[Advaita-l] Re : Karma and Reincarnation (Chandrashekar)

Lakshmi Muthuswamy lakmuthu at yahoo.com
Fri Jul 21 05:17:22 CDT 2006

CAturvarNyam -Verse 4.13 Bhagavad Gita Home study by Swami Dayananada Sarasvati– Continued -2
  Duty based division among people   
  There is another kind of division inherent in the system, also four-fold, the people of each division are called by same name. This division is based on duty – karma vibhAga. The duty of a brAhmana, for example, is to teach and to officiate at rituals. His life is one of prayer for the welfare of the society and he lives very simply with no more than the barest essentials. He must practise shama and gain dama. He studies the Veda, teaches, and serves as an officiating priest, undertaking all those liturgical activities that are the duties of the priest. The society requires that certain activities be conducted and the brAhmaNa is responsible for them. He is a priestly person.
  Thus, there is a guNa wise brAhmaNa and a duty wise brahmaNa. Similarly there is a guNa wise kshatriya and duty wise kshatriya, whose duty is to protect dharma, be committed to knowledge and protect the Vedas. As a kshatriya, Arjuna’s duty was to rule and protect the people in terms of administration, judiciary, law enforcement, and defence. All these functions fall under kshatriya-dharma and are duties to be done in every society.
  A vaishya is a person who deals in commerce, wealth, farms,agriculture, and so on. Commerce involves bringing things from place where they were produced and selling them in other places where they were needed. Thus a vaishya is the one whose duty is to make things available to the people.
  The people in the fourth division, ShUdra provide the hands and the legs, eyes and ears, for the others. Their duty is to serve and, without such people, nothing could be accomplished. The activities they perform are found in all societies in the world and must be done if the society is to function.
  In the Vedic religion, the activities of each of the four groups of people are converted into duties and are enjoined according to family. We do not know when all this started, but whoever was performing the duties of a shUdra, or a vaishya, or a kshatriya, or a brAhmaNa kept passing these same duties down to his or her children.
  Strictly speaking anyone who was doing the work of a particular group should be known by the name of that group regardless of which group he or she is born into. A person who is born in a brAhmaNa family, but does vaishya karma is a vaishya. A true brahmaNa, on the other hand, is one who, having been born into a brAhmaNa family, lives a simple life so as not to exploit the society, studies and teaches the Veda, and performs the obligatory rituals for the welfare of the people, just as his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather did before him.
  Duties being there, we have these four groups of people. Offcourse, duties can be transgressed, but that is not the point here. The duties themselves, the karma, are the basis for the division of people, each group having its respective duties. Thus, there are brAhmaNa-duties, kshatriya-duties, vaishya-duties and shUdra-duties.
  A man who is a brAhmaNa in terms of karma, duty, may chant the Veda, officiate art rituals, and so on, but guNa –wise, he may be ambitious and may want recognition. Such a person is not sattva-rajas-tamas. If, however, he carries out his duties with the attitude of karma-yoga, he is sattva-rajas-tamas. Then his attitude is, ‘This is my karma, my duty. These duties are to be done by me. They are my offering to the Lord.’
  Karma - yoga and a duty based society   
  Karma – yoga is relatively easy for a person who is born into a structure where the concept of duty is so clearly defined. When the spirit behind the structure is understood, all the person has to do is what has to be done. The person need not choose a vocation in life. He or she knows exactly what is to be done based on which family he or she is born into. One’s duty is written all over one’s forehead at birth, so to speak.
   For a person who believes in the law of karma, there is no other reason for him or her to have been born into a particular family.Some karma is the governing factor and what is now to be done is clear. For example, a man who is born into a brAhmaNA family knows that he has to do study, perform yajnas and so on – and he does so happily. While performing his duties, he does not mutter, ‘if only I were an administrator, I would have earned a lot of money by now. Instead I have nothing!’
  If earning money is the main criterion, a system based on duty cannot work. Everyone will look to see which vocation produces the most money and do only that. If medicine produces money, you will become a doctor. And when a glut develops in the field of medicine, you will turn to another field where there is more opportunity, more money. If money and power are the main criteria, there will be no structure, really speaking. The money and the power will set up the structure for one’s education, marriage and so on.
  But here, in the Vedic vision, moksha, liberation, is the main aim. The veda says that you are perfect and that you have to achieve this knowledge, which is moksha. To do this, you must have a mature mind and this kind of mind can be gained only living a life of karma-yoga. For karma-yoga you must certainly have a certain duty and be clear about what you are to do. When you are clear about what your duty is, then you can perform all karma, all activity, as duty.
  We have seen how the duties of a brAhmaNa are very evident to the person. Similarly, the duties of a kshatriya are very clear to him and he performs his karma as a duty, cheerfully. A vaishya also knows what exactly is to be done by him. His father is engaged either in commerce or in cultivation or he may have a cattle farm. The son chooses one of the three or involves himself in all of them. Whatever he chooses to do is done as a duty and for a reasonable profit. A vaishya also is not supposed to exploit the society in anyway. For example, he must not create a scarcity by buying all available stock, storing it somewhere, and then releasing it in small amounts at large profits when the people begin clamouring for it. Such practices are definitely not inconformity with the dharma nor are they vaishya-dharma. Thus, when a vaishya performs his duty happily, according to his own dharma, it can be yoga for him. The duties of a shUdra, shUdra-karma, are the same. They are not
 lowly or demeaning karma; they are simply duties to be done.
  To be continued.
  Om namo narayanaya
  Lakshmi Muthuswamy

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