Warning: include(domaintitles/domaintitle_wiki.exoticindiaart.php3): failed to open stream: No such file or directory in /home/exotic/newexotic/header.php3 on line 751

Warning: include(): Failed opening 'domaintitles/domaintitle_wiki.exoticindiaart.php3' for inclusion (include_path='.:/usr/lib/php:/usr/local/lib/php') in /home/exotic/newexotic/header.php3 on line 751

Subscribe for Newsletters and Discounts
Be the first to receive our thoughtfully written
religious articles and product discounts.
Your interests (Optional)
This will help us make recommendations and send discounts and sale information at times.
By registering, you may receive account related information, our email newsletters and product updates, no more than twice a month. Please read our Privacy Policy for details.
.
By subscribing, you will receive our email newsletters and product updates, no more than twice a month. All emails will be sent by Exotic India using the email address info@exoticindia.com.

Please read our Privacy Policy for details.
|6
Sign In  |  Sign up
Your Cart (0)
Best Deals
Share our website with your friends.
Email this page to a friend

Varnashrama Dharma: A Logical View

Article of the Month - April 2015
Viewed 8557 times since 15th Apr, 2015
With the rise of individual ideologies, there has been a noisy protest against varnashrama dharma, with the argument against it running as follows: "The concept of the division of varnas as practiced now is erroneous. Any attempt to protect it is not correct. It is wrong to say that people born in the respective castes naturally belong to that particular varna and it is also wrong to prescribe unique functions and a unique way of life for each varna on the basis of birth. This is because the supposed characteristics that are the distinguishing marks of different varnas are really not unique to the members of that particular varna only. The so-called unique qualities – gunas – of a particular varna are not exclusive but found in the members of the other varnas also".

This argument needs to be examined carefully with a balanced mind. Before critically examining it, one has to consider what this argument has already conceded and then analyze what remains to be decided. It concedes that for an orderly social life a division into four groups based on the principle of varnadharma is necessary. It is also conceded that this arrangement should be based on gunas. Further, what the Shastras prescribe as appropriate guna for a particular varna should be the deciding factor for inclusion in a varna – whether the varna be decided on the basis of the present guna of the individual or on the basis of birth. Their argument is that varna should be decided by worth and not birth – by an individual’s actions and character – acharana and charitra.

How far is this contention correct? It is evident that all the three gunas, sattva, rajas and tamas, are found in every individual. Each individual sometimes acts in a sattvika manner while at other times he may act in rajasic or tamasic manner, which means that the manifestation of a particular guna depends on circumstances and its presence cannot be detected if it is not manifest. Further, the very same guna gets manifested in different persons differently. Tamas may render a person lazy and keep him without activity. But it may send another person to sleep and may induce somebody else to get drunk. A person may be angry under the effect of rajas while one may just frown, another person may thrash and another may even kill. When sattvaguna is predominant one may embrace a child with love while some other may begin to study a holy book and yet another go into deep meditation.

Why do such differences exist? It depends on the intensity of the other two gunas. Though all the three gunas are present in everyone, different persons are driven to act differently. It may also drive a person to act differently at different points of time. Therefore, if only one could decide by observing a person the proportion in which these gunas exist in him and in what direction these are changing, then one may perhaps be able to decide his varna. But is it humanly possible to decide or measure these changes? Can any doctor examine one's pulse and give a certificate for this? Or can it be measured with the help of any instrument? Even if it is possible, will anyone accept such results arrived at by another person? Even if someone can decide it, what can be the criterion of this validity? If one can decide it unilaterally for oneself, it should not lead to conflict in society because the system of varna is only for peace and harmony in the society.

