-To safeguard the welfare and security of Brahmins in the Indian Continent, in the United States, and throughout the world.
-To strengthen the basic principles of pluralism around the world, as the best defense against anti-Brahmanism and other forms of bigotry.
-To enhance the quality of Brahmin life by helping
to ensure Brahmin continuity and deepen ties between Indian Brahmins, American
Brahmins and the Brahmins world over.
Goals Should be:
Committed to strengthening understanding and communication
across religious lines. Our goals should include communicating concerns
and sensitivities of the community to those of other tribes, castes and
faiths, and helping the Brahmin community understand the concerns and sensitivities
of others. The Brahmin organizations like Brahmana Sadassu, Telangana
Archaka Samakhya, Archaka Congress, Archaka Sevasamiti etc. should
encourage inter-religious/tribal/caste dialogue throughout the world through
exchanges among seminaries, colleges, universities, and learned societies.
Through organizational partnerships and coalitions, formal and informal discussions
and conversations, academic conferences, publications, and personal interaction,
our efforts have made major contributions to cooperation and mutual respect
among peoples of all faiths.
In a world of increasing pluralism, efforts that bring together representatives of a growing number of religions and faiths are crucial. These organizations should work with established organizations to foster understanding and lay the groundwork for joint statements and efforts based on common values and dreams. At the same time, these organizations should be committed to pursue new opportunities and fostering new initiatives with individuals, institutions, and organizations representing other faiths, castes, and tribal communities.
Education and Identity
The mission of Brahmin organizations like Brahmana Sadassu should include safeguarding the continuity and ensuring the future quality of Brahmin life. It is recognized the centrality of education to efforts to ensure Brahmin continuity (or any community that is interested in preserving its culture and heritage). One must recognize the importance of broad efforts to intensify Brahmin education on all levels, including increasing the number of contact hours and years of schooling, creation of realistic goals, introduction of Brahmin studies into public and nonsectarian private education, broadening of Brahmin studies on university campuses, intensification and broadening of day school education, and greater communal investment in Brahmin education broadly conceived.
The classroom time usually devoted to education generally omits Brahmin education altogether. The critical years of adolescence, which research has demonstrated are the most crucial years for impacting upon long-term identity are completely neglected. Day school education, once considered marginal to the system, now has become a viable option within each of the religious movements as well as under communal or trans-denominational auspices.
Alumni of Jewish day schools, particularly on high school levels, report continued long-term Jewish identification and involvement underscoring the effectiveness of day school instruction. On college campuses, where once academic Jewish studies was limited to handful of elite Universities, today virtually every university of note boasts a substantial Jewish studies program signaling the legitimization of Jewish culture by the canons of American university life. Similarly, the Hillel Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, in recent years, increasingly has enhanced its presence and programs on college campuses. The total population of Jewish community is approximately 5 million in Israel, where as the Brahmin community in Andhra Pradesh is about 2 million and in India and around world is more than 20 million (by an extrapolation of 2% in Andhra Pradesh). Brahmin community has to learn a lot from Jewish organizations and religion in developing the identity and maintaining the Brahmin identity and continuity.
A Brahmin who is literate in Brahminical education is simply far more likely to become a committed Brahmin. Moreover, Brahminical education should become a potential bridge issue around which diverse sectors in the Brahmin community may cooperate in the pursuit of common goals of enhancing the Brahmin future.
A. Brahmin Education as Communal Priority
1. Brahmin education, broadly conceived, must become a critical priority in the allocation of communal resources for domestic needs.
2. To ensure educational effectiveness, Brahmin education must target the entire Brahmin family, enabling parents to create a Brahmin-supportive environment in which the education of their children can occur. Therefore, emphasis upon adult and parental education is critical for the success of Brahmin education generally.
3. No single model of Brahmin education will work for all Brahmins. Therefore it is imperative that the community create a variety of successful models of formal and informal education including day schools, supplementary schools, and community-based schools so as to maximize parental choice in seeking models that best fit the Brahmin needs of particular children and families.
As the Brahmin community forges ahead in the new millennium, its greatest challenge lies in confronting the prospect of continued erosion and assimilation of Brahmins and loss of Brahminical culture. Brahminical/Vedic education remains the primary response to that danger. To collectively meet the challenge of securing Brahmin continuity, Brahminical education on all levels must be strengthened and enhanced.
