Ancient Indian Cultural System & Ideals

  • Varina Vyavastha or Varina SystemVedas prescribe that all human beings should leave ignorance, get educated, select a profession for himself based on his “tatva” (basic traits) and education, take a vow to follow such a profession, and follow such a profession.

     

    Vedas classifies all profession into three viz. “Knowledge based”, “Justice / state administration based” and “finance / economics based”. Though all professions include some or other aspect of knowledge, administration and economics but the key element in each profession can be acknowledged to anyone of the given three.

     

    • A follower of a “Knowledge based” profession is called a “Brahmin”;
    • A follower of a “Justice / state administration based” profession is called a “Kshatriya”;
    • and a follower of an “finance / economics based” profession is called a “Vaishya”.
    • Anyone who is not following any profession is called a “Shudra”.

     

    These four classification of human beings are called the four “VARINAS”.

     

    However, the above are not strict rules but the core rules of classification. There can be many exceptions / inter changeover / etc in the Varinas of people. For example,

     

    – A Shudra after he acquires requisite knowledge / experience and devotes himself to any profession acquires the status of a Brahman, Kshatriya or a Vaishya, as the case may be. No shastra prohibts any erson from gaining education or bhakti.

     

    – One may at the beginning of the career be working as a manager in a commercial company. He is a Vaishya then. After years of experience he started teaching principles of management in colleges, then he becomes a Brahmin.

     

    – A Brahmin’s son / daughter would normally have more tendencies to indulge in knowledge based profession and hence become a Brahmin but he choose to go otherwise also. Similarily with others also.

     

    All humans by birth are Shudra. At different stages of life, they complete their basic education, their basic traits identified, etc depending on which they take on some profession for themselves. At such a time, that person is called to taken a re-birth. That is why, Brahmins, Kshatriyas, and Vysyas are called DWIJ (twice born).

     

    The system of VARINA (VARINA VYAVASTHA) has nothing to do with Caste System, which is not supported by Vedic Literature. It also has nothing to so with the system of using the surinames.

     

    The Varina of a person is also often called, the Dharma of that person.

     

    Ashram System:-

     

    The word Ashrama is derived from the Sanskrit root ‘Srama’ which means to exert oneself. Hence, Ashrama stands to mean (i) the place where exertions are performed, (2) the action of performing such exertions is initiated. In the words of P.H. Pradhu, “The word, therefore, signifies a halt, a stoppage on a stage in the journey of life just for the sake of rest in a sense in order to prepare oneself for the further journey. He further says that “The Ashramas then are to be regarded as resting place during one’s journey on the way to final liberation which is the final aim of life.

     

    Vyasa has remarked in the Mahabharata that the four stages of life form a ladder or a flight of four steps. These lead to Brahmana which means that through them a person can reach the region of Brahma.

     

    Ashramas are regarded as different stages in the life of an individual which train him for some period and the individual exerts himself in the same order to qualify himself for the next stage of life.

    The Four Ashramas:

    1. Brahamacharya Ashrama:

     

    The first stage of life is called Brahmacharya Ashrama. A boy enters this Ashrama through the performance of Upanayana ceremony. Through this initiation rite, a person is said to be reborn (Dwija). The age of initiation into the first stage of life differs from Varina to Varina. The initiation ceremony takes place for a Brahmin at the age of 8, for Kshatriya at the age of 10 years and a Vaishya at the age of 12 years. The Sudra child is not allowed to go through the first stage, as he was traditionally not allowed to have education. The initiation ceremony can be postponed upto 12 years for a Brahmin, up to 14 years for Kshatriya and upto 16 years for a Vaishya.After the initiation rites are over, the education begins at the residence of a teacher (Gurukula). The student is required to learn the Vedas which contain the cultural traditions of the Aryans. His speech and thought must be pure and guarded by the studies of the Vedas. The life of the student is regulated in such a manner that there is a balanced development of personality. Strict discipline is required of a student and he has to lead a hard life. He is required to restrain his senses. The control over the senses also means control over sex desires. The student is also observance of complete celibacy. In this manner the life of brahmachari is a life of discipline.The place of this Ashrama is the residence of Guru. This Ashram is completed by the time a man attains the age of 25 years. The duties of studentship include the life of austerity, service to the teacher, reverence and respect.

