Human life is meant for growth. Although physical growth stops before several decades, emotional, psychological, intellectual and spiritual growth can and should continue throughout every person’s life. In order to grow properly however, we need a proper place. Place means not only a physical place such as household, but proper relationships with others and proper activity. All three of these are essential aspects for optimal growth. This paper addresses the question of people’s place in modern society and contrasts it with place in the Vedic “varnashrama” culture and the different results in society and people’s lives.
A potted plant offers a very good example of having a proper place. The pot is the physical place where the plant lives, but beyond the pot alone the plant also requires a proper environment in terms of soil conditions, atmosphere, temperature, water, and sunlight. When these conditions are minimally met the plant can live, but when they are optimal the plant can thrive.
Likewise we are meant to thrive, not just live. We need a properly clean house and environment where we can care for and give rest to our body, along with nourishing food. This alone will allow us to survive, but not thrive for as it is said, man does not live by bread alone. More than mere survival we all desire to have interesting and meaningful activity appropriate to our nature. In the modern world we generally call this “work.” Ideally that work will be a bit challenging so that we may make use of our faculties of understanding, ability, and reasoning. The challenge helps us to grow. If the work is too easy we will be bored and unengaged, and if the work is beyond our capacity or ability we will be overworked and stressed.
And we also need a place in relationship to others. These relationships must be appropriate to our respective stages of life and theirs. Thus we will have different relationships with those senior to us than we have with our peers or with our juniors. Having a proper place according these criteria will help us to be happy and balanced individuals. Like the potted plant without water, or sunshine, if any of these aspects of life are meager or missing, then life can run the gamut from drudgery to torture, conditions under which growth of any kind is difficult or impossible.
Place in Ancient Cultures
Historically one’s place in society was both fixed and rigid. In both Western Feudal society and many Eastern cultures place was generally assigned according to one’s birth. Males generally did what their fathers did and females naturally became mothers and caretakers. You would become an aristocrat if your parents were aristocrats, and if they were peasants you would remain a peasant. The world was fairly well fixed at those times and there was no upward or even lateral mobility for the vast majority of people. In one sense this was bad and in another it was good. Bad in that if you had a different nature than your father you were unable to be fulfilled, but it was good in that a strong social contract existed. Every person had a definite place in society with well understood rules of behavior, knowing what they could expect of others and the expectations of themselves. In this sense nobody was alone in the world. Whatever their fate might have been, they were joined together with others of their kind with whom they would share their miseries and joys.
Finding Our Place in Today’s World
Modern society is just the opposite – we are not given a place in society – we have to find it, which for most people is very difficult. Beginning even in childhood we have no place in our parents lives. Pressed for time parents find it much easier to do everything themselves rather than teach their children and guide them in building their skills, so that many have never washed a floor or even a dish by the time they leave home. Children lack a place even within their family. They are told to “go play,” or they entertain themselves with television and electronic games. Although many (most?) do not have an active role in life they are somehow suddenly expected to fit right into the adult world upon graduation from school. However they often cannot and it is taking increasing years for them to find their place in the adult world. Today most people do not marry until they are almost thirty years of age, indicating that this is when they are able to find their place; whereas just two generations back they would marry and begin their family lives just after high school at age eighteen.
Going back to the years when society was more formally structured and there was a subsistence economy children had a part in adult society and could take responsibility at much younger ages. For example, David Farragut (later Admiral Farragut) was a mere 12 years old during the War of 1812 when he was given command of an ocean-going vessel. Those who have visited India have undoubtedly witnessed children of very young ages taking responsibility to manage the shop of their father, the care of their siblings, and even carrying on entrepreneurial activities without any adult supervision. When I see such things I try to imagine any Western boy or girl of the same age doing similar things. I cannot. Anthropologist Joseph Campbell also observed that many young men have great difficulty finding their place in modern society, to which he attributed the attraction of gang membership, and later involvement in the mafia, whose “codes of honor” do provide a place along with attendant duties and relationships. He suggested that until adult society finds some way to provide a place for young men they will naturally continue their involvement in gangs.
For most people their work provides their place and their orientation to the world – a way to think of themselves and their relationships with others. It provides the income with which they pay for their home, another aspect of place. Work is therefore an essential element of finding one’s place. Although we now have the freedom to choose our work, to be and achieve anything to the limit of our ability, this is a challenge that many people struggle with unsuccessfully. Despite the many books to help people find the right job or occupation, despite the many career counselors and job placement companies, some 80 percent of workers are still unsatisfied with the work they do. This indicates that their work is not according to their nature. Being improperly situated they can make a mess of things, especially in positions of leadership or management, and it is almost certain that in such situations they cannot properly grow.
