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   THIS is one of several Suttas (mentioned in the notes to the celebrated verse quoted at the end of Chapter I) which deal with the subject of caste.

   It is sufficiently evident from the comparative frequency of the discussions on the matter of Brahman pretensions that this was a burning question at the time when the Dialogues were composed. No other social problem is referred to so often; and Brahmans would not be so often represented as expressing astonishment or indignation at the position taken up regarding it by the early Buddhists unless there had really been a serious difference on the subject between the two schools. But the difference, though real, has been gravely misunderstood.

   Some writers on Buddhism do not hesitate to ascribe to Gotama the rôle of a successful political reformer, by representing him as having fought for the poor and despised against the rich and privileged classes, and as having gone far to abolish caste. Other writers gird at the Buddha because most of the leaders of this Order were drawn from the ranks of the respectable and the well-to-do, with an education in keeping with their social position; and disparage him for neglecting the humble and the wretched, for not using his influence to abolish, or to mitigate, the harshness of caste rules.

   Both views are equally unhistorical. It is well known that the population of India is now divided into a number of sections (we call them 'castes'), the members of which are debarred from the right of intermarriage (from the connubium) with those outside their caste, and also, but in constantly varying degrees, from the right of eating together (of commensality) with the members of other sections. Each such 'caste' has also a councilor committee by which it is governed, and which settles all disputes regarding the caste.

   The disastrous effects, from the ethical, social, and political points of view, of these restrictions, and of caste as a whole, have been often grossly exaggerated, and the benefits of the

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system ignored. And we are entirely unwarranted in supposing the system, as it now exists, to have been in existence also at the time when Buddhism arose in the valley of the Ganges. Our knowledge of the actual facts of caste, even as it now exists, is still confused and inaccurate. The theories put forward to explain the facts are loose and irreconcilable. And an accurate statement of the corresponding facts, if any, at the time of Gotama, has yet to be drawn up.

   We have long known that the connubium was the cause of a long and determined struggle between the patricians and the plebeians in Rome. Evidence has been yearly accumulating on the existence of restrictions as to intermarriage, and as to the right of eating together, among other Aryan tribes--Greeks, Germans, Russians, and so on. Even without the fact of the existence, now, of such restrictions among the modern successors of the ancient Aryans in India, it would have been almost certain that they also were addicted to similar customs. It is certain that the notion of such usages was familiar enough to some at least of the tribes that preceded the Aryans in India. It is quite a mistake to look upon all these tribes as far below the Aryans in culture. Both the Kolarians and the Dravidians were probably quite the equals of the Aryans in social organisation. And the Aryans probably adopted much from them, especially in matters relating to land tenure, village community, government, taxation, and so on. Their custom of endogamy and exogamy, their ideas as to purity and the reverse, may have differed from those of the Aryans, but were similar in kind. Rules of endogamy and exogamy; privileges, restricted to certain classes, of eating together, are not only Indian or Aryan, but world-wide phenomena. Both the spirit, and to a large degree the actual details, of modern Indian caste usages, are identical with these ancient, and no doubt universal, customs. It is in them that we have the key to the origin of caste.

   At any moment in the history of a nation such customs seem, to a superficial observer, to be fixed and immutable. As a matter of fact they are never quite the same in successive centuries, or even generations. A man's visible frame, though no change is at any moment perceptible, is really never the same for two consecutive moments, and the result of constant minute variations becomes clear after the lapse of time. The numerous and complicated details which we sum up under the convenient (but often misleading) single name of caste are solely dependent for their sanction on public opinion. That opinion seems stable. But it is always tending to vary as to the degree of importance attached to some particular one of

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the details, as to the size and complexity of the particular groups in which each detail ought to be observed.

