Caste, Culture and Cosmos
by Patrizia Norelli-Bachalet
A reflection on the ways in which Dharma can be eternal; on the cosmic linkages of the caste system, and on the roots of astrological knowledge which is sacred time-axis that integrated and harmonized Vedic civilization.
Let us explore these premises to see if this is indeed the case, and if so,whether that cosmic connection is truly alive in the same way it was of old, confirming the eternal nature of the Dharma. We need to discover what the nature of that “thread” connecting the present to the past is, and to understand in what way a Dharma can be “eternal”, and the element required to make it endure in this special manner.
The zodiac is the oldest repository of knowledge in the world, traces of which have been found throughout the globe. In spite of this, no clear understanding has emerged of its place of origin. Of particular interest is the fact that the zodiac has come down to us through the ages intact. We find this ancient system of knowledge in the remnants of all the old civilisations west of the Indus, but also in the world’s oldest and most hallowed Sanskrit text, the Rig Veda.
The so-called “western zodiac” – technically known as the Tropical Zodiac – is very accurately recorded in the extant verses to Vishnu (RV, I.154). However, there are indications that by the time the Rig Veda was actually penned and moved out of an exclusively oral tradition, much of the knowledge in this so-called “western” form of the zodiac was by then lost, or at least it had gone underground. Its unmistakable presence in this ancient text reveals that the zodiac was not only fully known thousands of years ago in India, but that this could well have been its place of origin. Indeed, scrutinising the knowledge contained in the twelve symbols and hieroglyphs discloses the fact that an unbroken thread binds the civilisation of the subcontinent to a core of ancient wisdom that flourished in ages gone by, but that is still evident in the cultural and social fabric of contemporary Indian society.
The fact that the zodiac, as it is used today in the West, has not been detected in the Rig Veda is because it was thought to have reached India only in the first millennium, many centuries after the Vedas were recorded. No one knew, therefore, what to look for, considering that any such traces could not possibly exist. This discovery proves that it was the foundation of the ancient lore that was somehow lost in the subcontinent, and was actually re-imported in the early part of the first millennium. The reason for this roundabout turn of affairs is interesting to note. It clarifies certain aspects of contemporary society since the unravelling of this mystery, given the unbroken thread of the knowledge; can perhaps throw light on the solutions that might be available to long-standing problems; for example, the problems posed by a persistent caste system.
Again, we may turn to the Rig Veda and, similar to the zodiac, we find the foundations laid of the castes (RV X 90.12). By foundation is meant its cosmic moorings. The reason this degraded system is so persistent in Indian society is that its origin and source of life is the cosmos itself. Thus, as long as the cosmos lives, the caste system will continue to thrive.
However, the cosmos as a living organism partakes of the ingredient found in all organic processes: it evolves, it continuously mutates. Everything that emerges in this cosmic manifestation is born of motion and is perforce subject to change. If this were the entire story, we would be justified in assuming, as Buddhist tradition sustains, that the cosmic manifestation by its very nature is impermanent. And further, all that is born into this maddening dance of energy must succumb to the laws of impermanence: it must be born and live and die. According to these traditions, in stark contrast to the Vedic, the only reality lies beyond the cosmos, precisely because of this continuous change. Dynamism was eschewed, the truth of that which moves, as it was known in pre-Buddhist times, was lost. Only a static peace that does not succumb to change and hence decay was considered worthy of a seeker’s efforts and could lead to a poise beyond this cosmic impermanence.
Indeed, from the approximate time of the rise of Buddhism, which influenced a number of schools of thought and yogic systems, the civilisation of the subcontinent has abided in a depleting conflict in its quest for the highest truth and resolution of a seeming paradox: rest or motion, statics or dynamics, stability or change. It is this long-standing conflict that caused, and continues to breed, a depleting undermining of this last remaining civilisation founded on the ancient knowledge that is still intact in the symbols and hieroglyphs of the zodiac. Succinctly, we could define the lore contained in the zodiac as a hymn to that which moves. Certainly the Rig Veda is a superb example of a seer’s vision of this cosmic Truth.
