Quality means quality of the material modes of nature. There are three qualities by which the material world is moving: the quality of goodness, the quality of passion and the quality of ignorance

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"Quality means quality of the material modes of nature. There are three qualities by which the material world is moving: the quality of goodness, the quality of passion and the quality of ignorance"

Lectures

Bhagavad-gita As It Is Lectures

Quality means quality of the material modes of nature. There are three qualities by which the material world is moving: the quality of goodness, the quality of passion and the quality of ignorance. Those who are situated on the quality of goodness, they are called brāhmaṇas. And their symptoms are also mentioned in the Bhagavad-gītā. I shall give you a statement of those systems. Now, those who are situated on the quality of goodness, they are called brāhmaṇas.
Lecture on BG 2.46-47 -- New York, March 28, 1966:

Now, we have to understand this very cautiously. The first thing is that, He says, karmaṇy evādhikāras te. Everybody has got his particular position, and according to his position, there is particular work also. That is the system all over the world. Now, according Bhagavad-gītā, the, by the division... Not according to Bhagavad-gītā, according to Vedic conception of life, the human society is divided into four divisions according to the quality of work. In the Bhagavad-gītā also, we find the cātur-varṇyaṁ mayā sṛṣṭaṁ guṇa-karma-vibhāgaśaḥ (BG 4.13). The caste system, cātur-varṇyam... Perhaps you have heard about Indian caste system. That caste system is natural. Of course, in India it has become a hereditary thing, but this caste system is all over the universe, even amongst the animal society. That division of caste is made according to quality and work. Quality and work. Now that caste system, that quality and work, is divided according to the... Quality means quality of the material modes of nature. There are three qualities by which the material world is moving: the quality of goodness, the quality of passion and the quality of ignorance. Those who are situated on the quality of goodness, they are called brāhmaṇas. And their symptoms are also mentioned in the Bhagavad-gītā. I shall give you a statement of those systems. Now, those who are situated on the quality of goodness, they are called brāhmaṇas. That quality of goodness is current all over the universe. So anyone situated in that quality, he is brāhmaṇa. And those who are situated in the quality of passion, they are called kṣatriyas. And those who are situated in the quality of, mixed quality of ignorance and passion, they are called vaiśyas, or the mercantile community. And those who are situated in the quality of ignorance, they are called śūdras, or the laborer class. So in this way there are different classes and different castes all over the world. You may call it caste or division of labor or division of the society. These four divisions are there all over the universe: the intelligent class, the administrative class, the productive class and the laborer class.

So the intelligent class, they have got separate department of duty. The administrative class, they have also got separate department of duty. Similarly, the mercantile class, they have got separate activity. And the laborer class, they have only one activity, to serve others. That's all. Because they cannot do anything independently, therefore they have to offer the service to the higher class, to the administrative class or to the mercantile class or the intelligent class and take some payment for his livelihood. So these divisions, these divisions... So the Lord says, Lord Kṛṣṇa says, that "According to your quality, you have to do your duty." You just... Just you can... Hereditary or by your own choice, you can have your own duty. But there is no question of that one should be idle. No. If you are intelligent class, then you have to take to intelligent quality of work, just like you must become a scientist, you must become politician, not politician, philosopher. You must be a religionist or so many intelligent class of work. So you must engage in that way if you are actually intelligent, if you belong to the intelligent class. Now, if you are administrative class, then you must take to the politics or election, be elected the mayor, be elected the president or something like that, and work in that way. And if you belong to the mercantile community, then you must do business and produce agricultural grains and distribute them. That is your business. In the Bhagavad-gītā you will find that the mercantile class... Who are mercantile class? Kṛṣi-go-rakṣya-vāṇijyaṁ vaiśya-karma svabhāva-jam (BG 18.44). Vaiśya means the mercantile community. They are meant for giving protection to the animals, and produce grain, and distribute and make trade on them. That's all. Because formerly there was no industry—people generally depended on agricultural work—therefore the mercantile community, they used to produce food grains and distribute them, and protection of cow was their duty. As the king was entrusted to protect the life of the citizens, similarly, the vaiśya class, or the mercantile class, they were entrusted to protect the life of cow. Why particularly cow is protected? Because milk is very essential food for the human society, therefore cow protection is the duty of the human society. That is the conception of Vedic literature.