The scheme of Education framed by ancient Brahmins to initiate the young men for preparing them for membership of the community marked a great advance over the primitive idea of initiation. Without the Upanayana no Brahmin could call himself a twice-born, Dwija. One who would not undergo this samskara was excommiunicated and debarred from all the privileges of the Brahmin community. The Upanayana initiation was a passport to the literary treasures of Brahmins that were orally transmitted for several millennia and religiosity and without it none could marry a Brahmin girl. Thus the Brahmin ideal made the education an indispensable test and insignia of the Brahmin community and religiosity. This Upanayana should be performed for both boys and girls as we move forward in the new millennium.
(This initiation is limited to boys only. A Brahmin boy is initiated at about fifth year. The corresponding Iranian rite is called Naujat, by which Persian children, both boys and girls, receive religious initiation after they have attained six years and three months. The Kshatriya Upanayana rite is performed in the sixth year, Vaishya community performs the Upanayana initiation at the age of eight and the Jewish initiation is performed at the age of twelve for a boy and at the age of thirteen for a girl. The corresponding Jewish rite is called Bar/Bat Mitzvah. This similarity indicates that the Naujat, Upanayana and Bar/Bat Mitzvah initiations had their origins in common ancestry of Persians, Jews, Brahmins, Vaishyas and Kshatriyas. While Persians and Jews perform this initiation to both girls and boys, Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas limit it to the boys only. Jewish children begin for their Bar/Bat Mitzvah by going to Hebrew/Religious school some years before they actually turn Bar/Bat Mitzvah age. In fact, some children begin attending afternoon religious school from the time they enter kindergarten. The purpose of going to religious school is to learn about Jewish customs, holidays, history, and the Hebrew language. In the year leading up to the event the person begins more intense training focused specifically on their Torah portion and the accompanying prayers. The day the young person is Bar/Bat Mitzvah is the first time he/she will have ever been called to the Torah. To say the blessings over the Torah one must be Bar/Bat Mitzvah age. The age difference between Jews and others is probably due to the fact that the Jewish child starts religious education several years before and is declared knowledgeable after the performance of Bar/Bat Mitzvah, where as Iranians, Brahmins, Kshatriya and Vaisyas begin their religious education after the initiation.)
B. Cost and Affordability
Quality Brahmin education must be regarded as a matter of right rather than privilege. The entire Brahmin community must assume the responsibility for funding Brahmin education. We recommend creation of a communal endowment fund established for the express purpose of providing per-student subsidies determined by family income and tuition levels and applicable towards any form of quality Brahmin education for children and youth. Creation of such a system would insure the principle of affordability funded entirely by the Brahmin community without recourse to governmental assistance. As a symbolic step in this direction, creation of a Brahmin communal fund to enable children of communal professionals to pursue quality Brahmin education is recommended.
C. Supplementary Schools
1. The supplementary schools should be created with high expectations, greater communal investment in personnel and teacher training, and exploration of alternative programs and models.
2. We must establish the principle within supplementary education of continuing Brahmin schooling after the Upanayanam (at the age of 5), as the child enters the secular education in public and private schools.
To ensure Brahmin continuity, the supplementary school must be created and enhanced and in some cases rethought so as to enable effective transmission of Brahmin heritage.
D. Continuing Brahmin Education
1. Successful models of adult Brahmin educational programs need to be created for a broader cross section of Brahmins.
2. Brahmin organizations must play a particular role in adult education for their own members.
Programs along the lines of the adult Jewish history curriculum developed by the American Jewish Committee (AJC) merit adaptation and utilization for Brahmin community.
E. Brahmin Day Schools
Existing research on Jewish day schools both in the United States and in other Jewish communities demonstrates high levels of communal involvement among their adult graduates. This has been particularly the case among those who pursue day school education through the high school years. Moreover, those high schools that have studied their alumni, over succeeding years, report both continued Jewish communal involvement for the overwhelming majority of graduates.
It is crucial that in the absence of governmental funding in secular society the Brahmin community should ensure sufficient Brahmin communal funding so as to enable any Brahmin child who chooses to do so to afford Brahmin day school education. Therefore we recommend that the Brahmin community must be challenged to ensure the affordability and availability of day school education for all Brahmins who desire it.
As stated earlier, based on AJC research, the teenage years for formative Brahmin learning and experiences is critical. To strengthen Brahmin education on secondary levels, we recommend the following:
1. Secondary Education
1.The community must establish the principle of continuing Brahmin education on secondary levels.
