By Jaganmohini devi dasi
A recent article by H.G. Kesava Krishna Dasa on Varna ashrama has rightly brought the point that theory is one thing and practice is another thing.
I wish to supplement the article with some of our thoughts.
I would like to corroborate that under the current scenario India will be the most difficult state to observe Varna-Ashrama. Thanks to M. Gandhi. Although Gandhiji favored Varna-Ashrama and tried his best to implement them in India, at a later stage, he not only failed in his mission but also rejected Varna-Ashrama, accepting it as a caste system. As he never took appropriate guidance on daivi-Varna-ashrama, his approach of presenting Varna-Ashrama got backfired.
Also our recent experience in participating in several educational conferences is that Varna-Ashrama is understood as division of castes. Remaining conscious from our side, we never even attempted to speak about Varna-Ashrama within Vedic education at such conferences.
Even today the demography of India is such that the Northern and some of the Western states and eastern states strongly observe caste systems unlike southern states. Literacy and secular religions/spiritual groups has done nothing to do away with caste systems, as can be seen from the facts that several educated religious group including scholarly level observe caste systems in the Northern belt.
Apart from this, within our society, if we observe carefully, through our devotional practices we time and again try to improve our servitorship attitude and not ashram status, indicating that ‚Äėseva‚Äô mood is above the divisions. Nonetheless many keep speaking of varnashram in discourses. Although at surface level it might appear as a paradox for few, but at deeper level I suppose we can try to reconcile within.
If the ‚Äėseva‚Äô we perform is focused on ‚Äėinner growth exclusively‚Äô and within this we can accept our ashram consciousness for external functioning. That is, at individual level we can follow an ashram in proportion to our inner growth or state of consciousness affected by three modes for a particular period and examine for ourselves how simple or complex it is. For example it is true that many Brahmanical devotees are serving different level of employers outside or superiors inside society. But what matters is the material mode we are infected while doing the job and if one has genuinely developed appropriate Brahmanical consciousness, he will definitely not be part of any corrupt system, even for Lord Krishna‚Äôs sake. Several times many justify wrong deeds saying it is for Lord Krishna, but can we use plastic cups for Krishna, when it is going to harm His eternal consort(Pure Devotee) Bhumi devi or can any Brahmachari who has taken vow to control senses, fall prey to lust or greed in the pretext of preaching for Krishna?
Therefore the external stamps or levels of ladder like first initiation or second initiation or a Brahmachari needn‚Äôt always reflect our real ashram which is strongly influenced by three modes at different period and our actions based on karma-guna.
Here we need to understand that if the seva we engage is not as per our karma-guna then our inner growth would be slow, because we know what happens when we fix round peg in a square hole.
Broadly this happens when a practitioner has not undergone proper training and practice before he or she takes up a responsibility suited to his/her skills and inner growth.
Generally it is observed that if somebody is academically qualified, it is assumed he/she will be good in intellectual preaching and they are elevated faster in external ladder. But sometimes they fail miserably because of lack of spiritual practice, maturity and having another interest other than engagement allotted to them. While technology might give instant results, devotional science will always remain a process, like it was in past.
Besides there are also situations where a facilitator or trainer might not have the capacity to engage his/her subordinates as per latter‚Äôs karma/guna, and this again can inhibit the growth of the sevak. Here the trainer forgets the fact that his/her inner development need not always be higher than his/her subordinates and that what the latter is looking for in KC or in God might be different than what a trainer is forcing upon his/her subordinates. That is why we have several sevaks not engaged in appropriate sevas.
If a sevak is engaged as per his/her karma guna, then it promotes sustainability of oneself and the organization, but when our inner growth is inhibited due to inappropriate engagement or environment, then we fail to nurture divine values and this has adverse impact on sustainability.
Knowledge of technology or tall academic qualifications or acquiring different levels of spiritual/responsible ladder within society cannot make devotees; it is ultimately voluntarily nurtured divine human qualities that can save mankind from his degradations.
Sustained training and practice and appropriate engagement all count towards developing voluntary commitment/tapasya towards one‚Äôs life. Inner conviction about the process and practice are important for one‚Äôs sustainability and convincing others about this education. It is a process and hence no room for shortcut. This is true even for female sevaks. Although thrust by and large has been laid on spiritual growth based on external parameters, especially reaching upto level of initiation, but ‚ÄėThoughtfulness‚Äô is very important aspect to be inculcated at every level of training. Srila Prabhupada remarked ‚ÄúKrishna Consciousness is to make a person independently thoughtful and act accordingly‚ÄĚ, this my gurumaharaj repeated several times.
All these factors need to be considered before applying daivi varnashrama.
What I learnt from my guru, is Srila Prabhupada never discriminated female and male disciples with regard to appropriate engagement and relevant interactions. The lesson that every one has go beyond ashram has been echoed several times by my gurumaharaj and he never ever gave us a feeling that we are women and hence we are of lower strata. He directly interacted with some of his female disciples whenever it was required without using the channel of prabhujis also(husbands of Female disciples). Once I also heard him saying, that in Manipur the women are stronger than men and he would laugh. He had high respect for women community and wanted the female children of his disciples to develop good character and become great scientists and scholars and shine in the society.
So this Varnashrama or social structure can be applied from broader perception at individual level. It is like undertaking a voyage for personal growth based on introspection. Ultimately the result we need to see for ourselves within, in order to guide us to grow towards higher ashram and best seva mood and that should be fine, rather than making the whole world follow this ashram system and getting a tag of an ‚Äėextremist‚Äô.
Jaganmohini devi dasi (BSDS)