Bhagavad Gita Chapter 4 – Jnana Karma Sanyasa Yoga

Describe the four varnas in our body

Reference to Purusha suktham verse 13 is specified here. Text Thirteen

“brahmanosya mukhamasit

bahu rajanyah kritaha

uru tadasya yadvaishyaha

padhyagam shudro ajayata”

This verse explains that from Lord’s face (or the mouth) came the brahmanas. From His two arms came the rajanya (the kshatriyas). From His two thighs came the vaishyas. From His two feet came the shudras.

Today People might argue that why would you call people from feet are shudras? whether it is the face, hand or feet of a father or mother is the same to a child as long as the child is cuddling with the parent. Similarly these are metaphoric representation and should not be misunderstood by taking one paragraph out of context. Many from both parties have not read, understood or practiced scriptures and often tend to argue and fight amongst themselves without knowing what they’re for or against!

Our body is an example of four varnas. The head which holds the brain represents a brahmana, that perceives, thinks, decides and guides other organs. The arms & hands are kshatriyas. They defend, attack and execute the work. The stomach digests and assimilates. The thigh and other parts store fat, managing resources for energy. These are vaisyas. The legs and feet carry the weight of the body and transports the person from point A to B. These are sudras.

Each part is equally important for the effective functioning of the body. No one part is superior to the other part. Each one has its own responsibility and they are to do their duty for the common good, for the benefit of this body.

Misuse of the varna system

Varna system was created for the benefit of the society by Lord as said in verse 13 based on gunas (attitudes of the mind) and karmas (actions by the body). Varna is not a classification or division of people but is the description of people based on their mental personality (gunas) and Karmas (actions). Birth is not mentioned anywhere on varnas in Veda.

For the past two centuries, varna system is practiced based on birth in the society and is a totally misunderstood concept. This misunderstanding has caused great suffering to all. The power hungry and greedy, made birth as the primary categorization, suppressed, exploited and humiliated certain group of people depriving them of their right, respect & dignity.

The right understanding and use of this universal system is absolutely necessary to make a positive change in the Indian society to bring about harmony, unity & growth among the entire population.

Three categories of action from the two karma yoga standpoints. All actions are categorized into three namely Karma, Vikarma and akarma.

1. Karmas are the ones that must be performed.

2. Vikramas are the ones that should NOT be performed

3. Akarmas refers to inaction

Karma yoga identifies these three actions and the consequences of such actions as follows:

Karma Yoga (a)

Doing Duties is Karma ~ Right actions do not bind and vasanas are exhausted

Doing prohibited action is Vikarma ~ Wrong actions bind, negative vasanas are formed

Not doing duties is Akarma ~ Non-doing binds, vasanas get accumulated

Karma Yoga (b)

Ordinary regular action is Karma ~ giving, binding

Action with the right attitude ~ is visesa karma (special action) ex: giving with love, positive vasanas are formed. Action with the right attitude and doing for a long time ~ becomes a second nature

Jnana Yoga

Doing actions with doership mentality ~ karta becomes the bhokta (doer/enjoyer)

Doing actions without doership mentality ~ akarta becomes the abhokta (non doer/non enjoyer). this is the highest form of performing our duties. though difficult, is not impossible. This is possible only with the Self knowledge, ‘I am the Atman who has taken this body to purge my vasanas, impressions’.

One can reach this state of performance of actions.

Whats the difference between incarnation and reincarnation?

Individuals are born based on the karmas from the past lives. They are not independent in choosing the family or place where they are born in any given lifetime. He is also not able to remember the past lives or see future births.

Whereas lord incarnates again and again depending upon the need in the society, at a time when adharma is at its peak and not based on any karma. He is independent to choose the form, place and time of his incarnation. Since he is omniscient, he can see the past and future birth of everyone.

Incarnation is taking a form and coming down to the earth. We all reincarnate based on our past karma (here, it means the results of actions) but for Lord there are no karmas. Bhavami is incarnate, sambhavami is to appear. He chooses to appear anywhere any time as needed in any form.

Ava means ‘to come down’, avatar means ‘as a copy’. The supreme Lord takes the desired form, comes down to destroy the evil and preserve the dharma, righteousness.

For example. When an odd food enters our system, the body immediately rejects the food by vomiting. This is a force that was dormant in the body until the sustenance of the body was attacked & the body needed to be stabilized. This dormant force appears swiftly when the body is attacked. The burping, sneezing, tears in the eyes (when something enters the eye) are all powers appear to protect the body when needed.

Similarly, the entire universe is metaphorically considered as Lord’s body and wherever there is adharma, unrighteousness, Lord takes a form suitable to that situation at that time and comes down. The avatar need not be in the human form necessarily even though He has come down as Sri Rama and Sri Krishna, Jesus, Allah and Buddha, he also could take forms of Tsunami, earthquake and any other form as desired and as the situation warrants.

