This article is semi-protected until March 1, 2018. The traditional occupation of brahmins was that of priesthood at the Hindu temples or at socio-religious ceremonies and rite of passage rituals such as solemnising a wedding with hymns and prayers. Theoretically, the Brahmins were the highest ranking of the four social classes. In practice, Indian texts suggest pearls of wisdom swami vivekananda pdf Brahmins were agriculturalists, warriors, traders and have held a variety of other occupations in India.
A robed Burmese Brahmin priest of Konbaung Dynasty. A Brahmin standing praying in the corner of the streets 1863. The earliest inferred reference to “Brahmin” as a possible social class is in the Rigveda, occurs once, and the hymn is called Purusha Sukta. This Purusha Sukta varna verse is now generally considered to have been inserted at a later date into the Vedic text, possibly as a charter myth. Stephanie Jamison and Joel Brereton, a professor of Sanskrit and Religious studies, state, “there is no evidence in the Rigveda for an elaborate, much-subdivided and overarching caste system”, and “the varna system seems to be embryonic in the Rigveda and, both then and later, a social ideal rather than a social reality”. Ancient texts describing community-oriented Vedic yajna rituals mention four to five priests: the hotar, the adhvaryu, the udgatar, the Brahmin and sometimes the ritvij.
The udgatar, like the hotar, chants the introductory, accompanying and benediction hymns. The term Brahmin in Indian texts has signified someone who is good and virtuous, not just someone of priestly class. Both Buddhist and Brahmanical literature, states Patrick Olivelle, repeatedly define “Brahmin” not in terms of family of birth, but in terms of personal qualities. Brahmins, states Olivelle, were the social class from which most ascetics came.
The Dharmasutras and Dharmasatras text of Hinduism describe the expectations, duties and role of Brahmins. Hinduism, are primarily directed at Brahmins. Hindu Dharmasutras, for example, states in verse 9. 55 that a Brahmin should not participate or perform a ritual unless he is invited to do so, but he may attend. A man who may have performed just some rites, but possesses these eight virtues, on the other hand, does.
The text lists eight virtues that a Brahmin must inculcate: compassion, patience, lack of envy, purification, tranquility, auspicious disposition, generosity and lack of greed, and then asserts in verse 9. The later Dharma texts of Hinduism such as Baudhayana Dharmasutra add charity, modesty, refraining from anger and never being arrogant as duties of a Brahmin. The Vasistha Dharmasutra in verse 6. 23 lists discipline, austerity, self-control, liberality, truthfulness, purity, Vedic learning, compassion, erudition, intelligence and religious faith as characteristics of a Brahmin. 55, the Vasistha text states that a Brahmin must not accept weapons, poison or liquor as gifts. The Dharmasastras such as Manusmriti, like Dharmsutras, are codes primarily focussed on how a Brahmin must live his life, and their relationship with a king and warrior class.
Manusmriti dedicates 1,034 verses, the largest portion, on laws for and expected virtues of Brahmins. A well disciplined Brahmin, although he knows just the Savitri verse, is far better than an undisciplined one who eats all types of food and deals in all types of merchandise though he may know all three Vedas. Brahmin is not unlike the Platonic-Aristotelian philosopher” with the difference that the latter was not sacerdotal. Brahmin, no sacrifice, no ritualistic act of any kind ever, even once, is referred to in any Indian text” dated to be from the first century CE or before. Their role as priests and repository of sacred knowledge, as well as their importance in the practice of Vedic Shrauta rituals grew during the Gupta Empire era and thereafter.
However, the knowledge about actual history of Brahmins or other varnas of Hinduism in and after 1st-millennium is fragmentary and preliminary, with little that is from verifiable records or archeological evidence, and much that is constructed from a-historical Sanskrit works and fiction. Current research in the area is fragmentary. The state of our knowledge of this fundamental subject is preliminary, at best. Most Sanksrit works are a-historic or, at least, not especially interested in presenting a chronological account of India’s history. Nepal, the texts do not deal with brahmins in great detail. The Gautama Dharmasutra states in verse 10.