Bhagavad Gita – Chapter 4, Sloka 13, part 1

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Sloka 13

CHATUR VARNYAM MAYAA SRISHTAM GUNA KARMA VIBHAGASHAHA
TASYA KARTARAM API MAAM VIDDHI AKARTARAM AVYAYAM

The four-fold caste system has been created by Me according to the differentiation of qualities and actions. Though I am the author, know Me as non-doer and eternal.

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The caste system as it is practiced in India at present has been a bone of contention amongst many. Even this sloka has been used by many to support their view of the same but unfortunately with incomplete / improper / misguided understanding of its words. It is therefore very important to understand the meaning of the sloka in its totality and not just a part of it.

 “The four fold caste system has been created by Me”:

Taking this part of the sloka, there are many who, without proceeding further, simply say that after all the system has been created by Sri Krishna. They tend to put the blame on the present problems due to the existing method of caste system directly on Krishna. It is definitely not true and not correct.

As we can see Sri Krishna immediately adds up to the first statement by saying:
“According to the differentiation of qualities and actions.”

We have to understand this section more clearly to remove any misunderstanding.

Let us therefore proceed with the analysis of the meaning of the entire sloka in total.

Chaturvanyam: (the four varnas):

The word “varna” refers to the colour of the person. The word “caste” has been a latter entry into the dictionary of the Hindus. Sri Krishna admits to creating the “Varna” system but does not say “caste system.”

When one refers to the “colour” of the person, it means “the colour of the centre of actions.” “Colour” in this sense is only a poetic description and does not really refer to the physical colour of the individual like dark, fair etc.

Guna Karma vibhagashu: divided according to the gunas and actions.

The centre for all our actions (karma) is “the mind.” The mind is the seat of three basic qualities (gunas) of “Satva, Rajas and Tamas.” All the three qualities are inherent in every individual but their proportion expressed outwardly as actions differs from individual to individual. The actions expressed according to the gunas is “Guna karma.” The division of such actions is “Guna karma Vibhagashu”.

Broadly speaking, in any single society, the individuals can be divided into four main groups depending upon the proportion in expressing outwardly the three basic gunas in the form of actions. “Chaturvarna” refers to the four groups of individuals in any society.

We naturally accept that the different parts of the body constitute a single person even though their functions vary. We are expected to use the same logic and accept that the four castes are constituents of one single society and we should act with love and respect towards each of these four groups.

***   will be continued ***

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