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Varnasrama and Varna Sankara

Tuesday, 20 March 2007 / Published in Articles, Editorial, Praghosa Dasa / 11,964 views

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.
SB 3.17.15

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

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12 Responses to “Varnasrama and Varna Sankara”

  1. Kulapavana says :

    While the society in general definitely has a serious problem with varna-sankara, or unwanted population (however defined), I am not sure that we – as a Movement – have done an exemplary job dealing with this issue on our own turf. How well did our own youth turn out? How good were our schools? Have we even established a functioning educational system for our children? What kind of a future have we created for them in our society of devotees? I am not sure the answers are very flattering or give us a right to be very critical of others.

    It is very easy to give moralizing lectures but it is far more difficult to actually demonstrate how to achieve these lofty goals. That does not mean however that we should stop preaching about the need for establishing a proper society, only that we preach from realization as well as from books. We have had four decades to implement our own advice for the world. I hope we have at least learned something from all these years.

    You write: “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. ”

    Actually, one cannot have the varnasrama without the understanding of one’s varna and acting in accordance with that designation. Without that step it is all just an empty talk and exercise in futility. If you want to avoid creating confused and unproductive varna sankara you have to engage actual brahmanas in teaching the youth, actual kshatriyas in administration and protection, actual vaishyas in supporting that program, and actual sudras in providing whatever help is required.

    Our youth is confused because we are confused. It is true with respect to society in general and with respect to our own Movement. Lets take care of our own problems before we run off to save the world from impending gloom and doom. Then we can actually show people how it is done.

  2. DJH says :

    Very nice article, I have been talking to several young people, many know of girls who are pregnant or have recently had a child most of whom are descrided as a mistake or poor contraception. A distinct lack of understanding of what even a basic relationship is, infact we see that most articles aimed at our young promotes a sexual relationship as an essential part.
    We have also seen an increase in knife crime especailly with the young who see it as cool or simply out of fear feel the need to carry one for their own protection. With the UK goverment targating young girls to may be confince their boy friends to stop carrying knives.
    As you have so wonderfully pointed out no one has addressed the real issue, reminds us how important our young are and also our own responsibility as an abult is

  3. nrsimhananda says :

    Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange” dramatized the terrorizing future of young maurauders ganging up on the elderly and infirmed. Fortunately, only the U.K. was effected in that film :)… but we’re seeing increasing evidence of those products of varna-sankara everywhere. Yet, the term “unwanted progeny” has always carried a certain stigma with it that could easily be misused. For example, as far as the Vaisnvavas of pre-1966 Iskcon devotees were concerned, anyone living outside of India was “unfortunate” – a fallen soul guilty of enough sin to condemn it to be born in Patala-loka (euphemistically, any place outside of India – whatever India is defined as). But Prabhupada was not concerned about our disqualifications. He came to personally invite the “hippies” to become “happies.” The beauty of Lord Caitanya’s movement is that it eschew’s the principle that birth reflects qualification. Preachers have so much experience of the “most fallen” being “awakened” by either chanting, the philosophy, sadhu-sanga, or a gulabjamin offered to Krishna. We all know at least one debaucher who was awarded the kripa – ourselves! I’ve always understood Mahaprabhu’s pastime to be one of picking up the “most fallen.” So whether we are a bastard or a brahmana by birth, we have equal opportunity – or maybe more if we are extra sinful. I think it’s nice to nuture the idea of a developing Vedic social model of varna and ashrama, but I don’t think that being one of the “unwanted” disenfranchises anyone from enlightenment. My experience is that Krishna really is only interested in the bhakti, not the papa. Certainly the power of the Holy Names is tantamount and trumps any bad karma (i.e. Ajamil). I probably am defending the possibility of salvation for those of the varna-sankara because I am one of them. But, then, Srila Prabhupada also defended his “dancing white elephants ” – his mellecha Vaisnavas -and, I, for one, am eternally grateful that he didn’t “lump me in” with the hopeless, unwanted progeny. You hear that…you horrible, mean, ungodly, ruthless gang members of the world? Gangs are nothing new. Five thousand years ago there was gang warfare much more vicious than yours. Would you like a simply wonderful while I tell you about it?