Who can then determine the gunas of individuals? And for what purpose and how? These are the questions that confront us. Who can decide it if not God Himself? That which is not to be done by any human can be done by God alone. This can be taken as the definition of God. None else can create either the world or the living beings. It is only the omniscient and omnipotent God who can create them. I am the one who indulges in karma as prompted by my crazy will and who must perforce enjoy its fruits. On the other hand, the Almighty God is free from the performance of any karma or the enjoyment of its fruits, but is the perennial witness to my gunas and the karmas I indulge in under their influence. Thus it is only He, who is immanent in all beings, who can decide the individual’s characteristic guna.

If one asks what is the need for deciding the individual’s gunas – it is this: I am caught inextricably in the maze of these gunas and the karmas that they induce me to perform. I must transcend these gunas to attain absolute peace. It is only He who can lift me out of this morass and bless me with salvation - the state which transcends these gunas and leads me to absolute bliss. I have to agree to attain this state of moksha, I have to perform appropriate karma, prescribed by Him, to become deserving of attaining moksha. The karma that I have to perform should depend on my inherent gunas and should have the ability to regulate these gunas. But I am ignorant of both: what those gunas are and how I can transcend them through karma. It is Almighty God who alone can determine this. How does God determine my gunas? He Himself has declared this. Gunas and karmas have a non-exclusive relationship and are mutually dependent. Each one is affecting the other perpetually. That is why gunas are extremely complicated. God, who is always witness to my gunas and karmas at the time of my death, determines my gunas in the next birth, making me take birth in an appropriate family. When I am born in that family, the appropriate karma is prescribed by Him for me. If I follow that, I can evolve to a higher plane. If I discard it, it leads to my regression. The declaration "Chaturvarnyam maya srishtam guna karma vibhagashah" (Gita 4.13) clearly enunciates how gunas originate: They have their source in individual swabhava. It implies that they are the product of the individual’s samskaras acquired in his past lives, and karma is what is prescribed for the present life.

Ashrama Dharma

Sannyasa Darshan: A Treatise on Traditional and Contemporary Sannyasa

Thus far regarding varnadharma. Now what is ashrama dharma? A man with discrimination knows that tireless effort is inevitable all through life – "Kurvanneveha karmani jijivishet shatam samah" (Isha Upanishad 2). Effort for what purpose? For attainment of moksha. But there is no worldly life in moksha, and as man is under the influence of the gunas, there is no liberation of man from worldly life. There is no instant transition to moksha. An individual has to make his way towards moksha only through worldly life. In view of this, Shastras have prescribed a four-stage advancement towards the goal of moksha. These are the four ashramas. The foremost is the brahmacharya ashrama wherein the effort is directed towards adhyayana or study. This adhyayana should at least introduce him to the concept of moksha. The second is grihastha ashrama. In this stage the effort aims at performing karmas that prepare the mind for attaining moksha. The third is vanaprastha ashrama. Though as a householder, one enjoys the worldly pleasures being prompted by gunas, subsequently the person having attained wisdom decides to spend his life in a forest abode and his effort there is directed towards performance of tapasya to attain moksha. When this effort reaches its fulfilment, the person, having reached a state of complete renunciation, will lead his further life always immersed in the thought of Almighty God and this is the final stage of sannyasa ashrama.

These ashramas are meant to lead a person by stages through virtuous deeds, enabling him to transform his gunas and finally attain moksha that transcends gunas. Therefore, it is wrong for a person to claim "I am endowed with the guna of some other varna, and hence I can perform the karma of that varna better and I will adopt that karma." But that is not correct – Shreyan swadharmo vighnati Paradharmath swanushtitaah. Swadharme nidhanam shreyah, para dharmo bhayavahah – Even if a person cannot perform the karma of his own varna properly, the attempt made by such a person to perform his prescribed karma brings him credit. Adopting the karma of another varna can only be harmful. Performing the karma prescribed for one’s varna alone is the way forward (Gita 3.35).

