The fact that aupasana is to performed by all castes gives rise to the questions : "Why only aupasana? Why should not all castes have the right to learn the Vedas, chant the Gayatri and perform sacrifices?". On the other hand, we have atheists who want the Vedas to be consigned to the flames and the idols of Gods like Ganesa to be broken and, on the other, we have people calling themselves reformist who want to extend to all the right to perform Vedic rites.
Do I not lamblaste Brahmins for having become a degenerated class? Taking a cue from this the reformers argue: "After all, it is the Brahmin who has become debased and it is he who has debased others also. Now, when new life is being breathed into the Vedic dharma, why should Brahmins alone be given the right to it, Brahmins who have failed in their duty? All those castes that believe that the Vedas and Vedic works are essential to the well-being of mankind must be enabled to learn the Vedas and perform Vedic rites. All of them must have the right to wear the sacred thread and learn the scriptures."
Organisations like the Arya Samaj have accepted the right of all to learn the Vedas and perform sacrifices. Here and there a Subramanya Bharati or someone like him imparts Brahmopadesa to a Pancama. The reformists ask why the Vedas cannot be made common to all.
This is not acceptable in the least. I am a representative and spokesman of the sastras. It is my duty to state that this (making Vedic dharma common to all castes) is not permitted by the sages who created the sastras and assigned the duties special to each caste. They (the sages) were known for their spirit of sacrifices and impartiality and they had no interest other than the happiness of mankind.
A man sins in two ways. If he forsakes his hereditary karma, he commits one kind of sin-such a man is called a "karma-bhrasta". But if he forsakes his karma and takes up the karma of another (that is if he practices the religious customs and duties of another caste) he becomes a "karmantara-pravista". According to the sastras he is guilty of a greater offence than the karma-bhrasta.
Why? There are two reasons.
An individual who forsakes his karma because he believes that varna dharma itself is meaningless may be said to act out of conviction and he may be said to be obeying his conscience. In his action we may find some justification. But, in the matter of the sastras, the question is not one of conscience. The question is: what about the man opts for the customs and rites of others? He does so because he believes that the customs and rites to which he is born are not as good those of the latter. To think that one vocation or one type of work is inferior to another, or superior to it, is not in keeping with modern ideas of socialism and the principle of dignity of labour. At the same time, it is not also in accord with the sastras. The karma-bhrasta who discards all varna dharma believes that the sages created a system not suitable to the times. He does not, however, think that they were partial to some castes. But not so the karmantara-pravista who thinks that the sages were partial. He chooses another man's dharma because he believes that it is better for his inner advancement than his hereditary calling and dharma. His action implies that the sages practised deception by creation the division of varnas. So his offence is greater.
It is true that Brahmins have gone astray. But what is the meaning of creating a new class of Brahmins? It amounts to saying, "He (the Brahmin) has forsaken his dharma. Now I will take it over." To take up another man's dharma, apart from forsaking one's own dharma is a grave offence, worse than nearly giving up one's own dharma. I have stated repeatedly that all karma has only one purpose, that of destroying one's ego-sense, ahamkara. What is the foundation of varna dharma? It is one's willingness to follow the vocation and dharma that belong to one by hereditary without any consideration of one's likes and dislikes.
Such willingness is based on the realisation that the vocation and dharma that have come to us are according to the will of Isvara, that they are manifested through the Vedas and sastras and that to practise them is to destroy our ego.
What does it mean to create a new caste, to create new Brahmins? However good the intention behind such a process may be- even if it be the desire that Vedic works must be performed and that the sound of the Vedas must fill the air - the ego-consciousness will obtrude in it like the nut jutting out from a cashew fruit.
Apart from this, however much you talk of equality and rationalism, the newly created Brahmins will suffer from an inferiority complex and will be racked by doubts as to whether they can practise their new dharma and whether they can chant the mantras and practise the rites in the same manner as people who are Brahmins by birth.
