Hindus/Cast

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Question
Dear Brother William

My question about Hinduism is:
If you are not born into a Hindu family, and would like to become a Hindu, how would you know what cast and role you would have as well as what stage in Samara you would be? Would you be further away from achieving Moksha or closer? In addition, if you were 'closer' to achieving liberation than someone who had been a Hindu their whole life, how would that be decided?

Thank you, Charlotte

Answer
Dear Charlotte,

Thank you for your questions. It is important to distinguish Hindu ethnicity and culture from Hindu philosophy and religion. Caste and its many ramifications apply only to ethnic Hindus who consider those important.

For most Westerners, studying and practicing Hindu philosophy and religion can be done with no need to adopt most aspects of Hindu ethnic culture. The Vedanta Societies represent Hinduism in the West in just such ways. Read Swami Vivekananda's FOUR YOGAS AND OTHER WORKS for practical information on learning and practicing Hinduism, free of Hindu cultural artifacts.

If you wish to understand yourself in terms of the caste system, however, you can do so by analyzing your aptitudes and interests. The four main castes represent four, general human types, i.e., 1. Professional religious, poets, artists, scholars; 2. Administrators, soldiers; 3. Bankers, shop keepers, farmers; 4. Laborers. Each can reach liberation through performing his or her duty according to his or her nature. The Bhagavad-Gita says caste is svabhāvaja, i.e., born of one's own nature. It was a perversion of the original concept for caste to become hereditary or imposed from the outside. None is superior to the other, although even western society tends to respect those with more education and training than those without it. We are all equal in our spiritual essence, according to Vedanta. As Vivekananda once proclaimed, "The worm crawling in the mud is the brother of the Nazarene." However, there are obvious differences in aptitudes and abilities, and these in part sort humans into different strata of society.

Best wishes,

Brother William

Hindus

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William Schindler, a.k.a. Brother William

Expertise

I can answer questions about Vedanta philosophy, Patanjali Yoga philosophy and practice, Tantra, Bhagavad-Gita, Upanishads, Vivekachudamani (Shankara`s Crest-jewel of Spritual Discrimination), Advaita (non-dualism), the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda tradition, Goddess worship, meditation practice, Hindu monasticism (sannyasa), and Sanskrit.

Experience

I've been studying and practicing Vedanta and Tantra since 1969.

Organizations
I'm the founder and spiritual director of Ashram West, a gay spiritual community based on traditional Hindu Tantra. I have been a member of the Vedanta Society of Southern California since 1969.

Publications
I have three books in print: GAY TANTRA, ESSAYS ON GAY TANTRA, BLOOD OF THE GODDESS.

Education/Credentials
I hold a B.A. in Sanskrit (UC Berkeley 1975) and an M.A. in clinical psychology (Antioch University 1986).

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