Opening a controversy
“Four years the Jewish boy abode in temple Jagannath. One day he sat among the priests and said to them, Pray, tell me all about your views of castes; why do you say that all men are not equal in the sight of God? A master of their laws stood forth and said, The Holy One whom we call Brahm, made men to suit himself, and men should not complain” (Aquarian Gospel 24:1-3).
This philosophy of societal order has prevailed throughout nearly all of “civilization,” even into the twentieth century, and is no doubt rampant in lesser-known cultures even now. People were brainwashed into believing that God had made them specifically to be of the social stratum into which they were born, and that to change that status was to defy God and break His laws. In the very beginning of the comic operetta Die Fledermaus the chambermaid Adele laments that God has made her a chambermaid and she will be one all her life. She does not consider that it is the unjust social order into which she was born or the prejudices of others that is at fault. No; it is God’s will which, being perfect, it is evil to defy. Such thinking is perfect mental slavery, and it explains how people through the ages have been virtually voluntary slaves without question. “Our betters” let them know how things were supposed to be–and remain. To protest was wickedness and ingratitude. When such attitudes prevail there is no hope for betterment of anyone, including those “at the top” who are also slaves in their own order.
Caste origin–fiction and fact
“In the beginning days of human life Brahm spoke, and four men stood before his face.
“Now, from the mouth of Parabrahm the first man came; and he was white, was like the Brahm himself; a brahman he was called. And he was high and lifted up; above all want he stood; he had no need of toil. And he was called the priest of Brahm, the holy one to act for Brahm in all affairs of earth.
“The second man was red, and from the hand of Parabrahm he came; and he was called shatriya. And he was made to be the king, the ruler and the warrior, whose highest ordained duty was protection of the priest.
“And from the inner parts of Parabrahm the third man came; and he was called a visya. He was a yellow man, and his it was to till the soil, and keep the flocks and herds.
“And from the feet of Parabrahm the fourth man came; and he was black; and he was called the sudras, one of low estate. The sudra is the servant of the race of men; he has no rights that others need respect; he may not hear the Vedas read, and it means death to him to look into the face of priest, or king, and naught but death can free him from his state of servitude” (Aquarian Gospel 24:4-13).
Figures may not lie, but liars figure–even in religion. Scriptures may be true, but their interpretation can be outrageously false. And that is the case here. I am sorry to tell you that for countless centuries in India those of “low” caste were not allowed to look at, speak to or touch anyone of a higher caste. If they did, they were often put to death instantly. One aspect of this violent craziness was “distance pollution” which decreed how far away a low caste person had to be to not pollute those of higher levels. In some sections of India kings granted huge distances to affirm how pure and worthy those people were who could lawfully kill anyone of low estate who came close to them. I am not exaggerating. Studies in the history of Saint Thomas Christianity relay many decrees showing the great favor accorded the Saint Thomas Christians by the rulers of Kerala–all based on both who they could kill with impunity and how far away the “lessers” had to be when they were around. (By the way, except for a few segregated congregations, even now all Saint Thomas Christians are Brahmins.) One of my Saint Thomas Christian friends told me that for centuries a low caste family had been his family’s hereditary servants. They lived in hovels against the far wall of his parents’ compound. Every day the “head man” came to be given the day’s work by John’s father. Because of distance pollution, the servant stood so far away that the two had to shout at each other to be heard. John was utterly disgusted and chagrined and vowed that he would never perpetuate this terrible evil.
The account of caste origin told to Jesus is based on the ninetieth hymn of the tenth book of the Rig Veda. Known as the Purusha Shukta, it tells of how the primeval Person, Ishwara or God, manifested Himself as the entire range of sentient life. It is a very interesting symbolic picture and worth studying, but the part that interests us now is this:
“When they divided Purusa how many portions did they make? What do they call his mouth, his arms? What do they call his thighs and feet?
“The Brahman was his mouth, of both his arms was the Rajanya made. His thighs became the Vaisya, from his feet the Sudra was produced” (Rig Veda 10:90:11, 12).
Do not despair! The Bhagavad Gita makes complete sense of this.
In the fourth chapter Krishna–speaking as God–tells Arjuna: “I established the four castes, which correspond to the different types of guna and karma” (Bhagavad Gita 4:13). “Karma” here has a very special meaning. We tend to think of karma as only two things: 1) action that is going to produce a reaction, and 2) the reaction from prior action. But “guna” means “quality” or kind; it also means the way in which a person’s energy makeup functions. So when guna and karma combine they become a force that impels to a certain kind of action. Not only that, it usually manifests as an aptitude for that type of action. So caste is based on the individual’s karma and innate propensity for a certain mode of life.
A person’s “caste-duty” is really the kind of activity that comes naturally, even spontaneously, to a person. It is not forcing a person into a straitjacket of social or economic convention, but actually an expression of what is natural to him. Obviously if everyone followed their caste-nature they would be perfectly happy and harmonious. However, please understand that caste has nothing to do with a “caste system” based on circumstances of birth and parentage, and it certainly is not the caste-ism that is the curse of any society, including that of India. Caste is a profoundly personal thing, coming from within and not imposed from without. Of course we all know people that try to do things they have no ability to accomplish and neglect to do things that they have an inborn affinity and skill for. That is what free will is all about.
