Inequality in Society
Despite modernism and liberalism being its guiding lights, our society continues to harbour notions of inequality and discrimination. Divisions on the basis of caste, religion, gender, money power, education, ability to speak English, are deeply embedded in the human psyche. Unimaginable atrocities are committed against Dalits and minority communities across the country. Oppressed and backward castes and the poor are subjected to indignities and marginalised in every sphere –education, jobs, access to resources, or dignity of labour. The horrible treatment meted out to transvestites is for all to see. Money power is the greatest divider; the rich are privileged and the poor just barely survive. One also hears of cruelty being inflicted on innocent animals.
The Bhagavad Gita Professes Equality
Is such insensitivity justified? Are we right in according different status to different people, based on whatever yardstick? Can we justify the Darwinian Theory and say only the fittest deserve to survive? Not if we were to read the below given verse from the Gita.
vidyā-vinaya-sampanne brāhmaṇe gavi hastini
śhuni chaiva śhva-pāke cha paṇḍitāḥ sama-darśhinaḥ
(Chapter 5, verse 18)
The truly learned, with the eyes of divine knowledge, see with equal vision a Brahmin, a cow, an elephant, a dog, and a dog-eater.
Shri Krishna here reveals how people who are able to see things in the correct perspective, see all living beings as fragments of god. They look upon a Brahmin, a cow, an elephant, a dog, and even a pariah with equanimity. Such people, who see things in the divine light do not differentiate between different life forms and diametrically contrasting species. Seen from the physical perspective, such species are absolutely different but seen in the divine light, they are all eternal souls and need to seen with an equal eye. A Brahmin who performs rituals is respected, while a dog-eater is looked down upon as an outcaste; a cow is milked for human consumption, but not a dog; an elephant is used for wars and ceremonial parades. From the physical perspective, these species are vastly different. However, a truly wise person endowed with spiritual knowledge sees them all as eternal souls, and hence views them with an equal eye.
Krishna here underscores the importance of ‘humility’. The sign of divine knowledge is that it comes with a sense of humility, while shallow bookish knowledge is accompanied by the pride of education and scholarship.
Vedas and the Caste System
The Vedas also do not support the view that the Brahmins are of higher caste, while the Shudras belong to lower caste. The Vedic perspective is that even though the Brahmins conduct worship rituals, the Kṣhatriyas administer society, the Vaiśhyas do business, and the Shudras engage in labour, they are all eternal souls, who are tiny parts of God, and hence they are all the same.
This would imply that all beings irrespective of their birth or background have a similar soul which is unchanging and eternal in nature. All humans are equal; irrespective of their race, caste, colour, or creed. If society can embrace this egalitarianism, the world would be near perfect. It would eradicate all biases, prejudices, discriminatory notions, and the resultant exploitation and indignity amongst fellow beings.