What does Bhagvad Gita say on the ‘Caste system’?

Bhagvad Gita says qualities and values decide the ‘Varna’ of a person. There is absolutely no mention of birth or caste.

Five verses on the subject are discussed here.

Brahmanas are in Satv-gun


चातुर्वर्ण्यं मया सृष्टं गुणकर्मविभागशः
तस्य कर्तारमपि मां विद्ध्यकर्तारमव्ययम् -१३॥

Bg 4.13 — According to the three modes of material nature and the work associated with them, the four divisions of human society are created by Me. And although I am the creator of this system, you should know that I am yet the non-doer, being unchangeable.

What are the three modes of material nature?
Before moving ahead we need to understand what the three mode of material nature are.

Understanding the Satv, Rajas and Tamas Gun.

Material nature consists of three modes.
When eternal living entity (soul) comes in contact with nature, he becomes conditioned by these modes. These modes are Saatvik or Goodness, Rajsik or Passion and Tamsik or Ignorance. 
Saatvik Gun :      It is purer; It is Illuminating; it is free from sinful reactions; it gives a    sense of happiness and knowledge to the person.
Rajsik Gun:         It is born of unlimited desire and longings; It bounds      one to material fruitive actions.
Tamsik Gun:        It is born of ignorance; It creates delusion, madness, indolence & sleep; it binds conditioned soul (to repeated birth & Death, desires, etc).

To know more about the subject log on to: Understanding Satv, Rajas and Tamas gun 

Kshtriyas are in Rajas-gun 

Three Grades of Action/Work / Karma 
goodness (Satvik)

passion (Rajsik)

ignorance (Tamsik)

Action that is regulated and which is performed without attachment, without love or hate, and without desire for fruitive results.
Action performed with great effort by one seeking to gratify his desires, and enacted from a sense of false ego
Action performed in illusion, in disregard of scriptural injunctions, and without concern for future bondage or for violence or distress caused to others

Three Grades of Performers of Action / Workers / Karta
goodness (Satvik)

passion (Rajsik)

ignorance (Tamsik)

One who performs his duty without association with the modes of material nature, without false ego, with great determination and enthusiasm, and without wavering in success or failure
The worker who is attached to work and the fruits of work, desiring to enjoy those fruits, and who is greedy, always envious, impure, and moved by joy and sorrow
The worker who is always engaged in work against the injunctions of the scriptures, who is materialistic, obstinate, cheating and expert in insulting others, and who is lazy, always morose and procrastinating.

Three Grades of Knowledge / Gyan
goodness (Satvik)

passion (Rajsik)

ignorance (Tamsik)

That knowledge by which one undivided spiritual nature is seen in all living entities, though they are divided into innumerable forms,
That knowledge by which one sees that in every different body there is a different type of living entity.

That knowledge by which one is attached to one kind of work as all in all, without knowledge of the truth, and which is very meager.

Three Grades of Happiness/ Sukham
goodness (Satvik)

passion (Rajsik)

ignorance (Tamsik)

That which in the beginning may be just like poison but at the end is just like nectar and which awakens one to self-realization 
That happiness which is derived from contact of the senses with their objects and which appears like nectar at first but poison at the end
That happiness which is blind to self-realization, which is delusion from beginning to the end and which arises from sleep, laziness and illusion 

Explanation: Intelligent class of people technically called Brāhmaṇas are supposed to be situated in the mode of goodness or Satv-gun. Next is the administrative class, technically called the Kṣatriyas are situated in the mode of passion or Rajas-gun. The mercantile community called the Vaiśyas is situated in the mixed modes of passion and ignorance or Rajas-gun and Tamas-gun. Śūdras or the labourer class, are situated in the mode of ignorance or Tamas-gun.
Thus the tendency of a person towards work is determined by the modes of material nature which he has acquired.

Vaishyas are in Rajs-gun & Tamas-gun

ब्राह्मणक्षत्रियविशां शूद्राणां  परन्तप 
कर्माणि प्रविभक्तानि स्वभावप्रभवैर्गुणैः  १८-४१॥

Bg 18.41
 — Brāhmaṇas, kṣatriyas, vaiśyas and śūdras are distinguished by the qualities born of their own natures in accordance with the material modes, O chastiser of the enemy.
Shudra are in Tamas-gun

What are the qualities and values of Brāhmaṇas?
शमो दमस्तपः शौचं क्षान्तिरार्जवमेव  
ज्ञानं विज्ञानमास्तिक्यं ब्रह्मकर्म स्वभावजम्  १८-४२॥

Bg 18.42 — Peacefulness, self-control, austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, knowledge, wisdom and religiousness – these are the natural qualities by which the brāhmaṇas work.

What are the qualities and values of Kṣatriyas?
शौर्यं तेजो धृतिर्दाक्ष्यं युद्धे चाप्यपलायनम् 
दानमीश्वरभावश्च क्षात्रं कर्म स्वभावजम्  १८-४३॥
 Bg 18.43 — Heroism, power, determination, resourcefulness, courage in battle, generosity and leadership are the natural qualities of work for the kṣatriyas.

What are the qualities and values of Vaiśyas and Śūdras?
कृषिगौरक्ष्यवाणिज्यं वैश्यकर्म स्वभावजम् 
परिचर्यात्मकं कर्म शूद्रस्यापि स्वभावजम्  १८-४४॥
 Bg 18.44 — Farming, cow protection and business are the natural work for the vaiśyas, and for the śūdras there are labor and service to others.

In any society there will be people who will not be able to (or qualified to) take up the three higher professions. They serve the other professions for a living.

Can all the Varnas become perfect and attain God?

 The lord says "yes". The following verses explain this.

Bg 18.45 — By following his qualities of work, every man can become perfect. Now please hear from Me how this can be done.

Bg 18.46 — By worship of the Lord, who is the source of all beings and who is all-pervading, a man can attain perfection through performing his own work.

Bg 18.47 — It is better to engage in one’s own occupation, even though one may perform it imperfectly, than to accept another’s occupation and perform it perfectly. Duties prescribed according to one’s nature are never affected by sinful reactions.

Bg 18.48 — Every endeavor is covered by some fault, just as fire is covered by smoke. Therefore one should not give up the work born of his nature, O son of Kuntī, even if such work is full of fault.


There is ample evidence that the Varna system, which over the period of time deteriorated to modern caste system, was not based on birth. This famous verse is an example.
janmana jayate sudrah
samskarat dwij uchchte
veda pathnat bhavet viprah
brahma janati iti brahmanah
·        By birth every one is a shudra,
·        By samskars (learning & practice) he becomes a Dvija (i.e., twice-born- Brahmins, Kshtriyas and Vaisyas).
·        By learning (studying Vedas), he becomes a Vipra (religious person) and
·        By realizing Brahman, he attains the status of a Brahmana.

A perfectly God conscious person does not work at the level of body but at the level of soul. Thus he is transcendental to all divisions of human society, whether we consider the divisions of community, nation or even species. As long as a person thinks himself a body he is on the animal platform. He should know that he is a soul who has acquired a body.


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