'Freedays' are the 'gather our thoughts' days; Q&As; a general review of the week so far…
The idea of working towards something which has no perceivable substance, indeed is beyond even science (currently) to detect, for many folk seems somewhat pointless. All sorts of reasons and justifications are put forward as to why we don't bother. Yet the yearning for a greater meaning and purpose to life is - after simple survival - a key facet of being 'human'. Those who cannot, or choose not to, take up personal philosophical researches will almost always find something to take its place; a deeply involving hobby, a 'communing with nature', involvement in charitable works and volunteering.
Then again, there is a significant proportion of society which fails even to do this much. Self-improvement, for them, is entirely selfish and applies only to acquisition of material things, being 'the boss' of others, having name and fame. Or notoriety.
One of the questions which is often asked by newcomers to Vedanta, particularly from non-Indian background, is 'how come there is such a variety of personality'? The system called Tri-gunaaH goes a long way to explaining this. Sattva, Rajas and Tamas have been explored minimally thus far in our study here and despite the exotic-sounding names to the English-speaker's ear, the concepts make some sense. We all recognise the temperaments of the alert but quiet, the restless and always busy, the slow and the lazy. Of course, rarely does anyone fit neatly and squarely into a single category. There are bits of all three within us and all can show up at one time or another. Nor everything about our personal makeup can be explained this way, though. Needless to say, there are further expansions on the makeup of the human being in this philosophy.
Varna. Study of varna comes in more advanced texts. However, it is one of the most misunderstood and misused terms of the entire Sanskrit tradition and is worth some clarification at this point.
Varna is erroneously translated into English as 'caste'. The system of classification has also been misused within India due to unscrupulous groups feeling privileged and using this system to create artificial social divides. Let us be clear… every society upon earth has a social system. This does not make social inequality correct, but it is important to acknowledge its existence. It is unavoidable due to the very differences of personality under discussion. What needs to be made clear is that the original intention of the differing 'classes', as given out in the Purusha Suktam, was not to create such division as has been witnessed, but to explain why, even within a single family, we get such a wide range of temperament.
Varna actually is better translated as 'colour' or 'hue'. Again, the system applies no matter where we live. To be 'Brahmin' is to be intellectual and studious with a meditative disposition and being well suited to scholarship, teaching and such. To be 'Kshatriya' is to be extrovert and active, keen on physical activity and being strong on strategical analysis, therefore suited to the likes of administrative and military work. To be 'Vaishya' is to be more inclined to the substance of life and having a preference for commerce, farming and the arts/crafts. To be 'Shudra' is to have an interest and skill for the more labour-intensive pursuits such as building, care working and the like.
Again it must be stressed, like the trigunas, every human being has all of these qualities inside, but there will be one or other which dominates in our personality. Our dominant varna, coupled with our dominant guna, seasoned with our vaasanas, tempered by our environment and current life experiences all add up to our 'personality'.
All 'new age' self-improvement techniques are essentially based upon this, even if they don't know it! As we explore more about the makeup of the human incarnation of the jiiva through Vedanta, the more we come to realise that nothing is 'new' at all. The complete explanation and exploration of what it is to be human is to be found within Vedantic philosophy… if we are ready to take on its challenges, if our inner combo of varna+guna+vaasanas is balanced 'just so', we can change the course of our existence for the better. The 'better, may simply be to have less hassle as a result of our altered outlook, or it may be a complete transformation of how we approach life each and every day. How much better is in our hands and according to our will to make the improvements.
Is that not an idea worth the working for?