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The Varna System PDF Print E-mail
Gita - Gita Articles

c|turvar[ya= may| s&^!a= gu[akarma vibh|ga%a+
tasya kart|ram api m|= viddhy akart|ram avyayam

The four divisions of human society ? based on aptitude and vocation ? were created by Me. Though I am the author of this system of division of labor, one should know that I do nothing (directly), and I am eternal. (See also 18.41) (4.13)


The four different categories (varnas) of
People were created from me (Parmatma)
Based on the three gunas (attributes/forces)
And their influence on performing of karma
But, even though I am the source of the creation (creator)
Know me as a non-doer (akarta)
(Because I am completely non-attached) ||4:13||

Let us examine what kind of divisions we live in before we examine Krishna’s division of human kind. I live in USA. A patient comes in for a simple procedure such as vasectomy. If the state has to pay he has to fill a form. One section asks the questions as to whether he is Native American, Hispanic, Asian or African American. This is how we divide human kind. The word Black has been replaced by African American because it is more dignified. Each class has a slang name that sometimes is used in derogatory fashion.

We also like to say that all men are born equal. There are movements in the country where women feel that they are equal to men. There seems to be an obsession on this fact that we can all do the same things. The reality is totally different. Try to meet the President of the country. You can certainly meet him over a dinner, but will cost you somewhere $1000 to $10,000 per person. The President does not get the money. It goes to his party. How many equal people can afford this much money. They can, however, say that they do not want to meet the President anyway.

Whether we like or not, we have been dividing ourselves in different types. We like to be special. I lived in Saudi Arabia for 2 years. The natives there felt that they were special and superior to every one else. We all like to feel important and therefore like to divide in a way that supports that special existence. Pakistan has history books that make them important while India has history books that reflect that. We all know what happened with the German and Jew story in Hitler’s time. This is always a possibility with the classification system that we have. Our system of division encourages and allows profiling. Once profiling is possible, then it is easy to differentiate and segregate a certain group. The Japanese can be separated, the Arabs can be denied visa, and s Sikh may be killed because he fits profile of Osama Bin Laden.

Although we love to use the slogan that all humans are born equal, this is far from truth. We are not all alike and we know that. We differ in our color, from where we come from and how we process our thinking. Some are rich and some are poor. This lends itself to creation of class systems. The people from Home Counties around London feel that they are different than those from Manchester. The Scots still long for an independent Scotland with Edinburgh castle as their capital.

We are all different and I feel that we are all uniquely different. Is there possibility of a different classification system? Krishna has the answer in these shlokas (verses). The division is based on the gunas (attributes) and karma (acts). Krishna believes that karma (actions) that we do is based on the gunas (attributes) that we have. There are three types of gunas, sat (pios), rajas (dynamism), and tamas (inertia). Everyone has different proportions of these forces inside of them. Usually one type of guna predominates in an individual. Arjuna for example has a higher proportion of rajas and the proportions that he has of the three gunas make him a Kshatriya (soldier type). Arjuna can thus be a trusted warrior and protect the land or others in time of need. Bill Gates has a proportion that puts him in the category of Vaishya (business aptitude) and he is useful for creating wealth for the country. It is not that he does not have intelligence or some of what Arjuna has; it is that he has the mix of three gunas that make him predominantly a business persom. Einstein has all the characteristics of a Brahmin.

I feel that Krishna’s classification is scientific and more realistic than others mentioned above. Varna system of Krishna has nothing to do with the caste system of India today. The caste system as is not what Krishna is talking about in this shloka. Krishna’s varna system for example does not talk about hierarchy. The current caste system has hierarchy built into it. A respect for a Brahmins intellect or his sacrifice is one thing, demanding respect another. Protecting other class of society is a need, killing someone because you have power is another.

I feel that Krishna’s classification is the best possible classification for human kind. In fact it is not a classification per se; it is simple fact of reality. There are just four types of people based on what we capable of doing. I am a doctor. I may not make a good business man. I may be a lousy soldier. We all have our limitations and we all have areas we can flourish and excel. Let us try to explore our inner flowering potentials and then let us allow that flower to bloom.

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