the interest of one state outweighs the collective national interest. Our legal and constitutional experts have not even begun to apply their minds on how to get rid of Article 370. If actions have consequences, inaction too has consequences; sometimes worse.
(Disclaimer: This article represents the opinions of the Author, and the Author is responsible for ensuring the factual veracity of the content. HinduPost will not be responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information, contained herein.)
Radha Rajan
Radha Rajan is a Chennai-based political analyst. She is also an author and animal activist.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Dharmo viśvasya jagataḥ pratiṣṭhā” declares one of the Śruti texts[1]. This declaration has served as a foundational principle for dharma traditions and generation after generation of dharmaśāstra authors to attempt to conceive of a social order, which truly upholds and uplifts all individuals. Dharma means “that which upholds” and hence, a social order based on the dharma should be such that it leads each individual to well-being and fulfillment[2], all the while establishing justice and harmony[3] in the society, a notion well summarized in the popular saying “lokāḥ samastāḥ sukhino bhavantu”, which means “let all beings in the world attain happiness”.
Unlike the modern society, which derives much of its worldview from the West, the dharmatraditions did not conceive of a society in terms of idealistic, albeit impractical concepts like equality and egalitarianism, which when taken to its logical conclusion promote sameness and destroy diversity[4]. Instead, the ṛṣi-s and the authors of dharmaśāstra conceived of a social order wherein the uniqueness in temperaments and capabilities of every individual was not only recognized, but was made the central piece of the entire conceptual social structure and called this conceptual framework “varṇa vyavastha[5]”.
Though, varṇa system has often been understood as a reference to “caste system” or “class system” representing a social grouping, in this paper, the primary usage of the term in the veda and dharmaśāstra as a “conceptual framework[6]” has been retained. The paper will first briefly explore the meaning of the term varṇa in the context of their descriptions available in some of the prominent Hindu texts and then will construct a conceptual framework of varṇabased on key principles described in these texts.
Meaning of Varṇa
Rgveda puruṣasūkta (verse 12) provides an earliest reference to the conceptual framework of varṇa. It uses the metaphor of human body to represent the universe as a cosmic Puruṣa with his limbs denoting various aspects and functions of the universe. Frawley (2014) notes: “In this Vedic idea, human society follows the same organic order as the human body, which mirrors the order of the entire universe. Like the human body, human society should be one in nature, but differentiated according to functions. Just as the human body is one organism that has different limbs and organs with specialized activities necessary for the health and survival of the whole, so too, human society should have a similar organic differentiation, with different professions working together for the good of all[7].”
The sūkta mentions how brahmaṇakṣatriyavaiśya and śūdra manifested out of Cosmic Puruṣa’s head, hands, thighs and feet, respectively. The different limbs of a body, though being inseparable part of the body, are distinct from each other in their nature and function. For example, the quality of the head is intelligence and accordingly its function is thinking and decision making. Distinct from this are the feet, which have the quality of movement and hence a function of carrying the body to different places. The same is the case with other organs.
From this account, we can derive two key hermeneutic principles for understanding and interpreting the meaning of varṇa and their usages in different Hindu texts, namely: quality and function. When these principles are applied to individuals, the inner temperaments of an individual called as svabhāva  will represent the quality or defining factor of the individual, whereas the actions and duties in sync with this inner calling (svabhāva ) called as svadharmawill represent the function of the individual. Explaining the interplay between these hermeneutic principles, Sharma (2004) notes: “within the person svabhāva is the guiding principle. One who acts on svabhāva acts spontaneously… Thus, following svabhāva results in harmony… And the result is happiness…  Svadharma means one’s duties in society. These duties should not be imposed from outside. In order to be natural, spontaneous and divine the duties must be based on svabhāva. Thus, svadharma and svabhāva should be identical. Svabhāva should decide svadharma[8].”
Another key principle that can be derived from this account is that the conceptual arrangement of varṇa-s are neither pyramidal, nor hierarchical, as often understood[9]. Just as different limbs of a body perform different function and are vital for the health of the entire organism, different varṇa-s represent different functions in the society as well as in the cosmos with each being vital to the functioning of the whole. If there is a hierarchy, it is only in terms of understanding the goals of life at the level of individuals and not at social level[10].
In any case, the twin features of svabhāva and svadharma appear again and again across Hindu texts of different genres. Manusmṛti (1.87), for example, describes how cosmic Puruṣa allotted different duties to people born from His different limbs for the sake of protecting and sustaining the universe. Similarly, Bhagavad-gītā also speaks about creation of four varṇa-s based on guṇa (natural qualities and tendencies) and karma (personal duties) (verse 4.13) and that the duties have been allotted based on the guṇa-s that arise from svabhāva (verse 18.41). Bhāgavatapurāṇa (11.17.13) stresses that the four varṇa-s that originated from the supreme Puruṣa are to be recognized/designated by their ātmācāra (natural activities or personal duties according to inherent nature). Mahābhāratam (12.188), on the other hand, assigns a color to each varṇa that symbolically represents the attributes/svabhāva associated with that varṇa, reflecting the three qualities of the nature (prakriti): sattva, rajas, and tamas[11].
