Does Swadharma Determine Caste OR Does Caste Determine Swadharma?

This morning I was very impressed when an American colleague at work asked about Swadharma and Karma. We got into an interesting exchange for over an hour and and among other things, a few of us who were Indians unanimously felt that there was ‘dignity of labor’ in America which was lacking in the Indian society, which was also contributing to the imbalance in the society. 

Compounding this further was the misunderstanding and misuse of the Caste system and the ignorance of  Swadharma.

In America, one would often find people saying ‘do what you like and love most, find what you are passionate about, figure out what makes you tick…’ and I think people truly live by this philosophy – be it flipping burgers, selling soda, music, or hair cutting…. On the other hand, we Indians seem to have got it completely wrong and appear to be approaching it quite the opposite way. We first want to find out where is it that one can make maximum money and that is what we want to pursue, regardless of inert capability, liking and potential. Our scriptures say the net result of this approach is in the end is only ONE – UNHAPPINESS. One should examine this closely and be honest to oneself.

The quaility of life,  money are secondary and the belief is they are just a by product of the passion. Whatever one makes after that, he/she may or may not be materially well off but the belief is one will most certainly be  inwardly happy and centered. This is exactly what our scriptures teach us too. Our scriptures also stress on one finding, doing and exceling  in one’s area of passion based on one capability, and this is called  Swadharma.

The Sanatana Dharma definition of swadharma is an all inclusive definition. It recognizes that in society there will be people with different capabilities, skills and interests and therefore proposes swadharma as that work that best fits at the point of convergence of the two –  interest & capability, and then developing the appropriate skills needed to excel in that craft.

In hindsight, probably the single and perhaps the biggest mistake (though done with good and noble intentions) was the creation of the caste system/structure based on swadharma. This has been more of a bane than a boon. It has plagued the fabric of the society.  While Swadhama supposed to determine which caste one would fall under, it is caste that is today driving one’s swadharma.

Ignorant of Swadharma and the Caste system, the society is degenerating by the day. Caste has created such stark and deep divides that it will be a few more centuries before one can hope to transcend the caste chasms.

The recent incident in Karnataka, where a Brahmin family killed their daughter for marrying a Dalit. This is still happening in the 21st century and this is one example amidst thousands. In the day of internet, I hear from some of the team members that now we have match-making websites based on the caste system. These will only solidfy the caste model than aid in dissolve.

A Village Shamed & Silent
Read more at:

When will we be able to get beyond this?


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