Bharatavarsha is at a crucial point in its civilizational journey. On the one hand, we have a civilization that is thousands of years old – from deep philosophy at one end and thriving social life at the other end. On the other hand, we have gone through 800+ years of strife, the kind of which only we have survived. Other civilizations have simply vanished under the physical and social/intellectual assault of Abrahamic religions.
Just when we thought we were liberated from the two, we leapt into a deep pit in broad daylight. Something that our cultural stalwarts saw clearly even in the darkness of night. The post-independence era has simply been a tragedy in terms of every single civilizational concern.
Secularism has crept into a higher seat from where it can arbitrate between the ancient Bharatavarsha civilization and Abrahamic societies established through physical assault and dishonest proselytization. Its success can be partially attributed to the distortion of many elements of the Bharateeya parampara.
The Missionaries and Indologists of the colonial era have laid a path full of gold for them, easily reached by the road-side of Secularism. Taking people through guilt trips on specific aspects of civilization is an integral part of this strategy. This approach has been quite productive for them.
On the one hand, they have successfully alienated genuinely sensitive sections of the society. On the other hand, they have weaned away certain disadvantaged sections of the society by constantly instilling a sense of victimhood in them. Demeaning Varna and Caste is part of this strategy.
We, the genuine descendants of Bharatavarsha must face this crisis confidently. We must do so without a sense of guilt, for Varna/Jati has served the civilization well and we must boldly state that without inhibition. As a civilization, we have survived and thrived because of certain attributes associated with it.
At the same time, we must have the confidence to review it in today’s situation and reconstruct it for the purposes of today with a view of the welfare of all in an equal manner. The strength of Bharateeya Parampara is that we have Ruta and Satya. The former is the universal principle of the cosmic order. Satya is that which emanates from Ruta and is visible to the times. We must be brave enough to go to Ruta and see Satya for today’s times afresh. We must do so for Varna/Jati.
We must begin the process by understanding the basic principles that form the foundation of Bharateeya Parampara. We must understand how Varna/Jati have emerged from it. We must appreciate the purposes that they have served under what social conditions. We must be bold to evaluate it in today’s situations which are highly dynamic, most intervening, highly industrialized seeking constant change, and movement of everything.
This paper reviews and reconstructs the concept of Varna/Jati for the new era without compromising the most foundational elements of our civilization that are the essence of all our past, present, and to be so in the future.
This article proposes that the concept of Varna in the Bharateeya Parampara is a consequence of two fundamental aspects. The Purushartha framework which defines the goals of life and the Srishti-Sthiti-Laya (SSL) principles as the Universe of Life are those fundamental elements. The Varna-Vyavastha has been a guiding principle and a conversation through and through in the Bharateeya Parampara. Yet, it is not a fundamental element. This article lays down a path through which Varna emerges as a consequence of the Purushartha and the SSL.
In the Bharateeya Parampara, it is the Purushartha framework that guides every aspect of life. Artha and Kama result in the exploitation of resources to satisfy desires and needs. But Dharma ensures that there is a balance of all sorts that behold life. However, Dharma does not sustain itself without Moksha – renunciation.
Varna is nothing but one organization (Vyavastha) in order to seek Moksha as we live a life of Dharma. All of this framework is further a consequence of the philosophy of Srishti-Sthithi-Laya and their interrelations. In our understanding of how Varna is merely a consequence of Purushartha and SSL lies the key to reimagine as a Vyavastha for the future that retains the fundamentals of our Civilization, faces the assault of Modernity and ensures fair opportunity and justice for every element of the society.
This article is a continuation of another article Vedic Origins of Sustainability and Environmentalism presented in the International Conference on Sustainability by Indic Academy on 16-17 May 2020.
Varna – as a concept and concern is a constant appearance in the Bharateeya Parampara. Starting from the Vedas, Varna-s find a mention directly or indirectly in most texts. At times the word Varna itself may be absent but it appears indirectly through its elements of Varna – the Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaishya, and Shudra.
The Brahmana is supposed to lead the life of austerity, learn and maintain Vedas and associated knowledge systems, and guide the society in a Dharmik path to seek Moksha. The Kshatriya is to acquire power and protect Dharma. The Vaishya is to create a material wealth of various kinds. The Shudra is to offer different services to society. At the outset, there can be nothing wrong with it.
