ISKCON’s sanitised version of the caste system does not foster progress of the lower castes

Even while saying that the caste system is based on psycho-physical properties, it propagates the caste system which must be abolished by the roots


The Varnashram system or classification of society as per caste has been a malaise in India for centuries, holding it back from any real social progress or human development. The system that classifies people into Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras and categorises them as being eligible for certain types of work based on their birth or qualities, still continues to propel inequality and discrimination in the 21st century. And then there are people it leaves out of its fold… the Dalits, who have been historically oppressed and exploited by the Savarnas.

While some, like the Shankaracharya Nischalananda Saraswati propound that the caste of people and hence their fate is determined by birth, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) says that the Varnashram system recognizes the natural talents and abilities of each person and provides work according to a person’s qualities and work and is not to be confused with the corrupt caste system of India, which decides caste by birth, which they claim has been the destruction of the entire social structure in India.

However, even this explanation by ISKCON is derogatory towards the Shudras. As described on by Madhdvisa Dasa, “The sudras have little intelligence and must therefore be engaged in the service of one of the other three classes.” However, in a bid to perhaps soften the blow, he adds to say that if proper education is provided to the shudras who have the capacity to learn, they can be elevated to higher positions in the social structure. Madhdvisa Dasa says that these perfect laws have been given in the Manu Samhita, by the ‘father of mankind’, Manu.

ISKCON constantly propounds that these four classes – Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras are decided as per psycho-physical nature and are required to run the society. What is problematic is that ISKCON has already decided the nature and areas of work of people and cast them into the mold. They say that the class system is prevalent worldwide and employs people according to these psycho-physical qualities.

Not only is this a very narrow outlook, making employment the biggest aspect of the caste system, but also retrogressive in the current era because while it says that shudras can be educated so as to get a higher place in the social structure, it doesn’t destroy the social structure itself.

Below are a few examples by ISKCON where it clarifies the division of labour, even while still propagating that the class system be in place.

In this video, Amogh Lila Prabhu, speaks about assigning work to people based on their proclivities and educating and training people to rise higher into the social structure. He also adds that the reforms brought about by Raja Ram Mohun Roy and others who worked for the upliftment of people, was a distorted version of Indian culture. He adds that prior to this, the class system worked on identifying skills and placing them in the caste best suited for them. Yet, there is no evidence to prove that such a system existed even in the Vedic times.

This pre-set discrimination is also very visible in another lecture by ISKCON’s Radheshyam Das who talks about four different people, with four different qualities to chalk out the distinction between the classes.

In another video, a person, purportedly from ISKCON is seen saying that shudras are an essential part of the class system and according to the division of labour and their qualities, they can, for example, can be seen working as peons in a university serving the Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas who work as teachers, administrators or people who collect fees.


In another video by Amogh Lila Prabhu, he describes beautiful people as descending from heaven and ugly people coming from hell – a twisted version of racism.

Even if ISKCON paints itself to be neo-liberal in its approach by saying that people are to be identified and trained according to their skills, it has translated into nothing on ground for people who have been systematically discriminated against and have been at the mercy of a Brahminical bureaucracy. Everywhere from civil society to state services, Dalits and other backward classes have faced negligent progress with evidence of Dalits still being pushed into manual scavenging due to poverty and ostracisation.

The problem is that not many, including the so-called educated ‘upper’ castes seek to shed their ignorance about the problem and engage in understanding the problems with Manusmriti that is so rampantly being propagated, albeit in a washed-down manner.

In this way, what ISKCON promotes is a sanitised version of the Manusmriti which must be abolished in the current civilization because while it calls for progress, it still holds in place the shackles that will always prevent people from progressing and achieving their true and fair potential.


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