Shrimad Bhagavad-gita

by Narayana Gosvami | 2013 | 327,105 words

The Bhagavad-gita Verse 18.41, English translation, including the Vaishnava commentaries Sarartha-varsini-tika, Prakashika-vritti and Rasika-ranjana (excerpts). This is verse Verse 18.41 from the chapter 18 called “Moksha-yoga (the Yoga of Liberation)”

Sanskrit text, Unicode transliteration, Word-for-word and English translation of verse 18.41:

ब्राह्मण-क्षत्रिय-विशां शूद्राणां च परन्तप ।
कर्माणि प्रविभक्तानि स्वभाव-प्रभवैर् गुणैः ॥ ४१ ॥

brāhmaṇa-kṣatriya-viśāṃ śūdrāṇāṃ ca parantapa |
karmāṇi pravibhaktāni svabhāva-prabhavair guṇaiḥ
|| 41 ||

brāhmaṇa–of the priests or intellectuals; kṣatriya–of the warriors or administrators; viśām–of the merchants or cow protectors; śūdrāṇām–of the manual labourers; ca–and; parantapa–O chastiser of the foe; karmāṇi–the activities; pravibhaktāni–divided; svabhāva-prabhavaiḥ–which are born of their respective natures (which are created by impressions made by deeds in past lives); guṇaiḥ–according to their qualities.

O conqueror of the foe, the prescribed duties of the brāhmaṇas, kṣatriyas, vaiśyas and śūdras are divided in accordance with the disposition born of their respective natures.

Commentary: Sārārtha-Varṣiṇī Ṭīkā

(By Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura; the innermost intention of the commentary named ‘the shower of essential meanings’)

Furthermore, the living entities who are subject to the influence of the three modes of material nature become success-ful and perfect by worshipping the Supreme Lord, Parameśvara, performing the acts prescribed in scripture according to their respective qualification. Śrī Bhagavān now speaks the next six verses beginning with brāhmaṇa-kṣatriya-viśām in order to explain this principle.

Svabhāva-prabhavair-guṇaiḥ means ‘work born of one’s own nature in accordance with the predominating modes’. The various types of action are appropriately divided according to these modes and prescribed for the brāhmaṇas, kṣatriyas and so forth. This determines the individual obligatory duties of those persons.

Commentary: Sārārtha-Varṣiṇī Prakāśikā-vṛtti

(By Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja; the explanation that illuminates the commentary named Sārārtha-varṣiṇī)

In order to elevate human beings beyond the three modes of material nature and gradually raise them to a higher qualification, Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa has established varṇa-dharma, dividing prescribed duties according to man’s respective qualities (guṇas) and actions (karma). The arrangement of the pure caste system is very scientific, as well as beneficial and auspicious for human beings. With the passing of time, however, the common man has lost faith in this system, having witnessed various defects in its so-called followers. This faith has been lost to such an extent that now even the common people of Indian society blame the varṇāśrama system for the divisions and hostility created by its castes. They also assert that varṇa-dharma is the main cause of India’s social, political and economic collapse and that Indian people are less advanced than those of other countries because of varṇāśrama-dharma. The majority of India’s population is becoming determined to completely destroy varṇa-dharma and establish an atheistic society without any class, or varṇa. As easy as it is to destroy a useful thing, it is that difficult to initiate and propagate an ideal thing. May Śrī Bhagavān bestow good intelligence upon them. Are they taking this stance after careful deliberation? Or are they simply being carried away by their sentiment, thus developing a firm resolve to completely destroy the individual, as well as society as a whole, at the root? In this regard, we will quote some meaningful portions of Śrī Caitanya-śikṣāmṛta by Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura. We humbly request the faithful reader to carefully examine and understand them.

“One’s inclinations, or qualities, depend solely upon one’s nature. A person should work in accordance with that individual nature, otherwise his work will not be fruitful. In the English language, the word ‘genius’ is used to refer to a particular part of one’s nature. It is not easy for a person to change his matured nature; therefore, by working in accordance with it, he should endeavour for his livelihood and spiritual perfection. In India, people are divided into four castes in accordance with four types of nature and thus become properly situated in society, having followed the injunctions of the caste system. Their social activities naturally become fruitful and humanity attains complete auspiciousness. The basis of the caste system is solid and scientific. A society with such a foundation is worthy of respect by all of humanity.

