Al Campanis and Class Consciousness
During an ABC Nightline tribute to baseball great Jackie
Robinson recently, host Ted Koppel's guests included Los Angeles
Dodgers' Vice President Al Campanis. During the course of that
now famous interview, Al Campanis said quite unabashedly that
blacks lack the "necessities" for positions as baseball managers.
That comment caused a great deal of protest, especially from
black rights advocates and the pressure shortly cost Campanis his
job. Although Campanis was being totally frank about what he
thought were the qualifications of blacks, he may have also
"lacked" the necessary foresight to see what such controversial
comments would provoke.
Today, we now live in an "enlightened" age where classes just
don't exist. We've arrived at a time where "equal rights" are
key buzz words and any hint of inequality can cause a great
According to the science of Krishna consciousness however,
different classes of people do exist, always. The trendy idea
that all types of men are equal in all respects is based on nice
sentiment, but practically or philosophically, is not valid.
Lord Krishna is the creator of the system of varnashrama-dharma
which is the division of society into four civilized classes and
orders of life. Briefly stated, the four varnas or classes of
human society classifies men by their guna and karma (qualities
and activities) and is not determined by race or hereditary.
In our American history, we understand that being white meant
one was a first class man and others, especially black, meant
being lower class and exploitable. Although such exploitative
racial mentality finds expression in some existing fringe racial
supremacist groups, the proper system of class divisions is
propagated within the Krishna science.
That Vedic system holds that four classes of men are absolutely
necessary for the proper functioning of any civilized society.
Fourth class men, known as the shudra class, generally act as
faithful and skilled laborers, artists and musicians. Third
class men, known as vaishyas, serve society through animal
protection,--especially cow protection--agriculture and business.
The second class of men known as kshatriyas, serve society by
performing heroic deeds of protecting defenseless citizens like
the aged, women and children and the other three nonviolent
classes of men. They also engage in governmental affairs.
Finally, the first class man or brahmanas are those who engage in
learning, teaching and setting the example for others in the
matter of advancing the whole of society in progressive spiritual
culture; specifically in advancing in the science of devotional
service to the Supreme Lord Krishna.
In comparison to that God-created social system, we have the
democratic system of government as created by man. There is
nothing wrong with that style of society when it is done
according to the motto, "In God We Trust," however, when God is
out of the picture, there is every cause for doubt in any man-
made system of civilization.
Everyone should be given the opportunity to become a first
class man. Due to differences in everyones psycho/physiological
constitution, a man can and will accept the socially beneficial Šduties of a first to fourth class man as individually suitable.
In the Vedic class structure, there was no question of seeing any
such class as various degrees of degradation because each class
was absolutely necessary for proper functioning of society as a
whole with their respective grave responsibilities.
The Vedic class system can be compared with the physical body.
The fourth class laborers can compare with the legs; the third
class businessmen, the belly; the second class administrators,
the arms; and the first class intellectuals, the head. One
cannot say that the legs are not necessary; however, in
comparison, the head is most vital. Similarly, without proper
guidance from the first class men, society is "headless" or
without knowledge about the proper direction the social body
We can look at modern society and see many differences between
that Vedic varnashrama system of society and the present
classless society. Some obvious differences are that today's
administrators who would normally fit the second class
description as leaders of government, do not actively engage in
physical warfare as the kshatriyas had done. Prabhupada would
point out that leaders of state would declare warfare from their
comfortable offices against another country, and war would
continue for years on end without conclusion. In the Vedic
system of warfare, when the King was killed, war was finished.
Also, fighting today is not done according to rules and
regulations, but anything and everything may be done to finish
the enemy, up to and including the mass annihilation of innocent
women, children, etc.
Secondly, our farmers who would normally fit the description
given to third class men in the Vedic culture, do not protect
animals, but rather they maintain mass production
slaughterhouses. Especially sinful is the slaughtering of cows
which, from a purely practical point of view, are the most
beneficial of animals. She abundantly provides all the
nutritious dairy products. In return, our society cuts her
throat. These cruel actions and the exploitation of animal life
in general ultimately takes its toll upon such an animal killing
Our intelligent class of men--typically scientists--are not
employed in understanding and establishing the subtle and sublime
science of Krishna consciousness and therefore leading ideal God
conscious lives, but they are actually being employed by the
fourth class type of shudra men in the form of businessmen in
order to exploit the resources of nature to the max. They use
their brains to speculate on various philosophies about the
nature of life, but such godless theories cannot do any good to
help relieve the soul from the bondage and miseries of material
life. "In the future,..." is their typical slogan for promising
a better life tomorrow through chemicals while leading the whole
society down the road of atheistic speculation.