The schools of thought preferring statics were posterior to the Vedic age and represent the beginning of a decline of that ancient civilisation. We can trace the decline through the ages, again with the help of the same tool. For Vishnu’s famous three strides of his universal movement, through the so-called “western” zodiac as preserved for us in the Rig Veda, give us the key to the development. In the verses, Vishnu becomes first a Lion, then a bull in his second step, and finally a Friend in the third and “highest” stage. If there was any doubt as to the connection with the so-called western zodiac, when the seer calls the friend the “highest step”, any objection must be silenced since the sign of the friend, Aquarius, does indeed fall in the highest quarter of the zodiac.
These are three of the four fixed signs of the zodiac in the backward motion of the precession of the equinoxes. The fixed signs are Vishnu’s own, for they are the signs of Preservation, his special quality. The only sign left out is Scorpio, from where Vishnu begins his measuring. Its higher form is the Eagle. And this would be Vishnu’s vahana, Garuda. The correspondence is unequivocal.
In a later text the same signs, in the same order, are used to describe this cosmic phenomenon and the fixed signs. They were of such importance in former times, and well through the Vedic age, that they formed the famous sphinx of Lion, bull, man and Eagle. In this exact order they appeared in the early post-Vedic Christian text, The Revelation of St John. Though this text, the last book of the New Testament, is a firm pillar of the faith, its zodiacal content, similar to the Rig Veda, is ignored.
And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle (The Revelation, Chapter 12,7.)
In exploring the significance of these “steps” and their time factor, we will learn of their relevance for contemporary Indian society, since the ancient lore was not an abstract philosophical exercise. As the “axis” of the civilisation, it was a cosmology applicable to all areas of existence.
Time and Cosmos
When we say that Hinduism has an evident “cosmic connection” or that the Hindu gods and goddesses represent cosmic energies, for a fuller understanding it is necessary to analyse just what this cosmic substance, that permeates society till today means. The connection is maintained from ancient times to the present precisely because of the cosmic foundation of Hinduism or the Sanatan Dharma (the Eternal Law). Concurrently, in discovering the mechanism that keeps this “connection” alive, we also shed light on the “eternal” element embedded in the law.
Festivals are of singular importance for the Hindu population. Two elements conjoin to make the celebrations auspicious. One is space: by virtue of pilgrimages to numerous sacred points on the Indian subcontinent; the other is time: the correct location of a particular festival within the prescribed calendar. Festivals/pilgrimages were thus stretched across both time and space. They were integrated in a harmony derived precisely from the cosmic surround. In this way the whole civilisation was integrated.
Though being politically divided, we know that throughout the ages Vedic civilisation enjoyed complete integration because of its cultural integration via the worship of the numerous cosmic energies (gods and goddesses) and the ability to connect these energies to specific points on the globe, straddling separate kingdoms. In this manner, though there were separate fiefdoms, there was that ever-present underlying thread uniting the land and all its inhabitants.
Any priesthood or any prophet or single ruler did not impose adherence to this cultural harmony. It arose and was maintained because the integration of time and space in the subcontinent was an organic development arising from the cosmic harmony itself. Adhering to that and locating this harmony in time and space was the uniquely integrating factor.
The Year, Or The Divine Measure
The Earth year of 365 days served as a sort of time-axis around which all citizens were held, as if a mysterious force compelled attachment to this axis. Thus it was that the year assumed singular importance as a divine Measure in Vedic times. It formed the backdrop in the process of transformation of consciousness and the transmutation of energy described in the Rig Veda. The “sacrifice” or the “journey” of the Aryan Warrior led by Agni the first of the Gods, takes place in stages within the 12-month year. However, it is the tenth month/stage that is especially important, as the hymns reveal. The tenth month still today holds a special place in contemporary Hindu society through the yearly celebration of Makar Sankranti, corresponding to the tenth zodiacal sign, Capricorn. It is said to be the period of the victory for the traveller of the ancient Vedic way. Throughout the world astrological schools honour this “victory” along with India by sustaining that Capricorn is the subcontinent’s ruling sign.
The point to be made with the example of the Makar Sankranti – the apparent entry of the Sun into Capricorn –is that the year served as the “cosmic connection”. All festivals and worships found their place within this divine Measure of the earth, connected to planetary cycles; nothing fell outside this sacred framework, for indeed no creature exists on this planet who is not subjected to the eternal law of Mahakala – the Great God of Time.