   This last statement may be illustrated by the case of the Chaliyas. When the Dutch started cinnamon cultivation in Ceylon on a large scale, they wanted labourers. The peasantry, who belonged almost exclusively to one caste, the Goigamas, regarded it as unworthy of a free man to work for hire. Some of them, however, in the struggle of motives, found the pressure of poverty too strong for them, and accepted service as coolies. The others, thinking this bad form, became averse to giving their daughters in marriage to such coolies. These feelings were naturally stronger at first among the Goigamas of good social position, and it became a mark of superiority not to have a relative married to a worker in the cinnamon gardens. And such workers were called Chaliyas. By the time that the families of Chaliyas were numerous enough to afford mates for the male or female coolies, the Chaliyas found it impossible to find wives elsewhere. And thus, under the very eyes of Europeans, the size of one group had been diminished by the very considerable number of persons engaged in a new and despised trade; In other words, what we call a new caste had arisen, the caste of the Chaliyas. When the English took Ceylon they gave up the government cultivation of cinnamon. The gardens were carried on, in ever lessening numbers, by private individuals. The number of the Chaliyas consequently declined. Numbers of them, as they gradually returned to ordinary peasant work, became reabsorbed among the Goigammas. This was an instance of a change precisely contrary to that which happened when the caste gradually arose. But all did not succeed in returning; and there are, therefore, still some Chaliyas left. And the caste survives though the members of it are now no longer exclusively, or even largely, employed in cinnamon gardens; and many of them have become wealthy and honoured.

   What had happened in this case was, not two separate and striking revolutions, but a long series of slight changes in public opinion, no doubt quite imperceptible at the time to the very people among whom the changes were taking place. And after all the changes were not so very slow. Three or four generations were enough to cover the whole series with the consequent results. Who can doubt but that the history of ancient India, if we had only access to the necessary evidence, would be found to cover, in its two thousand five hundred years, and through its wide territory, a constant succession of similar variations; and that similar variations are recurring still to-day.

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   Owing to the fact that the particular set of people who worked their way to the top based its claims on religious grounds, not on political power or wealth, the system has, no doubt, lasted longer in India than in Europe. But public opinion still insists in considerable circles, even in Europe, on restrictions of a more or less defined kind, both as to marriage and as to eating together. And in India the problem still remains to trace in the literature the gradual growth of the system--the gradual formation of new sections among the people, the gradual extension of the institution to the families of people engaged in certain trades, belonging to the same sect or tribe, tracing their ancestry (whether rightly or wrongly) to the same source, All these factors, and others besides, are real factors. But they are phases of the extension and growth, not explanations of the origin, of the system.

   There is no evidence to show that at the time when the conversations recorded in the Dialogues took place (that is to say, in the sixth century B.C.) there was any substantial difference, as regards the barriers in question, between the peoples dwelling in the valley of the Ganges and their contemporaries dwelling on the shores of the Mediterranean. The point of greatest weight in the establishment of the great difference in the subsequent development--the supremacy, in India, of the priests--was still being hotly debated. And all our evidence tends to show that at least in the wide extent of territory covered by the Pitakas--countries close upon a hundred thousand square miles in area--the struggle was being decided rather against the Brahmans than for them. There were distinctions as to marriage; endogamous and exogamous groups. In a few instances, all among the lower classes of the people, these amounted, probably, to what would now be called caste-divisions. But of castes, in the modern sense, among the preponderating majority there is little or no conclusive evidence,

   There was a common phrase current among the people, which divided all the world into four vannâ (colours or complexions)--the nobles, the priests, the other Aryan people, and the non-Aryan Sûdras (Khattiyâ, Brâhmanâ, Vessâ, and Suddâ). The priests put themselves first, and had a theological legend in support of their contention. But it is clear from the Pitakas that this was not admitted by the nobles, And it is also clear that no one of these divisions was a caste. There was neither connubium nor commensality between all the members of one vannâ, nor was there a governing council for each. The fourth was distinguished from the others by race, The remaining three were distinguished from each other by

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social position. And though in a general rough way the classification corresponded to the actual facts of life, there were insensible gradations within the four classes, and the boundary between them was both variable and undefined.

