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Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Endgame in the North Korean Crisis?

Endgame in the North Korean Crisis?


Endgame in the North Korean Crisis?

Written by Dr. Seshadri Kumar, 06 September, 2017


Abstract

Is there a strategic advantage to the US in provoking North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to attack the US or its allies by using inflammatory rhetoric? Is there a method to US President Donald Trump's seeming madness in his sharp statements on North Korea? I argue that there is, and that there is a possibility that this is part of a larger geopolitical game.


Introduction

The Korean Peninsula has been at the forefront of international news for a few months now. There have been heated words exchanged between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, and there has been a rapid escalation of tensions. North Korea has been launching missile tests, with one of them flying over Japan; has announced that they have been successful in testing a hydrogen bomb (a claim that has been verified by seismic data) that can be fitted on to a warhead; and has explicitly said that the US territory of Guam is a potential target.

However, it is my view that Mr. Trump’s strong statements are not merely those of an individual out of control. This could well be part of a carefully thought-out strategy with the Pentagon at the centre.

Donald Trump, for his part, has been threatening North Korea with words such as “fire and fury”; such as “the time for talk is over”; by conducting joint military exercises with its allies South Korea and Japan; and by publicly excoriating the South Koreans for being too soft on the North.

Many people are interpreting Mr. Trump’s utterances as typical of his tendency to fly off the handle – something that Americans and the whole world had plenty of opportunity to witness during the entire election campaign for the 2016 elections, as well as in the months after he took charge of the Presidency.

However, it is my view that Mr. Trump’s strong statements are not merely those of an individual out of control. This could well be part of a carefully thought-out strategy with the Pentagon at the centre. Let me explain.

The Korean War

Korea was partitioned in the closing stages of WWII. The Russians invaded Japanese-held Korea from the north, and the Americans invaded it from the south, and they drew the line partitioning Korea into a North and a South at the 38th parallel.

The Korean War was the first proxy war between the US and the USSR in the Cold War. Both China and the Soviet Union supported North Korea in the war, with the Chinese sending vast numbers of soldiers to fight the Americans, and the Soviets providing fighters to counter American air power.

General Douglas MacArthur was in command of the American forces in Korea (and Japan), which were initially caught by surprise when the North Koreans invaded the South in 1950, and completely overran the country, restricting the American force in Korea to the Pusan perimeter. MacArthur improvised a brilliant amphibious operation, through which American forces landed on the other side of South Korea, on Inchon, and encircled the North Koreans, whose supply lines were stretched. The North Korean army collapsed under the US assault, and was driven beyond the 38th parallel.

Since American forces had actively fought in this war (as opposed to many other Cold War engagements in which they had mainly supported others fighting), North Korea has seen the Americans as a mortal enemy ever since the Korean War.

But MacArthur was not satisfied with this. He wanted to take the fight deep into the North, and finally pursued the North Koreans all the way to the Chinese border at the Yalu river. Mao Zedong was watching these developments very warily. Even though Communist China had just been formed, Mao had visions of his country being a great power. There was also enmity between the Chinese and the Americans because the Americans had supported Mao’s enemy, the Kuomintang (Guomindang) and its leader, Chiang Kai-Shek (Jiang Jieshi), in the 1949 revolution.

Mao was thus allergic to the idea of American forces next to his country, and had decided in advance with the Chinese Politburo that if the Americans were to reach the Yalu, the Chinese would attack. And that is what they did on October 25, 1950, when 300,000 soldiers poured over the Yalu to attack the Americans, which resulted in the bloody retreat of American forces from the north, a slide that only stopped when Lieutenant-General Matthew Ridgeway took charge of American forces in Korea.

Ridgeway improved the morale and discipline of the American troops, and counterattacked in a series of bitterly-fought engagements, and finally the North was back at the 38th parallel. This time the Americans did not make the mistake they had in 1950, and did not pursue the enemy into North Korean territory. Fighting continued for two more years in a bitter stalemate, until an armistice was reached under UN auspices on 27th July, 1953, with India playing a key role in the formation of the Neutral National Repatriation Commission, under the Chairmanship of General KS Thimayya.

Both the North and the South suffered terribly as a result of the war. Seoul was destroyed four times in battles over control of it. Much of the North was completely destroyed in US bombing raids. Since American forces had actively fought in this war (as opposed to many other Cold War engagements in which they had mainly supported others fighting), North Korea has seen the Americans as a mortal enemy ever since the Korean War.

Sixty-Four Years of Hostility

The end of the Korean War was inconclusive, with the formation of the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). With no peace settlement signed, this is the longest continuing formal war in the world.

Now, for the first time, the US sees an enemy that can pose a threat not only to its ally, South Korea, but to itself as well.

The regime that ruled North Korea then continues to rule it today. Kim il-Sung was succeeded by his son, Kim Jong-il, and his grandson, the current leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un. The country is completely closed off to the world, with the exception of China and Russia. According to many accounts, China provides most of the oil and food that the North needs to survive. For decades, the Chinese have also helped the North militarily, as a check on American ambitions in the Far East. It is also very likely that China itself provided the North with the technology to produce nuclear weapons.

For decades, the problem of the Koreas was only a mild annoyance. The Kims would regularly make aggressive statements about America and the South, but nobody seriously expected another war to break out in the Korean peninsula.

All that changed with the development of nuclear weapons under Kim Jong-il, which accelerated under Kim Jong-un. Now, for the first time, the US sees an enemy that can pose a threat not only to its ally, South Korea, but to itself as well. Kim Jong-un’s utterances have not made things any easier for the US – when he says he is developing ICBMs that can reach Guam, Hawaii, and potentially the US west coast; and when he talks about weaponizing those missiles with miniature hydrogen bombs with yields of 50 kilotons.

A Possible Response of the US to the New Threat

Thinking purely from an American strategic perspective, the most efficient thing for the US would be to launch a sudden, surprise, pre-emptive nuclear attack on the North, which would prevent them from being able to launch their own attack on Seoul, Guam, or any other place.

The US has been very concerned about the development of nuclear weapons by the north for a long time. Repeatedly, treaties have been signed and sanctions imposed to ensure the stoppage of the North Korean nuclear program in exchange for economic incentives. It is clear that those have failed; the North has only used those treaties and sanctions to buy time to further develop their weapons program.

Given all this, purely from a military strategy perspective, what is the best option for the USA?

