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Bhagavad-Gita Chapter 4
|by BS Murthy|
So in this chapter as with the previous one, there are interpolations galore. Slokas from 24 to 32 that are of religious/ritualistic nature seem clearly out of context and character. Prior to this seemingly interpolated body of eleven slokas, the nature of the Supreme Spirit and the conduct of those who realize it are dealt with. Thus, the discontinuity in the text brought about by the body of these interpolative slokas would be self-evident. Among these is s24, in which the nature of Brahman is described in terms of sacrificial fire, the oblation, its ladle, and the sacrifice et al, an antithesis of the Gita at any rate. And the other slokas of this group that describe states of yogic practices may be enlightening in their own way though out of context. But s34 that advises Arjuna to seek wise counsel is irrelevant in the context of the discourse fashioned to set his fears at rest in the battlefield of Kurukshetra itself.
That brings us to the first of the caste-oriented precepts in the Gita - chaatur varnyam mayaa srustam (s13). The plain reading of this sloka would have us believe that the Lord Himself created the four-caste system, of Brahman, Kshatriya, Vaisya and Sudra, to suit the inclinations of a given soul towards certain earmarked calling of social and spiritual life in this world. And then, as a rider that is vague at the very best; Lord Krishna says that though He is the author of it all, He should not be deemed as the doer. These so-called caste characteristics and duties as well figure in s 41-s48 of the concluding chapter, which are discussed therein.
It is imperative that we try to see whether these solkas belong to the original text, or are mere later day insertions, meant to sanctify the Aryan caste credo with the underpinning of 'exclusivity of duties' through the venerated Gita. It should not be lost on one that s11’s return of favour by the Lord is juxtaposing to the stated detachment of His as espoused in s14. On the other hand, s12 that is akin to s20,ch.7, itself an interpolation, and s13 do not jell with the spirit of the philosophy.
Just the same, one school of thought tends to view chaatur varnyam as a way of general differentiation amongst men. However, this would not cut much ice since common sense suggests that Lord Krishna would have been aware that this turn of phrase is likely to be viewed in caste colours rather than in general terms. That being the case, the Lord would have been circumspect in his word choices to convey his scheme of things governing man’s birth if they aren’t as narrow as the Aryan caste system propounds.
Or is the chaatur varnyam His real will, whether one likes it or not? The answer could be found in the Lord's averments as one reads on. The four types of beings the Lord identifies by their nature and disposition are - the virtuous, the vile, the passionate and the deluded. Isn’t the proposition that people of a given nature and disposition could be bracketed into one single caste so absurd? After all, even a given family provides many shades of human nature in its members, won’t it? That being the case, could Krishna be so naive as not to know about it! Above all, hasn't He declared in s 29 ch.9,
Slokas like chaatur varnyam that would be encountered intermittently in the Gita are but mischievous, if not malicious, interpolations meant to buttress the Aryan caste prejudices and thus should be dismissed as such.
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