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Ambedkar

B.B. King and Big K.R.I.T. Explain Buddhist Rebirth

What is Rebirth?

The concept of rebirth is the Buddhist alternative to the belief in reincarnation or the afterlife. Here reincarnation is defined as a Hindu concept that a metaphysical part of a person is eternal (soul) and will reinhabit another physical body. The belief in an afterlife is common in the Abrahamic religions is the soul will be sent to a paradise because of good deeds or beliefs. Neither of these concepts is in Buddhism as explained by the religious scholar Ambedkar.

The Buddhist concept of rebirth has to do with the ever-changing nature of matter and ideas. When a person dies, his body breaks down into its original elements (earth, fire, wind, water) and re-enters the universe to reappear as another person eventually. The process is never-ending and is happening every time someone consumes food or loses skin cells. It is also occurring as a person interacts with the world. As a person does good deeds, it increases the chances of others copying. The same is true for unwholesome deeds. So Buddhist rebirth is a never-ending process with one aspect being the physical death of the body.

The story of B.B. King and Big K.R.I.T.

In 1956, a brand new musician Roy King was about to release an album. Riley’s nickname Blues Boy or B.B. King was featured prominently on the album cover, but one thing is missing, B.B.’s photo. Mr. King asked about the apparent mistake and the record executives said, there was no mistake. We believe that the record could have cross-over appeal if the customer didn’t realize you were black.

Fast forward to 1986, and a middle-aged fan of the seasoned Blues Boy buys his newest record. Before she got to the counter, she saw a poster of B.B. King’s show in Paris. She decided to get the poster also. She rushed to get back to her house to welcome her daughter and new grandson. The original poster was a welcomed addition and pleased both the new grandmother and mother.

The boy was named Justin Scott and he grew up in a house with much love and music. B.B. King had more than solidified himself as the greatest musician that Mississippi ever produced. His music was an inspiration for Justin. He also grew to love many of the Hip Hop artist of his own generation. In an attempt to fuse the two genres, a new style and flavor of hip-hop was created. Justin decided to start performing under the pseudonym King Remembered in Time, K.R.I.T. It was both an assertion of how great he was and a nod to his hero B.B. King.

B.B. King briefly spoke on Hip-Hop in a 1996 interview. He said he didn’t like the gratuitous cursing or pornographic references to sex. However, he also didn’t like vulgar movies or artwork. King also acknowledged his parents and elders hated the fact he played what would later be called the Blues for many of the same reasons. Ultimately, B.B. King was impressed by the rapper’s ability, and admitted most people could not rhyme every word. He accepted Hip-Hop as an art form and applauded its success.

After years of hard work Big K.R.I.T released a record and make XXL freshman class list in 2011. His album gets much critical acclaim because it is at the same time cerebral and down-home. It talks about southern freedom fighters of the civil rights era and strip clubs. A genuinely southern album welcoming yet challenging to the listener. Bloggers have a field day debating the double meanings to the rhymes and what he really meant.

For the sophomore album, he wanted to make a concept song. In the song, three dead men talk to the angel of death which appears to them as a praying man. One man was lynched, one jumped from a slave ship, and another died while running away from the plantation. He gets the DJ from his favorite strip club to help him produce the track. After it was finished the DJ Chucks suggests that B.B. King would be a great addition to the record. K.R.I.T laughs but after being prodded by chunky gets his lawyer to reach out to B.B. King.

Luckily, one of the grandchildren of B.B. King’s band members was a fan of K.R.I.T. When the name is mentioned, the grandchild happened to be in the room and played the mp3 for the legends. B.B. King liked the album and was happy to work with the young rapper.

K.R.I.T recounted the story for “Complex” magazine as being surreal. The legend came in the booth as an extremely humble character. They talked and B.B. King offered to play his guitar in addition to singing. There were three flawless takes of B.B. King sang and played over the track. K.R.I.T was amazed at the precision and passion of the 84-year-old.

After the session, K.R.I.T and King talked about the industry and life in general. B.B. King re-told the story of how he had to fight to get his photo on his album cover. The moral was to fight, but not let bitterness fill your heart. King said he has forgotten most of the bad things that happened to him because people are so kind to him now. It is water under the bridge, and his eyes are facing forward.

King then told K.R.I.T he was the continuation of the musical tradition of Mississippi. Hip-Hop is the new method of conveying raw emotion to a room full of people. It is another unapologetic reflection of truth.

No outsider can say Blues or Hip-Hop should or should not use certain methods of communication. The music is made for the people in the backwoods of Mississippi. These people afford the rest of the world the privilege of hearing their music.

B.B. King died three years after the recording. K.R.I.T told Vox is mission is to continue to spread King’s music and inform the younger generation. K.R.I.T will forever be in debt to King not only for his professionalism. King opened his warm and creative soul to the young rapper. K.R.I.T and all his fans will never be the same after.

