There is one concept that I learned from Hinduism that tremendously helped me to understand the nature of human callings and the order of things in this world overall. I’d like to share with you a concept of Varnas.
Varna is a Sanskrit word which means type, order, color or class.
Basically, Varna is a caste, a layer of societal hierarchy in Hindu communities. According to Hindu literature, the society is divided into four castes based on occupation: Shudra, Vaishya, Kshatriya, and Brahmin.
- Shudra — manual labor, craftsmen, service providers.
- Vaishya — merchants, traders, agriculturalists (now sales and services, businessmen).
- Kshatriya — rulers, and warriors (now managers, supervisors, politicians, CEOs).
- Brahmin — priests, scholars and teachers (now professors, thought leaders, people of knowledge).
This model is valuable as it can also be applied to our modern lives. Two major conclusions can be stated.
Conclusion #1. All people are different but all are equally important.
We are different from each other the moment we rock up to this planet. Our individuality starts to shine from the moment we open our eyes. It’s a fact. Buddhists will rationalize our differences by the concepts of reincarnation and family karma. Scientists will adduce arguments about genetic heredity. Both interpretations are worth consideration yet both are equally irrelevant to one practical implication:
In order to be a harmonious human being, you must fully accept the existence of these differences.
We are different. There are people who find satisfaction in manual work, there are people who are driven by the desire of financial abundance, there are those who strive for power and those who serve as conductors of knowledge. No one is better or worse than the other. Everyone is equally important as all of them comprise the body of society.
Shudras are the legs. They are a strong foundation. No one would be able to do their work if shudras didn’t do theirs. It doesn’t matter if you are a businessman, a politician, or a professor. You won’t be able to do your job if there are no people who would take care of chores in your building.
Vaishyas are the metabolic system. They secure the movement of energy within the entire structure. The organism can survive only if it has food, shelter, and other products that have to be constantly produced, consumed, exchanged and eliminated when they become toxic or obsolete.
Kshatriyas are the hands. They protect the whole organism from external threats. More importantly, they establish a set of rules for all parts of the body so that they do not harm each other accidentally. The absence of governing power would cause anarchy and chaos.
Brahmins are the head. They hear things, observe things, “taste” them and make conclusions about what is good for the body. They accumulate and transfer knowledge increasing the effectiveness of the organism and select the direction beneficial for everyone.
All castes are equally important as each caste has a specific set of functions and responsibilities that ensure the survival and adequate vital activity of the community as a whole. Understanding of this is crucial because it brings you to two insightful implications:
You are worthy. Knowing that you have your own predesignated sector of responsibilities in this world endows you with the understanding that regardless of how minor your contribution to the well-being of humanity is, it is important to do your best with what you have, where you are. Your work is always valuable.
You must be humble. Some people blinded by their wealth and social status fall into the fallacy of thinking that they are somehow better than others and have a right to look down on people with shudras’ jobs. This mindset is nothing but a sign of ignorance. Understanding and respecting the fact that every single honest working individual is actually a part of your world and makes a contribution to your wellness teaches humility.
Conclusion #2. Elevating the level of consciousness must become a personal mission.
Although it is true that in society all castes are equally important, in Hinduism all varnas are organized in a hierarchical pyramid in which Shudra comprises the base level, with Vaishya, Kshatriya, and Brahmin correspondingly positioned on top. In this pyramid, each person finds his place based on his inherent motivation and personal goals.
Shudras don’t have extraordinary ambitions. They draw fulfillment from simple life, good relationships and normally don’t find addressing routine and manual work burdensome. Their inherent motivation lies in the perfection of their craft and doing their job well improving the lives of others.
Vaishyas follow the money. Getting rich is their primary aspiration. They put their financial prosperity as their number one priority and dedicate their lives to multiplying their assets and growing their wealth.
Kshatriyas seek power. They find purpose in control of the processes that involve other people’s lives. Constant expansion of the Circle of Influence is their top objective.
Finally, Brahmins’ ultimate purpose if to serve as a channel of knowledge. They are lifelong students and teachers. Brahmins absorb, accumulate, transform and transfer knowledge, and see it as the highest virtue. Improving the world developing their own intelligence in the process is their inherent motivation.
So, what value does the concept of Varnas have at an individual level?
Varnas represent the steps of personal evolution.
If you know your inherent motivation you can easily identify your varna. Essentially, your varna is your current level of consciousness.
Of course, one does not necessarily belong to only one varna. Often people exhibit a mixture of two or even three inherent motivations with one being dominant. One person can have a mind of both Shudra and Brahmin and be a brilliant craftsman or an artist confining a deep meaningful message inside his art. Another, for example, can be ascending from the level of Vaishya to the level of Kshatriya after selling a successful business and looking for ways to expand his influence to change people’s lives.
Arnold Schwarzenegger is a perfect example of the evolution of consciousness. He started with the mind of Shudra focusing all work of his spirit on the physical shell honing it to the level of iconic perfection. When he started his cinematic career, he elevated his mind to the level of Vaishya building capital and learning how to invest. After becoming a successful entrepreneur, he exhausted the meaning from that level of consciousness and excelled in the political arena as a governor developing the mind of Kshatriya. Finally, at a present moment, he is a respected old man with a rock-solid life philosophy that he passes on to younger generations securing the legacy that will outlive him by decades. He is an author, a philanthropist and a thought leader. He craves neither money nor power. He’s got a mind of a Brahmin.
Thank you for reading my book “Meditations of the Millennial”.
If you want to support me on my mission, please, share this book with someone you love. Maybe they will find what they seek on its pages.