2.We urge advocacy efforts to enable the movements to provide quality Brahmin day school educational models on adolescent models.
2. Funding for Adolescent Education
Greater communal funding should be awarded to those who pursue Brahmin education through the high school years. If the communal budget does not permit subsidizing all forms of Brahmin education, we recommend targeting of subsidies toward programs geared to adolescents, including summer camp, informal education, and formal high school education.
Initiatives such as those proposed here will encourage greater continuity in Brahmin education.
3. Sanskrit Language Instruction
We recommend advocacy for the inclusion of Sanskrit language instruction within secondary school language curricula.
Of particular concern in recent years has been the decline of Sanskrit-language literacy among Brahmins.
G. Intra-Brahmin Relations
We urge Brahmin organizations, chapters, foundations etc. to make Brahmin education an agenda item for intra-Brahmin dialogue and coalition building for advocacy purposes within the Brahmin community. Brahmin education constitutes a potential bridge issue between the diverse Brahmin religious movements. All Brahmins have a stake in quality Brahmin education as a vehicle of securing Brahmin continuity. At a time of increased polarization within the Brahmin community, the concepts of Brahmin unity and people-hood may be significantly strengthened through common efforts to enhance Brahmin education.
Brahmin Community is experiencing two narratives. Brahmins enjoy greater opportunities than ever before to lead a creative Brahmin life, and many are doing so to degrees never imagined by their parents and grandparents. Conversely, a larger number are choosing to withdraw from Brahmin communal life. Secular education by government and the danger of casteism are some reasons for educated Brahmins to avoid participation in any kind of Brahmin related associations and programs. Further, most secular Brahmins shun any education related to Vedas and Brahmin scriptures as it is viewed as Sangh Parivar related activity. Therefore, communal leaders have to debate how to respond to the crisis in Brahmin continuity.
The Brahmin community’s challenge for the next generation is ensuring the future survival and quality of Brahmin life. Brahmin Federations have to earmark special funding for temple-based programming and have to strengthen the Associations and Foundations, wihtout the fear of being branded as non-secular and casteist. Brahmin Community Centers have to be created and focused on ways to strengthen Brahmin content and educational programming. Brahmin day schools have to grow significantly, especially when all the waking time of a school going child is spent in school, homework, tutorials etc. to compete in a hostile environment, as Brahmin kids are constrained with limited avenues in every aspect of educational, social and vocational life in India through constitutionally mandated and unfair reservations and other quota systems.
Little has been done to address the high cost of leading an intensive Brahmin life. The community remains incapable of adopting a language of distinctive values and norms, articulating both what it is and what it is not.
The crisis is real, yet forms only part of the contemporary Brahmin story. At the very same time that intermarriage has risen and rates of conversion to Brahmanism in mixed-marriages doesn‘t exist. Vehicles for nurturing a creative Brahmin life, e.g. Brahmin day schools, summer camps, have to be developed within the Brahmin community.
In responding to the continuity crisis, communal leaders face a number of critical challenges. A lively debate about how to direct limited communal resources is taking place over questions such as: What initiatives are best able to combat widespread apathy to Brahmin life? Who are the most likely targets for continuity initiatives--the unaffiliated or the marginally affiliated Brahmins interested in Brahmin experiences but who lack the knowledge and capacity to transmit Brahmin heritage? What do we mean by continuity and what is the goal of continuity initiatives? What can the community do to make Brahmin life sufficiently compelling to retain current members and attract new adherents? Answers to these questions will guide principles and strategies for communal action.
The goal of continuity efforts should be development of knowledgeable Brahmins who can make informed choices about the nature of their commitment to Brahmanism and the Brahmin people. In a free society, many will choose to leave, and for that reason some losses are virtually inevitable. Our goal should be to ensure that the choices Brahmins make are informed choices rather than out of ignorance. More knowledgeable Brahmins are, in all likelihood, going to choose to be more spiritual Brahmins and committed vegetarians even if they are agnostic or atheistic.
1. Brahmin organizations should initiate study courses and programs in chapters designed for their own members.
Leadership enhancement programs for both volunteers and professionals are necessary to transform the Brahmin culture of Brahmin organizations.