How the story illustrates rebirth

The story of K.R.I.T and King shows how music is being reborn constantly. King added to the American lexicon of music soul-stirring music. These seeds germinated in another Mississippi native building his own art form. Not only has the artistry been passed down to the new generation, but the mentality of resilience. It is the continuation of blackness. The term blackness doesn’t denote a skin color, it represents an experience that transcends the individual. One can view it being born in America or being imported from Africa, but it can’t be denied that it is unique and beyond mental constructs.

Rebirth is the realization that what most conceive as the individual is really a continuum of experience much bigger than one can conceptualize. The concept of the individual is an artificial construct used to aid in understanding. What exists is a never-ending flux of energy and thought that emerges as what we call individuals.

The song ” Praying Man” is a living example of rebirth. It connects the ancestors with the older generation and the newer generation. In the song, all the generations exist in one, and the lines of demarcation become blurred. We realize the ancestors are one with us and we are one with the ancestors. Even though the artists are not Buddhist, they exemplify the principles. The idea of rebirth is not unique to Buddhism or Asia, it is a concept that people witness every day in their own life.

For more on music and Buddhism

To hear the song “Praying Man” click HERE

To learn more about Buddhism click HERE

References

  1. Big K.R.I.T explains how the collaboration with B.B. King came together 11-12-14 http://www.hiohopdx.com
  2. Big K.R.I.T on B.B. King: “He did not have to be Humble” 5-15-15 http://www.rollingstone.com
  3. We Tried to get Big K.R.I.T to dis another MC 3-30-12 http://www.vice.com
  4. B.B. King: Sweet Sixteen http://www.paste.com
  5. All Day and Night: Memories from Beale St 1990 Documentary Directed by Gordon and Guida

Pakistan or the Partition of India

The Muslims came to India in various ethnic groups during many invasions. All the attacks shared one goal, the total eradication of native Hindu religion. Areas that maintain Hindu control violently suppressed Islam. The suppression of both faiths led to two distinct people groups inheriting what would become future India, Muslims and Hindus.

Ambedkar is clear that there are two distinct people groups must come together as a new whole. The heroes of Muslims are the villains of Hindus and vice versa. The stark differences in worldviews led to people of both ethnicities to advocate for separate homelands. Hindustan for the Hindus and Pakistan for the Muslims.

One of the things a unified India would lose if Pakistan becomes a separate state is the majority of its military. Most of the current military is native to the Northwest region of the country. The reason for the concentration of military force in the northwest was not due to an inherent trait in the people of that area. The concentration was the result of British military policies. It is because the British military had recruitment policies that favored these territories. The initiative to recruit high caste members from the northwest was politically motivated.

Supporters of the creation of Pakistan would say that its creation would end the need for separate electorates dictated in the Communal Award. Ambedkar explains how the creation of Pakistan would not absolve the demand for separate electorates. Under the current system the four northwest provinces would control a Hindu minority while the rest of India controlled a Muslim minority. The reservation of seats for minorities ensured there would be some representation for the Hindus in the Northwest and Muslims in the rest of India. If in either section of the country the majority oppresses the minority, they minority could call on his brothers in the other part of India to retaliate. Essentially, creating a mutual hostage situation. Even though the method is crude, it could cause both majorities to treat minorities with respect. If Pakistan is created, Hindus inside its borders would be vulnerable to ethnic cleansing.

In a unified India the northwest provinces could act as a national home, without the full powers of a state. The provinces could hold the cultural, religious, and communal heritage of the Muslims of India without the power of a state. The Muslims of southern India would benefit from a unified India in that, they are connected to their brothers. If Pakistan splits, southern Muslims will be alone to tend with a Hindu cultural and political majority.

As stated earlier, if Pakistan is not separated from India, the Muslims will live as a minority in a Hindu country. Even if their rights are not infringed upon they will live by Hindu cultural norms. The thirst for Muslim nationalism could increase even after political concessions. Ambedkar uses the Arabs of the Ottoman Empire and the Slovaks of former Czechoslovakia to illustrate how nationalism grows even in people that are not oppressed. If the current political climate changes to allow for a unified India, separation could be inevitable.

A genuine growth of fellow-feeling needs to be fostered between Hindus and Muslims to create a new nation. Political allegiance and expediency will not promote long-lasting unity. Both parties have to see the inherent value in solidarity and be willing to sacrifice privilege to stay together. If Britain grants India independence, and Muslims mistrust Hindus, political stability is impossible. Britain often serves as an arbitrary third party in disputes as the situation stands now. Western intervention is not always a bad thing.

One issue observed in the Muslim community by Ambedkar was the inability to advocate for social change. Most Muslims put religion at the top of their priorities. The hyper-focus on religion causes them to only seek control in the political realm. They want to be in charge, yet do not care about how the government functions or if vulnerable people are protected. To expand political power they often implore violence. In the year immediately preceding the publishing of this book, Hindus reciprocated. The current climate could lead to a civil war.