In any given society, one can find the equivalent of Kshatriya, Vaishya, and Shudra in different terminologies. At the priestly level of a Brahmana, you can find an equivalent in all societies. It is safe to assert that there cannot be or has not been a society without these elements. However, it is the inter-relationships, hierarchies, opportunities, and constraints associated with it that leads to hypothesis and theories, which in turn gets into conflicts. In the 20th Century, the fabric of Bharateeya-s has been torn in this conflict full of strife.
Problems associated with the Varna Vyavastha in Bharatamandala
For centuries, the Varna-Vyavastha has been largely birth based. It is the Brahmana’s son or daughter who becomes a Brahmana. The same is true for a Kshatriya or a Vaishya or a Shudra. Whether this assertion is completely true or not shall be investigated in another paper, however, this is the larger rhetoric and a significant reality, if not the absolute reality. Hence, we must deal with it.
The Purushasukta in the Vedas refers to the four Varnas without actually using the word Varna. Neither does it refer to the four Varnas as being birth-based. Smritis, on the contrary, are more categorical about their being birth-based. The Mahakavyas such as Ramayana and Mahabharata contain what seems like conflicting narratives.
Achieving consistency in these aspects is not the objective of the Mahakavyas and that is a separate discussion altogether. Suffice it to say that Varna being birth based is a significant reality. To go a step further, each Varna consists of many Jatis and Jati itself is birth-based largely. Association with a Varna is nothing a consequence of being born in a Jati.
There are problems associated with the Varna-Jati being birth based that we have to deal with today.
- Irrespective of what it was in the past and who is responsible for it today we have a situation where people find it disadvantageous to be born in a Varna/Jati. There is perceived injustice in the very organization i.e., the Vyavastha. Many other social evils, injustices and cruelties are attributed to the Varna-Jati. We better deal with this reality straight.
- From Modernity’s stand-point, exclusive access to anything to anybody is fundamentally denying somebody something. Especially, when there is a perceived hierarchy between Knowledge, Political Power, Wealth and Service – Communities or Societies being dedicated to only one of these results in structural inequality. That further results in exploitation. Worse, this is perceived as not just an inadvertent fallout but a diabolical plot of the Brahmanas to institutionalize exploitation and keep themselves as the top. Much of what is called as ‘Brahmanical’ in the leftist circles comes from this fundamental precept.
- The above two are a far bigger problem in the Modern world when the State is becoming stronger, Communities are weakening, professions moving out of communities into a common universal space.
Understanding the Varna-Vyavastha
The first step towards understanding this problem is to understand the origins of this Varna-Vyavastha as a concept. In Bharateeya Parampara, systems organically evolve grounds-up but gradually evolve towards a thought-through design in the terrain marked by a philosophy. We must dispassionately investigate the roots of the Varna Vyavastha and rediscover that philosophy.
As mentioned earlier, explicit reference to Varna as a concept is far less in our texts than Purushartha. Mahakavya Mahabharata is a great example. Clearly, the Purushartha is of greater concern. The risk for Dharma from Artha and Kama are explored in every possible dimension.
Suffice to say that seeking Moksha by leading a Dharmika life is the fundamental indulgence for Bharateeyas as nurtured by our parampara. Of course, the importance of a Brahmana is often greatly emphasized in Mahabharata as in other texts. However, the purpose is not to emphasize a social order but to protect the ability of the society to seek Moksha and live by the spirit of Purushartha. This raises the question
- Is the Varna-Vyavastha as a social organization fundamental to our Civilization?
- Is Varna birth-based? Why was it birth-based for a very long time?
- Is it possible to live by the spirit of Purushartha without the birth-based Varna-Vyavastha?
- If so, what is that new Vyavastha that we must seek and evolve?
This article seeks to answer all the above questions or at least mark critical elements of the terrain in which we can further explore for answers. In this essay, we shall see how the entire Varna-Vyastha is a consequence of the Purushartha.
It is an enabler of Purushartha but not a fundamental necessity for the Purushartha. It is possible to imagine a society without a birth-based Jati-Varna Vyvastha. (Vyavastha means an organization and not a system. The former is loose and the latter strict).
The Sristhti-Sthiti-Laya and the Purushartha
Let us recap the essence of the Purushartha and Srishti-Sthiti-Laya as explained in the previous paper on ‘Vedic Origins of Sustainability and Environmentalism’.