Back to the Purusha Shukta. There is nothing here about four kinds of men appearing or coming out of God’s mouth, arms, thighs or feet. God does not have any mouth, arms, thighs or feet. What is expressed here is the fact that each person is a part of God and embodies that aspect of divine consciousness that is God. So according to their level of evolution so will they be empowered by their innate divinity to live in this world. But it must be their choice, not anyone else’s. That is why Krishna also told Arjuna: “It is better to do your own duty, however imperfectly, than to assume the duties of another person, however successfully.…the duty of another will bring you into great spiritual danger” (Bhagavad Gita 3:35), because it will bring confusion and conflict into your life.
And finally Krishna assures Arjuna that those whom society consider of lesser value “can reach the highest spiritual realization, if they will take refuge in me” (Bhagavad Gita 9:32).
“And Jesus said, Then Parabrahm is not a God of justice and of right; for with his own strong hand he has exalted one and brought another low.
“And Jesus said no more to them, but looking up to heaven he said, My Father-God, who was, and is, and evermore shall be; who holds within thy hands the scales of justice and of right; who in the boundlessness of love has made all men to equal be. The white, the black, the yellow, and the red can look up in thy face and say, Our Father-God. Thou Father of the human race, I praise thy name.
“And all the priests were angered by the words which Jesus spoke; they rushed upon him, seized him, and would have done him harm.
“But then Lamaas raised his hand and said, You priests of Brahm, beware! you know not what you do; wait till you know the God this youth adores. I have beheld this boy at prayer when light above the light of the sun surrounded him. Beware! his God may be more powerful than Brahm. If Jesus speaks the truth, if he is right, you cannot force him to desist; if he is wrong and you are right, his words come to naught, for right is might, and in the end it will prevail” (Aquarian Gospel 24:14-22).
Then Parabrahm is not a God of justice and of right; for with his own strong hand he has exalted one and brought another low. This has a major philosophical implication. Jesus certainly believes in the Supreme God (Parabrahman), and does not believe God is unjust. But he is adamant that God does not in any way control or determine the life and destiny of anyone. It is all in our hands as individuals. We may allow external factors such as other people, society, religion and various outer conditions to influence or even dictate to us, but that is our free will choice. God and those we allow to control us have nothing to do with it. That is what karma is all about: we sow and we reap. We do not reap what another has sown and we certainly reap nothing but that which we ourselves have sown. From life to life we have groveled before God and “praised” Him by telling Him how all-powerful and all-ruling He is and how totally dependent we are on His “will.” That is nonsense, but a habit that is hard to break. Even the most metaphysically-inclined people are continually found to revert to this kind of attitude and talk because they are conditioned by dozens if not hundreds of lives in which this was drummed into their minds. We have to break out of it and realize that we are in total control. Certainly if we are wise we will live according to divine principles and laws, but that is our doing–not anyone else’s. Our life is truly ours.
My Father-God, who…has made all men to equal be. The white, the black, the yellow, and the red can look up in thy face and say, Our Father-God. There is verbal denial of God and denial of God by our thoughts, words and deeds that imply there is no God. Jesus said to the religious leaders of his time: “Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me” (Matthew 15:7, 8). Anyone who denies the humanity or the equality of any other human being or group of human beings does not believe in God, however religious they may think they are. I grew up singing in Sunday School: “Jesus loves the little children; all the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the children of the world.” But the people who taught me that song did not believe it. If a red, yellow or black child and his parents had shown up in our church people would have nearly dropped dead. “What are they doing here?” “Why aren’t they with their own kind?” This last question is really revealing; it shows that they do not believe those “colored people” are human like white people.
This is the fact: There is only one race: the human race. There are several branches of the human race; but only a single race. That is why Saint Paul wrote: “[God] hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth” (Acts 17:26). There we have it. The human race is a single family whose father is God. If we do not live this truth, we deny it.
Of course we need not be surprised at the reaction of the priests of Jagannath whose descendants murdered Sri Krishna Chaitanya in the sixteenth century and buried him beneath the floor of the temple. Quite a few of India’s great teachers were killed by priests who hid their bodies and told the people that “in an ecstatic state they merged with the image of the deity.” In the West the priests of Venus did and said the same in relation to the great master Appollonius of Tyana. In our time the White Citizen’s Council and the Klan carried on the tradition, as did nearly all the white people of the world, even if only passively. After all, they knew that “they are happier with their own kind.” We are all our “own kind.”
“And then the priests refrained from doing Jesus harm; but one spoke out and said, Within this holy place has not this reckless youth done violence to Parabrahm? The law is plain; it says, He who reviles the name of Brahm shall die. Lamaas pled for Jesus’ life; and then the priests just seized a scourge of cords and drove him from the place.
“And Jesus went his way and found shelter with the black and yellow men, the servants and the tiller of the soil. To them he first made known the gospel of equality; he told them of the Brotherhood of Man, the Fatherhood of God. The common people heard him with delight, and learned to pray, Our Father-God who art in heaven” (Aquarian Gospel 24:23-28).
What hypocrisy to say that those who insist on the truth about God are blaspheming God. But the negative reaction was really all for the good, because Jesus went among the “low castes” and told them the truth of their own divinity as sons of God.
Read the next section in the Aquarian Gospel for Yogis: The Destiny of All Men