The idea that Muslims are superior and a fear of absorption into the more dominate Hindu culture leads to torpor in the field of social justice. If the Koran doesn’t specifically condemn an act, most Muslims will not advocate for change. As a result, women’s rights had been halted and once a Muslim is in charge, no one would challenge him. Also, questioning a Muslim leader could lead to a Hindu takeover. Therefore the social stagnation seen in the Muslim community is a superiority complex mixed with fear of vulnerability.

Another division in the Hindu and Muslim community is what they ideally want with independence. Muslims want full autonomy and no affiliation with the British Empire. Hindu support varies between dominion status in the British Empire similar to Australia and full independence. However, for Muslims, a significant tenet of their religion is to live in a country that they rule. Living side by side with another religion as equals is not part of the Islamic faith. It is also incumbent on Muslims to extend the rule of Islam all over the world. Therefore, if another Muslim country declares war, they are obligated to help the Muslim nation whether or not it is beneficial to India.

As a solution, Ambedkar purposes Britain granting India a limited amount of Independence as a unit. If the Muslims see they can be in a unified India with their rights not infringed upon, they can decide to become entirely independent. He also questions if the Muslim League reflects the thoughts and concerns of the entire community. It appeared to him that the league was only concerned with the elites.

Post-Script

From an Integral perspective what Ambedkar is talking about here is the dangers of fundamentalist religion. A nation can not be built with a large percentage of people identifying with their faith more than the country. Besides if they see those outside their religious community as enemies or oppressors, then national unity is impossible.

This book has a lengthy discussion on how Gandhi’s position on nationalism changed over the years.

If you enjoyed the summary and want to know more the full text can be found HERE

Who Were The Untouchables

In this treatise, Ambedkar attempts to explain the origins of untouchability. He admits there is no conclusive evidence of the birth of untouchability. However, he presents a theory that is supported by more evidence than other arguments at the time. He admits this is not a final thesis on untouchability and the subject will need more research. He also debunks theories of a popular analyst Stanley Rice.

He starts off by addressing the fact the Brahmins that normally study the subject would do little to debunk or undermine the basis of the caste system. The caste system gives them privilege. To quote Ambedkar:

It must be recognized that the selfish interest of a person or of the class to which he belongs always acts as an internal limitation which regulates the direction of his intellect.

Ambedkar begins by analyzing practices of untouchability outside of the Hindu culture. He uses examples from primitive and ancient times from all over the world. In all the cases outside of India, untouchability is:

  1. Caused by and action or bodily change such as puberty or pregnancy
  2. The untouchability was lifted after proper ceremony or time had passed
  3. After purification the person could return to normal life

Only in India is untouchability something someone is born into and there is no way to get out of it. Untouchability doesn’t relegate someone to lowly and unsanitary occupations as it does in India. The untouchability faced by the Dalit is unique in India.

A unique feature of Indian untouchability is that untouchables have to live in ghettos outside the city. The condition of Dalits residing in ghettos is prevalent in India and often mandated by law. Ambedkar postulates that Dalit lived on the outskirts from the beginning and their presence there has nothing to do with untouchability.

In primitive society, there were people in settle tribes and nomadic herdsmen. In ancient India, the primary source of wealth was cattle. The nomadic herdsman would follow there cattle herds along a migratory grazing path. Those that settled were able to have livestock and produce. The nomadic herdsman would raid the settled village tribesman because they had more food on average. Ancient India was in a constant state of war.

Ambedkar then postulates that those that broke ties with their original tribe would be left alone to fend for themselves. They would go to a settled tribe and live outside the village and act as watch and ward. In the event of an attack, these men would be on the front line. Ambedkar calls these ex-tribesman Broken Men.

To support his theory, Ambedkar shows a similar situation happened in Europe. In ancient Ireland and Wales, Broken Men served as watch and ward over settled estates. Those orphaned by their original people could live outside of the village. However, in Ireland and Wales, these people eventually integrated into society due to intermarriage. Untouchability prevented this from happening in India.

Even though there is no direct evidence, Ambedkar postulates that the Broken Men came to adopt Buddhism. As Buddhists, they did not see the Brahmin as superior or respect their exclusive right to religious ceremony. Hindus began to bar Buddhism from their temples, and Buddhism repaid the favor causing conflict in the communities. The tension is well documented in Hindu literature even though there is no direct connection between untouchability and Buddhism. Also when Hinduism won most of the inhabitants of India, there were those that would not let go of the Buddhist faith. The Hindus shunned the Broken men because of their religion and imposed social segregation.

Another possibility is that the Broken Men never observed the custom of making the cow sacred. All untouchable communities eat beef or make products out of cow skin. The consumption of cows was viewed as disgusting by Hindus. Beef eating caused untouchability, the act of declaring a group impure in perpetuity.

Now beef eating was not always prohibited. Early Hindu scriptures written by Manu do not ban beef eating. The prohibition came as a strategic way to win public support from Buddhist. Buddhism prohibited animal sacrifices and Hinduism did not. The public began to see the practice as wasteful and cruel. To improve Hinduism’s stance with the public, the Brahmin chose to be vegetarian and forbid their followers from eating beef. Brahmin dietary laws gave us the present classes of Brahmin, Non-Brahmin caste Hindus, and Untouchables. The earliest Hindu prohibitions on beef eating came in the 400’s AD.

