Varnasrama and Varna Sankara
By Praghosa Dasa
We often remark that in the west death is something that is very much hidden away from day to day life. Aside from the flashing lights of passing ambulances there is little to remind us of inevitable death. Unfortunately the same cannot be said of the ever growing number of youths who menacingly roam the streets of western cities in small to medium size gangs.
Maybe it is because I am getting older and am suffering from misty nostalgia, or perhaps I’m feeling a little more vulnerable to youthful strength, but no, that is not the case, this phenomena is both on the increase as far as frequency goes, as well as the degree of brutality involved.
While generally the youths themselves are menacing enough, when they are accompanied by those dogs that always remind me of the hellish planets, the menace level increases significantly.
With no training, no guidance, poor upbringing and no role models, the pure unadulterated desire to lord it over by brute force appears to be their life mission. And boy do they take to that mission with gusto. Beatings, stabbings and murders are now a daily occurrence in most western cities.
Indeed a new phrase has arisen in the western lexicon “anti-social behaviour” I guess anti-social behaviour is more or less the job description for varna sankara offspring.
Srila Prabhupada defines varna sankara in different ways but one definition he uses again and again is unwanted children. In most western countries these days there are quite a number of unwanted children that don’t generally see the light day, due to a combination of contraception and abortion. I suppose they could be categorised as the absolute unwanted, of course the ‘parents’ of the absolute unwanted are merely making their own unfortunate position in this material world even worse;
In this sinful age of Kali, people have even taken to the process of killing the child in the womb. This is the most degraded practice; it can only perpetuate the miserable material conditions of those who perform it.
SB 5.17.12 purport
Then we have the children who are not planned but are not so unwanted that they are aborted, these children are born both inside of outside of marriage but the statistics (as well as Srila Prabhupada’s comments) suggest that those born outside of marriage are more likely to be a disturbance to society;
If varna-sankara population is increased, then the whole society becomes a hell. That’s a fact. Actually, that is the position at the present moment. Therefore, according to the Vedic system, marriage is there. Without marriage, the population, increase of population, means varna-sankara.
Bg 2.13 Lecture Nov 19th 1972
While the above quote is quite categoric and direct it does get worse. I don’t think there were TV shows during Srila Prabhupada’s time (at least I never heard of them) that were dedicated to people taking paternity tests so the identity of the father could be determined! Recently while visiting my brother in hospital our conversation meandered onto the subject of marriage and how it is the essential building block of a stable society, a concept he was in agreement with. He then went on to reveal how far and how quickly society is moving away from that standard. He informed me of TV shows that are dedicated to the subject of paternity testing and what’s more, there are an unlimited number of people who need such paternity tests. What this means of course is that married or not, the mother is sleeping with multiple partners, but regardless of whether there were TV shows during Prabhupada’s time on this subject, Prabhupada did cover this issue of paternity;
Varna-sankara population means a population who cannot say who is his father
SB Lecture 1.16.12 9th January 1974
So a quick recap:
varna sankara take 1 – Children born in stable monogamous marriages but were not fully planned
varna sankara take 2 – Unplanned children born outside of marriage
varna sankara take 3 – Unplanned children not only born out of marriage but born to a mother who is not able to pinpoint who the father is.
There is also a hybrid of 1 and 2 above wherein the child is conceived outside of marriage but the parents marry before the child is born. In the west this is known as a ‘shotgun wedding’? A shotgun wedding being a wedding that takes place quickly (shotgun) due to the ‘bride’ getting pregnant by ‘mistake’. Traditionally the main reason for a shotgun wedding was to legitimise the relationship between the man and woman involved, as well as making sure the future child was not considered a second class citizen. In many Catholic countries a child born out of wedlock was denied a series of sacraments that would undermine its chances of achieving salvation according to Catholic theology. So the shotgun wedding solved this problem but regardless of such after-thoughts and arrangements, unplanned children remain varna sankara and are likely to be a disturbance to one degree or another;
To check the increase of demoniac population, the Vedic civilization enacted so many rules and regulations of social life, the most important of which is the garbhadhana process for be getting good children.
Still, while such shotgun weddings may not be ideal, when compared to the need for paternity testing they take on a much more glorious status, such a reality only confirms the relentless march of kali yuga;
…in this age, Kali-yuga, dam-patye ‘bhirucir hetuh: the relationship between husband and wife will be based on sexual power. Therefore householder life in this Kali-yuga is extremely dangerous unless both the wife and husband take to Krsna consciousness.
SB 6.18.40 purport
As devotees of Krsna and followers of Srila Prabhupada our prime duty will always be to spread the glories of the holy name as far and wide as possible and indeed that alone will have a huge impact on the unlimited negative influences of the age of kali. However it is clear that as well as engaging in sravanam and kirtanam we also have a duty to live our lives in as dharmic a way as possible. To underline this Srila Prabhupada often made the link between varna sankara and the lack of varnasrama;
Formerly, the principle of dividing human society into four sections—brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya and sudra—was strictly followed, but because of gradual neglect of the varnasrama principles, varna-sankara population developed, and the entire institution has now been lost. In this age of Kali, practically everyone is a sudra (kalau sudra-sambhavah), and finding anyone who is a brahmana, ksatriya or vaisya is very difficult. Although the Krsna consciousness movement is a movement of brahmanas and Vaisnavas, it is trying to re-establish the divine varnasrama institution, for without this division of society there cannot be peace and prosperity anywhere.
SB 7.11.18-20 purport
Of course we cannot have varnasrama without having ‘simple living and high thinking’. High thinking is something that comes naturally to devotees but simple living is more of a struggle for the vast majority of us. So perhaps an additional impetus for us to embrace simple living might be the thought that if we don’t we are likely adding to the grave problem of an increase in the varna sankara population.
…as stated in Bhagavad-gita, an increase of varna-sankara population creates a hellish society. This is the society in which Americans now find themselves.
SB 6.7.12 Purport