Bhagwad Gita and Old Person
For last few months I spend my major spare time after the household activities in reading two major books. I try to study Bhagwad Gita for about two hours early in the morning, and for an hour or so after a post- lunch nap I read the voluminous book ‘Gandhi- the years that changed the world 1914-1948’ written by Dr. Ramachandra Guha. While studying ‘Bhagawad Gita for daily living’ by Eknath Easwaran whom someone has called The Teacher of Timeless Wisdom, I came across a portion in the commentary of chapter 16 on दैवासुरसंपदिव्िभागयोग that amazed me and I quote: “….I can testify that the vast majority of problems associated with old age- problems with vitality, memory, attention,endurance, resilience- need never arise at all.
Every older person, even those who do not meditate, can draw inspiration from my small example. I have probably ten times the vitality I had when I was thirty, and perhaps a hundred times the capacity to contribute to life.. I may not be able to run the way I did then, but my judgement is sounder, my understanding is deeper, and my endurance is greater; I can work long hours without tension or fatigue…Living for oneself, indulging the senses, having no overriding goal, all make tremendous demands on prana, and in the later part of life we do not have prana to lose. But if you have an overwhelming desire to contribute to the welfare of others, if your heart is full of love for all, Sri Krishna promises that he will magnify all your faculties- your memory, your creativity, your energy, your resources, your capacity to draw people and win their love and respect and help them to change their lives.All this happens naturally when prana is conserved.”….”Old age is “useless” only if you are living for yourself, in which case any age could be called useless. If you live for giving, you can go on making a vital contribution to the rest of life right up to your last day in this body.Even if you are confined to a wheelchair, you will be able to inspire, support, and strengthen many people who come in contact with you.” Can we help each other in finding a way to contribute and to give?
Mahatma Gandhi- Caste, Varna System and Gita
As I understand through the book, ‘Gandhi-the years that changed the world 1914-1948’, Gandhi had very strong views against the caste system in Hindu society. For all Hindus today, it is a great concern that thousands of castes that have cropped up over the centuries have become a menace for present Hindu society. It is high time that all rational,reasonable, and educated individual,intellectuals, social, political and religious leaders and opinion builders agree to do away with the caste system that is fixed on basis of the birth. I seek a thoughtful view on the subject of utmost national importance.The book says,
“In around 1930, Gandhi wrote in an essay on the subject,’I do not believe in caste in the modern sense…It is an excrescence and a handicap on progress. Nor do I believe in inequalities between human beings…Assumption of superiority by any person over any other is a sin against God and man. Thus caste,in so far it connotes distinctions in status, is an evil.’This system, believed Gandhi, had been corrupted over the years, resulting in ‘unnecessary and harmful restrictions’ on inter-dining and intermarriage.But as Gandhi understood it, the ’law of Varnas has nothing to do with these restrictions.People of different Varnas may intermarry and interdine….[A]Brahmin who marries a Sudra girl or vice verse commits no offence against the law of Varna.’
Gandhi continued to believe in Varna insofar as it defined and marked ‘ four universal occupations- imparting knowledge(Brahmin), defending the defenceless(Kshatriyas), carrying on agriculture and commerce (Vaishyas)and performing service through physical labour(Shudras). These occupations are common to all mankind, but Hinduism, having recognised them as the law of our being,has made use of it in regulating social relations and conduct.’(page 389)”
Though the subject is controversial but it is alive because of the exploitation of ignorance of the mass by the people of vested interest.As for me and most of us, the country and our religion are important, we must think over the mesh that the caste system had created and still creating.
Mahatma Gandhi kept Bhagwad Gita always with him and had started studying it since he first went to England. Gandhi has also written his own view on The teachings of Gita. His view on Varnas mentioned above are same as mentioned in Bhagwad Gita Chapter 18 that has four slokas (41-44) on Varnas.
The traits observed in different Varnas:
1. Brahmans – serenity,self-restraints,austerity,purity,forgiveness and also uprightness, knowledge, realisation, belief in God.
2. Kshatriyas-prowess,splendours,firmness,dexterity, and also not fleeing from battle, generosity, lordliness.
3. Vaishyas-agriculture,cattle-rearing and trade.
The mental temperament of a man determines what sort of work assignment would suit him.However, a person can earn the traits and qualities to get into the different classification.It suits manning and promotions in any modern organisation or business establishments.Please note few essential aspects of Varna system:
1. It was not based on heredity or the family of birth.It was based on the qualities born of one’s own nature.
2. With focused practice or alternatively giving up the qualities, a person of one Varna could improve upon or change his qualities and get upgraded or demoted.A Brahmin could become Ashura, or a low Varna person could become the greatest epic writer or Rishi, Brahmin.
As Swami Chnmayanand in his commentary on Gita writes, the Hindu scriptures have brought the entire humanity under this four-fold classification that is applicable not merely in India, but is universal.The four types of people , in present context, may be called: 1. The creative thinker, 2. The politicians, 3. The commercial employers, and 4.The labourers(the proletarians). But the caste system is corrupt erupted extension of Varnas with no sanctions from scripture. It started sometimes in fifth centuries AD. We must see that it must gradually die out, if Hinduism is to become the old great religion.
PS For information, Gandhi did not agree for inter community(In Hindus And Muslim) marriages. While one of his four sons who wished to marry a Muslim girl finally agreed to marry a Hindu girl of his caste, the second also married a girl of Gandhi’s caste, Devdas Gandhi, the youngest married the daughter of Rajagopalchary , a Brahmin. Only his eldest son with whom Gandhi could not keep normal relation, had married Muslim girl against his wishes.