The question remains as to why did the Broken Men not stop eating beef. It is possible that the Broken Men only ate cows that were already dead. Since the law was against killing a cow, the Broken Men did not violate the law. To give up beef would mean starvation. Because Dalit only had lowly professions buying other food was not feasible. Those that ate the flesh of the cow for any reason became hated once the Hindu exalted the cow.

Many Hindus believe scriptures mention untouchables and untouchability. There is one word “Asprashya” used three times in Hindu scripture that means “untouchable.” However, there is no detail in these scriptures to know why the people were untouchable or what were the rules of untouchability. Ambedkar explains that many of the other words loosely translated into “untouchable” are explaining a temporary state of impurity or merely living on the outskirts of town. The birth of untouchability came with the bans on killing cows implemented by the Gupta kings around 400 AD.

Debunking Dr. Stanley Rice

Dr. Rice postulated that the Dalit were the aboriginal race of India and that the Dravidians invaded and conquered them. After that, the Aryans from Central Asia conquered the Dravidians. Ambedkar used the same evidence as he did in Who are the Shudras to show that the names of people groups in the Hindu scripture denote people of different faiths, not races.

Further evidence that caste does not denote different races or levels of miscegenation also comes from science. Studies on the facial features show people of the same province and different castes have more similar characteristics than the reverse. Also, a survey of last names shows that lasts names are more common in regions than in castes. The commonality of last names in regions and not castes show intermarriage and intermixing happens even when the practices are strictly prohibited by law.

One piece of evidence discussed in Who are the Untouchables not discussed in Who are the Shudras was the Nagas people. Stanley postulates they were the aboriginals and Ambedkar shows they were people that worship a snake god. The Vedic term Dasa and Naga refer to the same people. Dasa denotes peoples using their king; Naga denotes the people using their god. The Naga people and their religion were pervasive throughout India, Sri Lanka, and Central Asia.

Dr. Rice also postulates that untouchability came about because of the need to segregate people doing unsanitary jobs before proper cleaning technologies existed. Ambedkar points to Hindu scriptures that show upper caste people doing unsanitary jobs and rules for them to do unsanitary jobs. Therefore there was a time when anyone could do an unsanitary job.

Notes on Manusmriti

Ambedkar mentions that a revolution happened in which Hindu kings overthrew and killed Buddhist kings. The Brahmin participated in this revolution. Their old scripture prohibited Brahmin from touching a weapon. They also considered the body of any king sacred, and regicide a sin. Manusmriti was created to change these rules to allow Brahmin to fight in the revolution.

The centrality of Manusmriti in the conflict between Buddhism and Hinduism could be a reason Ambedkar chose to burn this book publically December 25, 1927.

A copy of the full-text can be found HERE

The Untouchables and the Pax Britannica

This treatise was used as evidence in the Round Table Conference. It explains the unique suffering of the Dalits and how Britain was coupable.

He begins with a short history of how exploration centered around finding routes to India. The conquest of India was unique in that it had a complex government when it was conquered that had survived for hundreds of years. Another aspect of the conquest that is perplexing is how the East India Company was able to capture the area without help from those in Britain. The Napoleonic Wars were raging from 1757 to 1818, and they consumed most of Britain’s resources. Ambedkar’s answer the East India Company employed Dalits as soldiers. Four of every five East India Company soldiers was from the native Dalit population.

Dalits made a name for themselves in the military and did more than enough to prove they were a martial race. They were instrumental in the suppression of The Mutiny of 1857. Unfortunately, as British influence spread to the upper caste, Dalits were unceremoniously banned from military service. The ban began in 1890, and in twenty years most of the Dalit in the military retired. The only exception was a brief lift on the ban during World War 1.

Other avenues of advancement were not available to the Dalits. The Civil Service requires education, most commonly it requires a college degree. Even when Dalit obtain degrees, the Caste Hindus in charge of the department will not hire them out of prejudice. Not only would prejudice prevent Dalit from being employed, but the tradition of untouchability would also prohibit them from working. For example, if a Dalit were to arrest a Caste Hindu, he would have to enter his home. The act of entering the house of a Caste Hindu would make the home unclean. Therefore Dalits could not be policemen.

Britain excluded Dalits from education in 1854. The lift on the ban to Dalit education came with no effort to integrate the schools. Therefore those in charge of the school would find ways to exclude Dalit. The only education available to Dalit’s was from the Christian missions. After 1882 Britain created special schools for Dalits. They also gave grants to missions that educated Dalits. However, these efforts were not enough to significantly raise the level of Dalit education.