If time was such an important part of Vedic culture, and particularly the year, it is understandable that strict disciplines were required to assure that fidelity to the cosmic harmony was maintained. Jyotish, translated commonly as “astrology”, formed a central feature in the ancient knowledge governing the culture because it was this sacred science that lent legitimacy to all the rest. Ancient “astrology” was significantly different from its contemporary image in that today predicting future events is the sole aspect of the art that is practised in India; whereas, in ancient times jyotish was not concerned with predictions. It was considered the most sacred of all the Vedangas (limbs of the Veda) because through this science alone could the correct cosmic connection be made. Thus, all the festivals and rituals enjoyed a unique harmony of time and space because of this sacred science of old. The backbone of the entire civilisation was this elusive but potent spinal column of time, holding the body of Bharat Mata to herself in her myriad manifestations of cults, sects and paths, and even of separate kingdoms – each of which was able to find its correct place in orbit of this hallowed time-axis.
Onset of a Decline
Around 250 BCE a decline began. It was the beginning of the 9th Manifestation comprising over 6000 years. This decline is a process covering over 2000 years into our present era. From the second century BCE and during this period, a breakdown of the old formations of the former 8th Manifestation began (the Mahabharat age) to rid the evolutionary movement of encumbrances. If the sacred time-axis was the element that integrated and harmonised Vedic civilisation, to undermine those firm but elusive moorings an infiltration had to take place into the sacred science that was the keeper of the culture’s time keys. All that was needed therefore was to dislodge the axis, or else to undermine it to the point where it would slowly but surely lose its firm grounding in the cosmic process.
Interestingly, this undermining was achieved with remarkable success and ease, because essentially it was a wave that engulfed the whole world. The methodology was to separate what hitherto had been indivisible. Thus, jyotishlost its central function as keeper of the time keys when the science of astronomy evolved as a secular system, devoid of any sacred purpose. This apparently more enlightened position spelled the ultimate disintegration of the civilisation, as it was known in Vedic times, because secular science lost the connection with time and imposed its brand of unsacred insights on the ancient science of jyotish. It did so by a direct attack on that axis of the civilisation: the sacred measure of the year.
To be brief, the measure was lost by creating doubts about the legitimacy of the measuring mechanism employed. In Vedic times – and this is fully corroborated by the ancient texts, such as the Vedanga Jyotish, those penned before the onset of the decline – the infallible device for deciphering the cosmic harmony and reproducing it on earth was precisely the Makar Sankranti. This entry or gateway into the sign Capricorn was the main festival of the year because in honouring this annual passage the entire civilisation was gathered to pay homage to Mahakala; and to be assured of entering into that harmony at the correct point in time. There was no elaborate measuring device, no need of atomic clocks or complicated mathematics. All that was needed was to determine the shortest day of the year. This was easily accomplished.
The sanctity of the December solstice and the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere was the binding energy in other ancient cultures – the Greek, the Roman – where it was called the Saturnalia, or the main festival of the year in honour of Saturn, ruler of Capricon (Makar). In Persia this cosmic phenomenon was also considered of singular importance. Thus, in order to draw believers away from Persian Mithraism – the principle worship of the Middle East and beyond, having spread to Rome as well – the early Christians arranged the birth celebrations of Jesus to occur on this same festival, which was one of the main celebrations in the flourishing cult of Mithra at the time. Even in contemporary cultures this practice is common, and for the same purpose: to wean indigenous people away from their cultural moorings and cosmic connection. This was labelled paganism, bearing derogatory implications.
Thus, year after year, the entire Vedic civilisation reaffirmed, via celebration of this passage, its allegiance to the Great Time and re-established or re-located itself around that time-axis of the earth, special among all the planets in our solar system. Indeed, even today Capricorn (Makar), ruled by Saturn or Chronos, is known as the sign of the Time-Spirit, Mahakala.
In so doing a number of objectives were served. One, as mentioned, was the integration of the culture using this single and unique measurement; and two, the benefits that accrued by way of a release of time’s energy into and through the civilisation as an eternal rejuvenating and invigorating device, based on the sacred science of jyotish. This condition attained individually as well as collectively, led to that blessed state of immortality, the goal of the Aryan warrior’s journey within the measure of the year.
Science, as separate from the sacred, emerged in the subcontinent and imposed its secular character within a relatively short span. The savants, the seers, the sages entrusted with preserving the knowledge of time were forced underground, a world-wide phenomenon. That the sacred sciences traditionally required a life of total dedication and adherence to certain customs and practices that assured the proper poise of consciousness of the measurer, and a purity that created an atmosphere in which all beings prospered. (The famed school of the sage Pythagoras at Croton in Southern Italy approximately 500 BCE) is a case in point. Geometry was the most sacred of all sciences and in this school its practitioners were expected to follow a strict discipline for purification, in order to render justice to the science. This was identical to ancient Bharat.)