     

    1. Grihastha Ashrama:

     

    With the completion of the life of studentship, the next stage of life begins which is called Grihastha Ashrama or the life of a householder. This stage starts with his marriage ceremony. Marriage is more a social obligation as its main purpose is the performance of Dharma and the perpetuation of family as well as the continuation of the group through progeny.According to the Ashrama system, the Dharma of a householder consists of performing the five Maha Jajnas or the five great sacrifices.These Maha Jajnas are offered to Brahma and is called Brahma Jajna. Pitri Jajna, Deva Jajna, Bhuta Jajna and Nara Jajna. Brahma Jajna is conducted by the recitation of the Vedic Mantras. Pitri Jajna is done by offering Tarpan, that is to say, offering of water and food. This is commonly known as Sradha. Deva Jajna is done by offering burning obligations to the Gods. Bhutas are satisfied by sacrifice. Nara Jajna is performed by receiving and entering guests at home. Of these five Jajnas, the first three refers to Deva Rina, Rishi Rina and Pitri Rina.Apart from this, a householder is also supposed to offer food to animals, saints and anybody who happened to pass through, by chance. People belonging to the other three Ashramas depend upon the Grihastha and it is the duty of householder to satisfy birds, animals and insects and persons belonging to all the social rungs. The Pancha Maha Jajnas include a wider field of social duties including men and bhutas.

    This Ashram is mainly meant for the satisfaction of man’s material and emotional urges, i. e., ‘Artha’ and ‘Kama’. The Hindu as a householder is expected to fulfill his acquisitive and instinctive urges within the frame-work of Dharma. The age at which a person enters into this Ashrama is about 25 years.

     

    1. Vanaprashta Ashrama:

     

    It is the third Ashrama of life and an individual is expected to enter this stage at the age of 50. In the Vanasprastha Ashrama a person has to leave his family and the village too. He is expected to hand over all the household responsibilities to his grown up children and he must go to the forest.The person must live in the forest to bring under control his senses of enjoyment (Niyatendriyah). He has to eat only fruits and vegetables and he should not touch meat. His clothes must be of deer skin or the bark of tree. He is must practise ‘Tapas’ (penance) to purify his body and soul. In this manner a Vanaprasthi must devote himself to study and meditation.

     

    A Vanaprasthi must lead a life of self-control and friendliness and charity to others. If a person dies during Vanaprastha Ashrama he will attain Moksha.Although a Vanaprasthi used to live in the forest and his wife was allowed to live with him, it was for the sake of humanity that they lived together. The presence of the wife is permitted to facilitate the performance of social duties. The affiliations and associations of the householder come to an end.

     

    1. Sanyasa Ashrams:

     

    It is the last Ashrams of life after passing through the Vanaprastha Ashram the person enters the last Ashrams, i.e. Sanyasa Ashrams at the age of 75 years. In this Ashrams a person breaks off all attachment with the world. In this stage a person is expected to devote his entire time towards meditation to recognize subtle nature of the supreme soul and its presence in all organisms, both the highest and lowest.In different to everything meditation and concentrating his mind on Brahmana. Delighting in what refers to the soul, with himself as his only companion he shall live, waiting for his appointed time to come, desiring the bliss of final liberation.In this manner, the aim of the Ashrams system is to perform the Ashrams Dharma. The Ashrams Dharma is not only social in its implications but it emphasizes renunciation of the world in the Vanaprastha and” Sanyasa Ashrams. Ashrams system is a way of training through which the individual is to attain his end. i.e. Moksha.

     

     

     

    Sanskar Vyavasta

     

    Sanskara are dispositions, character or behavioral traits, that exist as default from birth or prepared and perfected by a person over one’s lifetime, that exist as imprints on the subconscious according to various schools of Hindu philosophy such as the Yoga school. These perfected or default imprints of karma within a person, influences that person’s nature, response and states of mind.

     

    • Garbhaadhan Sanskar:-This sanskar is done to bear progeny that brings good name to the dynasty. It’s also done to keep the dynasty running.

     

    • Pumsavana Sanskar”-This sanskars is geared towards the intellectual and mental development of the baby in the womb.

