Casteism in India has gotten a lot of criticism, and rightly so. The way casteism is at present should not even exist. Casteism as we find it today is now nothing more than a misrepresentation and misinterpretation of a legitimate and progressive Vedic system known as varnashrama. However, we need to know the difference between the two, then get rid of present-day casteism to again utilize the genuine and liberal form of social organization, known as varnashrama.
What Casteism is Today
The casteism that we find today is the materialistic form of designation that has become a way of oppressing the lower social orders of people. It says that if you are born in a family of a certain classification, then you are of the same class. In casteism, birth is now the major factor in determining one’s social standing. It dictates that your social order, occupational potential and characteristics are the same as your parents, which is a label that may have been placed on a family hundreds of years ago.
Casteism says that if you are born of a brahmana family, then you are a brahmana, no matter whether you truly exhibit the genuine characteristics of a brahmana or not. And if you are also born in a kshatriya family, or a vaisya or shudra family, then that is what you must be. It is as if when one is born in a doctor’s family, the child is also considered a doctor. However, this requires the proper training and perception to see if the child will be a qualified doctor or not. Just being born in the family of a doctor does not mean that the children will also be doctors, although this may help. But they surely are not doctors merely by birth. Training and intelligence must be there.
This form of materialistic casteism was practiced even five hundred years ago, during the time of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who was considered an incarnation of the Supreme Being. However, Sri Caitanya paid no mind to these social customs. He saw them as a way that the hereditary brahmanas were merely protecting their own position and privileges and not spreading spiritual well-being, which is their duty. Even during that time the brahmanas had the idea that if they ate with or touched anyone outside the brahmana caste, they would risk losing their own social rank. Sri Caitanya, however, ignored such restrictions and readily accepted invitations to eat with the sincere devotees of the Lord, or also embrace them, even if they were of the lowest social position. In this way, He dismissed the materialistic method of casteism. By this action He also showed that it was not birth that was important, but one’s consciousness, intentions, and spiritual awareness that was the prominent factor, which superceded the rank of one’s body or family. It is this which actually determines one’s personality, character and abilities, not merely one’s birth. This is actually how we should see people and treat them equally as spiritual beings inside material bodies.
Casteism is the Perverted Form of the Vedic System Called Varnashrama
So What Is It?
The origin of the caste system, called varnashrama, was legitimate and virtuous. It was meant for the progressive organization of society. Varnashrama is the Vedic system that divides society into four natural groups depending on individual characteristics and dispositions. Everyone has certain tendencies by their own natural inclinations and choice. These inclinations are also seen in one’s occupational preferences. These activities are divided into four basic divisions called varnas. For example, there are those who prefer to offer service to society through physical labor or working for others (called shudras); those who serve through agriculture, trade, commerce, business, and banking or administrative work (vaishyas); those who have the talents of leaders, government administration, police or military and the protection of society (kshatriyas); and those who are by nature intellectuals, contemplative, and inspired by acquiring spiritual and philosophical knowledge, and motivated to work in this way for the rest of society (the brahmanas). It was never a factor of whether a person had a certain ancestry or birth that determined which class was most appropriate for him or her.
Ashramas divided society for spiritual reasons. These were brahmacharya (students), grihasthas (householders), vanaprasthas (retired persons), and sannyasa (those who were renounced from all materialistic affairs).
In this way, the system of varnashrama came into existence according to the natural tendencies of people, and to direct them so that everyone could work together according to the needs of society. The ashramas divided an individual’s life so that a person could fulfill all of one’s basic desires as well as accomplish the spiritual goals of life. Only according to one’s qualities, tendencies and traits, usually as one grew up in school, was it determined which varna was best for that person. And then he would be trained accordingly to do the most suited work that fit his qualities, much like the way counselors work with students in schools today.
Its real purpose was that the system of varnashrama was not to label or restrict someone. It was actually part of the means for self-discovery and development. It was to assist a person to find their place in life where he or she would be most comfortable in terms of functionality and occupation. It was to allow the means for everyone to work according to their own nature, which helps bring happiness to the individual and society. Thus, a person could study what was most suited for him or her rather than pursue a type of work that was not really in line with that person’s character, and in which he would soon be dissatisfied. So, it would help guide one to more efficiently complete one’s life and reach fulfillment. In this way, the varnashrama system is based on the natural divisions within society and is not meant to be forced distinctions or restrictions.