The Consequences of Loss of Place
The sense of place, the psychological support that comes from it, and the result of losing it was studied by the pioneer sociologist, Emile Durkheim. Observing the rapid changes in the social and economic conditions of society during the industrialization of the late 19th century, he found that in rapidly changing environments people became unsure of what was expected of them, and what they could or should expect from others. These expectations, known as social norms, are the basic rules of the culture. Durkheim observed that without having a place where they know the norms to guide them, people become dissatisfied, purposeless and alienated which leads to conflicts, crime, suicide and other social deviancies. He called this condition anomie, and wrote about it in his books “The Division of Labor in Society” and “Suicide.”
One of the great tragedies of the modern era is the lack of place for the hundreds of millions, even billions, of “unnecessary” and “unwanted” people – the unemployed, the homeless, street urchins, and slum-dwellers. Modern society affords them little if any place to give them even the simple honor of living. Who gets a place in modern society? Increasingly only those who can earn a profit for others, or provide money for others, that is, those who have employable skills for which there is a market. However, the need for employable people is diminishing with a diminishing economy. In the1930s some 60 percent of Americans lived on farms and could provide for themselves. Over the next 50 years 2,000 farms every week went under or were sold, their occupants moving to the cities. Today those remaining on farms number less than 5 percent of the population, and the other 95 percent require jobs that produce money in order to get their food. Because of the loss of manufacturing jobs to Southeast Asia and service jobs to India and elsewhere there are simply not enough jobs available. The official unemployment figures are in double digits, but the real figure counting all people who would like to work if they could is more than 20% in America. That figure is similar if not higher in many places throughout the world.
Worldwide more than 50 percent of the people now live in cities and the prediction is that by the year 2020, some 90 percent of the people in large metropolitan areas will be slum-dwellers. This is almost half of the entire global population! By definition slum dwellers do not have sufficient earnings with which to properly maintain themselves. Either they are wage slaves that are forced to work long hours at wages insufficient to live on, or they have no regular job. In either case they have no place that allows them to grow. Wage slaves generally have no money and no time for anything else that might contribute to their growth. And no job means no place, no place means anomie, which means increased theft, crime, drug use, prostitution and suicide. What can we expect when half of humanity has no place? It is a house of horror. This is seen as such a problem that there is serious discussion at high levels of “culling” the human race to what is “needed,” and eliminating the “useless eaters”. (This is actually not new. These are the ideas of Thomas Malthus and his programs of eugenics and have been around for several hundred years). These problems could and should be fixed by society’s leaders but the policies of government only seem to make them worse.
Place in Varnashrama Culture
The Vedic culture is created and arranged by what may be called “higher authority.” That is, the Supreme Lord has not only given us this world for our activities, but has also given instruction how we can live here happily, having meaningful work, and growing throughout our lives. Through the hierarchy of this world He has given these principles of living in the Codes of Dharma, or dharma shastra. The codes of dharma divide society into four working classes called varnas, and four stages of life for spiritual purposes called ashrama, combined together we get the word varnashrama, as in varnashrama culture. Each of the varnas and ashramas has specific obligations and well-defined relationships with the other sections. This scientifically arranged society is designed to provide everyone a place that will facilitate lifelong growth in all spheres of life.
In the varnashrama culture occupation is not simply a means of obtaining as much money as possible, nor is it merely a haphazard job taken simply for mere survival. The entire concept of varna is that work must be appropriate to one’s nature, or guna and karma. Lord Krishna emphatically states in the Bhagavad-gita that one must work according to their own nature and that it is dangerous to do the work of others. (3.35, 18.47) Why dangerous? Because by doing inappropriate work and being improperly situated we cannot fulfill the purpose of human life, which is to grow in all dimensions.
There are four varnas – brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya and sudra, are the priests and intellectuals, the political leaders, the organizers/producers and the workers respectively. All oc-cupations in every human culture can be broadly classified into one of these four. In the modern culture the relationship between these four is determined by money almost exclusively, with corresponding neglect of dharma, but in the varnashrama culture those relationships are prescribed by the codes of dharma.
In regard to place the ksatriya has a very important role – he is tasked with giving everyone a proper place in society – both in terms of housing and work. For his exercise in caring for the citizens as if they were his own children the ksatriya is considered the representative of the Lord. Not only is it his duty to see that there is no unemployment in the varnashrama culture, but everyone must also have work according to their nature. Hence besides no unemployment there is not even any underemployment. In such a system job dissatisfaction would approach zero percent.
