In the last session of this particular course, which is an introduction to Oriental Philosophy, I tried to condense the fundamental principles of what you can call the central viewpoint of Hinduism, Vedanta. Not so much the doctrine, as the experiential realization of what you are, is basically it is the same as the root of the ground of the universe. In other words in the Atman, the Self, is Brahman, the ground of being. Now today, I want to relate this way of playing hide and seek, with the very design of Hindu society. Because Hinduism is difficult to characterize as a religion, especially because we belong to a religion where in its institutionalized form, it can very well degenerate into a religion that’s for Sundays only. That doesn’t apply to every detail of life. In other words, when a Hindu brushes his teeth, it’s a religious act. There is not such a thing as a Christian way of brushing the teeth. But in Hindu life, all the details of life, are Hinduism.
So then, underneath all the presuppositions of Hinduism, can be found a transition from one kind of culture to another from my hunting culture to an agrarian culture. And this explains a great deal about this way of life. Now in a hunting culture, which is a culture on the move. Nomadic. Every man knows the whole culture. In other words, you do not get a high specialization, division of labor. A man who is a hunter has to know how to make clothes how to skin animals, how to cook them, how to shoot them, how to train them. He has to know everything kind of skill, because he’s often alone. And in a hunting culture, you do not get a special division, of priesthood from ordinary people. Every man, in his own way, is capable of being a priest, but some moreso than others, not by virtue of any ordination all schooling that they have received, but by their receptivity. Because the priest, or holy man of a hunting culture is called a shaman. A shaman is an individual who separates himself from society for a certain period, and goes alone into forests all mountains to commune with what he will usually call the ancestors. That is to say, with his basic origins. And he will find something, by way of a spiritual experience, for himself, not through any teacher, not through any previous authority. He finds it genuinely on his own. And the shaman therefore goes into solitude, to find out who he really is. Because in society everybody is busy telling you are, and you rely on others to see yourself but to find himself in other words to find out what all this really is all about, the spiritually minded man of the hunting culture goes alone. And so the culture of the American Indians, is to a very large extent hunting culture and you will find the spiritual man of the American Indians is a shaman.
However, when the hunting culture becomes settled, it becomes agrarian, there arises farming, looking after the land, and then you get a completely different kind of society. Let me suggest that it’s something like this: where do agrarian communities settle? Where do they build a village? Usually at a crossroads, especially if roads be crossed with water. A river. And where the crossing meets, the agrarian village settles itself and protects itself by building a pale. We say a person ‘is beyond the pale.’ That means he’s an outcast, he lives outside that he’s a pariah. But in the village notice that the pale having been built around the crossroads, it divides the village into four sections. And oddly enough, there are four divisions of labor, in all fundamental agrarian societies.
And these consist of one, the priests. You know the word clever, clerk, cleric, and clear, are all the same word. It meant, someone who was literate. Clever, or so clear, put it down a clear, you can’t do that unless you’re literate. And so, if you’re a literate person, you’re a cleric, and clergy is the same word as a clever in Old English. ‘Much conceit of clergy’ is an old English phrase meaning, ‘he’s intellectually snobbish.’
So, that’s your process number one, cause number two, warrior, or incidentally, ruler. Three,merchant, or craftsman, and four, laborer. Unskilled. So now what are these? They are four castes, or four roles, and say in society, where the division of labor because an agricultural society is more complex than a hunting culture. We immediately get a division of labor, and we all play different roles. That is to say, we assume different masks, for purposes of living in this kind of community all of you you see are essentially our essentially clerics. You are what the Hindus would call Brahmen pals you are all being trained in the university.
So the Hindu name for this class is Brahmana, for this class Kshatriyas, for this class Vaishyas and for this class, Shudras. So those are the basis for the four castes. And so if you are in the pail, if you belong to the community, you have to be typified. They say ‘Is you is, or is you ain’t?’ into which of these do you fit? And you must fit into one of these. Now caste is something, of course, which has got a very bad then from the modern point of view both modern form the view with us, and with the modern India. Because they say once you get into a caste, you are stuck, if you have gone to it there are a laborer you must be. If you are born to a warrior, you must be a warrior or a ruler you will never become a character. And we think that’s pretty terrible. Because in our culture we work under the assumption that you as an individual are free to choose whatever occupation you will follow.