However, beyond this it was meant to help raise the consciousness of humanity from materialism to a higher state of devotional regard for God in spiritual life. It would help one in managing the physical, mental, intellectual and spiritual energy for improving one’s health, mental and physical development and productivity, along with spiritual awareness. Thus, it was meant for helping society to become spiritually harmonized and make the everyday tasks into a means of spiritual progress and growth.
To explain further, in Bhagavad-gita (4.13) Lord Krishna says, “According to the three modes of material nature and the work ascribed to them, the four divisions of human society were created by Me.” Then He continues, “Brahmanas, kshatriyas, vaishyas and shudras are distinguished by their qualities of work in accordance with the modes of nature.” (Bg.18.41) Herein we can see that there is no mention of birth as a determining factor for one’s varna or classification. They are ascertained by their qualities of work. Furthermore, “By following his qualities of work, every man can become perfect. . . By worship of the Lord, who is the source of all beings and who is all-pervading, man can, in the performance of his own duty [or occupation], attain perfection.” (Bg.18.45-6)
Herein we can understand that these divisions are created by the Lord so that everyone can be rightly situated in the work and activities that are most suitable for each person, and in which they can feel most comfortable. Whatever occupational tendency a person may have is determined by the modes of material nature one has acquired, or in which he or she associates. Beyond this, these classifications are to organize society in a way that can help in the systematic development of the spiritual consciousness of all mankind.
In the Vishnu Purana (3.8.9) Lord Parasharama also says, “The Supreme Lord Vishnu is worshiped by the proper execution of prescribed duties in the system of varna and ashrama. There is no other way to satisfy the Lord.” So, by engaging in this varnashrama system the Supreme Lord can be satisfied with one’s occupation. It is a way of making one’s work and activities into devotional service to the Lord. However, it may be pointed out that a person in pure spiritual consciousness is above all such designations, even though for his service to God he may act in any one of these divisions at any given time.
Now we can understand how the Vedic arrangement of varnashrama provides the means for each person in each varna to be able to make spiritual advancement by offering one’s activities to the Lord. It is the way a person can directly engage in bhakti-yoga, or devotional service to the Supreme. Thus, in whatever position one is in, all of one’s duties can become an offering of love to God, which becomes the highest level of meditation and intention.
If everyone engages in his or her particular occupation with the idea that it is a service to God, then that occupation becomes the means for one’s worship and thoughts or meditation on the Supreme. If one thinks like this always, then, by the grace of the Lord, he will be delivered from material existence. This is the highest perfection of life. In whatever occupation people may be engaged, if they serve the Supreme Lord, they will achieve this highest level of success. It is by this means that the spiritual form of varnashrama can satisfy the Lord, and everyone makes spiritual advancement. As society progresses in this way, all working together for the satisfaction of the Lord, they forget who is in what position, or that there seems to be a difference, because spiritually they are all transcendental. Thus, everyone rises above the material platform by dint of their work in devotional service. Then the harmonious and advanced nature of the mode of goodness, as found in the age of Satya-yuga, can be invoked even in this dark age of Kali-yuga.
The system of varnashrama exists naturally everywhere because people will always have the tendencies for what they want to do, or have particular qualities for occupational skills. And these can invariably be divided into the four above-mentioned groups. This is natural, and, as we have seen the evidence here, it has been created by the Supreme Creator. Therefore, it will always be in existence in some shape or form.
This system, however, was never meant to divide people according to materialistic classifications. It was meant to unite people in a cooperative society in the service of God. In Vedic times, even the shudras had the same rights as those of the other varnas, and their dignity was preserved without discrimination. In this way, everyone would be satisfied materially and work in a way for the Lord’s pleasure. The Vedic culture, ultimately, was for the well-being and spiritual advancement of the whole society. Forced designation or untouchability was never a part of the Vedic process. The materialistic system of casteism has deteriorated into a means of dividing society according to mere parentage to control certain groups, while protecting or expanding the worldly happiness of the privileged. Actually, there is no word as “untouchable” in any of the Vedic scriptures. This has been a modern invention.
Logically speaking, if a person is not performing any unhygienic activities, then why should he be called a Dalit, or an untouchable, simply because of the family in which he was born? Even after performing something dirty, one need only wash oneself properly to be clean again. Likewise, to raise one’s consciousness to a higher awareness or frequency of activity, one need only participate in the Vedic methods of spiritual advancement, which must be done regardless of one’s rank or varna, whether shudra or brahmana.