It is interesting to note the very terminology of varṇa embeds within itself these two key features. The term varṇa is derived from the verbal root ‘vr’, which has a number of meanings, prominent among them being: color and choosing. While the color highlights the aspect of svabhāva, the choosing highlights the aspect of svadharma.
Thus, varṇa can be understood either as a reference to the svadharma[12] (personal duty/purpose of life) chosen by each individual in his/her life according to his/her svabhāva(inherent nature) or more appropriately as a descriptor tag referring to the svabhāva[13] that drives people to spontaneously choose[14] particular paths of life as their svadharma. As Shastry (2011) notes varṇa refers to “unique descriptor tags, unique features which can be used for identification of individual entity for a specific identity[15].”
Varṇa vyavastha as a conceptual framework
The relationship between svabhāva and svadharma are those of cause and effect. But, in this case, in addition to its role as an effect, svadharma also reinforces the cause and ultimately helps an individual to transcend it[16]. That is, while svabhāva determines the svadharma of an individual, the performance of svadharma will transform the svabhāva from its current condition to a higher condition[17]. As Sureshwaracharya (n.d) notes “From the performance of obligatory actions, righteousness arises. From the arising of righteousness, sins are destroyed and purity of mind ensues[18].” Using this interplay between svabhāva and svadharma, we can identify key elements of varṇa vyavastha and develop a conceptual framework based on it.
In the previous section, we defined varṇa as a reference to the svabhāva that drives people to spontaneously choose their svadharma. To make this a reality then, we would need a social vision, a conceptual framework that facilitates people to first correctly identify their svabhāva-s and then practice relevant svadharma-s. Thus, the key elements of this conceptual framework would be:
1.     Identification of the different temperaments of individuals
2.     Classification of people at a conceptual level into different groups according to their inherent nature and capacity
3.     Assignment of different duties/actions/paths of life most suitable/applicable to each group, such that people belonging to all the groups can attain overall wellbeing by performance of those duties
a. Identification: The very first element required to construct a conceptual social order based on varṇa is a proper “mechanism” using which varṇa of an individual can be identified. And such a mechanism has been provided to us in Bhagavad-gītā, which says that the duties of various varṇa-s are to be classified based on the guṇa-s born from svabhāva (verse 18.41). A similar view has been expressed by Lord Shiva in Mahābhāratam (Anuśāsanaparva, Ch. 143). Thus, “svabhāva” of an individual is the key for identifying the varṇa of that person.
But, this svabhāva of an individual is in-turn determined by two factors: the natural tendencies inherited from one’s parents and the mental impressions (saṃskāra-s) one inherits from previous lives; and both these factors are in-turn dependent on prārabdha karma-s[19]that decide where and in which family a person takes birth into, the life challenges that he or she will be facing in life, etc. It is for this reason, ‘birth’ or ‘janma’ was used as an identifying factor for determining varṇa. But, here the reference is to the ‘prārabdha karma’ and the svabhāva one inherits due to prārabdha and not necessarily[20] a reference to being born in a tribe, caste, class, or family.
b. Classification: With guṇa and svabhāva as the identifying factor, Hindu dharma texts have created four conceptual categories: brahmaṇakṣatriyavaiśya and śūdra. Adi Shankaracharya, while commenting on Bhagavad-gītā (4.13 & 18.41) says that brahmaṇa is a designation given to one in whom there is a predominance of sattvakṣatriya is one in whom there is both sattvaand rajas, but rajas predominates; in vaiśya, both rajas and tamas exist, but rajaspredominates; and śūdra is one in whom both rajas and tamas exist, but tamas predominates. These guṇa-s are revealed by the natural temperaments and behavior exhibited by the person.
Elaborating on this, Bhāgavatapurāṇa (11.17.16-19), lists what temperaments and behavior indicates what varṇa designation to be assigned to a person. It says: the control of mind and senses, austerity, cleanliness, satisfaction, tolerance, simple straightforwardness, devotion to God, mercy, and truthfulness are the natural qualities of the brahmaṇa-s; dynamic power, bodily strength, determination, heroism, forbearance, generosity, great endeavor, steadiness, devotion to the brahmaṇa-s and leadership are the natural qualities of the kṣatriya-s; faith in God and Vedas, dedication to charity, freedom from hypocrisy, service to the brahmaṇa-s and perpetually desiring to accumulate more money are the natural qualities of the vaiśya-s, service without duplicity to others, cows and gods and complete satisfaction with whatever income is obtained in such service, are the natural qualities of śūdra-s.
Therefore, dharmic texts clearly give a wide framework by which people can be designated and classified according to their inherent temperaments. But, this four-fold classification is essentially a conceptual classification based on four ideal svabhāva conditions[21] (i.e. having a clear cut svabhāva) and may not always reflect a ground situation, especially in kaliyuga in general and at current times in particular, as society is stratified along caste, profession, and political lines and the concept of guṇa and svadharma no longer drives the society.
