caste systemDid the caste system make it possible for Indian society to maintain relative unity, even under weak rulers? Did its convergence with Hindu beliefs make most people more likely to...

caste system

Did the caste system make it possible for Indian society to maintain relative unity, even under weak rulers? Did its convergence with Hindu beliefs make most people more likely to accept whatever life offered?

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larrygates eNotes educator| Certified Educator

First of all, I should point out that Buddhism does NOT recognize the Caste system. It does teach that one is reincarnated after death and ones station in life is dependent upon ones previous life; but there is not the strict social separation that exists under the Hindu system. Also, Buddhism is a missionary religion which actively seeks converts. Hinduism is not a missionary religion, which accounts for its being confined primarily to the Indian sub-continent. An earlier post discussed how similar the two religions are. I respectfully disagree.

There was actually very little political unity in India, in fact the country remained divided for almost fifteen hundred years, ruled largely by war lords and occasional emperors who were unable to establish a lasting dynasty. People were not necessarily willing to accept life as it comes, which accounts for the success of Buddhism. Since Buddhism rejected the caste system, it appealed to the lower castes and untouchables, and offered them real hope. Successive rulers in India were either Hindu or Buddhist, with varying degrees of tolerance; however the real political force came with the invasion of Islam. Both Buddhism and Hinduism were considered false religions, and mercilessly suppressed. To this day, Northern India and Pakistan is predominantly Muslim and Southern India predominantly Hindu. Although Buddhism was born in India, it is rarely practiced there.

stolperia eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think there is some real merit to your suggestions. If individuals accept that their place in society is determined by the structure of their religious system, they may not even consider that they could seek to change their lot in life. If groups of people within a society are in agreement that the expectations of society are in accordance with the way in which the culture is supposed to function, there would be much less inclination to cause dissent or unrest, even in times of weak leadership.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree most with Post 3.  India was not particularly unified.  In addition, there are plenty of places that did not really have caste systems and were not Hindu and where people still just took whatever happened to them and did not resist.  I think that the caste system worked mainly be justifying the ability of some people to dominate others, much as the ideology of racism worked in America.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think you are on to something here.  Most of us find a caste system difficult to understand.  Yet Hindus would not have the same problem.  The caste system also imposes its own order.  Everyone knows what to expect, and is used to it.  Changes in the caste system would be more disruptive than changes to the government.

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