Episode # 385 – “Deviating from one’s ‘Varnaashrama Dharma’ leads to downfall” – Vidura’s startling assertion!!!


In the previous episode, we had culminated the discussion on Vidura’s important point on the roles and responsibilities of the four different “Varnas” (Categories) of people as prescribed by the Vedas – The Brahmanas, Kshatryas, Vaishyas and the Shudras. We had witnessed that the primary responsibility of the Brahmanas is to develop the scholarliness on the Vedas and other important scriptural information of our Sanaathana Dharma and propagate them for the welfare of the entire world. The Brahmanas are also primarily responsible for performing all types of spiritual practices, directed towards world peace and harmony. Similarly, the role of the Kshatryas is to obtain scholarliness in various kinds of warfare and usage of different kinds of weapons. The role of the Kshatryas thus, is to defend the country from its enemies time to time.

Having said that, the Vaishyas are those who are responsible for ensuring that all important supplies of materials like food grains, things required for warfare, etc. for the Brahmanas and Kshatryas respectively are met properly. The Vaishyas are business people and when it comes to business dealings, we need to give that special stress on ethics and care needs to be taken that all dealings done for the Brahmanas and Kshatryas are done for their welfare and not for personal illegal benefit. Finally, the Shudras are responsible for whatever needs to be done at “ground zero”. For instance, farming, construction, painting, decorations, carpentry and so on and so forth.

Of course there is this misconception that started prevailing amidst the society from the “Later Vedic Period” onwards and until today that the Shudras are inferior people and the Brahmhanas are the most superior people! This is an utterly wrong misconception – In fact, the Vedas has never distinguished people like this. This four-pronged classification was done by the Vedas only on basis of occupation and not on the basis of birth or human race. In other words, there is no racial discrimination that is spoken about in the Vedas, and if few people are propagating such things, they are an utter disgrace to the religion of Hinduism and Sanaathana Dharma as a whole.

Now having said thus, we now enter into the most important discussion as to why is Vidura focusing on this point in this context. We might ask a question that doesn’t King Dhirdiraashtra know these basic things too. More than why Vidura is focusing on this point, we might ask a slightly different question as well – Why is he focusing on this point towards the fag end of the Vidura Neeti and why not in the beginning or during the middle? In fact, it might be interesting to note that till now, Vidura has never opened this particular topic and there is a reason why he does it at this stage. Today, we shall witness this important reason as we move on further. In fact, this was one important point wherein the entire Kaurava army is going to lose the plot. How?

It should be noted that the Vedas has clearly prescribed who should do what, as an occupation in this world. In other words, the Brahmanas should only focus on spiritual practices and dedicate their whole life in activities pertaining to Bhagawan. The Brahmanas are not supposed to deviate from this one-pointed agenda. Similarly, a Kshatrya should only focus on protecting the country and nothing else. Like this, all four “Varnas” of people have a single-pointed agenda and this forms the human ecosystem. This is why, this one-pointed agenda for all for categories of people is termed as “Varnaashrama Dharma”. The problem comes only when we move away from our respective “Varnashrama Dharma” prescribed to us by the Vedas.

Now, with this point, let us witness what happens in the Mahabharata story – If we witness the people who were about to fight the war at Kurukshetra against the Paandavas, there was Sahuni (Duryodhana’s uncle), Guru Dhronaachaarya, Bhishmaachaarya, and the likes, along with Duryodhana and his Kaurava brothers. It should be noted that the seniors in this army – Espeically Guru Dhronaachaarya – Was he a Kshatrya? He wasn’t! He was a Brahmana by birth and he followed the principles of his Varnaashrama Dharma until the point of the Kurukshetra war. But due to whatsoever reasons, he took a call to take the weapon in hand and fight the war. Is a Brahmana eligible to go to the battlefield? No! But Dhronaacharya did it! This same thing applies with Guru Dhronaachaarya’s son Ashwatthaama also. Thus we can clearly witness a breach in the Varnaashrama Dharma. In fact, this was one of the main reasons why Dhronaachaarya lost the battle heavily towards the end.

Similarly, if we look at the likes of Sahuni, Duryodhana and King Dhirdiraashtra himself, they being Kshatryas, are they eligible to play business games like gambling? Again, the answer is “No!” It should be noted that gambling is also a sort of business (if not in its full entity though, many might argue), wherein trading of land happens between two parties, on the basis of “something”.  Kshatryas are bound to fight and obtain kingdoms or land and they are not supposed to achieve this by doing “business” over the table! This is where Sahuni, Duryodhana and King Dhirdiraashtra lose the plot! In fact, even the Paandavas are at fault for this as well. Irrespective of Bhagawan Krishna warning them not to go for this “dealing”, the Paandavas still went ahead with it. Thus the fault was on both sides.

Thus, putting all of this in perspective, if we’re going to disobey our “Varnaashrama Dharma” and veer away from the path presceibed by the Vedas, we’re bound to face trouble at some point in life, just like how the Paandavas and Kauravas faced! So this is the point that Vidura is trying to emphasize here – He reminds King Dhirdiraashtra and cautions him that he and his people are deviating from their Varnaashrama Dharma and they better be prepared to face the repercussions for what they’re doing! So for today, let us try and understand this deeper meaning that Vidura is trying to drive home through this point. We shall wait till the next episode to witness the scenario in the present day and how Vidura’s point is applicable in our daily lives today! Stay tuned! 😊

Published by Dr. Jeayaram

Holds a PhD in Management Psychology from Universite Paris Saclay, Paris, France. Also an Asst. Professor of Human Resources management at Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham in Kerala, India. A professional South Indian classical musician (singer) performing concerts. Through this blog, I'm trying to bring out the richness of Indian culture & values and I request your support and feedbacks in making this humble effort a success!!

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