From our literature we get plenty of clues how to define one’s nature, one’s varṇa. Just look at how the person earns his income, for example. There are several authorized ways for brāhmaṇas to get donations, there are ways for kṣatriyas to take money from others, there are vaiśyas and their trade, and there are śudras and their paychecks. Easy peasy.
It gets more complicated when we try to apply these rules to modern life and expect different outcomes than the ones suggested by śāstra. Everyone wants to be brāhmaṇical, for example, brāhmaṇas are praised all throughout our books and Śrīla Prabhupāda was stressing the importance of creating a brāhmaṇical class to save the modern society, everyone is expected to take the second initiation, which was known as brāhmaṇical initiation when I joined, everyone was proud of his brāhmaṇa thread, it was a no brainer – we need to become brāhmaṇas.
Well, that is not possible, not in the Vedic sense of the word. We can claim that devotees are higher than brāhamaṇas by the dint of their selfless service in any condition of life but we want that “any condition” to be brāhmaṇical one and that is just not happening.
We want to be build varṇāśrama but no one wants to be a śudra, how’s that possible? Then we say that we actually want a daivī-varṇāsrama so that we are all better than brāhmaṇas but perform the service of the śudras. Maybe this will work but probably not in our lives, so we need another solution in the meantime.
We can tweak the rules and allow for Kali yuga adjustments where we can discount some tell signs as non-essential and external, and focus on a deeper nature instead. Like teachers are brāhmaṇas, obviously, even if they live on paychecks like śudras. Being employed as a teacher is seen as a Kali yuga concession that does not affect the nature of the job.
Maybe so, but in many teaching jobs you won’t be allowed to act as a brāhmaṇa anymore because education has become an industrial process. Go stand in front of the class, say these words from the curriculum, mark the papers, pick the check, go home.
What I was talking about for the past couple of days approaches the problem of classification from another angle. In Vedic times one’s occupation was a solid clue about one’s nature but these days we are forced to do jobs we don’t want and so we need to look elsewhere to find our true aspirations so that we can take the jobs we do. We inquire about our svabahva because we are unhappy with our jobs and so the answer “your job indicates your svabhava” is unacceptable. It indicates what I DON’T want to do with my life, even if it is somehow a part of my nature it’s the part I want to shed off.
There’s also the reality of being pulled in different directions. There are so many distractions all around us, have a long look at something and you find yourself a new attachment. It’s not fair to say “you want this and you want that, therefore…” because these are not real “wants”, they are just temporary reactions of the mind, one can have dozens of them on any given day. We need vyavasāyātmikā buddhir which is ekeha – focused on only one thing in the world (BG 2.41). We need to look for our core nature and discard bahu-śākhā hy anantāś ca consciousness of Kali yuga.
So what I proposing here is to try and determine our svabhava not by our work but by our leisure. The process then would go like this – first forget all the nonsensical things you are forced to do by external circumstances. Next you need to learn to rest and be at leisure, then you need to develop an ear for your internal, natural aspirations, and then you can try and act on them and see how it feels. You might need to do it several times and you still might end with a complex personality but then there will come the most important realization of all.
Our “svabhava” is an anartha, it has no value, it only a false ego, and it needs to be given up. The more of these “svabhavas” we give up on our way the better. So if you start with five and end up with two – three anarthas off our shoulders, which is progress.
This is pretty straightforward, the part that interests me most is learning to be at leisure. We think we all know how to rest but rest is not the kind of leisure I am talking about here. Yesterday I talked about the original meaning of leisure, which is different from idleness. Leisure is crystallizing our aspirations and getting ready to fulfill them, it’s not sitting on the couch and pushing buttons on X-Box controller. We need to learn not to rest but to be at rest, which is a different thing.
I’ve tried it many times – people just won’t sit still, they won’t agree to sit still, and if they do, they’d be counting seconds until they can get up or pick their phones again. Being at rest means being under the influence of sattva, it won’t happen to those driven by passion or numbed by ignorance. One needs to develop the quality of goodness in his life first, only then he can become sensitive to his inner thoughts and desires, and it takes time.
Simple living and high thinking is one recipe for this. Drinking milk is another, though taken in isolation it won’t probably be enough for a long long time. I don’t want to touch on chanting here just yet, chanting is not for self-discovery, it’s for Lord’s pleasure, we shouldn’t be thinking of our own desires while we are doing japa, so let’s leave it out for now.
One sure way to develop sattva in our lives is to take shelter in it at every opportunity. This will gradually give us taste and eventually develop into a habit. If one doesn’t know where to find sattva, one can start by avoiding rajas and tamas, those are far easier to spot. A lot of time can be spend on explaining how to identify modes of nature around us. They are not “somewhere” but in everything we see and experience, always mixed but sometimes one gets more prominent than then others, so it’s really a question of being attentive, not some magical skill.
One could say that this will take a long time, which is uncharacteristic of Kṛṣṇa conscious solutions, but this is a solution to material unhappiness and our lack of patience. Fixing this will, theoretically, allow us to divert our consciousness to devotional service. We’ll become fixed in our varṇāsrama duties and varṇāśrama is only a preliminary step. Or one can skip this step altogether and simply take to chanting with all his heart.
This ultimate solution, chanting, is simple and works in an instant, but it’s not easy, and if we want to make it easy it becomes complicated and demands time. None of our efforts, whichever way we choose, will be perfect, too, it’s just the reality of life. By hook or by crook we need to make ourselves Kṛṣṇa conscious, no matter how long it takes or how much effort is needed, so we should try everything that works, it’s totally worth it.