Secularisation of society finally left it with only empty forms of once-hallowed vessels, because of which the preservers of the knowledge, traditionally the Brahmin caste, were divested of their unique mission for the culture. Since there was no caste to fulfil this function of measuring according to the ancient system, all castes lost their distinct cosmic credentials. The credentials that gave the Brahmins their legitimacy, gave legitimacy to the other castes as well. The dismantling of harmony through the loss of the divine Measure thus afflicted every member of society, wherever he or she might be located in this system born of time and cosmos.
It is no exaggeration to state that the failure of the civilisation to protect itself from alien invasions was preceded by this single act of undermining. Nothing more was needed to ensure the ultimate collapse. Regardless of how long it would take, collapse would be inevitable. As time moved on, this mis-measure would take its toll and, as an additional misfortune, it would accumulate with each passing hour and year, bearing predictable results. Stretched across hundreds of years, the excess would serve as an inert mass or a residue of dead weight, holding back a vigorous forward movement. Such a civilisation, linked as it was to the cosmic process, would ultimately succumb to the force of inertia.
The time-axis of Hindu society was dislodged long before the first invaders appeared. It was thus crumbling from within; but the strength of the ancient system is revealed in that despite this strategy of undermining, it has taken almost 2000 years to reach the point of near total collapse. Or, as Sri Aurobindo called it, a “critical crossroads” of the nation’s destiny. Never like today has India faced such a “crisis of destiny”. Predictably, never like now has the civilisation experienced such utter confusion regarding its time structure affecting the whole society. This has reached the point where there is no consensus among the contemporary pundits regarding the truth that lies right before their eyes: the shortest day of the year or the Makar Sankranti. The result has been that this hallowed and ancient-most festival, traditionally the holder of the culture’s time keys, is celebrated 23 days after the shortest Earth day of the northern hemisphere.
This is the simple yet infallible strategy that would bear accumulative effects across the centuries, precisely because of the unbroken thread of Hinduism through its “cosmic connection”. It is the only civilisation on Earth today that bears such an affliction. While we may boast of this cosmic connection and take pride in its continuity, we must realise that a responsibility attends this “connection”, and a price has to be paid if we disregard its exacting laws.
“History” and Cosmos
In light of the above, it becomes evident that a true understanding of India’s past cannot be gathered through studies valid in dealing with other existing cultures and civilisations. If pre-Islamic Egyptian civilisation had survived, the predicament would be similar. We would impose on that society methods of analysis suffering from a severe limitation – precisely ignorance of the “cosmic connection”. Ignoring this reality, which constituted the binding force of cultures in ancient times, India’s among them, little could be truly understood. This holds for now deceased civilisations, but it is even more pertinent to a discussion of India’s history. Indeed, given the presence of the somewhat tattered though unbroken thread extending from the very distant past into the present, one must question how any clear picture can emerge of the contemporary reality while ignoring this cosmic foundation.
There is an appreciable uniqueness to India’s heritage. “History” has not been recorded on the subcontinent in any way similar to other civilisations. Instead of chronologies easily located in time and place, we have a collection of sacred texts that must suffice. What we call myths have been, for the ancients, historic records entirely drawn from the cosmic script. More particularly, the mythic stories in the Puranas recorded the recurring cycles of time and the unique psychic quality of the culture in that the tales, in which time plays its binding role, are drawn from the soul as a mirror of the vast cosmic harmony.
The Hermetic dictum, “as above, so below” is the method by which these visions arose in the consciousness of the seer (one who sees), and were then recorded. They could be understood in either of two ways: by following the same procedure of inner discovery; or else, by a superior knowledge of jyotish. In other words, history of the Vedic civilisation was structured within the framework of the cosmic script. Insofar as the cosmic manifestation is an eternal unfolding, with no evident beginning or end, that record, if properly anchored to the wheel of time, is itself eternal. But if that anchor were to be dislodged, it would be safe to state that “history” for such a civilisation would come to an end.