The fundamental Vedic Vision of life is
- The universe is/must always be in Sthiti. Sthiti is a state of dynamic stable equilibrium, where the universe of life is in constant motion. Yet each state and the motion is in a stable equilibrium. In this vision of life, change is a fundamental tenet of life. It is way beyond a ‘need’ as in Modernity. It is the very fundamental nature of life.
- Ruta is that cosmic order and flow of life that ensures Universe is always in Sthiti i.e., in stable equilibrium in spite of the dynamic
- The Dynamic of life is the Srishti component of Sthiti. It is the Srishti that creates the change.
- The Universe being in a Sthiti, containing Srishti i.e., being in a Dynamic Stable Equilibrium is nothing but the ‘Leela’ of the Supreme. It is a play for the Great Lord.
- Srishti is what results in the Artha and Kama of Life. Our Artha and Kama are the part of the Great Lord’s Leela that results in the dynamic part of the Stable Equilibrium. Hence our Artha and Kamar are part of that change that is fundamental and ensures that the Universe attains a new State. Hence, our Artha and Kama are part of the very Sthiti.
- However, Srishti can go awry. Our Artha, Kama seeking can go awry. One’s Artha/Kama can clash with the other. That may result in the Universe slipping away from Sthiti. This is the Leela of great Bhagavan and the freedom accorded to humanity. Hence, if Srishti has to ensure the stable equilibrium part of Sthiti we require Dharma. Dharma must bind Srishti so that the Universe of Life is always according to Ruta ensuring Sthiti.
- Hence, Dharma is that collection of all actions that ensure that Life is in Sthiti ordained by Ruta
- Moksha is nothing but being forever in Sthiti
- Dharma ensures Artha and Kama, which is Srishti, does not go astray, and enables the seeking of Moksha for all.
In summary, humanity has the freedom to indulge in Artha and Kama as that is nothing but the Srishti Leela of the Supreme. However, it must be guided by Dharma in the direction of Moksha.
The question is what is the architecture of life that fosters this pursuit of Purushartha for the harmony of Srishti-Sthiti-Laya?
The Characteristics of an Architecture of Life for Purushartha
Given the fundamentalness of the Purushartha and SSL, any just architecture of life must have the following properties.
- It must provide an equal opportunity for everybody’s Artha and Kama (A&K) to be fulfilled
- It must ensure that everybody’s Artha and Kama (A&K) is limited to the bare minimum
The first ensures that there is justice in the system. A civilization that does not provide for equal opportunity in its ultimate goal cannot sustain itself beyond a point. To go a step further, a civilization must provide for equal opportunity in a critical set of matters, otherwise, internal conflict and strife will collapse the civilization from within, if not an external assault.
Hence, the genius of a civilization is in its ability to identify that critical set of matters – which the Bharateeya parampara has defined as the Purushartha. It is very broad but yet very fundamental.
The second ensures bare minimum conflict in life because of the pursuit of A&K. If our pursuit of A&K should not go awry, should not clash with each other, a clear upper bound to that pursuit is very much required. Any Architecture of life should have that bound framed into the architecture itself which should operate with least friction and conflict with the pursuit itself – for harmony. Fundamentally, in the context of Purushartha, this means that we need an architecture of life with the following attributes.
- R1: That enables one to fulfill A&K of self
- R2: That enables one to serve the fulfillment of A&K of others
- R3: That does not come in the way of one’s own seeking of Moksha
- R4: That does not come in the way of other’s seeking Moksha
Fundamentally, this is a way of limiting Srishti by all for all so that Purushartha for all is maximized and there is equal opportunity for Purushartha.
The question is how do we achieve this.
Varna – An Architecture for maximizing Purushartha
This article proposes two things.
- Varna is that architecture that maximizes Purushartha
- Varna itself has evolved from the very framework of Purushartha and SSL
- As a consequence, the Varna system is merely an enabler, at least in its expression today. It is not a fundamental of the society that needs to be sought or unchanged
- Rather, there are ways to reimagine Varna for the new reality
Let us begin by exploring the first two points. How do we achieve the maximizing of Purushartha through Varna and how has it evolved from the Purushartha.
Associate every single person in the society uniquely with an aspect of Srishti
Essentially, this means that every single person indulges in the ‘creation’ or ‘Srishti’ of exactly one thing or an aspect of life. Crudely, this means everybody creates exactly one thing in life. The purpose of this is to build a system of creation that can be limited from within internally.