The Arya Samaj and other reformist organisations have for their part abolished caste and given everybody the right to learn Vedas. Then how is it that non-Brahmins have not joined these organisations in large numbers or taken to the study of the Vedas? One important reason is a certain hesitation in joining anything new. Another, equally important, is that people believe that it is one thing to become an atheist but quite another for the old Vedic customs to be changed.
So, though a couple of reformers may start a movement to through open Vedic learning to everybody, only four or five percent of the people will join them. The remaining 95 percent or so will continue to be in the old Hindu set-up. Also the few who join the new caste will have at heart a sense of fear and a feeling of inferiority. They will keep doubting whether their actions will yield the desired result. If that be so, how will their minds be pure? It is not only the ego-sense that makes the mind impure but fear, the feeling of inferiority and being racked by doubts. Rites performed in such a frame of mind will not serve the purpose of creating happiness in the world. Besides, members of the new caste are likely to develop conceited thinking that they are doing what Brahmins by birth ceased to do or could not do - there will a spirit of challenge in their action. When they practise what others were practising [or were expected to practise ] there will naturally be a desire on their part to make an exhibition of it. There will no sincerity in their actions. All told, neither they nor the world will benefit from their works.
We must recognise facts for facts and not be carried away by emotions. Have I not you about the power of the sound of the Vedas? This sound is not produced easily by everybody in the right manner. What I say applies not only to the sound of Vedas or the Vedic language but also to other languages and their sound. Take the case of German or Urdu. Some words in these two languages are tongue-twisting. Telugu is spoken in our neighbourhood but we find it difficult to vocalise some of its sounds. Suppose a German child or a Muslim or Telugu child were to be born in Tamil Nadu. These children would be able to pronounce such words easily -that is German, Urdu or Telugu as the case may be- because to them they would come naturally.
However vehemently you may deny the existence of hereditary factors, you find evidence of the same every day in all spheres. Those who have been the custodians of the Vedas all these centuries will find it easy to learn and chant the Vedas despite the present gap of two or three generations in their tradition. The same cannot be said of other communities. The mantras will serve no purpose if they are wrongly enunciated. However well-intentioned the new class of people studying the Vedas maybe, their efforts will not be fruitful.
Another point. Here we have a class of people born into a dharma and practising it hereditarily for thousands of years and acquiring in the process certain qualities. If such people forsake that dharma, how would you expect others who are strangers to it to take their place especially in the present new circumstances.
There are today two unfortunate developments in the country. One is that of the Brahmins giving up Vedic learning and Vedic works and the second that of other communities wanting to practise the Vedic dharma. It is difficult to say which of the two is worse. Not performing the duty that belongs to us by birth is an offence. But, as the Lord says in the Gita, to take up the duty of another is a greater offence.
"Svadharme nidhaman sreyo paradharmo bhayavahah". It is better to die within the sphere of one's own duty than to take up another's duty. Perilous and fearful is the duty of other men. Since death is certain anyway, if we carry out the duty that is properly ours there will be no rebirth for us. What do we mean by saying that another man's dharma is fearful? If a person practises another man's dharma he will be pushed into hell. Suppose such a man does not believe in a certain place called hell, we may then take it that he will suffer infernal sorrow in this or next birth. Apart from this, not being an atheist, he will be eaten up by the fear that he is perhaps committing a sin by pursuing another man's dharma. Were he not a non-believer he would not have faith in the Vedas and sastras and would not in the first place take up the Brahmin's vocation. So the one who has faith in the Vedas would be constantly nagged by the worry: "The sastras proclaim that the sound of the Vedas will bring good to the world. But the same sastras proclaim, don't they, that the pursuit of another man's dharma is fearful? "
The point to noted is that if you believe in the sastras you must believe in them fully. If you are an atheist you could of course reject all of them. But to make a show of being very clever and twist the sastras as you like, accepting some parts or rejecting or changing some others, is an offence more grave than that of being an atheist. To think that Mother Veda should dance to our tune is also a great offence. Learning the Vedas in such an attitude is tantamount to ridiculing them.
I am not angry with reformists, nor do I suspect their motives. They go wrong because of their ignorance or thoughtlessness. If they wish to pull down the fence to go to the other side, they must think of the possibility of the few still remaining there walking over to this side.