It seems to me that things have become very serious for America. One of the cardinal tenets of American foreign policy is that ethics are subservient to the American national interest. Thinking purely from an American strategic perspective, the most efficient thing for the US would be to launch a sudden, surprise, pre-emptive nuclear attack on the North, which would prevent them from being able to launch their own attack on Seoul, Guam, or any other place. From purely an American strategic and military perspective (without considering the human tragedy involved), this would solve the Korean problem once and for all for the Americans.

The strategic benefits would be immense. The US would break the Chinese vise grip on South-east Asia, and would have a dominating presence right next to China and Russia.

But of course, it would have a horrible cost in human life. The tragedy would far exceed that of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, because the American objective would be to obliterate the North so that there is no chance of a counterattack – and this might mean a massive nuclear attack. This would also be very easy for them do in a very short span of time. Indeed, I would be very surprised if a detailed contingency plan was not already in place. The US Seventh Fleet is already in Japan and South Korea and could complete such an attack within an hour if given the signal. It would be over so quickly that the Russians and Chinese would not have time to react.

But such an attack would be widely condemned by the rest of the world, and the US would be seen as an aggressor.

But...what if North Korea did something stupid? What if they actually fired a missile at Guam? What if it missed its target, went down in the sea, but caused a huge nuclear explosion?

Then the US would be well within its rights to retaliate, and retaliate massively. It would not have to ask the UN for sanction, and would not need to inform Russia or China, because every country has the right to defend its sovereignty.

Politically, too, this move would be very beneficial to Donald Trump … If Trump can show that the threat from North Korea to the US is genuine and credible, he will be greatly praised for his leadership as a Commander-in-Chief willing to take tough decisions to benefit Americans.

Such a move would also take the focus off the investigations into Trump’s links with Russia, and the fact that his first year so far has been a dismal failure.

Beleaguered leaders love nothing more than a war.

The strategic benefits would be immense. The US would break the Chinese vise grip on South-east Asia, and would have a dominating presence right next to China and Russia.

The trick is to do it without being painted as the aggressor. What better way than to goad and provoke a mentally unstable and unpredictable leader, like Kim Jong-un, by using inflammatory rhetoric such as “Fire and fury will rain down on North Korea like they have never imagined?”

It should be noted that, given the standards of provocation for US aggression in the past, even this may not be necessary. George W. Bush invaded Iraq merely on the assumption (based on flimsy evidence that was shown to be false) that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction; in North Korea’s case, you have a country that verifiably has weapons of mass destruction and, to boot, has sworn to use them against the United States. That itself could be excuse enough for the US to launch a pre-emptive strike, and not many in the world would blame them.

Politically, too, this move would be very beneficial to Donald Trump. Americans always unite in the face of a national threat. If Trump can show that the threat from North Korea to the US is genuine and credible, he will be greatly praised for his leadership as a Commander-in-Chief willing to take tough decisions to benefit Americans. Few Americans would fault him for using nuclear weapons against an adversary who has threatened to use them against the US, and has come close to hitting an important ally, Japan. Most Americans I have spoken to have told me that they have no regrets about the fact that the US dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, because it saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans that would have been lost in a land invasion of Japan. Such a move would also take the focus off the investigations into Trump’s links with Russia, and the fact that his first year so far has been a dismal failure. Beleaguered leaders love nothing more than a war.

China's Role

China and Russia fully realize this possibility, which is why they are making statements daily asking for the US to “negotiate” with North Korea. For both countries, North Korea is the perfect foil to the world’s biggest superpower – a small country threatening to nuke the world’s biggest military power, and effectively putting a leash on US ambitions in South-East Asia. There is little doubt that if North Korea has advanced this far in its nuclear program, it has only been possible because of the active encouragement of and direct help from China. North Korea is essentially a proxy for the Chinese in their bid to contain America. That is why the North has been able to continue its military program despite sanctions for decades.

The Chinese strategy has worked very well for 20 years now; but if things blow up into a nuclear war, then the entire strategy will backfire on the Chinese and the Russians.

Unless China uses its considerable clout with North Korea in scaling down this situation, it will end up in the unspeakable horror of nuclear war.

Nuclear fallout clouds do not respect national borders, and the Chinese will be very vulnerable if a nuclear bomb explodes on the Korean peninsula.

The Chinese strategy has worked very well for 20 years now; but if things blow up into a nuclear war, then the entire strategy will backfire on the Chinese and the Russians.

The only country with sufficient leverage on North Korea since the Korean War has been China, and it continues to be the only country that can influence North Korea. They have deliberately encouraged North Korea in a bid to undermine the US’ global power. The American military has grown wise to their strategy and, I believe, in combination with a highly unstable and unpredictable leader in North Korea, has used Trump’s own unpredictability to push this situation closer to a war.

Unless China uses its considerable clout with North Korea in scaling down this situation, it will end up in the unspeakable horror of nuclear war. China’s immediate intervention – by choking off the supply line - may involve causing regime change in North Korea and subsequently, chaos, but there really is little alternative. Alternatively, it could send its army across the Yalu, depose Kim Jong-un, and replace him with a puppet of their choice, in a fast coup to defuse the situation. This way, they could continue to retain their hold on North Korea. This is important for them as they have always viewed the Korean peninsula as being within their sphere of influence.

The ball is not in America’s court. It is in China’s. They need to act quickly to prevent tragedy on a global scale. Nuclear fallout clouds do not respect national borders, and the Chinese will be very vulnerable if a nuclear bomb explodes on the Korean peninsula. The Americans might well call Kim’s bluff, and that would be a disaster for the world.



Disclaimer: All the opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of Dr. Seshadri Kumar alone and should not be construed to mean the opinions of any other person or organization, unless explicitly stated otherwise in the article.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

The Right to Selective Outrage

The Right to Selective Outrage


The Right to Selective Outrage

Written by Dr. Seshadri Kumar, 28 August, 2017


Abstract

It has become commonplace in India to try to invalidate any concerns expressed by liberals regarding atrocities committed against minorities, such as Muslims, or Dalits, with a technique known as "Whataboutery." This technique, used by people from the Hindu right wing, involves putting the liberals on the defensive by aggressively questioning them as to whether they were or are as concerned about injustices done to the majority community, and implying that since they have not shown the same passion regarding injustices suffered by the majority Hindu community, their concerns are inadmissible.

This article investigates this phenomenon and the validity of this line of attack.


How the Hindu Right Has Successfully Framed the Debate on Intolerance in India

One of the classic methods of manipulating thought on a mass scale is a technique known as “Framing the Debate”, and is described in Chomsky and Hermann's classic book, Manufacturing Consent. The essence of Framing the Debate is to restrict the choices available in the debate, so that while it appears to give the viewer the impression of free speech, in fact, that freedom is greatly constrained because of the limited choices available in the discussion. An example of such framing would be to ask if a person who is suspected of a crime should be imprisoned for life or handed the death penalty, while ignoring the third, very real possibility that the person might be innocent of the crime he is suspected of in the first place, and might therefore be most deserving of acquittal, rather than the two offered choices of death or life imprisonment.

