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Varna: stages on the path of perfection

There are some objectives which sudras have to achieve in the course of their lifetime. In general these objectives go along with working out a plan of material existence. It is believed that such incarnation get souls which have just came from animality, that’s why their interests are based merely on instincts and concerns on animal level. A member of this varna has to master their survival techniques and, after that, learn to produce viable offspring and take care of it. Altogether all sudras’ vital interests come down to/reduce to several primitive needs: to eat, to sleep, to protect oneself, to copulate.

The soul that has just started to explore human world in its first/early incarnations is undeveloped and only capable of doing manual labour. Sudras’ development goes solely through the everyday toil.

They cannot control their own vigour in a right way therefore they are not supposed to have it. Everyday toil expends most energy at the muladhara level (first chakra) and don’t leave any energy for various lewd things (eg. sex) which are related to the second chakra — svadhistana. In this case work saves a person from self-destructive desires.

We can find certain guides for sudras in many Vedic texts: by working hard they must serve members of higher castes. There was a strict system in Vedic community that allowed all members of each varna to evolve: «The Kshatriyas served the Brahmanas; the Vaisyas waited upon the Kshatriyas, and the Sudras adoring the Brahmanas and the Kshatriyas, waited upon the Vaisyas». (Mahabharata, Adi Parva, Sambhava Parva section C,).

By serving those with higher spiritual development and receiving gratitude from them a person can change his/her fate in current incarnation and in the next ones. The Vaisya who is serving the Kshatriya will gradually become a Kshatriya, a Kshatriya who is serving the Brahmana will eventually become a Brahmana. However it is Sudras’ main task to learn how to serve properly. They have to overcome their laziness, develop self-discipline and acquire a habit to perform his/her labour purposefully.

Once the Sudra member manages to lay the foundation of his life, as soon as he satisfies his basic needs, he starts to develop various desires. Still it isn’t the case because members of other varnas also have their own desires. But Sudras’ misfortune is in the changeability of their cravings: «I want what I see». Sudra also is unable to focus long on just one object, to keep hold of certain goal («keep your goal to yourself»). For example, Sudra cannot save money in order to buy a flat or a car, but rather will spend on transitory pleasures. Money is only one of the ways of energy display. But Sudra behaves the same way toward any other energy, spending it on gaieties, delighting sexual desires, appeasing hunger etc.: «As each wife of a householder who has many wives tries to attract her husband for her own purpose—the tongue, genitals, sense of touch, belly, ears, nose, restless eyes, and working senses, attract the embodied soul towards their respective objects of enjoyment». (Uddhava-gita, ch. 3: text 27). 

Members of this varna have not yet mastered the level of synergy with the universe that allows to collect energy and invest it in some cause. Sudra incarnation can get a soul that possessed some assets (property or energy) in past life and failed to dispose of them properly. And then this soul is born without almost anything.
Sudras always need someone to guide them to some more or less long-term goal. For example a foreman telling a boozy worker that if the latter is not getting drunk during the whole week he will get a payment on Monday. Sudra is not able to be in charge of someone or organize some kind of process. He himself can work only while receiving clear instructions from the head. The member of this caste will feel himself comfortable in the position of the employee. Moreover, the rougher and easier the labour is and the less thought it requires the better. Sudras usually do not show initiative or creativity at work, they consciously or unconsciously will seek after situations implying stereotyped solutions.

In some way sudra are very similar to little children, because they cannot control their desires, orient themselves in the world, choose a steady sphere of interests. In this regard, all the other varnas are more mature and responsible for the evolution of those who were born with the experience that is appropriate to a level of a sudra.

Any member of any other varna can dwindle to the level of sudra. For example, if the kshatriya or vaishya starts drinking alcohol or develops uncontrolled sexual behavior then in the next life they will be ordained by fate to be a sudra, if, of course, their souls will maintain staying in the human world. And in this their incarnation they will have plenty of wishes and needs but no opportunities to satisfy them.

The next varna is the Vaishyas which includes businessmen, artisans and peasants. They make a living by using certain tools or their intellectual capacity.
The Vaishyas are attached to the idea of hoarding. Besides their wealth is not necessarily expressed in monetary form. It can be a fortune of a clan that means a visible support from relatives, ancestors and safe future secured by descendants. They consider health as some kind of potential or wealth. Usually Vaishyas’s priorities are family, children (providing future generations), health and work. They live mainly for the sake of these objects.

