Rakesh Bahadur’s Analysis of HAF Report

1. Preliminary Analysis of the HAF Report (14th December 2010)


General Comments

  1. The intent of this review is not to do a line by line analysis but to use information from the HAF report as examples.  I have read the entire HAF report before writing this preliminary analysis.
  2. It took two years of discussion with the Virginia Dept. of Education to get caste out of the Social Studies Standards of Learning (SOLs) and Curriculum Frameworks (CFs). With the support from HAF, other organizations, and individuals, caste was removed from the CFs.  Now HAF issued a report which describes the caste in the same way as it occurs in the textbooks and standards (central to Hinduism, birth-based hierarchy, and sanctioned in the texts especially Smritis).
  3. The only thing school boards and departments of education have to show now is the HAF report to justify teaching of caste in Hinduism, the same way they referred me to the Ministry of External Affairs website for coverage of Aryan Migration.

Which stand of HAF is correct, the one that they took in Virginia or the one that they are taking in this report?

  1. The report mentions role of Christian Missionaries in conversion but not that of Muslim clergy and/or Buddhists. A comprehensive report must touch all aspects.
  2. The keystone of the report is on page 14 “In this report, the term “caste” should be understood to mean jaati, as we will commonly refer to the existence of numerous castes, not just four. However, it would be fair to also understand that castes can generally be mapped to a certain varna”.

The same mistake is made on page 36, “In the core scriptures of Hinduism, the caste system has a very minor presence. For example, the Bhagavad Gita has 700 verses of which not more than 30 (or 4%) mention caste, including the peripheral references. The Rigveda has 10,552 verses but only one mentions all the four varnas, and not more than 20 (0.2%) mention castes. The Yajurveda, in all its recensions, has very few (less than 3-4%) verses dealing with caste. The Samaveda (1,875 verses), and the Atharvaveda with almost 6,000 verses (or 8,000 in the Paippalada version) likewise have very few references to caste. Thus, caste finds minimal reference in the most authoritative spiritual and devotional scriptures of Hindus”.

 

Why has HAF not given exact references with chapter #, Verse # from the Bhagavad Gita and Mandal #, Sukta #, Richa/Mantra # from the Vedas for this percentage calculation?

Varna, caste, and jatti are not inter-changeable and it is wrong to treat them likewise.Outcome is always confusion when a complex issue is oversimplified.

  1. I am sure you will agree with me when I say that HAF has walked into the trap by calling caste/jaati a human rights issue.
  2. What exactly is HAF trying to accomplish with this report?

 

Analysis Table 1: A few examples taken from the HAF report.

Page #

Para #

Line #

Text

Comment

62 2 1 Within Hindu society, HAF supports the reanalysis and subsequent rejection of any and all teachings that promote caste-based discrimination and birth-based hierarchy. Scriptures have opposite view as compared to HAF position:

Channdogaya Upnishad, 4.1.4 reveals that Brahminhood does not depend on birth but on character and Gunas.

Vajra Suchikopanishad – the whole Upnishad contradicts the birth-based hierarchy (`Thirty Minor upanishads’ translated by Narayanasvami Aiyar and is published by the Adyar Press, Madras).

Apastamba Sutras – “A low Class man may, by leading a virtuous life, rise to the level of a higher Class man and should be ranked as such. In like manner a high Class man can by leading a sinful life, sink down to the level of a Class lower than his, and should be considered as such.” (Translation from Stayarth Prakash, chapter 4, page 100)

19 3 4 It is appropriate to note here that this report is not meant to be an academic treatise on the subject of caste, which is a vast and complex subject, and where scholars provide argument and counter-argument for almost any and every facet of the issue. A complex subject matter is discussed without discussing origin and or evolutionary trends. The solution to any problem cannot be provided without understanding the root causes first.

12

19

20

4

3

1

1

Last

1

This report presents a Hindu perspective on the problems of …….
However, it is primarily targeted at a general audience and is written from HAF’s perspective ……..
A key purpose of this report is to provide a Hindu perspective on caste …….
This report represents only “HAF perspective” and is not “Hindu perspective”. HAF does not speak for all 1 Billion Hindus. No organization can claim to represent all Hindus. Many people and organizations will disagree with the report and HAF’s perspective.
29

17

25

2

3

1

7

1

One of the baffling aspects of the problem is that the Smritis (Hindu law codes), including Manusmriti, the most famous of them all, are studied by few Hindus and are today the exclusive preserve of history and religion scholars. This was likely the case throughout history, since the study of Sanskrit and the Smritis was the preserve of the brahmins. Thus the Smritis are, and have always been, largely irrelevant to the personal spiritual practices of Hindus.

