Monday, 1 January 2018

All are untouchables

[BeforeAugust 22, 1936]
A Pandit was one of the visitors to Segaon the other day. He was introduced as one learned in the Shastras and as one who gave regular discourses on the Gita. Gandhiji asked him if untouchability had the sanction of the Gita. It seemed to depend, according to him, on how one defined an untouchable. He said:
An untouchable is he who thinks evil thoughts, speaks foul language, does evil deeds. Such a one would be an untouchable according to the Gita.
But at that rate every one of us would be an untouchable. Who is
there amongst us who is without sin? Let me ascertain. Tukde
Maharaj, are you without sin?
No, by no means.
Then, Khan Saheb, what about you?
The same thing. Who can claim to be perfect?
Which means that we are all untouchable. Anyway, it is better
that we regard ourselves as less pure than others, for we know ourselves better than we do others, and we may judge none. That is why saint Surdas sang: “There is none so wicked and base as I.”
“But then one needs the help of the Shastras to purge onself of evil thoughts?” said the Pandit.
Yes, but I refuse to accept the authority of a Shastra which
supports untouchability, i.e., which condemns a certain class of
people, by reason of their birth, as untouchable. Such a Shastra, far
from purging us of sin, adds to our load of sin.
Harijan, 22-8-1936
Samir Patil Untouchable is a not a right word to define concept of ritual purity enjoined by Shastra. It's a degeneration that started with fossilization of Vaidic culture, perhaps before the gruhya and shrautra sutra and grew ever since due to complex socio historical reasons. So Gandhiji's perhaps could have taken a more detailed approach, if he had benefited from tilak or aurubindo's thoughts...
Aparna Krishnan i think he knew it was a degeneration of the varnashrama.. what is gruhya and shrautra sutra ?
Samir Patil Gruhya sutra is manual of household religious rituals and shautra sutra is manual of vaidic yajna rituals. It appears that this was the time process of codification of cosmic symbolisms (Eg.purush sukta) into hard social context. Before that things would have been more fluid I.e. guided by spiritual cosmological concepts...

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