Current Issues in Varnashrama

Pareekshit

It is true that passage of time brings about deterioration in any system and people governed by that system start showing laxity in observing the codes of that system. This is the law of nature. Shastras reveal that even this dharma established by the sages of yore gradually loses its hold on the society in the course of time. Dharma which stands firmly on four legs in the Krita Yuga, with the advent of new yugas gets deprived of these supporting legs one by one, till in the Kali Yuga it is left with only one leg for its support. With the entry of the Kali Yuga, Parikshit, who was none other than the scion of the noble Pandavas, being the son of Abhimanyu and grandson of Arjuna, behaves like a depraved youth. Offended on getting no response to his query from saint Shamika, who was seated in deep meditation, Parikshit garlands him with a dead snake. If such is the effect of the Kali Yuga even on a person of noble descent, what could be its effect on common people! They begin to lose faith in the Vedas and start to value more their own little knowledge. Varnashrama dharma, which is the bedrock of a healthy social order, gradually loses its hold on the society. Some clever people, who depend solely on mere perception and inference, formulate their own individual ideologies.

Thus, whenever deficiencies crop up in a system, attempts should be made to set them right and not destroy what has come down from times immemorial. Remedy for headache does not lie in cutting off the head. The varnas are the limbs of the purusha. Varna dharma is the blood of this society. Therefore, it is in the interest of all that the intellectuals and well-wishers of the society try to clean up this system and make it workable. Intellectuals of our society should apply their minds and examine the deficiencies that have cropped up in varna dharma dispassionately and thoroughly and suggest solutions which can lead to peace and harmony in the society.

 

This article is based almost entirely on the teachings of Pujya Swami Paramanand Bharati Ji. However, any errors are entirely the author's own.

 


References & Further Reading:

