The four varnas, continued.
Some others, because of their vaasanaas are born in an environment which makes them leaders and executives of society, men who can organize, govern and fight for a cause and even give their lives on the field for it. These are the kshatriyas of the society. Krishna describes them: (Gita, Ch.18-43):
Bravery, vigour, constancy, resourcefulness,promptitude, courage in the face of the enemy, generosity and nobility as well as a quality of leadership and lordship - these are the duties of a
kshatriya, born of his own nature.
Again these have to be taken as the qualities
defining a kshatriya. In other words, those who have these qualities inherent in them are the kshatriyas, even of this day.
A third category of people is the group of technical personnel who have a skill, trade or profession and each one is a specialist in his own way. These are the vaisyas; they are the hands and limbs of society. Without them the society cannot survive. When the Gita says that agriculture, cattle-rearing and trade are the duties of the vaisyas, born of their nature (Gita Ch.18-44), it proceeds on the maxim that the mental temperament of a man determines what class he belongs to and each class has his own duties for which he is temperamentally tuned. None belonging to the 'higher' varnas is justified in looking down upon the other varnas on the 'lower' rung of the ladder. In fact 'higher' and 'lower' are misnomers in the context of society and everyday life. The high-and-low concept originated in the levels of spiritual evolution at which the accumulated tendencies of an individual peg him.This idea of 'level' has been wrongly imported into the context of society by several centuries of degenerate application by the people involved. Each of these varnas has a function for which his inborn tendencies fit him well. That is why the Lord says: Better you follow the dharma that befits your nature and not something that is foreign to your nature. It must also be remembered that the rigours and standards of behaviour expected of a braahmana are far stricter than those expected of, say, a vaisya or a soodra. The 'lower' you come in the ladder of spiritual evolution the more liberal are the norms of behaviour prescribed for you. There is an interesting anecdote in the Mahabharata, in this connection, where King Yudhishtira recommends four different punishments for four people, (who have individually committed the same crime), because they belong to the four different varnas. The punishments are; for the soodra it is just a warning, for the vaisya it is a beating; for the kshatriya it is a prison term, and for the braahmana it is death sentence!
February 13, 1999
Copyright V. Krishnamurthy
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Four character-types