By Satyanarayana Dasa
I have quite often heard the phrase, “In Kaliyuga everybody is a śūdra,” kalau śudrāḥ sambhvāḥ, although I am unable to trace its source. However, there is another verse that says that everyone is born as a śūdra:
janmanā jāyate śūdraḥ saṁskārāt dvija ucyate
śāpānugraha-sāmarthaṁ tathā krodhaḥ prasannatā
(Skanda Purāṇa, Nāgara Khaṇḍa 239.31)
“A man is born as a śūdra and it is by proper saṁskāra that he becomes a brāhmaṇa. Such a person has the ability to curse and bless in anger or when pleased.”
Some scholars argue that the verse should say janmanā jāyate brāhmaṇa … (“When born as a brāhmaṇa, one becomes truly twice-born through proper culture”), instead of janmanā jāyate śūdra (“Though born as a śūdra, one becomes a brāhmaṇa by proper culture”).
I have pondered over the idea that everyone in Kaliyuga is a śūdra. I think that—at least at present—most of us are vaiśyas. Perhaps things will change for better or worse in the future, but at present, the vaiśya mentality seems to take precedence.
Modern-day vaiśyas can be divided into two categories: explicit and implicit. It is easy to recognize explicit vaiśyas: They run some business, industry, office, or shop, or even a hand-pushed cart on the side of a road, a basket of flowers propped up on a folding stand, or just a few bags hanging on the side of a bicycle. Some approach you on the street with a pamphlet about their product or throw it into your car if your window is open. Some knock on your door. Others send spam: Whenever I open my e-mail, there are always some advertisements trying to sell me something, from flight tickets to self-defense.
Seeing all this, I wonder where the śūdras are? Aren’t they supposed to be all around?
Let us analyze the professions delegated to the varṇas, as Nārada describes them to King Yudhiṣṭhira (SB 7.11.14-20), which is the most common description of these occupations. Although a pristine form of the varṇas does not exist in the modern world, because no country abides by the principles of the dharma-śāstras, still the varṇas continue to exist in a somewhat mixed-up manner (“varṇa-saṅkara”), because they essentially are intrinsic psychological archetypes with corresponding actions (“guṇa-karma”). Therefore, Nārada’s description of occupations associated with varṇas remains relevant to the modern world:
A brāhmaṇa should study śāstra, teach them to others, do yajña for oneself, officiate as a priest for others, accept charity, and give charity. Charity is a form of remuneration for the other acts. He may beg for it, or accept only what comes automatically.
A kṣatriya is entitled to receive gifts from his subjects and can also levy taxes (but not on brāhmaṇas). He can perform the brāhmaṇa’s duties, except for receiving charity.
A vaiśya lives by farming, animal husbandry, and business.
A śūdra works for the others and is given a salary or stipend in return.
In emergencies, one can accept occupations delegated to a lower varṇa. A kṣatriya, however, can also accept the duties of a brāhmana, if necessary. Brāhmaṇa and kṣatriya may take to vaiśya occupations in emergencies but may not take śūdra occupations. The interesting thing is that, more than any others, vaiśya occupations can permeate into other varṇas.
Modern brāhmaṇas might encompass intellectuals, such as poets, writers, teachers, scientists, priests, and gurus. If we study the lives of these people, however, we find almost all of them involved in some way in selling something (a fundamentally vaiśya activity). Maybe they sell tangible objects like books. Maybe they sell intangible things like knowledge, or counseling.
When you sell something, you have to advertise it. Most modern brāhmaṇas therefore have some presence on social media.
This is an example of the “implicit vaiśya.” Unlike explicit vaiśyas, implicit vaiśyas do not have showrooms and storefronts, but they spend a substantial amount of time persuading, influencing, and convincing others that their product or service is worth paying money for. This is why every profession, be it typical of a brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya or śūdra has taken an implicit vaiśya flavor. All private organisations—be they in education, security, or service— are run like a business. The hospitals and universities of brāhmaṇas run on a business model. The plumbing, maid service, and construction of śudras also run on a business model. Even the military and government of kṣatriyas runs on a business model. Physicians sell remedies and medicines. Lawyers sell arguments. Teachers sell courses. Writers sell books. Scientists and researchers sell hypothesis for funding. Politicians sell themselves and their promises for votes or loyalty. Even the army has to sell their plans and purposes for funding.
Non-profit welfare organizations and spiritual or religious organizations all need funding. For this, they have to sell their ideas and advertise their activities.
Indeed, we have become a product ourselves! We have matchmaking sites, and use Facebook, Instagram and so on to convince others that we are worth their time, attention, and money. No wonder we dress not for ourselves but for others, to entice them to purchase us in some form or another. We do things in our daily life only so that we can be seen as a good product for sale.
For example, ask yourself, “Why do I use Facebook?”
Do you not have a point you want to promote? Do you not have an “audience” you want to develop? Do you not have some news you are trying to spread? These are all ways to sell yourself, or your views, or your news.
Think about the emotions you experience when using Facebook. When you post something you think is accurate and important, but someone replies with a contrary, ignorant, or rude remark—how do you feel? Probably disrespected, and that probably makes you angry or sad. Why do we feel emotional about such things? Because these remarks and thumbs-down mean that someone isn’t buying us, they are not buying into our idea, our opinion.
Almost all of us are implicit vaiśyas, and this has influenced our psyche very deeply. Since it is a very new phenomenon, exacerbated by the internet, it is not well recognized. Thus, I think that in Kaliyuga everyone is a vaiśya, not a śūdra.
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