Nonetheless, this four-fold guṇa based varṇa and the assignment of ideal duties that a person with a particular svabhāva must practice, will act as general guidelines, which would not only help societies to evolve their own practical models according to their own unique social conditions, it will also help each individual to examine one’s own temperaments and inner leanings and compare and evaluate with respect to four-fold conceptual model and understand where he/she stands in life, such that people may choose their svadharmaaccordingly to attain material and spiritual success.
c. Assignment: After successful identification and classification of the varṇa-s of people, the final stage is the assignment of duties or svadharma for each person according to his/her own inherent temperaments. Bhagavad-gītā (18.42-44) assigns following duties to people exhibiting different varṇa svabhāvaBrahmaṇa-s are assigned: control of the internal and external organs, austerity, purity, forgiveness, straightforwardness, jñāna (Knowledge of the scriptures), vijñāna (experiential understanding of what is presented in the scriptures) and āstikya (faith and conviction in the truth expounded in the scriptures regarding God, etc.), as their duties. Similarly kṣatriya-s are assigned: heroism, boldness, fortitude, capability, and also not retreating from battle, generosity and lordliness; vaiśya-s are assigned: agriculture, cattle-rearing and trade; and śūdra-s are assigned service as their duty.
Manusmṛti (1.88-91) has further elaborated the duties for people having the four varṇa guṇa-s thus- teaching and studying, sacrificing for their own benefit and for others, giving and accepting (of alms) as duties of brahmaṇa-s; protection of the people, giving charity, to offer sacrifices (yajña), to study (the veda), and to abstain from attaching himself to sensual pleasures as duties of kṣatriya-s, to tend cattle, giving charity, to offer sacrifices, to study (the veda), to trade, to lend money, and to cultivate land, are the duties of vaiśya; and serving the other varṇa-s, i.e. rest of the society by means of various professions[22] like arts, sculpture making, wood carving, etc.
It is clear from the above discussion that the duties assigned to people are a) in sync with their inherent temperaments, b) duties further seek to reinforce and strengthen the already present inner talents and temperaments, c) through performance of these duties, though different for different persons, all will attain complete success and overall welfare[23].
It is also clear that, contrary to popular understanding, varṇa does not refer to any particular vocation. Instead it provides guidelines of a general nature regarding suitable duties for people with different temperaments, which they can in-turn implement through choosing any of the vocations, which are in sync with their svadharma[24]. In other words, varṇa grouping is clearly a conceptual classification and has no direct connection to kula-s or clan groupings based on trade and skills. Similarly, varṇa grouping is not related to ethno-cultural jāti[25]groupings or the colonial formulation of castes[26].
However, it must be conceded that whenever a practical social model is derived from this conceptual framework of Varṇa, it is bound to result in overlapping with different social groupings and identities: be it social-economic groups, ethno-cultural groups (jāti), or groups based on clans and/or professions (kula). But, the mere presence of such overlapping does not mean that varṇa based social model will become identical to social stratification along the lines of castes, jāti, or kula. Instead, Bhāgavatapurāṇa (7.11.35) explicitly states that a person’s guṇa must be the driving factor behind assignment of a particular varṇa to him, irrespective of the social class, he is born into. That is, meritocracy will the central driving force of such a Varṇa-based social order.
Thus, it is important to distinguish the conceptual framework of varṇa enunciated in the paper from different social groupings like kulajāti, and caste present in the society. And it is also vital to recognize that any practical social model constructed with varṇa as a basis will have to evolve means to address these social stratifications.
Varṇa, Puruṣārtha, Self-Actualization
Hindu dharma conceives a four-fold goals of human life called “puruṣārtha-s”: dharmaarthakāma and mokṣa. This framework of life wherein each human being has an obligation to pursue the four-fold goals in his or her life is a unique and very important contribution of Hindu philosophy. Since, human life is considered very unique due to them having free-will and the ability to make choices, the dharma traditions have conceived four puruṣārtha-s to provide a guidance for the exertion of this free-will in a righteous and meritorious way.
While artha and Kama refer to pursuing worldly pleasures and prosperity, respectively[27]mokṣa refers to pursuing spiritual emancipation in the form of ultimate liberation from the cycle of birth and death. Dharma, on the other hand, is the connecting principle, which on the one hand facilitates an individual to attain artha and kāma, all the while taking one closer and closer to mokṣa as well[28]. Thus, dharma in the form of righteous duties facilitates each individual to attain all the four puruṣārtha-s.
The importance of puruṣārtha-s as life goals in an individual’s life can be understood by correlating it with the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a motivational theory in psychology proposed by Abraham Maslow in 1943. The hierarchy is often understood as a pyramid categorizing various human needs that motivates people to work towards fulfilling them. The five-tier model, slots the most fundamental needs of people like food, clothing, etc. at the bottom. On the top of this, comes the needs for safety, followed by social belongingness, esteem, and finally self-actualization at the top.
