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There is general opposition to all kinds of elitism at present. This is due to the exclusivist nature of Western elitism. The bad attributes of Western elitism are applied even to Vedic elitism when it is inclusivist. In this short post, I will briefly discuss the nature of two different elitist societies.

In the Vedic system, a Kshatriya king was the ruler of the land. But the king’s court was open to all citizens. Any and all citizens could come to the king’s court, and place their issues before the court, and the king would listen to citizens and provide justice then and there. The ministers of the king would be directed to act expediently to resolve that issue. In some kingdoms, the kings had a huge bell hanging outside their palace. Any citizen could come, and ring that bell even in the dead of night. The king would be woken up and come to receive the urgent complaint and deliver expedient justice to the citizen asking for it.

The stark contrast to this is when Marie Antionette, the queen of France during the time of the French Revolution, was told by her ministers that people did not have bread to eat, her response was: “Let them eat cake”. Whether or not this story is true (some people debate if such a thing truly happened), the French Revolution would not have occurred if people weren’t starving and their rulers weren’t oblivious to their actual difficult conditions. The Divine Rights of Kings would not have been taken away in England if these kings were pious, moral, and careful rulers not mercilessly killing their cousins and distant relatives either to steal the throne from them or to ensure that the throne wasn’t stolen from them.

In all cases, common people did not have access to the kings. The kings were elites and the people were common. Terms such as common man, proletariat, working-class, blue-collar workers, rank and file, plebian, and possibly others, are uniquely Western terms. All these are still used in contrast to elites. Common people cannot ring the bell outside the king’s palace. In fact, they will be lucky to ever meet a country’s ruler and have their complaints addressed. Most times, the rulers listen to the complaint, promise to do something if elected to power, and then do the opposite of what they had promised to do before the election. They wiggle their way around the halls of fame and power. Ordinary people cannot even enter those places. They would most likely be shot at if they demanded to confront the elites.

We can see the same contrast in the case of Brahmanas. In nearly all cases, except when the Brahmana accepted the role of a Rājarṣi (philosopher-king) they were living very simply. Nearly all of them visited towns for alms, and as they approached richer households, the householder would invite them into their homes, have them seated respectfully, ask about their welfare, and if they had any request or concern, the householder would fulfill it to the best of his capacity. The Brahmanas were not exploitative, lazy, or greedy either. They taught everyone for free. No student—if he was qualified to learn—was barred from education. No money was charged for education. Once the student was fully educated, he could give the guru a Dakṣiṇā (remuneration) or fulfill his request, according to his capacity. The more capable students gave more and the less capable students gave less. They remained grateful for education lifelong.

Now contrast that to entry into prestigious universities at present. The education they offer is so expensive that only the rich can afford education. If the poor try to get educated, they will be lifelong saddled with debt because, after education, the halls of fame and the clubs of power will still not be open for them. They will at best enter a professional life where they will compete against the children of elites for the same level of recognition, power, and acceptance. The journey is uphill and rarely rewarding. Simply by setting a high cost on education, the elites ensure that education remains hereditary. There are exceptions to this rule. We should not cite those exceptions to invalidate the elitist rule.

Finally, let’s talk about the Vaisyas. They were farmers who tilled the land, grew and cut crops, took care of domestic animals, and worked hard for livelihood. Lord Kṛṣṇa tended to the cows Himself. The Gopis churned milk to produce butter. They were going to the cities to sell that milk and butter on foot. They were wealthy but their wealth did not make them lazy, arrogant, or masters employing servants. They did all the work themselves and gave it away to the poor and needy, including the Brahmanas.

Contrast that to capitalists sitting in air-conditioned offices barking commands to their minions doing all the real work. Most of the wealth made by present-day capitalists has been ill-gotten through theft and corrupt practices including exploitative labor. Most rich people get their wealth by stealing it from poor people. At present, we would be hard-pressed to find honest wealthy people who are still tilling the land, taking care of animals, and doing an honest day’s labor to earn their wealth. Most of the time, money works round the clock, while the monied sleep and enjoy their vacations in luxurious hotels. The poor do all the work while their employers threaten to take away their livelihood at the slightest provocation.

Therefore, those who call the Vedic system elitist—because it talks about classes—and equate it to Western elitism are either ignorant or malicious or both. Vedic elitism is not Western elitism. Those who cannot see the difference are blind—willfully or due to false propaganda. They are as different as chalk and cheese although they both look white. The differences can be understood by studying people’s lives.

Elitism is a natural outcome in a society that doesn’t believe in reincarnation. Societies suffering from the one-life disease think that it is their first and last opportunity to enjoy and they should make the most of it while it lasts. Elites in such societies are selfish, wicked, and depraved. That is not the dysfunction of a society that believes in reincarnation. In fact, a society that accepts reincarnation always teaches people to expect to get what they give. The exploiters will be exploited, the cheaters will be cheated, and the murderers will be murdered. Tit-for-tat without forgiveness is the essence of a moral life and it exists in a society that accepts reincarnation. It doesn’t exist in a society suffering from the one-life sickness.

Therefore, the elites in a moral society ask themselves: I have got this good life right now, but what will happen in the next? If I misuse wealth and power, then that wealth and power will be misused against me in the future. I will be on the receiving end of the same stick that I hold on the delivery end right now.

The fact is that anti-elitism is just as much a one-life ideology as elitism. The atheists are just as much one-life ideologues as the religious. It is hard to tell the difference between religious and atheists as they are both equally immoral as the result of rejecting reincarnation. The same is the case with elitists and anti-elitists. The anti-elitist will do anything in his or her power to become an elite. Therefore, when someone points a finger at the Vedic system about the elitism of classes, we should tell them about their long history of depravities and its real cause, namely, their one-life disease, and why reincarnation cures that illness by punishing the immoral in just the way that they have troubled others earlier. Just tell them about reincarnation and see their reaction. They will be running for cover to hide their misery.

I have learned at a great personal cost that those who shame the honest suffer from greater shame. They try to universalize their shame so they don’t have to accept their problems as problems unique to them. They also take exclusive credit for the little good that might exist in a corner as a good unique to them. By universalizing their shame and privatizing their glory they pass their dark days in delusion. Their reality is painful to endure. But nature has no compassion on them. The truthful also abandon their merciful nature in such cases. They prefer truth over compassion which increases the delusion.