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University of Toronto Mississauga
David Miller

1 LECTURE QUESTIONS: 1. Structure of Varna and Jati & differences: Varna can be translated from Sanskrit and means colour. It is one of the four Aryan classes of society in the 1500-200 B.C.E . Varna refers to symbolizing colour as the basis of determining the hierarchy of the classes. The Brahmans and Brahmins are the priests and the religious elite who are considered pure and light. The Brahman teach the veda, which means wisdom. The next important individuals down from the highest social hierarchy are the Kshatriyas whom are kings, nobles, military men and political elite. Their duty is to protect the people with their arms. These two varnas are considered the purest. The next class are the Vaisya, they are the merchants who sell items and tend cattle. The Shudras are the labourers, ,farmers, commoners and peasants who work for the upper classes. The untouchables are considered impure. The first three are considered the lighter people and therefore come first on the social system and then the darker people become the labourers. The first three classes were also called twice-born classes as they had the right to obtain an initiation into the life of a Brahmin through an initiation ceremony involving a sacred thread. The Jati system is determined by birth. The term Jati is related to the idea of the lineage or kinship group. Under the Jati system, a person is born into a Jati with ascribed social roles and endogamy, i.e. marriages take place only within that Jati. Jati refers to a system of class that involves all living things, such as, humans, animals, insects, and plants. Karma means by your actions, and they believe that. People were born into a class because of deeds (karma) done in their previous lives. A member from a higher class cannot perform the same rituals as a member from a lower class and vice versa. The Jati system is radically different from the Varna system. A jati is indentified in a local setting by whom its members will accept food and water and which Jatis will serve them. However, the jati moves up the social scale as a group. A jati can improve their position in the class system by advancing economically and by creating a pure, legendary origin. The differences between the two systems of classification are that the Varnas, provide a more stable model for a stratified social order in which each group is clearly defined. The traditional view is that the jatis represent a proliferation of social groups from the varna system. Jati indicated a mere specialisation in a particular art, craft or profession. The relationship between the varnas and jatis is complex. Some beliefs are that the varnas evolved into the jatis. Major factors of the Caste system were: Endogamy: One could only marry within their caste gotras. Commensality: One could not eat with a member of a higher or lower class. 2. (ALL IMP!) Indra and Agni Characteristics and Functions in Vedic religion: In Vedic religion, which was brought about by the Invading Aryans, Indra was the God of the Atmosphere. His human counterpart is Khsatriya. He is described in the Rig Veda as a warrior chieftain with a thunderbolt for a weapon like the Greek god, Zeus. He is accompanied by a band of young warriors called the Maruts, who hold lightning as their spear and are the gods of the thunderstorm. Indra, is the warrior king, empowered by soma, who destroys obstacles with his thunderbolt group. His most famous myth is the destruction of the snake Vrtra (obstacle) symbolizing cosmic chaos, thus freeing waters from the sky. Indra on his adventures, which seem to reflect the warrior ethos of Vedic society: Indra captures the cows as the Aryan warriors would have gone on cattle raids to neighboring groups. After Indra defeats Vrtra in battle, the waters are released, the sun shines once more and Vrtras cattle are liberated. Indra also engaged in battle with Dasas. Agni means fire. The fire god. He is the sun in the sky and the lightning. He is associated with the Earth and his human counterpart is Brahmin (priest). Agni is one of the two most significant devas (god) placed on Earth. The Brahmins form his human counterpart and they offer sacrifices to him, he says: I give to you; you to me. As the mouth of the Gods, he devours the offerings and as a priest, he brings back the gods to share the sacrificial feast. Agni is particularly the sacrificial fire and he transports the dead to the realm of Yama, the lord of death, and transports, and purifies all offerings to the realm of gods. The mythology of Agni plays on the idea of fire being hidden within the world and awakened by the fuel-stick, which kindle him. 3) Chandogya Upanishad, Uddalaka Aruni, the father uses symbols to teach his son, Shvetaketu: Upandishads literally means to sit down near to. Atman refers to the soul (individual soul as a part of the cosmos). Shvetaketu, the grandson of aruna and the son of uddalaka aruni, was sent to gurukul forest ashrama of a guru in ancient India) to study Vedas. - The father told his son about the unifying principle of all the knowledge his son has acquired, the metaphysical side of unity in diversity, the one substratum lying hidden within every name and form. He further adds about all pervading Self or Atman as the basic Reality of every being and he does that by using different analogies. For instance, as the bees, make honey by collecting the pollen from different flowers and trees. The bees bring all the different pollen from distinct locations and form it into one substance: honey. In addition, it is similar to the reference of the rivers that run toward the east (i.e. the ganga), and the western (i.e. the sindhu). The river becomes one with the sea and has no distinction even though it can from another location. It is like a droplet of water that falls from the sky, when it falls into the ocean, you can no longer see it and it becomes apart of the large vast ocean. With both references of the examples, they both are similar metaphorically to the the individual soul (Atman) is one with Sat (the ultimate reality or ground of being or totality of the cosmos), but does not realize this due to ignorance. Jas individual rivers or pollen become one with the ocean or the honey and lose their individuality, individual souls are made of the same substance as Sat (Being) and eventually become one with Sat. Once more, Uddalaka repeats, That is Atman. That art thou, Shvetaketu or in other words, Shvetaketus soul was also a part of the totality of Sat. 2 The atman is the basic reality of every being and is presumed to have evolved as this universe. The Atman transcends all the worlds. It is uncontaminated. He who is aware of only the Atman is ever in Bliss. Therefore by adopting the right method and means of knowledge one can know the essence of Atman everywhere in this universe; and ``Thou Art That Atman`` (*THIS QUOTE IS IMPORTANT!*). 4) Shvetashvatara Upanishad the One God who rules over the perishable and the self (JIVATMAN) and who is identified with Brahman: - The One God in the Shvetashvatara Upanishad who ruled over the perishable and the Jivatman, who is identified with Brahman is Shiva or his Vedic counterpart Rudra - There are several methods used to identify Brahman or Shiva in the Shvetashvatara Upanishad. A question method is used to ask: What is the cause of the cosmos? What is the ground of being? Is it the female womb (yoni)? Or is it the Male Person (Purusha or Lingam/phallus)? - According to the Upanishad, the cosmos is created by the union of the male (spiritual) and female (material) principles (Shiva and his consort Shakti/Devi). Even in the Indus Valley civilization, Shiva was symbolized by an erect phallus (lingam) with a base in the yoni to show the union between male and female principles. - However, while Shiva was initially just one god among many, the Shvetashvatara Upanishad identifies him as the First Cause and the efficient cause who emanates, sustains and reabsorbs the universe into his own substance. - He rules over the perishable and the imperishable (the Self or Individual soul called Jivatman). He is a personal god who transcends the finite and infinite. However, even though Shiva lives within ones innermost soul, he is not identical with it, unlike the Atman=Brahman synthesis in Chandogya and Brihadaranyaka Upanishads. - The main goal of the SU is for the Jivatman to gain moksha (liberation) from
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