Varnashram and bhakti 

by   ADR Singh

There are two paths, varnashram and bhakti. Varnashram refers to the social or spiritual divisions like brahmachari, grhastha, vanaprastha and sannyasi, or brahmin, ksatriya, vaishya and sudra.

A human being may take birth within any of these groups. But we must remember that in this age of Kali there is no pure caste. Nevertheless, I am aware that those like the brahmins try hard to maintain the purity of their caste, but generally the social classes are merged. Sometimes according to one’s nature one is classified as belonging to a certain caste. So Krishna says in the Gita that one should always perform his duty, rather than that of another, and by that He clearly means the duty of one’s ashram.. This is the cause of elevation, and ensures the smooth functioning of society. Therefore in India it has been important to maintain the purity of caste, but these days it is hardly successful.

According to varna, the spiritual head of society is the brahmin, while the sannyasi is respected as the most spiritually advanced among the four social groups, so it has been traditional to operate under the guidance of these two. It is actually wise. Of course Ram and Krishna themselves had their own gurus, so it is definitely a sacred tradition worth observing. Now, in America this is becoming a  popular trend, but the style in India is to copy the worst of the West, so young people tend to abandon this practice. One must be faithful to the tradition and honor those who deserve to be honored.
There are codes of morality, sins and punishments listed in Manu’s law books. These are vital to know, and putting them into practice helps to keep social order. But is this varnashram system designed for the Westerner ? The answer I believe is no, for they were not born with the mentality to support it.. But it is known that Christ spent his lost years in India and his tomb rests today in Kashmir. He has brought the knowledge of God’s existence to the masses, and a sense of morality which would lead to  their elevation. So this is very good for the western mind which have already gotten accustomed to this idea of godliness. I don’t think though, that varnashram was meant for them.

This dharma you see, starts with the protection of women, for Krishna warns that when women become corrupt, unwanted or undesirable progeny is created, then chaos sets in. Thus women should be guarded in their youth by the father who should give her to a suitable groom, maybe even before she reaches womanhood. She must not remain without male protection. I don’t believe that this idea will find favor in our society, so just for starters, we could see that the application of varnashram is impossible here and now. The Westerner is certainly born outside of a structure that supports it.
So what is the saving grace for that person who is born outside of varna ? The answer to this of course is bhakti or devotion to God. Now there are different grades of bhakti. There is sadhana bhakti which involves physical rituals done in a regulated way. The devotee wakes at a certain hour, bathes, and commences his puja of the deity forms of the Lord. Then there is prema bhakti which is a manifestation of prema or love of God flowing within the bhakta, who becomes so absorbed in that bliss, that he disregards his physical existence, He is not bound by rituals or social expectations, and is constantly immersed in spontaneous love of God.

One who reaches such a platform is indeed rare, and purifies everything and everyone around him. Their actions are so out of the ordinary that sometimes ignorant people might mistake them to be mad. These types would dress in a loincloth and keep their matted. Actually they would have no regard for their physical looks. But just by coming across them, even a sinful person could be infused with this bhakti, they are such powerful souls.
Even in our present time there exist such rare souls who lead an existence unknown to the world. In areas of Vraja, and Bengal they could be found. This type of saint resists any type of advertisement or publicity, so in order to meet them one has to travel to India and really beg for God’s mercy.

When this prema bhakti manifests in a jiva, one must question ,"Wherefrom does it come?"  Well, bhakti you see, is nothing short of the Lord’s own pleasure potency. The Lord personally savors this prema or sweet relationship of the jiva with him. So this bhakti, which does not depend on birth, status or scholarship is a direct gift from the Lord. But how does this bhakti reach to an ordinary jiva who not long before seemed non different in behavior from one of us ? How was it possible for him to achieve this divine state of ecstasy? The source of this great treasure is none other than a great bhakta himself, for he is the only channel through which the Lord pours down this mercy. Only a bhakta can shower bhakti on an ordinary soul, so this is the secret, my dear friends.

But how does one become fortunate to receive the association of such souls ? By the accumulation of pious activity performed in past previous lives and by the mercy of god. There are many factors involved, but its not something that happens by chance. Remember that Krishna says that out of millions of men, only one comes to me, and out of those, hardly one knows me in truth.