If this must be limited from within it must be
- Fulfilling for the self
- Fulfilling for the dependent
- Fulfilling for those who related by blood in the vicinity
- Fulfilling for all who will be impacted by the process of creation
This is fundamentally the first circle of people for any given person.
If the above stringent rules are to be satisfied, then it is very essential that the creating person is closely associated and living with these people in order to minimize the complexity of fulfilling the above constraints. The least complex and most efficient way of realizing this is
- The act of creation is fully integrated into other acts of Dharma and Moksha for self and the first circle so that there is no conflict at all
- All in the first circle to contribute to this process of creation
Fundamentally, this is forming a clique of people that virtually shares every aspect of life so that they can support each other in a specific way of pursuing the Purushartha and maximizing it for each other. This clique or aggregation is nothing but the concept of ‘Kula’ in Bharateeya Parampara.
This is not enough. Kula ensures that A&K are restricted from within a community-directed towards Moksha through Dharma. However, – Artha i.e., seeking security, by one Kula can clash with the same of other Kulas. Between Kulas that can lead to competition. Consequently, it can result in excessive Srishti.
Groups (Kula-s) indulging in the same creation in different flavours seek to outdo each other. That is – different Kulas with similar Creation responsibilities can compete with each other because of natural insecurity and that needs a bounding. If that has to be contained then
- The Disorder due to competition can be reduced by bringing groups (Kula-s) indulging the same/similar A&K into a single larger aggregation. Create a larger fraternity of social living consisting of marriage, dining across these Groups, or Kula-s.
- The Disorder due to competition can be reduced by integrating every A&K of ours tightly with our acts of seeking Moksha in daily life
1. This increases experience of beauty of life
2. Consequently, this naturally limits Srishti from Artha and Kama
This fundamentally leads to an aggregation of similar Kula-s which is called as a Jati or Community in Bharateeya Parampara. One may at this stage question why we need two levels of aggregation – first into a Kula and subsequently into Jati-s. We shall explore this in the next section.
What does Bharateeya Parampara seek to achieve through a Jati or Kula
In the previous section, we have seen how the concerns of Purushartha result in the movement of society towards the aggregation of Kula and eventually a Jati. We have only established the purpose and reason, without actually explaining the internal mechanics of how a Kula or Jati serves that intent or purpose. What exactly will we build within a Jati or Kula?
Fundamentally, Bharateeya parampara seeks to achieve a social organization unit of life within which the following can be realized.
- A Unique set of Practises and definite Path of realizing Moksha uniquely accessible by the Unit which is marked by beauty at various stages in the Path
- A unique set of practises through which the Unit seeks A&K seeking
- A unique set of practices for a common community life that builds a sense of co-operation to limit competition and thereby A&K seeking
- A unique set of guidelines/interfaces to interface with other Units to contribute to their A&K
- A set of practices that realize “beauty” at every step in this life – daily to yearly, so that all of the above becomes sustainable. Excellence in any Srishti is an aspect of the beauty of life. (Experience of beauty is a shot at Moksha and hence reduces that A&K of life)
This is what Bharateeya Parampara has strived to achieve through a Kula and Jati.
Now, it is a given that people are born in various parts of the world with geographies, climate, space, time. Different people are at different distances from Sthiti and on different Ruta-paths for Sthiti. As a result, they have to produce different things as part of their Srishti. The above parameters can be uniquely defined for only a small set of people.
If it is too big then it is difficult to define such practices/guidelines/paths cannot be uniquely defined. Worse, the average will find it very difficult to participate in a larger aggregation. Hence, a Kula is defined as the most fundamental entity that shares such practices/guidelines/paths.
However, this can neither be too small that the aggregation does not even manage to survive and sustain. A Kula is too small an entity to survive all by itself. It must have a loose aggregation with other Units/Kula-s that are performing a similar Srishti. Hence, an additional level of aggregations of all Kulas indulging in similar Creation into a Jati.
Fundamentally, whether it a Kula or a Jati, the following be uniquely shared by all members of that aggregation
- What I perform to serve my own A&K
- What I perform to serve others A&K
- What I perform to seek Moksha
For this to sustain, the three must be built around a single thing. If our lives revolve around a single thing within a community, then everything can be organized in a sustainable manner for eternity. Hence, Bharateeya Parampara organized our lives around a profession within a Kula/Jati. In this scheme of things, professions must be a community reality and Bharateeya Parampara sought that as an efficient means of realizing Purushartha for all.