   And this enumeration of the populace was not complete. Outside these classes there were others, resembling in many points the modern low castes, and always when mentioned in the Pitakas following after the above four. Thus in Anguttara I, 162{1}, the argument is that just as there is no real difference in oxen, in spite of the fact that they can be arranged in classes by difference of colour (vanna), and the strong, active, well-trained ox is selected by preference, without regard to his colour (vanna); so also, when presenting gifts, the man of strong, active, well-trained mind should be selected as donee--without reference to the fact of his belonging to any one of the four classes of society (vannâ), or of his being a Kandâla or a Pukkusa. It is plain that this passage distinguishes the last two from the four vannâ and therefore from the Sûdras.

   Other old texts{2} insert between these two three further names--the Venas, the Nesâdas, and the Rathakâras, that is to say, the workers in rushes{3}, bird-catchers, and cart-makers. By these are meant aboriginal tribesmen who were hereditary craftsmen in these three crafts; for they are called hîna-gâtiyo, low tribes. They no doubt formed castes in the modern sense, though we have no information as to their marriage customs. They are represented in the Gâtaka book as living in villages of their own; outside the towns in which ordinary people dwelt, and formed evidently a numerically insignificant portion of the populace.

   In the last passage quoted in the previous note there are mentioned, as distinct from these low tribes (the hîna-gâtiyo), certain low occupations (hîna-sippâni)--mat-makers, potters, weavers, leather-workers, and barbers. As they are excluded from the list of those distinguished by birth (gâti), it is implied that there was no hard and fast line, determined by birth, for those who gained their living by these trades. There would be a natural tendency for the son to follow the father's craft{4};

{1. Compare Petavatthu II, 6, 12.

2. Assalâyana (No. 93 in the Magghima); Anguttara II, 85 = P. P. IV, 19; Samyutta I, 93; Vinaya IV, 6-10, &c.

3. Sometimes explained as carpenters, sometimes as basket-makers, sometimes as makers of sunshades.

4. Further exemplified by the number of people described as kevatta-putto, assâroha-putto, nata-putto, sûda-putto, &c.}

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centuries afterwards they had become castes, and they were then on the border line. But they were not castes as yet.

   Besides the above, who were all freemen, there were also slaves. We only hear of them quite occasionally, as domestic servants, in the houses of the very rich. Individuals had been captured in predatory raids, and reduced to slavery (Gât. IV, 220); or had been deprived of their freedom as a judicial punishment (Gât. I, 200); or had submitted to slavery of their own accord ('Vinaya Texts,' I, 191; Sum. I, 168). Children born to such slaves were also slaves, and the emancipation of slaves is often referred to. But we hear nothing of such later developments of slavery as rendered the Roman latifundia, or the plantations of some Christian slave-owners, scenes of misery and oppression. For the most part the slaves were household servants, and not badly treated, and their numbers seem to have been insignificant{1}.

   What we find then, in the Buddha's time, is caste in the making. The great mass of the people were distinguished quite roughly into four classes--social strata--of which the boundary lines were vague and uncertain. At the one end of the scale certain outlying tribes, and certain hereditary crafts of a dirty or despised kind, were already, probably, castes. At the other end of the scale Brahmans by birth (not necessarily sacrificial priests, for they followed all sorts of occupations) were putting forward caste claims that were not yet universally admitted. There were social customs about the details of which we know very little (and dependent probably, more exactly upon the gotta rather than upon the gâti), which raised barriers, not seldom broken through, as to intermarriage of people admittedly belonging to the same vanna, and a fortiori of others. And there was a social code, based on the idea of impurity, which prevented familiar intercourse (such as commensality) between people of different rank; and rendered disgraceful the use of certain foods. We find, however, no usages which cannot be amply paralleled in the history of other peoples throughout the world in similar stages of social evolution. The key-stone of the arch of the peculiarly Indian caste organisation--the absolute supremacy of the Brahmans--had not yet been put in position, had not, in fact, been yet made ready. The caste-system, in any proper or exact use of the term, did not exist.

   In the face of this set of circumstances Gotama, took up

{1. See also A. I, 145, 206; II, 67; III, 36, 132, 217; Vin. IV, 224; D. I, 5, 60, 72, 93, 141 (translated above); Gât. I, 226, 385; III, 343, 437; Dhp. Cy. 238, &c.}

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a distinct position. It meets us, it is true, in two phases; but it forms one consistent and logical whole.

