The Varna system in which social beings either drive the
A) evolution/knowledge levels of society or
B) Provide service to society or
C) Provide goods to society by exploiting natural resources
was derived from Primates in case of human beings.
There was no ‘human being’ that suddenly appeared on a day. Humans were part of evolutionary chain and there has been a gradual change to the stage we are today from the stage of primates. Many practices of human beings can be seen in primates also, as we learned those practices in those days.
Varna System was one of the practices that we learned over a period. Being a fission-fusion society was one of them. A Female being given out in marriage to another clan/family was one of them. We can identify several practices of human beings even in primates.
Non-hereditary nature of Gunas
According to Sankhya philosophy , Gunas are properties that exist beyond and independent of Purusha and Prakrti. According to Sankhya philosophy, all gunas were in balance in Prakrti at the beginning. Purusha causes imbalance in the Gunas and makes Satvik Guna to acquire preponderance, thus triggering the whole evolution.
The point to note here is that ‘Guna’ or ‘Property’ is not ‘Fixed’ property of a person or prakrti. Gunas are externally influenced. This is not only applicable at the time of origin, but all throughout the Universe. It is also applicable to people, where ‘Guna’ of people are externally influenced by the larger community or society and is acquired and not inherited.
The community in which a person lives, influences the Guna of a person to a large extent. Hence the community of a person becomes important to develop the Guna of a person. This is applicable even in modern times. For eg., an European would be more egalitarian to the extent, they may treat old and young as same. An Indian or Chinese would treat their old/Seniors with more respect than the young.
It also means that Guna of a person is largely dependent on the community, the person chooses to live. After all being a Roman in Rome is the exepcted behavior. It also means the hereditary impact of Guna of a person, if any, is limited.
In Mahabharatha, in Yaksha Prasana, Yaksha asks “O King, by what does Bramhminhood (One with Gunas of Brahman or knowledge seeker) result..? Is it Kula (ancestral hereditary), vrtta (conduct or practice), swadhyaya (study of knowledge) or sruta (hearing of knowledge)..?. Yudishtra answers “It is not Kula, swadhyaya or sruta. It is only by vrtta one attains Brahminhood (Knowledge seeker)”.
Vrtta means ‘Conduct’ or ‘behavior’. Not just Brahminhood, characteristics of any Varna (Developing Knowledge, Providing Service or Exploiting Natural resources for Materials) result from Vrtta or Practicing it. It is not hereditary.
In Bhagavad Gita Chapter 14, Text 5, Krishna says
sattvam rajas tama iti
dehe dehinam avyayam
It means “When the living entity comes in contact with the Gunas of Prakrti, gets conditioned by them”. Prakrti (Matter in any form) gets conditioned by Gunas which are external to Prakrti and impacts it.
This is applicable in all cases from infinitesimal to infinite. Gunas are external influences, non-hereditary and are acquired.
Gunas influenced by Education and Environment
Since the Gunas that influence the Varnas are external influences and not permanently bound to a person, a person changes his Varna (Professional type) based on the Guna that he acquires in a society and based on the societal need.
A person has all three Gunas. ‘Education’ (Becoming twice-born through formal learning) creates a pre-ponderance of a particular ‘Guna’ in a person, if he/she follows the learning. That’s why the three Varnas are ‘twice-born’ Varnas, as they acquire a preponderance of a particular Guna through formal education and following it.
This is applicable even in modern times. Based on education one acquires, their varna or professional type changes.
People who do not go through sufficient education do not acquire any Specific guna or varna. They become laborers Or bio-mass for others. Zudras do not belong to any Varna based on
Guna. They are not twice-born because they have not gone thru the formal education process
But if the societal structures shackle people into specific varna, negatively influence the Guna of a person by declining education and opportunities, society as a whole would be stunted in evolution of intelligence. This is what happened in India in the past few centuries in the name of Varna Asrama Dharma, which enslaved the country.
Varnas (professional types) have never remained rigidly hereditary at all times of our Civilization. Some well known old examples are Viswamitra becoming a Rishi, Drona becoming the Commander of Duryodhana etc. I would further elaborate this in the section where I study Tamil Brahman Castes.
Thus the fundamental principle of Varna is that Varnas are caused by Gunas, where Gunas are external influences. Applied to people of a society, ‘Guna’ is society-driven, based on the societal needs.
Hence it is the responsibility of a society to nurture the Guna for better evolution of intelligence in society by formal education as well as providing the right environment.
This is one of the reasons in the early societies formal learning was stressed for all Children through the system of Upanayana and ‘Dvija’. The idea was to enable Children to formally acquire a Guna and become capable of a profession through a formal system of Education and learning. More on that in later sections.
I will talk about Asramas and how they were important for evolution of society even in the modern times in the next section.
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