SuttaCentral

What can be synonymous with the brahmin caste today?


#1

A part from India, what can be synonymous with the brahmin caste, in other cultures?
Can brahmins be likened to christian priests?


#2

I would say protestant preachers (aka local licensed local pastors) of evangelicalism are closer.

They indulge in sensual pleasures, love to be given money and stuff, and preach as if they were the only thing between the populace and God above! :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


#3

You mean as in divinely “chosen people”?


#4

This Wiki entry does mention some kinds of Christian priests in its list.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Priestly_caste

See also:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_Ukrainian_clergy


#5

I would say any spiritual leader or holy man who presents himself as providing followers with a special link to salvation, which can be accessed by making donations to that holy man, qualifies as a brahminical personality.


#7

Frankly, I don’t personally find this question relevant to either the general study of the EBTs or to my own practice.


#8

#9

Yeah, but I feel it better to worry about my own condition rather than the conditions of others. Just my personal opinion, nothing more.


#10

Amazing, I had no idea! As so often, one of the key underlying issues seems to be the control of real estate. It’s such a powerful motivating force, and such a powerful attachment.


#11

In Sri Lanka, there does seem to be a significant development of the ‘brahmin’ monk. In some ways, the early stages of a brahmin sect within the Buddhist monastic order, however it does seem to have become the predominant feature accepted by the general population.
Most laity refer to monks as priests, and in ‘general’ that is how they act i.e. The priestly caste is a social group responsible for officiating over sacrifices and leading prayers or other religious functions, particularly in nomadic and tribalsocieties. (According to the wiki link)

I have met many laity who are even surprised by the monastic rules of not eating in the afternoon, or being alone with women, receiving money,driving cars,owning vast properties, cows,slaves etc
In any case the ‘monk’ will always be an endangered species.

I believe that the Buddha did warn about such things arising in the future.

One way to get vast amounts of real estate is to enter the political scene, which again is growing in popularity amongst the brahmin type monks of Sri Lanka.


#12

Although the suttas do seem to disparage some Brahmins for their large accumulations of wealth in landholdings, it seems to me the main criticism is the sacrifice itself. You give the Brahmin some money, he does a sacrifice for you, and that is supposed to make you better off in some department of worldly life, in either this world or the next. I understood the Buddha to have taught that these sacrifices were utterly without effect, and so the whole sacrificial business was a scam.


#13

Interesting – that the USSR had it in for the “Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church” – in light of recent news of some Ukrainian church disassociating from the Russian church, and the Russian government taking objection…


#14

This is an interesting question I hadn’t thought of before. Of course, priests and preachers are an obvious answer.

But if one extends the idea of what a brahmin was back then, not just religious leaders, but also elite, high class intellectuals, then perhaps one can also include elite intellectuals, university professors, etc as “secular” brahmins.


#15

The difference is that for the brahmins their status was hereditary. We don’t do that any more, but it is undeniably the case that the members of the elite—especially the rich—still inherit much of what they have from their birth. Getting a “good” degree is almost impossible for the poor, but apparently any rich fool can do it.


#16

It all depends on context. I hold an advanced degree and am employed as a university professor. But in the presence of monastics at the Wat I attend I don’t feel much like a brahmin. I have only been practicing Buddhism for about a year and strive to exhibit a degree of humility commensurate with my level of learning about Buddhist teachings which is still very much in the initial stages.

When I attend the Wat I bow to the monks, aid in serving them their meals, clean their plates after meals, and generally try to make myself useful during Sunday services by helping with food preparation and cleaning up after the communal meal. At weekly meditation lessons for English speakers I listen attentively and only volunteer responses when called on. The Wat abbot has asked me to help him practice English. He often refers to me when talking to others as “teacher,” but really, it is he is teaching me about the Dhamma and I defer to him on all matters Dhamma-related.

By the way, even in my capacity as university professor I don’t feel much like a brahmin. Students routinely send me e-mail messages informing me that they will be submitting their papers late, among other things. I depend on positive teaching evaluations for my own periodic performance reviews, so as one of my colleagues at another university said about students, “the customer is always right.”

Anyway, none of this is meant as a complaint. In my practice I am endeavoring to liberate myself from delusions and see things as they really are. I am under no illusion that holding an advanced academic degree bestows me with any sort of privileged status. At one time that bothered me, but since I been practicing Buddhism I have made great effort to release that attachment.


#17

I want to note that Brahmin is not necessarily a bad thing in the suttas, many of the Buddha’s students were brahmins. It just meant a particular elite class.


#18

Yes, the Buddha did praise the brahmins of the past for being quite virtuous, and compared the brahmins in his day to dogs, implying that even dogs are more virtuous.

Brāhmaṇadhammika Sutta Snp 2.7 ,
Soṇa Sutta AN 5.191

The brahmin is a broad term,I think, it doesn’t specifically mean ‘priest’ or ascetic,because some brahmins of old did have families, and some were celibate, some resembled ascetic monks, while others resembled extremely virtuous householders, both, however, interested in the ‘Dharma’ (not necessarily the Buddha’s).

From the suttas, as some will have read,there are suggestions from the Buddha ,on how to live a virtuous laylife, which include duties within a marriage, how to spend ones earnings righteously gained ‘through the sweat of ones brow’, respect for elders, a moral code and so on…
Through some basic googling research over the years, to me the Amish communities seem to best fit with those sutta ideals for householder life; of course their belief in christian God is the major difference in regards the Buddhist householder.
However, they seem like an equivalent to the brahmin householders of old( the ones praised by the Buddha).

They have strong families,an impressive work ethic, humbleness well developed, value for simple plain living, self sustaining lifestyles, a place for everyone and everyone in their place, voluntarily.
Of course, when it comes to freedom from suffering,…well that’s another story.

In the link below, it also describes how they pass down there hymns/ chants, and also seems to be inaccordance with the old brahmin ways of chant/hymn preservation. There is no harmonizing or musical instruments either.
“…the tone of many hymns is one of great sorrow, loneliness or protest against the world of wickedness.”


#19

The question is very misleading. The Brahmin caste (varna) is a large group of people, with a tiny amount of actual priests. I guess you’re asking about ‘Brahmin priests’. Just as with other groups we should be careful not to stigmatize them or portray them falsely.

This is largely incorrect. The Buddha’s criticism goes against violent sacrifice. A non-violent yañña is endorsed. This term is not too common though.

When it comes to dakkhina the EBT are just as you portray the Brahmins: You give the Buddha, an arahant, or just any Sangha-member a dakkhina (an offering) and they promise you a good (divine) rebirth - since they are ‘a field of merit’.

The ‘merit-doctrine’ of the EBT is directed at lay people and consistent with the larger karma-doctrine. But inconsistent of course with endless rebirth until nibbana. That dakkhina–> merit --> divine rebirth is praised so much in the EBT without pointing out that a divine rebirth without sotapatti is utterly pointless is very weird to say the least.

So if some of you guys want to bash preaching in this thread please look at Buddhist preaching in the EBT as well. Or doesn’t it count because giving to the Sangha ‘really’ produces a good rebirth?


#20

The issue might be finding a middle ground between a being a Buddhist Bhikkhu and being a lay person. An Anagarika state might be an alternative but practically some are living lay lives practicing not quite as anagarika but without marriage or without kids etc. There are various combinations possible and may vary with the phase one is in life and practice of renunciation.


#21

I think this is mentioned in a sutta, and Buddha denies its exclusivity - he says any giving is meritorious. As to who is more beneficial to give to it is about purity of a the mind, of the giver and beneficiary of the gift. Attainments count as well.