“Some people may doubt the varṇāśrama system, saying, ‘No one in Europe and America follows the injunctions based on caste divisions, yet they are more advanced and respected than the Indian people economically, scientifically and so forth,’ and they conclude that it is useless to accept a system like varṇāśrama. Such doubts, however, are baseless, because the European societies are quite new. People of such modern societies are generally stronger and more courageous and so they perform various activities in the world, accepting portions of the knowledge, science and arts that have been preserved by the older societies. But these new societies will gradually become extinct because their social arrangement has no scientific basis. Symptoms of the original caste system, however, which existed in ancient India’s Āryan society, can still be observed in current Indian society, even though it is now so old and weak.

“Previously, the Roman and Greek cultures were more powerful and advanced than modern European culture, but what is their present plight? They have lost their own ancient caste system. They have embraced the religions and systems of modern societies to such an extent that the people of those castes do not even boast the glories of their noble ancestors. Although the Āryan society of India is much older than the Roman and Greek societies, the present Āryans feel proud of their great heroic forefathers. Why? Because the foundation of Āryan society was firmly rooted in the varṇāśrama system, and so their societal or caste traits still remain. The descendants of Rāma, who were defeated by the mlecchas (outcastes, or meat-eaters), still consider themselves to be the heroic descendants of Śrī Rāmacandra. As long as the caste arrangement exists in India, the people there will certainly remain Āryan. They can never become non-Āryan, no matter how fallen they become, due to the time-worn and antiquated nature of Indian society.

“The European Āryan descendants, such as the Romans, have mingled with the lowest castes such as Hāna and Bhāṇḍāla and have thus become integrated with them. By studying the structure of the present European societies, we find that whatever charm exists in them is due to the fact that they have in some way embraced the principles of the varṇa system, which has manifested in accordance with people’s natural propensities. In Europe, those with a vaiśya nature consider it beneficial to engage in business, and because of that alone, they are making economic progress. Those with the nature of a kṣatriya will voluntarily become soldiers, and those with the nature of a śūdra generally prefer to perform menial services. In fact, no society can exist without accepting varṇa-dharma in some form or other. Even when a marriage is arranged, the bride’s and the groom’s caste and nature are examined and their higher or lower status in relation with each other is considered.

“Although varṇa-dharma is partially accepted in Europe, it has not been established in its full, scientifically-based form. Wherever knowledge and civilization make real progress, varṇa-dharma manifests proportionately. Two methods are employed in any activity: the unscientific and the scientific. An activity is performed unscientifically until a scientific process is accepted. For example, before the invention of power driven ships, people used to travel in sailboats, designed to depend on the winds. But when scientifically manufactured steam ships were introduced, they replaced sailing vessels as the primary means of water transport. The same principle can also be applied to society. Until the caste system becomes properly established in a country, that country’s society will be run by some unscientific, rudimentary system. A rudimentary and primitive caste system is currently operating in and controlling societies in all countries of the world, save and except for India [where it is more developed]. India has therefore been called karma-kṣetra, the land where prescribed duty is properly executed.

“At this point in our discussion, one may ask whether or not the varṇa, or caste, system is actually functioning properly in India today. The answer is that it most definitely is not. Although previously this caste system had been fully implemented, in course of time it became diseased and its degraded condition is now visible in India. We may well ask, ‘What is that disease?’ The following explanation provides the answer.

“At the beginning of Tretā-yuga, the Āryan society had reached the pinnacle of its development, and at that time, the varṇāśrama system was established. An arrangement was made to determine the caste of every person according to his nature. Upon having been ascertained to possess the requisite qualifications (adhikāra), he would perform the duties prescribed for that caste only. In this way, the activities of the world were very comfortably managed through the scientific process of division of labour and ascertainment of nature. A person whose father had no caste was accommodated in the appropriate caste, after the examination of his nature. Vedic histories of Jābālī, Gautama, Jānaśruti and Citraratha, etc., are examples of this. For a person whose father’s caste was known, his caste was ascertained on the basis of his disposition as well as his family lineage. In the dynasty of Nariṣyanta, Agniveśa himself became the great sage known as Jātukarṇa. It is from him that the famous brāhmaṇa dynasty known as Agniveśyāyana originated. In the Aila dynasty, Jahnu, the son of Hotra, attained the status of a brāhmaṇa. In the dynasty of Bharadvāja, who was born in the dynasty of Bharata and who was known as King Vitatha, two dynasties came. The progeny coming from Nara became kṣatriyas, and the progeny of Garga became brāhmaṇas. In the dynasty of King Bharyasva, maudgalya gotra brāhmaṇas, such as Śatānanda and Kṛpācārya were born. Scripture contains many examples like this; only a few have been cited here.

