The Ultimate Purpose of Varna Dharma
(HinduDharma: Part 14, Puranas (20 chapters))

When factories took the place of handicrafts and cottage industries, the small village communities became urbanised. The needs of people multiplied, so too the number of occupations. Today when the old way of life is gone, it seems impossible to revive the system of hereditary vocations. Is it any longer practicable how to insist that only Ksatriyas ought to man the defence services, that only Vaisyas can transact trade and business, that the members of the fourth varna must continue to remain labourers? Is it at all possible to revive the old system? I am not unaware of the state of affairs now prevailing. If so why do I keep extolling varna dharma? There are two reasons.

Whatever be the situation today - and whether or not we can return to the old order - it is not right to claim as people nowadays do that the old order was utterly unjust, that it was created by the vested interests for their own good and convenience. We must be able to convince the critics that the old order was not unjust at all and that there is nothing like varna dharma to help people to attain inner purity. They must also be made to realise that this dharma, apart from helping society to function in a disciplined and harmonious manner, will bring well-being to all and give an impetus to culture.

There is even more important reason. Today the functions of Ksatriyas, Vaisyas and Sudras have changed and become mixed Even so the work of the government goes on somehow. Defence, the manufacture of various articles, trade, labour - all these go on somehow. But, unlike in the past, there is jealousy as well as rivalry in all fields. Even so, the duties of the three castes are carried out despite the fact that varna dharma has broken up. They are a practical necessity for day-to-day life as well as for the functioning of the government. So they are performed, albeit unsatisfactorily.

There is, however, a function higher than all these. It is that of taking all of them - all these functions - to their ultimate point. And this function belongs to the Brahminic way of life and it has become almost extinct. To teach dharma by precept and practise, the dharma that is the foundation of all activities, to invoke the divine powers through the vedic chant for the good of all mankind, to create high ideals through their own austere life, to nurture the Atmic strength of the community, to promote the arts, to nourish culture- these embrace the dharma of Brahmins and it is now on the verge of extinction.

The need for the Brahminic dharma is not widely recognised because of its subtle and intangible character. There is no realisation of the other three varnas. Indeed, it is this dharma that gives meaning to life and creates a path for the fulfilment of life. We ignore it and devote ourselves solely to the functions of the varnas. If any improvement is made in them we are happy. But what use is material prosperity without Atmic and cultural advancement? Material progress is no progress at all. Americans have realised this truth - we ought also to realise the same. So however confusedly the functions of other castes are carried out, the Brahmin must function in the right manner as a pathfinder for others by living a life of simplicity and sacrifice, performing Vedic rites and creating worldly and Atmic well-being for mankind. In this way the soul of India will be kept alive.

If the Brahmin caste is restored to order, it might well be the beginning of the end of confused state of the other castes. In this land alone has there existed - and existed for ages-a jati for the protection of dharma and the Atmic uplift of all. If this jati becomes extinct there will be all-round decay. If I have spoken at length I have this purpose in view, that this jati must be revived in its true form so as to prevent the general decline of the nation. The Brahmin jati must not live a life of self-indulgence. On the contrary it must perform rites all through the day for the welfare of society. Brahmins must live austerely, with love for all in their hearts. If they are restored to their dharma our society in its entirety will be brought to the path of dharma and will be saved.

"Hindu Dharma" is a book which contains English translation of certain invaluable and engrossing speeches of Sri Sri Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi MahaSwamiji (at various times during the years 1907 to 1994).
For a general background, please see here