A Dharmic Discussion

I was discussing about the 4 classes defined in the Hindu dhrama as traditionally followed. My friend was under the impression that the Brahmins are priests, Kshatriyas were kings, Vaishyas were merchants and Shudras were lowly servants.

In my mind, this is a drastic oversimplification-to-the-point-of-stupidity. In fact the whole meaning of Hindu heritage is lost if this is the foolishness being taught / spread by the so-called modern ‘educated’ common man.

Now here’s the truth as I understand it. Naturally this may not agree with your perception… That’s fine, it’s my thoughts alone.

Brahmins are fundamentally the intellectuals. As we know today, this includes doctors, teachers, philosophers, theologians – keepers and givers of specialist knowledge. Quite clearly these are the most respected group of people in today’s world irrespective of religion.

Kshatriyas are fundamentally the politicians. I don’t mean the corrupt bucket of greed that we see around – a real Kshatriya would be expected to govern a vast land, manage and maintain a protection/expedition force (army), prepare advisories for the common people in the matters of economy and so on. Heck even today the President is the Commander in Chief of the armed forces in most countries!!! It’s exactly the SAME, again irrespective of religion!!

Vaishyas are fundamentally the managers, innovators, entrepreneurs. YES, ancient India had a special class called “entrepreneurs” – and they used to create, manage and operate businesses. They had a good sense for numbers and could create trades around currency or commodities (today: forex, stock exchange, commodity exchanges), in addition to creating organizational structures for each vertical, marketing the products, warehousing and supply chain management – and they did this at an ASIA-WIDE level (they travelled as far Arabia to the west and China to the east – the northern scope of the travels remains somewhat a mystery). You get these across all religions as well! No surprise there.

Shudras are the working class, the salaried class. The nearest equivalent word in modern Hindi is “Naukar” and this classification includes anyone who works for a salary (i.e. they have a ‘Job’ or a ‘Naukri’). The concept is similar to the concept of the Salary man. The usual difference is that the job undertaken used to be passed on from generation to generation… Some scum even undertook slavery – but this is an abnormality that I believe detracts from the core concept.

Possibly, in today’s world, we have possibly more freedom to transition between these categories. However it may not surprise you to know that 70-80% of people (across religions) take up salaried jobs. And even historically, the Shudras were the largest category – simply because they were the salaried class as we have today.

Naturally the all went to the Brahmins to learn core skills. The Kshatriya wanted to learn literature, martial arts/self defence, psychology, and management. Vaishyas wished to learn mathematics & statistics – and possibly transport management methods. Shudras wished to gain knowledge that would help them progress in their specific job – whatever the job was assigned by their reporting manager.

Likewise everyone visited the Kshatriya for his guidance on regional governance or political clout (i.e. ‘connections’) assistance. For example a Vaishya starting a new trade route. Shudras requested job opportunities in governance roles. And the Brahmin asked for methods to both gather & disemminate knowledge (eg. ‘temples of learning’ – that we know today as schools)

A Vaishya was the quintessential trader – he would help the Brahmin find the best rates to build their local temple, assist the Kshatriya in getting (for example) quality manufactured goods, and transportation for it. The Shudra would provide the manpower – transportation, wares display, moving material to/from the warehouse – for example. Naturally everyone would buy food / clothing from a Vaishya somewhere….

A Shudra had the most important job of all – they were the staff key to any business, or venture – and Vaishyas always had a never-ending need for good staff. Everyone genuinely needed their help as guides & interpreters, huntsmen & farmers, builders & artisans. Yes, a Vaishya would get the contract – but the actual carving / construction was done by his staff. Kshatriyas and Brahmins alike needed staff for various things – from fetching milk (handyman/gofer) to taking care of the elderly (nurses/caretakers).

So I say – nothing has changed. Everyone whether they realize it or not fall into these categories by their own choice.

I agree that a lot of bad stuff happened – some merchants got greedy and exploited their staff, some corrupt politicians robbed the people of quality governance, and some corrupt educators denied people their right to education. Ego, vanity, greed, and all the other vices as we know them today…. Sadly they have corrupted our knowledge of a fairly well-structured economic model.

As you can also plainly see, the distinctions are entirely self-made, and go beyond the concept of religion, race or anything else – they exist even today across the world, and there’s not a single thing we humans do that cannot be classified as per this way-of-life.