Which is right varna is based on birth or varna is based On guna and karma ? In view of advaita followers

The kamakoti peetham tell that varNa is by guNa but guNa is by birth

But vaishanvas tells that varna is based on Guna and karma by not birth

Which is Truth

Bhagvan Shree Krishna says in Bhagvat Gita: ch 18:41

ब्राह्मणक्षत्रियविशां शूद्राणां च परन्तप | कर्माणि प्रविभक्तानि स्वभावप्रभवैर्गुणै: || 41||

brāhmaṇa-kṣhatriya-viśhāṁ śhūdrāṇāṁ cha parantapa karmāṇi pravibhaktāni svabhāva-prabhavair guṇaiḥ

brāhmaṇa—of the priestly class; kṣhatriya—the warrior and administrative class; viśhām—the mercantile and farming class; śhūdrāṇām—of the worker class; cha—and; parantapa—Arjun, subduer of the enemies; karmāṇi—duties; pravibhaktāni—distributed; svabhāva-prabhavaiḥ-guṇaiḥ—work based on one’s nature and guṇas brahmana-kshatriya-visham shudranam cha parantapa karmani pravibhaktani svabhava-prabhavair gunaih


BG 18.41: The duties of the Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudras—are distributed according to their qualities, in accordance with their guṇas (and not by birth).


Someone said very appropriately that to find the perfect profession is like finding a perfect life-partner. But how do we discover the perfect profession for ourselves? Here, Shree Krishna explains that people have different natures, according to the guṇas that constitute their personality, and thus different professional duties are suitable for them. The system of varṇāśhram dharma was a scientific organization of society according to svabhāva-prabhavair guṇaiḥ (work based on one’s nature and guṇas). In this system of categorization, there were four āśhrams (stages in life) and four varṇas (occupational categories).

  • 3
    What Kamakoti article says is the traditional viewpoint. If you only want to read about Hinduism from an academic point of view you don't need to consider anything and then you are happy with the recently imagined guna-based caste system. But, for those who want to practice Hinduism, with all the Samskaras mentioned in scriptures, a birth based caste system has to be followed. Also, birth is just the starting point. There does not all the relevant discussion.
    – Rickross
    Dec 18, 2020 at 8:28
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    Your Q is more or less a duplicate of: hinduism.stackexchange.com/questions/16893/…
    – Rickross
    Dec 18, 2020 at 8:30
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    If we do bad Karmas in the present life the Jiva chooses (in its next birth) an appropriate "low" Yoni (womb or birth) that determines its Guna. And hence the Varna. So, although Varna is dependent on Guna it is inherently linked with birth and the previous birth Karmas. So, nothing can be ignored. Specially the birth which is the starting point of the discussion.
    – Rickross
    Dec 18, 2020 at 8:35
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    Why? What do they say? Every traditional, practicing Hindu follows what that Kamakoti article says.
    – Rickross
    Dec 18, 2020 at 8:43
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    Does this answer your question? Why casteism is based on birth rather than present Gunas & Karmas? Dec 19, 2020 at 8:03

3 Answers 3


Gita too says varna is based on birth primarily and then karm, sanskar, etc.

Gita 4.13 :

चातुर्वर्ण्यं मया सृष्टं गुणकर्मविभागश: | तस्य कर्तारमपि मां विद्ध्यकर्तारमव्ययम् || 13||

Here सृष्टं is clearly in past tense, anyone with basic knowledge of sanskrit can decipher the same and hence, the whole shlok refers to past gunas and past karmas. Depending on past gunas and past karmas, one takes a birth, as evaluated in Gita 9.32 and Chandogya Upanishad 5.10.7.

Chandogya Upanishad 5.10.7, Samaveda:

Among them, those who did good work in this world [in their past life] attain a good birth accordingly. They are born as a brāhmin, a kshatriya, or a vaishya. But those who did bad work in this world [in their past life] attain a bad birth accordingly, being born as a dog, a pig, or as a chandala.

If varna can be changed, then even species can be changed, because chandala is a sankar jati born out of shudra fathers, brahmin mothers and chandalas are mentioned along with dogs and pigs as yonis (births) which are born due to bad karm in their previous lives. Hence changing varna is as difficult as changing species. Also any commentatory on any of the smritis, puranas and itihasas shall not be against shrutis (Vedas, Upanishads).

