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The Varnasrama Social System



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His Divine Grace
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
Founder-Acarya of the
Hare Krishna Movement

There is a natural system of social organization which can bring about a peaceful society where everyone is happy. This system is described in the timeless Vedic literature of India and it is called Varnasrama dharma.

The purpose of the Varnasrama social system is to provide a structure which allows people to work according to their natural tendencies and to organize society so that everyone, regardless of their position, makes spiritual advancement.

People can only work with a cooperative spirit if there is a central point. Over the years proponents of many different political ideologies have tried to unite society by providing such a central point, however, these attempts have all ultimately failed.

Generally people work for their own pleasure and this is sometimes extended to working for the family, the nation or even the whole world. Because the aims and aspirations of the members of society are so varied it is practically impossible to achieve a peaceful situation as everyone is working to fulfill his own personal goals.

The only universal central point around which everyone can work is God. He provides an absolute, eternal center for all our activities. If we try to make something else the central point the resulting society is doomed to fail.

The Varnasrama system recognizes there are many different types of people who may not be spiritually inclined. The society is organized under the direction of qualified brahmanas and is divided into four occupational and four spiritual divisions in such a way that everyone is serving God simply by performing their occupational duties. As the entire society is arranged to please God, anyone working within the society also pleases God.

The Structure of Varnasrama Society

The practical application of the Varnasrama system is to divide the society according to four occupational and four spiritual orders of life.

The Varnasrama system recognizes the natural talents and abilities of each person and provides work according to a persons qualities. There are four qualities of work, the brahmanas are the intellectual and priestly class, the ksatriyas are the government, the military and the administrative classes, the vaisyas are farmers and businessmen, and the sudras are workers.

There are also four spiritual divisions, brahmacary, student life, grhastha, married life, vanaprasta, retired life and sunnyasa, renounced life. If this system is properly implemented under the direction of qualified brahmanas the result will be peace and prosperity throughout the world.

The Corrupt Indian "Caste" System

The Varnasrama social divisions are based on qualities and work. If someone has the qualities of a brahmana and if they work as a brahmana they are accepted as a qualified brahmana. This system should not be confused with the corrupt "caste" system of India.

In India people claim to be brahmanas simply because they are born in a brahmana family even though they do not possess the qualifications or qualities of a brahmana and in most cases they are not working as brahmanas either..

The result of the corruption of the original system has been the destruction of the entire social structure in India and the "caste" system is now being used by the rich to exploit and oppress the poor.

Divisions According to Qualification

In Varnasrama society all members are equally important. An analogy comparing the social body to the human body is given to explain this. The brahmanas are the head of the body as they possess the intelligence and give directions to the other parts of the body. The ksatriyas are likened to the arms of the body as their business as administrators and the military is to protect the social body from threats from outside (attacks from enemies) and disruption from within. (Thieves and rogues).

The vaisyas are likened to the stomach. The stomach provides energy to the body. The vaisyas, as the productive class, are the farmers and businessman who produce and distribute food to the social body. The vaisyas are also responsible for protecting the cows.

The sudras are likened to the legs as they provide the manual labor required by the social body.

We look after our whole body. It is not that we attend to problems affecting the head and neglect problems in the legs. The body works as a coordinated unit and a problem anywhere in the body causes a disruption to the proper functioning of the whole body and is therefore immediately attended to.

The social body should work as a coordinated unit with different members of the society acting in their respective positions as brahmanas, ksatriyas, vaisyas and sudras according to their qualities. The result will be a happy, peaceful and efficient society.

  • The Brahmanas

    Although all members of the social body are important, as the brahmanas are the intelligent class directing society by giving guidance and advice to the king or government (ksatriyas), it is vital that they be properly qualified.

    If the head of society is not functioning properly the whole social body is in trouble.

    All over the world we are seeing misguided governments make the lives of their citizens hell, simply because they have no qualified brahmanas to give them advice.

    The whole planet has become very unfortunate and disturbed due to such unqualified leadership.

    The brahmana's position is that of an unpaid adviser to the king or government. The business of the brahmana is to understand the Vedic Scriptures and be expert in applying them in different places and at different times.

    The Vedic system doesn't require the creation of any new rules or legislation The perfect laws have been given by Manu, the father of mankind in the Manu Samhita, and the qualified brahmana simply implements these timeless laws. There is no need for imperfect man made laws.

