Statement against Caste-based Discrimination: Swami Tejomayananda, Chairman and Spiritual Head, Chinmaya Mission

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Background

Swami Tejomayananda, a devoted disciple of Swami Chinmayananda, has served as the Chairman and spiritual head of Chinmaya Mission worldwide since Swami Chinmayananda’s mahasamadhi in1993. He is an outstanding teacher of Vedanta and an accomplished poet, author, and composer. Swami Tejomayananda joined the Vedanta course at Sandeepany Sadhnalaya, Mumbai in 1970 and was initiated into the sanyasa in 1983 by Swami Chinmayananda.
 
Swami Chinmayananda founded Chinmaya Mission in 1953. Not satisfied with degrees in literature and law or with other worldly aspirations, Swami Chinmayananda pursued the spiritual path in the Himalayas under the guidance of Swami Shivananda and Swami Tapovanam. He taught the logic of spirituality, while emphasizing the balance of head and heart. Selfless work, study, and meditation are the cornerstones of spiritual practice, he said. He is credited with the renaissance of spiritual and cultural values in India and with awakening the rest of the world to the ageless wisdom of Vedanta. His legacy remains in the form of books, audio and video tapes, schools, social service projects, more than 300 full-time Vedanta teachers whom he taught and inspired and more than 300 Chinmaya Mission centers around the world serving the spiritual and cultural needs of local communities.

Statement

When asked about this topic, Swami Tejomayananda, offered the words of his guru Swami Chinmayananda:
 
Chapter 4, Verse 13 of the Bhagavad Gita:
Chaatur varnyam mayaa srstam guna-karma-vibhagashaha
Tasya kartaaram-api maam viddhya-kartaaram-avyayam
The fourfold caste has been created by Me according to the differentiation of Guna and Karma; though I am the author thereof, know Me as non-doer and immutable.
 
This is a stanza that has been much misused in recent times by the upholders of the social crime styled as the caste system in India.
 
On the basis of temperamental distinctions, the entire mankind has been, for the purpose of spiritual study, classified into these four “castes” or Varnas.  Just as, in a metropolis, on the basis of trade or professions, we divide the people as doctors, advocates, professors, traders, politicians, drivers, etc., so too, on the basis of the different textures of thoughts entertained by the intelligent creatures, the four “castes” had been labeled in the past.  From the standpoint of the State, a doctor and a driver are as much important as an advocate and a mechanic.  So too, for the [erfectly healthy life of a society, all “castes” should not be competitive but cooperative units, each being complementary to the others, never competing among themselves.
 
However, later on, in the power politics of the early middle ages in India, this communal feeling cropped up in its present ugliness, and in the general ignorance among the ordinary people at the time, the cheap pundits could parade their assumed knowledge by quoting, in bits, stanzas like this one.  The decadent Hindu Brahmin found it very convenient to quote the first quarter of this stanza, and repeat “I created the four varnas” and give this tragic social vivisection a divine look having a godly sanction.  They, who did this, were in fact, the greated blasphemers that Hinduism ever had to reckon with.  For Vyasa, in the very same line of the couplet, as though in the very same breath, described the basis on which this classification was made, when he says, “By the differentiation of the mental quality and physical action (of the people)."
 
This complete definition of Varna not only removes our present misunderstanding but also provides us with some data to understand its true significance.  Not by birth is man a brahmana (Brahmin); by cultivating good intentions and noble thoughts alone can we ever aspire to brahmana-hood; nor can we pose as brahmana merely because of our external physical marks, or bodily actions in the outer world.  The definition insists that he alone is a brahmana whose thoughts are as much Sattvik as his actions are.  A Kshatruiya is one who is Rajasik in his thoughts and actions.  A Shudra is not only one whose thoughts are Tamasik, also he who lives a life of low endeavors, for satisfying his base animal passions and flesh-appetites.  The scientific attitude in which this definition has been declared is clear from the exhaustive implications of the statement: “According to the differentiation of ‘guna’ and karma.’"