Yogeshwar Krishn represents himself as the maker of the four classes.
Does it mean that he has divided men into four rigid categories determined by birth?
Lord Krishn sings in Chapter Four, Verse Thirteen of Bhagavad Gita:
“Although I have created the four classes (varn ) – Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudr-according to innate properties and actions, know me the immutable as a non-doer.’’
Sri Krishn represents himself as the maker of the four classes. Does it mean that he has divided men into four rigid categories determined by birth?
The truth is rather that he has divided actions into four classes on the basis of inherent properties. All the same, as he tells Arjun, he-the imperishable God-is a non-agent and should be known as such. The innate property (gun) of a being or of a thing is a measure, a yardstick.
If the dominant property is that of ignorance or darkness (tamas), it will result in an irresistible inclination to laziness, excessive sleep, wantonness, aversion to work, and compulsive addiction to evil in spite of the realization that it is evil. How can worship commence in such a state?
We sit and worship for two hours and we try to do it with the utmost earnestness, and yet we fail to secure even ten minutes that are truly propitious. The body is still and quiet, but the mind which should be really quiet soars aloft weaving webs of fancies. Waves upon waves of speculation toss it. Then why do we sit idly in the name of meditation and waste time?
The only remedy at this stage is it dedicate ourselves to the service of wise men who dwell in the unmanifest and of those who have gone ahead of us on the path. This will subdue negative impressions and strengthen thoughts that are conducive to worship.
Gradually, with the diminishing of forces of darkness and ignorance, there is the growing sway of the quality of rajas, and a partial awakening of the property of good and moral virtue (sattwa) as well, because of which the worshipper’s ability is elevated to the Vaishya level.
Then the same worshipper begins spontaneously to imbibe qualities such as control of the senses and to accumulate other virtuous impulses.
Proceeding further on the path of action, he is endowed with the wealth of righteousness. The property of rajas now grows faint and tamas is dormant. At this stage of development the worshipper steps on to the Kshatriya level. Prowess, the ability to be immersed in action, unwillingness to retreat, mastery over feelings, the capacity to carve his way through the three properties of nature-are now the inherent features of the worshipper’s disposition.
With yet further refinement of action, sattwa makes its approach, at which there is the evolution of virtues such as control of the mind and senses, concentration, innocence, contemplation and abstract meditation, and faith as well the capacity to hear the voice of God-all qualities that provide access to Him. With the emergence of these qualities the worshipper comes to belong to the Brahmin class.
This, however, is the lowest stage of worship at this level.When ultimately the worshipper is united with God, at that point-the highest point-he is neither a Brahmin, nor a Kshatriya, nor a Vaishya, nor a Shudr.
So worship of God is the only action-the ordained action. And it is this one action that is divided into four stages according to the motivating properties. The division was made, as we have seen, by a saint—by a Yogeshwar.
A sage dwelling in the unmanifest was the maker of this division. Yet Sri Krishn tells Arjun to regard him, the indestructible and maker of varn, as a non-doer.
Now How can it be so? We may see this in next verse.
Lord Krishn adds further:
‘‘I am unsullied by action because I am not attached to it,
and they who are aware of this are in the like fashion
unfettered by action.’’
Sri Krishn is unattached to the fruits of action. He said that the deed by which yagya is accomplished is action, and that the one who tastes the nectar of wisdom generated by yagya merges into the changeless, eternal God.
So the final consequence of action is attainment of the Supreme Spirit himself. And Sri Krishn has overcome even the desire for God because he has become identical with Him. So he is also unmanifest like God. There is now no power beyond for which he should strive. So he is untouched by action, and they who know him from the same level, from the level of God realization, are also not bound by action. Such are the realized sages who have reached the level of Sri Krishn’s accomplishment.
Now agin in Chapter Eighteen Verse Forty One, Lord Krishn sings:
“The duties of Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya,
as also of Shudr are determined by properties
that are born out of their nature.’’
If a man’s nature is made up of the property of goodness, there is inner purity along with the ability to meditate and worship. If the dominating property is that of ignorance, lethargy, sleep, and insanity are the outcome, and the attempted action is at their level. The capacity of one’s natural property is his varn-his character.
Similarly, a partial combination of goodness and passion constitutes the Kshatriya class, whereas a partial combination of the property of ignorance and that of passion constitutes the Vaishya class.
