which was a matter of vital importance to the brahmins of India,
was one of utter indifference to the Buddha, who strongly condemned
the debasing caste system. In his Order of Monks all castes
unite as do the rivers in the sea. They lose their former names,
castes, and clans, and become known as members of one community,the
of the equal recognition of all members of the Sangha the Buddha
as, O monks, the great rivers Gangâ, Yamunâ, Aciravati,
Sarabhû, and Mahi, on reaching the ocean, lose their earlier
name and identity and come to be reckoned as the great ocean,
similarly, O monks, people of the four castes (vannas)....
who leave the household and become homeless recluses under the
Doctrine and Discipline declared by the Tathâgata, lose
their previous names and identities and are reckoned as recluses
who are sons of Sâkya" (Udâna 55).
Buddhist position regarding racism and racial discrimination
made explicit at such an early age is one reflected in the moral
and scientific standpoint adopted by UNESCO in the present century
(Declaration on Race and Racial Prejudice, UNESCO 1978).n40
Sundarika Bhâradvâja, the brahmin who inquired about
his lineage, the Buddha answered:
Brahmin I, no prince,
No farmer, or aught else.
All worldly ranks I know,
But knowing go my way
as simply nobody:
Homeless, in pilgrim garb,
With shaven crown, I go
my way alone, serene.
To ask my birth is vain."n41
one occasion a caste-ridden brahmin insulted the Buddha saying.
"Stop, thou shaveling! Stop, thou outcast!"
Master, without any feeling of indignation, gently replied:
makes not a man an outcast,
Birth makes not a man a brahmin;
Action makes a man an outcast,
Action makes a man a brahmin."
then delivered a whole sermon, the Vasala Sutta, explaining
to the brahmin in detail the characteristics of one who is really
an outcast (vasala). Convinced, the haughty brahmin took
refuge in the Buddha. (See The
Book of Protection.)
Buddha freely admitted into the Order people from all castes
and classes when he knew that they were fit to live the holy
life, and some of them later distinguished themselves in the
Order. The Buddha was the only contemporary teacher who endeavoured
to blend in mutual tolerance and concord those who hitherto
had been rent asunder by differences of caste and class.
who was the chief authority on the Vinaya,the disciplinary rules
of the Order,was a barber, regarded as one of the basest occupations
of the lower classes. Sunita, who later won arahatship, was
a scavenger, another base occupation. In the Order of Nuns were
Punnâ and Punnikâ, both slave girls. According to
Mrs. C.A.F. Rhys Davids, 8.5% of the number of those nuns who
were able to realize the fruits of their training were drawn
from the despised castes, which were mostly illiterate.n42