Varṇa vyavastha as a conceptual social order Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs superimposed on Hindu puruṣārtha-s
Image 1: Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs superimposed on Hindu puruṣārtha-s
Superimposing[29] Maslow’s hierarchy on Hindu puruṣārtha-s, we can see how the most basic physiological and safety needs at the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy corresponds to artha, while the human need for love, belongingness and esteem corresponds to kāma. Self-actualization, which Maslow defines as “What a man can be, he must be[30]”, refers to each individual’s inner potential and the individual’s need for realization of this potential in life. This is nothing but the inner-calling that manifests as svadharma and thus corresponds to dharma of Hindu puruṣārtha-s. It is interesting to note that the traditional ordering of arthabefore kāma, i.e. safety and physiological needs before emotional needs finds coherence in Maslow’s hierarchy as well. While Maslow places self-actualization at the top, puruṣārtha-s place dharma at the very beginning, thus aligning even other needs at the bottom to the higher need of self-fulfillment[31]. While mokṣa did not find any place in the original Maslow’s hierarchy, in his later years, he created a new category called self-transcendence, higher than self-actualization, which he posited as a higher goal rooted in spiritualism. However, Maslow’s hierarchy has some notable limitations, including its inability to explain how different needs manifest differently in different individuals, probable causes for such differences, the role of inner temperaments, etc.
Nevertheless, from the correlation between the Maslow’s hierarchy and Hindu puruṣārtha-s, we can realize how puruṣārtha-s are very vital for people to lead their lives to the fullest. An individual will only find self-fulfillment and contentment, when he is able to understand his inner potential and work towards realizing them on the ground, all the while also fulfilling his other basic needs, on the one hand and slowly moving towards spiritual emancipation, on the other. Thus, performance of svadharma or righteous duties constitute the key to attaining overall wellbeing by an individual.
Dharma traditions enunciate these righteous duties as having two aspects. The first is the sāmānya dharma, which deals with the ethical principles like truth, non-injury, non-stealing, etc., which are common duties of all beings[32]. The second is called the viśeṣa dharma or special duties, which are unique to every individual depending on the kala (time), desha (place), varṇa and āśrama. Among these different elements of viśeṣa dharma, it is the varṇadharma along with āśrama –dharma that caters to different stages in a person’s life, which can be considered as the most defining principles of svadharma or righteous duties with respect to an individual, since they alone cater to the unique temperaments, potential competencies, and inner calling of an individual.
Notably, the varṇa model places knowledge, particularly spiritual knowledge (adhyātmavidyā) and transcendent knowledge (ātmavidyā) at the top[33], like the head of a human being and a whole conceptual framework has been conceived such that all other mundane activities be it politics, commerce, or labor, are perceived as actions that facilitate individuals to eventually reach the ultimate goal of jñāna & mokṣa. In fact, a clear correlation between varṇaāśrama, on the one hand, and puruṣārtha-s on the other hand can be established. Though, the four puruṣārtha-s are equally applicable to all human beings irrespective of their varṇa, there is also a clear correlation between the svabhāva of a person and the puruṣārtha he is most likely to consider as central to his life[34].
In any case, what is important to note is that it is only in a social order derived from and rooted in the conceptual framework of varṇa that individuals would be able to freely pursue their inner-calling and attain complete well-being. Contrary to this, societies with equality and egalitarianism as the core principles, will invariably end up pressuring some sections to gain competencies in skills towards which they may not have any liking to, while some other sections with calling and competencies for the same skills would be pressurized to renounce them, ending up in power plays, envy and frustrations that we call today as “rat’s race[35]”.
Hindu dharma traditions have always recognized diversity as being ingrained in the very structure of the universe, destroying which is neither fully attainable nor desirable. Thus, instead of seeking to destroy diversity, dharma traditions have presented a vision of varṇa vyavastha wherein diversity was not only recognized as a fundamental reality of the human society, but was made the foundation stone of human welfare.
This conceptual framework of varṇa provides the much needed alternative vision to current discourses rooted in notions of sameness, which sidelines diversity and induces a rat race in the society by forcing individuals to abandon their inner calling. The varṇa framework recognizes each individual as a unique person with unique temperaments, capabilities and inner-callings, fulfilling which alone will bring happiness, contentment and spiritual emancipation to that individual. This making of self-actualization, the interplay between svabhāva and svadharma as the linchpin of the dharmic vision for a harmonious social order that upholds merit and preserves diversity is perhaps the most important contribution of Hindu dharma traditions to the world.
[1] Mahānārāyaṇa Upaniṣad (79.7)
[2] Preyah and Śreyah, material wellbeing and spiritual fulfillment are proposed as two-fold goals of life in Kaṭhopaniṣad (1.2.1-2)
[3] The idea of harmony is well expressed in many śānti mantra-s found in the veda. Yajurveda 36:17 says:
oṃ dyauḥ śāntirantarikṣaṃ śāntiḥ
pṛthivī śāntirāpaḥ śāntiroṣadhayaḥ śāntiḥ
vanaspatayaḥ śāntirviśvedevāḥ śāntirbrahma śāntiḥ
sarvaṃ śāntiḥ śāntireva śāntiḥ sā mā śāntiredhi
oṃ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ ||
“May peace radiate there in the whole sky as well as in the vast ethereal space everywhere.
May peace reign all over this earth, in water and in all herbs, trees and creepers.
May peace flow over the whole universe.
May peace be in the supreme being brahman.
