The Ancient Caste System – A Brief Overview

Caste is mentioned in certain verses throughout the Bhagavad Gita.

A brief introduction to the ancient caste system is needed.


Purpose & Basis

The ancient caste system was created to help individuals fulfill their experience of joy in life. Caste is determined by the state of spiritual evolution, not by parentage. When a person’s state of spiritual development is understood, then communities may be designed to meet the needs of each individual. Until the various needs of each individual are met, long-term peace is not sustainable.

Caste is based upon the human structure as defined by the science of the Sankhya philosophy. Briefly, Sankhya states that consciousness is prime. Without consciousness there is no existence. Through will power, or intention, the undisturbed consciousness creates a vibration. This vibration is energy.

In essence, one eternal thought creates forms through will power. Will power creates the vibration of energy. Through a series of degradations, energy materializes into form according to intention.

The human form is supported by a subtle energy system. Within this system there are seven dominant controls centers of consciousness, commonly called chakras.

Once external forms are created, consciousness assigns labels to them. The four castes are labels assigned to the four stages of human spiritual evolution.

The Four Castes

The four spiritual castes correspond to the lower four chakras. The Sudra caste (or “worker”) corresponds to the coccygeal chakra. The Vaisya (or “business person”) corresponds to the sacral chakra. The Kshatriya (or “warrior/artist/leader”) corresponds to the lumbar chakra. The Brahmin (or “enlightened human”) corresponds to the dorsal chakra.

Sudra Caste – Workers 

The worker perceives only matter and does not understand or care about more subtle realms. This caste is lethargic, and motivated mostly by pain and fear.  These humans are satisfied with a little food, and a few possessions. They are concerned with animalistic procreation and enjoy gross sensual experiences.  They easily accept what community leaders tell them and will suffer an entire lifetime without rebelling against oppressive power structures. While this caste has the potential for higher self-awareness, introspection and breath based meditation techniques are not a progressive path for them.

Vaisya Caste – Business People

Business people understand subtle concepts intellectually and do not have to experience physical proof to accept something as being real. Business people are able to apply material laws of science and mathematics. This caste may also expand upon intellectual principles and concepts. They are able to compare and have opinions about what constitutes a better life. They do not easily accept pain and fear as motivations. This caste rebels against perceived injustice and may choose to die for their cause.

Notably, the Vaisya caste approaches life as a series of goals. Humans at this stage of evolution determine what they want and take logical steps to achieve it. They look to others for both good and bad examples of living. They are very concerned with what their peers think about them. Their introspective life measures their accomplishments and failures by the yardstick of other examples in their community. Collecting things and experiences is of great importance to this caste. Greed for excess wealth, sexual promiscuity and addiction to intoxicants is common for this caste. With a little effort at introspection and meditation, this caste may glimpse the inner life of subtle energy and the corresponding sense experiences, like inner light and sound.

Kshatriya Caste – Warrior/Artist

The warrior/artist is consumed with battling the senses. With a little concentration the warrior/artist can create things of great beauty and joy. Or they can create material destruction and devastating misery.  The Kshatriya’s perception may spontaneously extend into the essence of any topic or thing. With developed concentration, the warrior/artist/leader may gain any desired understanding.  This caste is the historical basis for the gods of mythology and the current inspiration for tales of comicbook superheroes. The Kshatriya will test and apply their understanding to the physical world. They reveal new insights and establish new trends of thought. They are creative leaders. They help to define previously undiscovered laws of spirit and nature.

Brahmin Caste – Enlightened Humans 

The enlightened race is aloof more often than engaged.  They are beyond introspection because they view the physical human experience from the perspective of the dorsal, a higher energy center of consciousness. Human incarnation during this age is attractive to those Brahmins who seek the experience of creating communities and even entire physical worlds according to their own design.  Brahmins use thought guided by their selfish will power to redirect and recreate civilizations.

In a future post, I will cover caste in much greater detail. This over-simplified explanation is intended for the casual reader of the Bhagavad Gita.

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Ancient History

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