If people truly feel that their present vocation is as honourable as the practice of Vedic dharma, they will not think of taking up some calling other than their own. "Brahmins have forsaken the Vedas. So the world is not filled with the sound of the Vedas which is so essential to its well-being. To fill this vacuum a new Brahmin class must be created. "Those who want to take the place of the Brahmins, who are traditionally duty-bound to follow the Vedic dharma, will have a feeling of conceit, not to speak of a spirit of challenge and a sense of inferiority also. If you really want to work for the goal of making the Vedas a living reality again, your efforts must be directed towards turning those who were engaged in the preservation of the Vedic heritage back to the dharma to which they hereditarily belong.
If I criticise Brahmins it is not because I feel that they cannot be corrected or that I have washed my hands of them. Nor do I feel that Brahmins alone as a caste are responsible for all ills of today. If I administer them a reproof now and then for their having given up their dharma during Islamic and British rule and for being lured today by the glitter of modern civilization, it does not mean that they are to be wholly blamed for everything. Placed as they are in today's circumstances any caste or class would have done the same. Those who find them guilty now think that they would acquit themselves better if they were in their place. But they too would have been compelled to make the same mistakes by the force of circumstances. If people hereditarily engaged in intellectual pursuits find themselves unable to apply their minds to Atmic matters and instead find themselves in involved in mundane affairs, it means a topsy turvy slide-down.
I do not justify such behaviour nor the descent into worldly affairs from the heights of spirituality. Nowadays reformists try to justify even prostitution on psychological grounds. Similarly, I wish to point out that they is a psychological explanation for the degeneration of Brahmins also. If I criticise Brahmins, it does not mean that others should join in the attack, thinking that they (the Brahmins) alone are worthless people. It is the duty of these others to make Brahmins worthy of their caste. After all, during the past forty or fifty years, Brahmins have been an easy target of attack and ridicule. How silently they have suffered all this, also the humiliation at the hands of their detractors. Until some four or five generations ago, Brahmins were the guardians of all our Atmic wealth, all our arts. Considering this, is it not the duty of others to bring them back to the practise of their true dharma? They must be tactfully reminded of the high dharma they had once pursued and the spirit of sacrifice for which they were known.
It is likely that in the past a few ignorant Brahmins treated other communities harshly. This is no reason why their descendants today should pay for it and be maligned and harassed in a spirit of vengefulness. It must also be borne in the mind that Brahmins themselves have been in the forefront in the fight against "the old unjust practices" and in giving other communities a high place in society. So there is no point in fuelling the flames of hatred. Nor can it be claimed truthfully that such hatred is part of "Tamil culture".
Unfortunately, what Brahmins did in the name of reforms resulted in the wrong kind of equality for, instead of raising people belonging to the lower strata to a higher level, it had the effect of bringing the upper classes downward. Equality can be of two types: in the first all occupy a high level in society; in the other all occupy a low level. To carry a load uphill is difficult but it is easy to push it down. Quality has suffered in the attempt to create equality. It is not desirable to have that kind of equality in which everyone does the same kind of work. Nor should it be thought that they is no equality in a system in which the various vocations, the various types of work, are divided among different groups of people. I have already spoken a great deal on the subject. Our endeavour must be to create unity in diversity, nor uniformity.
It is important to remember that neither hatred of Brahmins nor dislike of Sanskrit has ever been a part of Tamil culture and civilization. Sanskrit is the repository of Atmic and religious sastras, a storehouse of poetry and works on arts. Everyone must learn to regard it as "our own language". The need for the existence of "Brahmanya" as a separate entity must be recognised. This is essential to the preservation of the Vedas, the performance of sacrifices, etc, whose purpose is the good of mankind. Today the Vedas, the Upanisads and so on are available in print. Anybody can read them and try to understand them. But everybody need not learn to chant the Vedas; it takes many years to do so. Everybody need not also perform sacrifices.
There ought to be an element of humility on the part of those who wish to carry out reforms; there must be sincerity of purpose. Then no need will arise to go contrary to the sastras.
For a general background, please see here