Lessons from Indian Caste System and the US Presidential Race

Lessons from Indian Caste System and the US Presidential Race August 6, 2015

Everyone has got India’s Caste System completely wrong.  Castes – the four:  Brahman (teacher/intellectual), Kshatriya (fighter/Law Enforcement), Vaishya (Businessman/Trader) and Shudra (Blue-collar worker) – have been prevalent in every society in all times.  Never has a society existed without these four predominant roles and people who fall in these categories broadly.  Some straddle, but mostly these are the four inherent vocational tendencies that people perform.

The scourge of Caste System was NOT because there were castes, but because there was immobility between them.  For most of India’s ancient and medieval history, the Rishis and Gurus were all from the “lower castes” (Blue collar).  From Ved Vyas to Valmiki to the later Gurus, most were from families doing menial work.  The Ashrams and the Universities during those times taught kids different skills.  And based on what you learnt, you got into that profession.  Getting into a Guru’s disciple-ship was predicated on the Guru’s discernment of who was or wasn’t suitable for that vocation inherently.  Subjective yes, but isn’t entry into which University subjective even today?

When the invasions occurred, the Ashrams and Universities like Nalanda and Taxila were destroyed.  The vehicles for mobility between castes were destroyed as well.  That created castes frozen in filial and hereditary lineage.  Moral of the Story: When Open education system is destroyed, Caste System is a verity.

In the race to browbeat the Indian caste structure without properly understanding why its nasty ruins manifested due to social upheavals – we miss out on something that has kept this culture and civilization in place.  The primacy of Intellect in governance.  Every King had a Royal Guru, whom he consulted.

I am sure people will charge on saying – “Well, afterall he was too interpreting scriptures”.  Sometimes, not always.  Even when he was, the scripture in Indian / Vedic sense did not equate to an Abrahamic scripture.  Vedic scriptures consist of two components – Smritis and Shruti.  Shruti is the unchangeable component (includes Vedas), while Smritis are contextual to a time and culture it comes about (Arthashastras, Puranas etc).  Shruti is the articulation of the source that an enlightened being.. any enlightened being “taps” into.  What Valmiki touched, what Krishna touched, what Buddha touched, what Mahavir touched, what Nanak touched or Ramana touched is unchanging Source of Creation.  Its articulation is Shruti.  That never needs to be in memory.  Every enlightened being – no matter how educated or how illiterate (Nanak or Kabir for example) can experience and articulate.

Anything else with social relevance is of memory.  So, Smriti.  It is of a time and of a place.  That which belongs to one place, is also changing.  That is why Smritis have changed and will always change.

So, while Royal Gurus were Enlightened beings – and so articulated the source of creation, they also created the Smriti of their times.  Their particular tradition.  That wisdom was the work of a Guru.  And the Guru was at the helm of the whole Governance system.  The warrior (i.e.; King) was guided by him.  Rules for the rest were inspired by the wisdom of the intellect and higher consciousness of a Guru and enforced by the Ruler.

This served this culture really well for many millennia.  It takes some doing to remain a consistent civilization for over 7000 years.

The American Elections Field and Intellect

Today we saw the first GOP debate for the 10 candidates for nomination in the Presidential race.  The front-runner was Donald Trump.  He came from behind and has already surged ahead of Jeb Bush and indications are that he will continue to surge ahead.

When asked about his business practices – specifically his filing of many bankruptcies – he said: “I used the prevalent laws”.  He also boasted of how he paid many politicians, “including many on this stage”!  He made it apparent that he was very rich.  $10 Billion rich!!

Looking at Obama, one saw how an intellectual – a well-educated person – was at the helm of affairs.  A Brahmin in his ways.  He may not be an enlightened being, but he has a steady head most of the times.  That intellect guided the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces that he is.

Barring Ronald Reagan, most of the Presidents in the US history have been intellectuals.  Those who weren’t (including Reagan) have created greater long term mess while sorting out short term problems.

Looking at Donald Trump it became apparent to one that the pendulum was shifting to a place where the Vaishya was to be at the helm.  Having the money and making the money needs a lot of compromises of consciousness.  Such a person cannot have the balance needed to hold the steering wheel of the nation with a steady hand.  Only a sharp, well informed and conscious intellect can do that.