The “History” of the Epics
The Ramayana and Mahabharat arose from the same source. This is amply borne out by the fact that both have followed meticulously the same cosmic script. This brings us to the next topic for discussion, which will further strengthen the appreciation of India’s unique destiny and the tools for its preservation. Indeed, preservation is the key word in this section of our analysis.
The epics deal with the appearance of two of the legendary ten avatars of Hindu tradition, Sri Ram and Sri Krishna. They are the seventh and eighth in the Line of Ten. The Dashavatars are said to be emanations of Vishnu, the Preserver, a fact borne out by the so-called western or Tropical Zodiac. Not only do their evolutionary missions confirm the connection their appearances have to this same cosmic script, now ignored in India, but by adherence to the dictates of the ancient system out of which these epics arose, we can know when the two avatars appeared. Similarly, based on this sacred wheel of Time, it is possible to move through the astrological ages and, with the details provided by the seventh and eighth make discoveries regarding the ninth and tenth with considerable precision.
This would be a lengthy discussion and can be left for another time (see The Gnostic Circle, Aeon Books; The New Way, Vol. 1&2 Aeon Books). Suffice to state that the Epics were the means to describe that great Cosmic Womb of eternal Time and the civilisation’s position within that universal time structure. Concurrently, the inherent purpose, or the destined contribution of the nation to the evolutionary process, can be known from this cosmic language, so accurately documented in the lives of the evolutionary avatars, Sri Ram and Sri Krishna.
The singular importance of the seventh and eighth appearances – as well as the ninth – was highlighted already in various verses in the Rig Veda that refer to the stages in the “journey” leading to the Victory in the tenth month. The seventh, eighth and ninth stages/months (and the equivalent astrological ages of their descents on Earth), are considered the most difficult and perilous. These can be months of the year, as well as the ten “months” of the astrological ages, insofar as all emerge from the same cosmic womb and conform to the well-known laws of equivalence and correspondence. For this purpose, the primary key of knowledge contained in the ancient Vedas is the dictum “one day for one year”. In other words, the day is equivalent to the year in that the Earth, in revolving around her axis in 24 hours, exposes her eastern horizon to the entire 12 signs of the zodiac on the celestial ecliptic, just as the planet is exposed in the course of the year to the same twelve signs or segments of the ecliptic. The wheel or circle is a single unit; it is merely a question of proportions.
Then there is the larger measurement (of the same circle), the one that Vishnu “measures out” with the three strides of his universal movement. This “measure” (steps) delineates the precession of the equinoxes, a celestial harmony that moves through the same circle of signs but in a backward motion, a “precession”. In that larger movement, the Earth is “exposed” to these twelve signs in this backward movement, just as Vishnu has measured out, in a span of 25,920 years – or 72 years for each degree of the zodiac.
This is an eternally valid measure. It held sway over ancient Bharat; it holds sway today. All that is required to understand, or to be able to read the script is the proper key. With that sacred measure we can move through the Epics and the Puranas with a true understanding of the history they record, and move into the present holding on to the same unbroken thread of time. We observe today that the first segment of 72 years into the current astrological Age of Aquarius was completed in 1998. That is, in an unbroken chain of time from the ages of Ram and Krishna to the present. This means a continuity covering at least 12,000 years.
To appreciate the mechanism of time in its more complete character, it needs to be borne in mind that every end is a beginning in this wheel that knows no end. We are dealing with a sphere, an eternal manifestation. But the ancients had the knowledge of the correct entry point into that spheric eternal harmony. That was the task of the ancient seers, a knowledge lost today. The consequences of this loss for such a civilisation are far-reaching.
The Process of Renewal
The end of one 72-year period and opening of the next (1998) is simply a central point in an 18-year period (1989-2007), during which nine years prior to this point an accelerated breakdown occurs of the old structure to provide for emergence of the new. Similarly, the next nine years (1998-2007) mark the transition segment when new forms emerge. This can be corroborated simply by reviewing the stunning collapse of the old binary superpower structure, when in 1989 – precisely the start of the transition period – the disintegration of one pole, the USSR, took place.
The entire world is experiencing the breakdown of the old order in a quest for new solutions, new ways to accommodate the demands of the emerging unitary order, as we seek to restructure a fast-emerging global civilisation. In this process, the ancient moorings of India are threatened with collapse and complete disintegration as never before. The reason for this is that solutions sought for India disregard those ancient moorings, or that cosmic connection which still lends the pulse to India’s destiny.