This is the fourth time when Yogeshwar Krishn has taken up the issue. He named Kshatriya in Chapter 2 and said that “there is nothing more propitious for a Kshatriya than a righteous war.”(verse 31)
In Chapter 3 he said that although inferior in merit, one’s own natural calling (dharm) is the best and even meeting with death while upholding it results in good, whereas an obligation other than one’s own, even though well observed, generates nothing but dread.(verse 35)
In Chapter 4, then, he indicated that he is the creator of the four classes.(verse 13) Does he mean by this that he has divided men into four rigid castes determined by birth? His answer to the question is an emphatic no, and he asserts that he has but divided action into four categories according to their inherent properties. The innate property of a being or object is a measure-a yardstick. So the division of mankind into four varn is only a division of the one and same action into four stages according to the motivating properties.
In Sri Krishn’s words, action is the mode of attaining to the one, inexpressible God. The conduct that takes one to God is worship, which commences in faith in the desired end. So meditation on the Supreme Being is the one true action that Sri Krishn has-divided into four steps in his system of varn. Now, how are we to know to which property and stage we belong? This is what Sri Krishn turns to in the following verses.
In Verse Forty Two, Chapter Eighteen, Lord Krishna adds:
“Self-restraint, subduing of the senses, innocence,
continence, mercy, uprightness, piety, true knowledge,
and direct perception of divinity are the Brahmins province-
born out of his nature.”
Restraining the mind, curbing the senses, flawless purity, mortification of mind, speech, and body to mould them in tune with the cherished goal, forgiveness, all-pervading righteousness, staunch faith in the one aimed at goal, consciousness of the Supreme Being, the awakening in the realm of the heart of the exhortations coming from God, and the ability to act according to them-are all a Brahmin ‘s obligations that arise from his own nature.
It might be said, therefore, that the seeker is a Brahmin when all these merits are present in him and the commenced action is an integral part of his nature.
In Verse Forty Three, Chapter Eighteen, Lord Krishna sings:
“Valour, majesty, dexterity, unwillingness to retreat in battle,
charity, and sovereignty are the natural province of a Kshatriya.”
Bravery, achievement of divine glory, forbearance, competence in meditation-skill in action, disinclination to run away from struggle with the material world, relinquishment of all, and domination of all feelings by feeling for the Supreme Being-are all activities born out of the nature of a Kshatriya.
In Verse Forty Four, Chapter Eighteen, Lord Krishn adds:
“Farming, protection of cows (the senses)
and commerce are the natural province of a Vaishya,
whereas rendering service is the natural calling of a Shudr.’’
Agriculture, rearing of cattle, and commerce are duties in keeping with the nature of a Vaishya. Why only preservation of cows? Should we slaughter buffaloes? Is it wrong to keep goats? There is nothing at all like all this.
In the ancient Vedic text, the word “go” (cow) was used to refer to the senses. So protection of “cows” means care of the senses. The senses are protected by discernment, non-attachment, restraint, and steadfastness. They are, on the other hand, riven and rendered feeble by lust, wrath, avarice, and attachment. Spiritual acquisition is the only true wealth.
This is our one true asset and once it has been earned, it stays on with us forever. Gradual amassing of this wealth in the course of our struggle with the world of matter or nature is trade. The acquisition of knowledge, which is the most precious of all riches, is commerce.
And what is farming? The body is like a piece of earth. The seeds which are sown in it sprout in the form of sanskar-the merits of action: the force that is built up by all the actions in previous lives. Arjun is told that the seed (the initial impulse) of selfless action is never destroyed.
Vaishya is the third step of the ordained action- of contemplation of the Supreme Being; and preservation of the seeds of divine meditation that are sown in this patch of earth-the body, while at the same time opposing hostile impulses, is agriculture.
As Goswami Tulsidas has said, whereas the wise husbandman farms well and with care, they who are of deficient wisdom are insensible and arrogant. To protect the senses thus, to store spiritual wealth amidst the skirmishes of nature, and to always strengthen contemplation of the ultimate essence are the province of Vaishya.
According to Sri Krishn, the omnipresent God is the final outcome of yagya. The devout souls who partake of this fruit are emancipated from all sins and it is the seeds of this action that are sown by the meditative process. To protect this germ is true husbandry.
