Wednesday, September 30, 2009

High Class Respect

Rama Lakshmana and Sita in exile "No brahmana will dwell in your dominion; such is the ungracious deed you are going to do.” (Sumantra speaking to Kaikeyi, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, Sec 35)

In the classical Vedic system of varnashrama dharma, society is to be divided into the four varnas of brahmanas, kshatriyas, vaishyas, and shudras. The brahmanas are the priestly class of men, thus they occupy the top post in this system. Since they dedicate their lives to studying about God and serving Him, they are held in the highest esteem. Their functions include officiating sacrifices, studying the Vedas, and preaching the glories of the Lord to the rest of society.

Since we are all born with different qualities due to our past karma, not all of us can have the same level of intelligence and piety. Some people will be more pious than others, just as some people are stronger than others. Through the varnashrama system, it isn’t required that everyone become brahmanas, for only a small portion of society need be in the mode of goodness. Material life is governed by three gunas or qualities (goodness, passion, and ignorance). Brahmanas live in the mode of goodness, and this is why they are given so much respect. Just as a university professor can teach classes of up to five hundred students, a single brahmana can properly instruct many people on all aspects of life. For this reason, society only needs to have a few bona fide brahmanas occupying high positions in order for there to be peace and prosperity. In the ancient Vedic times, the government was run by kshatriyas, or the warrior class of men. Since kshatriyas generally live in the mode of passion, they relied on the advice and consent of brahmanas in their governance. Every king kept at least one royal priest who was consulted on all matters. The brahmanas were so highly respected that the kings would always follow their advice without question. Through this system, the rest of society functioned properly, as everyone was well acquainted with dharma, or religiosity.

Lord Rama When God incarnated on earth in the form of Lord Rama, He appeared as the son of the great King Dashratha of Ayodhya. Rama was the eldest son, so He was next in line to be king; however He was passed over in favor of His younger half-brother Bharata. Dashratha’s youngest wife, Kaikeyi, who was also Bharata’s mother, insisted that her son be the new king and that Rama be forced to live in the forest for fourteen years. Dashratha had been aided by Kaikeyi on a previous occasion, which prompted him to offer her any two boons of her choosing. Kaikeyi waited for an opportune moment to cash these favors in, which the king was then forced to oblige. The kshatriya code of conduct states that a king must always adhere to his word, otherwise chaos will ensue in society. It is quite common for politicians to lie today, but kshatriya kings refrained from such behavior, for they didn’t want the rest of society to take up dishonesty as a way of life.

Rama was the most beloved of all people in Ayodhya. Everyone wanted Him to be the new king. When they heard of the exile punishment, they become very angry. Sumantra, the charioteer of the royal family, in the above referenced quote chastised Kaikeyi for her wicked ways. He warned her that no brahmana would want to live in a kingdom which forsakes Rama, or God. This was meant to instill fear in her, for a kingdom lacking brahmanas was surely destined to fail. Rama was God Himself, so naturally the brahmanas wouldn’t be happy seeing Him treated in such a way. They dedicate their whole lives to serving Him. Most of us are involved in fruitive activity, seeking after wealth, fame, a beautiful wife, and a happy family life. Brahmanas forsake all of those things in favor of humbly offering their obeissances day and night to the Supreme Lord Krishna. They would rather leave than stay in a place where God isn’t respected.

In today’s society, true bona fide brahmanas are very hard to find. As predicted by Markandeya Rishi in the Mahabharata, this age of Kali has caused society to become topsy-turvy. The shudras, those who are untrained in any Vedic discipline, function as the leaders of society, whereas the priestly class of men is shunned. Things are so backwards now that the religious leaders have lowered themselves from their exalted position. They are now reduced to paying homage to those in society who lack even the basic fundamental understanding of the Vedas and God.

A recent example was seen with Notre Dame University and U.S. President Barrack Obama. Notre Dame is a Catholic university, famous for its high ethical standards. Yet they recently presented President Obama with an honorary doctorate degree. Now these sorts of things happen quite often these days. Colleges invite well-known celebrities to their campuses to give speeches, and they honor them with honorary degrees. This case was noteworthy since President Obama is strongly pro-choice, meaning he supports a person’s right to choose to kill an unborn child in the womb. The Vedas prescribe that all innocent life should be protected, not only those of humans. Go-raksha, or cow protection, is the principle duty of the vaishyas, the third varna. Vaishyas are the equivalent of today’s capitalists, so we can see that even the lower classes are given great responsibilities which they must uphold. Cow protection is a must, to say nothing of unborn children.

Obama at Notre Dame Notre Dame University, supposedly a religious institution, had no problem honoring a person who held views so contrary to the basic doctrine of all religions and human decency. It must be noted that President Obama is definitely not the only politician to hold the pro-choice view on abortion. Even amongst those politicians who are staunchly against abortion, a majority of them still turn a blind eye to the horrific practice of sending innocent cows to the slaughterhouse by the millions each year.

Most of today’s political leaders aren’t very God conscious. That lack of respect for God has trickled down to the rest of society as well. For this reason, in this age there is only one dharma for everyone to follow and that is the chanting of the holy name of God: “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. Our leaders may not be teaching us about God, but if we constantly chant His name, we can be in direct contact with Him. Krishna is the original name of God, meaning “all-attractive”. Anyone, be they a Christian, Jew, Hindu, or Muslim, can chant His name and derive the same spiritual benefit. There is no difference between God and His name, so if we all practice saying His name on a regular basis, we can again create an atmosphere where He is respected. Such a situation will make everyone happy.