A similar thing is happening in the national debate in India regarding the intolerance of the majority Hindus towards the minority Muslims. It is no surprise to most people who have been following events in India that there have been several high-profile attacks on Muslims by Hindus in the last two years, with the active encouragement of senior people in the ruling BJP government at the centre: Mohammad Akhlaque, Pehlu Khan, and Junaid Khan come immediately to mind. These attacks are often tacitly encouraged by the ruling party at the centre, by its key ministers, MLAs, MPs, party Vice-Presidents and intellectuals making statements justifying such attacks, while the person who is the unquestioned leader of the party - the Prime Minister - whose word is paramount, maintains a studied silence and refuses to condemn the statements of his party members and even his cabinet colleagues. There was also the horrific attack on Dalits in Una, where they were publicly flogged outside the police station by a mob.

Collectively, these arguments are referred to in modern parlance as “Whataboutery”, because all of them start with “What about...” They are attempts to distract the focus from the issue at hand to a completely different issue.

When liberals in India are shocked at these murders, disenfranchisements, and injustices, and speak out against them, supporters of the Hindu right in India often confront them with the following arguments:

Collectively, these arguments are referred to in modern parlance as “Whataboutery”, because all of them start with “What about...” They are attempts to distract the focus from the issue at hand to a completely different issue.

And the interesting thing is: they fell for it. They stood there in the studio trying to prove their bonafides as unbiased human rights campaigners.

But the basis for this line of reasoning is false and untenable.

The Hindu right has been hammering on these points consistently for years now. And it is clearly having an effect in framing the debate. There was a recent program on NDTV titled “The Big Fight” and subtitled “Selective Outrage.”

The focus of the program was whether civil society members are guilty of selective outrage; whether they only protest and complain about Muslim victims of discrimination, and not about Hindu victims; whether they stay silent about restrictions on freedom of speech on Hindus, but not on Muslims; whether they only protest about the murder of Mohammad Akhlaque in Dadri, but not of Ayub Pandith in Kashmir; whether they are silent about Malda; and so on. Civil society members who participated were subjected to grilling by those from the right-wing to prove their even-handedness and to prove that they were not biased.

And the interesting thing is: they fell for it. They stood there in the studio trying to prove their bonafides as unbiased human rights campaigners.

But the basis for this line of reasoning is false and untenable.

And it is a sign of how much the Hindu right has succeeded in brainwashing Indians that this happened on the only mainstream liberal TV channel in India. The anchor, Vikram Chandra, was also agreeing that those who did criticize human rights violations needed to be fair and even-handed and not selective.

That is a sign of how deep the rot runs in our morals in India.

The Right to Selective Outrage

Injustices do not become any less unjust just because someone else has endured similar injustice.

The idea that one is not entitled to talk about injustices unless one talks about all injustices is a red herring that has been successfully implanted in the Indian liberal psyche today. Injustices do not become any less unjust just because someone else has endured similar injustice. Murder does not cease to be abhorrent and repulsive simply because it has occurred elsewhere and with someone else. Discrimination does not become any more palatable simply because they have been experienced by other communities.

It is also an impossible and unnatural expectation to argue that one has to be consistent in opposing all forms of injustice in order to be a credible opponent of injustice. Consider the situation in which I, as a Tamilian, would have faced in Mumbai in the 1960s, where Tamilians were subject to harassment and beatings because they were perceived to be taking jobs away from Maharashtrians. If I chose to complain about the plight of my fellow-Tamils (even if I had not been personally affected), could someone tell me that my complaints were not valid unless I talked about, for example, the injustices faced by tribals in India; or that faced by Biharis in Bengal; and so on? No.

To take another example, think about the Telangana agitation of 2009-2011. People from the Telangana region wanted their own state and did not want to be part of the Andhra Pradesh state. They had their grievances as to why they wanted this new state - a list of perceived injustices they were facing as part of the state of Andhra Pradesh. Without getting into the validity of those grievances, all we need to note is that nobody asked the Telangana activists, “What about Vidarbha?” Vidarbha, too, is a region seeking statehood for itself, separate from Maharashtra. Nobody asked that question because it was obvious that the Telangana activists were only fighting for their cause. They were not saying they were fighting for every disenfranchised community in every state in India who wanted their own state. The point is that every agitation, complaint, grievance, demand, or movement needs to be evaluated and judged on its own merit, not by looking at other agitations, complaints, grievances, demands, or movements. People need to decide for themselves if there is merit in the claims of injustices and decide whether or not to support them.

To take yet another example, would someone who is fighting for the rights of Dalits be asked “What about the rights of blacks in America? What about the discrimination they face? Why aren't you talking about that?” Or would he be asked why he did not talk about the persecution of Jews in the world through history? Those are totally irrelevant questions to the question of Dalit injustices. To be sure, there are injustices in all these cases. But if I am a Dalits rights activist, that is my focus - I neither have the interest nor the knowledge to talk intelligently about the problems of blacks in America.

Intolerance is intolerance; both the actions of the Bengali Muslims and the extremist Hindus who forced Husain to leave India are intolerant. That one does not talk about one intolerant incident does not make the other incident tolerant.

To come to some of the specifics of the arguments raised by the Hindu right, I do not know enough about the Kashmir problem. I agree that there has been an injustice against the Kashmiri Pandits, but I do not know much more beyond that. I have not spent the time needed to study the problem. So I do not speak out about the injustice done to Kashmiri Pandits. But that does not in any way reduce the moral force of my arguments when I talk about the horrible injustice done to a Pehlu Khan, who was lynched in public view for no fault at all - he was legally transporting cattle for dairy use, and had the requisite papers. I think this is a glaring and grave injustice, and whether or not I speak on the issue of Kashmiri Pandits does not make this any less of a grave injustice.

I have written about the injustice done to the Sikhs in 1984. But let us say that someone does not ever talk about it. Does it make his argument that a Junaid Khan was brutally and unfairly killed in a train just because he was a Muslim any less accurate or less valid — just because he never spoke out about 1984?

Let us say that someone did not speak up about the recent intolerance of Muslims in Bengal, who went on a rampage, causing riots and destroying property, simply because a Hindu posted an offensive cartoon on FB - that he or she said nothing about the fact that these Muslims wanted to lynch the teenager and burned down his house. If that same person raised the issue of MF Husain being hounded out of India by Hindu right-wing militants issuing death threats to him for his nude paintings of Indian goddesses, is his argument any less valid? No.