Gita 9.32:

मां हि पार्थ व्यपाश्रित्य येऽपि स्युः पापयोनयः।

स्त्रियो वैश्यास्तथा शूद्रास्तेऽपि यान्ति परां गतिम्।।9.32।।

9.32 Hi, for; O son of Prtha, ye api, even those; papayonayah syuh, who are born of sin;-as to who they are, the Lord says-striyah, women; vaisyah, Vaisyas, tatha, as also; sudrah, Sudras; te api, even they; yanti, reach, go to; the param, highest; gatim, Goal vyapasritya, by taking shelter; mam, under Me-by accepting Me as their refuge.

Vaishyas, shudras, women are called paapyoni. This is not to be understand as casteist, but its because vaishyas and shudras both had dominant or recessive tamogunas in their past life, which is why they got the respective births.

NOTE: This is shankara bhashya, and the gaudiya bhashya says the same.

Even inter caste is forbidden by Shri Krishna in Gita 3.24 :

Gita 3.24:

उत्सीदेयुरिमे लोका न कुर्यां कर्म चेदहम् | सङ्करस्य च कर्ता स्यामुपहन्यामिमा: प्रजा: || 24||

The usage of the word sankarasya is commonly used to denote varnasankars in the shashtras. The word स्यामुपहन्यामिमा: has the word upanayan which means it refers to the pollution of upanayan. Only inter caste can pollute upanayan and hence here सङ्करस्य almost certainly refers to varnasankars.

Gaudiya bhashya by acharya Baladeva Vidhyabhushan: Acharya Baladeva Vidhyabhushan's commentary on Gita 3.24

Shankar bhashya:

3.24 Cet, if; aham, I; na kuryam, do not perform; karma, action; all ime, these; lokah, worlds; utsideyuh, will be ruined, owing to the obsence of work responsible for the maintenance of the worlds. Ca, and, futher; syam, I shall become; karta, the agent; sankarasya, of intermingling (of castes). Constantly, upahanyam, I shall be destroying; imah, these; prajah, beings. That is to say, I who am engaged in helping the creatures, shall be destroying them. This would be unbefitting of Me, who am God. 'On the other, if, like Me, you or some one else possesses the conviction of having attained Perfection and is a knower of the Self, it is a duty of such a one, too, to help others even if there be no obligation on his own part.'

If gita was against varna based on birth, why did Shri Krishna show inter caste marriages in a bad light? This only shows that varna is based on varna of the father and the mother and hence is transferred genetically.

Gita 18.41 too doesn’t show that varna is not based on birth.

Gita 18.41:

ब्राह्मणक्षत्रियविशां शूद्राणां च परन्तप | कर्माणि प्रविभक्तानि स्वभावप्रभवैर्गुणै: || 41||

Gaudiya Bhashya by acharya Baladeva Vidhyabhushan: Acharya Baladeva Vidhyabhushan's commentary on Gita 18.41

Ramanuja Bhashya by Ramanujacharya:

18.41 The nature of Brahmanas, Ksatriyas, Vaisyas, and Sudras are due to their respective inherent dispositions. The meaning is that their past Karma has been the cause of determining births as Brahmanas etc. The Sattva and other Gunas are the result of such Karma. The Sattva-guna is born from the inherent nature of the Brahmana becoming dominant by suppressing the alities of Rajas and Tamas. The ality of Rajas originates from the inherent nature of the Ksatriyas becoming dominant by suppressing alities of Sattva and Tamas. Tamoguna arises from the inherent nature of the Vaisya, becoming dominant in a little way by suppressing Sattva and Rajas. The duties and works assigned to them according to the Gunas constituting their inherent nature, are expounded and allotted by the Sastras in the order described. For the Sastras analyse that the Brahmanas etc., possess such and such attributes and such and such are their duties and occupations.

Ramanujacharya too talks about Varna based on Birth.

People who say varna can be changed, please don’t forget to read Gita 3.35 and Gita 18.48:

Gita 3.35:

श्रेयान्स्वधर्मो विगुणः परधर्मात्स्वनुष्ठितात्।

स्वधर्मे निधनं श्रेयः परधर्मो भयावहः।।3.35।।

3.35 It is better to do thine own duty, however lacking in merit, than to do that of another, even though efficiently. It is better to die doing one's own duty, for to do the duty of another is fraught with danger.