In Vedic writings food means the Supreme Spirit. God is the only real sustenance-the food. The Soul is fully placated at the completion of the exercise of contemplation and never again knows any craving. Once the exercise has been brought to successful conclusion, the Soul is freed from the cycle of birth and death. To go ahead sowing the seeds of this food is true husbandry.
To serve those who have attained to a higher spiritual status, revered men of accomplishment, is the duty of Shudr. Rather than meaning “base’’, Shudr means “one with deficient knowledge.” It is the seeker at the lowest stage who is a Shudr. It is but proper that this initiate worshipper should begin his quest with rendering service.
Service to men of accomplishment will in the course of time generate nobler impulses in him and he will thus gradually move up to the higher Vaishya, Kshatriya, and Brahmin stages. And ultimately he will go beyond varn (properties of nature) and become one with God.
Character is a dynamic entity. There is change in an individual’s varn along with changes in his character. So, in fact, varn are the four-excellent, good, medium, and low-stages: the four steps, low and high, which seekers who tread the path of action have to climb. This is so because the action in question is only one-the ordained action.
In Verse Forty Five, Chapter Eighteen, Sri Krishna sings:
“Commitment to his own inborn duty brings man
to the ultimate accomplishment and you should listen to me on
how a man achieves perfection through dedication
to his innate calling.’’
The perfection that is ultimately achieved is realization of God.Sri Krishn told Arjun earlier, too, that he would reach this final goal by engaging in action-the real, prescribed action.
In verse Forty Six of the same Chapter, Sri Krishn sings:
“By adoration of that God, who has created all beings and who pervades the whole universe, through undertaking of his natural calling, man attains to final accomplishment.’’
The seeker achieves final consummation through performance of his native duties. It is, therefore, essential that he should constantly keep his mind fixed on God, adore him, and proceed on his way step by step.
Instead of making any gain, a junior student even loses whatever he has if he sits in a senior class. So law is that one should climb step by step. It was said in the sixth verse of this chapter that yagya, charity, and penance ought to be undertaken after abandonment of attachment and fruits of action. Now, stressing the same point, Sri Krishn says again that even a partially enlightened man ought to begin from the same point: from self-surrender to God.
In Verse Forty Seven of Chapter Eighteen, Lord Krishna adds:
“Even though unmeritorious, one’s own native calling is superior to the office of others, for a man carrying out his natural obligation
does not bring sin upon himself.”
Although inferior, one’s own obligation is better than even the well performed duties of others. A man absorbed in performing a task that is determined by his own nature does not incur sin in so far as he is not subjected to the endless cycle of “entrances” and “exits”-of birth and death.
It is quite often that worshippers begin to feel disenchanted with the service they are rendering. They look at the more accomplished seekers who are absorbed in meditation and grow envious of the honour that is accorded them because of their merits. So novices at once fall to imitating. According to Sri Krishn, however, imitation or envy can be of no avail. The final accomplishment is only by dedication to one’s own native calling, not by its abandonment.
In Verse Forty Eight of the same Chapter, Lord Krishna says:
“One’s innate duty ought not to be forsaken, O son of Kunti, even if it is blemished, because all actions are impaired by some flaw or the other as fire is shrouded by smoke.”
It is but expected that the actions of the novice seeker are flawed, for their doer is yet far from perfection. But even these actions must not be given up. Moreover, there is no action that is unimpeachable. And action has to be undertaken even by one, who belongs to the Brahmin class. Imperfections-the obscuring pall of nature-are there until there is steady devotion. They come to an end only when the action natural to a Brahmin is dissipated in God. But what are the attributes of the accomplisher at the point where action is no longer of any avail?
In Verse Forty Nine of Chapter Eighteen, Lord Krishna sings:
“He whose intellect is aloof all round, who is without desire, and who has conquered his mind, attains to the ultimate state that transcends all action through renunciation.”
“Renunciation” is, as we have already seen, complete self-abnegation. It is the condition in which the seeker abandons whatever he has and only then does he reach the point when no further action is needed. “Renunciation” and “attainment of the supreme state of actionlessness” are synonymous here. The yogi who has reached the state of actionlessness attains to the Supreme Being.
~Swami Adgadanand Jee Paramhans.©
I feel that now there must not be any doubt in having a clear concept about what Lord Krishna has said while clarifying about four classes(Varn).
Bow down in lotus feet of revered Gurudev for such teaching to me.