Intolerance is intolerance; both the actions of the Bengali Muslims and the extremist Hindus who forced Husain to leave India are intolerant. That one does not talk about one intolerant incident does not make the other incident tolerant.

I have the right to selective outrage, just as everyone else has. My selective outrage does not reduce the force of my arguments or make my arguments any less valid.

It does not matter what else I comment about. I can choose to only talk about atrocities against Muslims and Dalits. That does not make me any less credible as a commentator. The only thing that should matter to my credibility is whether the arguments I am presenting are factual or not; whether they actually do represent an injustice. Two wrongs do not make a right. That some Hindu may have been treated unjustly does not make injustice against a Muslim justice. One murder does not cancel out the other.

People have their own pet causes. One person may constantly write about atrocities on Muslims; another about atrocities on Dalits; a third about atrocities on linguistic minorities in a particular state; a fourth on atrocities against Adivasis in the jungles of India; and a fifth about animal rights. Nobody needs to be a pan-Indian or a pan-World crusader against injustice for their arguments to be taken seriously. The only thing that is relevant is whether their arguments (that an injustice has occurred) has merit.

I am only a hypocrite if I oppose your right to speak about the injustices you wish to highlight.

I have the right to selective outrage, just as everyone else has. My selective outrage does not reduce the force of my arguments or make my arguments any less valid.

If I choose to highlight atrocities against Muslims and Dalits, you can choose to highlight atrocities against Hindus (if and when they do occur). My not talking about those does not make me a hypocrite. I am only a hypocrite if I oppose your right to speak about the injustices you wish to highlight.

It should be understood that while my prescription applies to private citizens, it does not apply to Governments, whether of the Centre or the States. Governments are expected to be fair towards all their citizens; and so they should be equally concerned when a Muslim or a Dalit or a Christian or a Buddhist is hurt or aggrieved as when a Hindu is.

Unfortunately, the present government does not seem to view all its citizens equally.

It should be understood that while my prescription applies to private citizens, it does not apply to Governments, whether of the Centre or the States. Governments are expected to be fair towards all their citizens; and so they should be equally concerned when a Muslim or a Dalit or a Christian or a Buddhist is hurt or aggrieved as when a Hindu is. Unfortunately, the present government does not seem to view all its citizens equally.

What is worrisome is that most liberals do not understand this basic fact, as the NDTV debate proved. Rather than defiantly say, “Yes, I will only talk about atrocities against Muslims and Dalits; if you so choose, you are welcome to highlight any atrocities against Hindus,” I find secular commentators everywhere falling over themselves, trying desperately to prove that they are even-handed in their criticism of right-wing Hindus.

What I am trying to say here is that there is no need for that - what matters is whether your arguments are factual and objective.

Nobody should have to apologize for the shortcomings in their knowledge or their inclinations - only for providing false information.

The Hindu right simply does not recognize injustices against minorities as injustices.

Incidentally, I have never seen a liberal ask a Hindu right wing activist "What about Akhlaque?" when the Hindu right-winger tries to bring up the subject of Kashmiri Pandits. All of them acknowledge that the grievance of the Pandits is a legitimate one. And that is the fundamental problem - that the Hindu right simply does not recognize injustices against minorities as injustices, unlike liberals who do acknowledge injustices against Hindus.

What this means that the main purpose of the whataboutery practiced by the Hindu right is not to highlight atrocities against the majority community, but to de-legitimize complaints of genuine injustices, such as lynchings, beatings, and disenfranchisements, done to minorities.



Disclaimer: All the opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of Dr. Seshadri Kumar alone and should not be construed to mean the opinions of any other person or organization, unless explicitly stated otherwise in the article.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

The Scriptural Sanction for Caste-Based Discrimination in Hinduism. Part IX.


The Scriptural Sanction for Caste-Based Discrimination in Hinduism. Part IX.


The Scriptural Sanction for Caste-Based Discrimination in Hinduism

Part IX

The Bhagavad Gita, As It REALLY Is

BG7: Detailed Exposition: Summary and Conclusions

Written by Dr. Seshadri Kumar, 16 April, 2017


Bhagavad Gita Series Abstract

This series on the Bhagavad Gita is part of a larger series of articles which examine the important question: Is caste-based discrimination in Hindu society an intrinsic part of Hinduism? Is it sanctioned in Hindu scripture? Or is it simply a social custom arrived at by distorting the scriptures?

A key attendant question is: Is caste, according to Hindu scripture, a rigid status that accrues to an individual only by virtue of birth in that caste, and hence unchangeable during that person's life? Or, is it a more fluid descriptor of a person that can change during a person's lifetime? In other words, is caste birth-based, or can it be earned?

To examine this question, I investigated every verse in the Bhagavad Gita that has any relationship to the issue of varNa, the overarching concept that contains the concept of caste, and subjected each of these verses to a detailed analysis, using both the literal meaning of the Sanskrit shlOkas as well as the commentaries of highly respected commentators on these verses. I viewed the verses both in isolation and in the overall context of the Bhagavad Gita, as well as in the overall context of Hindu theology and philosophy. The results of my study are presented in this seven-part series (BG1 to BG7), which is part of my larger series on caste in Hinduism.

I conclude that caste and caste-based discrimination are fundamental to the very foundation of Hinduism as expressed in the Bhagavad Gita.

They are not a distortion of the scriptures of Hinduism. Far from being an added social custom, the birth-based caste system is at the very basis of Hindu thought.

The caste system, as seen today, is largely a faithful representation of Lord Krishna’s words and intended meaning in the Bhagavad Gita. The central arguments in the Bhagavad Gita itself would collapse without the support of caste-based discrimination. The system, therefore, is expressly sanctioned in the Bhagavad Gita.

In this seven-part series, I present the original Sanskrit text of each verse discussed, its transliteration, its word-by-word meaning, its free translation, and the commentaries of six major interpreters of the Gita: Adi Shankaracharya, Ramanujacharya, Madhvacharya, Shridhara Swami, Acharya Keshava Kashmiri, and Sant Jnaneshwar. Based on all these, I draw overall meanings for each verse, and overall conclusions for each group of verses. Finally, I draw overall conclusions on the scriptural sanction for caste-based discrimination in the Bhagavad Gita.

A concise summary of the ideas in the Gita discussed in this seven-part series can be found in BG0 (Part II of the larger series.)