From time to time, efforts are made individually and by various institutes and groups to instil new life into the carried-over elements of India’s unique culture. This takes the form of an emphasis on the forms adopted by the civilisation to express its essence, be it music, sculpture, dance, architecture, or the numerous handicraft arts handed down through the centuries. What is overlooked in this effort is that one has to deal with essence if a true renaissance or renewal is to take place and prove lasting.
This holds particularly for India given her cosmic moorings. In other words, a revival of the various arts is insufficient unless the breath that instils life into these forms is aroused to set in motion an eternal act of renewal. This “breath” is akin to the self of the human being. Or, as the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad informs us, Time is the Self of the Horse sacrificial, when the universe arises in the seer’s vision in the form of a horse. Thus, it is time that instils the cosmic breath into the universal manifestation. Ignoring this basic truth lays waste all well-meaning attempts at renewal, including a revival of the eternal dharma.
The real threat today is that the moment has come when either we re-establish the true measure, with all that this signifies, or the connection is severed forever. In such a circumstance, a “new destiny” will emerge, ultimately bearing little resemblance to the original Vedic seed.
This is the critical crossroad of destiny that India faces. It stands to reason that if continuity is to be maintained, carrying the original vision into the present in a real act of renewal, respecting that vision and its dictates, the correct cosmic connection has to be made. All the rest will follow suit.
The Brahmin as Symbol
Each day in the 365-day year, in Brahmin households renewal or re-establishment is enacted, strengthened. This occurs through recitation of the Gayatri Mantra of the Rig Veda. It is a blessing and perhaps a divine strategy that this sacred recitation does not require any special “science” to inform us when it should be done. It is linked to the rising sun, that is, to the Earth’s divine Measure of the day and the year, and balanced on the fourfold cardinal points of the globe which describe the solstices and equinoxes; today, in contemporary India, as in ancient times, for example, the ages of Ram and Krishna, and even deeper into the womb of time.
The time of the rising sun has not been tampered with by the emergence of a secular science because sunrise is a self-evident fact. However, our festivals, connected as they should be to the same measure and axial balance, do not adhere to these self-evident facts. Namely, the solstices and equinoxes, though the scriptures and ancient mathematical/geometrical treatise are centrally concerned with this earthly phenomenon.
The paradox then exists that Brahmins seek to reinvigorate themselves society and the world through knowledge of the sacred mantras they are meant to preserve, while secular science has infiltrated the hallowed halls of Vedic science and forced these same individuals to deny what their eyes affirm. They will establish the date and time of festivals which affect the whole society disregarding the self-evident facts of the shortest and longest days of the year. Elaborate explanations will be given to support what their eyes deny; but these arguments cannot lay claim to any sanction from the Veda.
The Makar Sankranti is the same act of renewal but spread throughout the entire civilisation. The Brahmin performs the act individually; and by this daily purification and connection with that cosmic womb of the Mother, he or she can extend the process through the formula, one day equals one year, to the whole of society and to the world.
But herein lies an interesting point: the bane of contemporary India is a society in which citizens think only of themselves and do not care for the well-being of the community. Corruption describes the full development of this egocentrism. The Brahmin renews the cosmic contact daily, in perfect accordance with the harmony; but he/she has lost the keys to the larger vault of time influencing the entire civilisation. This discrepancy mirrors the true and realistic state of India today. It also explains the extent of degeneration of a system that survives only in name. The keys are lost to the proper measure of things, which put each element of society in its true place within the whole, expressive of its higher purpose.
When the Brahmin caste, preserver of the tradition and keeper of the time-keys, was undermined and finally de-sanctified, the act of measuring and renewal passed entirely into the hands of secular science. The result has been noted by the Calendar Reform Committee. Discussing the adoption of the Nirayana (or sidereal) calendar, and not the tropical, or the so-called “Western” method:
In continuing to follow the Nirayana system, the Hindu calendar makers are under delusion that they are following the path of Dharma. They are actually committing the whole Hindu society to Adharma.
Can we reverse the course of evolution? Can Time be stopped and set in a reverse mode? Obviously this is impossible. What, then, is the answer to a renewal that will instil life into these near defunct forms?
For the truth is that an ancient society still bearing a connection with its hoary past and believing itself to be preserver of the Sanatan Dharma, cannot afford to carry the burden of dead forms. Eventually those forms will be overbearing. They become the favoured tools of inertia. An example would be the caste system; and the extent of damage such an encumbrance can bring to a civilisation will be made clear.