But unfortunately, this involves going to school. And for certain purposes, going to school is one of the worst things you can do. For example, if you want to become a completely fantastic expert carpenter, you have to begin the trade at the age of seven at the latest. And your father if he is a carpenter is obviously the best teacher you can have. In a very ancient form of agrarian culture, as in India or as in Japan or China. A young man who was son of a carpenter would become fascinated with his father’s occupation, and that would mean a very special relationship would grow up between him and his father which does not grow up in our product because most of us do not know what off of the doing. They go away to a mysterious office all factory where they do something called making money, as an incidental, as the main reason for the incidental occupation which they pursue there. But the children on the wife have no active part in that occupation whatsoever. They know Papa only as a kind of clown, who returns home in the evening having made money, and one dad’s money is the same as another dad’s money it makes no difference except that everybody wants more. They don’t give a damn how he gets it, so long as he doesn’t complain too much. So the child, instead of learning and participating in his close father relationship in learning an occupation or a trade, is sent off to an impersonalized institution, to be taught to be everything and nothing. And therefore doesn’t learn early enough any craft so as to become a true master of it. What is happening, for example in Japan, where a father can no longer apprentices some seven years old to become a carpenter, because he has to send him away to school, to learn to be an insurance salesman. He can’t teach his child and then comes high school and then with a kid gets out of high school is interested and girls. And it takes him until he’s about twenty-two to be able to settle down and on top of this today. Too late to attain real mastery, because a great Japanese cop and never uses a plan, he doesn’t need to draw does it all by. And can fit the most complicated joinery together. By eye. And it’s the same with the arts of weaving textiles, that making superb ceramics, jewelry, any kind of gorgeous craftsmanship, depends on beginning it as a child.
And so, we can’t buy it anymore in this country. There is not, on any kind of commercial basis great craftsmanship available here. We have to go abroad to get, to or so-called primitive societies. We must be content with plastics in the way. So it is something to be said for the castes of them I just wanted to present the other side of it. Now however, in going through this system, there are certain stages, whatever class you’re in. There are three stages of life, which are called Ashramas. Which really means abode. A Center for Spiritual study for practicing yoga will be called an Ashram, but an ashram also means an abode in the sense of a stage of life. And the three stated in are one, called Brahmacharya That means, the stage of being a student. Two, Grihastha, householder. And the third stage, Vanaprastha, that means forest-dweller. Isn’t that funny? Grihastha, householder, Vanaprastha, forest-dweller. Because you see, in this order of society, you come into society and you go through one of its acts as a Grihastha, householder. But when you arrive at a point in life where you have got a son. By Beth from yourself all by the marriage of your oldest daughter and a son who will take over your work. You give up being a householder, and you become a forest-dweller. In other words, you go outside the pail and back to the forest, with the idea of finding out who you really are. While you were in the community, you were playing a role one of the four roles, or it subdivisions and you came on as tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor, richman, poorman, beggarman,thief.
But that wasn’t the real you, that was one of the masks of the Brahman, the true Self behind everything. To find out the Brahman, who you really are, in order to get ready to die, you become Vanaprastha. Go back to the jungle, having fulfilled your work with the world. Now in practice in India, this means that the head of the house often moves to a cottage in the backyard. You know it because the time everything sort of becomes going through the motions. But the original idea, was that he became Sramana. From it’s almost the word shaman. A Sraman is a person, who’s gone back to live in the forest, and therefore he isn’t a god to society and up our There also log out. It’s those of the Aborigines. The people living in India before the Aryan invasion. Who later became the untouchables. They are not even Shudra, that outside caste together. Like the Indians in the United States. They are true untouchables in our cost system, and their plight is so much worse than the negroes its unbelievable. But they are costs so with the same thing happening. But the upper outcast is a man who goes wild. And in India society, you have the right to do that, you are respected if you voluntarily abandon the caste, and of course in doing so you give up your name. And you take another name.