Current Article Abstract

In the present article, BG7, I present the summary of the six preceding parts (BG1 to BG6) of this detailed exposition. Following this, I present the summary and overall conclusions of this detailed study of caste-related verses in the Gita.

From the conclusions, it is evident that varNa-based (and therefore caste-based) discrimination is at the foundation of Krishna’s message in the Gita, because it is birth in a certain varNa that defines the divinely-ordained duty of a person. And this divinely-ordained, varNa-based duty is deemed just and appropriate by Krishna, because it corresponds to what is believed to be the inborn quality (guNa) of that person, which is a result of good or bad actions (karmas) performed in past births. The Bhagavad Gita therefore gives divine sanction, through Lord Krishna, to the institution of varNa-based discrimination.

Because of this assumed causality, there is no injustice seen in the Hindu psyche for a person’s birth in a low caste and the social consequences of that low birth.

The caste system, far from being seen as an oppressive and unjust system by the Gita and its author, Lord Krishna, is instead seen to be a fair and just system that rewards or punishes souls for their actions in past births.


Table of Contents

Sources, Methodology, Transliteration Scheme, and Numbering Scheme
BG1: The Intermixture of varNas
BG2: The Creation of the Four varNas
BG3: The Three guNas of Human Nature
BG4: The Duties of the Four varNas
BG5: The Nature of the Shudras
BG6: Seeing the Universal Consciousness in All Life
Overall Summary and Conclusion - Bhagavad Gita
The Plight of the Dalits
Understanding Caste-Based Discrimination in Hinduism
Acknowledgments
Caste-Based Discrimination in Hinduism - The Full Series
Indexes for All Gita Series Shlokas


Sources, Methodology, Transliteration Scheme, and Numbering Scheme

The methodology and sources used for the analysis of the verses in the Bhagavad Gita have been already presented in Part III, including brief backgrounds of the commentators and their philosophical leanings. The overall framework of this entire series has been presented in Part I of this series. The transliteration scheme used here can be seen in Part II of the series. A Glossary can also be found in Part II.

The numbering scheme followed in this entire "Caste Discrimination in Hinduism" series is that each article has an number in the overall sequence of articles in the "Caste Discrimination in Hinduism" series, represented by Roman numerals. Within the larger series, individual series articles, dealing with individual scriptures, are numbered using scripture initials and Arabic numerals. For instance, the articles in the Bhagavad Gita series are numbered as BGN, where N is the number of the article in the Bhagavad Gita series.


BG1: The Intermixture of varNas

Mixed-varNa marriages should not be allowed when the varNa of the man is lower than that of the woman.

In BG1, Part III of the Caste Series, Krishna explains that inter-varNa unions are a bad thing (in pratilOma unions, in which the varNa of the man is lower than than of the woman - even though this is not explicitly stated, it is the intent, because the discussion is on lower-varNa men taking widowed Kshatriya women as wives), because the children from these unions are cast out of the varNas of both parents. This means that there is no one among the offspring of such unions to perform the rituals that need to be performed monthly and yearly for the souls of the departed ancestors. If these rituals are not performed, then the souls of the ancestors sink into hell. Thus, mixed-varNa marriages should not be allowed when the varNa of the man is lower than that of the woman.

In addition, as is mentioned in the Mahabharata and Manusmriti (which will be covered in other parts of this series), even in anulOma unions, when the man's varNa is higher than the woman's, it is forbidden for a Brahmana man to marry a Shudra woman.

BG2: The Creation of the Four varNas

(Lord Krishna) is not to blame for who falls in what varNa, for individual souls have their own actions over millions of births to blame or thank for their present births.

In BG2, Part IV of the Caste Series, Krishna tells Arjuna that he has created the four-varNa system (the superset of the modern caste system – each varNa encompasses several castes) of Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudras. He tells Arjuna that individuals are born into different varNas depending on the past actions (karmas) of the AtmAs of those individuals during millions of past births, and the pre-natal qualities of their AtmAs (their guNas) as they arrive in this birth, that have been accumulated over those millions of births as a result of those karmas. Although Krishna is the creator of the varNa system, He is not to blame for who falls in what varNa, for individual souls have their own actions over millions of births to blame or thank for their present births.

BG3: The Three guNas of Human Nature

So someone with a predominance of sattva guNa is reborn in a Brahmin family … and someone with a predominance of tamas guNa is reborn as a Shudra.

In BG3, Part V of the Caste Series, Krishna explains to Arjuna in detail the differences between the three guNas of sattva, rajas, and tamas, and how they ensnare the AtmA and attach it to the body in the jIva. He explains that the attachment of the AtmA to the body comes about because the jIva confuses the body with the AtmA, and so starts to think that what he experiences with the body is really who he is.

So the jIva enjoys learning and scholarship as a sAttvik person, and thinks that is who he is; he enjoys bodily pleasures, such as good food, sexual intercourse, and intoxicants, and thinks his life is about bodily pleasures (the effect of rajas guNa); he loves sleep, ignorance, superstition, and laziness, and believes that is his self (tamas guNa). The pleasures that the body provides him through his five senses prevent him from seeing the soul as distinct from the body. So the guNas influence a person’s thinking and his actions, typically leading to the strengthening of the same guNa in a person.

Because of all these actions, one guNa in him is strengthened at the expense of the others, and because of this, when he dies, he is reborn into a family and a varNa which is suited to the guNas his soul possessed all his life, and at the time of its death. So someone with a predominance of sattva guNa is reborn in a Brahmin family; someone with a predominance of rajas guNa is reborn in a Kshatriya family; someone with rajas guNa and tamas guNa mixed, but with rajas dominant, is reborn as a Vaishya; and someone with a predominance of tamas guNa is reborn as a Shudra.

BG4: The Duties of the Different varNas

The Shudras, because they have no positive qualities in their souls, and because they are unfit for the duties of the aforementioned three varNas owing to the fundamental defect in their AtmAs, which are dominated by tamas, have only one duty – to serve the other three varNas without complaining, and depend on them to take care of their needs.

Now that we understand that a person is born into a certain varNa because of the quality of his AtmA – i.e., to match the guNas he is born with, Krishna explains in BG4, Part VI of the Caste Series, what the duties of that varNa are, and why they are a good match for that soul.

Krishna explains that, because the Brahmins are born with high levels of sattva in their souls, they must engage in learning the Vedas; have firm faith in God; live a life of serenity, self-control, austerity, and purity; and show tolerance, wisdom, and honesty. The Kshatriyas, because they are born with high levels of rajas, need to display heroism, exuberance, determination, resourcefulness, generosity, leadership, and show no trace of cowardice in battle. The Vaishyas, because they are born with a mixture of rajas and tamas, need to engage in agriculture, trade, and cow-protection. The Shudras, because they have no positive qualities in their souls, and because they are unfit for the duties of the aforementioned three varNas owing to the fundamental defect in their AtmAs, which are dominated by tamas, have only one duty – to serve the other three varNas without complaining, and depend on them to take care of their needs.