If Brahmin continuity is indeed the primary challenge for this generation of American and Indian Brahmins, it will require a brahminly-informed leadership to mobilize the community towards that elusive goal. The community should both minimize entry barriers and maintain high standards of involvement. Certainly, the community should be open and welcoming to all interested in leading a Brahmin life. Programming itself, however, should aim to create highly involved Brahmins. There can be no continuity absent sincere commitment to Brahmanism. Vedas have a claim upon all Brahmins-as record of revelations and as inspired texts.
2. Family, temple, youth activities, and school are the primary vehicles of securing Brahmin continuity. Funding and initiatives should be targeted to those institutions that can help Brahmins religiously and spiritually, strengthen Brahmin families, and enhance Brahmin/Vedic/Scriptural knowledge. All Brahmin institutions should be challenged to broaden their Brahmin content and self-image through study programs, seminars, and Vedic literacy institutes.
All Brahmin institutions should be encouraged to pursue Brahmin experiences for their members and constituencies. However, there can be no substitute for home, temple, and school as the primary settings for meaningful Brahmin experiences. Ensuring Brahmin continuity remains primarily an individual and family as well as communal responsibility. Religious pluralism is critical to Brahmin continuity. Different Brahmins will require different avenues to connect with and experience Brahmin tradition and civilizations. Religious pluralism--the availability of diverse models--is critical to nurturing that serious commitment. Ideological disagreements between the religious movements are healthy, as expressed with moderation and respect, both as correctives to excesses of one another and as a statement of the depth of our passionate commitment. All Brahmins regardless of ideological conviction ought to affirm the importance of plurality of religious expression within Brahmanism and Hinduisms.
3. Brahmin organizations should harness their human relations skills to foster greater understanding, dialogue, and ties between various Brahmin sects. Consideration should also be given to an ongoing publication on Brahmin-Brahmin relations. There is no single "magic bullet" to attain Brahmin continuity. Brahmin continuity requires long and hard work at transmitting Brahmin heritage, culture and Sanskrit language. We must not place excessive faith in a single solution as the answer to our problems. We cannot content ourselves with a "business as usual" approach even if accompanied by worthwhile programs.
4. In pursuing continuity, the community needs to know which continuity initiatives are working and which are not. In particular, Brahmin communities should undertake a study of what models of temples/synagogues/churches in each of the religious movements have been especially effective in recent years. Brahmins should be challenged with the task of making Brahmanism attractive. Brahmanism is more than a religion and a set of moral teachings. It requires identification with the Brahmin people as a whole, with its historical language, and a familial closeness with Brahmins of all kinds everywhere. Brahmins, whether by birth or by choice, must consider themselves links in a great chain of Brahmin tradition that stretches across the generations binding Brahmins across time and across geographically as well as ideologically diverse boundaries.
5. Exchange programs sponsored by the Brahmin organizations to foster greater sense of people-hood and ties to Diaspora of Brahmins within the Indian education system. Brahmins ought to address the broader issue of the meaning of a Brahmin people for the 21st century. Similarly, encounters with Brahmins in other Diaspora communities and engaging Indians with Diaspora Brahmins foster greater bonds of people-hood. A minority such as the Brahmin people, living within a democratic Telugu/other Indian/American culture, must both affirm what it is and define what it is not. Therefore, Brahmin leaders have to define boundaries in Brahmin life. Clearly, we must be inclusive in being open to any Brahmin interested in pursuing the meaning of his or her Brahmin identity. Yet at the same time we must be exclusive in clearly defining what we are not. This need for operational inclusivity accompanied by ideological exclusivity challenges the entire Brahmin community. Brahmin continuity depends upon maintaining a distinctively Brahmin culture that is clear both about what it is and about what it is not.
The Brahmin community must develop a multi-track approach to strengthen Brahmin identity and positive Brahmin experience in both in-marriages and mixed-marriages. We must reach-in and reach out.
6. The rapidly rising number of intermarriages represents a serious risk to the vitality of the Brahmin community, Brahmin continuity, and identity. Clearly the Brahmin community prefers that Brahmins marry other Brahmins.
The challenge for the Brahmin community is to offer positive communal and personal connection to intermarried.
We should acknowledge that conversion remains the ideal response to the reality of mixed-marriage. However, the community ought to maintain open doors to all Brahmins, those seeking to be Brahmins, and those who wish to raise their children as Brahmins. Brahmins should undertake careful research of who is currently converting and why, what the trends have been, and with what results.
