Perhaps the most famous aspect of Hinduism is its most despicable – the caste system. The origin of this was a seemingly innocent idea that different kinds of people are suited to different things. Some to fighting, others to teaching, others to farming.
However, a strong belief in reincarnation not withstanding, the holy books decreed that these callings were genetic so occupations should be handed down from father to son.
There used to be hundreds of complicated sub-castes but these days there are four worth mentioning. The Brahmins, who teach and have a monopoly on the rites of passage and temple ceremonies. The Kshatriyas, the warriors and landowners. The Vaishyas, the merchants and finally the Sudras who do the menial work. Beneath all of them are the Untouchables who do the real shit details.
It’s been argued that Hinduism should really be called Brahminism as it’s them that benefit out of this absurd hierarchy. Every time a child is born or you want to marry or ask a favour of the gods you have to cross a Brahmin’s palm with silver. Why? Because they’ve always been the only class allowed to study Sanskrit, the language of the gods. Mark Twain mentioned about funerals in India
“To get to paradise from India is an expensive thing. Every detail connected with the matter costs something, and helps to fatten a priest”.
Life for the Sudras and the Untouchables is hell. Even their shadow is thought to be dirty and so in the villages they’re made to walk miles to collect their water so as not to dirty the village well. Should they try to rise above their station they may well have acid thrown in their face or end up in jail.
Life for women isn’t much better. With the exception of Kali and Durga, most of the female gods are pretty much doormats for their male counterparts. Women in India society have a pretty rough deal. In ancient times, wives were expected to be burned alive on their husband’s funeral pyre. Shamefully it still occurs every now and then that a woman is shamed into throwing herself on her husband’s burning body.
As famous as the caste system is the Holy Cow
. It’s a comic idea to nations of hamburger eaters and almost incomprehensible given how many go hungry in India. However, when you consider that 70% of India still lives in the country it becomes clearer. If you ate your cow then you would be unable to plough your fields before the rains came and then you’d starve to death for sure. This basic feature of rural life is almost certainly the root of the cow’s sacred status.
Hindus worship in front of little shrines in their own homes and in the temples. A temple is always dedicated to a particular god but any Hindu may worship there.
Hinduism has always had respected and revered saints and personages, Gandhi being a good example but there’s no clear-cut church as such. These days some politicians try to stir up the masses in a religious fervour against the Muslims but only for their own political gain. India could absorb just about everything but Islam proved indigestible. The two religions live side by side with incredibly violent outbursts and massacres from time to time.
Heaven for climate, and hell for society.
– Mark Twain’s Speechs, 1910 edition, p. 117.
We may not doubt that society in heaven consists mainly of undesirable persons.
– Mark Twain’s Notebook
God, so atrocious in the Old Testament, so attractive in the New–the Jekyl and Hyde of sacred romance.
– Notebook, 1904… Mark Twain
The best minds will tell you that when a man has begotten a child he is morally bound to tenderly care for it, protect it from hurt, shield it from disease, clothe it, feed it, bear with its waywardness, lay no hand upon it save in kindness and for its own good, and never in any case inflict upon it a wanton cruelty. God’s treatment of his earthly children, every day and every night, is the exact opposite of all that, yet those best minds warmly justify these crimes, condone them, excuse them, and indignantly refuse to regard them as crimes at all, when he commits them. Your country and mine is an interesting one, but there is nothing there that is half so interesting as the human mind.
– Letters from the Earth… Mark Twain
I bring you the stately matron named Christendom, returning bedraggled, besmirched, and dishonored, from pirate raids in Kiaochow, Manchuria, South Africa, and the Philipines, with her soul full of meanness, her pocket full of boodle, and her mouth full of pious hypocrisies. Give her soap and towel, but hide the looking glass.
– “A Salutation from the 19th to the 20th Century,” December 31, 1900…Mark Twain
The Christian’s Bible is a drug store. Its contents remain the same; but the medical practice changes…The world has corrected the Bible. The church never corrects it; and also never fails to drop in at the tail of the procession- and take the credit of the correction. During many ages there were witches. The Bible said so. the Bible commanded that they should not be allowed to live. Therefore the Church, after eight hundred years, gathered up its halters, thumb-screws, and firebrands, and set about its holy work in earnest. She worked hard at it night and day during nine centuries and imprisoned, tortured, hanged, and burned whole hordes and armies of witches, and washed the Christian world clean with their foul blood.
Then it was discovered that there was no such thing as witches, and never had been. One does not know whether to laugh or to cry…..There are no witches. The witch text remains; only the practice has changed. Hell fire is gone, but the text remains. Infant damnation is gone, but the text remains. More than two hundred death penalties are gone from the law books, but the texts that authorized them remain.
– “Bible Teaching and Religious Practice,” Europe and Elsewhere
True religion is real living; living with all one’s soul, with all one’s goodness and righteousness.
I am plenty safe enough in his hands; I am not in any danger from that kind of a Diety. The one that I want to keep out of the reach of, is the caricature of him which one finds in the Bible. We (that one and I) could never respect each other, never get along together. I have met his superior a hundred times– in fact I amount to that myself.
– Letter to Olivia Clemens, 17 July 1889
The gods offer no rewards for intellect. There was never one yet that showed any interest in it…
– Mark Twain‘s Notebook