“When the caste system was functioning in a proper manner, India’s fame spread all over the world like the powerful glow of the midday sun. People from all countries of the world paid homage to India and accepted its rulers, controllers and spiritual masters as their own. Countries such as Egypt and China would hear and receive instructions from Indian people, with great faith and reverence.

“The above-mentioned varṇāśrama-dharma continued in its pure form in India for a long time. Later, through the influence of time, the kṣatriyas Jamadagni and his son Paraśurāma were unlawfully accepted as brāhmaṇas, although they eventually gave up that caste, as it was opposed to their nature. A dispute then broke out between the brāhmaṇas and kṣatriyas, which caused a disturbance to world peace. This quarrel bore an unfavourable result: within the caste system, more emphasis was now placed on birth. This perverted caste system was introduced covertly; it even infiltrated scriptures such as the Manu-smṛti. The kṣatriyas lost all hope of attaining a higher caste and they revolted, supporting the Buddhist religion and focusing all their energy on destroying the brāhmaṇas. A new activity or opinion is opposed to the degree that it is propagated. When the Buddhist faith, which is opposed to the Vedas, arose to confront the brāhmaṇas, the caste system based upon birth became even more deeply rooted. Dissension ensued between the supporters of this ill-conceived system and those supporting a spirit of nationalism. This gradually led to a virtual disintegration of the Āryan civilization in India.

“Driven by selfish motives, the so-called brāhmaṇas, bereft of any real brahminical qualities, composed their own religious scriptures and began to cheat the other castes. The so-called kṣatriyas, who had lost their true kṣatriya spirit and qualities, became averse to engaging in battle and thus began to lose their kingdoms. Finally, they started to preach the comparatively insignificant and inferior Buddhist doctrine. The vaiśyas, who possessed no real business qualities and acumen, began propagating religions such as Jainism. Under these circumstances, the world-wide business ventures of India gradually declined, and the śūdras who had no real śūdra qualities, became almost like dacoits, being unable to find work befitting their nature. As a result, the discussion of bona fide scriptures such as the Vedas gradually came to a halt. Then, at an opportune time, rulers of the mleccha countries attacked India and took control. Due to improper management, India’s shipping industry suffered and finally ceased. In this way, the influence of Kali intensified. Alas! The Āryan race of India, which once was the ruler and guru of all other societies on Earth, deteriorated to the pitiable condition we see today. The reason for this unfortunate development is not the ageing of Indian civilization but the numerous defects that have permeated the caste system.

“Parameśvara is the original controller of all systems and living entities. He has the ability to remove all inauspicious elements and bestow all auspiciousness. If He so desires, He may send His empowered representative to re-establish varṇāśrama-dharma. The writers of the Purāṇas assert that Śrī Kalkideva will make His advent and reinstate the pristine glory of varṇāśrama-dharma. The story of King Maru and Devāpi describes a similar expectancy. We will now discuss the rules within varṇāśrama-dharma.

“The scriptures delineating moral principles (dharma-śāstra) give a detailed explanation about the karma (prescribed duties) that a person in each caste has the right to perform. The full details of that subject cannot possibly be presented in the context of this book.

“The prescribed activities for brāhmaṇas include serving food to guests, bathing thrice a day for purity, worshipping the demigods and goddesses, studying the Vedas, giving spiritual instruction, performing pūjā, and observing vows such as accepting the sacred thread and celibacy (brahmacarya and sannyāsa). Kṣatriyas have the qualification to perform activities like fighting for religious purposes, ruling a kingdom, protecting the subjects and generously distributing charity. Vaiśyas are eligible for duties such as protecting animals and executing business endeavours. The right of the śūdras is to perform service to the demigods without uttering mantras and to render various services to the other three castes.

“Apart from the activities that are exclusive to their respective caste, all men and women have the common right to perform activities such as marriage, bhakti to the Supreme Lord, welfare activities, general acts of charity, service to the guru, honouring guests, purificatory rites, celebrating festivals, serving the cows, producing progeny and following prescribed codes of conduct. The specific right of a woman is to engage in the service of her husband. The basic principle is that a person has the eligibility to perform duties that are conducive to his own nature. With simple intelligence, everyone can ascertain their particular qualification to perform work. If someone cannot do that, he should approach a bona fide guru to ascertain his nature and qualification. Vaiṣṇavas who are situated beyond the modes of nature and who are interested to know more about this subject, should study Sat-kriyā-sāra-dīpikā, by Śrīla Gopāla Bhaṭṭa Gosvāmī.”

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