Krishna explains that, as per the path of karma yOga, or the discipline of duty to attain mOksha, a person born in a certain varNa, if he performs these varNa-determined duties that Krishna has laid out, to the best of his ability, and performs them, not for the material benefits that performing such duties might confer upon him – whether those be money, land, or status for a Brahmin; wealth, conquest, and power for a Kshatriya; or profits for a Vaishya – but as service to God, then he will attain mOksha.

Krishna further adds that one must only do one’s own varNa-determined duty; He says that doing the duty of another varNa, even if one can do such a duty perfectly, is wrong. He goes on to say that one must not grudge his duties even if one finds them objectionable or unpleasant (such as a Shudra might).

BG5: The Nature of the Shudras

Thus, the inborn qualities of a Shudra automatically disqualify him from the professions of the other three varNas.

Due to his defective and sinful birth, he is only fit to do menial tasks and take orders, according to Krishna.

In BG5, Part VII of the Caste Series, Krishna explains the qualities of a tamas-ridden being in the verses presented here. The tamas-dominated person, i.e., the Shudra, has no redeeming features, according to Krishna. He is stupid, evil, wicked, untrustworthy, irresponsible, lazy, vulgar, vain, etc. He is also given to erroneous conclusions and always believes the opposite of what a thing’s true nature is – he mistakes good for evil and vice versa; righteousness for urighteousness and vice versa; and so on.

With such severe character defects, and from birth (as stated by Krishna earlier), why would any society entrust such people with any duty other than servitude? The verses in this part, therefore, justify the duties assigned to the Shudra in Part VI. Why would you entrust the governance of a nation or the running of an army to a lazy, irresponsible person? Why would you allow a stupid person who always takes the wrong conclusion from a teaching to be educated? Why would you entrust the running of a business or a farm to someone who is lazy, procrastinating, unreasonable, and irresponsible?

Thus, the inborn qualities of a Shudra automatically disqualify him from the professions of the other three varNas. Due to his defective and sinful birth, he is only fit to do menial tasks and take orders, according to Krishna.

BG6: Seeing the Universal Consciousness in All Life

(Those born in low varNas) must endure the consequences of their karmas in previous births.

The verses presented in this part explain how, in order to attain mOksha, a person needs to see the Universal Consciousness, or paramAtmA, in every living being, whether that being be a high-born Brahmin, a sacred cow, an animal, or a low-caste, dog-eating shvapAka. The ability to see God in every living being is an essential prerequisite for attaining mOksha. This is explained in BG6, Part VIII of the Caste Series.

However, this does not contradict the rest of the Gita in terms of caste discrimination. What this means is that one should be able to recognize that God is everywhere; but individual AtmAs, even though they are just a portion of the paramAtmA, have to endure the consequences of their past births as long as they are attached to prakRuti, to the material world, and as long as they have not seen through the veil of the physical world. They must endure the consequences of their karmas in previous births. The enlightened one cannot help the person who has been born in a low caste, short of helping him understand how to see through the veil of illusion.

The Plight of the Dalits

No discussion of the caste system is complete without considering the plight of the Dalits, or the outcastes from the caturvarNa system. The Gita does not talk much about those outside the caturvarNa system – it confines itself to discussions of the four varNas – Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaishya, and Shudra.

But this does not mean that Dalits did not exist in the world of the Gita. In at least one verse, there is reference made to an outcaste, an untouchable – the shvapAka. Ironically, the mention of this untouchable caste comes in one of the more enlightened verses in the Gita, 5-18, which talks about how the Supreme Consciousness, the Ultimate Truth, brahman, is present equally in all life forms. To make the point abundantly clear, an example is chosen from the highest stratum of Hindu society – a Brahmana. To show the other extreme – a person from the lowest stratum, Krishna chooses to mention the shvapAka, an untouchable varNa whose job it was to serve at crematoria, and the members of which eat dogs for food. The other examples chosen in this verse are animals: a cow, an elephant, and a dog.

This example is significant because

  1. It acknowledges that these untouchable outcastes did exist in the world of the Gita (estimated to be composed between 500 BCE to 200 BCE).
  2. It acknowledges that their status is very low in the society of those times (by acknowledging that these people were dog eaters.)
  3. Verse 5-18, while stating that the same brahman exists in both the Brahmin and the shvapAka, does not say there is anything wrong in the wretched state of the shvapAka person, who has to work in crematoria and eat dogs. Like the Shudra, the shvapAka has deserved his fate.
  4. The shvapAka is only one of several outcaste varNas mentioned in the Mahabharata, the parent epic within which the Gita is contained. The Mahabharata mentions more than a dozen outcaste varNas that are formed from inter-varNa unions. These varNas were not allowed to mix with the rest of society. So Dalits were a reality in the world of the Mahabharata (estimated to have existed at approximately 900 BCE) and the Gita.
  5. From 5-18, it is clear that the shvapAka represents the lowest of the low in terms of merit – even lower than a Shudra. The shlOka is clearly constructed to mention the Brahmin as one end (the high end) of the stick of merit, and the shvapAka as the other end (the low end) of that stick. We already know, from Part VII, how low the status of Shudras, who are part of the caturvarNa system, was in the Gita – the descriptions of the guNa of tamas, which the Shudra is supposed to be full of, leave no doubt that they represent the lowest in human qualities. Yet, there are varNas, such as the shvapAka, who are even lower than the Shudras.

From this, the low status of Dalits during the time of the Gita can be gauged.

Overall Summary and Conclusion: Bhagavad Gita

To motivate Arjuna to fight in the war against his own relatives, Krishna explains the entire foundation of Hindu thought, and explains to Arjuna why it is absolutely essential that he fight in order to follow his divinely-ordained duty.

The essence of that foundation is as follows.

