The Brahma Purana

by G. P. Bhatt | 1955 | 243,464 words

This is the Brahma Purana in English (translation from Sanskrit), which is one of the eighteen Maha Puranas. The contents of this ancient Indian encyclopedic treatise include cosmology, genealogy (solar dynasty etc.), mythology, geology and Dharma (universal law of nature). The Brahma Purana is notable for its extenstive geological survey includin...

Chapter 115 - Characteristics of mixed castes

The sages said:

1-3. O highly blessed one, you are omniscient. You are engaged in activities beneficial to all. O sage, there is nothing past, present or future that is not known to you. O highly intelligent one, by what activities does the downward fall of the Varṇas take place? By what activities does their upward progress take place? Tell us. We wish to hear how and by what means does a Śūdra attain the status of a Brahmin and a Brahmin that of a Śūdra.

Vyāsa said:

4-6. The beautiful peak of the Himālayas is embellished by different minerals. It is covered by various trees and creepers. It is endowed with wonderful features. The three-eyed lord of Devas, that Supreme god, the destroyer of the three cities, was seated thereon. The goddess of charming eyes, the daughter of the king of mountains, bowed down to the lord, O brahmins, and put this question formerly unto him. O excellent sages, I shall describe that. Listen.

Umā said:

7-11. O three-eyed lord, O destroyer of the eyes of Bhaga, teeth of Pūṣan and the sacrifice of Dakṣa, I have this great doubt (to be cleared). The arrangement (of the people) into four castes had been formerly brought about by the self-born lord. What are those activities, as a result of which a Vaiśya attains the status of a Śūdra? By what means does a Kṣatriya or a Vaiśya become a Brahmin or a Kṣatriya? O lord, how can Dharma be made to recede in such a reverse activity? By what activity is a Brahmin born in the womb of a Śūdra lady? O lord, by what activity docs a Kṣatriya attain the status of a Śūdra? O lord, O lord of goblins, please clarify this doubt of mine. How do the persons of the three Varṇas attain Brahminhood naturally?

Maheśvara said:

12. O goddess, brahminhood is very difficult to attain. The Brahmins are naturally auspicious, the Kṣatriyas, Vaiśyas and Śūdras are not auspicious.

13. The Brahmins fall off from their status by performing evil deeds. For the same reason one is forced down again even after attaining the most excellent of castes.

14. One who adheres to the characteristics of a Brahmin, whether a Kṣatriya or a Vaiśya, attains Brahminhood.

15. He who forsakes brahminhood and resorts to the activities and features of a Kṣatriya incurs a downfall from the status of a Brahmin and is born of a Kṣatriya womb.

16-17. Even after attaining the rare distinction of being a brahmin, if he becomes greedy and deluded with deficient intellect and resorts to the activities of a Vaiśya, that Brahmin attains Vaiśya caste. A Vaiśya (in similar circumstances) attains Śūdra caste. A Brahmin deviating from his duties shall thereafter attain Śūdra caste.

18. That person who has fallen off from his Varṇa attains hell. He who falls from the world of Brahmā is born of the womb of a Śūdra lady.

19-20. O highly blessed lady of sacred activities, if a Kṣatriya or a Vaiśya eschews his own duties and resorts to the occupation of a Śūdra, he falls off from his original status and becomes one of mixed castes. A Brahmin or a Kṣatriya or a Vaiśya on becoming one of mixed castes, attains Śūdra caste.

21. A Śūdra who maintains his own duties, who is endowed with wisdom and perfect knowledge, who is conversant with piety and who is engaged in holy activities attains the fruit of those holy activities.

22. O goddess, this too, another thing pertaining to the Ātman has been cited by Brahmā. Eternal achievement is resorted to by those who are desirous of righteous activities.

23. O goddess, the food cooked by the mixed caste Ugra is despicable. The food collectively cooked, the food pertaining to Śrāddha, the food defiled by pollution due to the birth or death of someone in the family and the food that is loudly proclaimed should not be eaten. The food cooked by a Śūdra should never be eaten.

24. The food cooked by a Śūdra is despised by gods and noble men, O goddess. That which is uttered by Brahmā is authoritative.

25. A Brahmin, a person who maintains sacrificial fires and one who performs sacrifice attain the goal of Śūdras if they were to die with the remnants of the food cooked by a Śūdra within the stomach.

26. A Brahmin, who has been ousted from Brahmā’s abode by the remnants of food cooked by a Śūdra attains the state of a Śūdra. This is certain.

27. A Brahmin takes birth in the womb of a lady of the same caste as the person whose food he uses for sustenance or the remnants of whose food remain undigested in his stomach at the time of his death.

28. After happily attaining the rare privilege of being born as a Brahmin, if anyone slights it or if he partakes of forbidden food, he falls off from the status of a Brahmin.

29-30. A Brahmin falls off from his status if he is a wine-addict, a brahmin-slayer, a thief, a robber, one who has violated the vow of holy observances, an unclean one who refrains from regular study of the Vedas, is a sinner, a greedy person, one who indulges in misdemeanour, is a knave, one who does not observe religious vows, is the husband of a Śūdra woman, one who has taken food for sustenance from a bastard, one who sells Soma juice and one who serves a mean person.

31. A Brahmin who defiles the bed of his preceptor, who hates his preceptor, who delights in despising his preceptor or who is hostile to Brahmins, falls from Brahminícal birth.

