A Brief Look At India’s Caste System

The social structure in India is known as the “caste system.” This system divides people into different classes which are dependent on your birth. One cannot leave the caste into which one is born. Most of the children in our homes are from families in the dalit caste, or “untouchables,” the lowest caste. These people are typically below the poverty line and many times cannot afford to raise children.

While it is difficult (if not impossible) to generalize the Hindu belief system, nearly all Hindus believe in the idea of reincarnation, which is the belief that after you die you will come back and live as some other being. What you come back as is completely dependent on how well you lived your previous life. There are two important words with which you should familiarize yourself when talking about Hinduism: Dharma and Karma.

Volumes have been written on what Dharma means, but a short and simple definition would be “duty.” When someone is born, they are born with a Dharma that should guide everything they do in life. An example of this is that if someone is born as the child of servants, then their Dharma is to also be a servant.

Karma is a word with which you might be familiar. Karma means “what goes around comes around.” From a Hindu’s perspective, the “going around” and the “coming around” are not limited to this life. If someone does something bad in this life, some Hindus would believe the bad thing can come around in the next life to haunt you. Similarly, if you do something good in this life, you will be blessed in the next life because of the good you did in this life.

It is up to each individual to fulfill their Dharma, which brings good Karma. Having good Karma means you will reincarnate as something better in the next life. Your state in life now, a Hindu would believe, is a result of how you lived your previous life. So, every person is completely responsible for their status now. If you are successful, then you followed your Dharma in your previous life. If you are not, then you did not follow your Dharma and thus have bad Karma.