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From: Mani Varadarajan (mani)
Date: Fri Oct 27 1995 - 15:01:50 PDT
K.P. Sridharan writes: * I would like to pose a question Varnasrama dharma. In BG 4.3 Krishana * says " Chaturvarnyam maya srishtam.." Thus He says that the varna system * was created by him bases on guna and karma namely qulities and the * occupation (?) [...] If indeed varna is not determined * by birth what was the system by which varnas were alloted? This is a difficult question to answer and one that I have debated on many occasions. In my gut I feel that Sri Krishna is not talking about any kind of rigid birth-based varna, even though Vedanta Desikar says the opposite. Ramanuja is not so clear, but it does not seem to be a big issue for him. It should be noted that when Sri Ramanuja interprets the phrase "better to do one's dharma than another's", he takes it to mean karma-yoga vs. jnaana-yoga. The dharma of jnaana-yoga is fraught with fear, since it is so difficult; only the most astute and gifted can perform it, whereas karma-yoga is an easy beginning point for all. In other words, the issue of brahmana vs. sudra is completely absent here. I feel that the Gaudiyas are correct from an absolute standpoint. One's varna is determined through careful introspection, with the help of a guru, etc. One also is naturally inclined to certain tasks based upon one's varna. I cannot explain any more than this since the literature on the topic is so vague. As Yudhisthira tells the yaksha in Mahabharata, ``Follow the lead of the rishis and elders, for the dharma-saastras are a mass of confusion.'' Sri Azhagiya Manavaala Perumaal Nayanaar, younger brother of Sri Pillai Lokacharya, has written a work called "Acharya Hridaya" that goes into detail about the duties of a true prapanna and Sri Vaishnava. In this context, prapanna status transcends the divisions of varna and ashrama, in that everything is purely bhagavat kainkaryam and completely honorable. Most violations of varna dharma are therefore not a big deal. Sri Krishna (and Ramanuja in his commentary) say just as much in the verses near the end of the 9th chapter of the Gita. There is also a verse attributed to Villiputtur Pakavar, who used to consciously bathe in an area far removed from the orthodox smaartas of his time. When asked why he did so, he said vishnu-dAsA vayam yUyam brAhmaNA varNadharmiNaH [...] nAsti sangatiH I have forgotten one pAda of the sloka, but in effect he is saying that there is no connection between the duties as Vishnu's servants and those of the orthodox varnaashrama brahmins. Mani P.S. Look at the original verse itself: chaaturvarNyam is based on guNa and karma, meaning the qualities of the person and the actions he or she performs. Jaati is never mentioned.