  4. Praghosa says :

    Regarding comment #2

    The thrust of the article was not to suggest that ‘unwanted progeny’ (Srila Prabhupada’s term) would be disenfranchised or not able to get the full mercy of Lord Caitanya. Rather the article was intended to highlight that, as devotees, if we can gradually implement more and more principles of varnasrama, we will gradually create a society that is more auspicious and naturally inclined toward KC. As opposed to a society that is haunted by those varna sankara who do not take to KC. Of course it is a given that we will never be able to influence general society unless and until we have a working model within our own community.

    The below purport covers most of the points you raised:

    1) Parents should always understand that they have a duty to give their children the best start in life, beginning from conception.

    2) The issue of the rise of varna sankara population is not in doubt as far as Srila Prabhupada is concerned.

    3) Krsna consciousness can never be checked regardless of how fallen we are, so whether we are born in ideal conditions or not, if we take to the chanting of the holy name our lives can become perfect.

    “The conditions for having good progeny in society are that the husband should be disciplined in religious and regulative principles and the wife should be faithful to the husband. In Bhagavad-gita (7.11) it is said that sexual intercourse according to religious principles is a representation of Krsna consciousness. Before engaging in sexual intercourse, both the husband and the wife must consider their mental condition, the particular time, the husband’s direction, and obedience to the demigods. According to Vedic society, there is a suitable auspicious time for sex life, which is called the time for garbhadhana. Diti neglected all the principles of scriptural injunction, and therefore, although she was very anxious for auspicious children, she was informed that her children would not be worthy to be the sons of a brahmana. There is a clear indication herein that a brahmana’s son is not always a brahmana. Personalities like Ravana and Hiranyakasipu were actually born of brahmanas, but they were not accepted as brahmanas because their fathers did not follow the regulative principles for their birth. Such children are called demons, or Raksasas. There were only one or two Raksasas in the previous ages due to negligence of the disciplinary methods, but during the age of Kali there is no discipline in sex life. How, then, can one expect good children? Certainly unwanted children cannot be a source of happiness in society, but through the Krsna consciousness movement they can be raised to the human standard by chanting the holy name of God. That is the unique contribution of Lord Caitanya to human society” SB 3.14.38 purport

  5. Vinod Vani d.d. says :

    Prabhu, your pointed comment about the youth in “western cities” would have better been directed at youth around the world. This phenomena is found on every continent, every nationality, even India, Africa, China. This is kali yuga.

    Vinod Vani d.d.

  6. Praghosa says :

    Thank you Vinod Vani you make a very good point that is supported by Srila Prabhupada as follows:

    “The exact example of varna-sankara is the hippies at the present moment. All over the world, not only in the Western countries but in India also. So the population, hippie population means sankara population. So increase of such population means narakayaiva, naraka, hellish, hellish condition of life in this life, also in the next life. At that time, to live, actually we have practically seen in recent years, especially in Calcutta, it has become a hellish life. The population, the younger generation, is so polluted, so contaminated, that you cannot safely walk in the street. Anywhere, the young boys they can encircle you and rob you. You cannot say on. The police cannot help, the government cannot help. So these unwanted children, without being trained up in the varnasrama system, they become the cause of hellish life in this life also after death.
    Bg Lecture London 29th of July 1973

  7. Jan Ardan says :

    Hare Krishna,
    Devotees are often reminded that we should act according to varnasrama. However, I’ve not witnessed any comprehensive training in the area other then what is taught in Srila Prabhupada’s books. Srila Prabhupada had requested a varnasram college that I understand was to be headed up by H. H Hrdayananda Goswami. It was to be run by the male Brahmins of ISKCON who would be qualified to understand and teach varnasrama. It was to be available as a boarding school without any fee. What happened to this great vision?

  8. Praghosa says :

    Dear Kulapavana prabhu,

    I agree with your comment (#7) and apologise if my piece came across as moralising as that was not the intention. I guess it goes to prove that it is not so easy to remove the innate nature of the person from what they write :-)

    Anyway you essentially make two points which were more or less the points that I was trying to convey;

    1) That varna sankara (however defined) are a real and growing menace to society and

    2) Rather than us sitting back and gloating at the plight of general society there is a real and growing onus on us to provide a viable alternative. Something that as you point out we have failed to do to date. Thank you for your input.

