Hindu Caste System – Nothing but varying degrees of combinations of three thought textures!

caste

We are essentially divine, but the divinity in us is covered by a veil of thoughts. The differences in the concentration and type of these thoughts give rise to the variety of human beings we see in the world.

The textbooks of Vedanta delineate three thought textures, or gunas गुण , through which the human mind functions:-

  1. Sattva सत्व = purity: thoughts that are pure and noble
  2. Rajas रजस् = passion: thoughts that are passionate and agitated
  3. Tamas तमस् = inertia: thoughts that are dull and inactive

These thought textures, in various permutations, determine individual personalities. And on any one day or during any hour of a day, each of us may have one of the three textures play the predominant role. Every human being experiences all three types of thought currents: sattvika, rajasika, and tamasika. Only the degree to which any one of these textures predominates determines the type to which an individual belongs.

The four gradations in the caste system of India are s. The historic misinterpretation and misuse of those gradations comprise what is generally known as the caste system today.

The four castes were originally determined neither by ancestry nor by vocation, but by a person’s inner temperament:-

The brahmin ब्राह्मिन् (thinker) class is predominantly sattvika सात्त्विक, exhibiting only a little rajas and minimal traces of tamas. The Gita says that this category of people is characterized by serenity, self-restraint; austerity, purity, forgiveness, uprightness, knowledge, and belief in God. Priests, ministers, great thinkers, and subtle poets belong in this category.

The ksatriya क्षत्रिय (leader) class exhibits mostly rajasika राजसिक qualities, with a little of sattva and tamas mixed in. According to the Gita, this category is characterized by prowess, splendor, dexterity, generosity, and lordliness. Leaders of society, such as national presidents or community activists, fall into this category.

The vaisya वैस्य (trader) class has less of sattva and miss and more of tamas. In this classification fall the traders and business people.

The sudra  सुद्र (laborer) class has a major share of tamas, with a little of rajas and minimal traces of sattva. This category includes people who work on simple and menial tasks, and who are motivated largely by the direction given by others.

Today, these classifications have lost much of their meaning. They come to designate a hereditary birthright in the society, a mere superficial distinction that divides society into castes. For many years, people have espoused the belief that the four castes are based upon and determined by birth within a given family and by the type of vocation one follows. This confusion arose because the ancient masters of religion, who were also great psychologists, had suggested certain Vocations that they thought would be best suited to persons, belonging to each respective class of mental and intellectual texture. The intention was merely to guide those who were not well versed in psychology in selecting for themselves a gainful field of work wherein their present mental make-up could be put to best use. However, no rigidity was ordained about this selection. Anyone could pick up or even change one’s vocation and transform oneself from a sudra to a vaisya or ksatriya or brahmin, or vice versa. Hindu history is replete with such examples of mental transformation.

As the years rolled by, the basis of classification was forgotten, and people wrongly equated the four grades in the caste system to occupations and birth into families engaged in such occupations. Thus, a priest in a temple is generally considered a brahmin, without any reference to his attainment in study of the scriptures and in practicing the precepts. This is a dismal distortion of the truth. A true brahmin is one who is highly evolved in mind and intellect, has studied and assimilated the scriptural teachings, and daily practices the noble qualities that he has learned. Such a one can be found in any country, religion, or community. He need not be a Hindu or an Indian.

To achieve the mental transformations that catapult us from one classification into another, we have to put forth our own self-effort. A tamasika तामसिक person has to put in a lot of effort and time to shake off his lethargy and inertia and burst himself into activity before he can even dream of reaching the state of sattva. A rajasika person is already active, but that activity is directed to acquiring and enjoying the sense objects of the world. The person has to change the direction of her activity to again self-purification instead of sense gratification. The sattvika person is at the portals of Truth. Such a person is fully prepared to take the flight toward Self-realization; She needs only to contemplate and meditate on the supreme SeIf.

Swami Chinmayanada

Excerpts from: Self-Unfoldment

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What is the nature of creation?

gurudev (2)

According to Vedanta, creation is nothing but projection. As the dream world is projected, so too is the waking world We have that projecting power in the dream also, so we are not unfamiliar with what is meant by creation or projection.

