Essays on the Gita

Track Running Track 202

ultimately end in the acquisition of knowledge.'

So, Sri Krishna himself changes the very definition of yajna, although some of the statements, which are made in the third chapter, may give you an indication as though Sri Krishna refers to the Vedic type of idea, which had become orthodox idea; but, when you come to the 4th chapter, where he really defines further the idea of yajna, the whole situation changes. So, when Sri Krishna himself takes the liberty of changing the idea of yajna which was prevalent at that time, in his own teaching, it indicates to us that fundamentally whenever you want to interpret words of this kind, which had a temporary and temporal significance, we should go back to the fundamental truths and define words in the terms which are now valid at the present stage.

And then, from that point of view. In fact Sri Aurobindo has written two, three chapters in the `Essays on the Gita' on this very question of sacrifice: "Works of Sacrifice", "Lord of Sacrifice", and there, He has explained in detail as to what exactly was the meaning of yajna even in the Vedic texts, although at one time the word yajna did mean sacrifice in the form of ‘oblations to fire’, externally. Even in the Veda, the word ‘sacrifice’ did not mean that: there was an esoteric side, a secret side, an occult side of sacrifice. And that it only meant: ‘offering of oneself’. It is not oblation in the fire, but oblation of oneself to the Supreme Divine. And this is the sense in which ultimately, we find explained by Sri Krishna Himself in the Bhagavad Gita. And then in his own `Synthesis of Yoga' Sri Aurobindo explains the principle of sacrifice in this real sense of the term, which is of eternal spiritual value. Because fundamentally, sacrifice really means: offering of oneself to the Divine, totally. This is one example as to how, when you interpret the present Scripture, words of this kind you may come across, and if you want to interpret, and when there is a doubt about it, Sri Aurobindo says that you go back to the fundamental spiritual Truth, which can be verified in experience and which is  today translatable in the terms of today – that is how you should interpret.

Another example Sri Aurobindo has given is that of the concept of the ……….'four castes' of which Sri Krishna speaks sometimes in the Bhagavad Gita. ‘The four castes, or four varnas, were created by Me’. And again, towards the end of the Bhagavad Gita, He speaks of the `works of Brahmin, works of Kshatriya, works of Shudra, works of Vaishya’. So here again, the question might arise while interpreting the Bhagavad Gita, is it true that the caste system is prescribed by the Gita? If caste system `was created by Me', as Sri Krishna says, then does it mean that the Bhagavad Gita preaches that you should now resurrect the caste system, even though broken now to a great extent? If Sri Krishna Himself has created four castes, how can you now break them? So even if they are broken, why should you not revive them? This is one of the very important questions, which can be raised in regard to this teaching of the Gita and one who takes the Bhagavad Gita literally: chātur–varṇyaṁ mayā sṛiṣhṭaṁ guṇa–karma–vibhāgaśhaḥ (IV,13)

So, reading this statement that Sri Krishna Himself had made these four castes, and then towards the end He describes the various functions of the different castes: does it not mean that Bhagavad Gita teaches us that we should not break the caste system? On the contrary, even the present broken system should be resurrected?

Now, here also Sri Aurobindo says that this is a concept, which we need to understand in the ‘spiritual meaning’ of the word. And that meaning actually Sri Krishna explains it in that very word itself: He has created four varnas, chātur–varṇyaṁ mayā sṛiṣhṭaṁ but guṇa–karma–vibhāgaśhaḥ, according to the Guna and Karma. It is not as it is now, by birth an individual is born in a family therefore he belongs to that particular caste – an individual is to be, just to belong to one or the other, depending upon his Guna and Karma. What is his quality and what is his natural mode of action?...... It is on that basis that you have to decide the 'four castes'. So, while there is a truth of… four castes ...and it can even be said that since Bhagavad Gita has spoken of these four castes, there is no harm in resurrecting, provided you go back to the original concept which is given there: guṇa–karma–vibhāgaśhaḥ. Not only that but you go still deeper, as Sri Krishna Himself goes deeper and deeper into the concept of svadharma and svabhava, because that also is a part of Bhagavad Gita's teaching so you should take into account, what is the nature of svadharma and svabhava?

So that would mean that actually speaking, individuals are not only divided into four castes, but each individual is a category by himself because of his Svabhava and Svadharma.

This is how when Vivekananda explained the multiplicity of religions, he said that actually in an ideal state, every individual should have his own religion: not that you belong to this religion or that religion, dividing mankind into the five or six groups of religions, which are today alive in a major manner, but  each individual should have his own religion because his Svabhava and Svadharma is insisted upon as in the Gita as the most important element.  That even the idea of dharma belonging to a particular varna takes a different meaning: in spite of that particular Dharma that you might have because you belong to a particular group, you have still a deeper Dharma, which applies to you as an individual. So that also has to be seen.

Sri Krishna Himself, who was a Kshatriya, Arjuna was a Kshatriya, therefore in a certain sense you might say that both were Kshatriyas by guṇa–karma, and therefore they had a certain duty following from this particular belongingness to a particular group, yet while Sri Krishna teaches Arjuna to fight with weapons, as far as He Himself is concerned, He does not prescribe that rule to Himself, He had declared that He will not use any weapon at all in the battle.

We use cookies in this webiste to support its technical features, analyze its performance and enhance your user experience. To find out more please read our privacy policy.