    Your servant, Praghosa dasa.

  9. Caitanya candrodaya says :

    Prabhus,

    First question:

    Is varna sankara (however defined) a real and growing menace to society?

    The answer is yes. It is as well as a number of other things.

    Can we provide a viable alternative?

    Yes. But on the personal level or localized to one particular community or yatra. Not as ISKCON worldwide – that would be impossible to implement and even harder to maintain .

    Even on the level of community it should be done not by “excluding bastards” but by setting high example by community leaders or elders and demanding it from ones own disciples/dependents (such as ones own children) not from equals or friends…

    But the principle itself of starting with providing a viable alternative rather then “ gloating at the plight of general/ society ” is the key.

    Your servant,

    Caitanya
    Something that as you point out we have failed to do to date. Thank you for your input.

  10. yashoda dulal das says :

    Haribol Prabhus!

    pamho.
    SRILA PRABHUPADA KI JAI!!!

    Just a little note to Thank all of you at Dandavats.com for such a wonderful website!

    Happy Easter/Passover!

    Ys,
    yashoda dulal das

  11. Shyamasundara Dasa says :

    The following excerpt from “The Real Clash” by James Kurth gives another angle on the source of the gangs that roam the big cities.

    “The agricultural economy was one that employed both men and women. They were, it is true, employed at different tasks, but they worked at the same place, the farm, which was also the home. The industrial economy largely employed men. They worked both at different tasks from those of women and at a different place, the factory, which was away from the home. The service economy is like the agricultural economy in that it employs both men and women. But it employs them at much the same tasks and at the same place, the office. Like the industrial economy, that place is away from the home. These simple differences in tasks and place have had and will continue to have enormous consequences for society.

    “The greatest movement of the second half of the nineteenth century was the movement of men from the farm to the factory. Out of that movement arose many of the political movements that shaped the history of the time–socialism and anti-socialism, revolutions, and civil wars. The full consequences of this movement from the farm to the factory culminated in the first half of the twentieth century with the Communist revolution in Russia, the National Socialist reaction in Germany, and the Second World War that included the great struggle between the two.

    “The greatest movement of the second half of the twentieth century has been the movement of women from the home to the office. Out of that movement there have already arisen political movements that are beginning to shape the history of our own time. One is feminism, with its political demands ranging from equal opportunity to academic deconstructionism to abortion rights. Feminism has in turn produced a new form of conservatism. These new conservatives speak of “family values;” their adversaries call them “the religious right.”

    “The full consequences of this movement from the home to the office will only culminate in the first half of the twenty-first century. They may not take the form of revolutions, civil wars, and world wars, as did the earlier movement of men from the farm to the factory. Feminists have constructed elaborate theories about how women are far less violent than men. But there are other factors at work.

    “The movement from farm to factory in large measure brought about the replacement of the extended family with the nuclear family. The movement from home to office is carrying this process one step further. It separates the parents from the children, as well as enabling the wife to separate herself from the husband. By splitting the nuclear family, it is helping to bring about the replacement of the nuclear family with the non-family (“non-traditional” family, as seen by feminists; no family at all, as seen by conservatives). The splitting of the family’s nucleus, like the splitting of the atom’s nucleus, will release an enormous amount of energy (which feminists see as liberating and conservatives see as simply destructive).

    “Some indication of that energy, and its direction, may be gleaned from the behavior of the children of split families or single-parent families, especially where they have reached a critical mass forming more than half the population, as in the large cities of America. In such locales, there is not much evidence of “Western civilization” or even of civility. For thousands of years, the city was the source of civilization. In contemporary America, however, it has become the source of barbarism.”

  12. Shyamasundara Dasa says :

    In the previous text I quoted James Kurth who wrote:

    ” Feminists have constructed elaborate theories about how women are far less violent than men.”

    Read below to find out the reality. (Note article below is from an incident that occurred in 2004)

    ________________________________

    Violence Among Girls Increasing in U.S.
    By WILEY HALL Associated Press Writer

    BALTIMORE (AP) – Twelve-year-old Nicole Townes is out of a coma but still struggling to recover after being pummeled and stomped at a birthday party in a beating that was shocking not just because of its savagery, but because it was meted out by other girls.