Ambedkar contrasts education levels among Dalit to education levels among Muslims. Muslims were also a disadvantaged class, but their education was second only to high Caste Hindus. The reason is Muslim petitioned for reserved representation in school administration. These administrators were able to earmark funds and resource to combat specific education hurdles in their community. If Dalit had been given the same representation, their fate might have been different.

Britian has made laws in the past that go against local customs to keep order and observe human rights. A short list can be found below:

  1. A law preventing BRahmin from killing women and children
  2. Removal of restrictions on the marriage of widows
  3. Prohibition of using religious law in arbitrations between Hindu’s and Muslims
  4. Law against rape
  5. Law against marriage of women under ten years old

These laws have helped India to modernize. However, Britain has not banned untouchability or the observation of caste. Early on Britain did not see anything wrong with the practice as they practiced similar customs in their African and American holdings. Later on, they felt advocating for Dalits would cause turmoil. Ambedkar reiterates there is more than enough court precedence to justify laws against caste and untouchability. Not only is protecting Dalits morally right, but Dalits are also currently paying taxes for public service they can not use, such as wells.

A copy of the treatise can be found HERE

Which is Worse?

In this treatise, Ambedkar compares slavery to untouchability to see which one is worse. Slavery is broadly defined and the condition in which one person is the property of another. He offers two more detailed definitions of slavery.

Detailed Definition of Slavery 1

A person suffering from all three of the following conditions.

  1. A person can be sold, mortgaged, or leased
  2. A person can be killed with no repercussions
  3. Condition prescribed by law

Detailed Definition of Slavery 2

A person that is viewed as not having the capacity to acquire rights and bear duties. Rights are defined as:

  1. Right to unmolested pursuit of the occupation by which man chooses his livelihood
  2. Right to transport and free travel
  3. Right to protection from fraud
  4. Right to have the family one wants

Untouchables are not slaves by the first definition. Untouchables are not slaves by the second definition either. The law does recognize an untouchables rights to the four rights listed. However, the untouchable does not have these rights within society. The general population does not recognize the untouchables capacity for rights.

Ambedkar uses examples of how Rome and the USA gave slaves some ability to acquire unique skills. In both cultures, a slave with a skilled trade or profession would be sold and leased at a higher rate. He gives examples of Roman slaves that could quote Homer, and American slaves that were trained as doctors.

Also, a master had financial incentive to protect a slave. In Rome slaves never worked in areas infested with malaria. The wealthy slave owners would not damage their property. Frequently freedmen worked in locations inflicted with malaria.

The condition of the Jews in Europe was briefly discussed in this treatise. The Jews suffered many of the same indignities as an untouchable. However, a Jew could convert to Christianity and have legal protection. Jews chose solidarity in spite of oppression. Therefore their condition is better than the untouchables.

He also briefly mentions the British ended slavery in India in 1843.

A link to the original document can be found HERE

The Origins of Caste (Caste in India)

The Origins of Caste is an early work of Ambedkar written in 1916. The treatise gives a preliminary explanation of the origin and propagation of caste. It also critiques the interpretation of castes provided by others. In the end, he reiterates this theory is preliminary and could require more research.

He summaries the root caste from others to begin. The other theorists say the caste system is rooted in myths of lineage, traditional occupation, or ceremonial purity. Ambedkar describes all the opposing theories as partially correct. However, he makes his case for the root of the caste system being the prohibition of intermarriage between castes.

When a person understands the root of the caste system is the prohibition on intermarriage, many other customs can be easily explained. The prohibition on intermarriage, each group, must ensure there is an equal number of males and females. If a spouse dies, then there is a surplus man or surplus woman. This adult with no sexual partner would have the incentive to look for a mate from outside the caste. To prevent the widow from a cross-caste marriage, she can be thrown on the funeral pyre or take a vow of celibacy. For a widower, he can be forced into celibacy or given an underage girl to wed.

He criticized that the rule of caste was set forth by one authoritarian ruler, Manu. It would be difficult for one man to enforce these laws during his reign against the will of the people. It would be even more challenging to create a lineage of rulers that did the same thing. It is also unlikely the Brahmin forced caste rules on the lower caste for the same reason.

Ambedkar theorized that the most likely explanation is the Brahmin decided to close themselves off by forming a caste. The next highest social class then converted themselves into a caste to improve their social standing. This behavior continued until finally those at the bottom of society were completely shut out. To support the claim Ambedkar calls to the attention of the reader; there are fewer purity rules the further a person’s caste is from the Brahmin.

The treatise is crucial because it provides a basis for Ambedkar’s struggle for the rights of women with the overall social justice struggle. As women win the right to marry and love as they wish, the foundations of caste will be destroyed.

A copy of this treatise can be found on Google Play or from the below link from Columbia University.

http://www.columbia.edu/itc/mealac/pritchett/00ambedkar/txt_ambedkar_castes.html

Who were the Shudras?

In this treatise from 1946, Ambedkar focuses on the origin of the Shudra (Menial) class. It studies Vedic scripture to get a clear picture of the origin of the castes system. The treatise also refutes the Aryan invasion theory, that is popular today and in the time of Ambedkar.

