Amal Kiran (born K.D. Sethna, a Parsi-Zoroastrian) was a disciple of Sri Aurobindo. He wrote the following article in response to Dr Ambedkar’s embrace of Buddhism. This article was approved by Sri Aurobindo and was first published in the Mother India magazine on May 27, 1950. It is worth revisiting in light of the fact that in the popular mind, Hinduism seems to contain nothing other than the caste system, cows and idols.
The caste system in India has been a subject of much controversy. It was supposed to be an identification of man’s inbuilt inclinations and capacities, but gradually this truth was lost and it morphed into a mechanical system for slotting people into various social categories based on their birth in a certain family. It thus became a vehicle for stigma and discrimination. In the following selections from various works, Sri Aurobindo points out the true origin of the caste system – how the four castes are actually four latent powers (caturvyuha) within Man which must be perfected by every person on the spiritual path. The Brahmin represents the faculty of knowledge, ethics and learning, the Kshatriya represents valour, the Vaishya represents commerce and relationship of harmony, while the Shudra represents perfection in work.