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According to proponents of guṇa-based varṇa system (i.e., those that do not believe you are born into one specific Hindu varṇa), at what age can a person be certified as a brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya, etc?

Or according to this system, are qualities (guṇas) that describe the 4 four varṇas acquired throughout one's life and at no point can anyone draw a line and say 'this person used to behave like a śūdra and now he's graduated to brāhmaṇa?'

In other words, there are no clear age boundaries between the varṇa transitions? E.g., a kid with accelerated learning can behave like a brāhmaṇa while a 60-year-old can continue to behave like a śūdra because he was lacking in the right kind of learning?

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    +1 Question as such must be encouraged. :-) – TheLittleNaruto Apr 16 '18 at 17:04
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    There is no such thing as a guns based caste system. Those born into dwija castes attain certain caste related adhikaras after upanayanam – user1195 Apr 17 '18 at 4:01
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    An upper caste Bengali friend said South Indian Brahmins are anywhere from 1.5 to 1.75 times born @moonstar . – S K Apr 17 '18 at 12:34
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    I am sure you believe he is a funny man @SK – user1195 Apr 17 '18 at 13:32
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As per the shastra one attains dwijahood i.e twice born when the samskara i.e sacred thread ceremony is performed. In absence of this even the brahmin is not entitled for vedas.

For performing this samskara there are various ages recommended for various varnas.

Just like brAhman the kShatriya & vaishya are also entitled to upanayana samskAra and gAyatri as is evident from different gRhyasUtra-s for eg, Apastamba says :

“ गर्भाष्टमेषु ब्राह्मणं, गर्भैकादशेषु राजन्यं, गर्भाद्वादशेषु वैश्यम्।। (आपस्तम्बः)” in the eighth year from conception i.e. the 7th year from birth, the brAhman should be intitiated into gAyatri. Similarly, in the 10th year from birth for kShatriya and 11th year for vaishya

brAhmaNaH kShatriyo vaishyaH trayo varNAH dvijAdayaH saMskRtAshcAnyathA shUdrAH evaM vedavido viduH tasmAdayaM suto me.adyaH shUdravat vartate shishuH upanItaH kriyArhaH syAt iti vedeShu nirNayaH rAjJAmekAdashe varShe sadopanayanaM smRtaM aShTame brAhmaNAnAM ca vaishyAnAM dvAdashe kila (devI bhAgavata 7-7)

“The three varNa-s of brAhmaNa, kShatriya and vaishya are dvija (twice born) only if they undergo the upanayana saMskAra otherwise they are indeed considered to be shUdra in the absence of saMskAra” 

However for changing or migrating the varna there is no specific age mentioned it can be anytime.

For example in Satyakama jabali he attained higher level by performing tapas in quite an early age. In comparison, it took more time for sage vishvamitra to attain rishihood.

Also acharya drona and his son ashwatthama migrated to kshatriya varna through their deeds and profession.

So there is no fixed age. For example one may act like a brahmana till certain age then he may switch to certain trade related profession of vysya and so on.

It depends on the balance and predominance of certain gunas in him.

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The age of a person is irrelevant in the guna based Varna system. Just read through the relevant Gita verses.

O great hero! The duties of Brahmanas, Ksatriyas, Vaisyas and also Sudras have been divided according to the quality born of their own nature.

[Gita 18.41]

Serenity, control of the sense, austerity, purity, straight-forwardness, knowledge, insight, and faith in the Supreme Being - these are a Brahman's duties born of his own nature.

[Gita 18.42]

Prowess, splendor of personality, unfailing courage, resourcefulness, dauntless in battle, generosity, leadership - these are a Ksatriya's duties born of his specific nature.

[Gita 18.43]

Agriculture, cattle-rearing and trade form the duty of the Vaisya springing from his own nature, while the natural duty of a Sudra consists in subordinate service under others.

[Gita 18.44]

There is no mention of age in any one of these verses. Only mental qualities are given. Age matters in the traditional caste interpretation because of ceremonies like the Upanayana.There is no such requirement given in the Gita. Followers of Gita's Varna interpretation do not accept the concept of dvija of the traditional caste system. Putting a sacred thread round a person's neck and giving him the Gayatri mantra does not make him superior to a non-dvija. Only conduct matters.

I would like to add that the guna based Varna system does not accept the concept of Varna sankara. Gita remains silent on the issue of Varna sankara raised in I.41. Varna sankara makes no sense in a guna based explanation. The child of parents of different Varnas will have her Varna determined by the gunas acquired in her past life. The ridiculously large number of mixed castes in the traditional caste system are not there in either the original revelation, the Rig Veda Samhita, nor in the Gita and is clearly antivedic. There are only 4 Varnas and the Varnas of all humanity can be described by these 4 Varnas. There is no need to introduce imaginary castes. Moreover there is no concept of outvarna unlike the caste system where there is the concept of outcaste. No human can be outvarna since the Rig Veda samhita mentions only 4 varnas of the primordial Purusha. An out Varna would mean some one existing apart from Hiranyagarbha which clearly does not make sense.

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    1.Upanayana is mentioned in post Vedic Smritis like Grhya Sutras. There is one doubtful mention in Sathapatha Brahmana which is widely considered to be interpolation. – Pradip Gangopadhyay Apr 19 '18 at 11:37
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    'The expression 'quality born of their own nature' means character based on the domination of three gunas entering into the constitution of the body-mind complex and this is determined by the evolution in the past life. The word born is used because our past has influence on our present life. So what is the difference between the caste system and the Varna system? The caste system says the birth in an endogamous group enables us to determine the dominant component of Gunas. The Varna system says that gunas acaquired in the past life influences the present. – Pradip Gangopadhyay Apr 19 '18 at 11:51
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    The last sentence in my previous comment should be 'The Varna system says that gunas acquired in the past life influences the present and can be determined through conduct'. Gita Chapters 16 and 17 give examples of behavior based on the dominant guna. – Pradip Gangopadhyay Apr 19 '18 at 12:08
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    If you read my original asnwer you will see that the guna theory does not accept the concept of dvija of the traditional caste system. We have no objection if upanayana is for all people irrespective of castes and gender. – Pradip Gangopadhyay Apr 19 '18 at 12:14
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    Only those parts of Manu Smriti or any other scripture that agree with the Upanishads and the Gita can be accepted. Just because many of the characters failed to live up to the teachings of the Upanishads and the Gita does not mean we should follow the examples of these people. – Pradip Gangopadhyay Apr 19 '18 at 12:49

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