This still does not directly explain why the Varna is required. But the essential reasons for the Varna aggregation have already been explained in the fundamentals of Kula and Jati. Kula-s aggregate themselves as Jati-s so that they have the critical mass to survive. To a lesser extent, it is also to ensure that they do not compete beyond a point. Competition is required to serve the larger society’s A&K. Beyond a beyond it is detrimental to the Moksha seeking of the participating Kula-s.
In a similar vein, Varna is required to reduce the competition between similar Jati-s. Jati-s may have different professions associated with them. However, Jati-s that are closer in their professions ought to collaborate to serve society. A milk-vending community would need to collaborate with the bullock-cart driving community.
A Fishermen community would need to collaborate with the boatmen community. Communities with similar A&K ought to collaborate and live in adjacency peacefully and harmoniously. In any case, Communities that are creating material will inherently compete with each other for wealth. They ought to be bound by an outer circle of community living in order to reduce the A&K entropy. Hence the grouping of similar Jati-s into a Varna. In having just 4 Varnas, the Bharateeya Parampara ensured that
- There is critical mass in each Varna
- There is enough collaboration and freedom for the right amount of creation and
- There is appropriate space for performing Dharma and seeking Moksha.
The accommodative and restrictive Nature of the Varna-Vyavastha
It should be clear by now that the Varna-Vyavastha is a loose order. A Kula is a stronger order. A Jati is a first-level aggregation but a Varna is a way looser aggregation. Yet, the dynamic for an individual may be limited. In this organization, the possibility for a single individual to suddenly change identity or choose an aspirational identity is impossible.
The ask on a person seeking this change/choice is significant in this system.
- If you move to a different Kula, Jati, Varna then you must have the ability to completely adopt the Purushartha Sadhana instruments of Professions, Paddhatis, Practises, Rituals, Traditions and Thought.
- Individuals though are dependent on the Community to hold themselves in these aspects. No single individual is simply capable of holding all these things by one’s own self.
- It may be easier to move from one Kula to another within a Jati, from one Jati to another within a Varna.
- But to move from to a different Kula or a different Jati in a Varna requires a Himalayan leap which requires the persistence of a Vishwamitra. Not that it is not done, but it is difficult. Hence, the Smritis disallow but Itihasa-Purana is galore with such Leaps and the Shruti never forbids it.
Fundamentally, this is simply an efficient organization for Purushartha Sadhana for one and all. However, not without concerns.
- It must ensure equitable opportunity for Purushartha Sadhana. The ultimate goal of Moksha should be equally available to everybody in all Kulas, Jati and Varna.
- Superiority defined in this scheme of things only to serve the purpose of Purushartha Sadhana. Greater the ability to enable Purushartha for others, higher the status. Not to serve the purpose of one’s own A&K. At least, in principle the Varna-Vyavastha must be aligned with this Objective.
Any degradation in the above two values has always resulted in a disorder in the society resulting in strife.
Birth-based Jati/Varna and Varna Sankara
Now, it is not very difficult to understand why Jati/Varna acquired a birth-based attribute. It is extremely difficult to create and sustain a set of practices/paths/guidelines/interfaces unless Varna/Jati is birth based. It is the absolute concern for creating an accessible for all Purushartha framework that resulted in a birth-based Jati/Varna organization.
For a very long time, Bharateeya civilization did not seem to have gotten into a large-scale disastrous conflict until external forces created structural changes in the society leading to where we are today.
In this scheme of things for the Purushartha Sadhana, the integrity of the Kula, integrity of the Jati, and the integrity of the Varna seem extremely important so that there is no A&K disorder. A weakening of practises/guidelines/paths result in greater insecurity and competition in the society resulting a greater seeking of A&K fulfillment by each society.
That indirectly puts a load on Dharmikataa and the seeking of Moksha suffers. This in turn leads to greater strife in the society and the practises/guidelines/paths further weaken. It then becomes a vicious cycle of entropy increase in the universe of life.
This does not mean that there was no intermingling at all in the last few millenia. However, each time it was resisted. When it was inevitable it was accepted but it gradually led to the evolution of a new community or it led to the deviation being absorbed by existing communities. Fundamentally, Bharateeya Parampara strived to transform every deviation into an entity acceptable within the larger Kula-Jati-Varna scheme.