Caste and the Cosmic Order
The caste system is of very ancient origin. We may safely state that Vedic civilisation was founded on this system because it too arose from the same cosmic vision. In its fourfold order it mirrored the fourfold order of the universe. This is borne out by the oldest references to caste in the Vedas. The framework for this description is the celestial sphere depicted as the Cosmic Purush in the seer’s vision, out of which “being” the castes emerge:
…When they divided up the Purush,
into how many parts did they divide him?
What did his mouth become? What his arms?
What are his legs called? What his feet?
His mouth became the Brahmin; his arms
became the Kshatriya, his legs
the Vaishya who plies his trade
The Shudra was born from his feet. (RV X 90,12)
At a later date in the development, we find Shri Krishna in the Gita explaining that this system corresponds to a divine law, it ‘was created by Me’, says the Lord, ‘according to the divisions of the Gunas and works.’ In the Gita, the emphasis is on the gunas within the fourfold order. This is borne out by the cosmic script on which the order was based. Each section of the fourfold division consists of three gunas. Thus, the brahmin, the Kshatriya, the Vaishya and the shudra, all bore within the three qualities or gunas.
The same circle that was used to measure Vishnu’s three strides is used to demarcate the four great castes. And just as the same circle, similar to any circle, consists of 360 degrees, so can the four segments of 90 degrees be broken down into smaller divisions within the original fourfold 90. Out of this fourfoldness we have the four major castes and their sub-divisions.
This ancient caste system mirrors the cosmic order for the Earth. Just as our own solar system reposes on the four cardinal points, and the equinoxes and solstices come into being for the Earth because of her axial tilt, so does theChaturvarna draw its life from the same crosswise division. Thus, while the brahmin pays homage to the Sun at its rising each day, he or she is making a connection to the eastern point, or what would be the March equinox in the annual progression. This daily act of renewal is meaningless if the cosmic direction is ignored or eliminated. The four castes are entered in Diagram A, in the position they correspond to in the celestial harmony, reflected on Earth through the same celestial sphere that describes the Earth’s orbit of the sun and her cardinal points. We note that the northernmost cardinal point is the highest, considered cosmic midday. The corresponding zodiacal sign is Capricorn (makar). The caste is the brahmin. Hence, the importance given to the annual renewal on Makar Sankranti, and to the caste meant to preserve this sacred lore of time, destiny and cosmos.
Originally caste was not rigidly a birth right based on family or a biological determinism. Even today when a person realises God through any path, he or she is said to have stepped beyond caste by birth determinism. This was the case in ancient times as well. More importantly, the individual’s horoscope was the determining factor. One could read caste in a natal horoscope then as now; for today also there are astrologers who fulfil the same function when reading a birth chart. This is irrespective of the caste determined by biological heritage.
Today we are burdened with this system of now empty forms because the ability to read the harmonies correctly is disappearing. And those who may possess the wisdom are ignored, or even harassed or ridiculed. Only the upholders of empty forms thrive and hold society under their sway. In this manner, a system taken from the cosmic fourfold order, intended to bring society into that greater harmony by reproducing it on earth, becomes an albatross around its neck when sense and purpose are lost with the loss of the divine Measure.
In such an event, the spheric properties of the harmony are replaced by linear conceptions devoid of time’s circular and eternal qualities. Thus the fourfold circle (diagram A) becomes a triangle (diagram B), with the lowest of the four segments as the base (the shudra) and the brahmin the apex. In other words, unlike in diagram A, where ALL CASTES CONVERGE ON THE SAME CENTRE, or have equal access to whatever is central to society or belief, in the linear conception the lowest has access only through the upper segments/castes, and is subjugated to the determinism of rank. This describes visually the degenerated fourfold order when the (circular) time key is lost. The same circle of the fourfold caste system (diagram A) is the day of 24 hours, the month of 30 days, the year of 365 days; and also the greater cosmic year of 25,920 years. Truly we must say: All is One. But to benefit from and to live in the consciousness of that oneness, and to be its representative and instrument on earth, one factor is crucial; That is, all these superimposed measures on that single circle have a unifying component essential in order to knit this diversity into a united fabric expressive of both unity as well as a unified multiplicity. It is the correct knowledge of the Zero point – the single element that unites them all and sets the harmony in movement in accordance with the divine measure.
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