Much maligned Manu Smriti

In purely scriptural terms, although some Hindu scriptures contain passages that sanction the caste system, there are many others that indicate otherwise. Moreover, the most problematic and widespread references to caste are generally found in the Smritis (e.g.: Manusmriti,

A report of this magnitude should include primary sources and references.

Manu Smriti makes it very clear that

1. Caste Is not birth-based
2. Caste is not rigid – people move from one Varna to another

Please read Manu Smriti (10:65, 2:168, 8:337, 8:338, 1:109) to name a few.

“As the son of a Sudra may attain the rank of a Brahmin if he were to possess his qualifications, character and accomplishments, and as the son of a Brahmin may become a Sudra, if he sinks to his level in his character, inclinations and manners, even so must it be with him who springs from a Kshatriya; even so with him who is born of a Vaishya. In other words, a person should be ranked with the Class whose qualifications, accomplishments, and character he possesses. Manu Smriti 10:65 (translation from Stayarth Prakash, chapter 4, page 99).

“A Dwija as well his children who, instead of studying the Veda, wastes his time in doing other things soon goes down to the level of a Shudra.” (Manu Smriti (2:168)

In (a case of) theft the guilt of a Sudra shall be eightfold, that of a Vaisya sixteen fold, that of a Kshatriya two-and-thirty fold, (Manu Smriti 8:337)

That of a Brahmana sixty-fourfold, or quite a hundredfold, or (even) twice four-and-sixtyfold; (each of them) knowing the nature of the offence. (Manu Smriti 8:338)

“A Brahmana who departs from the rule of conduct, does not reap the fruit of the Veda, but he who duly follows it, will obtain the full reward. (Manu Smriti 1:109).”

35 3 4 The SC’s and ST’s lack of familiarity with the Sanskrit language hampered their ability to acquire knowledge. More than 90% Hindus lack knowledge of Sanskrit, then why pick only SC’s and ST’s.

How does the author of the report explain this selective use of logic?

36 2 6 In the core scriptures of Hinduism, the caste system has a very minor presence. For example, the Bhagavad Gita has 700 verses of which not more than 30 (or 4%) mention caste, including the peripheral references. The Rigveda has 10,552 verses but only one mentions all the four varnas, and not more than 20 (0.2%) mention castes. The Yajurveda, in all its recensions, has very few (less than 3-4%) verses dealing with caste. The Samaveda (1,875 verses), and the Atharvaveda with almost 6,000 verses (or 8,000 in the Paippalada version) likewise have very few references to caste. Thus, caste finds minimal reference in the most authoritative spiritual and devotional scriptures of Hindus. It is very dangerous to use Varna and Caste interchangeably.

HAF report does not give specific references from the scriptures mentioned, but instead gives some general statistics which do not prove anything.

Do the authors have references of specific scripture (s) with chapter and verse number to back their claim of these percentages?

Caste is of Portuguese origin, how can it be part of Vedic literature?

 

Analysis Table 2: Editorial slips – Minor mistakes, but these should not occur in a professionally prepared document

Page #

Para #

Line #

Text

Comment

12 1 4 those by tribe or clan, raceor ethnicity, and gender, as examples, have led to some of the worst It should be race or ethnicity  …..
63 5 3 internationalized by NGOs who want secondary gain.. The sentence should end with one period and not two.
63 2 4 Dr. B.R. Ambedkar’s greatest legacy consists consists not only Incorrect usage
34 2 4,5 be equal to a Shruti text by many). Evidence for caste-based discrimination can be found
in these as well, although one can also find evidence to the contrary. The Shruti/Smriti

Inconsistent use of Shruti and Sruti

36 3 5,6 an important role is in the Smritis and in portions of other non-Sruti texts of classical Hinduism.
140 3 2 import of Sruti, Smriti, Itihasa and the Puranas. There is no other way of attaining
9 4 HAF supports the reanalysis and subsequent rejection of any and all teachings that promote caste-based discrimination and birth-based hierarchy. Most such teachings are found in texts called Smritis, or books of ancient Hindu social law, which by their very nature and intent, are recognized to change with space and time and do not necessarily teach Hinduism’s eternal spiritual truths.

The report contains same information in different sections. Reports of this importance and magnitude should and must go through an editorial check.

An executive summary is usually a summary of the report, not a data dump from the main report.

62 2 Within Hindu society, HAF supports the reanalysis and subsequent rejection of any and all teachings that promote caste-based discrimination and birth-based hierarchy. Most such teachings are found in texts called Smritis or books of ancient Hindu social law, which by their very nature and intent, are recognized to change with space and time and do not necessarily teach Hinduism’s eternal spiritual truths.

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