Vajrasūcika Upaniad

Translation from Sanskrit by Dr. Radhakrishnan

The futility of Caste distinctions


The Upaniṣad belongs to the Sāma Veda and describes the true character of a Brāhmaṇa and incidentally offers comments on the nature of the Supreme Reality. The Upaniṣad is valuable in that it undermines caste distinctions based on birth.  

VAJRASŪCIKA UPANIAD PAGE 935 The Principal Upaniṣads 

1. I shall describe the Vajrasūci doctrine which blasts ignorance, condemns those who are devoid of the knowledge (of Brahman) and exalts those endowed with the eye of knowledge.  

Jānam = doctrine V. śāstra' = scripture  

2 The Brāhmaṇa the Kṣatriya, the Vaiśya and the Śūdra are the four classes (castes) That the Brāhmaṇa is the chief among these classes is in accord with the Vedic texts and is affirmed by the Smṛtis. In this connection there is a point worthy of investigation. Who is, verily, the Brāhmaṇa? Is he the individual soul? Is he the body? Is he the class based on birth? Is he the knowledge? Is he the deeds (previous, present or prospective)? Is he the performer of the rites? 

3 Of these, if the first (position) that the Jīva or the individual soul is Brāhmaṇa (is to be assumed), it is not so, for the individual's form is one and the same in the large number of previous and prospective bodies. Even though the Jīva (the individual soul) is one, there is scope for (the assumption of) many bodies due to the stress of (past) karma, and in all these bodies the form of the Jīva is one and the same. Therefore the Jīva is not the Brāhmaṇa.  

4 Then if '(it is said) that the body is the Brāhmaṇa, it is

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not so, because of the oneness of the nature of the body which is composed of the five elements, in all classes of human beings down to the caṇḍālās (outcastes), etc , on account of the perception of the common features of old age and death, virtue and vice, on account of the absence of any regularity (in the complexion of the four classes) that the Brāhmaṇa is of the white complexion, that the Kṣatriya is of the red complexion, that the Vaiśya is of the tawny complexion, that the Śūdra is of the dark complexion and because of the liability of the sons and others (kinsmen) to becoming tainted with the murder of a Brāhmaṇa and other (sins) on cremating the bodies of their fathers and other kinsmen: Therefore the body is not the Brāhmaṇa. 

5 Then (if it is said) that birth (makes) the Brāhmaṇa, it is not so, for there are many species among creatures, other than human, many sages are of diverse origin. We hear from the sacred books that Ṛṣyaśṛṅga was born of a deer, Kauśika of Kuśa grass, Jāmbuka from a Jackal, Vālmīki from an ant-hill, Vyāsa from a fisher girl, Gautama from the back of a hare, Vasiṣṭha from Ūrvasī (the celestial nymph), Agastya from an earthen Jar. Among these, despite their birth, there are many sages, who have taken the highest rank, having given proof of their wisdom. Therefore birth does not (make) a Brāhmaṇa.  

6 Then (if it is said) that knowledge (makes a) Brāhmaṇa, it is not so because among Kṣatriyas and others there are many who have seen the Highest Reality and attained wisdom. Therefore knowledge does not (make) a Brāhmaṇa.  

Page 937 Verses 7- 9 Vajrasūcika Upaniṣad

7 Then (if it is said) that work (makes a) Brāhmaṇa , it is not so, for we see that the work commenced in the present embodiment or accumulated during the previous or to commence on a future embodiment is common to all living creatures and that good men perform works impelled by their past karma. Therefore work does not (make) a Brāhmaṇa.  

8 Then (if it is said) that the performer of religious duties is a Brāhmaṇa, it is not so, for there have been many Kṣatriyas and others who have given away gold. Therefore the performer of religious rites is not the Brāhmaṇa.  

Giving away gold is an act of religious duty.  

9. Then, who, verily is the Brāhmaṇa? He who, after directly perceiving, like the amalaka fruit in the palm of one's hand, the Self, without a second, devoid of distinctions of birth, attribute and action, devoid of all faults such as the six infirmities, and the six states, of the form of truth, wisdom, bliss and eternity, that is by itself, devoid of determinations, the basis of endless determinations, who functions as the indwelling spirit of all beings, who pervades the interior and the exterior of all like ether, of the nature of bliss, indivisible, unmeasurable realizable only through one's experience and who manifests himself directly (as one's self), and through the fulfilment of his nature, becomes rid of the faults of desire,  

Page 938 The Principal Upaniṣads

attachment, etc, and endowed with qualities of tranquility, etc , rid of the states of being, spite, greed, expectation, bewilderment, etc , with his mind unaffected by ostentation, self-sense and the like, he lives. He alone who is possessed of these qualities is the Brāhmaṇa This is the view of the Vedic texts and tradition, ancient lore and history. The accomplishment of the state of the Brāhmaṇa is otherwise impossible. Meditate on Brahman, the Self who is being, consciousness and bliss, without a second, meditate on Brahman, the Self who is being, consciousness and bliss without a second This is the Upaniṣad.  

six infirmities: old age, death, sorrow, delusion, hunger and thirst.  

six states: birth, being, growth, change, waning and perishing.  

Many texts declare that the determining factor of caste is character and conduct and not birth. 

Listen about caste, Yaksa dear, not study, not learning is the cause of rebornness Conduct is the basis, there is no doubt about it M.B. Araṇya-parva 312 106. 

O King of serpents, he in whom are manifest truthfulness, charity, forbearance, good conduct, non-injury, austerity and compassion is a Brāhmaṇa according to the sacred tradition.  

O serpent, he in whom this conduct is manifest is a Brāhmaṇa, he in whom this is absent, treat all such as Śūdra MB Araṇya-parva 180. 20, 27 The gods consider him a Brāhmaṇa (a knower of Brahman who has no desires, who undertakes no work, who does not salute or praise anybody, whose work has been exhausted but who himself is unchanged. MB XII 269 34 See Dhammapada, Chapter XXVI  

It is valuable to recall the teaching of this Upaniṣad which repudiates the system that consecrates inequalities and hardens contingent differences into inviolable divisions.