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The Dharmic religions of Hinduism has sometimes been criticized. This article documents that criticism.
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- Main article: Caste
The Hindu system of varnas in classical Indian legal texts of the Dharmashastra, most notably that by Manu, identified four varnas in Indian society. These are in descending hierarchical sequence: Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya, and Shudra or the priests, warriors, business people and laborers. Untouchables (Dalit (outcaste)) are considered either a lower section of Shudra, or outside of the caste system altogether. In practice this resulted in a great deal of social oppression of the lowest castes, the Shudras and Dalits.
Dalit status has often been historically associated with occupations regarded as ritually impure: any occupation involving killing or handling of animal dead bodies, the collection and disposal of bodily waste, and other jobs that brought him/her into constant contact with what society considered disgusting. These occupations, however, were not merely seen as something disgusting that nevertheless needed to be done: they were considered unclean and polluting towards the individual, and the thus-rendered polluted were considered unfit for physical or social contact with the non-polluted sections of Society.
Untouchables used to live separately within a separate subcultural context of their own, outside the inhabitated limits of villages and townships. No other castes would interfere with their social life since untouchables were lower in social ranking than even those of the shudra varna. As a result, Dalits were commonly banned from fully participating in Hindu religious life (they could not pray with the rest of the social classes).
The inclusion of lower castes into the mainstream was argued for by Mahatma Gandhi who called them "Harijans" (people of God). The term Dalit is used now as the term Harijan is largely felt patronising. As per Gandhi's wishes, reservation in universities is now in place for the Dalit community to bring them to the upper echelons of society. Some Dalit movements have been created to represent the views of Dalits. It must be noted, that the Caste system is not unique to Hindus in India. Muslims also have an independent Caste system based on ethnic origins.
However, as Alain Daniélou, son of French aristocracy, author of numerous books on philosophy, religion, history and arts of India, says:
"Caste system has enabled Hindu civilization to survive all invasions and to develop without revolutions or important changes, throughout more than four millennia, with a continuity that is unique in history. Caste system may appear rigid to our eyes because for more than a thousand years Hindu society withdrew itself from successive domination by Muslims and Europeans. Yet, the greatest poets and the most venerated saints such as Sura Dasa, Kabir, Tukaram, Thiruvalluvar and Ram Dasa; came from the humblest class of society." In the words of Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, "In spite of the divisions, there is an inner cohesion among the Hindu society from the Himalayas to the Cape Comorin."
The varna system is, in fact, a part of organization of Hindu society as prescribed by the Hindu scriptures. The purpose of the varna system was to ensure an efficient organization of society so that each class was contributing a vital role to the society. A person became a part of one of the varna by virtue of their individual qualities. People could move among the varnas. It is commonly seen today, that the terms varna and caste are used interchangeably. This is not correct.
The caste system developed out of the varna system after 600 A.D. In general, the children of a member of a varna took up the same jobs as their parents and occupied the same role in society. A priest's son would be brought up to be a priest and a labourers son will be brought up to be a labourer. This continued until people began to view entire families, not just individuals, as part of a section of society. This system is not related to Hinduism, but is a societial division which today is used to view people as higher or lower. Although outlawed by the Constitution of India, this practice is still common place today in India.
India and all of modern Hindu society almost universally condemns untouchability, even if the caste system debate is open. Hindutva organizations, which preach cohesion between Dharmic religions, like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, actively oppose untouchability. Untouchability was outlawed after India gained independence in 1947, and people who were formerly identified as untouchables have made considerable economic, social and political progress in India. However, social segregation, discrimination and acts of violence in India frequently cause political and sectarian tensions. It must be noted that untouchability and the caste system that exists in the modern era can be directly attributed as a result of codification in the form of the Manu Smriti of already prevalent social attitudes and norms.
Status of women Edit
- Main article: Women in Hinduism
Condemned practices like Sati (widow self-immolation), the restrictions against divorce, property rights, child marriage or widow re-marriage were practices that arose in India's Middle Ages (during the Islamic invasions). The practise of jauhar was also criticised at times, this practice arose during the period of Islamic invasions in society. Whenever a township or city was inevitably going to be lost, the Hindu men all left to fight and almost inevitable die, when the battle was lost, Hindu women would also kill themselves to protect themselves from dishonour and slaughter and also to be one with the men in both life and death.
They are now illegal and do not occur at all in Hindu society. As the period of Islamic invasions ended, they lost meaning and the morality of these practises were discussed in Hindu society. Some activists ensured that the practise ended in Hindu society.
- Hinduism, Hindu
- Contemporary Hindu movements
- Vedic religion, Jainism
- Bias in South Asian Studies
- Hindu Nationalism, Hindutva
- Criticism of Religion
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