On the other hand, I have seen brahmanas in India who ate eggs, ate meat, and drank alcohol. How does one clean oneself from that if he is considered a clean and pure brahmana? It means that such a person is hardly a brahmana at all, even if he is born in a brahmana family. So classification is to be judged by qualities, habits, and the content of one’s character, not by mere title and birth.
So, as it stands today, the present form of casteism is a great curse on Hinduism. It attacks the core of its spiritual philosophy, and has resulted in large numbers of Hindus converting to other religions. Therefore, it needs to be replaced by the genuine system of Varnashrama, or simply thrown out completely. However, there are groups of Vedic followers who are open for everyone and do not divide people or consider them according to their birth.
In the Bhagavad-gita (18.42), Lord Krishna explains that the natural qualities of the brahmanas are peacefulness, self-control, austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, knowledge, wisdom and knowledge. The Mahabharata (1) also explains that a brahmana must be perfectly religious. He must be truthful and able to control his senses. He must execute severe austerities and be detached, humble and tolerant. He must not envy anyone, and must be expert in performing religious sacrifices and giving whatever he has in charity. He must be fixed in devotional service and expert in Vedic knowledge. These are the twelve qualifications for a brahmana. The Mahabharata (Vana Parva, Chapter 180) also goes on with a quote from Yudhisthira, that a brahmana possesses truthfulness, charity, forgiveness, sobriety, gentleness, austerity, and a lack of hatred.
So the point is that, unfortunately, in today’s form of casteism, when we see brahmanas who are proud of their position, or who desire material benefit, or look condescendingly at those of lower castes, they are not really elevated but are materialistic. This means that they have lost the true qualities of brahmanas. They actually help promote contempt throughout casteism. Thus, for those that act this way, and not all of them do, only by birth are they called brahmanas, but the necessary qualifications are not found in them. In fact, the very people that may pride themselves for their high social classifications, and are supposed to be the spiritual leaders of society (the brahmanas), only indicate their lack of qualifications by focusing on the temporary material designations when they are supposed to be above such things.
A final point in this regard comes from Suta Gosvami who says in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.2.8) that such occupational duties a man performs according to his own position are only so much useless labor if they do not provoke attraction for the message of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This means that the modern materialistic form of casteism that we find today is no longer connected with the Vedic system of varnashrama. It misses the point of helping everyone make spiritual advancement, or to please the Supreme Lord. Thus, it has become a useless and destructive system.
How Did the Present Casteism Develop?
So how did the form of casteism that we find today develop? Through time, society began to deviate from the Vedic standards. The perverted nature of the modern caste system started to creep into the genuine Vedic system of varnashrama from the time of Jamadgni and Parashurama many hundreds of years ago. As the brahmanas became more self-interested, a struggle began between them and the kshatriyas. The brahmanas made birth in a brahmana’s family as the qualification for being one. Thus, one’s varna was determined by birth and was then written in the dharmic shastra, such as the Manu-samhita.
In this way, the caste system degenerated in India, and the classes gradually neglected their duties. Testing the abilities, tendencies and talents of the children to determine their natural interests and character disappeared. Birth became the major factor in determining varna or caste. The brahmanas in particular became self-centered and protective of their superiority, forgetting their duties and losing their qualities. Sacrifice, religious study, and austerity gradually became absent in the traits of many of the brahmanas. The people in the other varnas also lost their good characteristics. Chivalry, leadership, and forbearance were no longer to be found in the kshatriya spirit. As leaders, they no longer kept the welfare of the people in focus. Vaishyas lost their charity and honesty in business and became greedy and avaricious. The laborer class, the shudras, no longer wanted to be servants, but desired that others serve them. They wanted to have position and control, without knowing what is best to do with it, and not being qualified to guide or lead people properly, and thus misdirecting the world. In this way, society has become disheveled and out of balance and harmony, and does not follow in accord with dharma.
The kshatriyas rebelled and formed or joined Buddhism, which did without all varnas or castes. The vaishyas also used Jainism. Together, Buddhism and Jainism tried to bring the end of brahminism. The result was actually a deterioration of the Vedic culture in general.
As society in India started to decay after distancing itself from the true Vedic system, it weakened to the point wherein it allowed the low-born or mleccha kings from outside India to come in and conquer and control it. This brought even further decline to the Vedic culture. Later, it was during the British reign in which the caste system became more widely practiced and ingrained in Hinduism. The British encouraged the practice of it to increase the divisions between people, thus making it easier for the British to rule over them. A disunited society will hardly have the force and cooperation to defend itself from intruders. So the British fueled casteism and kept it more ingrained in society for their own interests. In this way, it was many years before the British could be removed. In fact, the British justified their presence with promises of helping keep the peace between the growing divisions in the Indian social structure. In any case, well after the British left, the divisions and the focus on ethnic classifications that had increased during their reign have remained.
