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India/Caste System 6/10/09

India’s Geography

• Large peninsula of the Asian continent

• Connected to foreign lands by trade routes

○ Waterways very important

○ Indian Ocean, Indus and Ganges Rivers

○ Promotes trade and spread of ideas

• Physical Barriers- Mountains (isolation)

○ Himalayas

○ Hindu Kush

Aryan Invasion

• Who were the Aryans?

○ Indo-Europeans, fair skin, “nobles”

○ Pastoral nomads (desire for more cows= wealth)

○ Central Russia

○ Non-Aryans: natives, non-Europeans, dark skin, “dasa”

• Conquer the Dravidians- descendents of the Indus


• Vedas- sacred teachings of the Aryans (oral history)- passed down

by generations

○ Upanishads (written)

○ Consist of: prayers, Gods, magic spells, and rituals

Birth of the Caste System

• In the beginning, Aryans and Non-Aryans (dasa) mixed freely

• Caste System

○ 4 castes known as Varnas (skin color)

○ Born into it for life and determined your role in society

○ Grows more complex over time

 Each varna divided into subsections called Jati

○ Varnas emerged from the mouth, arms, legs, and feet of

Perusha (1st human) – identified with the creator God.

 Body part indicated the dignity and role of the specific

caste

• 4 Varnas
○ Bramin- priests

○ Kshatriyas- royalty and warriors (ruling caste)

○ Vaishya- merchants and farmers

○ Shudra- laborers and peasants

○ **Untouchables- outside the caste system, unpleasant jobs,

members are forbidden to touch anyone in the other varnas


Hinduism/Buddhism 6/11/09

Roots of Hinduism

• Collection of religious beliefs, developed slowly

○ Not 1 founder with a single set of ideas

• Polytheistic- 300 million nature gods

• Believe religion frees the soul from the illusions, disappointments,

and mistakes of everyday life

• Used Upanishads (written teachings of the Vedas)

Beliefs

• Ultimate goal- reach Brahman, acquire moksha, state of perfect

state of being

• Reincarnation (samsara)

• Karma- good/bad deeds influence life circumstance

• Yoga and meditation

• Influences the Caste system

• Trinity of Gods (cyclical)

○ Brahma, creator

○ Vishnu, preserver

○ Shiva, destroyer
India/Caste System 6/10/09

• How do you reach Brahman?

○ Good karma

○ Moving up the caste

Origins of Buddhism

• Began in India (Nepal) 2,500 years ago

• A philosophy NOT a faith

• Founder- Siddhartha Gautama (based on legend)

○ Spent his life seeking an end to suffering, discovered the

cause and cure

○ Known as “Buddha”

Buddhism Beliefs
India/Caste System 6/10/09

• 4 Noble Truths

○ Life is full of suffering and sorrow

○ Cause of suffering is the desire for unrealistic/temporary

things (like power, riches)

○ Only cure for suffering is to overcome desire

○ Need to follow the Eightfold Path to overcome desire

• Eightfold Path

○ Like a ladder, master one step at a time to seek

enlightenment

○ Ultimate goal= Nirvana (like moksha)

 Achieve Nirvana through meditation, reincarnation,

karma, and nonviolence (like Hindus)

○ Dharma, “3 Jewels” of Buddhism

 Take refuge in Buddha

 Take refuge in the law

 Take refuge in the community

Life Path- ultimate goal


India/Caste System 6/10/09

• Understanding 4 Noble Truths and following the Eightfold Path

• Live a moral life

• Meditation

• Nirvana- released from cycle of rebirth

Buddha’s Death

• Legend- died laying on his side, represents his achievement of

nirvana and acceptance of death

• Teachings of Buddha written after his death include- rituals,

meditation

• Buddhism is an inner journey, not to god, but to bliss (nirvana)

○ Meditate to find the “meaning of life”