   In the first place, as regards his own Order, over which alone he had complete control, he ignores completely and absolutely all advantages or disadvantages arising from birth, occupation, and social status, and sweeps away all barriers and disabilities arising from the arbitrary rules of mere ceremonial or social impurity.

   One of the most distinguished members of his Order, the very one of them who was referred to as the chief authority, after Gotama himself, on the rules of the Order, was Upâli, who had formerly been a barber, one of the despised occupations. So Sunita, one of the brethren whose verses are chosen for insertion in the Thera Gâthâ, was a Pukkusa, one of the low tribes. Sâti, the propounder of a deadly heresy, was of the sons of the fisherfolk, afterwards a low caste, and even then an occupation, on account of its cruelty, particularly abhorred. Nanda was a cowherd. The two Panthakas were born out of wedlock, to a girl of good family through intercourse with a slave (so that by the rule laid down in Manu 31, they were actually outcasts). Kâpâ was the daughter of a deer-stalker, Punnâ and Punnikâ had been slave girls. Sumangalamâtâ was daughter and wife to workers in rushes, and Subhâ was the daughter of a smith. More instances could doubtless be quoted already, and others will become known when more texts are published.

   It does not show much historical insight to sneer at the numbers as small, and to suggest that the supposed enlightenment or liberality was mere pretence. The facts speak for themselves; and the percentage of low-born members of the Order was probably in fair proportion to the percentage of persons belonging to the despised gâtis and sippas as compared with the rest of the population. Thus of the Therîs mentioned in the Therî Gâthâ we know the social position of sixty, of whom five are mentioned above--that is, 8½ per cent. of the whole number were base-born. It is most likely that this is just about the proportion which persons in similar social rank bore to the rest of the population.

   Whether the Buddhist Order differed in this respect from the other similar communities which are mentioned in the Buddhist books as having already existed when the Buddhist Order was founded, is still matter of controversy. The Buddhist books are mostly silent on the matter. But that very silence is valuable evidence. It is scarcely likely that if there had been much difference, there should be no allusion to it in the Pitakas. And the few passages in print confirm this. We

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have seen how in the Sâmañña-phala Sutta (above, p. 77) it is taken for granted that a slave could join an Order (that is any order, not the Buddhist). And in the Aggañña Sutta of the Dîgha, and the Madhura Sutta of the Magghima, there is express mention of Sûdras becoming Samanas, as if it were a recognised and common occurrence, long before the time of the rise of Buddhism. So in the Gâtaka (III, 381) we hear of a potter, and at IV, 392 of a Kandala, who become Samanas (not Buddhist Samanas){1}.

   On the other hand, it is just possible that in these passages the custom afterwards followed in the Buddhist Order is simply put back to earlier times, and is an anachronism. The low-born, however earnest in their search after truth, were no doubt excluded from any community of hermits or religious recluses in which Brahmans had the upper hand. But all the twice-born (the Dvigas, that is the Khattiyas, Brâhmanas, and Vessas) were certainly justified, by public opinion, in becoming Samanas. To what extent the Sûdras, and the tribes below the Sûdras, were accorded, in communities other than the Buddhist, a similar privilege, is at present doubtful. But the Buddha certainly adopted, and probably extended, the most rational view current at the time.

   There is one point, however, in which he seems to have restricted (and for a valid reason) the existing custom. It is impossible to avoid the inference from the passage just referred to (in the Sâmañña-phala, above, p. 77 ), that the existing orders, or most of them, admitted slaves to their ranks. Now among a number of rules laid down to regulate admission to the Buddhist Order, in such wise that the existing rights of third parties should not be encroached upon, there is a rule (translated in 'Vinaya Texts,' S. B. E., I, 199) that no runaway slave shall be admitted. And in the form of words to be used at the chapter held for admitting new members, one of the questions asked of the candidate is: 'Are you a freeman{2}?' Whenever slaves were admitted to the Order, they must have previously obtained the consent of their masters, and also, I think, have been emancipated.

