Although every Hindu must follow general moral codes, each has individual duties according to his or her own nature. These are called sva-dharma, literally "own duties." They are regulated by the system of four varnas (social classes) and four ashrams (stages of life).
Shudras (Artisans and Workers)
- To render service to others.
- To take pride in their work and to be loyal.
- To follow general moral principles, (e.g. not to steal).
- To marry (the only compulsory rite of passage).
- To protect animals (especially cows), and the land.
- To create wealth and prosperity.
- To maintain workers with abundant food, clothes, etc.
- To trade ethically.
- To give taxes to the kshatriyas (ruling class).
- To protect the citizens from harm, especially women, children, cows, brahmanas, and the elderly.
- To ensure that the citizens perform their prescribed duties and advance spiritually.
- To be the first into battle and never to flee the battlefield.
- To be true to their royal word.
- To never refuse a challenge.
- To develop noble qualities such as power, chivalry, and generosity.
- To levy taxes (from the vaishyas only) and to never accept charity under any circumstances.
- To take counsel, especially from the brahmanas.
- To know the scriptures, especially the artha-shastras.
- To deal uncompromisingly with crime and lawlessness.
- To take responsibility for shortcomings in their kingdom.
- To conquer their own minds and senses and to enjoy only according to scriptural injunction.
- To beget an heir.
- To study and teach the Vedas.
- To perform sacrifice and religious ceremonies, and teach others how to perform such rituals.
- To accept alms and also give in charity.
- To offer guidance, especially to the kshatriyas.
- To provide medical care and general advice free of charge.
- To know Brahman (spirit, the self, God).
- To never accept paid employment.
- To develop all ideal qualities, especially honesty, integrity, cleanliness, purity, austerity, knowledge and wisdom.
Related Values and Issues
- Duties, rights and responsibilities
- A classless society
- Moral dilemmas
- Is a classless society the only solution to social exploitation?
- Do these four varnas apply to Hinduism only?
- Does a teacher need to develop particular values? How do they relate to the list given above?
- Do you agree that education is a leadership role, and should be given greater priority than administration?
- Why do you think that brahmanas are not meant to accept a salary? What is the principle behind this?