February 28, 2023 [narratives] #jati

In an interview with Ben Shapiro, Sam Harris says slavery is explicitly endorsed in the Old Testament and the New Testament doesn't repudiate it. Jesus apparently said slaves should serve their Christian masters. Shaprio makes the point that it was Abolitionists inspired by the Bible who made the against slavery in America and England. Sam Harris says they did it despite the Bible, with "aggressive" reinterpretations.

A similar pattern is apparent in Hinduism. There's varna in orthodox Hindu soteriology, but a whole bunch of people use the same Hindu worldview to make case against jati: Aurobindo, Subramaniya Bharati, Dayananda Saraswati, the Naths. I am not sure if these interpretations can be regarded just as "aggressive" though, since another tenet of Hindu soteriology is the dissolving of identity, a condition called moksha. There is in the Gita, these lines:

vidyā-vinaya-sampanne brāhmaṇe gavi hastini śhuni chaiva śhva-pāke cha paṇḍitāḥ sama-darśhinaḥ

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.

-- Chapter 5, Verse 18

Just like the modern abolisonists, 19th century Hindu reformers - Raja Ramohan Roy, Vivekananda - made social service central to the practice of Hinduism. This is what Amod Lele has to say:

The “Ramakrishna” Mission was actually founded by Vivekānanda – Ramakrishna had little or no part in its creation – and so it adheres to Vivekānanda’s philosophy rather than Ramakrishna’s. Narasingha Sil notes how a fellow monk had already charged Vivekānanda with falsely introducing social service into Ramakrishna’s teachings; in reply Vivekānanda said, “Hands off! Who cares for your Ramakrishna? Who cares for your Bhakti and Mukti? Who cares what your Scriptures say?… I am not a slave of Ramakrishna, but of him only who serves and helps others, without caring for his own Bhakti or Mukti.” It seems that promoting social service was more important to V than representing Ramakrishna’s thought accurately, and one might expect the organization he founded to carry on this tradition.