   Secondly, as regards all such matters as we may now fairly call 'questions of caste' outside the Order, the Buddha adopted the only course then open to any man of sense; that is to say, he strove to influence that public opinion, on which the observances depend, by a constant inculcation of reasonable views. Thus in the Âmagandha Sutta{3} of the Sutta

{1. See Fick, 'Sociale Gliederung im nordöstlichen Indien,' pp. 50, 51.

2. 'Vinaya Texts,' I, 230.

3. Translated by Fausböll, S. B. E., pp. 40-43.}

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Nipâta (certainly one of the very oldest of our documents) it is laid down, in eloquent words, that defilement does not come from eating this or that, prepared or given by this or that person, but from evil deeds and words and thoughts.

   This is a particularly interesting passage, being one of the few in which sayings of previous Buddhas are recorded. In other words the Buddhists put forward this view as having been enunciated long ago--with the intended implication that it was a self-evident proposition which was common ground to the wise. No originality, no special insight, is claimed on account of a view that would have put an end to so many foolish prejudices based on superstition. The Buddha's position is again to adopt, in this matter, the sensible position already put forward by others.

   As to other details also, which it would take too long to set out here, Gotama followed the same plan. On the general question, however, he had opinions, presumably his own. For they are not found elsewhere. And in the early Buddhist texts (always ready to give credit to others, and even anxious wherever possible to support their views by showing that others, especially in ancient times, had held them) these views are not referred to as part of the doctrine of either earlier or contemporary teachers.

   We may class the utterances on this point under three heads--biological, ethical, and historical.

   In the Vâsettha Sutta of the Sutta Nipâta (several verses of which have been inserted also in the Dhammapada) the question, as in the Sonadanda Sutta, translated below, is as to what makes a man a Brahman. As his answer the Buddha reminds his questioners of the fact that whereas in the case of plants (large or small), insects, quadrupeds, serpents, fish, and birds, there are many species and marks (due to the species) by which they can be distinguished--in the case of man there are no such species, and no such marks. 'Herein,' as pointed out by Mr. Chalmers{1}, 'Gotama was in accord with the conclusion of modern biologists, that "the Anthropidae are represented by the single genus and species, Man"--a conclusion the more remarkable as the accident of colour did not mislead Gotama' as it did so many of his contemporaries then; and even, within living memory, so many in the West. He goes on to draw the conclusion that distinctions made between different men are mere matters of prejudice and custom; that it is wisdom and goodness that make the only valid distinction, that make a man a Brahman; that the

{1. J. R. A. S., 1894, p. 396.}

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Arahat is therefore the true Brahman; and that it is only the ignorant who had, for so long, maintained that it was birth that made a man a Brahman.

   Similar arguments frequently recur. In the Madhura Sutta, a dialogue, shortly after the Buddha's death, between the king of Madhura and Kakkâna, the point raised is whether the Brahmans are right in their exclusive claims. 'The Brahmans say thus, Kakkâna:--"The Brahmans are the most distinguished of the four divisions into which the people is classified{1}; every other division is inferior. The Brahmans are the white division; all the rest are black. The Brahmans alone are accounted pure, not those who are not Brahmans. The Brahmans are the legitimate sons of God (of Brahmâ), born from His mouth, specially made by Him, heirs of Brahmâ! What do you, Sir, say to this?"'

   The Buddhist answer is first to remind the king of the actual facts of life--how a prosperous member of any one of the four vannas would find members of each of the other three to wait upon him and serve him. There was no difference between them in this respect. Then, secondly, he points out how a wicked man (whatever his vanna), in accordance with the doctrine of Karma acknowledged by all good men (not only by Buddhists), will be reborn in some state of woe; and a good man in some state of bliss. Thirdly, a criminal, whatever his vanna, would be equally subject to punishment for his crime. And lastly, a man, whatever his vanna, would, on joining an order, on becoming a religieux, receive equal respect and honour from the people{2}.

