Which of the following have caste?

  1. The physical body including the brain

After allowing for environmental factors like discriminaton, do castes have distinguishable bodily characteristics and brain capacity?

  1. The mind

The quality of the mind - in particular qualities arising from early childhood influences.

  1. The Atma
  • Your might want to edit the second option. Mind (manas) is not same as brain in Hinduism. Brain is surely physical but not the same with manas. – Lokesh Mar 12 at 17:41
  • mind (manas) falls under 'physical' body just like brain does. – ram Mar 12 at 22:45
  • @ram then what do you call that which travels across bodies at time of death? – Lokesh Mar 13 at 2:39
  • @Lokesh, that's called Atma – ram Mar 13 at 4:04
  • @ram No, that's called Jiva. Atman is pure and doesn't live under illusion. – Lokesh Mar 13 at 8:15

Where exactly does a person's caste reside?

This is an excellent question, and it has been satisfactorily answered by Vedanta Desikan in the Rahasya Traya Sara:

It has been said, "Tamas is found in great measure in the Shudra, rajas in the kshatriya, and sattvam in the Brahmin." Owing to the preponderance of such qualities as sattva, in the body, a man is entitled to be called a Brahmin, a kshatriya and the like.


The qualities of caste pertaining to the body which are due to the special qualities of the body arise even at the time of birth and remain until death.


The Brahmin-like qualities which arise out of the preponderance of sattvam in the mind may be present in all castes. In such as Prahlada, they are present even at the time of birth. In others, owing to such specific causes as contact with acharyas, these mental qualities are acquired later.

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  • here, body includes mind. both are prakriti. – ram Mar 12 at 22:44
  • 'It has been said, "Tamas is found in great measure in the Shudra, rajas in the kshatriya, and sattvam in the Brahmin."' - who said it? – S K Mar 13 at 0:33
  • Rajas increases in body when you eat onion, garlic etc. Would you say, that time person becomes kshatriya? – Lokesh Mar 13 at 2:48
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    @Lokesh, and if you continue to do it, then in the next birth, you will be demoted to a lower life form. like if you fail 9th standard, you either have to repeat it, or worse go down to 8th standard to learn more – ram Mar 13 at 4:11
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    @ram Sure, body and mind are both made of prakriti but here Desikan is saying that caste resides in the physical body as a particular guna, whereas the sukshma manas can change it's guna based on environment. – Ikshvaku Mar 13 at 15:23

The short answer to your question: in the body.

Mahabharatha, Aswamedha parva (40.11)

“Tamas is found in great measure in the sudra, rajas in the Kshatriya, sattva in Brahmin”

Ramanuja’s commentary on Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 18.41.-47 states

The deeds of the past determine the present dispositions of men. These dispositions bring about the relative potencies of the Guṇas in each case. The Brāhmaṇa has Sattva dominating over Rajas and Tamas. The Kṣatriya has Rajas in predominance and the other two stand suppressed. In the Vaiśya Rajas and Sattva are subdued and Tamas is slightly dominant. In the Śūdras Tamas is very dominant and the other two are overpowered. The Śāstras properly lay down these qualitative demarcations and formulate the corresponding obligations and occupations of the four groups of men.

According to Vedanta Desika (Srimad-Rahasyatrayasara, Chapter 25)


The qualities of caste pertaining to the body are due to the special qualities of the body, arise at birth and remains until death. However, a person can have the predominance of Tamas in the composition of his body but can very well obtain the quality of sattva in his mind.

The above chapter exclusively talks about the sattvam of the body and the sattvam of the mind and how they are different. The body in the above verse refers only to the body and not to the body-mind complex (or that body includes the mind). Accordingly, the guna of the body can not be changed till death but the guna can be changed in the mind.

Vishnu Purana (6.2.6) extols a person though have a body of Sudra becomes accomplished due to Jnana.

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