By Bal Ram Singh, PhD
Brahmana (Brahmin) has been a Varna described for those who not only train themselves during the brahmacharya period of their lives, and use that training and trait the rest of their lives, but also engage themselves in innovating and renovating the Brahm by living the concept comprehensively, under the guidance of their natural instinct as their only goal of life.
While there are many in India and elsewhere who claim to be born in a Brahmin family, thus getting exposure to at least some external practices of those who may have acted out their natural instinct of the swabhava, the qualities of a Brahmin as outlined in Bhagvadgita (18.42) are quite comprehensive for someone to act in accordance with that diktat.
शमो दमस्तप: शौचं क्षान्तिरार्जवमेव च |
ज्ञानं विज्ञानमास्तिक्यं ब्रह्मकर्म स्वभावजम् || 42||
śhamo damas tapaḥ śhauchaṁ kṣhāntir ārjavam eva cha
jñānaṁ vijñānam āstikyaṁ brahma-karma svabhāva-jam
With a typical textual meaning as the “Tranquility, restraint, austerity, purity, patience, integrity, knowledge, wisdom, and belief in a hereafter—these are the intrinsic qualities of work for Brahmins”
Looking at these characteristics in a more elaborative manner, these nine qualities include brahm astik which is not that one believes in the existence of the Brahm but to constantly live with the goal of experiencing it as such. How a Brahmin’s natural inclination navigates this is an important aspect to understand. It starts with the Vigyan which is derived from the Vishisht Gyan, meaning specialized knowledge. This specialized knowledge is not an external one but that special as the internal one, which is so special that no one else can even claim to know.
When that special knowledge is externalized to comprehend the rest of the world, it leads to the knowledge or gyan beyond just the specialized one. The gyan then makes one comfortable with each and everything that one comes in contact with to be accepted as part of the Brahm. A Brahmin at this stage remains so pure in its form of Brahm that it is in peaceful and patient in all conditions of life. It provides the clarity and cleanliness at all three levels of one’s existence, viz., manasa (at the thought or mind level), vacha or at the speaking level, and at the karmana or pursuit level.
Such characteristics expressed in their swabhava is non-negotiable when it comes to their behavior, but they need to realize it through tapah (penance) and Swadhyay (self study) to understand Swadharma (subtle nature of principles) that defines them. It is akin, for example, to the agni (fire) having the nature of burning articles placed in it under all the circumstances without any discrimination.
All that said, there is so much controversy about the varna and jati, the latter being translated as castes, and many critical theorists jumping on every opportunity to more aptly castigate the original system of the varna, actually meant to empower individuals by appreciating and providing opportunities for their advancement and further development in the society. Some of this has the basis in the behavior of so called the modern Brahmin class that has its own misunderstanding of their social practices or more appropriately the lack those of.
It is, therefore, important to consider or even challenge the superimposed definition and self-imposed misunderstanding of this very important segment of the society. I have personally challenged the prevailing view of the Brahmin class at least since 2001 when I announced my intention to set up a Brahmin Samaj while giving a lecture at the Jabalpur University. This was done with my utmost respect for the true Brahmin class but with my skepticism of the existence of a true Brahmin today, whose life is integrated in renovation and innovation of brahmacharya.
I had announced, and stand by my announcement even today, to provide personal funding of a $1,000 annual contribution to the Brahmin samaj if we can have even a single Brahmin with the qualities and practices outlined in the Bhagvadgita. Not a single person or group has come forward to claim the offer as yet. I believe that if a true Brahmin, even a single one, existed, it will make the real brahmacharya knowledge prevalent to solve the ignorance problem that exists in the world today.
Yoga becoming increasingly popular, Yama being its integral limb, and the brahmacharya being the direct connection of one’s access to Brahm that connects each of us to the everything else known and unknown in the universe and beyond, a proper understanding of the brahmacharya in the practice of true Brahmins is eagerly awaited.
Balram Singh is a Professor and the President of the Institute of Advanced Sciences, Dartmouth, Massachusetts, researching Ayurveda, Yoga, Vedic education, and Vedic social and political traditions. He
is also adjunct faculty at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi.
Disclaimer: The views expressed are not necessarily those of The South Asian Times