India Glossary
Brahmin

   The ancient Hindus believed, like the Egyptians, that they fundamentally understood the workings of the universe and could, through that understanding, manipulate the material and spiritual worlds through magic. In this sense, magic is a form of technology, that is, it is primarily efficient: it begins with an understanding of the mechanisms of the universe and exploits those mechanisms to make things happen (efficient=making something happen). The ancient Hindus turned to prayer, spells, incantations, rituals, and sacrifices to bring about changes in the world, particularly the physical world. They named the power inherent in spells, prayers, and rituals "brahma" or "brahman."


India Glossary
Brahman
   One encounters this word, "brahman," all over Hinduism: Brahman, the one god of the universe, Brahma, the creator god, and brahmin, "priest." Since the priests were the keepers of the rituals and the incantations, it was the priests who had brahma. This aspect of Hinduism is called Brahminism: Hinduism characterized by magical and ritualistic practices performed by an elite priesthood.


   Brahminism forms one of the two main aspects of Vedic culture, the other being intellectual Hinduism as it is represented in the Upanishads, which deliberately and often stridently sets itself in opposition to the priests and their practices.


India Glossary
Caturvarnas

Dharma
   Armed with spells and with the rituals outlined in the >Brahmanas, the brahmins were powerful beings who could command the gods to bring about whatever they please. Things didn't happen because the gods made them happen; things happened because the priests made the gods make them happen. Because of this immense power over the whole of creation, the brahmins occupied the highest position in the hierarchy of society, forming the principle class of the "four colors" or castes.


      The Upanishadic literature, as well as Jainism and Buddhism were reactions against both the social position and pervasiveness of the brahmins in early Indian society.

Richard Hooker



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1994, Richard Hooker
Updated 10-01-97