Vaishyas have quite cultured intelligence. Both a book-keeper gifted by nature who is counting figures and a mathematician calculating integrals with joy make use of the capacities of their varna.

Vaishya is a proprietor, his interest lies only in protecting his own possessions. Members of this varna can care only for «their own» children, «their own» coworkers, «their own» home. A person of vaishya type fulfills himself through caring solely for his belongings and family bonds. (By leaping ahead we will mention that kshatriya starts taking an interest in public affairs or care about more global things such as justice. But he no longer associates himself with the universe and does not value it much.

Vaishyas are less affected by desires than sudras, they gain a willpower and therefore can control energy expenditure and invest the saved resources into one sel ected goal. At this level there appears a desire and, what is more important, an opportunity to invest this energy towards a specific purpose, appears an aspiration for self-actualization and a need to do something on one’s own. In accordance vaishyas can run their own business, make decisions within it and manage employees.

This varna’s values are always associated with the material existence. It is vaishyas’ problem that they put all their efforts into the physical world. It is difficult for them to understand that this world does not reduce to only tangible values. From their perspective one can buy everything. Vaishyas don’t accept things they cannot touch and don’t care about such concepts as energy and karma. That is why they are not able to get the major part of spiritual information.

It is important for vaishyas to understand that certain karma is determined for everything created in the material world. While producing material goods and leaving them behind in mundane world a person should think about who will inherit them and how will use them. The blacksmith can forge a fine sword, but if some villain takes advantage of this weapon some part of karma will «go» to the creator of the weapon.

Evolutionary development of Vaishya member happens when he/she learned to satisfy all the needs of the material level, realized that he/she can easy earn a lot of money, he/she has happy family with many kids…but he/she is still lacking something inside. Then there are two options: either Vaishya realizes that all tangible things are perishable and will be destroyed anyway and then he choose brahmanical type of evolution. Or keeping interest to all material things, guided by the desire to transform this world, make it fair go away from serving “himself” to serving society.

He becomes interested in politics and leadership. There is a stereotype that kshatriya is primarily a warrior. But it is not quite true. The interests of kshatriya are the power and the ability of manipulating people. Kshatriya takes responsibility for society and understands that he must to protect and defend its representatives, even from themselves. Neither vaishya nor sudra can organize themselves, they need someone who will rule over them. One comes on the path of kshatriya with the realization that he is the only one who must do based upon the central concept for the kshatriya - the concept of justice. Kshatriya creates and controls orders according to which society should live: «The king protects all these (his subjects) with proper care, and sets all the castes to perform their respective duties». (Mahabharata, Book 5: Udyoga Parva, ch. 29)

The military art is just a method of force and the retention of power, protection of fellow citizens, controlling the performance of the laws and therein they value mastering the skill to kill. «Service hath been ordained to be the duty of the Sudra. Agriculture hath been ordained for the Vaisyas, and fighting for the Kshatriyas, while the practice of the Brahmacharya vow, asceticism, recitation of mantras, and truthfulness have been ordained for the Brahmanas. Over subjects adhering to their proper duties, the king should rule virtuously; while he should set those thereto that have fallen away from the duties of their order. Kings should ever be feared, because they are the lords of their subjects. They restrain those subjects of theirs that fall away from their duties as they restrain the motions of the deer by means of their shafts». (Mahabharata, Book 3: Vana Parva, ch. 206)

But unfortunately kshatriyas have to pay their price for eradicating the evil with violence. By fulfilling their duty kshatriyas accumulate a lot of negative karma associated with the murder and the inflicting pain on other creatures. Therein lies the main problem for this varna. 

Depending on to which guna a person belongs increases the extent of accountability for his doings. The degree of responsibility is determined by his awareness of the consequences for his actions. Kshatriyas defend the right and live according to dharma that is why they belong to sattva — the guna of goodness and harmony which means that they get feedback from their deeds faster. This way they have opportunity to undergo the law of karma. Kshatriya already knows the basic principles of the world order, understands the rules of community. Thus members of this varna awaits tough punishment for their mistakes.

They need to understand that fighting the evil by using military methods is wrong. The kshatriyas ways of solving problems have many flaws: the aftermath is way too heavy while the effectiveness is low. After getting enough experience the kshatriya begins to think that one cannot eradicate the evil via killing. In place of punished villains will come others. Kshatriya realizes that by cutting off evil-doer’s head he is not helping that person to change for the better. In his next life he will meet the one he killed again, however it is just the physical body of his victim that will be new. The sinful soul will stay the same with its old energy problems and wicked mind.