    Authorities say it is symptomatic of a disturbing trend around the country: Girls are turning to violence more often and with terrifying intensity.

    “We’re seeing girls doing things now that we used to put off on boys,” former Baltimore school Police Chief Jansen Robinson said. “This is vicious, `I-want-to-hurt-you’ fighting. It’s a nationwide phenomenon and it’s catching us all off guard.”

    Police and prosecutors said Nicole’s beating Feb. 28 began when a boy at the party, acting on a dare, kissed the girl on the cheek. The other children exploded with “eeeewws” and laughter, according to the police report.

    The 36-year-old mother of the birthday girl apparently was offended, because the boy was supposed to be her daughter’s boyfriend. So the mother allegedly urged her daughter to “handle your business,” an order police said meant the girl was supposed to defend the family’s honor.

    Nicole was scratched, pummeled, kicked and stomped by as many as six women and girls, police said. She was in a coma for nearly three weeks and is still hospitalized. Her family said she may have permanent brain damage.

    Charged in the assault were the birthday girl, 13; her mother; her 19-year-old sister; and three other girls, ages 13, 14 and 15. Police also charged a 24-year-old woman who lived with Nicole with child abuse and neglect for leaving the girl at the party.

    “We’re just stunned and disgusted and we still can’t understand how such a thing could have happened,” said the family’s pastor, the Rev. Durrell Williams of the Full Gospel Deliverance Church. Williams described Nicole as a timid girl, “not one of your fighters.”

    Around the country, school police and teachers are seeing a growing tendency for girls to settle disputes with their fists. They are finding themselves breaking up playground fights in which girls are going at each other toe-to-toe, like boys.

    Nationally, violence among teenage boys – as measured by arrest statistics and surveys – outstrips violence among teenage girls 4 to 1, according to the Justice Department. But a generation ago, it was 10 to 1. Schools report a similar pattern in the number of girls suspended or expelled for fighting.

    Experts say the trend simply reflects society – girls are more violent because society in general is more violent and less civil. Some say that the same breakdowns in family, church, community and school that have long been blamed for violence among boys are finally catching up to girls.

    And some believe the violence is also fueled by the emergence of movies and video games such as “Tomb Raider” in which women wreak violence with the gusto of male action heroes.

    The assault on Nicole illustrates how some parents are almost as immature as their children, said Rosetta Stith, principal of a Baltimore public school for teen mothers.

    “You keep hearing that phrase, `Handle your business,’ `Handle your business,'” Stith said. “Now I ask you – What business could a 13-year-old possibly have? But for a lot of girls, it’s all about respect, defending your turf, fighting for your man.”

    Last May, girls were videotaped beating and kicking other girls during a hazing at well-to-do Glenbrook High School in suburban Chicago. And fighting among girl gangs in cities such as Los Angeles and Chicago has educators and community workers scrambling for solutions.

    “It’s a high-priority topic that resonates with any school, any principal today,” said Bill Bond, who heads a project on school safety for the National Association of Secondary School Principals. “I’ve been to 17 association meetings this year and the topic has been addressed at every meeting.”

    Lauren Abramson, director of the Community Conferencing Center, a Baltimore agency that resolves disputes through mediation, said one difference between boys and girls is that gossip is more likely to be at the bottom of a dispute between girls.

    “Gossip as a source of violence is understudied and little understood,” Abramson said. “But time and again, when we bring the parties together, get them to talk and dig into what started it all, it invariably comes back to something somebody heard somebody else said.”

    Phil Leaf, director of the Center for the Prevention of Youth Violence at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, said society should not have been caught by surprise by the surge in girl violence.

    “In retrospect, we can see girls falling prey to the same influences as boys,” Leaf said. “A decade or so ago, we were worried about the lack of male role models in the home. Today, there is a dearth of effective female role models as the mothers who used to be there are forced back into the job market or get rendered ineffective through abuse of drugs and alcohol.”

    Leaf said the situation in Baltimore and other cities reminds him of the William Golding novel “Lord of the Flies”: “We’re seeing the effects of children growing up in a world without adults.”

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