Buddhism and caste system

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Re: Buddhism and caste system

Postby muni » Sat Jun 29, 2013 8:00 am

Rakshasa wrote:
Classifying someone low or high simply based on their birth, and giving them no chance to rise higher in their life, while even creating obstacles for certain section of society to liberate itself or progress, is almost non-existent in many western countries. Probably because people belong to a single race.

In India it was not the case. There were many races at that time from Caucasians in the west to Mongoloids, to Dravidian Australoids to Austro-Asiatic language speaking tribes. Caste system is a direct consequence of race differences. It has little to do with work or profession.


I see, yes. While now race are all wide spread in western countries. Our habits are the constructing stones to keep our "identity", whether we are calling our misperception (its discriminations) buddhist or other label.

All the best and thanks for your concern in India. :group:
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Re: Buddhism and caste system

Postby muni » Sat Jun 29, 2013 9:31 am

Rakshasa wrote:
Untouchables did not exist during Buddha's time.


And actually, they never did. :namaste:

May the diversity of beings be in equanimity.
This of course, depends on my own mind/being. Then care is for all.
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Re: Buddhism and caste system

Postby Huifeng » Sat Jun 29, 2013 1:05 pm

Rakshasa wrote:Caste system in Buddhism (especially Mahayana) is an issue that makes me have my doubts regarding the validity of some of the teachings of Buddhism - whether these were added from external source to dilute it or were indeed the beliefs of the monks who wrote them. Being from India, I am well aware of the gross inhumanity that this caste system inflicts on the less privileged classes of society. People are classed into a hierarchy just on the basis of their birth, which is pretty much equal to racism.

I am especially referring to Lalitavistara Sutra which preaches that only a Kshatriya and a Brahmin - both of which are the top two castes/varnas of the Brahmanic society - can ever become Buddhas (or Bodhisattvas). I am not sure whether to ignore this as a later import to the sutra, or to treat it as a truth. If I ignore it as a later addition in the Sutra, then I will have to be skeptical about many other things in Sutras like these which could be later additions into the Sutra.

It is well and clear that in the time of the Buddha, and a few centuries after that, when the caste system was not well established and the Brahmins did not have much influence in the Southern and Eastern parts of India, the Buddhists who came in contact with Brahmanic thesis of caste system fiercely rebuked it. For example, Asvaghosa wrote Vajrasuchi challenging the caste theory of Brahmins and their claims of superiority. But it seems that by the time of the Mahayana Sutras the caste system was so thoroughly imprinted into the consciousness of society that its ideas of superiority and inferiority by birth made their way into Mahayana Buddhism and its sutras itself. However, from what little I know, the phase of Vajrayana again shows that there were last attempts by Buddhists to challenge the caste system and their claims of superiority again - before eventually even they completely disappeared from the face of India after Brahmanism became triumphant over it.


1. At the Buddha's own time, the Brahmanic caste system was the not the standard social system in central-eastern India (eg. Magadha, Kosala, etc.) See Bronkhorst, Greater Magadha, Buddhism Under the Shadow of Brahmanism, etc. S

2. Later, around the time of Asoka onwards, Brahmanism became the basic standard of social thought, ie. the caste system, etc.

3. Earlier biographies of the Buddha written from Asoka's time onward, mentioned the "castes" as a development from this gradual changes.

4. Some of these discuss that past Buddhas came from either the Brahman and Ksatriya castes. However, this is descriptive, not a prescriptive.

5. The Lalitavistara is a mid period biography of the Buddha. It is also probably from the North West, which was closer to the Brahmanic heart land. Brahmanism was definitely now the norm in this area. Quite possibly the above factor led to the notion that a Buddha must be from either the Brahmanic or Ksatriya caste, ie. prescriptive not descriptive.

6. So, don't take such statements as saying much about what the Buddha taught, or what the rest of Buddhists actually thought.

~~ Huifeng
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Re: Buddhism and caste system

Postby Dharmarakshita » Tue Jul 02, 2013 5:34 pm

Hii,
But most descriptions are eventually responsible for wrong conceptualization for laity and therefore are in a way indirectly prescriptive. :thanks: :namaste:
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Re: Buddhism and caste system

Postby muni » Wed Jul 03, 2013 8:25 am

I ask the wise by which caste he belongs. Or in which box his mind is locked.

:namaste:
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Re: Buddhism and caste system

Postby kirtu » Fri Jul 05, 2013 3:27 am

Seishin wrote:Lalitavistara Sutra http://read.84000.co/browser/released/U ... 46-001.pdf

And why, monks, did the Bodhisattva behold the family of his birth? Because a
bodhisattva is not born into an inferior family, like a family of outcastes, flute makers, cartwrights, or servants. A bodhisattva is only born into one of two families—a
priestly family or a family of the ruling class. When the priestly families are dominant in the world, the bodhisattva is born into a priestly family. When the rulingclass families are dominant in the world, the bodhisattva is born into a ruling-class
family. Thus, monks, at this time the ruling-class families were dominant in the
world, so bodhisattvas were born into such families


I believe he is referring to his own birth into this world in this sutra.


This is true but for the most part this just says that humankind will never be egalitarian in a major way.

Kirt
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"Only you can make your mind beautiful."
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Re: Buddhism and caste system

Postby kirtu » Fri Jul 05, 2013 3:34 am

Rakshasa wrote:
But castes-likes are everywhere where the idea of a self is, not only in India.


Classifying someone low or high simply based on their birth, and giving them no chance to rise higher in their life, while even creating obstacles for certain section of society to liberate itself or progress, is almost non-existent in many western countries. Probably because people belong to a single race.


No, it is an operating dynamic in western countries as well (the US, UK and France for example).

Caste system is a direct consequence of race differences.


These cast-like structures are not always based on race or ethnic origin either. In the US, people have begun to realize that social mobility is frequently limited based on the social strata one was born in. There are other factors such as age that may condemn one to an insecure life (people in the US stand a very high chance of being economically disenfranchised as they age after 45-55).

Kirt
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"Only you can make your mind beautiful."
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Re: Buddhism and caste system

Postby cdpatton » Fri Jul 05, 2013 8:01 pm

I would just point out that in the literature that arose early on, it was assumed that all Buddhas arise in more-or-less the same generic "drama" - and that Gautama's "drama" is the baseline for them all (since he was the only example they had to work with). Thus, since Gautama came from the upper strata of society - not just a ksatriya, but a crown prince - then all the Buddhas must be born into equivalent circumstances as Gautama was. It is just a matter of how they chose to imagine the case of past and future Buddhas. They assumed it would be along the lines of a universal order (Dharma), which Gautama's life revealed to us. It's actually interesting that early on (such as in the Mahapadhana-sutta) the authors decided they needed to give enough wiggle room in the narrative of Buddhas to allow for them to come from brahmin families as well as ksatriya families. That is, that their life stories (bodhi dramas, as it were) would have somewhat different plots than did Gautama's - they would not be crowned princes ensconced in palaces with harems, and so forth! There was, for whatever reason, a pressure to keep the stories as close to Gautama's as possible - but apparently they bowed to some other pressure to allow for that much variation.

A modern reader who is preocupied with social equity reads this, and easily misunderstands - understandably. The literature is very different in its attitude, style, and assumptions. But it should be understood - first and foremost - you need to have been born with the 32 marks to even have a chance at Buddhahood in this life. Not to mention, the Dharma will have completely disappeared from the world as well. This is not a social equity issue - its legends and prophesies.
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