Though Indian society has always been progressive to varying degrees, this idea of assigning a varna, caste or class of activity to someone merely by one’s birth parents has been the major failure of individual and social development in modern Hindu society.
The Dangers of Casteism as We Find it Today
As casteism continues, it furthers the fragmentation of Indian society. In fact, you could say that it has practically killed Vedic society and has brought about the numerous divisions and social quarrels that we now find in India. Even amongst the Hindus alone, there has been fighting along caste, ethnic and sectarian lines for hundreds of years. This is one of the main reasons why the country has been weakened to such a degree that they could not properly defend themselves in a unified way from the genocide under the Muslim invasions and modern fundamentalism. This sort of fragmentation also forced Indians to endure two centuries of British persecutions.
Casteism today does not help society advance spiritually. In fact, it helps promote contempt and disapproval among the people of different classes and ethnic groups. For this reason, we still see today that when the shudras and Dalits feel like they are disliked by fellow Hindus, they become Muslims or Christians or Buddhists in the attempt to find greater acceptance and avoid class distinctions. The result of this has been social disharmony. Otherwise, there would have been no need for parts of India to be divided to create Bangla Desh and Pakistan, which have since become nothing more than mortal enemies of India. Have any lessons been learned? Apparently not. Ethnic intolerance is on the rise in many parts of India.
Even today you can find such divisions that a brahmana from one state does not trust a brahmana from a different part of India. For example, the Nambudris of Kerala look down on any other brahmanas. Even among other groups, a Jat boy from the Punjab will not marry a Jat girl from Uttar Pradesh. And a Patel from Kutch will look at a Patel from Ahmedabad as foreign. Thus, the problem of caste and ethnicity is making a society that fights like cats and dogs. In reality, casteism is killing Indian culture.
What We can do to Eliminate the Caste System
Social revolutionaries who wanted to change the caste system have been around for a long time. Gandhi was a notable figure in this. However, before him was Ramanujacharya. He crusaded against the concept of untouchability. In Melkote, Karanataka, he threw open the doors to the temple and let everyone in, regardless of classification. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu also ignored the restrictions that were established by the caste system. He associated and ate with anyone who was a sincere devotee of the Lord, considering one’s intention and consciousness as being more important than mere social classification of one’s body.
So what can be done to change this form of casteism? We can go back to the Vedic system of studying the natural tendencies of the child in its early stage of education. Then observe the child’s association, activities and intellectual interests to begin to determine it’s real varna or direction in occupation. Then, as in any western country, as the child grows, begin testing, counseling and steering it in the proper course of education to determine if the right category has been given. Then allow that person to develop him or herself to the fullest possibility without restrictions of some forced caste placed on the person. It does not even have to be called Varnashrama. But the process can merely direct a person according to his or her qualities and characteristics to find more fulfillment and potential in life, and thus more happiness. This is only the basics of what Varnashrama was meant to do. Other things that can be done that can help do away with the modern form of casteism include the following:
1. There have been laws passed against the practice of untouchability and discrimination toward those considered to be of lower caste, some of which have already been enacted. India’s Constitution has a specific Article forbidding untouchability (Art 17), Article 25(2b) to throw open Hindu religious institutions to all sections of Hindus, and Article 15 (4) to permit the state to make special provisions for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes. It also has a host of other Articles in Part III to ensure Right to Equality. After all, India is a democracy with freedom for anyone regardless of race, religion or sex. And under a democracy, everyone should follow the same set of laws--a uniform code for all Indians. However, these laws need to be monitored in a way to make sure that they are implemented to see to it that this caste prejudice is not only outlawed, but stopped.
Is this possible? Yes, it is. Nepal, on August 16, 2001, recently made the announcement that they would put such laws into practice against the discrimination of lower-caste Hindus and the centuries-old idea that certain people are untouchable, which would become punishable by a severe sentence. It is time that India did the same thing. After all, India still receives much criticism for this from the global community.
2. All people, no matter whether they are Dalits, other low-caste Hindus, or people who have converted to Hinduism, should have the means and freedom which enable them to enter all Hindu temples and participate in the Vedic process of spiritual development. This again is merely a practice that expands and protects the rights of those who are already privileged, without showing the concern for others. It is another example of how the upper-castes suppress those of lower status. It is another example of how it is causing the disintegration of the noble standards that were once found in Hinduism.
