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Social Justice: Cost of Accident…of Birth

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My birth was an accident…but not in the way you think.

As a matter of fact, the way I am thinking, yours was too!! The context and circumstance I was born in, and the traits I was born with, was as much an accident as, or as random as, the ant that got trampled in my home town the second I was born!

There’s no argument anyone can give me to adequately explain why I was born in a small town, as a brown-skinned ethnic Tibetan to a couple from low socioeconomic background in the beautiful little country of Nepal, instead of being born a Caucasian with blond hair and blue eyes in the equally beautiful country of Norway. Or why I wasn’t born as a skinny little black Masai child in the incomparable Serengeti plains of Tanzania! Or why I wasn’t born where you were born, or vice versa!

Before our birth, not a single one of us chose, or had any say in, the characteristics we were born with! (Ok, the Tibetan Buddhists among you can give me a break and not bring up the case of Tulkus! 🙂 )

(Science can explain the reason for some of our traits after birth by looking at the traits of our parents, which however is something else entirely!)

Buddhist Wheel of Life.
Buddhist Wheel of Life. (Click on the image for the original.) If interested in the details, click here for an interactive tour.

As a Tibetan Buddhist, and like most other Buddhists (and Hindus), I believe in karma and reincarnation. My actions in my previous incarnation — karma — I believe, determined the context and circumstances of my birth — reincarnation. Consistent with this belief system, is the belief in the principle of compassion which dictates how I should live my current life so that I accrue merits — “good karma” — which, in turn, will ensure reincarnation in “better form” next time around! The Buddhist Wheel of Life depicts all of that in great detail — the different forms of life, the different realms and reincarnations etc.

To believe in the doctrines of karma, reincarnation and compassion, and to live according to their dictates is one thing. But to require that others also embrace that belief system is misguided.

To use that belief system as a yardstick to pass judgement on and explain the circumstances of someone else’s birth and/or the conditions of someone else’s life is going one step further.

To make someone else suffer for their birth into a less fortunate set of circumstances, using that belief system — the idea of karma — is taking a step in the wrong direction!

But, unfortunately, there are those who view the circumstances of our birth as an end in itself and engage in all three of them.

Birth is NOT an end. #CasteSystem #Nepal Click To Tweet

Christians (and Muslims), for instance, use the terms “Infidels” to refer to those not born as one and/or the non-converts. The term, obviously, has negative connotations. In my travels around the world, I met christians who told me that I would “burn in hell for eternity,” unless I converted. I have known and heard of adherents of these religions who, in addition to demeaning and denigrating the “infidels” verbally, also abused them in a number of different ways!

The Hindus have their own aberration…with their caste system! They believe that one’s birth into a family, and a profession, is one’s karma — pre-determined fate, and therefore deserved! Birth as a hill high caste Hindu could mean a life of privilege. The cost of birth as a Dalit, low caste, is a dear one — they pay for it every day of their lives, for their entire lives! The higher castes (and our society) make sure of that, and in doing so, they have taken a step in the wrong direction!

What of those who are accidentally born a non-Hindu in Nepal, or outside, and therefore not within the purview of the caste system?

Hindus classify them as “outcasts,” even worse than Dalits! Though outcasts born in Nepal are discriminated and mistreated, I have yet to see those born elsewhere, notably the Westerners, being mistreated to the same degree on that basis.

Reiterating something I have described elsewhere, the caste system and the human rights violations that it promotes must end.

It must end because, firstly, it’s a system based on a spurious logic.

#CasteSystem must end because it's based on a spurious logic.#Nepal Click To Tweet

It must end because, secondly, it’s a system perpetuated and enforced by those who believe in it for the simple fact that they seek to maintain their own falsely inflated sense of superiority and to exert power and control over others.

It must end because, lastly, we, as a society, are paying dearly; the human cost of this archaic system is just too huge to ignore any more.

For it to end, changes in perception, attitude and then behavior must take place. For such changes to occur, education is crucial — education of both Dalits and non-dalits.

For #CasteSystem to end, changes in perception, attitude & then behavior must take place. #Nepal Click To Tweet

Education of Dalits will empower them to break away from the control of the high castes. COMMITTED has begun to contribute towards this by sponsoring the education of some Dalit children in Thangpalkot.

Education of the non-dalits — especially the high castes — will instill in them the spuriousness of a logic that relies on an accidental event as its argument! They may even abandon their belief in the system in favor of a more humanistic interpretation of the human condition and thereby minimize human costs, benefiting everyone.

Who knows, they may even empathize with others, including Dalits! One can always dream and hope!

 

 

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