As I write this article there are pictures on the news of hundreds on people lying on the ground simulating the unjust death of George Floyd, a black man, by an officer of the law. People on the streets all over the country are demanding action, demanding that the police be reformed, defunded and/or disbanded. Cries of “racism” echo throughout the land. In the news, some of the talking heads are saying it’s “a few bad apples” and others warn of a more systemic problem. Is it individuals on the police force or the institution itself? Will new laws, like no “chokeholds” etc, mean anything at all? Everyone seems to agree that no one should be treated the way some of the police are treating some of the citizens.
It is quite evident the training and education the police receive is woefully inadequate. And because of the nature of their work, this sink hole in their training becomes apparent sooner or later. In fact, many of society’s ills can be traced back to our poor educational system. Where are the leaders to take responsibility, to set a proper example, and serve all the citizens of the land?
There is a Vedic aphorism, athato brahma jijnasa: “Now is the time to inquire about Brahman – the absolute truth.” “Now” means at any time and under any circumstances. By pursuing this inquiry we can begin to understand our relationship to the world around us and the nature of the soul within. This will bring us to a happier, stress-free lifestyle, and to the ability to think and act more clearly. An important part of any education is learning how to find out and address the root cause of a problem.
In ancient India, one man approached the leaders of the kingdom with an angry complaint. Right after his wife had given birth, his newborn child died. How could this happen? Something was amiss in the kingdom. And he blamed the leaders. He called them impudent and he demanded justice. Justice needed to be served. Things needed to be set right. Some of the leaders trembled behind closed palace doors. But Arjuna, the great warrior prince, came forward and vowed to find the root cause. And if he didn’t, he would enter fire.
So, those in a position of authority have a grave responsibility. There has been so much criticism of police behavior lately. Angry complaints of injustice. With all the demonstrations and unrest, the leadership is trembling, trying to figure out what is the best course of action to take. No one wants to handicap or penalize the police force. Yet, how can we prevent racism from filtering into their ranks? Basically, this has to be addressed in the training and education the police receive. For the police to do their job properly, they need the holistic education that Lord Krishna’s teachings in the Bhagavad Gita and the Vedic paradigm provide.
In the 18th chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna describes the four natural divisions of society found in cultures all over the world: 1) brahmaṇas, 2) kṣatriyas, 3) vaisyas 4) sudras. There has been quite some confusion about this system since India has been mired in the caste system for hundreds of years. The Bhagavad Gita tells us that the divisions are not based on birth (as in the perverted caste system), but on our propensities, activities and intentions in life.
1) Brahmanas -The scholarly, reflective class gravitates toward professions like teachers, researchers, doctors and priests.
2) Kṣatriyas – The administrative and protector class are dedicated to upholding justice and the orderly working of society.
3) Vaisyas – The mercantile class are farmers, entrepreneurs, and bankers.
4) Sudras – The laborer class are people who like to work with their hands and who find employment with the other classes.
These four divisions are respectively compared to the head, the arms, the torso and the legs. The different parts of the body are working together in unison. It would be foolish for one part of the body to think it can exploit or abuse another part. The police are part of the “protector” or second division. Krishna explains in this 18th chapter (18:43), “Heroism, power, determination, resourcefulness, courage in battle, generosity and leadership are the natural qualities of work for the kṣatriyas.”
The greatest service we can offer to the police is to provide continued training so they can be trained in these principles by which the Ksatriyas work. These men and women serving the public deserve to become the natural leaders they aspire to be.
Also, by studying the Gita, we can learn not to judge people by their racial or ethnic identities because we’re not the body. The body is only a temporary vehicle for the eternal soul. And all of us eternal souls have a common father, Sri Krishna, the Supreme Soul of souls and the Lord within all of ours hearts. In this way, the study of Bhagavad Gita, can help us to understand “what actions should be done and what actions should not be done. . . what is to be feared and what is not to be feared. . . and how to distinguish between what is moral and what is immoral.” (Gita 18: 30-31)
Sankirtana Das is a longtime resident of New Vrindaban and an award-winning author and storyteller. He recently published Hanuman’s Quest, acclaimed by scholars and authors. For more info about his work see www.Mahabharata-Project.com