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What is Jati, what is Gotra, what is Varna?

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  #1  
Old 11 September 2007, 12:32 PM
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What is Jati, what is Gotra, what is Varna?

As a WSH, (white Saxon Hindu) I am very confused about Jati and Gotra. The more I read, the more confused I get. It seems to me that Jati and Gotra are hereditary social constructs based on the varna system which does not seem to be originally hereditary.

If I am wrong, please correct me. This has become problematic for me, in that so many people say that only those who are born Brahmins are qualified to act as pujaris. They say it's in the DNA, but I see so many Brahmins who abuse their position, and who choose not to practice the Brahmin way of life.
There are others, who are not Brahmins by birth who claim to have the knowledge and wisdom and who claim to live the life, who would like to officiate at pujas, but are blocked from doing so.

So, for example, if my father was a household servant, can I still become a school teacher?
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Old 11 September 2007, 03:04 PM
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Re: What is Jati, what is Gotra, what is Varna?

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Originally Posted by devisarada View Post
As a WSH, (white Saxon Hindu) I am very confused about Jati and Gotra. The more I read, the more confused I get. It seems to me that Jati and Gotra are hereditary social constructs based on the varna system which does not seem to be originally hereditary.

If I am wrong, please correct me. This has become problematic for me, in that so many people say that only those who are born Brahmins are qualified to act as pujaris. They say it's in the DNA, but I see so many Brahmins who abuse their position, and who choose not to practice the Brahmin way of life.
There are others, who are not Brahmins by birth who claim to have the knowledge and wisdom and who claim to live the life, who would like to officiate at pujas, but are blocked from doing so.

So, for example, if my father was a household servant, can I still become a school teacher?
Please do not even go there. It is all man made for convinience. Any way , it is history, let us move on. How about talking about consciousness?
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Old 11 September 2007, 10:01 PM
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Re: What is Jati, what is Gotra, what is Varna?

I am also a WSH, although I prefer WASH as it's more humourous. I'm also Canadian, but in Edmonton. I know nothing at all of Jati, but I can tell you what I do know of gotra, which probably isn't much, being a WSH. At the temple here, when filling in the archana form, I was told by Guru that I should besides name and nakshatra, put in Gotra, which in my understanding is roughly translated as 'family', and I put in the Parampara. The priest does inform the murthi in the archana, this much I know, as I hear him say it. However the temple archana form does not have a place for the gotra, just nakshatra. Because most of the devotees (and the temple management)are Sri Lankan in origin, many don't have , don't know, or don't wish to put in their gotra. However, the Indian brahmins (not the temple brahmins, but the ones working as professionals but still very aware of their caste, especially do put in gotra, at least some do. I don't know if this answered your question at all, or made it more confusing. Hope the former... Aum Namashivaya
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Old 12 September 2007, 10:32 AM
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Re: What is Jati, what is Gotra, what is Varna?

Namaste devi,

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Originally Posted by devisarada View Post
So, for example, if my father was a household servant, can I still become a school teacher?
The answer to question is a YES with 100% certainity!

When I was growing up in India (northern) I remember at least two teachers that were from 'dalit' jati. One was a math teacher in my grade 8 class and the other a history teacher but I can't remember the grade now!

I clearly remember my math teacher of grade 8...he was the smartest teacher around; my year was his last year of before retirement. I ran into him several times during my college years (grade 11, 12).

My uncle and aunt in India are both professors in a university...I shall ask them the next time I speak to them about how many professors they have in their university from what is known as 'backward jatis' or 'scheduled castes'...I bet there are several, probably some even as high as the Dean of university!

Re jati and gotra, I will let other more knowledgeable members take the lead otherwise I might cause more confusion due to my lack of formal knowledge on the subject...
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Old 12 September 2007, 01:20 PM
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Re: What is Jati, what is Gotra, what is Varna?

Thank-you Satay.

Another question, my Guru said that as a Hindu, I must believe that only someone born in a family Brahmin can legitimately perform havan or agni hotra.

I can't agree with this, but I do not have the scholarly backgroung to prove it.
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Old 12 September 2007, 01:29 PM
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Re: What is Jati, what is Gotra, what is Varna?

Namaskar Devi,
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Originally Posted by devisarada View Post
As a WSH, (white Saxon Hindu) I am very confused about Jati and Gotra. The more I read, the more confused I get. It seems to me that Jati and Gotra are hereditary social constructs based on the varna system which does not seem to be originally hereditary.
I tend to agree with you. Jati and gotra are social constructs that got muddled up with varna, which was probably otherwise a theoretical and purely spiritual concept.

Jati means birth, and there are a few thousand jatis. We can call them ethno-tribal-occupational groups. In Indian society, birth into a jati determines varna. Do I think this is contrary to the original concept of varna? Yes, absolutely.

Gotra is also of confusion to me as well. From what I understand, originally gotra was passed down from guru to disciples. Some say there are truly only 7 (or 8) gotras named after the 7 (or 8) Vedic sages. In truth, today there are hundreds of gotras and millions of people without gotra, and for those that have a gotra, it is today passed down from the father in Indian communities.

From a spiritual perspective, I feel all of the social constructs are unimportant and we ought not pay too much attention to these things.

OM Shanti,
A.
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Old 12 September 2007, 01:50 PM
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Re: What is Jati, what is Gotra, what is Varna?

Namaste Agnideva,

Thank-you for that. It is good to know that jati and gotra are not part of the philosophy of Sanatana Dharma. These questions are of no concern to me in my daily life, but sometimes when people ask me about the caste system, I want to make sure that I am giving an answer that is not just my opinion.
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