   A Brahman might object that all this ignores the important point that the Brahmans were, originally, born of Brahmâ, and are his legitimate heirs. It was this claim to especial connection with the mysterious powers of a supernatural kind, so widely believed in, that formed their chief weapon in the struggle. We find the Buddhist reply to that in the Aggañña Sutta of the Dîgha, in many respects one of the most interesting and instructive of all the Dialogues{3}. It is a kind

{1. Literally 'are the best colour' (vanna, with reference to the well-known classification into four vannas; neither of which was a caste, referred to above).

2. This Madhura Sutta has now been edited and translated, with valuable introduction and notes, by Mr. Robert Chalmers, in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1894.

3. The larger portion of this Sutta (from the beginning of the genesis part down to the election of the first king) is also preserved in the Mahâvastu. See Senart's edition, vol. i, pp. 338-348. The reading agninyam (p. 340, 17, &c.) represents the Pâli aggaññam.}

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of Buddhist book of Genesis. In it the pretensions of the Brahmans are put forward in the same terms as those just quoted above from the Madhura Sutta.

   Gotama replies that they make these claims in forgetfulness of the past. The claims have no basis in fact. It is righteousness (dhamma) and not class distinction (vanna) that makes the real difference between man and man{1}. Do we not daily see Brahman women with child and bearing sons just like other folk? How can they then say that they are born of God? And as to their origin, when the evolution of the world began, beings were at first immaterial, feeding on joy, giving light from themselves, passing through the air. There was thick darkness round about them, and neither sun nor moon, nor stars, nor sex, nor measures of time. Then the earth rose in the midst of the waters, beautiful as honey in taste and colour and smell, and the beings, eating thereof, lost their brightness, and then sun and moon and stars appeared, and time began to run. And then also their bodies became more coarse and material, and differences of complexion (vanna) became manifest among them. Then some prided themselves, and despised others, on the ground of their finer complexion. And thereupon the fine-tasting earth ceased to be so.

   Then successively fine moss, and sweet creepers, and delicate rice appeared, and each time the beings ate thereof with a similar result. Then differences of sex appeared; and households were formed; and the lazy stored up the rice, instead of gathering it each evening and morning; and the rights of property arose, and were infringed. And when lusts were felt, and thefts committed, the beings, now become men, met together, and chose certain men, differing from the others in no wise except in virtue (dhamma), to restrain the evil doers by blame or fines or banishment. These were the first Kshatriyas. And others they chose to restrain the evil dispositions which led to the evil doing. And these were the first Brahmans, differing from the others in no wise, except only in virtue (dhamma).

   Then certain others, to keep their households going, and maintain their wives, started occupations of various kinds. And these were the first vessas. And some abandoned their homes and became the first recluses (samanas). But all were alike in origin, and the only distinction between them was in virtue. And the highest of them all was acknowledged

{1. The words here are quoted in the Milinda, vol. i, p. 229 of my translation.}

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to be the Arahat, who had made himself so by the destruction of the Four Mental Intoxications (the Âsavas) and by breaking the bonds that tied him to rebirths; the man who had laid aside every burden, who had lived the life, had accomplished all that had to be done, had gained his end, and by the highest knowledge was set free!

   We may not accept the historical accuracy of this legend. Indeed a continual note of good-humoured irony runs through the whole story, with its fanciful etymologies of the names of the four vannâ; and the aroma of it would be lost on the hearer who took it au grand sérieux. But it reveals a sound and healthy insight, and is much nearer to the actual facts than the Brahman legend it was intended to replace.

   Had the Buddha's views on the whole question won the day--and widely shared, as they were, by others, they very nearly prevailed--the evolution of social grades and distinctions would have gone on in India on lines similar to those it followed in the West, and the caste system of India would never have been built up{1}.

{1. There is an admirable little book by M. Senart on the origin of caste, on the Brahman views about it, and on the present actual facts of caste in India, entitled 'Les Castes dans I'Inde.' Dr. Fick also in his 'Sociale Gliederung im nordöstlichen Indien zu Buddha's Zeit' has collected the evidence found in the Gâtaka book, and analysed it with great skill. Similar monographs on the Pitakas, and on the Epics, are much to be desired.}

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