And may there always exist in all peace and peace alone.
Aum peace, peace and peace to us and all beings!”
[4] Regarding the dangers of egalitarianism, Murray N. Rothbard, the noted professor of economics notes: “The current veneration of equality is, indeed, a very recent notion in the history of human thought…The profoundly anti-human and violently coercive nature of egalitarianism was made clear in the influential classical myth of Procrustes, who ‘forced passing travellers to lie down on a bed, and if they were too long for the bed he lopped off those parts of their bodies which protruded, while racking out the legs of the ones who were too short’.” [Rothbard, M.N. (1995). Egalitarianism and the elites. Rev Austrian Econ 8 (2), 39. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01102291]
Equality and egalitarianism evolved in the West as a response to various inequalities and racism prevalent in western societies primarily rooted in Christian worldview. While it managed to address some of the inequalities prevalent in the western society, it ignores the value of merit and the natural diversity in competencies and inner callings of different individuals. Thus, when it is mindlessly applied to a society like India with large diversity, it would destroy diversity and will promote sameness imposed by a powerful minority. For a discussion on how Equality narrative trivialized Hindu traditions in the context of Sabarimala debate, See Sridhar, N (2016). Sabarimala Debate: How Equality discourse is being used to undermine Adhyatmic practices. Retrieved September 2017 from http://indiafacts.org/sabarimala-debate-equality-discourse-used-undermine-adhyatmic-practices/
[5] It is important to identify the designation and structuring of varṇa as a conceptual framework and not a social stratification. Scholars have often understood varṇa as a social organization, as caste and/or class that refers to definite social grouping, which has led to mistaken notions that makes varṇa, jāti, kula and caste synonymous. [See for example, Jaiswal (1991), who notes: “Thus the varna divisions had a historical origin in the real conditions of existence; and these conditions gave rise to an ideology which legitimized exploitation. Jaiswal, S. (1991), Varna Ideology and Social Change. Social Scientist, 19(3/4), 41-48. doi:10.2307/3517555]
While kula and jāti refer to social groupings based on kinship relationships and ethno-cultural identities, varṇa is a conceptual framework that aims to provide a conceptual basis for building a social order that promotes harmony and overall wellbeing of everyone. Caste on the other hand is a Colonial reformulation. Ingold (1994) notes how varṇa systems are “models rather than descriptions” [Ingold, T (1994). Companion encyclopedia of anthropology. Routledge. p. 1026; cited from Varna (Hinduism) (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved September 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Varna_(Hinduism)]. Bayly (2001) notes that the varṇasystem present in the ancient texts did not “create the phenomenon of caste” [Bayly, S (2001). Caste, Society and Politics in India from the Eighteenth Century to the Modern Age. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 29; cited from Varna (Hinduism) (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved September 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Varna_(Hinduism)]. Regarding some authors’ attempts to interpret the structure of caste using traditional varṇa system, Ryan (1953) notes: It is “understandable but abortive tendency to perceive the actual from the arbitrary vantage point of Brahmanic doctrine.”[Ryan, B (1953). Caste in Modern Ceylon; New Jersey: Rutgers University, p.18; cited from Atal, Y. (1967). A Conceptual Framework for the Analysis of Caste. Sociological Bulletin, 16(2), 20-38. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/24431224]
[6] Rgveda puruṣasūkta provides an earliest reference to this conceptual framework based on its representation of Cosmic Puruṣa and different aspects and functions of the cosmos can be understood and conceptually represented using a model of human body. This framework is later utilized by Smṛti-s and dharmaśāstra-s (See Manusmṛti 1.87). For a more detailed exploration of Puruṣa as a metaphor and its implications for understanding varṇa, see Hardikar, S & Dhar, A (2016). Caste in stone – Part 2 (Purusha and Varna). Retrieved September 2017 from http://www.pragyata.com/mag/caste-in-stone-part-2-purusha-and-varna-260
[7] Frawley, D (2014). Universal Hinduism: Towards a New Vision of Sanatana Dharma. New Delhi: Voice of India
[8] Sharma, R K (2004). Indian Society, Institutions and Change. New Delhi: Atlantic  Publishers and Distributors
[9] For a detailed discussion on how varṇa does not represent a pyramidal representation of society, see, see Hardikar, Sonalee & Dhar, Ashish (2016). Caste in stone – Part 2 (Purusha and Varna). Retrieved September 2017 from http://www.pragyata.com/mag/caste-in-stone-part-2-purusha-and-varna-260
[10] At the individual level, Hindu traditions prescribe four puruṣārtha-s as the goals of life, mokṣa or liberation from life and death being highest of them. Though the four puruṣārtha-s are common to all, each varṇa is associated with one puruṣārtha-s as most suitable for them. For example, brahmaṇa with mokṣa, kṣatriya with dharma, etc. The gist is, each individual must travel through the whole process to finally attain mokṣa, either in one life or through many lives. Thus, a person with kṣatriya temperament and function, may look up to brahmaṇatva or quality of brahmaṇa as being higher goal to which he must strive for by first perfecting his duty as a kṣatriya.
