I read and learned many areas in Buddhism, for example the Seven Arya Dhana (Saptharyadhana - The Sevenfold Noble Wealth), the Four Noble Truths (Chathurarya Sathya) and the Eightfold Path (arya ashtangika marga).

I sometimes feel in the time when Gautama was born, the Aryans had ultimate power because of the caste system. So Gautama needed to break that authority and misbehave and tell people that this is the way to be an Aryan (and not by family birth in the caste system).

I admit that the teaching of [how to live] life is the basis of Buddhism. But rather than that i feel that there are some other things.

(Sorry about the Sinhalese wordings. I don't know how to say it in English. Please correct if you know the exact English words).

This is not a theory or something. This is something i feel when I am learning the philosophy.

Thank you.

3 Answers 3


When Gautama left his family to become an ascetic or śramaṇa, he joined many other ascetics or wanderers who were separate from the Vedic-Brahmanism religion.

However, when Gautama left his family to become an ascetic, his goal was not political. The Pali scriptures describe when Gautama lived the life of a prince in his palaces, he was very unhappy & disenchanted & also saw how his rich relatives & associates suffered about worldly things, such as money, status, sex & sensuality, which brought little happiness & much trouble & suffering.

Therefore, Gautama became an ascetic for the sole purpose of finding a solution to suffering for himself & for the world. Gautama's sole purpose was a Noble Search for Nibbana.

Later, after enlightenment, when the Buddha became famous, the scriptures report many Brahmans ('Aryans') came to visit the Buddha to ask him questions about 'caste' or 'birth' ('jati').

Because the Buddha was an honest & ethical man, he spoke the truth to the Brahmans (for example, here, here and here.

In Singala: https://suttacentral.net/si/mn93 ~ https://suttacentral.net/si/mn95 ~ https://suttacentral.net/si/mn98

Because the Buddha & many of his enlightened disciples were not from the Brahman caste, the Buddha understood with right wisdom that the highest, most peaceful, wise, virtuous & free state of mind was not related to birth caste (read Brahmanavagga).

I would speculate that hundreds of years later, under King Ashoka, many new scriptures were written that were very prejudiced against Brahmans (such as here & here).

I say this because in many scriptures, the Buddha is very civil to Brahmans and encouraged them to follow their own religion in a better way. The Buddha did not try to convert anyone to Buddhism unless he knew Buddhism was the most suitable path for that person.


There's a book titled In the Buddha's Words which people recommend as an introductory text.

Anyway that book has, amongst other things, this to say,

Text IV,6(3), a long excerpt from the Assalayana Sutta, captures the Buddha in debate with a precocious brahmin pundit about the brahmins' claims on behalf of the caste system. In the Buddha's age the caste system was only beginning to take shape in northeast India and had not yet spawned the countless subdivisions and rigid regulations that were to manacle Indian society through the centuries. Society was divided into four broad social classes: the brahmins, who performed the priestly functions prescribed in the Vedas; the khattiyas, the nobles, warriors, and administrators; the vessas, the merchants and agriculturalists; and the suddas, the menials and serfs. There were also those outside the pale of the four main classes, who were regarded as even lower than the suddas. From the Nikayas it appears that the brahmins, while vested with authority in religious matters, had not yet attained the unchallengeable hegemony they were to gain after the appearance of such works as the Laws of Manu, which laid down the fixed rules of the caste system. They had, however, already embarked on their drive for domination over the rest of Indian society and did so by propagating the thesis that brahmins are the highest caste, the divinely blessed offspring of Brahma who are alone capable of purification.

Contrary to certain popular notions, the Buddha did not agitate for the abolition of the Indian class system and attempt to establish a classless society. Within the Sahgha, however, all caste distinctions were abrogated from the moment of ordination. People from any of the four social classes who went forth under the Buddha renounced their class titles and prerogatives, becoming known simply as disciples of the Sakyan son (that is, of the Buddha, who was from the Sakyan clan). Whenever the Buddha and his disciples confronted the brahmins' claim to superiority, they argued vigorously against them. As our text shows, the Buddha maintained that all such claims were groundless. Purification, he contended, was the result of conduct, not of birth, and was thus accessible to those of all four castes. The Buddha even stripped the term "brahmin" of its hereditary accretions, and hearkening back to its original connotation of holy man, defined the true brahmin as the arahant (see MN 98, not included in this anthology).

In summary:

  • There was a caste system in the Buddha's time and place, but the system maybe wasn't so fixed or codified as it became later
  • The Buddha said (in suttas and the in the Dhammapada) that it's how a person behaves etc., and not how they're born, that would make them a holy person
  • The Buddha didn't try to abolish the caste system in lay society
  • The Sangha however is "classless" e.g. the seniority between monks is based on how long they've been ordained, and not on how they were born.

You can find other people writing on this topic by doing a Google search for buddhism caste system. For example, this Glossary of Buddhist terms more-or-less agrees with the above, except that this text doesn't say, "Contrary to certain popular notions, the Buddha did not agitate for the abolition of the Indian class system and attempt to establish a classless society".

So Gautama needed to break that authority and misbehave

I don't know, maybe the question of authority and behavior is whether it's conducive to the goal.

A sutta like MN 26 suggests to me that he was willing to learn politely from the teachers of his day, but he assessed, evaluated, judged what he learned.

It's maybe not fair to say that he "misbehaved" in the sense of "behaved immorally" -- even in the Kalama Sutta where he tells people to not to base their decisions on "reports" nor on the thought that "This contemplative is our teacher", even so he recommends they do what's "blameless" and "praised by the wise".

  • 1
    If not known, you may want to read bps.lk/olib/wh/wh208-u.html#48.TheSimileoftheOcean about when members of the four castes—nobles, brahmins, commoners and menials—go forth from home into the homeless life in this Dhamma and Discipline proclaimed by the Tathāgata, they lose their former names and lineage and are reckoned only as ascetics following the Son of the Sakyans. Jul 8, 2016 at 10:00

"Was Buddhism a rebellion against the Aryans?"

It is difficult for me to understand this question. Oxford Dictionary defines Buddhism thus: A widespread Asian religion or philosophy, founded by Siddartha Gautama in NE India in the 5th century bc.

Aryan is defined as: Relating to or denoting a people speaking an Indo-European language who invaded northern India in the 2nd millennium bc, displacing the Dravidian and other aboriginal peoples.

I am unable to see the connection between Buddhism and Aryans.

However, it is a fact that Pali Text Society, London, publishes a set of books it calls Tripitaka. In this set there are two Pitakas called Sutta and Vinaya Pitakas. These Pitakas attribute virtually all the saying in them to a person named Bhagava, meaning Lord. There are many other epithets by which he was known. The Sutta Pitaka essentially contains the truths about all beings--humans, gods, animals and so on. This is the Dhamma pointed out by the Lord (Bhagavata Dhammo).

The Lord was the Leader of gods and men (Sattha Devamanussanam) and the Dhamma was for the welfare and happiness of all beings.

The word Ariya is found in the Dhamma. It has no racial connotations whatsoever in the Dhamma. There is no English equivalent for the word.

One of the guiding prinicples of the Dhamma, called Avihinsa is never to kill or hurt any living being under any circumstances.

Why talk about rebellion?

The Dhamma of the Lord, was verified by the Lord by seeing with his own eyes (Sacchikatva) before proclaiming to the world. They are absolute truths.

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