Neither is there any homelessness in the varnashrama culture. Everyone has a place to live, a place to work, and proper relationships with others. This not only includes all human beings, but all species of life, especially including the bulls and cows, domesticated animals who provide for the needs of sustainable power and good nutrition.
Creating a Place for Everyone
The Vedic culture is primarily an agrarian subsistence economy. This was not simply because the people were backward or unable. They understood that such a life elevates people to sattva-guna, the quality of goodness, whereas city life with factories, machines, and money degrades people to the qualities of passion and ignorance. This is an important step to rising to suddha-sattva, the transcendental plane of existence, which was the goal of such societies. Such an arrangement also provides full employment and offers many different types of engagement making it easier for the people to engage in work according to their guna and karma, their material nature.
The Result of Giving the Bulls a Place
It is important to recognize that Vedic culture provides a place for everyone – and not just human beings. The simple agrarian life provides the necessities of life for the people, and it also provides the bull (ox) with much needed engagement. The bull also is given a place in the spiritual culture, but he has also been rejected from the atheistic, materialistic, dominant culture, and replaced by oil-consuming machines that wreak havoc on the environment and our sanity. At our Gitagrad community in Lithuania, New Gaudadesha, Petras has taken up the care and engagement of the bulls. I asked him what he had learned while he was training them. His reply was profound, indicating that all of human society will benefit greatly by again giving the bull a place in society. Petras replied that from the bull he has learned:
They do not learn quickly; one must go slow as they learn slowly day-by-day
Therefore great patience is required. A local man told Petras early on that he would have to be patient, but that man himself did not even know how patient one must be. Researching Srila Prabhupada’s book Petras found that that patience is the most important quality and the mother of all other virtues.
As you are training them, they are also teaching you.
Because they are very regulated in their actions, they force you to be regulated in yours.
The bull teaches you sattva; he is an animal of a sattva nature, and he will not go to rajas – you cannot make him get passionate. Instead, you yourself must come to sattva if you want to work with him – he will thus force you to come to sattva.
Working with the bull may be compared to working with children or women, in that, if you get angry with them they will refuse to cooperate with you. If you are calm and reasonable they will work with you.
Rajo-guna (increasing speed) and tamo-guna (negative reinforcement – hitting them) does not work with these animals.
Petras recently read from very old records how if a person had been drinking and the bulls smell that they will refuse to work with the man. Indeed, they will even try to gore him. They don’t want to associate with such people in the lower modes of nature.
The bulls and man are a team; they work together. Unlike driving a car or tractor, where the driver simply controls the machine. With the bulls one must learn to cooperate and work as a team.
There is mutual dependency between the bulls and the teamster; the bulls depend on the man to feed and care for them, and the man depends on the bulls to provide necessary power for accomplishing things.
Petras’ comments offers many realizations. The first is that Petras himself is not just training the bulls, but they are also training him. By his effort he is receiving valuable personal training in sattvic qualities, conditioning him to sattva-guna. Such training is difficult to come by in a world that is driven by passion and ignorance. Srila Prabhupada has taught us that we must come to the platform of sattva before we can progress to suddha-sattva, or the transcendental plane. How valuable are the cow and the bull to help us stay fixed in sattva-guna.
Modern man instead thinks he can do better by killing the bull and exploiting the cow for milk and the earth for oil. Having abandoned the bull we have lost our tether to sattva and are the entire human race is drifting inexorably to rajas and tamo-guna, with the attendant terrible consequences that we are now beginning to reap, economically, socially, politically, etc. But dependence on the cow and the bull teaches the entire human society sattva, and helps to keep them in sattva.
The reason that Petras has had so many wonderful realizations because he made room for, and a commitment to dharma, by giving the bulls a place in his life. Giving them a place means giving them a duty, and that is the birth of yajna (religious sacrifice; as stated in the Bhagavad-gita yajna is born of prescribed duties). Generally interested only in what they can take from others, modern man does not realize what the cow and bull have to give to us. Neither does modern man understand sattva-guna or the tremendous benefits that accrue to society as a whole by giving these animals their place in human society. Indeed, that is the case with all living beings in this world since, as we are admonished in the Isopanisad this world is perfectly equipped as a complete whole and every thing and every living thing has its place.