Once kshatriya realizes that nothing can be changed with conversion of matter kshatriya starts study his inner world and work upon his mind perception. With this he becomes a brahman.

In modern society there is another option. When kshatriya fails to change the society for the better, he falls into fool’s paradise with binge drinking or playing computer games.

Kshatriyas are atop of the social pyramid. Members of the following varna, brahmans, are not interested in «children's toys» such as power, glory, honour, prestige. The brahmanical world perception gets a person who in his/her previous incarnations received a lot of lessons and realized how perishable are the things valued by kshatriyas, vaishyas and sudras. Brahman is not interested in wealth. He is not obsessed by money or ownership, because he just does not need them.
Brahmans are searching for some stable values that’s why they are attracted by knowledge, because it has enduring value. For the sake of knowledge this category of people bound their desires. The more pleasures a person gets, the less his/her mental or spiritual potential is. It is said in the source: «Those who are engaged in the pursuit of learning, cannot have pleasure.Votaries of pleasure must give up knowledge, and votaries of knowledge must give up pleasure (Mahabharata, Book 5: Udyoga Parva, ch. 40). Abundance of all kinds of pleasures makes sudras, vaisyas or kshatriyas degrade by the end of their lives.

On the one hand brahman understands that every pleasure leads to suffering. On the other hand he sees every pleasure as futile spending of energy. And he tries to string up his potential to the maximum and use it for the good of society. 
In fact, the life of a brahman is a constant practice of asceticism. For the better observation of the world brahman should use the energy of ajna, but energy does note accumulate at the level of this chakra. In order for chakra to function properly brahman has to continually transform the energy. He understands that for world to change in the first place brahman himself has to change. 

If you ever have been in a company with a really strong personality, who you can call a Teacher with a capital «T», you have probably noticed that just by being near him you could feel his energy. In his presence you felt the motivation, the strength and the desire to change. In reality it is brahman’s purpose in life to help people around them through the use of their high-level energy. One can provide a person with any amount of vital information but, without energy, it will remain meaningless. Brahman changes people in virtue of his energy.

The process of degradation or human development including advancing in spiritual life is determined proportionally: the greedier person the lower his/her spiritual level. It might not be obvious but the more a person’s attachment to personal needs and pleasures the worse for him/her. One can only advance through the disavowal of his current happiness for the sake of greater happiness in the future. And, eventually, he give up his happiness in behalf of others.

Theoretically brahman should not have personal interests. He tries to act against his ego and his desires. In fact, he is only fulfilling the will of the world and gods’ will. He is born again not because of his desire to live but because he is needed by people connected with him on Karmic level. 

Yogic practices are directed to the quickest possible evolution and allow to experience a state of each caste during a lifetime. In ancient times varna did not determine person’s life till the end. By experiencing lesson and accumulating enough amount of potential a person can outgrow his/her varna and move to the next stage or, on the contrary, degrade to the lower level. «A man, O Brahmana, may be born in the Sudra caste, but if he is possessed of good qualities, he may attain the state of Vaisya and similarly that of a Kshatriya, and if he is steadfast in rectitude, he may even become a Brahmana» (Mahabharata, Book 3: Vana Parva, ch. 211). In Mahabharata we can find a precept to judge people not by birth but by their actions. «For the Brahmana who is vain and haughty, who is addicted to vices and wedded to evil and degrading practices, is like a Sudra. On the other hand, I consider a Sudra who is always adorned with these virtues,--righteousness, self-restraint, and truthfulness,--as a Brahmana». (Mahabharata, Book 3: Vana Parva, ch. 215). Sudra always has room for improvement and brahman can anytime make a false step.

In order to understand who you really are you need to separate your «true self» from the influence of society. Fr om the early age community foists upon us values which are alien to our souls. It can be desire for pleasure or wealth valued by sudras or vashiyas. You need to look deep inside yourself and find what values are important to you. 

(The article is based on lectures of OUM.RU Club’s instructors)

Author of the article is yoga instructor of OUM.RU Club Olga Evdokimova.

Illustrated by yoga instructor of OUM.RU Club Yuliya Sergeeva.