Trouble in Future for US Generations

The US Education system is as stacked against mobility now.  The poor cannot fully access the best universities.  Some can and they – like Obama – are exceptions.  And only they make the mark.  Unbeknownst to most, the US society is now experiencing the beginning of the era of fossilized castes.  Lawyer’s kids will inherit their law practice.  Politician’s kids become politicians (Clinton, Bush, Kennedy) and so on.

In such a time, we have a wave in the social universe of US which is buoying up a leader who cares for “profits at any cost”.  Will the intensely “proud of his wealth” guy leave his business interests outside the gates of White House?  I surely doubt.

The rich-poor gap is enlarging and will continue to grow.  So will structures in the society be hardened.  As will the ideologies.

No matter who comes in as the next President of the US of A, the future remains bleak in my eyes… unless one of the jokers who makes it to the White House can find a real Enlightened Being to lean on!

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  • Spirit Plumber

    This was really interesting, thank you!

  • Kilroy

    If Trump is a dunce, it does not make BO a Brahman.
    One hilarious piece who probably grew up hearing Hindu vocabulary but understood very little.

    • I know what I am talking about – you probably have just heard the “Hindu vocabulary” and made your own stories. Barrack Obama may not be someone you like but his entry point into any political issue is from a perspective of intellect. You may not agree with it, but that doesn’t make it any different!

      • pl1224

        Agreed. Ignore the ignorant naysayers.

      • hicusdicus


      • Donald Heacock

        The President has intellect but is very lazy in using it. Where did the 57th state come from. And he called the Marine Corps a bunch of dead bodies.

        • He heard this on right-wing media which, naturally, is ‘true.’ They are an ignorant but humorous lot!

      • Kilroy

        Do not guess how I arrived at my conclusion. May be for you ‘strawman’ is the strongest intellectual ammunition. No wonder you see an intellect in a person who covers up his shortcomings through systematic lying and obfuscation. If that is a perspective of intellect, you have won the debate.

        • “Do not guess how I arrived at my conclusion.”

          Just as easily as you did. You may assume a superior perch for yourself, but the world doesn’t give a damn about it. Awright?

          You haven’t even understood what lying even means and what betrayal stands for. Go read about Richard Barlow or read Deception by Adrian Levy and you would know who sold this country out to create the Jihadi monster.

          Also check out who sent money for upkeep of Mohd Atta and his friends and who was held responsible. It may help you some.

          Just check out these two posts – long but has enough to get some facts straightened out for ya:



          • Kilroy

            Your rhetorical outburst does not answer my question. Conspiracy theories notwithstanding. Unfortunately, calling someone else a liar does not paint BO Harishchandra.

            BO is full of deceit, caught lying multiple times, sucking up to minority, leftist looney, without any morals is miles below the line from which one’s Dharmic quotient begins. To call him a Brahmin (not a caste but as Varna) only shows how vocabulary is twisted to paint something as what it is not. You have shown how ignorant you are of Indian Varnas and its characteristics. Each Varna has a Dharma associated. BO is Adharmic to the core.

            Shakuni is closest I can think of to BO. Clever, manipulative, brings destruction of own tribe, carrying personal agenda and evil to the core yet having respectability from own admirers. Though there were many who could see him for what he was, his people failed to see the same. In that I do see a similarity in you.

          • If you don’t agree with BOs politics, that’s fine. But don’t start defining Dharma and Adharma based on your prejudices. Ok?

            Whoa…BO and Shakuni?! LOL! Your hatred of BO is quite pronounced dude 🙂 Just chill.

  • Norascats

    I find this very interesting. One doesn’t have to have a complete working knowledge of the Caste system in India to see the devolution of American Democracy into the Feudal system it came from.

    • Truism. As is said – power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

  • billwald

    The civil religion in the US is money and power. Anyone one who is nominated has already sold out.

  • Mack

    Rule by the Dungeons and Dragons set? I think not.
    The facile underrated President Reagan; Pope John Paul, P.M. Margaret Thatcher, and President Yeltsin did not.

  • frrolfe

    Tell us about the “untouchables”.

    • Have you seen Blacks and Hispanics at the bottom rung of the US ladder? The covert untouchability against them is obvious in many circles. Wait for a few decades and you will see what untouchability really means in the US.

      • babby660

        but as they increase in number, whites will become the new “untouchables”?