How does dharma & bring about integration? What is the highest dharma?

Dharma means righteousness and/or moral. when an individual is righteous, it means his thought, words and actions are synchronized in accordance with moral values he knows the right from wrong and has chosen the right path. He acts selflessly on principles for the common good.

Adharma on the contrary, is totally disconnected between the head & heart, meaning he does not walk the talk. He could be hypocritical, selfish and unable to choose the right path for himself and others around him for the common good.

On an individual level, when a person lives a dharmic life, it brings about alignment within himself and he is honest to himself and others, thereby very calm, simple, peaceful and polite in this thought, word & behavior. He is balanced in his life with less stress. A adharmic person is much more aggressive, stressed, tensed in his thought, words and behavior, with hatred, anger & jealousy in his emotions causing stress on himself and others.

On a communal, national and world level, dharmic life brings about harmony in relationships, balances power, nurtures growth & progress, peace and prosperity. Adharma creates, differences, conflicts, wars and divides people at every level of life.

Just like the sugar is sweet, and salt is salty, every human is to abide in one’s true divine nature ‘Existence- consciousness – Bliss’, ‘Sat-chit-Ananda. This ‘is the highest dharma. This just means to be humane with love, care, compassion, truthfulness, honest, courageous, respecting, forgiving, adapting, empathetic, tolerant and peaceful. To live a life of values and principle is dharma. This is the highest dharma.

When happens in a Society when adharma increases?

When adharma increases people lose respect & faith in scriptures and value the material possession much more than the scriptures. They fail to live by principles and values. As a result only few people follow righteous way of living. Love, care, compassion and respect for other living creatures are seldom seen.

People become obnoxiously selfish, indifferent, and ignore performing their duties. They are drawn to glamor, temporary possessions, they tend to be ego-centric and do not believe in the divine presence or God.

When such a situation arises, the society dwindles to struggle, the disparity between the sin and righteousness widens, more people struggle in the hands of few who has the ego, power and authority and their atrocities.

When does Lord incarnate? what role does he play when he incarnates?

The entire universe is made of three gunas, Satva, Rajas and Tamas. Whenever there is imbalance between these three and satva is on the lower side, Lord incarnates to protect those who are dharmic, meaning, selfless, sacrificing, dutifu,l who focus their activities for the common good.

He also gives a chance to those who are adharmic, to choose one’s path to de-tour. When they e continues in the evil path, not respecting other creatures, is selfish, material oriented, fails to perform one’s duty and acts against the best interest of the common good, is wicked in his thought, word & actions, Lord destroys him.

Lord incarnates. when dharma decreases and adharma takes over, Ch 4 verse 7

“Yada yada hi dharmasya glanirbhavati bharata… sambhabami yuge yuge”

Whenever there is decay of righteousness, O Bharata, And there is exaltation of unrighteousness, then I Myself come forth; For the protection of the good, for the destruction of evil-doers, For the sake of firmly establishing righteousness, I am born from age to age.

When the adharmic crowd increases, then the chance of dharma prevailing becomes very weak. At that point Lord incarnates to balance it out.

Is there a difference between Lord and incarnation?

We can eat a variety of sweets or we can eat sugar. We salute the flag that represents the country. So too we respect scriptures just like we respect Lord.

Worshipping Lord’s incarnation is no different or less than worshipping Lord himself. Here God should not be construed as a male because GOD is attributeless. There’s no definite shape, It is difficult to conceptualise the formless, attributeless than a form with beauty and love for a common man. So we choose to worship the form of Lord, also called Saguna Brahmam.

Just like we use different sweets and enjoy them (Gulab Jamun, Rasa Gullah, Mysore Pak, Thirattu pal) though they all are made of sugar, one ingredient, so also Lord has many different incarnations and we can choose the one that favors us, individuals.

Daily worship, prayer & meditation on these forms gives us solace, inner comfort and strength. His divine life also inspire and transform our lives.

Why does a human usually seek the ephemeral, temporary and not the everlasting Lord?

A human always is after instant gratification. We want immediate results. When we have headache we would rather go to an allopathic to get a pill for instant relief rather than Ayurvedic which would take a longer time and assures that the treatment would prevent future occurrences.

We can’t be on the phone waiting for 30 seconds for the other side, so there is music to keep us active, we can’t wait at the bus stop or red sign, we need a book to skim through. Man has no patience and we can see that much more. We wants an easy way than put an effort. It is no wonder with that attitude, he would rather be happy with the ephemeral attractions than the everlasting Lord. That takes effort. We want it Now!!