There is no real creation or transformation as such. It is just projection, in the same way as there is no real transformation of rope, just a projection of snake. Nothing whatever happens to rope, it is just made to appear as snake. One thing being made to appear different from what it is, is what we call ’creation’. Wherever creation takes place, it is only this.

Here an objection may arise, “What are you talking about Swamiji? I take this clay, and I make a pot out of it. It is a transformation of clay. We curdle milk so it becomes curd. That is also transformation. A lot of changes happen. This table is made. Formerly it was the trunk of a tree, and then we did so much to it! Do you mean to say this is projected?” Sometimes this may be very frustrating. We will look into it more later, but if you inquire into what the substance is, there is only one substance. As far as the Vedantin is concerned, that substance is ब्रह्मन brahman. There is no other really existing thing (vastu). Brahman is made to look like a table or a chair or a house. It is made to look like the whole world. That is why the text says विक्षेप-शक्ति viksepa-sakti, projecting power.

Similarly, there is a veiling of brahman, which is limitless, one, nondual, and a projection of the world of diversity. Then what is this world, this diverse creation? As we will see later on, when you inquire into the nature of diversity, it all resolves into just one, nondual vastu. That is why Chandogya Upanisad says:-

सदेव सोम्य इदमग्र आसीत् एकमेवाद्वितीयम्
sadeva somya idam agm asitt ekametvadvitiyam

“Hey, Somya (good-looking one)! This whole universe of diversity and divisions was only sat, existence, brahman, one without a second.” That is the substance upon which various projections are made, which we call creation. This viksepa-sakti of maya in fact creates the appearance of the entire universe.

Lingadi-brahmandantam jagat srjet, it projects, jagat, the world, linga-adi, beginning from the individual subtle body, brahma-anda-antam, culminating in the entire brahmanda, cosmos or universe. Thus, from the individual to the totality, the projecting power of maya creates or projects the whole universe. The same thing is clarified in verse (Drg Drsya Viveka 14):

सृष्टिनार्म  ब्रह्मरूपे सच्चिदानन्दवस्तुनि |
अब्धौ फेनदिवत्सर्वनामरूपप्रसरणा ||

Srstirnama brahmarupe saccinanandavastuni |
Abdhau phenadivastarvamarupaprasarna||

सुष्ट्री Srstih -the creation; नाम nama -known as; ब्रह्मरूपे brahma-rupe in that which is of the nature of brahman; सत-चित -आनंद -वस्तुनि sat-cit-ananda-vastuni in the vastu, which is sat (existence), Cit (awareness), and ananda (wholeness); अब्धाओ  abdhau in the ocean; फेन-आदि-वत्त phena-adi-vat like the foam etc.; नाम -रुप -प्रसारण nama-rupa-prasarna -expansion (i.e. manifestation) as names and forms

The manifestation of all names and forms in the vastu or reality, which is sat-cit-ananda and which is brahman is called the creation. It is like the creation of foam, etc, in the ocean.

Creation has sat-cit-ananda as its basis.

Srstirnama. It is nama, what is known as, srsti, creation. What we call srsti is nama-rupa-prasarna, the expansion or manifestation as names and forms. The basis upon what it manifests is sat-cit-ananda-vastu or brahma-rupa. That which is sat-cit-ananda as well as vastu is called sat-cit-ananda-vastu. The word vastu is used here to mean ’reality’. And the nature of the reality is sat-cit-ananda.

Sat-cit-ananda is satyam jnanam anantam brahma

This is the first time in the text that we come across the term सत-चित्त-आनंद sat-cit-ananda. Sat means existence, cit means awareness or intelligence, and ananda means wholeness or completeness. That is the only vastu. This reality is called brahman, whose nature is sat-cit-ananda. It is also called सत्यम ज्ञानम अनंतम satyam-jnanam-anantam brahma in Taittiriya Upanisad.