At best one can accuse the Parampara of creating a status-difference based on Kula-Jati-Varna. However, such status itself did not mean much as long as Purushartha freedom was significantly available within the Kula-Jati-Varna. Hence, any discrimination was largely contained.
Nevertheless, it must be acknowledged that there was a concern and resistance for Varna-Sankara. When there is mixing, defining an integrated way of life for Purushartha is very difficult. As it increases, the Purushartha balance reduces and disorder increases. This equally affects everybody. This was a universal concern and there is hardly evidence for large scale disaffection towards this organization.
One must also acknowledge that dynamism between Kulas to a greater extent i.e., within Jatis and between Jatis to a lesser extent i.e., within Varna was permitted. Fundamentally the nature of Srishti is such. It does create a certain dynamic. No structural organization of humanity can sustain itself as it is for millenia and a civilization that seeks sustain for long has to accommodate this dynamic.
Bharateeya Parampara set the Varna as the limiting boundary for this organization Varna to allow and contain that dynamic. Hence, marriage, dining etc., within a Varna. It can be done without creating an imbalance of rituals, traditions, practices, etc., for Purushartha Sadhana.
Here comes Modernity
Bharatamandala has seen immense assault and strife in the last 800 years. The First 600 years were of a certain order where the fabric of the society to strive for the Purushartha was weakened. The last 200 years destroyed so many fundamental aspects of the society including our Artha-Kama balance resulting in significant reorder of the society. Our strengths have weakened and our weaknesses amplified. Fault lines have deepened.
In addition, something else very fundamental has happened, as Modernity has crept very deep into the society by force or otherwise over a couple of centuries.
- Individuality is the reality of life. The Community of Jati or Kula are no more the fundamental entities around which life of an individual revolves. Communities have weakened and Individuals are stronger resulting in a far higher dynamic. This puts stress on the Purushartha Sadhana available to people.
- Communities no more hold Professions uniquely. Professions have become universalized. Communities hold themselves through a set of shared Practices of the past, emotionality, marriage and so on. They will continue to hold. Dharma and Moksha Sadhana come from the community still. They are not weak. There is a strong parampara that continues to support us. But with professions going away, all these will weaken and new anchors will be sought. That new anchor in the modern era seems to be an equitable share of the political power, equality of status in the universal society and an equitable share of material wealth. This is a response to the insecurity created by the loss of profession. Now, this is an entropy increasing restructuring.
- Systems of A&K are now separate from Dharma and Moksha. This results in the inability of Dharma and Moksha to contain Srishti. This also results in inequality and hierarchy in the society, much more than Varna-Vyavastha. A&K systems affect people and communities far and wide. The resulting competition and insecurity is significantly destructive. This is the reason why we see more Casteism in society today.
- Communities are now way too inward-looking. Their ability to serve other communities as a community has weakened because modern secular A&K systems (Modern Industry systems) have taken over this function from the communities. As a result of this pressure, Communities tend to conserve what they have within themselves.
- Thanks to the philosophy of Modernity that puts a premium on change/progress/development as an independent value, the dynamic of Srishti is very high. The strength of the ancient systems was to contain this dynamic through community living. However, we are living in a world of stronger individuals and weaker communities. As a result, the dynamic of Srishti will be very high for quite a significant time to come.
The Problem of Birth based Varna/Jati in the Modern World
Now, it is clear that Bharateeya Civilization is in the midst of a crisis of sorts. Its age-old systems have come under severe pressure because of Modernity and Proselytization. At the same time, the philosophy of civilization and its foundational elements are rock solid.
There is a continuous attempt to preserve and evolve on its own terms and in its own direction. But Modernity and Proselytization strike at two problems in the hardest manner. They have created a favorable sort of environment for 300 years at least both at a social and institutional level.
The two big problems faced by the Bharateeya civilization are
- Birth based Varna and Jati
- Exclusive Varna of the Brahmanas
With Modernity, Brahmanas have stepped out of their boundaries and are indulging in material seeking and creating like others. At the same time, there is no change in the traditional responsibilities they held according to the Varna-Vyavastha at least on paper. They continue to hold exclusive access to the creation of instruments that foster Dharma and Moksha in the society as these are the hardest of the Purushartha Sadhanas to be released from the birth-based system. This dual dynamic becomes difficult to sustain. This is coming under strain and we have to rise to this challenge.
What is the future then?
