13. The four varnas castes are based on the proportion of sattva, rajas and tamas in a person. The caste system is a classification that allocates vocations according to one’s inner mental composition, not by birth. It is dynamic and changes with one’s proportion of gunas. It is not a water-tight compartmentalization.
Brahmanas, the highest category, are predominantly sattvika with a little rajas and a dash of tamas. Ksatriyas are mainly rajasika with a fair amount of sattva and increased levels of tamas. Vaisyas have rajas, but less sattva and more tamas. Sudras are predominantly tamasika with a little rajas and traces of sattva.
Accordingly, Brahmanas naturally become teachers, philosophers, advisers, authors, poets and intellectuals. Ksatriyas are the warrior class – kings, administrators, rulers. Vaisyas are traders, engaged in business and industry. And sudras do manual work. These classes exist in all societies.
The Brahmanas were the visionaries who maintained the ethics and moral fibre among people. Hence they were at the top of the pyramid. Even kings came second to them. Every king had an in-house sage who would be consulted on every important issue. Thus ancient India was led by men and women of wisdom, not wealth. This made for the Golden Age in Indian history. The decline began when power went in the hands of the wealthy.
People have their own unique combination of gunas and perform action as per their gunas. ‘Even though I am their creator, know Me as the non-doer and indestructible.” Pure Consciousness supports all activities, external as well as the internal structure of guna and karma. But Atman is not responsible for the quality of action nor does It have a desire to perform action. Gold is the creator of all ornaments but has no desire to become a bangle or ring and has nothing to do with the quality of the ornament. Atman is the karta with reference to body, mind and intellect. By Itself It is the non-doer.
The entire universe has emerged from Atman but Atman is none the less. Atman is never diminished. Hence avyayam imperishable. Gold is the same, undiminished, when ornaments are made from it.
14. Suppose you dream you are a scientist who has just won the Nobel Prize and are at the Awards Ceremony. Your name has been called out and you are going on stage to receive the Prize. Just then you trip and fall! You wake up. Imagine you had the ability to re-enter the dream with the knowledge of the waking state. How would you go about your life in the dream? You would have no desire for or excitement over the Nobel Prize. No action would taint or bind you with further desire. You would perform actions objectively.
An actor is unaffected by the roles he plays and is not bound by the character of the roles. He may act as an alcoholic but remain a teetotaler. He may play the role of a criminal but be free of criminal tendencies. The role of a married man does not impinge on his single status in real life.
Similarly one who knows Atman is the unaffected witness of all that happens in the world. He is not bound by actions. So the formula is – remember Atman and play your role in life. With grace, dignity and cheer.