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 Lord Krishn has-divided into four steps in his system of varn.
Lord Krishn sings:
“The duties of Brahmin, Kshatriy, Vaishy,
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 Kshatriy class, whereas a partial combination of the property of ignorance and that of passion constitutes the Vaishy class.
Lord Krishn named Kshatriy in Chapter 2 of Bhagavad Gita and said that “there is nothing more propitious for a Kshatriy 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.
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 Lord Krishn’s words, action is the mode of attaining to the one, inexpressible God. Now, how are we to know to which property and stage we belong? This is what Lord Krishn turns to in the following verses.
“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.
“Valour, majesty, dexterity, unwillingness to retreat in battle,
charity, and sovereignty are the natural province of a Kshatriy.”
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 Kshatriy.
“Farming, protection of cows (the senses)
and commerce are the natural province of a Vaishy,
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 Vaishy. 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. Vaishy 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 husbandsman 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 Vaishy.
According to Lord 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 worshiper 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 Vaishy, Kshatriy, 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.
Lord Krishn adds:
“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. Lord Krishn told Arjun earlier, too, that he would reach this final goal by engaging in action-the real, prescribed action.
“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 by Lord Krishn earlier that yagya, charity, and penance ought to be undertaken after abandonment of attachment and fruits of action. Now, stressing the same point, Lord Krishn says again that even a partially enlightened man ought to begin from the same point: from self-surrender to God.
“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 worshipers 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 Lord 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.
“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.
~Revered Gurudev Swami Adgadanand Jee Paramhans~