Modernity, Individuality, Industrialization, and Urbanization are here to stay, for any foreseeable future. There is no wishing them away. In this new world, we now need to recreate our Purushartha Sadhanas and make them effective for the new context. This reimagination is for the entire civilization and not just for the individuals.
This reimagination must satisfy some conditions if this has to succeed and sustain
- No individual or a community should perceive or experience a structural disadvantage in this reimagination
- It must provide for a stronger individual and weaker community. Simply, because this is the new norm. It must build itself on a reality that is significant today. This too is part of our Ruta.
- It must accommodate the higher dynamic of Srishti and yet achieve Sthiti. Notions of constant change/progress/development and significant material production are here to stay. There will be a higher-order pleasure-seeking.
- Yet, it must continue to strive for the ancient Purushartha Sadhana. The framework our ancestors designed is really universal. The beauty and sustenance of our civilization over millennia is a result of this. This is non-negotiable.
If the first two are to be achieved “the Jati and Varna Vyavastha have to be weakened” at least the way they existed in the past.
- As the state becomes strong and creates Institutions that concern all Varnas, the exclusivity of professions is lost. The moment it is open for all – every community will need to have equitable access to both new Institutions and old Institutions. A separation of the two is impossible
- As the Individual becomes strong, communities become weak – the latter can no longer create capacity to fulfil all kinds of aspirations of people. As a result, all exclusive accesses to Jati and Varna will have to loosen so that new aspirations can be met.
If the last two are to be achieved – we must recreate the purpose/nature of Jati and Varna in the modern world. The greatest success of the Jati-Varna vyavastha was the containing of A&K and an equitable opportunity for Purushartha fulfillment for all. In the modern world, there are more players than individuals and communities for this purpose and a reimagination is required that takes all playing entities in the new world.
In this reality, we may see the Chaturvarna moving out of the society in two different directions and the Jati in two different directions.
- The outward movement towards Modern Institutions
- The inward movement folding into a Jati or Community
We shall explore this in the last section.
However, this does not mean that the Jati or Community would be void of a Varna identity or strips itself completely from the Community. Instead, the Varna-Vyavastha will become more distributed, more complex, and altered towards the reality of Modern Life.
An outward movement towards Modern Institutions
A fundamental change that Modernity has brought to Bharatamandala is that it has made the State very strong and more authoritative than the past. Modern democracy should not fool us into believing otherwise. Democracy has increased but the scope of what is to be managed by the state has significantly increased covering aspects of life that were in the realm of community.
As a result, the state has created a plethora of Institutions – from the Parliament to Academic Institutions to Research Institutions to Commerce Institutions to Agricultural Institutions. Each of these Institutions performs specific functions.
In a unique Bharateeya reimagination, these Institutions can acquire the characteristics of a Varna as well as Purushartha in the future. For e.g., a Military think tank could acquire a part of the characteristics of a Brahmana and Kshatriya.
An Agricultural University may acquire the characteristics of Brahmana and Shudra. These Institutions can then build a set of guidelines/practices/paths that are aligned with Varnas. They become equally accessible to all communities/Jati-s in society.
- People will continue to live within their communities and develop required Purushartha instruments as per their community.
- People will work in Public Institutions depending on their orientation/opportunity/change and according to the Varna characteristics of those Institutions.
The Varna characteristics of those Institutions means an exclusive set of practices/guidelines/paths to fulfill their core responsibility for the State and the Society in the larger Purushartha scheme. Every Institution will remold itself in the balance of Purushartha and Varna. This releases the pressure on individuals to be limited within a single Varna.
Inward folding of Varna into a Jati Community
Instead of a Jati belonging to a Varna, Varna itself may fold into a Jati. This means every community will grow its own Brahmanas, Kshastriya, Vaishyas and Shudras. This transition will happen for two reasons
- To provide opportunity and orientation of every individual – the Svadharma
- To accommodate the high dynamic of Srishti of the Modern world
- To make it possible for everybody in the Community equally deal with Modern Institutions which have themselves acquired the nature of Varna relieving individuals from that need
Implications on The Problem of Casteism
The Problem of Casteism in the modern world is the result of Modern Institutions not acquiring Varna characteristics and not providing the opportunity for the dynamic while the Community has weakened itself.
Modern Institutions are coming under the pressure of Casteism because the Jati-s as communities are no more able to retain professions within them and build a life that fosters their Purushartha. The weakening of the constraint releases certain energy creating a dynamic that takes people in multiple directions. However, modern institutions have no capacity to take care, nurture, and contain their Svadharma. As a result, Modern Institutions are coming under severe pressure. Casteism, seeking reservation is a result of this dynamic.