We do not find the expression sat-cit-ananda in any of the major Upanisads. What we find is satyam-jnanam- anantam brahma. Satyam is truth, ज्ञानम jnanam is knowledge, and anantam is infinite. So brahman is truth, knowledge, infinite. Do not think that truth, knowledge, and infinite are all different. What is satyam is also jnanam what is jnanam is also anantam, and what is anantam is also satyam.

The Upanisad need not have employed these three words; it did so for our sake only. Any one word is quite adequate to reveal the nature of the vastu. What happens is that each one of these words, satyam, jnanam, and anantam, is used commonly in our day-to-day parlance. Therefore we have some concepts or ideas in our mind about what they mean.

When I hear the Upanisad say brahman is satyam, truth, then I think, “Alright, I have some idea about what satyam is, what truth is”. Satyam means the material cause of the five elements, so therefore I would think, ”Okay, brahman is the material cause.” But the material cause undergoes transformation to become the effect, so I would think that brahman undergoes transformation to become effect. The material cause is also always inert, so I would think that brahman is inert.

But then comes the word jnanam, so it is not inert; it is conscious. Jnanam means knowledge, and knowledge always has its locus in a conscious being. So then I think, ”Brahman being conscious is alright, but knowledge is always limited, like ghata-jnana, knowledge of pot, and pata-jnana, knowledge of cloth.” The cognition of pot or cognition of cloth, cognition of anything that is ’this’, is always limited. So I may think that brahman is limited.

But then the Upanisad says, “No, it is anantam.” It is knowledge alright, but it is not what you understand as a given cognition. It is neither a cognition nor the knower. It is that which is the common basis of the knower, known, and knowledge. It is infinite.

That is how the three words enable us to understand brahman correctly: that it is truth, meaning it is changeless; it is jnanam, meaning it is consciousness; and it is anantam, meaning it is not consciousness of something, but is rather consciousness itself, which is limitless. This can be translated as sat-cit-ananda, where satyam is equated to sat, jnanam is equated to cit, and anantam is equated to ananda.

Happiness is only in the infinite

Ananda is where anantam is. Anantam means infinite. Vedanta says that ananda or happiness is there only in the infinite. There cannot be happiness in the finite. Chandogya Upanisad says:-

यो वै भूमा तत् सुखम नाल्पे सुखमस्तु
yo vai bhuma tat sukhan nalpe sukham asti.

The sage Sanatkumara says to sage Narada, yo vai  bhuma tat sukham, happiness is only in that which is bhuma, abundant or limitless. Na alpe sukham asti, there cannot be happiness in anything that is limited. Happiness is the nature of the limitless, it cannot be the nature of anything that is limited. Therefore, Chandogya Upanisad says that ananda or happiness has to be anantam.

Thus, anantam is ananda, jnanam is cit, and satyam is sat. Satyam jnanam anantam is sat-cit-ananda. Usually, the laksan-vakya, the term used to indicate brahma-svarupa is सत्यम ज्ञानम अनंतम satyam-jnanam-anantam brahma. But here, satyam jnanam anantam is the same as sat-cit-ananda. And the vastu, reality, is sat-cit-ananda.

What Vedanta says is that there is nothing but reality, that is all there is. It is not that there is reality and then there is something other than reality. Reality is nondual. What is meant by ’nondual’ is that reality is one without a second.

Swami Viditatmananda Saraswati

Excerpts from Drg, Drsya, Viveka

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Gita Jayanti – It’s Significance

THE krishna-arjuna-bhagavad-gita-quotesHOLY Gita Jayanti, or the birthday of the Bhagavad Gita, is celebrated throughout India by all the admirers and lovers of this most sacred scripture on the eleventh day (Ekadashi) of the bright half of the month of Margaseersha (December-January), according to the Hindu almanac. It was on this day that Sanjaya narrated to King Dhritarashtra the dialogue between Sri Krishna and Arjuna, and thus made the glorious teachings of the Lord available to us, and to people of the world, for all time.

