One of many commonly misunderstood Vedic principles is the caste system. It is often thought of as a judgment system, where there are people of higher or better castes and people of lower, more undesirable castes. This is a horrible distortion.
Just as people have different hair color, people have different types of nervous systems. Depending on your type of nervous system, particular activities are more naturally suited for you. A heavyweight boxer and an accountant require different types of nervous systems.
Imagine a home where the parents’ nervous systems are compatible and consistent with their profession. Their daily activities are perfectly in accord with their nature – the nature of their nervous systems. Being their genetic product and having the same type of nervous system, the children find the environment beautifully suited to their nature. They naturally gravitate toward the same profession. In fact, from birth, the children learn about the family profession simply by being in the environment. I know for myself that much of what I learned from my father was simply the result of being around him.
The caste system then is simply the identification of four different types of nervous systems. When that fundamental understanding of life is prevalent, the health of individuals, families, and societies naturally flourish.
After all, life is about evolution and you evolve best in an environment that suits your nature. This includes not only your profession but: the food you eat; the activities and friends you enjoy; social, family, and spiritual traditions; and even the mantras and spiritual techniques you practice.
It doesn’t make any sense to try to force your foot in a shoe that doesn’t fit. Similarly, it doesn’t make any sense to employ a mantra that doesn’t resonate with your physiology. Some mantras are suitable for all people, but most are quite specific. There seems to be an idea that Brahmin mantras are more powerful. People need to understand that the mantra specific to their nervous system is the mantra that is most powerful.
Everything in life is a bell curve. Your caste is not an absolute dictate for your life. There are those rare exceptions. In fact, there is another type of nervous system not generally addressed in the caste system, which is that of a monk. There are those few individuals from every caste whose nature it is to live in a hermitage and reject worldly life. While that can be suitable for most everyone for a period of time, there are some whose nature it is to live a totally inward life. It is not evolutionary to live that life when it is not consistent with the nature of their nervous system. In modern times, in a world where the caste system is so misunderstood, where marrying within the family’s caste is often considered old fashioned, it is quite difficult to find a life that is consistent with the nature of one’s nervous system.
Spiritual knowledge is profoundly delicate. It can get compromised within a generation unless great care is taken. Modern understanding of the caste system, as well as many other aspects of the knowledge passed down from the Rishis, has fallen prey to that fate. Let us also keep in mind Adi Shankara’s words as we teach our children about the caste system: “The knowledge must be purified generation after generation.”