The Social Machine is Out-of-Order
The varnashrama culture described in the Vedic literature functioned as a social machine in which everyone had a part to play. Having a role gave everyone a sense of meaning and purpose, as well as relationships to others. “Freed” from such constraints modern man is free to do anything he can, but we are feeling the consequences of putting the parts of the machine in the wrong place. When human values are shifted from spiritual meaning to money and sense gratification the result is that many people, and in today’s world that means billions of people, cannot have a satisfying life. And some cannot even have a life at all. Ten million children die every year from causes that can be prevented if their economies and people were not being exploited.
What is greatly needed now are men of ksatriya and vaisya natures to take their proper place in the spiritual culture, for they are essential to make the social machine work. When the ksatriyas (administrators/politicians) and vaisyas (organizers / producers) perform their duty according to religious principles (follow dharma) we will be able to begin to correct the imbalances in life. For the ksatriya this means establishing a village to provide a place for people who are rejected and spit out of the modern industrial monster. By providing housing and work according to their nature, even if they will be poor by modern standards, people can be wealthier psychologically than their employed counterparts who function as cogs in an impersonal machine. And the vaisyas are needed to organize the practical activity of day-to-day of re-generating simple village technologies by which people can provide for their own simple needs of food, clothing and shelter.
Why should tens-of-millions of people live without sustenance, in suffering and want in slums around the large cities? It is only because men of ability are focused on their own narrow and selfish interest that this happens. A properly religious culture does not allow people to live in want when they can easily live in contentment. What is needed is a return to religious principles in which people recognize that their life in this world is very short and the hereafter is very long. Doing the proper thing, following dharma as prescribed by the Vedas, gives a happy life now and a happy hereafter.
People today are becoming increasingly confused by the economic and political changes and are looking for leadership but all they see are self-interested politicians who unite with money interests to exploit them and they become disgusted and cynical. The concepts needed to renovate the social order are given in the many books of the modern saint A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami. Dear colleagues and scholars, please find it within yourself to get beyond the wrapper! Yes, the Krishnaites are very unusual in their appearance and manner, but that should indicate that there is something of significance that motivates them to be so. Please take the trouble to find out what that is and I am sure that you will see that the solutions we are looking for can be found behind the queer exterior. The information so desperately needed to heal society is available to us, but unless we put it to practice it will remain nothing more than the study of an earlier grand culture that has seen its day and remains lost to a bygone era, and the people will continue to suffer for want of it. What a great, great, pity.
Передача любого ведического знания от учителя к ученику подразумевает наличие определённых качеств, позволяющих осуществить этот процесс. Одним из таких качеств, несомненно, является «анасуйа» (anasūya), или отсутствие асуйи (asūya, asūyā, abhyasūya). Рассмотрим происхождение и значение этого термина. Согласно Бхаттоджи Дикшите (XVII в.) («Сиддханта-каумуди», 2678), он происходит от корня asū, означающего вред, болезнь и страдание (upatāpa) и суффикса yak , означающего, по Панини (Pāṇini), определённое состояние, бытиё (bhāva) . Амарасимха (Amarasiṁha) в словаре «Амара-коша» (Amarakośa) (приблизительно VI в. н.э.) даёт следующее определение (1.7.24): asūyā tu doṣāropo guṇeṣv api . Слово «doṣa» означает «уродство, недостаток, порок, дефект; то, что повреждает, наносит ущерб», термин «āropa» означает «наложение, приписывание», а «guṇa» – «добродетель, достоинство». Таким образом, асуйа – это видение пороков, неблагоприятных качеств даже в достоинствах, или выискивание недостатков. Бхануджи Дикшита, объясняя этот стих в своём комментарии «Вьякхья-судха» (Vyākhyā-sudhā, 1.7.24), пишет artha-dānādiṣu guṇeṣu dambhakatvādi-rūpa-doṣāropaṇasya – «Асуйа – это приписывание добродетелям, таким как процветание, раздача милостыни и т.д. природу лицемерия, гордости или других пороков». Бхаттоджи Дикшита в трактате «Сиддханта-каумуди» (575) даёт подобное определение: asūyā paraguṇeṣu doṣāviṣkaraṇam: асуя означает выставление напоказ чужих недостатков, несмотря на наличие добродетелей . Согласно «Бхагавата-пуране» (7.15.43-44), асуя – это атрибут обусловленной души, находящейся под влиянием гун материальной природы (rajas-tamaḥ-prakṛtayaḥ sattva-prakṛtayaḥ kvacit) . В комментарии к этому стиху Вирарагхава Ачарья говорит: asūyā satsv api doṣāviṣkaraḥ: асуя – это видеть недостатки даже в святых людях . В Ману-самхите (7.48) говорится, что асуя рождается из гнева, наряду с клеветой, жестокостью, стремлением причинить вред, нетерпимостью к недостаткам других, порчей имущества и насилием, словесным или физическим: paiśunyaṃ sāhasaṃ droha īrṣyāsūyārthadūṣaṇam | vāg-daṇḍajaṃ ca pāruṣyaṃ krodhajo 'pi gaṇo 'ṣṭakaḥ . В комментарии к этому стиху Медхатитхи говорит, что асуя – это неспособность выносить хорошие качества других людей и выставление напоказ их слабых мест . Ватсьяяна в Ньяя-бхашье (4.1.3) упоминает асую среди источников деятельности для человека, которые возникают из неприязни (двеша): dveṣapakṣaḥ – krodha īrṣyā asūyā droho 'marṣa iti . Комментируя это, Уддьотакара в Ньяя-варттике (4.1.3) даёт следующее определение: paraguṇākṣamatā asūyā – «Асуя – это неспособность выносить хорошие качества других людей».