     

    • Simantonayan Sanskar:-This sanskar is done during the 4th, 6th and 8th month of pregnancy. The mother starts teaching its child with this.

     

    • Jaatakarma Sansakar:-This sanskar ensures a lot of bad omens cleared from the infant. Done for the health and age of the child.

     

    • Naamkaran Sanskar:-As clear from the name itself, this sanskar is done to decide the name of the infant. Usually, it is done on the 11th day of the birth.
  • Nishkraman Sanskar:-It’s done in the 4th month after the birth. It is done to invoke the blessings of five elements of the nature.

 

  • Annaprashana Sanskar
  • This is done during the teething period of the child. After this, feeding the grains, cereal etc. is started.

 

  • Mundan Sanskar:-The removal of the hair is done during this sanskar. It is believed to strengthen the head of the child and also increase intellectual power.

 

  • Vidyaarambha Sanskar:-As clear from the name itself, it is done to start the formal education of the child.

 

  • Karinavedh Sanskar:- it is a sanskar about piercing the ears. It is believed to have some relationship with the brain and acupuncture.

 

  • Yagyopaveet Sanskar:-It is done during the study of the child. It is also called Upanayana sanskar which means bringing close to the eye of the guru. Through this, the child gets strength, energy, and splendor.

 

  • Vedarambha Sanskar:-it is done for the starting of study of the Vedas.

 

  • Keshant Sanskar:-it is related to removing the hair. This is done after completing the studies.

 

  • Samavartan Sanskar:-It is done to mark the reentry of the child from the gurukula back to the society. It prepares the child for the further struggle of life.

 

  • Vivah Sanskar:-It is done for marrying the child, basically oriented to keep the creation going on. It is believed that the pitririna is cleared after this.

 

  • Antyesti Sanskar:-It is the last sanskar done during the sojourn on earth. After the person dies, according to various techniques mentioned in the Vedas, the body is given to fire.

 

 

 

Doctrine of Purushartha

 

The hindu attitude to life and daily conduct is oriented towards four noble ends of man.these four nobles ends are exemplified in the hindu dharmashastras as the “purusharthas”.the concept of puruushartha is the fundamental principle of the indian social ethics.the word purushathas implies attainments or life purposes.according to this concept ,the aim of every person is to attain four noble ends or purusharthas.they are arth,dharma,kama and moksha.these purusharthas govern the hindu view of life.they are the guiding principle of life for the hindus at all stages of their life.the entire hindu social organization is built on the foundation of the prusharthas.

  • Dharma(the principle of righteousness):-Dharma is the supreme principle of life.it is the major end in humans life.the word dharma is derived from the sanskrit root dhri meaning to hold together ,to sustain or to preserve.it holds together the whole universe.it is essential for maintaining the stability of society.as dr.radhakrishnan has pointed out “every form of life ,every group of men has its dharma which is the law of its beings.dharma or virtue is conformity with the truth of things,adharma,rice,is opposed to it”.gita ,veda,upanishads equated dharma with rta or truth and treated it as a cosmic principle .
  • From the point of view of mimasa philosophy ‘dharma means moral code of conduct to be observed by all human beings in every sphere of the is activity and it holds good for all times to come.dharmashastras also insists upon on the universal form of dharma.it was intended to enable man to reach was deemed to be the goal human existence.To mahbharatha “dharma is created for the well being of all creation”.dharma is not a religion.it is a living experience.it is the guiding principle of life,a complete rule of life.it leads way towards ultimate reality.dharma is often connected with happiness and liberation.scholars have spoken different types of dharma like samanya,raja,stree,varina,ashrama,etc.vedas constitute main source of dharma.

 

  • Artha(wealth)-purusharthas:-The term ‘artha refers to wordily prosperity such as wealth and power.it is acquiring wealth by honest man.a man is unable to conduct his life so long as the material means of living are not available.without artha no desire(kama)can be satisfied.poverty is no ideal.economic stability is the basis of social stability,individual advancement and spiritual attainment. The pleasure of giving charity comes only when there is something to give.hence artha or wealth helps to sustain and enrich life.

The importance of wealth in this world was fully raised by koudilya.to him wealth is the basis of human requirements and that social well being  depends ultimately on material prosperity.to manu”the whole vedas constitute the first source of artha”.the practice of virtuous men,smritis,the truth are other source of artha.