Gita 18.48:

18.48 The duty that of itself falls to one's lot should not be abandoned, though it may have its defects. All acts are marred by defects, as fire is obscured by smoke.

Those who say these verses do not depend on varna, the whole of Bhagavat Gita was based on Shri Krishna asking Arjun to do his duties as a Kshatriya. Hence, varna is based on birth, karm, sanskar, but one is primarily born into a yoni and changing varna is as difficult as changing species.

Therefore your varna is based on the varna of your parents.

  • Hi, Welcome to HSE.. !! Kindly use the editing options to make the answer more presentable with block quotes for textual materials like verse or śhloka. I'd suggest you to Please visit Guidelines for new users answering questions on HSE. Further, kindly have a look at the HSE HELP CENTER, and then get started in here properly. Have an enriching journey ahead!
    – Vivikta
    May 17, 2021 at 14:49
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    @Vivikta Yes thanks for adding. I will do so from the next time. I am quite new here. May 17, 2021 at 15:23

Advaita tells no such thing - it is "Advaita Vedanta" AKA SMARTISM or smriti following sect that tells varna is based on birth because this is the command of semi-sacred Smritis. All the sacred Hindu scriptures fully support change of Varna. Vaishnavas (except Ramanuja) like Alvars, Gaudiya & Ramanandi are fully in agreement that Varna can be changed because it is based on Vaishnav Purans. There are over 100 examples of Varna migration in Srimad Bhagvat Puran itself:

SB 7.11.35 - If one shows the symptoms of being a brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya, vaiśya or śūdra, as described above, even if he has appeared in a different class, he should be accepted according to those symptoms of classification.

SB 7.11 calls 2nd birth into higher Varna as purification... and says in 2.4 that all kinds of people like "Kirāta, Hūṇa, Āndhra, Pulinda, Pulkaśa, Ābhīra, Śumbha, Yavana, members of the Khasa races and even others addicted to sinful acts can all be purified"

SB 9.2 - From the kṣatriya known as Agniveśya came the celebrated brāhmaṇa dynasty known as Āgniveśyāyana

SB 5.4.13 - There were EIGHTY-ONE younger ones, all born of Ṛṣabhadeva and Jayantī..... They all became perfectly qualified brāhmaṇas [from kṣatriyas].

SB 9.2.17 - From the son of Manu named Dhṛṣṭa came a kṣatriya caste called Dhārṣṭa. Although the Dhārṣṭas belonged to the kṣatriya caste, they were able to convert themselves into brāhmaṇas.

There are too many examples to count !! Now moving on to Vishnu Puran it also has too many examples. Here are a few:

Prishadh was son of King (Kshatriya) Daksha but became a Shudra. Further he did Tapasya to achieve salvation after repenting. (Vishnu Puran 4.1.14, Parasara)

The sons of Nabhag became BOTH Brahmin and Kshatriya (Vishnu Puran 4.2 beginning)

Various different kshatriyas became mlecchas (Vishnu Puran, 4.3.18)

Satyavrata was degraded to chandala (Vishnu Puran 4.3.7)

Shaunak became Brahmin though born in Kshatriya family. (Vishnu Puran 4.8.1)

enter image description here

There are too many examples even in other Purans like Brahma Puran. There is no caste in Tantras, and Shaiva Agamas permit equality of caste. There are also at least 7 examples in the Vedas. Rig Veda 9.63 says:

इन्द्रं वर्धन्तो अप्तुर: कृण्वन्तो विश्वमार्यम् । अपघ्नन्तो अराव्णः ॥

This is a prayer to make all humans Aryas. So when Veda is making a distinction between Shudra & Arya it means bad people and noble people. Of course, birth is as per karma but this is a very clear message from the Veda itself that Varna can be changed! Now if we see Upanishads or Brahmanas we almost always get the same picture. Look at Chandogya Upanishad talks about the initiation story of another Upanishad's author:

Gautama asked him, ‘O Somya, what is your lineage?’ Satyakāma said: ‘Sir, I do not know what my lineage is. When I asked my mother, she said to me: “I was very busy serving many people when I was young, and I had you. As this was the situation, I know nothing about your lineage. My name is Jabālā, and your name is Satyakāma.” So, sir, I am Satyakāma Jābāla’. Gautama said to him: ‘No non-brāhmin could speak like this.