Отсутствие асуи (anasūya) является непременным условием получения знания в ведической системе образования. Вишну-смрити (29.9) говорит:
vidyā ha vai brahmāṇam ājagāma gopāya mā śevadhiṣṭe 'ham asti |
asūyakāyānṛjave 'yatāya na māṃ brūyā avīryavatī tathā syām ||
«Знание пришло к брахману и сказало: «Защити меня, я – твоё сокровище, не открывай меня завистливому (asūyaka), лживому и тому, кто не контролирует чувства, иначе я потеряю свою силу» .
Подобный стих встречается в «Ману-самхите» (2.114) и «Муктика-упанишад» (1.50). В Шримад-Бхагаватам (11.10.6) Шри Кришна говорит Уддхаве, что анасуя – одно из качеств настоящего ученика (amāny amatsaro dakṣo nirmamo dṛḍha-sauhṛdaḥ | asatvaro 'rtha-jijñāsur anasūyur amogha-vāk), наряду с отсутствием ложного престижа и мнением о себе, как о деятеле, свободой от лени и чувства обладания чем-либо. Ученик должен испытыть глубокую привязанность к учителю и никогда не отклоняться с выбранного пути. Он должен всегда желать продвижения в духовном понимании и избегать бесполезных разговоров. В комментарии «Анвитартха-пракашика» на этот стих говорится, что анасуйу – это тот, кто не выискивает недостатков в учителе и других (anasūyuḥ gurvādau doṣa-dṛṣṭi-rahitaḥ) . Яска в «Нирукти» (2.3) предупреждает о том, что наличие асуи непременно делает человека невежественным в постижении знания (nityam hyavijñātur vijñāne’sūyā) . В «Бхагавад-Гите» (9.1) Шри Кришна говорит Арджуне, что откроет ему самое сокровенное знание (guhyatama jñānam), поскольку тот никогда не завидует Кришне. Шрила Баладева Видьябхушана в своём комментарии отмечает, что анасуйу означает того, кто не видит недостатков (mad-guṇeṣu doṣāropa-rahitāya) . А.Ч. Бхактиведанта Свами в комментарии на этот стих говорит: «Тот, в ком есть зависть, никогда не сможет открыть другим смысл «Бхагавад-Гиты», то есть дать людям совершенное знание о Кришне» . Шрила Джива Госвами в «Крама-сандарбхе» (3.3.41) даёт следующее определение: anasūyuḥ satīrthādiṣu guṇādhikyena gurvādarādhikye dṛṣṭe pratyuta sukhavān – «Независтлив тот, кто преисполняется счастья, видя превосходство качеств человека, который служит вместе с ним одному духовному учителю, над своими, и преимущество его уважения и заботы по отношению к гуру» .
«Махабхарата» (5.43.12) перечисляет асую среди качеств брахманов (jñānaṁ ca satyam ca damaḥ śamaś ca hy amātsaryaṁ hrīs titikṣānasūyā) , а «Вишну-смрити» (2.17) называет независтливость (anabhyasūyā) предписанной обязанностью (дхарма) для всех варн, наряду с прямотой, отсутствием жадности и почитанием Господа и брахманов: ārjavaṁ lobha-śūnyatvaṁ deva-brāhmaṇa-pūjanam | anabhyasūyā ca tathā dharmaḥ sāmānya ucyate . Таковы представления об асуе в свете ведических писаний.
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