32. O goddess, by preforming these splendid holy rites a Śūdra attains Brahminhood and a Vaiśya the status of a Kṣatriya.

33-36. A Śūdra attains the status of a Vaiśya in the following circumstances: He performs his duties justly and in accordance with his injunctions. He is hospitable to all and he partakes of the food left by them. He assiduously renders service to and attends upon the persons of superior castes. He is not dejected or disheartened in his attempt. He remains an excellent man. He clings to the path of the good. He honours and worships the twice-born and the gods. He observes hospitality to all as a holy rite. He approaches his wife only on the permissive nights after the period of menstruation. He is regular in habits and taking food. He is an expert. He seeks good persons for companionship. He partakes of the food left by others. He daes not partake of meat without consecrating it.

37-40. A Vaiśya becomes a Brahmin in the following circumstances: He is truthful in speech and an expert in the employment of peaceful means. He is not affected by mutually opposed extremes. He does not boast about himself. He performs daily sacrifices. He is devoted to the study of the Vedas. He maintains purity. He controls his sense organs. He honours Brahmins. He is not envious of any of the four Varṇas. Taking meals twice a day he observes the duties of a householder. He does not hesitate to eat remnants of food. He controls his diet. He is devoid of passionate desire. He is not arrogant. He performs Agnihotra carrying out Homas in accordance with injunctions. He entertains everyone as his guest and partakes of their learning. He duly maintains the three sacrificial fìres.

41-42. That Vaiśya who is pure is reborn in a noble family of Kṣatriyas. That Vaiśya who is reborn as a Kṣatriya shall be purified by performing the consecratory rites beginning with his maturity. After the investiture with the sacred thread he shall be devoted to all holy observances. Thus consecrated he becomes a Brahmin. He gives charitable gifts and performs sacrifices with rich monetary gifts. Always seeking refuge in the three sacrificial fires and continuing the study of the Vedas, he shall hope to achieve heaven.

43-51. A Kṣatriya shall study the Vedas with a desire for the attainment of heaven. He shall seek refuge in the three sacrificial fires. He shall always make gifts so that his hands remain wet. He shall protect the subjects righteously. He shall be truthful. He shall perform truthful deeds, with his vision on purity for ever. By self-imposed righteous punishments he shall burn off his sins. He shall acquire virtue, love and wealth. He shall be self-controlled by his organs of action. He shall partake of only a sixth of the produce of his subjects. He shall be shrewd in monetary dealings. He shall not indulge freely in licentious activities. He shall be virtuous. He shall carnally approach his wife only during the prescribed periods after the days of menstruation. He shall be strict in the observance of fasts and other holy rites. He shall be engaged in the study of the Vedas. He shall be pure. Even in his house he shall always sleep in the well protected apartments free from strangers. He shall be hospitable to all in regard to three aims of life: virtue, love and wealth. He shall be pure in mind. To the Śūdras who are desirous of food he shall say, “Well, it is ready”. He shall not look at anything with selfishness or passionate love. He shall gather all the things necessary for the manes, gods and guests. He shall duly perform worship, in his abode, even by resorting to alms (?). He shall duly perform Agnihotra twice everyday. He shali face even death in battle for the welfare of cows and brahmins. Such a Kṣatriya shall become a Brahmin. He shall purify himself by reciting Mantres for the maintenance of three sacrificial fires. He shall become richly equipped with perfect knowledge and wisdom. He shall consecrate himself. He shall master the Vedas.

52. O gentle lady, a virtuous Vaiśya shall become a Kṣatriya by performing his own duties. By the fruits of these activities of a lower birth he can become so.

53-65. Even a Śūdra who is richly endowed with the knowledge of the Vedas shall become a Brahmin and cultured. Even a Brahmin shall forfeit his Brahminhood and become a Śūdra if his conduct is base and if his diet and culture is base. Brahma himself has said that even a Śūdra should be resorted to like a Brahmin, O gentle lady, if he is virtuous, purified by holy rites or if he has conquered his sense-organs. A Śūdra who clings to his duties, should be considered purer than the twice-born ones. Neither the womb of birth, nor the consecratory rites, neither the Vedic knowledge nor the lineage can be the cause of Brahminhood. Conduct is the real cause. All men are Brahmins if their conduct is pure. Even a Śūdra who strictly adheres to good conduct attains Brahminhood. O lady of splendid hips, the inherent quality of a Brahmin is the same everywhere. He is a Brahmin, in whom the attributeless, faultless, pure Brahman resides. O gentle lady, those persons who are free from impurities are the exponents and guides of good conduct. These are mentioned by Brahmā himself, the bestower of boons, as he was creating the subjects. The Brahmin is, as it were, a great mobile field that has feet. If any one sows seeds therein it fructifies after death. A person who desires prosperity shall always be contented. He shall always cling to the path of the good. He shall abide by the Brahminical path. He shall be a householder regularly studying the Saṃhitās at home. He shall regularly study the Vedas but should not have the same as his means of livelihood. A Brahmin who is like this, who abides by the path of the good, who maintains the sacrificial fire and who studies the Vedas regularly becomes competent to attain liberation. O gentle lady, after attaining Brahminhood the man of controlled self shall protect it by holy rites such as acceptance of monetary gifts from worthy persons. O lady of pure smiles thus the secret doctrine has been recounted to you as to how a Śūdra becomes a Brahmin or how a Brahmin, falling off from virtue, attains the status of a Śūdra.

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