[11] Frawley(2014) notes that the color white, red, yellow and black associated with brahmaṇa-s, kṣatriya-s, vaiśya-s and śūdra-s, respectively, represent the quality of purity (sattva), quality of aggressiveness (rajas), quality of trade, and quality of support (tamas), respectively. Frawley, D (2014). Universal Hinduism: Towards a New Vision of Sanatana Dharma. New Delhi: Voice of India
[12] Mahābhāratam (Anuśāsanaparva Ch. 143) says: “Neither birth, nor the purificatory rites, nor learning, nor offspring, can be regarded as grounds for conferring upon one the regenerate status. Verily, conduct is the only ground. All brahmaṇa-s in this world are brahmaṇa-s in consequence of conduct.”
[13] Mahābhāratam (Anuśāsanaparva Ch. 143) says: “The status of Brahma, O auspicious lady, is equal wherever it exists. Even this is my opinion. He, indeed, is a brahmaṇa in whom the status of Brahma exists,–that condition which is bereft of attributes and which has no stain attached to it.”
[14] The “spontaneous choosing” is a reference to our inclinations to certain activities, certain professions, which come naturally to us. While “choosing” is usually understood as a choice made using exertion of free-will, our free-will is always not free enough to follow the inner-calling. Our willfully made choices are often constrained by our life situations, family, society, etc., which may force us many a times to abandon our inner-calling. The paths chosen, thus, may not be in sync with our svabhāva and hence, may not reflect our svadharma. Thus, the śāstra-s, the tradition, and the guidance of Gurus, are often required to, in any case, are helpful, for person to understand his inner callings and the svadharma, which is most suitable to him/her.
[15] Sastry, B V V (2011), Traditional Taxonomy of Varna–Jati and Kula. World Association of Vedic Studies (WAVES) Conference. Retrieved September 6 2017 from http://mysanskrit.com/BVK1/pluginfile.php/35/mod_book/chapter/3/Waves-2011-Jati-Varna-paper.pdf
[16] A person with kṣatriya svabhāva i.e. rajo guṇa, for example, will adopt a kṣatriya life as his svadharma and will learn various kṣatriya skills like fighting, waging wars, conducting administration etc., which will in-turn strengthen his kṣatriya svabhāva and plug any faults. Additionally, performance of kṣatriya svadharma will also result in purity of mind, which would slowly change his rajo guṇa into sattva guṇa and hence make him competent for brahmaṇa svadharma. This transformation being a slow process may stretch over many lives. It is for this reason, Bhagavad-gītā (3.35) stresses performance of svadharmaManusmṛti(10.97) likewise stresses the same. For more detailed enunciation of how people of lower varṇa can attain higher varṇa in subsequent lives by the practice of respective svadharma-s in this life, See Mahābhāratam, Anusasanika Parva, Ch. 143
[17] “The activities which can really help us in our present stage and lead us to a higher stage are known as svadharma” says Sri Sachchidananda Shivabhinava Narasimha Bharati Mahaswami, 33rd Shankaracharya of Sringeri peetham. Cited from Bharathi, J (2016, compiled). Golden Sayings. Chennai: Sri Gnanananda Bharathi Grantha Prakasana Samithi
[18] Sri Sureshwaracharya. Naishkarmyasiddhi. Prose portion of verse 52.
[19] Hindu tradition divides actions into three categories: sañcitaprārabdha and āgāmiSañcita is the storehouse of all karma-s. Prārabdha refers to that portion of sañcita which has become ready to give results. Agāmi refers to actions performed in the present, which will give result in future. Thus, prārabdha karma–s refer to those actions performed in previous lives, which has become ready to give fruit and which decides among other things, where one takes birth, into which family, which conditions, and with what inherent tendencies.
[20] Mahābhāratam notes that people attain different varṇa-s due to “nature”, i.e. inherent svabhāva. After explaining how conduct (svadharma) and quality determines varṇa, it further notes that the distribution of varṇa-s using birth is only for the sake of classification, i.e. birth was used only as easy reference to inner svabhāva and hence, it is svabhāva and not birth into a family, which is the real criteria for determining varṇa. See Mahābhāratam Anuśāsanaparva, Ch. 143. Though, some like Sri Jnanananda Bharathi (2013) believe that birth in a particular family, caste, or community is an index of previous store of actions, which by themselves cannot be seen. Hence, birth in a particular family in itself determines varṇa. [Cited from Bharathi, J (2013). Stray Thoughts on Dharma. Chennai: Sri Gnanananda Bharathi Grantha Prakasana Samithi]. However, Mahābhāratam (Anuśāsanaparva, Ch. 143) itself notes: “Even a śūdra, O goddess, that has purified his soul by pure deeds and that has subjugated all his senses, deserves to be waited upon and served with reverence as a brahmaṇa. This has been said by the Self-born brahmaṇa himself. Neither birth, nor the purificatory rites, nor learning, nor offspring, can be regarded as grounds for conferring upon one the regenerate status. Sūdra, if he is established on good conduct, is regarded as possessed of the status of a brahmaṇa. The status of Brahma, O auspicious lady, is equal wherever it exists.” Similarly, Bhāgavatapurāṇa (7.11.35) explicitly states that a person’s svabhāva must be the driving factor behind assignment of a particular varṇa to him, irrespective of the social class, he is born into. Thus, birth into a family or community can at best serve as a provisional indicator of one’s varṇa, and not as an absolute criteria. This is especially true for kaliyuga, wherein, unlike previous yuga-s, there is very less sync between birth in a family, svabhāva, and our livelihood activities. Nevertheless, birth cannot be altogether done away with, since, the svabhāva-sinherited from the parents still play an important role in determining svabhāva of the children and hence may be provisionally used as one of the determining factors.