Now taking a new name is taking a new identity. An Indian in society may be Mr. Mukupacharya. And that would be a family name indicating membership in a family. When he becomes a Sramana however, he will take a name such as Brahmananda. Bliss of God. He takes a divine name. And the original idea of a Christianname, when you were baptized, is that you gave up the name. Julius as you might be a Roman, and took on instead the name Mathew. One of the Apostles one of the divine beings of the Christian religion or you might take the name of an angel, named Michael. Or in Spain or Mexico even, Jesus. Jesus Maria would be perfectly reasonable for a man in Spanish culture. But you take on a divine name to indicate a transformation of your identity. But in this case, when you give up caste you see, and return to the forest, you become a nobody. And therefore you take one of the names off that which is no longer, namely the Brahma the supreme Self, because it’s no one in the sense that it’s all one. And therefore in itself nobody.
So you abandon caste and you abandon name, you give up property and you give up, both the responsibility and society is allowed to give up responsibility for you. If they give you alms if they support you that’s for gravy. They don’t have to do it, and you don’t figure that they go to. But this of this kind of society has a profound respect for people who leave it. And they feel that a society cannot be healthy unless it somehow pays respect to people outside the pail. To non-joiners and outsiders, who have indeed fulfilled some responsibility within society and then abandoned it. They would I think be a little uptight about hippies, who would abandon society before having fulfilled their responsibility in it. But in a sense, every Sramana is a sort of elderly hippie. Now of course, our hippies have a different problem in that they are critical of the very structure of the society in which they are asked to enter because they feel that it is a rat race, a game which has lost its quality. They might even prefer a caste-like society of this kind, in that it might have a bit more quality. Because you see, in our society one works, not as a vocation, in this scheme of things, every vocation you perform is called svadharma. And this word, the word dharma has many meanings. It means function, in one sense. It means, the thing that is right for you. Here, sva, is the same s the Latins source and so it is one of your own. What we would call your vocation. Svadharma. As we say doing our own thing. That’s svadharma.
And so, you have to find your own thing. As it were, a good thing out a job which you do purely for money can never be called svadharma. Because you’re doing it for another end, to make money which has a purely symbolic value but when you do a certain work because that is what is your thing to do you want to be a doctor, because you’re fascinated with medicine and all its problems and you just you like people so much that you want to heal them from the diseases. Or for the same reason, you might want to be a nurse. But you might be fascinate with problems of law and so become a lawyer or fascinated with religion and so become a minister then you’ve got a vocation, because you would do that thing whether it paid you very much or whether it didn’t, because that’s the one thing you have to do. If you’re a painter, you have to paint, if you’re a writer, you’re one of those crazy people who just has to write. I’m a writer! I have to write. Whether it makes me money or whether it doesn’t, I would still have to be a writer. That’s a svadharma.
And every possible vocation in caste is supposed to be YOUR thing, your svadharma. But we feel in our culture, you see, that we have such a tremendous choice of svadharma, that sometimes it’s what the French call on but embarass des richesses. It’s like embarrassment of riches when you’re confronted with one of those enormous menus in a restaurant which has some of the things on it you can’t make up your mind which to pick.
Well now, then you see as a person passes out of this he gives up social. And becomes a nobody he then in that sense he goes back to the forest. He goes back from the organization, the role-playing of the agrarian culture, to the solitude of the hunting culture, to find out who he is alone all by himself. And so he becomes in that sense the upper outcast. The man who is respected by those people who are still in caste, because they say without this kind of person we should lose our sanity. We should become confused with our roles, unless there’s always the homage in the forest to remind us. That man is not his problem that is something deep with him. And that the true end of man is to play the game of hide and seek for a while and to get lost in these roles, but then to return back to nature, back to the way of the forest. And in later life, as distinct from infancy, with all other experience behind [them]. Find out again who you really are so that when death. What a funny thing will happen. Death comes, and will find no one to kill. For while you are identified with your role, with your name, with your ego, there’s someone to kill. But when you are identified, with the whole universe, death finds you already annhilated, and there’s no one to kill.