Modern women have been trying to declare equality to and
independence from men. As a result, women are encouraged to
engage in free sex and consequently must abort their babies or
beg alms from the government for assistance. In the Vedic
system, women were given all protection by their husbands,
fathers and sons; provided for adequately along with children,
and never allowed to roam freely under the plea of equal rights. ŠIn this way, society was relatively free from prostitution and
children were practically guaranteed a family with mother and
The Indians who have traditionally engaged in varnashrama-
dharma have abused this system by understanding it in a different
way. Their social corruption began when they started to think
that class qualification was due to hereditary rather than by the
above mentioned qualifications of guna and karma (inherent
qualifications of the person). They thought that if the father
was first class man (brahmin) then the son must necessarily also
be first class. This theory caused the downfall of the Indian
caste system. The existing class system as followed by
contemporary Hindus is practically valueless because it still
believes class is a function of hereditary and race.
When Prabhupada started the Hare Krishna movement, his aim was
to create a section of first class men who were fixed in the
principles of Krishna consciousness and who could guide the
misdirected world civilization out of its ignorance about the
supremacy of God. The idea was, when foolish man tries to
compete with or ignore the laws of God being overly proud of his
meager technological achievements, only misfortune follows. Such
first class men, trained in the authorized principles of Krishna
consciousness, could help save society from material and
spiritual degradation and suffering.
The whole idea behind participating in any of these four
classes of society would be to create a peaceful God-centered
civilization and make gradual advancement in Krishna
consciousness. Then one could naturally and easily gain tangible
proof of the existence of God through realization within his
heart by the mercy of Krishna.
In the Vedic civilization, there would be no scope for
participation in mundane athletics. As such, the participants of
modern baseball, football, golf, bowling, etc., could be employed
in more socially beneficial activity like performing labor
related tasks or training in various fighting skills meant for
protecting the citizens from bad elements.
Campanis could have said that from his own personal experience
he felt that blacks generally excel in athletics and therefore
would not be likely to be attracted in competing in the work
world of baseball management. That may have been a reasonable
assessment coming from a man experienced in the athletic field.
However, because he said blacks have no qualifications to compete
in the world of management, he was simply echoing a racial
Indians sometimes feel similarly toward Westerners in this way.
Because India is home to a comparatively strong religious culture
it is, by definition, considered further advanced in civilized
life than the rest of the Western technologically based world.
As such, sometimes Indians shun Western visitors from their
temples as well as remain culturally independent. This action,
at least has shown to be sometimes wise as Indians generally do
not eat meat and are not generally infected by other culturally
degrading and typically Western practices. That Indians find
divorce, promiscuity, pornography and homosexuality unacceptable
in finding a place in their society is not bad. Rather it is a
sign that their culture is trying to withstand the onslaught of
Western sexual mores. Also, their country is relatively free Šfrom AIDS.
No matter what type of culture or race one belongs to, there
may be some inherent ethnic characteristics. But no matter if
one Indian, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Christian or Hindu, he
can accept the duties of a first, second, third or fourth class
man and gradually make advancement in Krishna consciousness.
The artificial movement today is to infiltrate all areas of
work with a proper proportion of whites, blacks, women, and
hispanics. According to the Krishna science however, this racial
representation is artificial. Society should be reorganized so
that only proper varnashrama divisions exist so that everybody is
working constructively toward cultivating Krishna consciousness
and not engaged in wasting time with chasing balls all around.
The reason one is given a specific duty within society is not to
fill some whimsical quota but to serve society according to ones
qualifications. If one is qualified to be a president, he should
do it no matter if he's white or black. But what is the scope
for arguing about who will manage a team of ball chasers all
summer long? "Give this black man a chance at managing the ball
chasers. Now give this woman the opportunity...." The fault is
no one is seeing the value of advancing in spiritual life but
they are wasting time on useless activities.
One reaches the perfection of life when one comes directly to
the devotional service of Lord Krishna. Rather than concern
oneself in the duties of various classes of men, he engages
directly in the service of Krishna and his actions are always
done under the direction of Krishna and His bona fide
representative. As such, he engages himself in the most
beneficial welfare activity for suffering society; that is,
educating everyone in the science of Krishna consciousness.
Anyone, regardless of caste and creed, can come to the
perfection of life and engage in the loving service of the
Supreme Lord Krishna. Such a person knows that the true identity
of the living entity is not black, white, Catholic or Hindu, but
he sees that everyone has accepted a material body due to his
desire to enjoy the pleasures and pains of material life. He
sees that everyone is a part and parcel of Krishna and that the
goal of life means to come in contact with Krishna through
The father of the Krishna consciousness movement, Lord Shri
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, wanted the cult of Krishna consciousness be
spread throughout the world. He did not mean for the fifth and
tenth classes men keep their abominable behaviors and become a
so-called brahmana. He meant that everyone be delivered from the
clutches of sinful life through the process of chanting the holy
names of God such as Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna
Hare Hare/Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare. Through this
easy performance of sacrifice, they all can be reclaimed to the
platform of pure devotional service which means above brahmana.
The leaders of society should take advantage of the Krishna
movement and establish the varnashrama system so that society can
be organized according to the directives of Krishna. This is a
practical system to see that the motto, "In God We Trust" is
instituted. If God is not put in the center, class distinction,
battle for supremacy and desire for first class treatment on the
artificial platform will always be there. But if God is in the
center, everyone can be constructively engaged according to his Šabilities with a view towards advancing in understanding God
which is the goal of life.