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SB 1.9 - The duties of the varṇās and āśramas

The conception of varṇāśrama is to make people gradually realize their spiritual identity and thus act to get free from material bondage. Bhīṣma advised for all human beings nine qualifications: (1) not to become angry, (2) not to lie, (3) to distribute wealth equally, (4) to forgive, (5) to beget children only by one’s wife, (6) to be pure in mind and hygienic in body, (7) not to be inimical toward anyone, (8) to be simple, and (9) to support subordinates. These are the preliminary qualities for a civilized person.

The brāhmaṇas need to control the senses and follow the Vedic way of life. This means he must study the Vedic literatures, especially the Bhāgavatam and the Bhagavad-gītā. For learning the Vedic knowledge, one must approach a person who is a pure devotee. The kṣatriyas are advised to give charity. They must be well versed in the scriptures, but must not become teachers. They must be trained in military education and must be chivalrous. The warrior class including the leader should personally fight in the battle field. The vaiśyas are advised to protect the cows and thus increase milk production. Agriculture and distribution of foodstuff are the primary duties of the mercantile community backed by education in Vedas and trained to give charity. Kṣatriyas protect the citizens and vaiśyas protect the animals. Industrial economy can only increase the artificial living of vested interests without producing the essential needs of mankind namely rice, wheat, grains, milk, fruits and vegetables. The śūdras are meant to serve the other three sections of society and attain all comforts of life. The higher castes should always look after the maintenance of the śūdras, and they should provide them with old and used garments. The śūdras should be sumptuously fed before any sacrifice is performed.

The āśrama-dharma is to awaken knowledge and detachment. The brahmacārī āśrama is the training ground for the prospective candidates. They are taught self realization and detachment. One who fails to assimilate the spirit of detachment is allowed to enter family life. But the detached person can take sannyāsa and live on charity alone. Household life is for one who is attached, and the vānaprastha and sannyāsa orders of life are for those who are detached from material life. The brahmacārī āśrama is meant for training both the attached and detached.