Post a Comment
 
Post Review
Testimonials
I have always been delighted with your excellent service and variety of items.
James, USA
I've been happy with prior purchases from this site!
Priya, USA
Thank you. You are providing an excellent and unique service.
Thiru, UK
Thank You very much for this wonderful opportunity for helping people to acquire the spiritual treasures of Hinduism at such an affordable price.
Ramakrishna, Australia
I really LOVE you! Wonderful selections, prices and service. Thank you!
Tina, USA
This is to inform you that the shipment of my order has arrived in perfect condition. The actual shipment took only less than two weeks, which is quite good seen the circumstances. I waited with my response until now since the Buddha statue was a present that I handed over just recently. The Medicine Buddha was meant for a lady who is active in the healing business and the statue was just the right thing for her. I downloaded the respective mantras and chants so that she can work with the benefits of the spiritual meanings of the statue and the mantras. She is really delighted and immediately fell in love with the beautiful statue. I am most grateful to you for having provided this wonderful work of art. We both have a strong relationship with Buddhism and know to appreciate the valuable spiritual power of this way of thinking. So thank you very much again and I am sure that I will come back again.
Bernd, Spain
You have the best selection of Hindu religous art and books and excellent service.i AM THANKFUL FOR BOTH.
Michael, USA
I am very happy with your service, and have now added a web page recommending you for those interested in Vedic astrology books: https://www.learnastrologyfree.com/vedicbooks.htm Many blessings to you.
Hank, USA
As usual I love your merchandise!!!
Anthea, USA
You have a fine selection of books on Hindu and Buddhist philosophy.
Walter, USA
Subscribe to our newsletter and discounts
Share with friends
Links Related to
"Durga Puja is more than the periodically observed navratra in the subcontinent..The akaal bodhon Durga Puja has evolved into great socio-cultural significance in the Eastern Delta region, and is the lifeblood of Bengalis everywhere...On dashami the next day, one could sense the pall that descends upon the delta...Ma Durga's time in Her girlhood home draws to a close. Now is the final throes of festive exuberance."
Durga Puja - Worshipping the Wife of Shiva, Daughter of Bengal
"Her epithet in the Devi-Mahatmya is Mahalakshmi. She is the wrathful four-armed goddess of battlefield represented holding in them various weapons…. A form of Lakshmi seated over a lotus laid over a golden seat and a pair of white elephants…. Except in some classical forms in Lakshmi-Narayana imagery Lakshmi is ordinarily two-armed…. Incarnation theory is the crux of Vaishnavism. Vishnu incarnates alone but Lakshmi also incarnates in simultaneity…. Though very rare some enthused artists have conceived on Ardhanarishvara line also Vishnu’s Ardhanarishvara images."
Iconography of Vaishnava Deities: Goddess Lakshmi
"Actually, the one who worships Bhagwan Vishnu should get rich and the one who worships Shiva should become an avadhuta like Him…. Then he works hard again to acquire wealth. I render all his efforts futile…. However, Bhagawan Vishnu is not like that, it takes longer to please Him…. As a consequence, they later harassed the great God Himself…. On the seventh day, he bathed in the holy waters of Kedarnath and began to cut his head with an axe to offer into the fire…. The boy bowed respectfully before the demon and asked…. No one who commits sin against a great person can be safe and happy in this world."
Shiva and Vishnu: A Unique Aspect of Their Worship
"Here is a fragment from one of the most poignant episodes of Indian history…. This piece of history is from the Mahabharata…. She was dying with shame but inside, like a true kshatrani (woman of the warrior race), she was burning with anger…. I have heard that women who follow dharma were never brought before a public court….Greed is the destroyer of dharma. I do not desire a third boon…. Draupadi was as forgiving as mother earth herself…. Just then Arjuna saw his dear friend Bhagawan Krishna approaching him…. “Leave him, leave him. He is a brahmin and worthy of our worship. Their mother should not cry, like I have at the death of my children."
Analyzing the Eternal Dimensions of Dharma Through Itihasa (History)
"Bhishma undoubtedly is one of the central figures of the Mahabharata.…. One should not venture out too early in the morning…. But one should not go to sleep with wet feet….A person who desires to live long should never irritate the following three…. One must shun company of people who criticize the Vedas…. If we are traveling, one must find shelter inside a house…."
Living the Full Life: 50 Instructions from the Mahabharata
"We assume that our happiness is the result of an interaction with external objects…. Suppose that an individual is deprived of sleep and food and pleasurable objects for a long time and then all of them are simultaneously offered to him…. Actually, seeking the answer to this question is the most significant pursuit in life…. The veil comes up again and the duality returns…. In this background, we can now analyse the nature of dukha (grief)."
Ananda: Understanding the True Nature of Happiness
"A man receives a wife given by the gods... Where women are revered, there the gods rejoice; but where they are not, all efforts are unfruitful…. The husband, tradition says, is the wife, They can never be cut loose from one another. This is the dharma made by Brahma himself….he king who bears patiently when those in anguish insult him will be exalted in heaven…. If the driver of a vehicle injures a man, animal or property, he needs to be punished along with the owner of the vehicle…. This in a nutshell, is the definition of suffering and happiness."