  • All living beings are made of matter infused with a soul, an AtmA, which is immortal, and part of the immortal, Supreme, all-pervading spirit of the divine, the paramAtmA.
  • The AtmA, fused with the physical body, gives rise to an embodied being, the jIva.
  • Through the jIva, the AtmA experiences the world. The jIva performs actions (karmas) good or bad, as part of its life.
  • These give rise to guNas, or qualities, that are attached to the soul. There are three kinds of guNas – the sattva guNa, or mode of goodness; the rajas guNa, or mode of passion and action; and the tamas guNa, or mode of darkness and ignorance. sattva, rajas, and tamas form a hierarchy of decreasing merit and goodness.
  • When a jIva dies, only the physical body dies. The AtmA, being immortal, eventually takes birth in another body as another jIva.
  • When the AtmA takes birth as a new jIva, the accumulated guNas from its past life (which bear the influence of all the actions in all of its previous lives) attach to it.
  • The imprint of the guNas on the soul is very strong. An AtmA with a high level of sattva will tend to act in virtuous ways, whereas an AtmA with a high level of tamas will tend to act in wicked ways.
  • After an AtmA takes birth as a jIva, its actions in the new life can further strengthen the guNas it was born with, or can weaken them.
  • Depending on the guNas of an AtmA, it is born into an appropriate varNa (a superset of caste – a varNa encompasses many castes of a similar kind). sAttvik AtmAs are born as Brahmins; rAjasik AtmAs are born as Kshatriyas; AtmAs with both rajas and tamas, but with a preponderance of rajas, are born as Vaishyas; and AtmAs with both rajas and tamas, but with a preponderance of tamas, are born as Shudras. This is done to match an AtmA’s dominant guNa with its surroundings.
  • Because of the nature of the guNas, certain duties are prescribed for certain varNas. Since sattva is the mode of goodness, and sAttvik souls are born as Brahmins, the duties of Brahmins, consistent with their guNas, are learning the Vedas, having firm faith in God, and displaying serenity, self-control, and the like. Since rajas is the mode of passion and action, and rAjasik souls are born as Kshatriyas, the duties of Kshatriyas are to show heroism, bravery, exuberance, determination, leadership, generosity, etc. Because rajas and tamas are both present in Vaishyas, with rajas as a more dominant guNa, Vaishyas need to engage in trade, agriculture, and cow protection. And because tamas is the mode of ignorance, and tamas-dominated souls are born as Shudras, Shudras are not fit for any of the duties of the Brahmins, the Kshatriyas, or the Vaishyas. They are fit only to be servants.
  • The varNa system has been created by God, by Krishna himself, so it must not be taken lightly. It must be followed very faithfully.
  • The spiritual goal of life is to attain mOksha, or salvation – release from this cycle of birth and death, and merging of one’s AtmA with the paramAtmA.
  • The way to mOksha is to follow your divinely-ordained duty, as per your varNa, as stated by Krishna. One must perform only the prescribed duties of his varNa, even if he is not good at them, and even if he is better at doing the duties of another’s varNa, because it would be sinful not to do so. One must also not grudge his duty as his varNa determines, because one has only oneself to blame for his present birth – it is the consequence of all one’s own actions in his past births. Whatever is one’s duty (dharma) in life, determined by his varNa, he must do to the best of his ability and do it as service to Krishna. This is the way to salvation.

This is the Hindu way of life. And because of all this, Arjuna, who is born a Kshatriya, must fight, because fighting for good is his duty as a Kshatriya. He has no choice. It is also the way for him to obtain mOksha for his soul – by fighting as an offering to Krishna.

The same is true for all Hindus. According to the teaching of the Gita, one must perform those duties, and only those duties, that are deemed appropriate for his varNa. One has no choice.

It can therefore be seen that caste-based discrimination is at the heart of Hindu philosophy and of the Bhagavad Gita. Without a divinely-ordained duty for a caste (or a varNa), there would be no way to convince Arjuna that indeed, he must fight. Arjuna must fight, because it is his sacred duty as a Kshatriya, and he would commit sin by not fighting, even though jnAna yOga is a superior path to attaining mOksha, and even though it is nonviolent, because it is not Arjuna’s varNa dharma to follow jnAna yOga.

People are born into varNas; they cannot earn it. The duties of one born in a varNa are mandatory, not optional. One varNa cannot do the prescribed duty of another. There are restrictions on inter-varNa marriages. This is, therefore, a system of discrimination based on birth.

The Bhagavad Gita, therefore, clearly endorses caste-based discrimination. Indeed, its entire message would collapse without it.

Although it has been mentioned earlier in this series, it bears repetition to say that, although most discussions in Hinduism are with reference to varNa, and not jAti (caste), the conclusions still apply broadly to castes. This is because jAtis are simply a subset of varNas. Hence, if there is a prohibition, for example, on Shudras, that prevents them from engaging in occupations involving learning or leadership, it applies to all jAtis in the Shudra varNa. Similarly, any prohibition on intermarriage between the Shudra varNa and the Brahmana or Kshatriya varNa applies to all jAtis within those varNas. However, the Gita says nothing about superiority or inferiority of jAtis within a varNa. That may well be a social custom inspired by the varNa system.


Understanding Caste-Based Discrimination in Hinduism

Having said all this, however, one could fairly make the argument that those who believe in the philosophy of the Bhagavad Gita, and run a society according to the principles of the Hindu religion, described herein, do not consciously discriminate against their fellow humans.

Let me explain.

Our modern idea of discrimination stems from our fundamental modern belief in the equality of human beings. In the words of the American Declaration of Independence, written in 1776:

In the Hindu scheme of things, all men (and women) are not created equal.

Since, in the Hindu view, people are unequal, the fair thing to do is to treat them unequally.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Similarly, the Preamble of the Indian Constitution, written in 1949, reads (capitalization as in the original):

WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN, SOCIALIST, SECULAR, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens:

JUSTICE, social, economic and political;

LIBERTY of thought , expression, belief, faith and worship;

EQUALITY of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all

FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation;

IN OUR CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY this twenty-sixth day of November, 1949, do HEREBY ADOPT, ENACT AND GIVE TO OURSELVES THIS CONSTITUTION.

These principles are common among all liberal democracies, whether or not such statements are explicitly written: the idea that all citizens of a country are entitled to equal rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, as the American Declaration states, or as the Indian Preamble further qualifies, the idea that all citizens are entitled to liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith, and worship, and equality of status and of opportunity.

Viewed through this lens, the Hindu caste system appears to be a highly unfair and discriminatory system, in that it restricts education only to some; in that there is certainly no equality of status or opportunity – professions are restricted to certain varNas; in that people are not allowed to marry whom they wish; and in that all citizens clearly do not have the same right to the pursuit of happiness.

But the fundamental assumption in this view – the reason that the Hindu restrictions on people are considered discriminatory – is the assumption that, as the American Declaration puts it, that “all men are created equal.”

In the Hindu scheme of things, all men (and women) are not created equal.

