Statement against Caste-based Discrimination: Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami, Spiritual Head of the Kauai Adheenam, Publisher of Hinduism Today magazine, and President of the Hindu Heritage Endowment
Bodhinatha Veylanswami is the Guru Mahasannidhanam of Kauai Aadheenam, a traditional Saivite monastery/temple complex located in the state of Hawaii. He became the spiritual head of the Aadheenam, which is also known as Kauai’s Hindu Monastery, in November of 2001 after the mahasamadhi of the Aadheenam’s founder, Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami. Bodhinatha had been Gurudeva’s disciple for 37 years, having received sannyas diksha in 1972. Most of the year finds him on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, where he oversees the varied publications of Himalayan Academy, guides the spiritual lives of hundreds of families around the globe, serves as publisher of the international magazine, Hinduism Today, and is president of the $10 million Hindu Heritage Endowment which strives to “strengthen Hinduism worldwide.” His monastery is building a $16 million white granite temple in Hawaii, carved in India. At the 363-acre monastery-temple complex, he trains twenty monks from five nations in both their service duties and spiritual practices.
When asked about this topic, Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami offered the words of his guru, Sivaya Subramuniyaswami:
Living with Siva, Lesson 258 – The Caste System
I am often asked about varna dharma — the social structure of four classes and hundreds of subgroups — commonly known as the caste system, established in India in ancient times. Is the caste system still valid today? Caste — or at least discrimination on the basis of caste — has been thrown out of the culture of India, but people still hang on to it as an ego structure. The high caste people love to hurt the low caste people, so to speak, by ignoring them, treating them roughly. That’s not the way it should be. In many areas of the world the caste system is distorted, and also very strong. If you find the high caste people in your society ignoring and not wanting to speak with and associate with the lower castes, those are nasty people, and those are people you should avoid. Spiritual people, even ordinary kindly people, would never think of behaving that way.
The original caste system was based on behavior, as it is now in countries where there is no overt caste system in effect. Those who beat their children, those who become angry and jealous, those who live in fear and those who feign humility are all of the lowest caste. Those who value memory and reason and use their willpower to benefit others — who control themselves and run an orderly home, support the temples and are respected by the lowest castes — are of the business caste. Those who protect the dharma and preserve the scriptures — who protect the temples and all the people, those who are respected by the other castes — are of the princely caste. Those who commune with the Gods and are priests in the temples — who are the disseminators of the highest knowledge and respected by all the other castes — are the priestly caste. These four groups make up a complete society anywhere in the world and at anytime in history.
The original caste system had these four divisions. The divisions were all based on the ability of the individual to manage his body, his mind and his emotions properly. If he stopped fulfilling the dharma of his caste, society would recognize that he had moved from one caste and was now in another. The original caste system was based on self-discipline through education and through personal sadhana. The original caste system was based on the unfoldment of the consciousness within each individual through the fourteen chakras.
People everywhere naturally divide themselves up into castes. We have the workers. You go to work, you work under somebody else — that happens all over the world — that’s the shudra caste. We have the merchants, who are self-motivated. That’s the vaishya caste. We have the politicians and the lawmakers and the law-enforcement people. That’s the kshatriya caste. And then you have the priests, the ministers, the missionaries. That’s the brahmin caste. Every society has these four castes working within it in one way or another. In today’s world, if one is not fulfilling the dharma of his born caste, then he changes castes. For instance, if a brahmin husband and wife are working eight to fifteen hours a day in a hospital under others, they are no longer of the brahmin caste, because they are not performing the duties of the dharma of that caste. They are workers, in the shudra caste.
We can see around us the deterioration of the system which has been abused beyond the point of recognition. Members of the brahmin caste are now beating their children, abusing their wives. Members of the kshatriya caste disrespect the laws of the land. Members of the business caste are deceptive and dishonest. All are confused, living in anger and in jealousy. No wonder their families break apart and their businesses fail. In the eyes of the Gods, most of those who adhere to the caste system that exists today are low caste. This is because they live in lower consciousness. They look at the world through the windows of the chakras below the muladhara. These undeveloped humans are struggling through the lower chakras, trying to get out of the dark worlds of the mind. Let us not be deluded about what the sapta rishis had in mind when they casted humans according to the soul’s unfoldment in one or more of the fourteen chakras. We should totally ignore the Hindu caste system as lived in India today and, through example, show a better and more wholesome path for modern society.
Living with Siva, Sutra 230 – Casting Aside the Caste System
Siva’s devotees are forbidden to perpetuate the restrictions and abuses of the Indian caste system. Instead, they base respect and status on attainment, knowledge, behavior and spiritual maturity. Aum Namah Sivaya.