Living According to Manu: God’s Manual of Instruction for Life
"Contrarily metaphysicians and theologians perceived his form as it manifested in the Upanishads and Puranas….The ‘Advaita’ philosophy also contends that the entire Creation is just the extension of One…. Dance illustrates one of the ever-first cosmic acts with which Shiva seems to have tamed violent motion and separated from it rhythm, moves that communicated emotions and states of mind – human mind and the cosmic, and disciplined and defined pace…. Unlike Vishnu who resorted to dance for accomplishing a contemplated objective, Shiva has been conceived more or less as a regular dancer performing for accomplishing an objective as also for pure aesthetic delight…. Unfurling locks of hair and his snakes floating into space portray the dynamics of the act."
Shiva, the Nataraja
"There is Rama, the son of Ayodhya's king Dasharatha in his human birth, and there is Rama's divinity, his divine aura that overwhelms the Tulasi's entire Ramacharit-manas, one manifest - with attributes, and the other, unmanifest - without attributes. With main emphasis on his majesty in South Indian tradition this crown is taller than usual. His 'khadgasana' images are usually in three modes; one with his right foot moved forward represents him in a commander's disposition ready to rush for protecting a devotee in crisis or redeem him from some calamity. Harihara, a form in which he shares with Shiva half of the body. Basically a bird Garuda is seen for ages as Vishnu's ardent devotee, a learned human being and an auspicious presence, and in iconographic tradition often conceived with a man's face, anatomy, ornaments and ensemble. The Puranas are replete with tales of Garuda's divine exploits."
Iconography of Vaishnava Images: Vishnu
"The Bhagavad Gita, while describing the qualities of a wise person says…. This verse is vividly illustrated in the story of king Rantideva occurring in the Srimad Bhagavatam…. He did not believe in hoarding, was above all attachments and was highly patient…. They were all trembling due to starvation and thirst….bowed to the dogs and their owner…. What I want is only this: That I be able to go and live in the hearts of all beings and undergo sufferings on their behalf, so that they may become free from all miseries."
An Example of Living Vedanta: The Story of King Rantideva
"She has always believed that this would redeem her of her distress….A coconut, otherwise an ordinary dried fruit or the source of edible, or at the most, beauty oil, has always been revered as an auspicious object effecting good and well-being and the food that gods most loved….The tree in the Buddhist tradition was later identified as Bodhi-tree, seated under which Buddha had attained Enlightenment….Body gestures and symptoms, signs, indications among others must have been the early man’s tools of communicating oneself and knowing and understanding the world around….Kirttimukha was initially conceived as a mystical mask….Lion does not figure in the wide range of animal toys or figurines excavated from Indus sites."
Auspicious Symbols in Indian tradition
"Whenever he gets the time, he should go and live amongst people who have given up worldly life…. A wise person should serve his body and family only to the extent that is functionally necessary…. The person who lays claim on the surplus wealth is nothing but a thief…. He should share all objects of enjoyment with everyone, right down to dogs, sinners…. Such is the attachment to one’s wife….How despicable is this body, which if buried is going to become the food of worms, or excreta if eaten by animals….Since a son is to thus revere his elders even after their death, what to say that he is expected to serve them when they are alive…. The person wishing to follow the path of dharma should steer clear of the five forms of Adharma."
Narada Teaches Yuddhishtra a Householder’s Dharma
"One uniqueness of our Vedic religion is that it allows for salvation not only through renunciation (nivritti) but also through the path of material happiness (pravritti).... If dharma makes it mandatory that conjugal pleasure be restricted to the life partner, how is it that Krishna indulged in the amorous sport of Rasa with others' wives?.... Some stopped cooking, some stopped feeding, some stopped eating, some stopped washing clothes etc. and ran away.... Upanishads call the jiva in waking state as Vishwa and the dreaming jiva as Taijasa (Mandukya Upanishad Mantras 3-4)."
Krishna's Rasa Lila: The Vedantic Perspective
"This middle path lies in between extreme asceticism on one side, and extreme indulgence on the other…. When standing under a Ashok tree, tired and exhausted, she raised her right hand for seeking support of a branch of the tree…. The unique balance that defined his entire life was pre-determined in this duality….One day, in the palace garden he frightened his attendants…. He ate less and less till his diet reduced to a sesame seed, and himself, to a mere skeleton…. Seven days after the attainment of enlightenment gods sent food for breaking his fast…. However, he postponed his ‘nirvana’ for three months till he visited the places he had reminiscences of."
The Light That Enlightened Millions
(The life of Buddha in the popular mind)
"Both the Mahabharata and Shrimad Bhagavatam give a vivid description of how things are like in Kaliyuga…. The following is a list of features typical to Kaliyuga…. A man will consider only those people to be his relatives who are related to him through….The ashrams will be full of show-offs who are experts in the art of living off the food of others….. We can save ourselves from Kaliyuga."
50 Characteristics of Kaliyuga
Show More
Language:
Currency:
All rights reserved. Copyright 2019 © Exotic India