Let us say, the modern Bharatamandala has enough small scale agricultural research institutions. These institutions should fundamentally have a Shudra orientation at an Institution level. However, at the level of individual professions, it should accommodate every single Varna orientation. Every Institution to operate in this dual-mode.
We then have a creative way of dealing with two problems
- We can be relieved of the insistence of birth based Varna for an individual
- We can take care of the individual’s Svadharma that determines their Varna
- We can relieve the pressure off communities to be a disadvantageous position because of an association with an exclusive Varna. Each community will have people with different Varna performing tasks within the community and in Institutions.
Modern Institutions will then have a
- Varna orientation at a higher level
- Accommodate professions of different Varnas
- Accommodate Individuals of different Svadharma
- Build a complex set of traditions, rituals, practices that fosters everybody’s Purushartha
This then is a great equality that we will be moving towards in future. We will seamlessly operate in multiple worlds operating in different Varnas. This dynamic is already in motion. But our lack of focus on it and shaping modern institutions towards this is resulting in a skewed reality resulting in immense conflict.
This arguably is our future.
Sthiti: The desired state of the universe of life described as a dynamic stable equilibrium.
Srishti: The nature of the Universe of Life to create the new and strive for the Universe to be in Sthiti.
Ruta: The Universal Principles of Life for the Cosmic Order. Ruta is the invisible form of Satya and Satya is the visible for of Ruta.
Laya: The nature of the Universe of Life to end or destroy those whose life has come to end so that the Universe strives for Sthiti.
Dharma: All the actions that hold the universe of life together without letting the order collapse. That which enhances the individual and the collective life.
Kama: The natural element of Desire in the Universe that serves the purpose of Srishti.
Artha: That element of life seeking Security, Meaning and Wealth.
Moksha: Moksha is that liberated state where one is forever in the state of Sthiti.
Purushartha: Dharma-Artha-Kama-Moksha are together called Purushartha. These are goals that one must strive for together in the Sanatana Dharma.
Kula: Kula is that aggregation of families with close blood relation and sharing a tradition.
Jati: It is an aggregation of Kula-s each with distinct traditions within a common profession but with a common emphasis in the spectrum of Purushartha.
Varna: An aggregation of Jati-s each with a different Profession but within a common emphasis in the spectrum of Purushartha.
Varna-Vyavastha: Vyavastha means organization. It is not a system but an flexible arrangement that could change with time. Varna-Vyavastha refers to the organization of Kula-s, Jati-s in 4 distinct Universes within a larger Universe. Vyavastha refers to the flexibility within this system.
Varna-Sankara: Sankara refers to mixing. Varna-Sankara refers to mixing of different Jati-s across different Varna-s that results in the loss of tradition.
Purushasukta: A hymn in the 10th Mandala (Book) of Rigveda that describes the Supreme. It describes Brahmanas as head of the Purusha, Kshatriyas as the body, Vaishyas as Thighs and Shudras as the Feet of the Supreme (Purusha).
Brahmanas: The kula-s that learn the Vedas and associated disciplines and keep them alive for the society.
Kshastriyas: The Kula-s that have the sanction to rule the kingdom, uphold Dharma and ensure Security and Justice for all. They ensure a protection for every community’s tradition and livelihood.
Vaishyas: They perform agriculture and business. They create wealth for the society.
Shudras: They offer various services to the society that serve the traditions and professions of the Brahmanas, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas.
Mahakavya: A great epic full of poetic genius, rich in metaphors presenting the entire Civilization in a certain dimension. Invariably in the canvass of Purushartha.
Bharatamandala/Bharatavarsha: The Great Indian Subcontinent, regions hugely influenced by the Vedic Culture propagated richly during King Bharata’s reign.
Paddhati: A specific way of performing a specific aspect of life as part of the Tradition.
Chaturvarna: The 4 Varna-s of Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaishya, Shudra
Dharmikata: The State of being a Dharmic
Purushartha Sadhana: Sadhana refers to a sacred method or instrument. Purushartha Sadhana means an instrument through one you strive for the Purushartha.
Svadharma: Dharma that is natural and unique to an individual. It’s a function of one’s personal nature and the local context in which one lives.
Featured Image Credits: bharathgyan
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