Brahminism defined – as austerity and fairness

This article is about definition and understanding origin of words such as Brahminical, Brahminism and Brahmanism – that are being used by political activists, lobbyists, and religious vehements while expressing their thoughts in media, academics and discusssions. Some typical examples of the context in which the words are used are also provided.

Brahminism is a term introduced by G. S. Faber (George Stanley Faber 1773-1854), an Anglican theologian and prolific author. The term is being used currently by Leftists, Christian activists, and intellectuals especially political analysts.

According to wictionary, Brahminism is the principles and religious practice of the Brahmins, aspects of Hinduism as practiced by the Brahmin caste of India. As an alternative definition, Brahminism is also termed as Vedic ritualism, contrasted with Shramana traditions. According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, Brahmanism is the religion of ancient India that evolved out of Vedism. The name is taken due to the predominant position of its priestly class, the Brahmans, and from the increasing speculation about, and importance given to, Brahman, the supreme power. According to the Free Dictionary, Brahmanism is the social and religious system of orthodox Hindus, especially of the Brahmins. Brahmanism is distinguished from the classical Hinduism that succeeded it by the enhanced significance given in classical Hinduism to individual deities, such as ?iva and Vishnu, and to devotional worship (bhakti).

Interestingly, the word sramana is cited in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad and Taittiriya Aranyaka (2-7-1) with the meaning of ‘tapas’ and ‘performer of austerities’ respectively. According to Buddhist commentaries, samana is someone who has pacified evil is called samaa.

An recent article in published in an anti Hindu website says – “Manu was not a Brahmin but he drew up the brahmanical code. When Brahmins find that power is slipping out of their hands, they patronize forces that can protect their interests. Kshatriya Manu had done that in an age gone by and a Shudra – officially an OBC – Modi is doing this job now”. In another article by Ashutosh Varshney, interprets arguments in favor of Hindu unity as “caste divisions within Hinduism and caste-based politics need to be minimised, for they undermine Hindu unity. The incorporation of lower castes into the Hindu family should be premised upon their Sanskritisation. The lower castes should follow the Brahminical model of Hinduism”. The mainstream weekly in an article analyzing the joining of Paswan to BJP alliance says “This step of the RSS and BJP has the potential to alter the basic Brahminical character and ethics of the BJP. But even then the RSS did not dither.” Abdur Razzak Molla, minister of land reforms during the CPM government who has now been expelled from the party, critizes the Left party of Bengal as ‘Brahminical character’. “There are no Dalit or Muslim leaders in any of the districts. Even in a place like Murshidabad with 60 percent Muslims, there is a Brahman secretary”. Asian correspondent published an article by Sunil Adam who describes Congress as supporting Brahmin domination and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) representing Brahminical counter-elite”.

The origin of the word Brahminism is Christian theology and it is used in negative sense in general. Brahmana is ordained for the benefit of all four Varnas and the entire world. In this context, there is a need for correcting the definition of Brahminism and avoid distortions. Based on the contents of Manusmrithi and other texts, a safer and saner definition of Brahminism is austerity and fairness.