Vedic Organization of Social of Divisions

Vedic Organization of Social of Divisions
Vedic Society
The organization of the society was conceived as a corollary of the law of spiritual progress, whereby people were to be ranked not by wealth, numerical strength, or power, but by their spiritual progress and culture. The earliest reference to the Varna-ãshrama Dharma, the caste system, is to be found in the Rigveda, wherein they are represented as parts of the body of the Creator. This is a poetic image indicating the organic nature of the society of the time. Caste was not to be determined by heredity; Virtue alone was the yardstick.

That this system degenerated to the oppressive stratification, which plagued India for a long time, is a vehement testimony to the failings of human nature. The dream of the sages was to organize the society into a cooperative hierarchy much like the Hindu joint family, where elders had greater freedom and responsibility, and the younger ones had greater shelter and protection. But, over time, this idealistic agenda gave way to unforeseen circumstances under which individual genius had no scope; heredity assumed undeserved importance, and the initiative was killed. What was once made for order and progress of the society became made for order at the expense of the progress?

Even in its degenerated form, this theocratic ideal saved the Hindu society from disruption during the centuries when a strong central government was either non-existent or was frequently changing hands. Whatever purpose it may have served in the past, its present form is perceived by all Indians as abhorrent to human dignity. Especially the rules denying equal rights need to be avoided and removed from practice. Independent India can now claim to be on the verge of achieving independence from this malady. But, the written law is only as good as it is followed in popular practice and so; there must be a change in the hearts.
"Chaturvarnyam mayã srishtham guna karma vibhgãshah" -Gita Ch. IV -13 -"the four varnas are determined by me on the basis of quality and temperament," says Lord Sri Krishna. 
Sri Bhadarãyana or Vyãsa who is the compiler of the Vedas and to whom the authorship of Brahmasutras, Mahabharata and the Puranas are attributed was the son of a fisherwoman.

Personally many modern-day Hindu Scholars feel that: "To be orthodox is to be faithful to the spirit of the Smrithis, not merely the letter." The Rishis have emphasized the need for Smriti to be constantly revised to account for changing times and new, unforeseen circumstances. Thus, nothing is more orthodox (and more desirable) than writing a Smriti for this time and this age.

One has to understand that Varnas are different from Jaathi and they must be obtained by inborn qualities and education rather than by accidents of birth. Intimately related to the concept of Varna is that of Aashrama, the stages of life. Brahmacharya (being a student), Gaarhastya (being a Householder), Vaanaprastha (being a recluse), and, finally, Sannyaasa (being a religious mendicant) are ideally the four stages of a man's life. These stages indicate the path of progress for the ideally ordered life of the individual.

By: Bala N. Aiyer, M.D.

Monotheism in Sanatan Dharma ⮜ Previous                 Next ⮞ The Unifying Concepts of 

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