Apastamba Dharma Sutra is quoted by many to prove birth based Caste system in Hinduism, in this article I am analyzing the Sutras which supposedly taks about Birth based system.
चत्वारो वर्णो ब्राह्मणक्षत्रियवैश्यशूद्राः तेषां पूर्वस्पूर्वो जन्मतः श्रेयान् (ADS 22.214.171.124-6)
There are 4 varnas, Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaiśya and śūdra, each preceding Varna is superior to another BY BIRTH(जन्मतः)
Ok Birth based Caste system proved, chapter closed bye.
But wait a minute, it do not prove birth based Caste system at all it actually proves quality and work based Varna system, if we see the context. The Birth being talked about here in जन्मतः is explained further
Lets see further Sutras
यस्माद्धर्मानाचिनोति स आचार्यः तस्मै न द्रुहोत्कदाचन स हि विद्यातस्तं जनयति तच्छ्रेष्ठं जन्म शरीरमेव मातापितरै जनयतः (ADS 126.96.36.199-18)
From whom a student learns about Dharmas is called Acharya, he should never be Insulted because he gives birth through knowledge, and that birth through knowledge is best, Parents only give birth to body.
It is very clear that a person becomes Dwija only after second birth through knowledge, unless a person attains knowledge from Guru he is not considered Dwija as he did not undergo his second birth, Parents give birth to body only.
So superiority by birth in 6th sutra means “birth due to knowledge”
Hence here we dont have any birth based Caste system
Further verses talk about initiating People of different Varnas at different times, that refers to people with potential to attain that Varna, Just like Satyakama Jabala was identified as “Brahmin” by his truthful nature and then initiated, similarly here.
It implies 2 things
1. Natural qualities of a person determines the Varna he has potential to attain
2. Without knowledge that person won’t actually become a Dwija just like Shwetketu’s father said you will remain a person who’s “relatives are Brahmins”.
However these qualities do not change overnight, Varna don’t change frequently, it changes once or at most twice in a life as it is difficult to change natural qualities of a person.