What are varnas.
Varnas are the caste system that has come from the shruti. This can also be seen as psychological bent of mind of a person. There are four varnas – brahmana, kshatriya, vaishya and shudra. There is also panchama – the fifth, the people who are born through shudra and other varnas, and mlechchas – the foreigners, very crudely referred to as dog eaters. Varana means to take to, therefore something that one can take to another varna. For this they cite the smritis which says by birth everyone is a shudra, and only after wearing the sacred thread he becomes dwija – twice born. But, this is not right. See, without the eligibility of being born in a varna, one does not get the eligibility to get initiated with a sacred thread.
But, then why does the smriti say so, that everyone is born as a shudra.
Oh, that is because, he does not have the sacred thread. According to the scriptures, a boy till he is initiated with the sacred thread is considered to be child. And therefore does not get the dosha – sin, when he is involved in some karmas. And, this is why if someone dies before the iniatiation of the sacred thead he is buried, and not cremated according to the vedic rights. Only after the age of six, he is given the basic training, suitable to his varna.
Why do you see the Brahmins as not superior to any others.
This is not my point of view but that of the learned. If the Brahmins perform all the duties as specified in the scriptures he will not have time to think about anything, so cannot be involved in the petty politics of inferiority or superiority.
Then are they not important.
Yes. They are given importance, by the scriptures and the others because; if the Brahmin follows the karmas the dharma is kept alive. And if the dharma is alive then everything is fine (wordly transactions happen nicely). Only through them the shastras live. To understand this you should understand the different varnas. We will start with the brahmana varna.
The important duty of brahmana is Studying the Vedas, Teaching the Vedas, performing Yagnas, performing Yagnas for others, receiving alms and giving alms according to ones capability. But again teaching Vedas, receiving alms through charity, helping others to perform Yagnas are not the nitya karmas – the daily duties allotted to Brahmins. But, these are meant to earn a living. He should not have more than required for a day. But again if one has sufficient wealth, the above said karmas need not be performed. Performing the yagnas for others is the best way to earn a living, when compared to others. Because, he is doing his duty, and even if there be any sin gained, it can be washed through performance of yagnas or repetition of god’s name.
What Veda should one learn first?
It is said, that, only the veda branch to which one belongs should be learned first. Without studying it, even if one studies another portion fully, without any error, still does not give him the eligibility to perform the karmas. Svadyaya – studying the Vedas is of five types – studying from the guru, repetition, doing enquiry or meditating on its meaning, reading and teaching to disciples. It should not be taught to those who do not follow the karmas prescribed, nastika – non believer of Vedas (atheist) and a jealous person.
What is the daily routine prescribed to the Brahmin?
After cleaning the teeth, and having a bath in cold water, in a river (atleat once in a week), he should perform the nitya karmas – karmas that should be performed dails, like, sandya vandana – for sun god in the morning, afternoon and evening, if is eligible perform agni hotra – fire oblation and teach the students.
Why is it said, agni hotra if eligible.
Only if a Brahmin begets a son. And has received the fire through an initiation, from another performer he gets the eligibility.
If a one who is eligible does not perform sandya vandana for three days, he should change his sacred thread, if he does not perform it for three months should get the sacred thread ceremony done again. If, he does not perform the karma for three years he looses the rights and becomes anashrami – a person who does not belong to any varna, or equivalent to shudra. If three generations stop doing the karma the whole generations that follow, become shudra.
Incidentally, there is another small group of people, who have realized the self, who cannot be bound by any of these varnas or ashramas, they are called Athyashrami – a person who has gone beyond the ashramas.
Greatest gift that a Brahmin can give is knowledge, to teach shastras. The greatest tapas – penance is to study Vedas and meditate upon its meaning.
“we will discuss about the other varnas tomorrow” saying this Shivahari concluded the discussion for that, and went to take bath to do his evening karmas.