Inculcating values, eliminating bad habits, controlling the mind by managing the thoughts, creating harmony from within and without, setting high standards of life, living by values, practicing austerity, choosing spiritual path is all hard work and time consuming. But man is not ready to wait and give the time required for anything.

It is harvest time. Everything has its time and you cannot rush it. You can’t have a fill grown baby in 30 days from a foetus, or a farm filled with rice in 30 days of sowing the seeds or child graduate from school in three years unless one is a prodigy.

Reaching everlasting Lord, long lasting results of happiness is an extended process, takes years of consistent, persistent gradual work and only those who are ready to put in their effort and time alone can reach that status.

Describe the fourfold categorization on the basis of gunas (qualities of the mind)?

When we look around the world is full of multiplicity and variety and we have categorized, classified them based on some criteria. The living creatures are classified into mammals. reptiles, amphibians and others. so also plants are classified as bushes, plants, shrubs and trees.

People are classified as children, adolescents, and seniors. We belong to a category because of who we are. We are either low income, middle income or rich. Classification is done with some basis. Similarly, the entire humanity is classified into ‘varnasrama’ by Lord. ‘Varnasrama’ here means description NOT the color of the skin as in practice today.

That’s how the entire humanity, may one be from Germany, France, New Zealand, India or Australia, is classified and described. Ch4 verse 13

Every object is described by its property. so also humans are described by two distinct properties, the gunas, (the quality of mind) and the karma, (the work we do). As a doctor, you take care of sick, as a teacher, you teach the student.You cannot argue that there’s a discrimination between the two. The individuals have their path based on their aptitude.

Since everything in this world is made up of three gunas, Satva, Rajas and Tamas that is knowledge, activity and inertia, the four fold category of human are: Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaisya and Sudra.

One person can be all four with one being dominant at different times of one’s life, a family of four can have all four and this is applicable universally to the entire humanity.

So if we codify Satva as S, Rajas as R and tamas as T, (% s are arbitrary #s, for explantation to understand, not from scriptures)

Brahmana: Anyone in this world with this combination, SRT meaning they are higher in Satva (approx 60%), Rajas is (30%) and Tamas is (10%). These are peace loving, self controlled, ever learning, teaching and far sighted.

Kshatriya: Anyone with the combination of RST (same 60, 30, 10%) are dynamic, problem solvers, fearless, go-getters and effective leaders.

Vaisyas: RTS (R 60%, 30% T, and 10% S) These are highly resourceful, profit seeking, active, strategic and good in business dealings.

Sudras TRS: (T 60%, R 30% S 10%). These are great followers, takes orders, precise-in their work, physically active and helpers wherever necessary.

These percentages are approximate and not exact though the order is precise. The highly selfless is considered to be Brahmana, a fairly selfless is kshatriya, a fairly selfish is Vaisya and highly self-centered is sundra. These are NOT based on birth or any family.

This should NOT be construed as a discrimination, but a differentiation, identification just like the blood groups, applicable to all humans. These have NOTHING to do with the birth of an individual as is used today in the society. These descriptions, varnasramas are totally misunderstood and practised and politicized for personal gain. These are applicable to all humans around the globe.

Explain the fourfold categorization on the basis of Karmas (work or profession)?

When we look around the world is full of multiplicity, variety and we have categorized, classified them based on some criteria. So also the humans are classified as ‘Varna’ based on the work they do. On a broader scale they are classified as doctors, engineers, financiers, lawyers, businessmen, musician, artist and laborers. A laborer can become a doctor or any profession that one chooses.

These are further divide like, the doctors are further sub classified as physicians and surgeons, surgeons further into trauma surgeons, heart surgeons, kidney surgeons. Laborers are sub divided into masons, carpenters, electricians, plumbers and many more. This is the common practice and we all understand this.

Similarly lord has categorized the entire humanity into four varnas based on their work.

Brahmanas: They are thinkers, visionaries, advisors, consultants, philosophers, planners, policy makers, teachers and so on. They work for the common good.

Kshatriyas: These are executors, administrators, law enforcers, defenders, social workers in a society. They are the fire fighters, policemen and hospital staff. They are the front line staff. They also work for the common good.

Vaisyas: These people mobilise resources, create wealth, manufacture goods, trade and transaction with the world for the common good.

Sudras: These are the people who serve, do the running around, fix things, work in fields, follow directions and produce.

For the effective functioning of any task in any area, be it a hospital, a farm or a state, all these four talents are absolutely necessary to work coherently. No one is superior or inferior to the others. One malfunction of dysfunction of any one category can bring calamity to the entire team.