Some background on the caste system will be needed. The caste system is a social structure in which people are segregated into groups that are typically associated with professions. People can’t marry outside of caste or get an occupation that is reserved for another caste. Certain types of contact from lower caste can cause the higher class to need cleansing. A ceremony conducted by a Brahmin (priest) can fill the cleansing requirement. There are four Hindu castes: Brahmin ( priest), Kshatriya (soldiers), Vaishyas (traders), Shudras (menials). The Dalit (untouchables) are considered to be a caste by some. However, most Dalits feel that they are outside Hinduism. Dalit are not covered in this treatise.

The prevailing theory of the origin of caste in 1940 was the Brahmin descended from a central Asian tribe called the Aryans. The Aryans conquered the native Dravidian people. The Brahmin are those with the purest Aryan blood, and the lower castes are mixed until finally, the lowest class was pure Dravidian. Aryans had a white skin complexion and Dravidians had a dark-skinned complexion. This idea of mixing of race degrading a people was used to segregate people all over the world. It also was also used to justify white rule in India and other places.

He begins by laying out his main premise.

  1. The Shudra were an Aryan community
  2. There was a time only three castes were represented Brahmin, Kshatriyas, and Vaishyas
  3. Shudra were Aryans and part of the Kshatriyas (soldier class)
  4. The Shudra began a feud with the Brahmin on the exclusive rights to religious ceremony
  5. In retaliation, Brahmin refused to perform Upanayana on Shudra, Upanayana are the rights that are a prerequisite to land ownership and education
  6. The prohibition on Shudras from owning land or being educated led to the degradation of the Shudra.

The Shudra were an Aryan community

The word “Aryan/Aryas” was never used to mean race in the Vedic text. It derives from a Sanskrit word that meant plowed land. The term was used to differentiate the Aryan people from less sophisticated scavenger and nomadic tribes. After Vedic times Aryan meant nobleman or respected person. The only physical description of the Aryan people describes them as long-headed. Long-headed people could have any skin color.

Not only do the Vedic text not imply that Aryans have white skin. Many of the main characters in the Vedas that are Aryan are said to have a dark complexion. Rama, Krishna, and Rishi Dirghatamas all are said to have had dark skin. It is most likely that Aryans were white, copper, and black in complexion.

Also, the Vedas say that Dravidians/Dasus would convert and become Aryans. That leads Ambedkar to believe Aryan and Dravidians are early cults of Hinduism. Individuals could experience Aryan culture and determine they wanted to switch. The ability to change Varna would not be possible if Aryan denoted race. Also, the word “Varnas” which is normally translated as color, actually derives from the Sanskrit word for faith.

There was a time only three castes were in Hinduism

References to the four castes are found in the Purusha Sukta, which Ambedkar proves is a late addition to the main text of the Rig Veda. Therefore, there was a time only three castes existed: Brahmin, Kshatriyas, and Vaishyas. These three are the only ones mentioned in the Rig Veda main text.

Shudras were Aryans part of the Kahatriya (soldier) caste

The Shudras are the mythic progeny of the Vedic character Sudas. Sudas was a king in ancient India. Sudas coronation was conducted by Brahmin, a sign that he was Kshatriyas. Sudas was also said to be wealthy and respected before the skirmish.

The Shudra fought the Brahmin for the right to perform religious services.

Ambedkar uses passages of the conflict between Vasishtha and Vishvamitra as an allegory about the conflict between Brahmin and Kshatriya’s priest. Both were performing religious rights. Vishvamitra was a Kshatriya and wrote some of the Rig Veda’s hymns. Vasishtha was Sudas chief priest. Sudas fires Vasishtha and hires Vishvamitra. Also, Vasishtha’s son is killed by Sudas. Vasishtha’s son questioned Vishvamitra on an important matter. To hold Vishvamitra’s honor, Suda’s murdered the young lad. The sons and all the progeny of the two sides continued the feud. The Purusha Sukta and the Manusmirti hold the information on this conflict.

In retaliation, Brahmin refused to perform Upanayana on Shudra, Upanayana are the rights that are a prerequisite to land ownership and education

To retaliate on the Kshatriya’s priest, the Brahmin refused to perform Upanayana on the Shudras. Upanayana was an initiation rite that allowed a person to be educated and own land. Conducting sacrifice according to the Vedas was the primary reason for property ownership. The Vedas also say the Shudra of that time were few. The Brahmin held power to perform Upanayana and deny it to anyone for any reason.

The prohibition on Shudras from owning land or being educated led to the degradation of the Shudra.

Because the Shudra did not have education or land, they could not do anything other than menial tasks. They were not genetically deficient or fated to live in a servile state. The denial of Upanayana to women caused the same situation.

Also, the modern day Shudra are not descendants of the mythic Sudas. Shudra came to mean “low-class” or uneducated person. All those not Dalit or upper class got the epithet. If people understood the modern Shudra were not the descendants of Sudas, violence against them would stop.