3. Furthermore, the practice of bonded labor should be not only outlawed, but with stiff fines and penalties for those who still utilize it. Bonded labor is the practice of using poor villagers for cheap labor, often giving them low wages and shambles for dwellings. Then giving them loans with interest that are supposed to be paid off in exchange for labor. If the loans are not paid off, then the person’s children must also work for years in order to try to pay off the loans of their fathers or grandfathers. This can go on for generations. It is essentially financial slavery. You see bonded labor in places like textile shops, large farms, and in the carpet and silk factories, which are known to be the prominent places that use child labor. It is time for the government to get involved to make sure that this practice comes to an end once and for all, and that all financial obligations are nullified. It is another example of how the rich and privileged suppress and control the lower classes.
In the real system of varnashrama, everyone’s position can be respected since everyone is seen as servants of the Lord in whatever capacity they serve. The people are appreciated for what they do. Workers and laborers were never to be treated harshly, or given hellish conditions in which to live or work. They were to be treated kindly and fairly.
4. Another thing that must be stopped in this connection is the practice of bribing or purchasing tribal or poor village girls with the promise of good jobs and then taking them to places like Bombay where they are sold and forced into prostitution. Many of the girls in Bombay are not there by choice, but because they were kidnapped and then beaten, starved, or tortured into submission. This goes on not only for the profit, but because of the corruption in the local governments and police departments that allow it to continue. There is no reason why the government and police cannot stop this if they really wanted. There are laws against this but no one implements them. They could easily close the houses of prostitution overnight and free these girls, except for the bribes and the corruption that allows the Indian mafia to take advantage of these young girls.
This ruins the lives of many young girls and their families, and is another point for which India receives much criticism, while the international community watches. Therefore, heavy punishment should be administered to anyone for such kidnapping or bribery, and the madams who run the houses of prostitution should be sent to long terms of prison. All politicians or police commissioners who do not carry out the laws to stop this, or who accept bribes to look the other way, should also be relieved of their position or jailed for long periods of time. This would have immediate effects.
5. The concept of dowry should also be abolished, not merely by laws but by enforcement with stiff fines when it is found to have taken place. Dowry was originally a way of helping the newly married couple get off to a good start financially, and to help protect the bride if something should happen to the husband. Now it has become a perverted system in which it is the bride’s parents who must fork over a large dowry to the agreement of the groom and his family. If the dowry is not large enough, there is either no marriage, or the bride is treated terribly later on. This system helps divide the classes and puts the financial burden on the bride’s family to have their daughter get married. It is especially difficult when the bride’s family is poor, or has a number of daughters that need to get married. It also turns the marriage into a business arrangement between families rather than a sacred institution between husband and wife. It is also a big factor in the abuse of women and bride burnings in India. This system is also another reason for the increased rate of infanticide and abortions when it is discovered that a woman is pregnant with a baby girl. The present-day system of dowry is now mostly a materialistic and shameful arrangement.
6. Ultimately, as with all social problems, the most important action to take in order to change society is to provide the means for continued spiritual development. That is why it is important that spiritual organizations work to fulfill the above-mentioned points, and also provide the means for the upliftment of people’s consciousness through spiritual education and practice, so that people can seriously change their view of their fellow human beings. That is why temples need to be open to everyone. We all need to realize our transcendental identities, and that we are all spiritual beings, not the temporary bodies in which we reside. As spiritual beings, we are all the same. On that level, there needs to be no special treatment of one over another. Materially, there may be so many differences, but these are all temporary and only within the material vision. By recognizing this, it can help us get back to practicing the real and genuine version of casteism, which is the Vedic system of varnashrama.
My own spiritual master put it bluntly, he said that if all you see is who is a brahmana, kshatriya, vaishya, or shudra, then your vision is no better than that of a dog. A dog also recognizes distinctions, such who is its friend, enemy, or source of food. Our vision should be much higher than that if we are to consider ourselves human beings.
The above mentioned points, which are not many, may not completely cure this problem of caste suppression and bonded and child labor, but it could certainly take things in the right direction and begin to change how things in the social arrangement of India continue.
Many organizations have shown and teach disregard for the caste system and its materialistic designations. Spiritual organizations such as Iskcon and others, have taken the path of showing the equality amongst all people without caste distinctions. They treat everyone equally while allowing individuals to pursue their own particular occupational tendencies without the stigma of being categorized into any certain social group. This is one way in which society can again be unified, especially in regard to Hindu society and India in general.