[21] Manusmṛti 10.4 notes that there are only four varṇa and there is no fifth one. Yet, it does note a number of saṅkara jāti-s with a mixed svabhāva-s, which at a later stage became consolidated under “Pañcama”. The point to note here is that these are not classifications intended to stratify the society at social level, but only an attempt at understanding different guṇa – svabhāva of people. Thus, while the four-fold classification represents four ideal cases of clearly defined svabhāva-s based on interplay of guṇa-s, people on the ground may have a svabhāva which would be a combination of these four-primary svabhāva-s. Such combinations can be enormously huge, which would be impossible to either identify or classify, hence the Manu’s statement that there are only four varṇa-s. Sri Jnanananda Bharati (2013) gives an interesting example of colors to illustrate this point. He writes: “The primary castes (he uses the term caste to refer to varṇa itself), as in the case of the primary colours, are limited number, but the mixed castes, derivable from the primary castes themselves, derivable from the mixture of the primary castes and the mixed castes and derivable from the mixture of the several mixed castes among themselves and so on in permutation and combination will naturally be unlimited in number.”[Cited from Bharathi, Jnanananda (2013). Stray Thoughts on Dharma. Chennai: Sri Gnanananda Bharathi Grantha Prakasana Samithi]
[22] Manu 10.100: “(Let the śūdra follow) those mechanical occupations and those various practical arts by following which the twice-born are (best) served.”
[23] Bhagavad-gītā 18.45: “Being devoted to his own duty, man attains complete success. Hear that as to how one devoted to his own duty achieves success.”
[24] A brahmaṇa varṇa person, for example, may be a teacher teaching wide range of subjects, or a priest at a temple, or a Ritvik, etc. who performs yajña, or a scholar in any of the vidya-s. Similarly, a śūdra may well have been a painter, wood carver, architect, sculpture, labor, artisans, or in any other profession in the service industry.
[25] It is important to distinguish between jāti as it appears in dharmaśāstra texts like Manu and the jāti as an ethno-cultural group or jāti –kula groups derived from trade guilds. While the ethno-cultural group was a social group with endogamy etc., the usage of the term jāti in texts like Manusmṛti is not in reference to such groups. On the other hand, from chapter 10 of Manusmṛti we can see that jāti has been used as a term to refer to people with svabhāva of mixed varṇa. While four clearly distinguished svabhāva-s are called four varṇa, mixed svabhāva-s are called varṇa – saṅkara or jātis.
[26] For a discussion on how Caste is a Colonial formulation. See Sridhar, N (2016). Does ‘Varna’ provide a religious basis for the present Caste System? Retrieved October 2017 from http://indiafacts.org/varna-provide-religious-basis-present-caste-system/ Also See, Dirks, N. (1992). Castes of Mind. Representations, (37), 56-78. doi:10.2307/2928654; Singh, S (2016). Why is the world so obsessed with India’s caste system? IndiaFacts. Retrieved October 2017 from http://indiafacts.org/why-is-the-world-so-obsessed-with-indias-caste-system/
[27] Kāma refers to all kinds of worldly desires. Every person has one or the other desires or fantasies that he or she wants to attain. The desire may to look beautiful, or earn money or having a relationship with a person. Every kind of desire can be categorized under kāma. Similarly, all wealth, all objects that are acquired in order to fulfill the desires and enjoy a comfortable life is termed as “artha”.
[28] “Achieving mokṣa becomes possible only when a life pursuing desires (kāma) and wealth (artha) has been led consistently within the framework of dharmaDharma thus plays a very crucial role in not only ensuring a  good life here and now, but also in enabling one to attain the state of supreme good or liberation, from which there is no lapsing back to karma and rebirth.” [See Rao, S (2010). Sadharana Dharma- the Indian doctrine of Universal Human Duties. In Srivastava, D C & Bruah, B H (Editors, 2010). Dharma and Ethics: The Indian Ideal of Human Perfection. New Delhi: D K Printworld.]
[29]  Thanaseelen Rajasakran et.al (2014) note: “The researchers propose that the Hinduism’s four purusharthas, or aims of human existence (Sharma 2006) provides an alternative framework to Maslow’s need hierarchy. Purushartha combines two concepts, purusa means person and artha means aim or goal… Kama or physical desire includes physiological and safety needs; Artha is a desire for prosperity and includes the need for love or belongingness; Dharma is associated with one’s esteem, which can be achieved through a sense of accomplishment and an important urge that needs to be cultivated during one’s life; and, Moksha is liberation from all earthly desires, possibly after they are satisfied, and efforts to realize the truth begin after achieving this liberation from earthly desires (Sharma 2006).” [Rajasakran, T, Santhidran, S & Raja, S S. (2014). Purushartha: Maslow’s Need Hierarchy Revisited. Anthropologist. 18. 199-203.] Though the authors equate esteem with dharma, it is more proper to equate esteem with kāma and self-actualization with dharma, because dharmais not as much about esteem as it is about inner-calling, self-fulfillment and purpose in life.