Ambedkar also debunks the Aryan invasion theory. The Vedas have no record of an invasion. If the Aryans were conquerors, they would boast about their conquest. Both Aryans and Dravidians were native to India and are not related to Europeans. The Aryan Invasion theory was started by Europeans to justify conquest and accepted by upper-caste Indians to justify caste rule.

Why is “Who are the Shudra” important”

Who are the Shudra shows how important it is to study something through many cultural lenses. Had Europeans and upper-caste Indians been the only ones looking into the subject, many biases would not have been uncovered.

Also, the roots cause of disparity between groups is the denial of education and land. Systematic economic disenfranchisement is true in Indian history, African history, and American history. There is no situation in which a people with full access to education and property over the entire history of a country ends up in a servile position.

The full-text can be found HERE

Gandhi’s Influence on Dr King ?

Dr. King saw Gandhi as a fellow Christian. Not because Gandhi was part of a church, Gandhi was Hindu. However, he did see Gandhi as a person that used love to conquer hate through non-violent resistance. He went as far as to say the bible verse “there are other sheep I must minister” (John 10:16) and “do even greater things than these” (John 14:12) included Gandhi. In a 1959 sermon, Dr. King said Gandhi was also a master of self-control.

Dr. King says that his first encounter with Gandhi’s teaching was a two years after the death of Gandhi in 1950. Dr. Mordecai Johnson gave the lecture while Dr. King was in seminary. At the time of the speech, Gandhi had already been assassinated. The address had such an effect on King he went out and bought six books on the subject. Some scholars say that Dr. Benjamin Mays introduced King to Gandhi’s work while an undergraduate. Dr. Mays had gone with a delegation of Christians to visit India and met Gandhi in 1935. However in the paper “My Journey to Non-violence” King credits Dr. Johnson for introducing him to Gandhi.

Prime Minister Nehru invited Dr. King to visit India in 1959. The Gandhi National Memorial Fund and the Quaker Center sponsored the trip. Dr. King arrived in India on February 10, 1959. He brought his wife Coretta and biographer L.D. Reddick for the month-long journey and exploration of non-violent resistance.

Upon leaving India, King calls on the United States and Soviet Russia to follow Gandhi’s example of non-violence and disarm. He also calls on India to disarm and become an example to the world. If India did disarm and some other country attacks, the world would rush to her defense, because she is a shining example of non-violence. His call for India to disarm shows how sincerely he believed in the concept of good will inevitably triumph over evil.

King’s view of Gandhi and his trip to India were recounted in the 1959 Palm Sunday sermon, a 1959 article for Ebony magazine, and a 1965 Independence Day sermon. According to King, Gandhi freed India without a gun drawn or a harsh word uttered. He gave a narrative of Gandhi’s life in the Palm Sunday sermon.

Gandhi began his journey when he was kicked off a train after buying a first class ticket in South Africa. The humiliation for being kicked off the train led him to organize Indians for equality. Gandhi gathered inspiration from the bible and Christian authors like Tolstoy. His campaigns in South Africa were so successful that those back home in India wanted his help.

In India, his campaign for equality began in 1922. This first campaign had to end because people in his movement became violent. King commends Gandhi for having the bravery to chastise members of his movement when they transgressed. He later restarted the campaign and protested the high taxes for salt with the Salt March.

Gandhi also wanted to end untouchability, according to King. King believes the fast of 1932 was to stop untouchability. Gandhi takes himself to the brink of starvation. Right before Gandhi was to die of starvation, a group of untouchables and high caste members decide to sign a pact to end untouchability. He never mentions Ambedkar by name. Now untouchability is punishable by three years in jail. Most Indian leaders publicly denounce the practice, and no one would publicly sign a pact supporting untouchability.

In reality, the 1932 fast was to remove Parliamentary reservations for Dalits. Ambedkar had gone to England and secured The Communal Award ensuring Scheduled Castes and Tribes would have seats reserved for them in Parliament. Supporters were glad that England would ensure some Dalit representation. Gandhi wanted to ensure Hindus always held the majority in Parliament. If Dalit had a separate electorate, they could form a coalition with Muslims and weaken Hindu caste rule. Gandhi went on a fast to ensure the Hindu set aside included Dalits. It is unlikely a Dalit could win an election where most of the voters were caste Hindus, and their numbers would increase the number of seats Hindus had relative to Muslims. Ambedkar and Gandhi were able to reach a compromise in the Poona Pact. Gandhi broke his fast and Ambedkar received some reserved seating in Parliament.

King continues to praise Gandhi saying he achieved absolute self-discipline. According to King, Gandhi had no secrets, and his life was an open book. King obviously was not aware of the numerous sexual allegations against Gandhi. These allegations will not be known in the West until much later. However, someone deeply involved in Indian politics would have at least heard rumor of transgression. Arundhati Roy has written many books detailing the violations.

