How many castes are there in Buddhism?


Table of contents of this chapter


Just as Christianity encountered Germanic feudalism, Buddhism encountered the Indian caste system. In India, caste means itself jatiwhich roughly means "gender". One is born into one's caste, a change to a higher caste cannot happen even through the highest performance. Man always remains tied to his original caste. The marriages should only ever be concluded between people of the same caste. So this is a frozen form, it encloses its relatives forever. The top of the box is that of the Brahmins. Already in the "Satapathabrah-mana" it says of the Brahmin:
“There are two kinds of gods: the gods are gods, but the learned and literate Brahmins are human gods. The sacrifice is assigned to them in two ways: the donations belong to the gods, the wages belong to the learned and literate Brahmins. The gods are satisfied by donating sacrifices; through the sacrificial wages the human gods, the learned and literate Brahmins. "(128)

In this way, the priest, whose primary value is evidently his sacred relationship, is granted not only a special position in the sacred space, but also in all other areas of life. Manu 1/93 it is said of the Brahmin:

"Because it sprang from Brahma's mouth who he is the firstborn and because he studies the Vedn, he is rightly considered the lord of the whole wide world." (129)

The priesthood succeeded in the purest and most undisguised way, with all nonsensical consequences, in making their caste absolute. Even through the highest achievement one cannot become a Brahmin if one is not one from birth. It is absolutely true that the child of brahmin parents is also a brahmin. We find expression given to the conviction that between the Brahmins and all other groups there is an insurmountable abyss, which, as with the European feudals, is based on mythology: the Brahmin is divine, if only through his mere birth from a Brahmanic family, he tower above all other inhabitants of the earth sky-high in spirit, morality and character. But if the way of life of a Brahmin seemed to give the lie to this assertion, one knew how to counter such objections by the following conclusion:

“A brahmin behaves virtuously under all circumstances. Unfortunately, Mr. X, son of Brahmin Y, does not. Ergo he is not the son of Brahmin Y, but comes from a criminal love affair with his mother ... "(130)

On the other hand, in the case of a man of dubious or low parentage, his virtuous behavior shows that he was begotten by a Brahmin, though perhaps illegitimately. The last fact is much less important, but the previous one is of decisive importance. This naive concept of inheritance is of course very useful to the Brahmin caste, but it must have had very unpleasant consequences for the respective mother. We do not know that the Jews would have declared with equal impudence that one could behave towards the non-Jews as it is here allowed to the Brahmins towards the non-Brahmans. There are researchers who are of the opinion that the Indian caste religion was developed from the Hindu "world law" (131). It is of course the other way round, a rationalizing mythology was created out of the caste tendency. A brahmin can easily be criminal too!

"And if the brahmin had committed any wrongdoing, he still remains worthy of all honor, whether he was taught or not, he always remains a great god." (132)

Either the mother is to blame for Brahmanic misdeeds, or the misdeeds are not misdeeds, so it is measured with two different standards. To the Inheritance mythology To be able to hold in the face of bad or stupid brahmin, these two possibilities were invented: either the mother had the child from an under-caste, or what the brahmin does is not evil, stupid, etc., although it would be done by an under-caste the same. We also know the first solution in Judaism. Christ, who was perceived as a heretic, was said to be a "Mamser", the child of a Jew and a non-Jew. Because a real Jew cannot be a heretic (133). That such theories neither with the Indian prophets nor with Buddha Finding grace was to be expected.

»In a longer poem by Sattanipata (111: 9, Vasettho) the question of who is a true Brahmin is raised and answered in detail by the Buddha. One day two young Brahmins, Bharadvajo and Vasettho, get into an argument about how and through what to become a Brahmin. Bharadvajo explains: 'By being born in a pure family.' Vasettho: 'Through a pure lifestyle.' Buddha decides in favor of Vasettho's view: 'What has long been believed, we are still told, this stupid, foolish chatter: You become a brahmin by birth. Birth does not make a Brahmin, does not stamp a non-Brahmin: the deed determines who is a Brahmin and who is a non-Brahmin! '"(134)

A counterpart to this is the quoted utterance of the prophet Amos and the John the BaptistYour brood of snakes! One recognizes that the attacks of John the Baptist against Jewish secondary fudalism are much more radical than the Buddhas against Brahmaism, although these too leave no doubt.

The box-breaking power of Christianity In the long run it turned out to be correspondingly stronger than that of Buddhism. Without wanting to clarify all the questions here in detail, one must say that Buddhism, with its intensive reference to transcendence and its claim to world religion, its devaluation of reality as an unsubstantial appearance, obviously has the effect of breaking caste. Here, too, there is the all-embracing affect of the uterinity. As we could show on the occasion of the poetry quoted above, the Buddha himself probably had little caste spirit. However, in order to clarify the question in a way similar to Christianity, a special investigation would be necessary. In today's India the caste system lies under the constant attack of European, Christian technology, but also of Indian nationalism. Ghandi and Ambotkar fought caste prejudice against them Pariah, the "untouchables," and the present Indian government is eager to improve their lot. Even today, Brahmin or other upper-caste workers in the factories refuse to pick up objects that have fallen, because it is beneath their dignity to stoop, so that one must have one's own lower-caste gangs to do this; but this attitude is unlikely to have a future (135). After all, it is probably no coincidence that India is in all likelihood the country of origin of the Chess game is whose symbolic value we have already discussed.


Undoubtedly, Islam is not as anti-segregationist as Christianity in its approach. To show this, it is sufficient to mention his official retention of polygamy, which disadvantages women and also favors the rich, who are the only men in Islamic countries who can afford several women. The overcoming of feudalism in the Islamic countries was only achieved very late and under intense European influence. The polygamy There is not only de facto here, as is often the case - feudal and capitalist mistress economy - in Europe, but also institutionally. The relationship with slavery also seems to be deeply rooted in the essence of Islam. From a global political point of view, a thorough investigation would be very important.


The individual sects often have very different social teachings. They separate themselves as more or less large groups from a religious community and show peculiarities in their concrete behavior that show many analogies to caste behavior.

However, we also see such boxy features Major churches. There is a tendency among church bodies to induce the members of their own church to form a caste with as seamless a caste as possible. The members of the church should only socialize with one another, marry and let the children play and learn. Expressions like "Lutheran Sdiwein" or "Catholic sow" also reappeared in Bavaria after the Second World War. It has at least been the case that one "does not sit down at a table" with members of another denomination. If such boxy tendencies were to prevail head-on, a church caste would arise.

What the sect has in common with the caste is its particularistic character, its emergence from a larger and higher whole. Since this outbreak often happens without need, one must reproach the sectarians for their exodus, but one should not forget that subjectively it can often be incredibly difficult to stick to the whole and yet have a real concern.

Francis of Assisi, Ignatius of Loyola or Newman are examples of the tremendous difficulties that people with real concerns can face in the major church. Often the major church only comes to a better understanding again in the confrontation with the sectarians.