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Shri Aurobindo on Varna Ashramam

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Sri Aurobindo on the Chaturvarnya(Record of Yoga, I, pp.7-11

SABCL, vol. 27, pp. 359-363)



The Chaturvarnya


By Virya is meant the fundamental swabhavashakti or the energy of the divine temperament expressing itself in the fourfold type of the chaturvarnya, -- in Brahmanyam, brahmashakti, brahmatejas, in kshatram, kshatrashakti, kshatratejas, in Vaishyaswabhava, shakti and tejas, in Shudraswabhava, shakti and tejas. We must realise that the ancient Aryan Rishis meant by the chaturvarnya not a mere social division, but a recognition of God manifesting Himself in fundamental swabhava, which our bodily distinctions, our social orders are merely an attempt to organise in the symbols of human life, often a confused attempt, often a mere parody and distortion of the divine thing they try to express. Every man has in himself all the four dharmas, but one predominates, in one he is born and that strikes the note of his character and determines the type and cast of all his actions; the rest is subordinated to the dominant type and helps to give it its complement. No Bhrahmana is a complete Brahmana, unless he has the Kshatratejas in him, the Vaishyashakit and the Shudrashakti, but all these have to serve in him the fullness of his Brahmanyam. God manifests Himself as the four Prajapatis or Manus, the chatwaro manavah of the Gita, & each man is born in the ansha of one of the four; the first characterised by wisdom and largeness, the second by heroism and force, the third by dexterity and enjoyment, the fourth by work and service. The perfected man develops in himself all four capacities and contains at once the god of wisdom & largeness, the god of heroism and force, the god of skill and enjoyment, the god of work & service. Only, one stands dominant and leads and uses the others.


Brahmatejas Jnanalipsa jnanaprakasho brahmavarchasyam sthairyam iti brahmatejah.




I give only the dominant qualities of the type in these definitions. The purna Yogin does not reduce his nature to inaction but perfects it and uplifts in order to place it at the service of the Ishwara in His lila. He accepts the jnanalipsa and purifying it of desire turns it into a divine reaching out towards prakasha of knowledge; this divine desireless reaching out of Brahman in personality to Brahman in the vishaya or object, is the new sense which lipsa acquires in the language of the siddha.




Jnana includes both the Para and the Apara Vidya, the knowledge of Brahman in Himself and the knowledge of the world; but the Yogin, reversing the order of the worldly mind, seeks to know Brahman first and through Brahman the world. Scientific knowledge, worldly information & instruction are to him secondary objects, not as it is with the ordinary scholar & scientist, his primary aim. Nevertheless these too we must take into our scope and give room to God's full joy in the world. The methods of the Yogin are also different for he tends more and more to the use of direct vision and the faculties of the vijnana and less and less to intellectual means. The ordinary man studies the object from outside and infers its inner nature from the results of his external study. The Yogin seeks to get inside his object, know it from within & use external study only as a means of confirming his view of the outward action resulting from an already known inner nature.




Brahmavarchasya is the force of jnana working from within a man which tends to manifest the divine light, the divine power, the divine qualities in the human being.




Sthairyam is the capacity of fixity in jnana; the man who is sthira is able to hold the light and power that enters into him without stumbling or being dazzled and blinded by the shock and to receive & express the divine gunas in himself without being carried away by them & subjected to the blind, rushing stream of Prakriti. He has the dharanasamarthyam & does not, from incapacity of the adhára, lose or spill these things as they enter into him.




Abhayam, sahasam, yasholipsa, atmaslagha, iti kshatratejah.


Abhaya & Sahasa


Abhayam is the passive freedom from fear which with a bold calmness meets and receives every menace of danger and shock of misfortune. Sahasam is the active courage and daring which shrinks from no enterprise however difficult or perilous and cannot be dismayed or depressed either by the strength or the success of the opposing forces.




By yashas is meant victory, success and power. Although the Kshatriya must be ready to face and accept defeat, disaster and suffering, yet his objective, the thing towards which he moves, is yashas. He enters the field to conquer, not to suffer. Suffering is only a means towards victory. Here again the reaching out, the lipsa must come to be free from desire & consist in the divine reaching out of God within to His self-fulfilment as the Kshatriya. Therefore the Kshatriya must manifest in himself the nature of the Brahmin, jnana & sthairyam, since without knowledge in some form desire cannot perish out of the system.




Atmaslagha in the unpurifiedKshatriya is pride, self-confidence & the knowledge of his own might. Without these qualities the Kshatriya becomes deficient in force & fails to effect himself in type & action. But with purificationit becomes no longer the slagha of the aham, but the slagha of the Atman, the divine Self within rejoicing in the shakti of God and its greatness and its power as it pours itself out in battle and action through the human adhara.




Danam, vyayah, kaushalam, bhogalipsa, iti Vaishyashaktih.


Dana & pratidána are the especial dharma of the Vaishya; his nature is the nature of the lover who gives and seeks; he pours himself out on the world in order to get back what he has given increased a hundredfold. Vyaya is his capacity to spend freely for this purpose without any mean and self-defeating miserliness in the giving. Kaushalam is the dexterity & skill which is able so to arrange the means, the equipment, the action as to produce the greatest results possible & the best arranged results. Law, arrangement, suiting of means to ends, of expenditure to return, are the joy of the Vaishya. Bhoga is his object; possession & enjoyment, not merely of physical things, but all enjoyment, enjoyment of knowledge, of power, of self-giving, of service, comes within its scope. The Vaishya, purified and liberated, becomes the supreme giver and lover & enjoyer, Vishnu's ansha preserving & making the most of the world. He is the Vishnushakti, as the Brahmana is the Shivashakti & the Kshatriya the Rudrashakti.




Kamah, premah, dasyalipsa atmasamarpanam iti Shudrashaktih.


The Shudra is God descending entirely into the lower world and its nature, giving himself up entirely for the working out of God's lila in Matter & in the material world. From this standpoint he is the greatest of the four shaktis, because his nature goes direct towards complete atmasamarpana; but the Shudra bound has cut himself off from knowledge, power and skill & lost himself in the tamoguna. He has to recover the Brahmana, Kshatriya & Vaishya in himself and give them up to the service of God, of man, of all beings. The principle of kamah or desire in him must change from the seeking after physical well-being, and self-indulgence to the joy of God manifest in matter. The principle of prema must find itself and fulfil itself in dasyalipsa and atmasamarpana, in the surrender of himself to God and to God in man and the selfless service of God and of God in man. The Shudra is the master-spirit of the Kali, as is the Vaishya of the Dwapara, the Kshatriya of the Treta and the Brahmana of the Satya.

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