The Gita Jayanti marks one of the greatest days in the history of mankind. Nearly six thousand years ago on that day a dazzling flash of brilliant light lit up the firmament of human civilization. That flash, that marvelous spiritual effulgence, was the message of the Bhagavad Gita, given by the Lord Himself on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Unlike ordinary flashes of light which die away after a split-second, this brilliant flash of that memorable day has continued to shine through the centuries, and even now illumines the path of humanity on its onward march to perfection.

The Gita is the most beautiful and the only truly philosophical song. It contains sublime lessons on wisdom and philosophy. It is the “Song Celestial”. It is the universal gospel. It contains the message of life that appeals to all, irrespective of race, creed, age or religion.

The Gita was given to us about six thousand years ago by Sri Krishna, the Lord incarnate, through His most devoted disciple, Arjuna. Its teachings are based on the sacred Upanishads, the ancient, revealed metaphysical classics of India.

The Gita shows a way to rise above the world of duality and the pairs of opposites, and to acquire eternal bliss and immortality. It is a gospel of action. It teaches the rigid performance of one’s duty in society, and a life of active struggle, keeping the inner being untouched by outer surroundings, and renouncing the fruits of actions as offerings unto the Lord.

The Gita is a source of power and wisdom. It strengthens you when you are weak, and inspires you when you feel dejected and feeble. It teaches you how to resist unrighteousness and follow the path of virtue and righteousness.

The Gita is not merely a book or just a scripture. It is a living voice carrying an eternally indispensable and vital message to mankind. Its verses embody words of wisdom coming from the infinite ocean of knowledge, the Absolute Itself.

The voice of the Gita is the call of the Supreme. It is the divine sound explained. The primal source of all existence, all power, is the manifested sound—Om. This is the Divine Word. It is Nada Brahman, whose unceasing call is: “Be ye all ever merged in the eternal, unbroken, continuous consciousness of the Supreme Truth.” This is the sublime message that the Gita elaborates and presents in all comprehensiveness and in a universally acceptable form. It is this message of the Gita that I wish to recall and re-proclaim with emphasis to you.

To be always conscious of the Divine, to ever feel the Divine Presence, to live always in the awareness of the Supreme Being in the chambers of your heart and everywhere around you, is verily to live a life of fullness and divine perfection on earth itself. Such a constant remembrance of God and such an attitude of mind will release you forever from the clutches of illusion and free you from all fear. To forget the Supreme is to fall into illusion. To forget Him is to be assailed by fear. To live in unbroken remembrance of the Supreme Truth is to remain always in the region of light, peace and bliss, far beyond the reach of illusion and delusion.

Mark carefully how the Gita stresses again and again this lofty message.

The Lord declares: “Keep thou thy mind in Me, in Me place thy reason”.

In another verse He says: “Therefore, at all times remember Me and fight. You will surely attain Me, having thus offered yourself”.

And yet again: “Perform thou action, remaining united with Me at heart”.

The Gita guides you to glory with the watchwords: “Be thou divine-minded, devoted to Me as your goal, and let your subconscious mind be divine”.

The Lord gives the following firm assurance also: “I become the saviour from this mortal world for those whose minds are set on Me”.

Such is the most illuminating message of the Gita, seeking to lead man to a life of perfection even while performing his ordained role here. Long has this message been neglected by man. Forgetting the Lord, the world has turned towards sense indulgence and mammon. A terrible price has been paid. O man, enough of this forgetfulness! The Lord has warned you against heedlessness: “If, out of egoism, thou wilt not hear, then thou shalt perish”.

It is a matter of great regret that many young men and women of India know very little of this most unique scripture. One cannot consider oneself as having attained a good standard of education if one does not have a sound knowledge of the Gita. All post-graduate knowledge, all research in universities is mere husk or chaff when compared to the wisdom of the Gita.

Live in the spirit of the teachings of the Gita. Mere talks or lectures will not help you in any way. Put into practice the teachings of this most sacred scripture and attain eternal bliss and peace.

The Gita may be summarised in the following seven verses:

“Uttering the one-syllabled Om, the Brahman, and remembering Me, he who departs, leaving the body thus, attains the Supreme Goal”.