[30] Maslow, A (1954). Motivation and personality. New York, NY: Harper.
[31] Brahmmasri S Gurunatha Ghanapadigal notes that Dharma is one of the goals, it is placed at the very beginning, since pursuing Dharma will automatically result in one attaining other purusharthas as well. Thus, Dharma is considered as the principal purusharthas. [Ghanapadigal, S G (2017). Varnasrama Dharmamum Tharkala VazhkaiyumYouTube. Retrieved October 2017 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tt8JWA97TSk]
[32] Manusmṛti (10.63) gives a list of five tenets; Arthaśāstra (1.3.13) mentions six tenets; Yajnavalkya Smṛti (1.122) mentions nine tenets; Mahābhāratam (12.60.7-8) also mentions nine tenets; Vāmana Purāṇa (11.23-24) mentions fourteen tenets and Bhāgavatapurāṇa (7.11.8-12) mentions thirty tenets as sāmānya dharma that are applicable to every person.  Sāmānyadharma are universal principles applicable to all irrespective of their class, gender, or nationality. The five tenets mentioned in Manu are ahiṃsā (non-injury), satya (truth), asteya(non-stealing), indriya-nigraha (Sense-restraint) and śauca (Cleanliness). For a detailed discussion on sāmānya dharma, See Sridhar, N (2015). Samanya Dharma and Spirituality. Prabuddha Bharata. 120 (9)
[33] Frawley (2016) notes: “The Hindu Varna system has a unique yogic orientation beyond outward class divisions. The Vedic goal of life is the realization of Cosmic Consciousness within the individual, for which the practice of Yoga and meditation is prescribed – which includes detachment from the outer goals of life. Varna is meant to aid in the individual process of Self-realization and not become an end-in-itself. To reach that Universal Self one must give up identification with any social group.” [Frawley, David (2016). Why Varna is Not Caste. IndiaFacts. Retrieved on October, 2017 from http://indiafacts.org/varna-not-caste/]
[34] Śūdra-s i.e. those with śūdra svabhāva are simple minded who have a mundane and worldly outlook. Thus, their primary concern is often limited to their everyday life, family, children, and happiness. In other words, their primary goal is ‘kāma or fulfillment of worldly desires of themselves and their families. It is for this reason, śūdra varṇa is also considered to have only one āśrama (stage in life) of gr̥hastha (householder), wherein they can satisfy their worldly desires including sexual ones. Similarly, vaiśya varṇa is associated with the puruṣārthaof ‘ārtha’ (gathering of wealth), because their svabhāva drives them to pursue wealth and prosperity; kṣatriya is associated with dharma, because their foremost duty is the protection of dharma and the welfare of citizens, and not pursuance of personal desires or wealth; and brahmaṇa-s are associated with mokṣa, because it is the ultimate calling of the brahmaṇa and they are by svabhāva spiritual in outlook. In fact, Vajrasucika Upaniṣad (Verse 10) says, a true brahmaṇa is one who has established himself in Brahman i.e. Attained mokṣa. For correlation between varṇa and āśrama, See Vaikhānasa Dharmasūtra 1.1, which notes that brahmaṇa has eligibility to all the four āśrama-skṣatriya to three and vaiśya-s to two. By implication, śūdra-s are entitled only to vivāha or gr̥hastha because all are allowed to marry.
[35] “Capitalist greed gives one the permission to grow rich beyond one’s dreams. Socialism seeks a society of equality. But Marxists seek this equality by ‘soaking the rich’… By creating more equality socialism was supposed to eliminate human envy. But the opposite happened. Oddly enough, as levelling increases in society, it actually increases envy. The Soviet Union was pervaded with envy because tiny differences, such as a new tablecloth, got exaggerated in neighbours’ eyes. If greed is the vice of capitalism, envy is the flaw of socialism. ‘From each according to ability and to each according to his need’ was the rallying cry of Marxism as it set out to create a classless, egalitarian society. Socialist societies, however, turned out to be the most envious in history.” [Das, G (2009). The Difficulty of Being Good: On the Subtle Art of Dharma. New Delhi : Allen Lane]
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This paper was presented at the 4th International Dharma-Dhamma Conference on “State and Social Order in Dharma-Dhamma Traditions” held at Nalanda University, Rajgir, Bihar between 11th to 13th January, 2018
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With a degree in civil engineering, and having worked in construction field, Nithin Sridhar passionately writes about various issues from development, politics, and social issues, to religion, spirituality and ecology. He is based in Mysore, India. His latest book “Musings On Hinduism” provides an overview of various aspects of Hindu philosophy and society. Tweets at @nkgrock