Everyone’s contribution is equally important for the success of the task. Since these are understood by many, it is often perceived as discrimination and conflicts arises. Right knowledge is power.

Explain the concepts of dharma and adharma

The world is characterized by multiplicity and variety. Humankind is described as four varnas which are primarily based on three gunas. Every human is the permutation combination of these four asramas, (stages of life) and three gunas. (Brahmacharya, Grihastha, Vanaprastha and Sanyasa & Satva, Rajas, Tamas).

Though mentioned in Sanskrit, they are universal ~ student life, family man, retired and seniors dependent on the society with three gunas as peace loving, focused on material possession for personal gain and the hard working for day to day survival.

People who are in front line, getting their hands dirty and get things done are sudras, people who use the resources wisely to multiply them are vaisyas (in a fair way), people who are fearless and stand up for the common good are kshatriyas and people who are peace-loving and predominantly pursue spiritual knowledge for the common good are brahmin or brahmana.

The spirit of selfless performance of one’s own duties for the common good is dharma. Dharma integrates, sustains and harmonizes individuals in a home, society and nations. Dharmas are laws of nature, government, social norms and morals. They bring harmony among the relationships locally & globally, nurtures growth and progress of individuals and nations, balances power, peace and prosperity. Adharma is just the opposite.

When we see the bigger picture, every society needs all four varnas for the effective functioning.

Since, over the years, some consider themselves to be superior to others, exploit the other varnas, resulting in a disharmony in the society and an imbalance between the gunas is generated. These communities are vulnerable and are taken advantage by the so called hierarchy. The self proclaimed superiors have caused this imbalance causing the exploited rise in opposition, stand up for what is right.

While the kind, compassionate, peace loving, sacrificing, selfless is decreasing and the egocentric, selfish, angry, jealous, self- centered people are on the rise exploiting for their personal gain than looking for the common good. This is the height of adharma. There are people who are selfish and do whatever it takes for material gain without their conscious questioning them. That’s when they are deluded in ‘moha’, their intellect has failed over their mind. This reflects the decline of the spiritual knowledge as well, therefore decline in brahmanas who are educated in scriptures and play the role of teachers for the betterment of community.

For generations there is a misinterpretation of this description of humanity called varnas. People are told that varnas are discriminative, divisive or classification instead of mentioning they are simply description as per mental personality, which is totally a misinterpretation to the next generations.

Dharma is simply moral value to be followed by every individual, an ability to know the right from wrong for the good of all. while adharma is selfish in totality without any consideration for another life or nature triggering greed hatred and envy.

Explain how dysfunction of any one varna could disrupt the entire society.

Lets take an example of a distribution center of any product. There are many departments for various functions like the warehouse, inventory, purchasing, marketing, sales, accounting and finances. To make an on time delivery to the customers, the truck needed to be loaded with the right order, which means the warehouse had the right product, the sales took the order accurately, the purchasing dept. bought the right product on time, the accounting department made sure that the vendor got paid for the previous order so we could get this order. Even if one department failed to execute their responsibility for whatever reason the end result is we all fail, for our customer doesn’t get their order as specified on time. It is not one individual or department, it is the entire team’s effective operation, cooperation and cohesiveness that is needed. Similarly so in a home, city, state, country the varnas are highly essential. Each varna has its role to play and everyone has to perform his/her duty as needed on time,

In a home environment, a discipline in the best interest of the family is desired. Every member of the family has his/her duties that must be performed well. Everything has a place & time and everything must be in its place and at the desired time, everyone has to act efficiently on their responsibilities. When this discipline is followed, there is complete harmony and peace.

Similarly, for a society to be harmonious, contributions of all four varnas are required. We need brahmanas as scholars of scriptural study, planners, policy makers and teachers, kshatriyas as executors, administrators and social workers, vaisyas as mobilizers of resources from various points and produce goods & trade while the sudras are needed to support wherever needed. No one is superior to any other varna. We need the policy makers, doctors, lawyers as much as we also need plumbers, masons and electricians. Each varna is dependent on the other. They all are interdependent and there cannot be a solo in a society.

Failure to understand the varna system accurately has brought about lots of downward trend in the society’s harmony. We all have seen that a strike by transportation department causes havoc to the members of that society but that doesn’t mean that they have to take all the atrocities committed by the management. Exploitation of people’s skills in the name of corporate profits could not be justified as scholars, leaders and policymakers right. When the management malfunction by exploiting the other varnas, conflicts would arise. Recognizing the importance of each varna is absolutely essential especially for the privileged management. Today it is the vulnerable who are caught off-guard all the time.

Thus it is the responsibility of varna of the society to understand that everyone plays equally a vital role and the dysfunction of any one varna disrupts the society.

Source by Vijaya Jayaraman

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