RELIGIOUS STUDIES Lecture Notes January 17
CLASSICAL HINDU LITERATURE ARE CALLED SMRTI. there are
1. EPICS stories
2. PURANAS cosmological and theological poems
3. DHARMASHASTRA laws
BRAHMA - creation god (the lesser of the three in the
TRIMURTI ~ trinity of vishnu, shiva, and brahma)
BRAHMAN - the everything, the fabric of reality, the
BRAHMINS - the priestly class, the highest class
BRAHMANAS - in the hymns (in the vedas): the brahmanas
are the ritual texts used by the brahmins.
we pick up with the
even before the dharmashastras, there is evidence that
there were castes before this. scholars argue what
counts as caste or class. all we need to know is that
CASTE consists of the VARNAS and JATI
THERE ARE FOUR MAIN CASTES
THEN THE JATIS ARE THE THOUSANDS OF OTHER SUB-GROUPS the hierarchy was already existing in the vedas
according to the myth of the purusa sukta in the rig
veda. but it wasn't as clearly delineated until the
the group of four varnas finally ossifies in the LAWS
OF MANU .
THE 4 VARNAS
BRAHMINS - PRIESTS teach society, make truth claims
KSHATRIYAS - WARRIORS/RULERS protect society
VAISHYAS - MERCHANTS
SHUDRAS - SERVANTS to the other classes
different rituals, dialects, diets, etc.
this was propegated by the belief that some people have
different spiritual propensities and are destined to be
in different groups.
*****THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH ECONOMIC CLASS, it was
a different kind of cultural hierarchy.
Is this followed strictly?
this is probably much more complicated and complex in
practice and reality. sacred texts reflect ideals, not
necessarily reality. there were in fact tensions
between different groups, especially between the
rulers/warriors and the brahmins.
beyond caste: JATI - over a thousand different Jati's or "BIRTH
GROUPS". These usually are tied to occupation like
barber or doctor or farmer. Within that there are many
types of farmers which each have their own jati. There
was jockeying for position in the Jati's as compared to
the more fixed Varnas. More mobility on the Jati level.
This jockeying was most prominent when it came to
ie. Brahmins from the jati that worked in the temple
were lower cause they came into contact with regular
people. the bramins from a higher jati that did
translation or interpretation would not want their
child marrying a child from the temple worker jati.
more wiggle room in the jati system than in the varna
system. the large number of jati groups also goes to
prove the large ammount of diversity.
JATIS are occupational or tribal groups
THE UNTOUCHABLES / AVRANAS (the fifth caste?)
There are some professions like leather workers, toilet
cleaners, people who worked with the dead. these were
considered polluting occupations, and as such, they
were not permitted in any of the VARNAS/castes. these
were the UNTOUCHABLES. banished people, orphans, etc
were made untouchable. upper castes would do everything
possible to stay out of contact with these people. they
were obsessed with purity and cleanliness, and coming
into contact with these people was an extreme issue.
there have been several reform movements in India. the
govt has abolished untouchability.
they were completely ostracised. Foreigners were also lobbed in to the avranas group.
THE STAGES AND GOALS OF LIFE
these are ONLY for the males of the higher three castes
(no shudras or avranas)
THE DHARMA TEXTS OUTLINE FOUR GOALS OF LIFE AND FOUR
STAGES OF LIFE.
- a compromise was established between followers who
wanted to renounce life and those who wanted to do
their duty. this was an all encompassing strategy. how
you are supposed to best live DHARMA.
these four aims of these stages are called
1. dharma - discharging of duties
2. artha - wealth and power
3. kama - sensual pleasure
4. moksha - liberation from cycle of life and death
THE FOUR STAGES OF LIFE
1. sisya - student
2. grhastha - householder
3. vanaprastha - withdrawal to forest
4. samnyasa - asceticism, seeking liberation, a life
of self denial, begging for food. very rare for any
hindu to come to this final stage. it is not so
much sacrifice as a set out path. IF YOU FOLLOW THIS PERFECTLY, YOU ACHIEVE MOKSHA. this
is to pay back debts that you are born with:
● debts to SEERS expunged by learning.
● debts to ANCESTORS paid off when you are married.
● debts to GODS paid off when you have kids.
*** since these three debts are paid off by the second
stage, this is why people don't go to the next two
THERE ARE SIX SCHOOLS OF ANCIENT PHILOSOPHY THAT REGARD
THE VEDAS AS AUTHORITATIVE.
we will only go over two: vedanta and yoga
the main school is VEDANTA (the "orthodox" school)
BASED ON THE UPANISHADS, the Bhagavad Gita, and the
Sudras. but traditionally, it is supposed to only be
of the six schools, Vedanta is believed to be the most
the two most important vedanta philosophers are:
RAMANUJA 11&12C Shankara argued that brahman and atman are non-dual.
the non dual concept is called ADVAITA. MAYA, our
ordinary experience, our body self, needs to be shed.