The Veda And Indian Culture

Dharma and Fourfold Social Order

An important feature of the organization of Indian life was the complex and subtle arrangement of human life through four orders of communal life and four stages of individual life.

The human life was conceived as a process of gradual growth, and provisions came to be made in each stage of growth so as to stabilize that stage and to lead it gradually to the next higher stage. Thus, four major stages came to be recognized and each stage was presented with a set of ideals to be pursued and fulfilled. Each stage had its own dharma. These four, namely, brahmacharya (continence of student life), grihastha (balance of enjoyment and performance of duties appropriate to the householder), the vanaprastha (the preparation to leave ordinary life by enlargement, by travel, and by detachment, symbolized by dwelling in the forest), and sanyasa (final renunciation of ordinary life for the exclusive pursuit of spiritual life), were conceived as psychological stages of a large and flexible framework for the growth of the individual. And the general conditions of social life were so organized as to provide to each individual the necessary help needed by him at a given stage of his growth. This was further facilitated by the recognition of four types of temperaments among people with corresponding social functions, resulting in four divisions of the people in a composite social life. These four, the Brahmin (with the temperament that seeks knowledge and fulfills itself in the function of the teacher), the Kshatirya (with the temperament of power, courage, action and heroism which fulfills itself in the function of the ruler and the administrator), the Vaishya (with the temperament of mutuality, harmony and inter-change that fulfills itself in the function of commerce and inter-relationships), and Shudra (with the temperament of technical skill, service and physical labor), were the recognized types, each one requiring a stable field of education, experience and expression. Each type had its own dharma, and each had the suitable means of growth not only

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