Bhagavad Gita – Chapter 4, Sloka 13, part 2

Newsletter on Bhagavadgita by Dr. P.V. Nath
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Sloka 13


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.


***   continuation from last week   ***

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.

These are:

(A description of the qualities of these four classes of people is to be found in chapter 18, slokas 42-44 of the Gita.)

Brahmana is he who has a predominant of satva and shines forth with the light of knowledge of the sastras. Satva is depicted as pure white in colour. Those members in the society who have a true and complete knowledge of the sastras and express the divinity within in all their actions are the brahmanas in the truest sense. The priestly class of the present are referred to as brahmanas.

Kshatriya is he who has predominance of rajas and satva and stands prominently by his physical power. He is also a man of knowledge of the sastras. Rajas is depicted as red in colour. The ruling class of people in the days gone by were the kshatriyas.

Vysya is he who has a combination of rajas and tamas but with a small portion of satva included. Those members in the society who are businessmen and take part in the trade market are the vysyas.

Sudra is he who has a predominance of tamas. He is physically strong but has not got the knowledge of the sastras. The labour class who are physically strong but who do not possess the knowledge of the sastras are considered as sudras.

The ancient system was used therefore to classify the people according to their capacity into these four classes. The sacred text tells us that each one of us is born with a set of gunas carried forward from the previous births. By our so called past samskaras (vasanas) each one of us belong to one of these four main groups.

Even though we belong to one of the four categories at birth, we have an opportunity to better ourselves and move upwards. Even the lowest of the low, the sudra has a right to acquire the knowledge and move up in the ladder. The sacred Hindu texts and the Gita clearly state that it is the duty of the Brahmana to impart the knowledge to whoever seeks for the same and assist in his/her spiritual progress.

Unfortunately somewhere in the middle from the time of creation of the life by Brahman to the present day, this classification was misrepresented. It was misused by those belonging to the upper class to hold on to their power and suppress the lower class. They brought the word “birthright” to belong to the class they were in.

Child born to a Brahmana was called a Brahmana, to a Kshatriya a Kshatriya and so on and so forth. In course of time this method was accepted as norm and the caste system of the present was born. The Government of India has used this method for classifying its citizens who are Hindus. This has caused a lot of upheaval in the society and it is not the intention of this author to dwell on such issues.

Sri Krishna, the creator of life on earth says in this sloka that this classification was created only according to the differentiation of qualities and functions of the individual. The entry into the classification is according to the “guna-right and not birthright.”

By acquiring the skills needed for any varna system, the individual can progress in life. Sri Krishna says that the “Purusharta” of every individual is to attain “Moksha.” If so, this should include all the members of all the four classes mentioned above without any exception. They can attain this final aim only by acquiring the knowledge which the upper class has to impart with love and affection.

Let me make this bold statement made by Swamy Vivekananda:

It is in the nature of any society to form into groups, each group with certain privileges. Caste system is a natural order with each group member capable of performing certain duty better than the other. One can be a governor and other a shoe mender and there should be no reason for anyone considering them to be superior to the other. Governor cannot mend the shoes and shoe mender cannot govern a state. One can be clever in reading Vedas but he has no right to trample over others. Men must form themselves into groups and it is impossible to get rid of this in principle. The titles like Brahmana, Kshatriya may differ but the groups will remain the same.

It is therefore not necessary to change the caste system but change the way in which it is used. There should be respect and love for each other and no one should consider themselves as superior. No privileges to anyone and equal chances for all should be the motto. Let everyone be taught that the divinity is within each one and the same God is in all. Everyone should be given the opportunity to get the education and work out his own salvation.

***   will be continued ***

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