Q: Is casteism or untouchability a logical outworking of reincarnation?
Where did this idea of reincarnation in Hinduism first come up from?
A: A very good question! The answer is a clear and definite “Yes!” Reincarnation is not an original Vedic idea, yet the idea of caste is somewhat present. This basic concept is in the Rig Veda (X, 190) where it speaks of the different castes arising from the dismembered purusa and out of his mouth came the Brahmins, from his chest came the Ksatriyas, his belly the Vaisyas, and hist feet the Sudras. Yet these two ideas are clearly linked together and are inseparable. The reason for this is that reincarnation posits the idea that one can attempt the ascent through different reincarnations to be released from samsara. The entire reason for the introduction of this idea is to provide an answer through the religious idea of ritual (Vedic religion) or of enlightenment (Vedantic religion), devotion (Bhakti religion) or some other posited way of attaining release which has been put forward by the priests or some teacher. This is the foundation of religion and in particular, of Hinduism. From this idea must flow a sense of levels or ladders of ascent in which one can find this release. Reincarnation then became firmly locked into the idea of caste—from which it cannot be released unless one discards the religion totally. Castes are merely the human appearances of the forms of the stages of reincarnation in human appearances. Karma is also strongly tied into these two ideas, making a threesome that cannot be broken one from the other. Karma is the engine that drives the carriage of reincarnation through on the ascending (or descending) road of caste. If one has good karma, one will ascend the ladder of reincarnation to a higher form (if human, a caste or higher caste). At the same time, karma would demand lower forms of being or existence in order for the law of karma to possibly produce its negative effect upon a life—hence again the need for castes and levels of life. This threefold system of thinking demands a basic inequality of human existence. This is why, though formal caste is outlawed, the existence of castes has not disappeared and never will--as long as Hinduism remains rooted in the minds of the men and women of India.
In contrast to this Jesus taught that all men are created with an equal status—“in the image of God.” There is something unique about man. The Bible strongly forbids any favoritism or superiority based upon economics, color, etc. This is the reason that Christianity has been the movement that has ended slavery and moved to help in the fields of education and medicine, and attempted to alleviate suffering from all people. Though Christianity has often been mistakenly identified with western-ism, Christianity has fought against some of the same forms of caste and devaluation of life in the west. England had for some time a strong upper and lower caste system based upon birth and bloodline (though not tied to a belief in reincarnation); Europe and America practiced the enslavement of people against which Christians fought, eventually bringing slavery to an end. In contrast to thousands and millions of reincarnations and lives, the Bible also teaches that men live only once, that life is very sacred and that after the one life comes judgment. This makes life invaluable and beyond price.