Studies repeatedly indicate the high correlation between intensive education and continuity. Research sponsored by the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and the Wilstein Institute of Jewish Policy Studies underscored the critical importance of the adolescent years in developing attitudes towards marriage, family, and commitments to leading a Jewish life. Brahmins don’t have to reinvent the wheel. These adolescent experiences include both formal and informal Brahmin education (day schools, supplementary high schools, youth groups, and summer camps). So, we should study and learn from the experiences of Jews to ensure that Brahmin education should be considered as a continuum throughout one's life. Upanayanam should be seen as a significant step on the continuum and a beginning of the road toward the continuity of Brahmin culture. The principle should be ensuring availability of quality Brahmin education for all Brahmins, and no one should be denied such quality education for reasons of cost. In particular, the Brahmin community must focus on the high cost of day school education and find ways to make intensive Brahmin experiences and quality Brahmin education more affordable for a broader cross-section of Brahmins.
Brahmins everywhere are connected by ties of history and heritage. Although we often disagree vigorously over the interpretation of tradition and over a vision for the future, these disagreements reflect our passionate concern for the Brahmin tribe and its future. Brahmanism/Sanathana Dharma/Vedic religion represents the shared treasure of all Brahmins, Hindus and Indians. Ideological differences are a measure of our communal health, as they reflect our commitment to Brahmanism as our common heritage. Currently, we confront serious divides within the Brahmins over politics, ideology, religion, and culture. Growing fissures prevail, both in India and the Brahmin Diaspora, between Brahmins who define themselves as religious secular or secular agnostics, atheist communists, traditionalists or liberals or leftist liberals. Differences over fundamental issues--who is a Brahmin, what does it mean to be a Brahmin and the future agenda of the Brahmins -- are real and warrant significant attention. Artificial statements of unity are illusory at best and harmful at worst.
In spite of our differences, ties of Brahmin-hood and heritage remain deep. We must never permit our disagreements, no matter how passionately debated, to undermine our commitment to our devotion to one another. Our disagreements should not be permitted to spill over into de-legitimating of one group of Brahmins by another.
Brahmins the world over confront the problem of continuity, of insuring that future generations remain Brahmins. An obvious and major challenge for world Brahmin community lies in strengthening the connection of Brahmins to their religious, linguistic and cultural heritage. Today we are facing a troubling indifference and apathy to the Brahmin heritage.
The availability of diverse avenues for expression of Brahmin identity, wherever Brahmins live, enriches the entire Brahmin community. Policies that limit the full expression of Brahmin religious options will have real negative impact on the goal of Brahmin continuity. The existence of varied Brahmin religious and cultural options is a positive force in India, in the U.S. and in those other countries where similar conditions prevail. They could have a very positive impact as well on the way many Brahmins relate to Brahmanism. We believe that apathy and indifference to Brahmanism and Brahmin heritage constitute fundamental threats to the Brahmin future.
Historically, the ability of Brahmins to marry one another has been critical to preserving Brahmin unity and Brahmin-hood. When sectarian differences arose over defining who is a Brahmin, making marriage an impossibility between particular Brahmin groupings, e.g. Niyogis and Vaidikis, a schism resulted that split these groups. Today, the problem of preserving marriage eligibility among Brahmins is quite real given conflicting criteria of defining who is a Brahmin. Therefore it is imperative that greater attention be paid once again to seeking common conversion procedures, acceptable to all the major religious streams of Brahmins. In addition, the same liberal principles of conversion into Brahmanism should be applied to people of other castes/tribes/religions with an emphasis on Brahminical education and principles of vegetarianism.
Actions taken within India ought to recognize the legitimacy of these movements. Political institutions should refrain from action that would result in the de-legitimating of the major religious streams within Brahmanism. Therefore, all the religious movements will be far better served by working to expose all Brahmins to the beauties inherent in Brahmin tradition.
“The Brahmin community will thrive only if it is prepared to invest massively in serious, sustained Brahmin education. A Brahmanism without walls can endure only if individual Brahmins are saturated with Brahmin memory and music, texts and traditions, values and beliefs. A well-formed Brahmin identity in our children is the best bulwark against their turning a cold shoulder to the Brahmin community as adults."
(The above analysis and recommendations to Brahmin community are based on the experience and research done by American Jewish Committee.)
Vepachedu Educational Foundation, Inc., 2002