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The Buddha and the Caste System
 
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The Buddha and the Caste System

Very wisely and very effectively He labored to eradicate the social evils that prevailed in His day. He vehemently protested against the caste system that blocked the progress of mankind.

In His opinion:

"Birth makes no Brahman,

nor non-Brahman makes;

this life doing that mould the Brahman true.

Their lives mould farmers,

tradesmen, merchants, serfs;

their lives mould robbers, soldiers, chaplains, kings.

By birth is not one an outcast,

by birth is not one a Brahman,

by deeds is one an outcast,

by deeds is one a Brahman."

According to the Buddha, caste or color does not preclude one from becoming a Buddhist or entering the Order. Fishermen, scavengers, courtesans, together with warriors and Brahmins, were freely admitted into the Order and enjoyed equal privileges and were equally given positions of rank.

Upali,’ the barber, for instance, was made, in preference to all others, the chief in matters pertaining to the Vinaya. The timid Sunita, the scavenger, was admitted by the Buddha Himself into the Order. The courtesan Ambapali entered the Order and attained Arahantship. Sati, the monk who maintained a deadly heresy, was the son of a fisherman. Subha was the daughter of a smith, Punna was a slave girl. Capa was the daughter of a deerstalker. Such instances could be multiplied to show that the portals of Buddhism were wide open to all without any distinction.

It was also the Buddha who attempted to abolish slavery for the first time in the known history of the world.


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