Caste system in modern life

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Оpen Yoga Journal 

  1. Introduction
  2. How to apply  the notion of caste in our daily life
  3. Castes
  4. Gunas
  5. Conclusion

All of us have certain qualities that correspond with our perception of the world. Some like to work with their hands and make some useful things for other people. Others are capable of bringing a group of people together to achieve a common goal. They make excellent managers. Some of us are very good at reaching out to people and kindling people’s minds to explore new knowledge. Why are we so different?

Gunas

Each person is a combination of certain qualities and experience, that make up three groups of bodies of varying density. Therefore, we can exist in three states according to our tendencies: active, passive or the state of clarity. In Vedic philosophy these states correspond to three gunas: Radjas, Tamas and Sattva. These states are common to all people, however, in different combinations and proportions. The combination of Gunas determines the way people live, think and act.

“The first is Sattva-Guṇa the function of which, relative to the other Guṇas, is to reveal consciousness. The greater the presence or power of Sattva-Guṇa, the greater the approach to the condition of Pure Consciousness. Similarly, the function of Tamas Guṇa is to suppress or veil consciousness. The function of Rajas Guṇa is to make active — that is, it works on Tamas to suppress Sattva, or on Sattva to suppress Tamas. The object and the effect of evolution, as it is of all Sādhana, is to develop Sattva-Guṇa.

The Guṇas always co-exist in everything, but variously predominate. The lower descent is made  on the evolutionary ladder the more Tamas Guṇa prevails, asso-called «brute substance,» which has been supposed to be altogether inert. The higher the ascent is made the more Sattva prevails.” Arthur Avalon

Tamas — ignorance

A person in the state of Tamas is inert. Laziness, unwillingness to work hard and to overcome life’s obstacles give an indication to this Guna. It is essential to avoid the domination of this sluggish state. The longer we are in this state the more difficult it is to get out.

Rajas — passion, activity

People with more rajas are active and energetic. They strive to change themselves and the world around according to their needs. 

Sattva — enlightenment, goodness

Sattva is a quality which manifests itself in the desire to benefit the outside world, to be useful for others. A person in this state clearly understands that personal happiness can be possible only when everybody around is happy. 

Each of us has one quality or another expressed more clearly in different periods of life. Knowing what are the strengths of our personality, we can successfully apply this knowledge in our life, achieve more and be the most useful for others.

Comparative analysis of human development shows that in course of time the society structure gradually comes to the following: people are divided into classes (estates, castes or varnas) according to their functions and social status.

Let’s look at the history of ancient India, where the society was divided into four varnas.

1.  Shudras

People of this caste live satisfying simple needs. However, their role in a society is important. Shudras do physical work for life-supporting services — they are workers, builders, etc. Otherwise, everybody would have to build their own houses and produce necessary goods. In this case there would be no time left for other duties, according to the destiny.  

2.  Vaishyas

These people are able to control themselves and often are ready to give up minor things in pursuit of something greater. The profession of a person from this caste is usually related to mental and intellectual functions. They can perform accounting, make observations, accomplish assigned tasks. Vaishyas are traders, farmers and bankers.

3.  Kshatriyas 

People of this caste devote their lives to righteous deeds. Self-discipline and control of the desires are the main characteristics of a person of this level. Originally Kshatriyas were military leaders and commanders defending the rest of society. They are excellent leaders, they can motivate others, create business projects and organise things, where their leadership is appreciated. 

4.  Brahmins

People of this caste have a more spiritual life. Their goal is liberation from ignorance and helping other living beings. Body desires are not important. A person of this caste can be a Teacher in the truest sense of the word. 

To the first approximation, Varnas and Gunas relate as follows:

·         Tamas is more common among Shudras.

·         Mixture of Tamas and Rajas — among Vaishyas.

·         Mixture of Rajas and Sattva — among Kshaitryas

·         Sattva — among Brahmins

Anyway it is important to understand your caste to define the starting point of your life journey. But you should remember that  it depends only on you, what will be your final destination: either you are going to live a life of an animal or it will be full of consciousness, goodness, joy and happiness.

Those who understand that we all have our own path of development, demonstrate a harmonious life attitude.

In the modern world, a person is capable of getting to a higher level of development by moving from one social group to another. An internal feeling of Harmony will let us know when and where it is necessary to move in order to find our own path of life. It is important to understand that by doing any steps or making decisions we build our own life. 

Despite our differences in skills and personalities, there is enough space under the sun for all of us. It is only by being in the right place that human beings are able to bring maximum benefit to society and be happy at the same time.

Wishing you harmonious self-exploration!

Author: Angelina Shanti

Photo: from IOYU library

Editors: Kerigona, M. Mamontova, M. Balmush

Chief Editor: Mirra

Project curator: Kerigona

Translators: Tatiana Sugrue, Nat Satcitananda, Tatiana Atishaya


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