 

  • Kama(pleasure or desires):-Kama refers to the desires in man for enjoyment and satisfaction of the life of the senses.it refers to some of the innate desires and urges in man.it springs human mind,the moment one is born.it is the essence of life.with the passing of the time desires increased.these desires influence and determine social action in many ways.without it living would appear to be very cruel and meaningless.the theory of purusharthas makes sufficient provision for the enjoyment of life.

Kama involves sexual,emotional and aesthetic life.the healthy development of personality calls for the expression of emotions.kama represents such an emotional expression.it is often regarded as one of the six enemies if human beings.but it is equally true that human being cannot continue as a race without the realisation of kama which helps the propagation of species.

 

  • Moksha(liberation or spiritual freedom):-Moksha is the ultimate aim.when the end of human action is salvation or liberation from the bondage of the world ,it is called moksha.it is the supreme aspiration of man.all our activities are directed to the realization of this end.the trivargas (arth,darma.kama) are the means for the attainment of this supreme end.moksha is alone called chaturvarga.through meditation,knowledge,devotion and correct action,moksha or salvation can attain.

 

 

Doctrine of Rina

The concept of rina, the human indebtedness or the primary obligation, is unique to Indian tradition. It is in fact the source of dharma, because it weans one away from desire-gratification and leads towards duty-fulfillment.

 

Rina, according to Panini the great grammarian, signifies a want or a deficiency.

 

Taittiriya Samhita it speaks about three kinds of basic indebtedness every human being carries with him or her. They are the debt one owes – (a) to his ancestors (pitr), (b) to the sages/seers (rishi) and(c) to the Gods (deva).

 

The Shathapatha Brahmana adds one more .The fourth one is the debt one owes to his fellow beings.

 

These texts suggest the ways of liquidating the debts or fulfilling the obligations one is born with. These are briefly, as under.

 

  • Pitr : by bringing up a family, by getting and raising children in a proper manner.

 

  • Rishi : by study and by understanding the cultural context into which one is born.

 

  • Deva : by honoring , worshipping the elemental and natural (environmental) forces like sky,air,water,earth,rivers, mountains , plants etc.(Rig Veda refers to these Devas as “luminous ones”.) and

 

  • Fellow beings : by cultivating compassion, fellow- feeling (saha bhava) and by showing hospitality.

 

It further says that the fulfillment of these obligations should be the preliminary aim of human beings and it would add value to their life. The Atharva remarks, pursuit of the four purusharthas would be meaningful when one fulfils ones primary obligations or is in the process of doing so.

 

Chandogya Upanishad (2.23) describes the duties in three stages of life as “off shoots or branches of Dharma” (trayo dharma_skandha). This mentions the obligations and privileges of a householder, hermit and a student. Rina is at the core of this trayo dharma

 

The Emperor Ashoka (272 to 132 BC) in his edicts highlights a person’s indebtedness (rina) to parents and elders and calls upon the people to live in accordance with the dharma and not interfere with the natural order (rta). In one of the edicts, he points out that practice of dharma is not possible for a person devoid of good conduct. In another edict he proclaims that if a person practices great liberty but does not possess self-control (sayama_bhava), purity of thought (sudhi) gratitude (kitaranta) and firm devotion (dridhabhatita), it is of no avail.

 

In Indian tradition, the practice of art, be it music, dance, literature or other forms art, is an act of worship. The traditional artist through his creation pays homage to his ancestors (pitrs) and rishis (his teachers). He views the public services he creates (temples, dams, tanks, buildings etc.) as fulfillment of his obligation to his fellow beings. Even poets, philosophers and writers conclude their work with a prayer seeking welfare of all beings.

 

Doctrine of Rita:-

Rita is the physical order of the universe, the order of the sacrifice, and the moral law of the world. Because of rita, the sun and moon pursue their daily journeys across the sky, and the seasons proceed in regular movement. Vedic religion features the belief that rita was guarded by Varuna, the god-sovereign, who was assisted by Mitra, the god of honour, and that the proper performance of sacrifices to the gods was necessary to guarantee its continuance. Violation (anrita) of the established order by incorrect or improper behaviour, even if unintentional, constituted sin and required careful expiation.

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