So the son of a highly impure shudra woman and unknown man was declared Brahmin!!! Now look at the story of Vedic author Vatsa found in Tandya Brahmana 14.6.6, Jaiminiya Brahmana 3.234:

The two sons of Kanva, Medhatithi and Trioka, contended about the sacred lore (brahman). They said : ' Come, let us cross the flaming fire'. They crossed the flaming fire. Tris'oka crossed over it (unharmed), but of the other it scorched the eye-lashes. Ho (Trisoka) said to him (to Medhatithi) : ' I have vanquished thee '. ' No ', said he, 'thou art the son of an Asura-mother ; even the deities have not wished to touch thee'. Then, they (said): 'Come, let us cross the water'. They crossed the flowing Rathaspa. Tris'oka crossed over it (unharmed), but of the other the rims of his cart were moistened by the water of the Rathaspa (translation uncertain, text corrupted !). He (TriSoka) said to him (to Medhatithi): 'I have vanquished thee'.

let us walk according to the rite through fire (to decide) which of us two is the better brahmin

GOD AGNI preferred Shudra's son. Shudra's son was a superior Brahmin compared to born-Brahmin!!! Another example from the Brahmanas is in Kausitaki Brāhmana 12.3 and Aitareya Brāhmana 8.19

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"You are the son of a female slave. We will not eat with you" (dāsya vai tvam putro si na vayam tvaya saha bhaksayisyama iti). Kavasa became angry and ran away. He recited a hymn of praise to Sarasvati, who then followed after him: sarasvatim etena suktena tustava tam heyam iyaya. Realizing what had happened, the surprised seers hurried to him to express their reverence: "0 seer, homage be to you. Do not harm us. You indeed are the best of us...

GODDESS SARASWATI considers a Shudra's son superior to all birth-Brahmins combined at being a Brahmin. The birth-Brahmins also accept they are inferior to him. He authored a part of Rig Veda. There are 108 canonical Upanishads as per Muktika Upanishad. One of them is Vajrasuchika Upanishad which says

It is said that a Brahmana is so because of his caste. This is not acceptable because there are diverse communities in the world... ...Among these many have attained the highest rank, despite of their lower birth and given proof of their wisdom. Therefore a Brahmana is not so because of his community.

Self-explanatory. I have given examples from 7 Vedic texts against caste.

enter image description here

There are too many examples in Itihasas also, but here is the commandment of GOD SHIVA:

Mahabharat 13 SECTION CXLIII - When a pious nature and pious deeds are noticeable in even a Sudra, he should, according to my opinion, be held superior to a person of the three regenerate classes. Neither birth, nor the purificatory rites, nor learning, nor offspring, can be regarded as grounds for conferring upon one the regenerate status. Verily, conduct is the ONLY ground. All Brahmanas in this world are Brahmanas in consequence of conduct. A Sudra, if he is established on good conduct, is regarded as possessed of the status of a Brahmana. The status of Brahma, O auspicious lady, is equal wherever it exists. Even this is my opinion. He, indeed, is a Brahmana in whom the status of Brahma exists,--that condition which is bereft of attributes and which has no stain attached to it. The boon-giving Brahma, while he created all creatures, himself said that the distribution of human beings into the four orders dependent on birth is only for purposes of classification.

Shaivism & Shaktism is totally against caste like I have said in Tantras & Agamas. Even examples are in Shaiva scriptures like Puranas -

Shiva Purana's Vidyeśvara-saṃhitā (Chapter 17) is about how Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras can ALL BECOME BRAHMINS using Shiva's mantra - क्षत्रियः पञ्चलक्षण क्षत्रत्वमपनेष्यति । पुनश्च पञ्चलक्षण क्षत्रियो ब्राह्मणो भवेत् ।। मन्त्रसिद्धिर्जपाद्यैव क्रमान्मुक्तो भवेन्नर । वैश्यस्तु पञ्चलक्षण वैश्यत्वमपनेष्यति ।। पुनश्च पञ्चलक्षण मन्त्रक्षत्रिय उच्यते । पुनश्च पञ्चलक्षण क्षत्रत्वमपनेष्यति ।। पुनश्च पञ्चलक्षण मन्त्रब्राह्मण उच्यते । शूद्रश्चैव नमोऽन्तेन पञ्चविंशतिलक्षत ।। मन्त्रविप्रत्वमापद्य पश्चाच्छुद्रो भवेद्द्विज । नारीवाथ नरो वाथ ब्राह्मणो वान्य एव वा ।।