It is also of utmost importance to use every occasion to help change the social disparities into a common devotional unity. We can especially see such unity at spiritual festivals, like the Kumbha Mela of January, 2001. At this spiritual event, wherein 71 million people attended over a seven week period, everyone bathed in the rivers side by side, both rich and poor, educated and not, villagers and city dwellers alike. They all honored the sages and saints together, or sat in rows together doing puja or listening to the talks, or taking food given at the camps. Social sectarianism had no place in it. So Hindu unity is possible. Yet, we have to be ready to tear down the needless ethnic barriers and unnecessary classifications that get in the way.
We need to have more social gatherings that allow people to come together in a cooperative mood, then work or play together, and get to know each other better. We especially need to have more religious and spiritual functions, like Krishna Janmastami, Ramnavami, etc., that can bring everyone together to celebrate in a way in which we forget about our class distinctions or ethnic divisions. That way we can all be inspired and then leave the event while still holding that inspiration in our hearts. By experiencing such events and then carrying this attitude wherever we go, it will reinforce social harmony, equality and fraternity amongst all.
When you are spiritually charged, you want to share that inspiration and love with everyone. You don’t want anything to stifle your feeling of spiritual exhilaration. You want everyone else to feel it, too. That’s when you are really approaching true spiritual and God consciousness. And casteism can never be a part of that. It will only separate you from your fellow spiritual beings, and take down your spiritual consciousness and alienate you from God and from the God within everyone.
Another thing that can help in this matter is that swamis from various maths and temples should visit those who are neglected. They should put on religious functions in their communities. Or they can make sure that such people, along with everyone else, are invited to the temples for regular functions, and see to it that there is equality in matters of puja, worship, prasad and food distribution, and Vedic education and instructions. This is the common heritage of all Hindus, and, indeed, all of mankind. No one should be deprived from that, and it should be our duty to see to it that everyone has this opportunity. We must all do our part. Otherwise, if there are any who are not spiritually educated, then we are to blame.
Ironing out these man-made difficulties by spreading spiritual education is, in effect, a way of invoking and showing our devotion to God. If God established varnashrama, as explained in the Bhagavad-gita, then we should work in ways to tear down the modern and materialistic caste system and reinstall the genuine Vedic process. In this Vedic system, everyone is recognized as being spiritually equal, and everyone can work according to their occupational tendencies toward pleasing God without being subject to social classification and stigma.
It is my personal vision of a casteless society, a society that focuses on unity through our spiritual identities, which are all equal and beyond bodily designations. It is my personal vision wherein everyone can work according to their own natural tendencies in a spirit of devotion to God without being categorized merely because of their birth. Like so many others, it is my vision of a society in which everyone can get along, cooperating and assisting each other in harmony toward our spiritual growth. However, we all have to work toward social reform. After all, what kind of world do you want to live in? What kind of world do you prefer? A world divided, full of social disparities and ethnic divisions? Or a world united in cooperation and harmony, all working to encourage and help each other through life? The decision is obvious.
We should all be ambassadors to spread social harmony. We should all be ambassadors of the genuine Vedic standards and culture. We should all be revolutionaries to break the materialistic social barriers between us. We must be willing to work for the progress and upliftment of all, which then guarantees our own upliftment. We must be willing to change society, and that change starts within each and everyone of us, and the way we view one another.
Published with the kind permission of Stephen Knapp
Stephen Knapp (Sri Nandanandana) is the President and Treasurer of the Vedic Friends Association (www.vedicfriends.org). He has been researching Vedic spirituality and comparative religious study for over 30 years in a variety of settings. He has directly engaged in those spiritual disciplines that have been recommended for hundreds of years. He continued his study of Vedic knowledge and practice under the guidance of a spiritual master to get the insights and realizations that are normally absent from the ordinary academic atmosphere. Through this process he has been initiated into the genuine and authorized spiritual line of the Brahma-Madhava-Gaudiya sampradaya, or disciplic succession, under the sanction of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami. He has also extensively travelled throughout India to most of the major holy sights and more, and is known for his slide shows on his travels to the holy places and spiritual festivals of India (even nicknamed "the slide show acharya"), and for his lectures on the Vedic and Indian philosophy. He has written several books on the science and spiritual practice of Vedic culture and Eastern philosophy.
Visit his website, at: http://www.stephen-knapp.com.
You can email him at: Srinandan@aol.com.
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