Varnashrama is Natural, Part II

Q: Your article “Varṇāśrama is Naturalmakes sense but I have some lingering doubts. Is there really no need to impose guidelines on how that natural behavior should take place?

Yes, Varṇāśrama is a social system and every social system has rules that govern the behavior of its citizens. But the previous article was specifically addressing the point that comes out from Śrīla Prabhupāda’s purport on 4.2.31: That the basic structure of Varṇāśrama is natural and automatically inherent in every society. What we learn from this is that the basic structure of Varṇāśrama doesn’t need to be “implemented” it just needs to be recognized.

The basic structure of Varṇāśrama – that people are naturally inclined to one of four types of occupations (varṇa) and should be treated accordingly in the various phases of their life (āśrama) – is the most important part of the Varṇāśrama system, the absolute essence of it. The other details are relative and adjusted according to this basic principle.

For example, any social, including Varṇāśrama, has rules pertaining to   sexuality. The interesting thing about the Varṇāśrama system, however, is that those rules apply differently to different people. A śudra and brāhmaṇa, for example, are both enjoined to celibacy (brahmacārya)  śudras are asked to do it for very short periods of time, a few days at a stretch, while brāhmaṇas are asked to do it for life. And besides this varṇa adjustment, there is also an āśrama adjustment (creating 4×4 basic sets of individualizations for every social rule). As we can easily see, for example, “celibacy” – even for a brāhmaṇa – must be defined one way  for the brahmacārī āśrama, but another way for the gṛhastha-āśrama. If not, if only the strictest definition were applicable to everyone at every stage of their life, then Varṇāśrama would make braḥmaṇas extinct, they would have no children.

So, yes, there are specific rules in Varṇāśrama, but that is not the essential core of what Varṇāśrama is. At its core, Varṇāśrama is a system of rules along with a system for how to customize those rules by recognizing the natural needs and capacities of individuals.

– Vraja Kishor

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