Gandhi is also complemented for using the term “Harijan” instead of “untouchable.” It appears Dr. King is not aware that the term “Harijan” is also offensive and most people that suffer from untouchability and they prefer the term Dalit. The term “harijan” is Sanskrit for “children of G-d.” The term “Harijan” is more palatable to upper caste Hindus than “untouchables” or “Dalit” because it allows the upper caste to sidestep real issues and the root problems with caste. On the other hand, “Dalit” means “oppressed” in Sanskrit. The term “Dalit” forces upper caste to deal head on with the social problems of the day. Many Dalits protested the use of the term “Harijan” while Gandhi was alive. Gandhi knew this and continued to use the word “Harijan” because his priority was to talk to upper caste Hindus.

King also seems unaware that Ambedkar charged Gandhi of having different narratives in the three versions of his newspaper Harijan. The English version always advocated for the annihilation of caste, but the two versions in his native language advocate for keeping upper caste Hindus above Dalit, while removing rituals of purity when one is in contact with Dalits. King praised Gandhi for having a paper dedicated to Dalits.

While telling his story about his brief stint in Trivandrum, Kerala while in India, he tells the story about when he was called an untouchable. He was visiting a high school in the city that was comprised mostly of untouchables, and the principle introduced him as an untouchable from America. King was at first upset, but after reflection, he realized that he was, in fact, an untouchable, along with every other black man in America.

From the evidence I was able to gather, I am not convinced that Dr. King had a clear view of the Indian struggle and Gandhi’s role in it. He apparently knew little of Gandhi’s personal life. It is most likely that a carefully manufactured retelling of the Indian struggle through the eyes of Christian pre-determinism influenced King’s understanding. The idea that good will inevitably win over evil is pervasive throughout the Bible. All the people in King’s life that studied India were Christians with a background or career in theology. So, it can be easily seen that these people superimposed their beliefs on their retelling of the story. Dr. King was predisposed to believe the narrative because of his sincere belief in the Christian faith.

In reality, India had an armed struggle against the British that started in the 1850’s. By the 1940’s the Indian National Army was large and had carried out successful operations against the British in World War II. The English needed to concentrate on rebuilding after the war and did not have enough resources to suppress an armed rebellion. Gandhi came in at the right time to offer a transition of power that would allow for continued economic growth while not consuming British military resources. That does not mean blacks should form a resistance army to mimic the Indians. I present this evidence to show how fundamentally different what Gandhi accomplished was to what Dr. King accomplished.

King’s faith also led him to be humble and extend credit to Gandhi. In reality, the story of Gandhi had the same influence on King as the stories of rebellious Scottish chiefs had on the American founding fathers. Both gathered inspirations to fight tyranny from those that went before them. Both may have used previous struggles as a rough outline of what needed to be done to free their people. But to say that Gandhi was the inspiration or mastermind of the American Civil Rights movement is a step too far. King’s tactics and struggles were his own.

If Dr. King had been introduced to the philosophy of Ambedkar, he would not have given so much praise and credit to Gandhi. King also would not refer to Dalits as “Harijan” if he understood they prefer the term Dalit. He had a very limited view of the Dalit fight, but he saw the struggle against untouchability and racism as intertwined. If Dr. King understood Gandhi’s true feelings on untouchability, he would be highly critical.

As we continue this blog, we will go in-depth on the philosophy of Gandhi, Ambedkar, and King. It is very likely the philosophy of Ambedkar and King will be the most similar.

Sources

Background

  1. Labelling Dalits “Harijans”:How We remain ignorant and insensitive to Dalit Identity. 10-27-2015 S. Ramanathan
  2. L.D. Reddick’s Account of the arrival in India 02-10-1959
  3. Biography of M. Gandhi on http://kingencyclopedia.stanford.edu/
  4. Narrative of Dr. King’s 1959 trip to India found on http://www.gandhiking.ning.com
  5. Poona Pact: Mahatma Gandhi’s fight against untouchability 09-24-2016 https://www.indiatoday.in
  6. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar’s BBC Interview in 1955
  7. Arundhati Roy: Race, Caste – Ambedkar v. Gandhi posted by Joe Friendly on 10-14-2014 YouTube
  8. Arundhati Roy: The Doctor and the Saint posted by We Are Many Media on 10-16-2014 YouTube
  9. An odd kind of piety: The truth about Gandhi’s sex life 01-02-2012 http://www.independent.co.uk/
  10. The Sexuality of a Celibate Life by Vinay Lal 05-01-2011 https://www.sscnet.ucla.edu
  11. Debunking the Gandhi Myth:Arundhati Roy posted by The Laura Flanders Show 10-21-2014 YouTube
  12. Dr. King’s Papers and Speeches

  13. His Influence Speaks to World Consciousness paper 01-30-1958
  14. My Pilgrimage to Nonviolence paper 09-01-1958
  15. Statement Upon Return from India 03-18-1959
  16. Palm Sunday Sermon 03-22-1959
  17. My Trip to the Land of Gandhi 07-1959 published in Ebony
  18. The American Dream sermon 07-04-1965

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