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Caste System in India

Today Gurudeva answers questions on the caste system, how India has an ancient system and America has a new one. He explains why it is training and dedication to the life that makes one a brahmin priest in a temple, not caste. Gurudeva talks about the proper payment for a priest, and the level of respect that he should receive. Finally he answers some tought questions on the Tirukural scripture about husbands and wives.

Unedited Transcript:

Today at Kauai Aadheenam. It is January 12th here on the beautiful Garden Island of Kauai.

We have two mathavasis, that is a Hindu monk, arrive back from Seattle after a fantastic fund-raising for the foundation of Iraivan Temple tour. That is Natyam Thondunatha, and a senior Sadhaka, Harinandinatha. They came back glowing and full of wonderful stories.

Our six young men, eight years old to twelve, in Bangalore Patasala, that is a training school for priests, are doing very well. E-mail tells us, they are not missing their family at all. They are thinking about coming here, to the Garden Island of Kauai, to Kauai Aadheenam, in six years from now.

We have a lot of questions today but first I want to say: Thank you Sarasvati, in Singapore, for the very nice 'Happy Birthday' message.

Here is one from Trinidad about the caste system, "Is the caste system God-created?"

Well, in every country there is a caste system. (, and)You can't impose one caste system upon another. That just does not work. Caste system in India developed over thousands of years. The caste system in America developed over several hundred years. In Europe, much longer. Whether it is caste or class, it is based on four things: workers, businessmen, politicians and defenders of the country, and the religious leaders. Thank you, Pundit Ram Bhakman, from Trinidad.

Here's another question from California about the caste system in the United States. "Mandirs and temples are coming up in almost every city. Should they seek only the Brahmin caste for priests?"

No, a brahmin is according to how he lives and the occupation that he performs. Any person who is of a spiritual nature, can become a priest, if he is properly trained. His qualifications: he should come from a reputable Patasala, (and) that is a training school. (And )According to his qualifications, you would have to look at his diploma, and/or talk to his professors as to his qualifications. (And )There are many levels of qualifications for priests in the world today, especially outside of India.

Here's another question. "What sort of salary should a priest earn in the United States?"

Of course, he should earn the same respect and salary as a Protestant minister, [or ]a rabbi. But that is not often the case. Often priests are paid according to standards within India itself, and they are quite content and happy with that.

Another question. "Should a priest be able to take a tip, which is called dakshina, like a waiter does in a restaurant and be paid just a little bit, in the temple?"

That would be another way around paying a high salary to a priest. (is)Allow him to work for his tip, or dakshina. Many temples do this and the priests are very happy. (And)In other temples, because everybody is human and the priests are under-paid and not treated [properly, ]with respect(, or properly). Thank you California, for the very nice question.

Here's another question from Nellie Sayer, in San Diego. "What is the purpose of a soul that continues living in a vegetative state?"

I would assume that would mean a coma. Well, the soul does not live in a coma, only the physical body does. The soul is free but earth-bound. Living in a astral body, [it ]can travel any place, any country, visit friends, relatives, and may be quite happy if it is a happy person, while the physical body is lying there like being asleep. The soul living in the astral body is wide awake, learning, studying, but living close to the earth. Souls in this state can see you quite often but you can not see them. It may seem that this is a useless life for the soul having a physical body in a coma. (, but )Still it is within the soul's karma, and the soul may need this release to fulfill certain karmas. We know not what they are.

Here's another question. This question comes from Sadhunatha who sends out the Tirukural daily from his computer network in Southern California. It has created a lot of controversy. Verses 901 through 904. I'll read what they say. "Those who dote upon their wives will not achieve great success; and those of great ambition avoid that very thing". Next one. "The riches of a man who fawningly follows a woman's ways will buy him only shameful shame". Verse 903. It's getting worse. "An abnormal submissiveness to his spouse will earn a man endless disgrace among decent men". Verse 904. "Though he has mastered the doing of deeds, the henpecked husband merits little in this life or the next."

Well to me, that is very clear. If you want to be Mr. Wimp, don't complain about it. There has to be one head of the house, either the woman or the man. There can be two only if you want a clash. I think I am summing up what these ancient verses written two thousand two hundred years ago are saying. We haven't progressed that much. We had the same problems then, as we have now. Saint Tiruvalluvar understood the balance of the ida and pingala channels, and the sushumna that we were actually talking about in the last two weeks, on the Internet, in the 'Lesson of the Day'. It's all there. Listen to it. Understand it and you'll get a deepening of what these ancient verses mean.

Thank you, people out there in cyberspace. You are beautiful people. Your soul is shinning. You are living in an astral body. You are living in a physical body. Keep repeating to yourself so that you'll convince yourself of this. "I am not my body, my mind nor my emotions. I am a pure soul, untainted, untarnished, free but evolving through the experiences of life." We take the lesson out of each experience and move on. We'll talk again tomorrow. More questions, please!

Photo of  Gurudeva
To live positively in the conscious mind each day, exercise at least a half hour. Keep the vital energies of the body high and healthy. Eat simply and follow a vegetarian diet, feeding the stomach rather than the mouth.