An overview of the priestly class.
The caste system in ancient India was not a division of labor or a loose knit social order. The system was a rigid system of classification of people which determined social hierarchy and occupations. One could not move from the caste that he or she was born into. For example, the priestly class, known as the Brahmins was at the top of the caste system and they were believed to be descendants of the seers of past rulers (Duiker & Spielvogel, 2013).
These individuals would, from the time of conception, be considered philosophers religious scholars. They would eventually lead lives of sexual abstinence and refrain from eating animals. These individuals would train with other educated philosophers and would eventually become philosophers who would provide knowledge and understanding to other people who needed council.
Ultimately, the purpose of Brahmins would be to teach and provide spiritual council on how to break the cycle of rebirth by realizing the ultimate reality (Brahman); enlightenment. For these individuals their task would be to teach other how to achieve liberation from the earthly existence and to become one with the Brahman (Flesher, 2000). These beliefs have a variety of interpretations but are inclusive of many common concepts such as:
· Dharma- virtue, specifically this concept refers to one’s duties within a particular caste.
· Samsara- the cycle of rebirth or reincarnation.
· Karma- the belief that one’s actions accumulate over one’s life and at death this accumulation of actions determines one placement in the next rebirth, either higher or lower in status.
· Moksha- the end of the cycle of rebirth or liberation from it. This is the ultimate goal and result for understanding Brahman (Flesher, 2000).
Duiker, W. J., & Spielvogel, J. J. (2013). The Essential World History Vol I: To 1800 (Vol. 1). Boston, MA: Cengage.
Flesher, P. (2000, January 25). The Hindu Cosmos. Retrieved from University of Wyoming: http://www.uwyo.edu/religionet/er/hinduism/hcosmos.htm
Photo By Dharma from Penang, Malaysia — 102 Brahmins, Visnu Temple, CC BY 2.0