Shiva Rahasya (secret) Purana 11.109 - As you account a child born into a Caste to belong to that Caste even though he cannot yet perform all that is required of him according to his station, even thus a servant shall be accounted to belong to the Caste whose work he does even though he may not be a full-blood Farmer, Merchant and so forth. A man who, though born into the Priestly Caste, has no knowledge of the Scriptures and does a Farmer's work, cannot be accounted a Priest but only a Farmer. Verily, Caste is determined by the kind of work a man does. And a servant is a man who does another's work; he has no work of his own. Therefore he belongs to that Caste the work of which he does and not to any other. This shall be a settled matter. He who says otherwise sins against My Law.

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So actually anyone who insists on caste is actually committing a sin according to Shaivism. EDIT - BIRTH HAS NO PLACE AT ALL IN DETERMINING VARNA! IT IS ONLY CONDUCT WHICH MATTERS And everyone is mixed DNA / mixed up blood. There is no pure gotra/surname even from father's side. This is scientific fact. Advaita Vedanta smarta sect will only listen to smritis and evade other scriptures.

So it is up to people if they want to listen to SHIVA, AGNI, SARASWATI, VISHNU, Vedas, Tantras, Agamas, Itihasas, Puranas etc..... or to Manusmriti !!! And I am not denying birth in a particular community is based on past-karma either !!!

But anyone who says Varna cannot be changed is against Hindu gods and most sacred Hindu scriptures.

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    Long answer but don't think it answer the question! Question is whether Varna is based on birth or guna. Not whether it can be changed. Varna is by default by birth, based on your merits from past life. Then Gina (which is linked to birth) and karma defines whether one starts in the Varna of birth or not.
    – Kanthri
    Jun 16, 2021 at 16:41
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    I liked this answer. @R.Kaushik 🙏
    – user23407
    Jun 16, 2021 at 16:57
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    @SHebbar I know you are birth brahmin and you are (wrongly) pointing fault with my anti-caste answer. Let me see if the asker of the question thinks it does not answer his question!! This is 100% accurate answer. Lord Shiva himself says that "NEITHER BIRTH, nor........can be regarded as grounds for conferring upon one the regenerate status." AN UN-INITIATED CHILD IS NOT A BRAHMIN AS PER SHIVA!! You did not read answer properly
    – R. Kaushik
    Jun 16, 2021 at 17:00
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    I've already said it -- "NEITHER BIRTH, nor........can be regarded as grounds for conferring upon one the regenerate status." - Lord Shiva. There is no Brahmin (or other high varna) status by birth. So there is no question of changing it for kids. @Proxy
    – R. Kaushik
    Jun 16, 2021 at 18:52
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    Such a Brilliant answer! Jun 17, 2021 at 6:11

Srimad Bhagavatam 7.11.35 (The four social classes)

yasya yal lakṣaṇaṁ proktaṁ puṁso varṇābhivyañjakam yad anyatrāpi dṛśyeta tat tenaiva vinirdiśet

"If one shows the symptoms of being a brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya, vaiśya or śūdra, as described above, even if he has appeared in a different class, he should be accepted according to those symptoms of classification."

Sridhara swami the famous and most authoritative commentator on Srimad Bhagavatam has written:

samadibhir eva brahmanadi vyavaharo mukhyah, na jati matrad ity aha-yasyeti. yad yadi anyatra varnantare 'pi drisyeta tad varnantaram tenaiva lakshana nimittenaiva varnena vinirddiset, na tu jati nimittenety arthah -

"The brahmanas' main characteristics are qualities such as peacefulness, not birth. If these main characteristics are seen in persons other than those born as brahmanas, then such persons should be considered brahmanas. They should not be considered according to their caste by birth."

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