Thursday, March 5, 2009

Varnasrama Dharma Begins at Home

When the world was created, the Vedas appeared which contain everything knowable and therefore Veda means "knowledge". They're sort of a user's manual that comes along with the cosmic creation. Within is described Krsna's perfect plan for human beings known as varnasrama dharma. Varna means occupational duties, also known as prescribed duties given according to the natural tendencies of a person- whether a brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya and sudra. Asrama is the progressive spiritual orders of life- brahmacari, grhastha, vanaprastha and sannyasa. By Krishna's design, these work together to maintain a society that is both peaceful and prosperous materially as well as progressive spiritually.

For such a society to exist, Srila Prabhupada worked foremost to resurrect a genuine class of brahmanas to guide the rest of the varnas and asramas, both practically and spiritually. Yet, for such brahminical culture to grow, Prabhupada also stressed cow protection as absolutely essential. They go hand in hand; one cannot exist without the other. Milk is braminical brain food, also known as "liquid religiosity". --SB 1.16.4 purport states:

"Human civilization means to advance the cause of brahminical culture, and to maintain it, cow protection is essential. There is a miracle in milk, for it contains all the necessary vitamins to sustain human physiological conditions for higher achievements. Brahminical culture can advance only when man is educated to develop the quality of goodness, and for this there is a prime necessity of food prepared with milk, fruits and grains"

Qualified brahmanas in turn have the duty to train and advise able ksatriyas or qualified leaders as managers and protectors of a varnasrama society. The ksatriyas job is to ensure that everyone is employed and does their respective duties. Everyone is needed to do his part in his community, and the central point for such cooperation is devotion to Lord Krsna, known as Yajnesvara, the enjoyer of all sacrifices:

"A person in full consciousness of Me, knowing Me to be the ultimate beneficiary of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods, and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities, attains peace from the pangs of material miseries." --Bg5.29

With Krsna in the center, everyone does his work with the aim to please the Lord  via the bhakti yoga process which is protected by the ksatriyas for the spiritual welfare of the society. Bhagavad gita and Srimad Bhagavatam state:

"Work done as a sacrifice for Vishnu has to be performed, otherwise work causes bondage in this material world. Therefore, O son of Kunti, perform your duty for His satisfaction and in that way you will always remain free from bondage." --Bg 3.9

"O best among the twice-born, it is therefore concluded that the highest perfection one can achieve by discharging the duties prescribed for one's own occupation according to caste divisions and orders of life is to please the Personality of Godhead." --SB 1.2.13

The path for awakening of Krsna consciousness is a gradual process for most people. In the meantime, it is Krishna's plan that by working within His varnasrama system, one purifies his material existence while at the same time satisfies his material needs or legitimate desires. Prabhupada writes:

"The Third Chapter of Bhagavad-gitä specifically considers material activities for the purpose of sense gratification and material activities for the purpose of satisfying the Supreme Lord. The conclusion is that these are not one and the same. Material activities for sense gratification are the cause of material bondage, whereas the very same activities for the satisfaction of Krishna are the cause of liberation. How the same activity can be the cause of bondage and liberation can be explained as follows. One may get indigestion due to eating too many milk preparations—condensed milk, sweet rice, and so on. But even though there is indigestion or diarrhea, another milk preparation—yogurt mixed with black pepper and salt—will immediately cure these maladies. In other words, one milk preparation can cause indigestion and diarrhea, and another milk preparation can cure them."--SB 4.30.19p

In other words, the same work that is usually done for one's sense gratification becomes an act of love for the Lord in the bhakti yoga process. In this way we become karma free and Krsna conscious.

Along with the productivity of the land and nature's gifts, overseen by the ksatriyas, the vaisya community or productive varna can flourish and provide all necessities of life and natural wealth as well as save the cows and mother earth from Kali yuga's present disastrous and exploitative economic systems. The sudras or working class in turn are meant to assist the work of the other varnas. In exchange, they are protected and provided for, unlike the current mindless industrial society in which they are abused and neglected and eventually discarded. Thus, when the devotees (of all varnas and asramas) and cows are sumptuously cared for, the Lord, Bhaktavatsala, finds this more pleasing than any amount of gorgeous deity worship.

"I am present in every living entity as the Supersoul. If someone neglects or disregards that Supersoul everywhere and engages himself in the worship of the Deity in the temple, that is simply imitation."-- SB 3.29.21

"Therefore, through charitable gifts and attention, as well as through friendly behavior and by viewing all to be alike, one should propitiate Me, who abide in all creatures as their very Self."--SB 3.29-27

All throughout history, land has been considered true wealth. Besides that, country living nourishes the mode of goodness, because it brings us closer to Krishna. For one thing, we see where our food comes from.

And by getting all our necessities from the cow and earth, we can naturally think of them as mother and Krsna as the supreme father. God consciousness then prevails in such societies, along with the desire to please the Lord in all areas of life. Simple living saves valuable time, too, for such spiritual cultivation.

The Krsna consciousness movement, therefore, isn't only for individual self-realization, but it is intended to bring the whole human society back to its proper condition. With the development of such independent varnasrama communities as described above, the Vaisnava culture will  flourish and become an incomparable preaching tool, a living testament to Srila Prabhupada's teachings from the Vedic scriptures.

So how do women fit in the plan of things? How can women contribute to the development of a materially prosperous, spiritually progressive society on earth? Srila Prabhupada certainly had a hope for reestablishing the brahminical order of first class men, but he also expressed concern for the protection of women. First class women are needed to nurture the children that will be eligible to participate in the varna and asrama program. In Bhagavad gita 1.41 purport it is stated:

"The different family traditions of religious activities should always engage them (women), and thus their chastity and devotion will give birth to a good population eligible for participating in the varnasrama system. On the failure of such varnasrama-dharma, naturally the women become free to act and mix with men, and thus adultery is indulged in at the risk of unwanted population. Irresponsible men also provoke adultery in society, and thus unwanted children flood the human race at the risk of war and pestilence."

With the return of an agrarian based economy, however, extended families can take root and replace the industrial nuclear family model along with a whole set of social problems connected with it. Strong families will bring about solid Vaisnava communities. As one woman put it, "They say it takes a village to raise a child. That may be the case, but the truth is that it takes a lot of solid, stable marriages to create a village." (Diana Sollee). Stable family life greatly depends upon, again, faithful womanhood.

Stable family life is needed in ISKCON, which currently tries to provide "family" for the many divorcees, unwanted children, widows, and the elderly because without the structure of varnasrama society, it is a recipe for disaster. In a letter to a male disciple (requesting vanaprastha shortly after his marriage) dated 1/4/73, from Bombay, Prabhupada warned:
"We cannot expect that our temples will become places of shelter for so many widows and rejected wives, that will be a great burden and we shall become the laughingstock in the society. There will be unwanted progeny also. And there will be illicit sex life, that we are seeing already."

Women should be taught, therefore, the important role they play in varnasrama development. We need men competent to rule Vedic villages, protect the cows and promote a natural, sane existence for all living entities, but it is women's chastity and devotion that supports all that.  And any ignorance about such duties can be eradicated by reading Srila Prabhupada's books and applying them. And by implicit faith in his instructions, their imports will be revealed.