    The qualities of a brahmana are given in the Bhagavad-gita as peacefulness, self control, austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, knowledge, wisdom and religiousness and all of these qualities must be actually manifest before someone can be accepted as a brahmana.

    • Giving Charity to the Brahmanas

      On special days such as the birth of a child, marriage and other auspicious occasions it is customary for the ksatriyas and vaisyas to give in charity to the brahmanas. The ksatriya king is wealthy because in return for giving the citizens protection he levies taxes. The vaisya farmers and businessmen are wealthy because of their farming and trading activity. The brahmana takes whatever small amount is required to maintain himself and his family and he distributes the rest of the charity he receives for the benefit of thepeople in general.

      Because the brahmana is intelligent and an expert in spiritual matters he can understand how best to distribute charity. It is for this reason in Vedic society charity is given to the brahmanas. It is not very intelligent to give charity to unqualified persons, for they will simply squander it. For example if you give a drunkard money, it will be used for purchasing alcohol, not food. Such charity is charity in the mode of ignorance and is not very auspicious.

  • The ksatriyas

    The ksatriyas take the positions of king or politicians and the military.They administer society according to the directions and advice of the brahmanas.

    Their qualities are given in the Bhagavad-gita as heroism, power, determination, resourcefulness, courage in battle, generosity and leadership.

    • The Perfect King

      A good ksatriya king is strong and just, he acts according to the advice of the brahmanas, he is loved by the law abiding citizens and feared as death personified by the thieves and rogues.

      In a country ruled by a qualified ksatriya king the citizens are protected and thus they develop good qualities and are peaceful and happy. Because the king is strong and honest the citizens have no fear of being disturbed by thieves and rogues or by attacks from invading armies. They also have no fear of being plundered by unfair or exorbitant taxation or dishonest government officers, as such a strong king will quickly correct any corruption within his own ministry.

      The lives of many saintly kings are described in Srimad Bhagavatam and we recommend those interested m hearing more about the the qualities and activities of such great souls study the Srimad Bhagavatam..

    • The Problem With Modern Government

      In modern governments we find many politicians and government officers who are simply interested in a good salary and a comfortable life. They achieve this for themselves and their colleagues by levying exorbitant taxes and creating an ineffectual and bureaucratic top heavy government.

      The citizens under the rule of such an unqualified government are most unfortunate. They are not protected from thieves and rogues from within the country. Instead they are exploited by the governments taxation system. Excessive taxation is levied to maintain the ineffectual top heavy bureaucratic system. No one can be happy in such a difficult position

    • Selection of Members of the Government

      Unless a person has the qualities of a ksatriya he should not be given the position of king, president, prime minister, minister or a military man.

      If the men in these positions do not have the qualities of a ksatriya (heroism, power, determination, resourcefulness, courage in battle, generosity and leadership) then the government becomes unworkable and the society suffers due to lack of protection.

      Currently, all over the world, the people in general are suffering because the governments of the world are full of unqualified persons who have no idea of the process of creating a fair society and maintaining law and order.

  • The vaisyas

    The vaisyas are responsible principally for the production food and the protection of the cows. It is the duty of the brahmanas to understand the Vedic Scriptures and give guidance to the ksatriya government and military who, in turn give directions to the vaisyas and the sudras.

    The qualities of a vaisya are given in the Bhagavad-gita as farming, cow protection and business and they work to provide the society with the required food, clothing and other goods.

  • The sudras

    The sudras have little intelligence and must therefore be engaged in the service of one of the other three classes.

    Their occupation is to perform manual labor, give service and to engage in arts and craftsmanship.

    The sudras are unable to support themselves independently therefore they must take shelter of an employer who can direct and provide for them.

    It is described in this age of Kali almost everyone is a sudra. We can actually see society is now so degraded that practically everyone must work as a sudra by serving an employer.

    Only the sudras take such employment, the brahmanas simply depend on God and this way they get everything required. They receive charity from members of the other divisions of society. The ksatriya has some land and collects taxes from the citizens and the vaisya makes some money by trading farm produce and doing business. Only the sudras depend on someone else for their maintenance.

    If proper education is provided then the sudras who have the capacity to learn can be elevated to higher positions in the social structure.

    A society of sudras means a society of chaos as sudras don't have the intelligence to organize society, therefore, there is great need to train qualified brahmanas to reestablish the "head" of the social body. If this is done there is certainly hope for the future


NEXT: The Golden Age


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