        Our system is somewhat different from the ancient one that has existed in India for millenia. Hopefully, everyone is becoming more enlightened.

        Whites in this country grabbed & have enjoyed a privileged status as we snagged Indian land. Some of us have in the past & continue to disagree with this state of affairs, but are often outvoted. Hopefully, that’s changing.

        One thing is sure: we’ve gotta keep those dang Repugs out of offiice

      • Donald Heacock

        Of course the president is green & there is a possibility both parties will have a hispanic at no. 1 or 2 spot in 2016.

  • Donald Heacock

    Very few Presidents have been intellectuals . A number have come from the military. Andy Jackson. A number have been Freemasons. Almost none have been scholars. The last last on to come academia was Woodrow Wilson Ph.d and he was roaring bigot. Harry Truman a high school graduate and Freemason was one of our better.

    • babby660

      yeah, & Thomas Jefferson owned slaves, despite the part he played in creating the Declaration of Independence. However, the ideals were there; it’s just taking a long time for folks to recognize they must apply to all citizens, or they are meaningless.


    I love it when people always points out a tail of an elephant in our room, but, they always forget an entire elephant in their own room. I think this is a biggest hypocrisy of most of the Americans and certain Europeans .

  • This is so brilliantly written Desh – loved the way you merged the topics and the conclusions thereon… indeed amazing. Keep up the good work 🙂

    • Thanks much, Arch! Love your words always my dearest 🙂

  • Vishal Bheeroo

    Brilliantly assessed on the caste system and applied into politics. It’s sad how the whole origin of caste for the proper running of society has been turned into social injustice.

    • Vishal – Well, the whole mantle of Indology was left to a bunch of self serving colonial rule promoting evangelists… so what could we expect from them? Your kind words are much appreciated!

  • There is another post highlighted on Pathos today (3 Reminders for Christians During the Election Season) which cautions Christians to be thoughtful in assessing the 2016 candidates. The author suggests that a Christian understand the Bible and its lessons during this assessment.

    It seems to me that the GOP loses not only on the Gospel front but, as reported here, on the intellect front as well. Yet, never underestimate to power of slick propaganda as it works on the sponge-like minds of the American electorate.

    • Denis – a wonder for me always. Have another post to write on what scenarios this will present in future as world matures and ideologies here get more fossilized. Thanks for the comments!

  • Anthrotheist

    Wonderful article; informative and thought-provoking. Thank you!

    Unfortunately, I have little hope for intellectualism in America. One of the core values of modern America derives from the idea that “all men are created equal.” This translates into a sense of universal egalitarianism. Unfortunately, intellectual excellence is not equal among all people, due both to innate ability and circumstances of upbringing.

    I have the sense that this creates an atmosphere of anti-intellectualism in America, with people instead favoring “folk-wisdom” types of thought (accessible to all). We dread intelligent writing, but love clever, wise-sounding catch-phrases. It seems that scholars tend to be portrayed as elitist, while people who are plain-talking (even to the point of being crude) are held in high regard. It seems rare, the leader that can think with clarity and education, and speak plainly with honesty.

    • “One of the core values of modern America derives from the idea that “all men are created equal.” This translates into a sense of universal egalitarianism.”

      Very interesting and completely agree. I find the fetish with “Equality” in the West rather intriguing. Everyone wants to “equate” everything with everything. For example, Feminism. Now, if we look at it seriously – Eastern Concepts of “Yin-Yang” or “Ardhanareshwar” accept Masculinity and Femininity as two very different qualities. Instead of “equating” them, they recognize the complimentary nature of both. Yin is incomplete without the Yang and vice versa. Ditto with Ardhanareshwar representing Shiva as half man and half woman. By women trying to equate themselves with men, they are accepting masculinity to be THE benchmark in terms of what qualities are desirable. That is as nonsensical a thought as hoping to run a car on one wheel. But that is the highlight of the discussion on gender in the West.

      Like you said no one wants to dig deep and look at things the way they are. Rather dumb-down the whole existence to a few words/phrases and make them salable enough.

      Thanks for the kind words! 🙂

  • George Thomas

    The article is a groundless, meaningless, pointless, useless and worthless observation and analysis. There are no lessons from the Indian caste system for the American presidential elections, race or no race.