“It is meet, O Lord, that the world delights and rejoices in Thy praise; the demons fly in fear to all quarters, and all the hosts of Siddhas bow to Thee!”

“With hands and feet everywhere, with eyes, heads and mouths everywhere, with ears everywhere, He exists in the world, enveloping all”.

“Whosoever meditates on the omniscient, ancient ruler of the whole world, minuter than an atom, the supporter of all, of form inconceivable, effulgent like the sun, such a one goeth beyond the darkness of ignorance”.

“They, the wise, speak of the indestructible Asvattha, having its roots above and branches below, whose leaves are the metres or hymns; he who knows it is a knower of the Vedas”.

“And I am seated in the hearts of all; from Me are memory and knowledge, as well as their absence. I am verily that which has to be known by all the Vedas; I am indeed the author of Vedanta, and the knower of the Vedas am I”.

“Fix thy mind on Me; be devoted to Me; sacrifice to Me; bow down to Me; having thus united thy whole Self with Me, taking Me as the Supreme Lord, thou shalt verily come to Me”.

Read the whole of the Gita on Sundays and other holidays. Study carefully again and again the verses in the second discourse, which deal with the state of the Sthitaprajna (a perfected Yogi and sage). Also study the eight nectarine verses in the twelfth discourse.

The study of the Gita alone is sufficient for the purpose of scriptural study. You will find in it a solution to all your problems. The more you study it with devotion and faith, the deeper will your knowledge become, the more penetrative would be your insight, and the clearer your thinking. Even if you live in the spirit of one verse of the Gita, all your miseries will come to an end and you will attain the goal of life—immortality and eternal peace.

None but the Lord can bring out such a marvellous and unprecedented book, which grants peace to its readers, and which guides them in the attainment of supreme bliss.

The teachings of the Gita are broad, sublime and universal. They do not belong to any particular cult, sect, creed, age, place or country. They are meant for all. They are within the reach of all. The Gita has a message for the solace, peace, freedom, salvation and perfection of all human beings.

At the Sivananda Ashram, Rishikesh, the holy and auspicious Gita Jayanti is observed every year on a grand scale:

All the aspirants wake up at 4 am and meditate on the Lord. From sunrise to sunset there is unbroken recitation of the Gita. The Samputa method is used, that is, before and after each verse the following Samputa is recited:

सर्वधर्मान्परित्यज्य मामेकं शरणं  व्रज
अहं त्वाम् सर्वपापभ्या मोक्षयिश्य्यमि मा शुच् (18.66)

Sarva dharmaan parityajya maamekam sharanam vraja
Aham twaa sarvapaapebhyo mokshayishyaami maa shucha

Thus, between two verses, this verse is recited twice. This is an extremely efficacious method of earning the Grace of the Supreme Lord and the Gita, the Mother.

Aspirants fast on the day, as it is also the Ekadashi day. Competitions are held among the little children, to develop their talents in the recitation of the Gita. In the case of the slightly older children, they are given a chance to deliver discourses. This is a wonderful way of encouraging them to study the scripture.

In the evening, a special Satsang is held at which scholars, Yogis and Sannyasins discourse upon the Gita. Leaflets, pamphlets and books containing the teachings of the Gita, as also translations of the holy scripture, are distributed.

Take a resolve on Gita Jayanti that you will read at least one discourse every day. Recite the fifteenth discourse before taking your meals. This is done at the Sivananda Ashram.

Keep a pocket-sized edition of the Gita with you at all times. Mark a few verses in it which inspire you. Everyday, while you wait for your bus or train, or whenever you have a little leisure, pull out the book and read these verses. You will be ever inspired.

May you all lead the life taught by the Gita! May the Gita, the blessed Mother of the Vedas, guide and protect you! May it nourish you with the milk of the ancient wisdom of the Upanishads!

Glory to Lord Krishna, the Divine Teacher! Glory to Sri Vyasa, the poet of poets, who composed the Gita! May his blessings be upon you all!

Swami Sivananda

The Divine Life Society