We know that the soul which is eternal transmigrates through millions of bodies. Some transcendentalists want to achieve the state of mukti or liberation to escape this bothersome samsara, and there exists a process where this could be accomplished. This soul receives relief, but the situation is not permanent, however. He would experience ananda or the bliss of merging with the supreme cosmic being, which is the impersonal aspect of God.
Bhaktas however have the chance to experience what is called sanatan dharma, or the real nature of the soul. This dharma is servitorship to the supreme Lord, for according to Krishna we are his eternal servants.  The nature of sugar is sweetness, and the nature of water is wetness. In the same manner the soul’s nature is service to Bhagawan.

So the bhakta gets the opportunity to enlist in Bhagawan’s service in the planet where that specific form of Bhagawan is conducting his leela. For instance  Krishna bhaktas enter the the Goloka planet and Narayan bhaktas go to Vaikuntha etc. Those attracted to Ram may get a chance to join Ram Leela. So the bhakta tastes the sweet rasa of these affairs, and he develops a distaste for the anything pertaining to this material world.
In this age, the main jagya or sacrifice recommended by Chaitanya is the recitation of the Lord’s holy name following the following recipe, "Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare. Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare."

So the method is quite simple. But what are the rules and regulations governing the mantra if it must work really effectively ? The surprising answer is that there are none. Some bobbleheads will try to put forth a strict set of rules and regulations with which to accompany this chanting. They will say that one must give up flesh eating and alcohol, to be pure enough to chant. To this I must firmly disagree.  Is it possible that one can chant and go on sinning ? For one thing,  it impossible to escape from sin in this age of Kali. Sometimes one is unconsciously killing other jivas. Just driving your car to go to work, causes the death of so many small entities on the road, so who can profess to actually be free from killing? Sometimes we have to kill mosquitoes to avoid dengue, so it is impossible to be free from sin. So Jains make sure to step carefully lest an ant be killed. Some cover their noses so as not to inhale creatures in the air.

Sinfulness is a part of society these days. America is spreading its fast food business in every vacant crevice. Now Mac Donald has opened shop in Vraj. This tells us of our state of existence. The Indian politicians cannot fight it. They must give in to those who are stronger and wealthier. But these holy names have descended to save us. These names are a manifestation of the Lord. The name is not different from the named. The only difference is that the name is more compassionate than the named. But isn’t that amazing, you may ask ? Yes, but now see the logic. The Lord will not enter a place or the heart of a person which is filled with dirty things, The name will. It will sit on the tongue of the most vile sinner. And what does it do there ? It cleans, shines, and purifies that place until the Lord is pleased to take up residence. The name will do all the dirty work, just like a sweeper cleaning dirt. See how compassionate it is.

This is why I say that one simply has to recite these names without any consideration for rules, for sins and anything else inauspicious will fly away in no time. Bad planets will run from the radius of anyone who carries the name with him, so one needs not worry about anything else, once the holy names are present.

One does not have to join an institution, shave one’s head, abandon relatives and friends. Where did these ideas come from? It was Chaitanya who revealed that in this age the chanting of the Lord’s name will be the prescribed jagya or sacrifice. Sin, which binds us in this dark age runs far away from the devoted chanter. So the holy names are not bound by rules and institutional laws. But when the Lord desires to enter the heart, what next? Well the Lord’s leela is revealed to the devotee. But this is a very advanced stage, and one must be guided by a suitable guru at this point. This guru would be a bhakta of course, and I must stress here that an advanced bhakta does not operate within the confines of any institution. He cannot be bound by anything like that. He humbly exists independently, and depends only on the mercy of God.

So there are many paths and according to what one wants, Krishna makes it available, for every soul has an entirely different current of karma and desires. No two are alike. If one wants wealth, Laksmi devi will provide it. If one wants protection, Narasimhadeva is to be worshiped etc. So everyone can exist peacefully. This is all due to the mercy of Krishna, for he is the source of all.

But those who want bhakti or bhajan, the process revealed by Chaitanya is the recitation of harinam. These names are also magical and wish fulfilling. Whatever wish the person has in mind will be automatically fulfilled. The name is equal to Krishna and is compared to a desire tree. So it benefits all to recite them : those seeking bhakti, and those seeking personal improvement or happiness. Make a regular practice of it. You will notice the difference.  Blessings !
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