By “creation,” if we mean the embodied soul, the jIva, then it should be clear to the reader from all the discussions in this article series on the Gita that all men and women are certainly not created equal in the religious system described in the Bhagavad Gita. Hindus believe that different human beings are created unequal because of the guNas they are born with. Those with high levels of sattva guNa are superior to those with high levels of raja guNa, and both these are superior to those with high levels of tama guNa. Those guNas are a consequence of AtmAs’ own actions in past lives. So one has deserved his unequal status by one’s own actions in previous lives.

Since there is no equality of humans in the Hindu worldview, there is no discrimination according to the Hindu. Discrimination only arises when people who are equal are treated unequally.

Since, in the Hindu view, people are unequal, the fair thing to do is to treat them unequally.

A more cynical view would argue that the views presented in the Bhagavad Gita were expressly codified in this way, in a post-hoc fashion, to preserve the privileges of a pre-existing, entrenched elite. By

  • Postulating that certain groups (to which the elites belonged) were superior to others;
  • Asserting that this superiority was obtained only by birth; and
  • Restricting inter-group marriage (and excommunicating those who did marry between groups),
  • these groups were able to preserve the existing hierarchy for all time and for all future generations.

    If one believes in the teaching of the Gita, then one must believe in a society where all humans are born unequally. It stands to reason (and follows from an argument of meritocracy) that a Brahmin, being superior to the other varNas, should have more privileges and more status. He should be more entitled to privileges as he is closer to God. In sharp contrast, a Shudra whose soul (according to Hindu belief), from the time he is born, is steeped in darkness, superstition, evil, and ignorance, should certainly not be valued at all. To value highly a worthless and wicked person, and give him the same status as a highly intelligent, morally pure, honest, and spiritually sublime person such as a Brahmin (again, according to the assumptions of Hindu belief) would be stupid and ridiculous in the extreme. If you genuinely believe in the teachings of Hinduism – that people are born with unequal innate qualities, which only allow them to do certain jobs well – then you would feel completely justified in only letting them do those jobs and not other jobs.

    In the modern world, we value people who we consider wise and intelligent far more than we value idiots and fools. We pay them much more, because they are intelligent and wise, than we pay the idiots and fools.

    The difference between our modern liberal societies and ancient Hindu society is that we measure inequality of people based on manifest abilities, such as their ability to solve practical, everyday problems and their ability to understand temporal concepts; the ancient Hindus measured inequality of people based on their guNas, which they determined based on which family one was born into.

    Many Hindus, even today, believe in the Hindu varNa system, described in the Bhagavad Gita, and therefore believe that humans are created unequally at birth, and therefore deserve to be treated unequally. Not surprisingly, many of those who believe in the system happen to belong to the so-called "higher" varNas in Hindu society - those who have the most to gain from such an assumed superiority.

    One could argue fairly that the view just presented is a charitable one.

    A more cynical view would argue that the views presented in the Bhagavad Gita were expressly codified in this way, in a post-hoc fashion, to preserve the privileges of a pre-existing, entrenched elite. By

  • Postulating that certain groups (to which the elites belonged) were superior to others;
  • Asserting that this superiority was obtained only by birth; and
  • Restricting inter-group marriage (and excommunicating those who did marry between groups),
  • these groups were able to preserve the existing hierarchy for all time and for all future generations.

    To add to this, they also had a philosophical justification for this inequality. They could (and did) justify it as the result of actions done by people in "past births" — actions that they did not and could not know anything about — thus absolving those at the top of the pyramid of any blame or guilt for the misery experienced by those at the bottom of the pyramid.

    … the caste system does have divine sanction — it is sanctioned by the Almighty Lord Krishna Himself in the holy Bhagavad Gita.

    It is a most ingenious system for controlling and subjugating people — one that has stood the test of time for millenia.

    To destroy such a system, one must first understand the foundation of that system. It is hoped that this exegesis on caste-based discrimination in the Bhagavad Gita will have helped in that understanding.

    Further, it his hoped that this study will help people in understanding why the caste system is so deep-rooted in Hinduism, and why it has resisted efforts at reform for centuries. The idea that one is, by birth, superior to others in a divinely-sanctioned way, makes for powerful adherents. Even if that same system means that you are inferior by birth to someone else (as everyone is, except the Brahmins at the top), it is something very hard for a lot of people to give up - except those at the very bottom, who have nothing to gain from it.

    What this study has shown is that indeed, the caste system (or more precisely, the varNa system, from which the caste system is derived) does have divine sanction - it is sanctioned by the Almighty Lord Krishna Himself in the holy Bhagavad Gita.

    Acknowledgments

    I would first and foremost like to thank my wife, Sandhya Srinivasan, for giving me unstinting support in the many months and years it has taken me to do the research for this article series and write it, even though it took me away from her and our daughter for extended periods. Without her constant, unwavering, and enthusiastic support, this series would not have been possible.

    I also owe thanks to Sandhya for being a strong intellectual partner in this endeavor. She has been very kind to spare time from her busy schedule to read every word of every article that I have ever written for my blog, and offer careful, considered, and critical feedback on them. Her inputs on this caste-discrimination series in the form of feedback and suggestions have been invaluable.

    One friend without whom this series would not have been possible is Ganesh Prasad. He has been a source of constant encouragement, and his unflagging enthusiasm for the project allowed me to continue with it even at times when I started to wonder if the effort was at all worth it. In addition, Ganesh has been very patient and thorough in proofreading every line of every article in the series, and offering extremely valuable feedback that has greatly improved the series, from as far back as 4 years ago when he read the first draft of this series, to the final posted articles now. I owe him a debt of gratitude.

    I would like to thank Dileepan Raghunathan for his help in understanding some passages in the Gita. I would also like to thank Ramdas Menon for helpful comments and feedback on the articles in this series, and for his strong encouragement and support of this series in particular, and my writing in general.

    Lastly, I would like to thank the many people with whom I have had vigorous arguments on this topic, on Facebook and WhatsApp. Some of those arguments took up entire weekends, but they ended up clarifying my thinking immensely and helped me sharpen my positions.

    Any errors or mistakes in this article, however, should not be attributed to any of these people, for such errors and mistakes are entirely my own fault. The contributions of my kind and patient friends and family have been only to enhance this humble work.

    Caste-Based Discrimination in Hinduism – The Full Series

    This is an evolving list. More titles will be added as they are published. This list is the current list of published articles.

    Indexes for All Gita Series Shlokas



    Disclaimer: All the opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of Dr. Seshadri Kumar alone and should not be construed to mean the opinions of any other person or organization, unless explicitly stated otherwise in the article.