Ageing gracefully was inherent in Indian culture. Shiv Swarup Agarwal, the author here discusses the misinterpretation of the four divisions or the Varna Dharma.
Misinterpretations of fundamental concepts and consequences thereof:
Hindu children attending English medium schools, were systematically fed with gross misinterpretations of fundamentals of Indian culture, "Vanprasth Ashram" was decried as useless and unsuitable for modem times. The word "Vanprasth" was interpreted to mean "going to forests after completing 50 years of life. Fourth stage elderlies "Sanyasis" were termed as lotus eaters.
Consequently, "Vanprasth" Ashram,which was a concept for ageing gracefully in the Indian culture, has vanished from the life of an average Indian and "Sanyas Ashram" has become frightening enough even to talk about.
The word "Varna" or was interpreted as Caste System based on births, shown to have its main aim perpetuation of Brahmanical superiority. Indian society, which was integrated socially and economically for thousands of years before British rule, divided itself between Savama class and Shoodra class fighting with each other. Specialization recognized as essential for faster growth was lost. Inefficient working at every level became a common feature of Indian society leading to slavishness, mismanagement, mutual hatred and consequently neck deep poverty.
Correcting the time tested concepts:
Varna Dharma : It implies division of the entire human race into four categories according to natural tendencies and works in the world out side. No where it is related to birth as was made out. Lord Krishna had said -(Based on inherent tendencies and works the humanity was created by me in four classes).
This division is cosmopolitan and not related to Hindus or the Indian culture alone. The entire human race can thus be broadly classified according to natural tendencies and works in to four divisions :-
Thinker class, Ruler class,Trader class,Worker class
The aim of the four divisions (of humanity) is to ensure best utilization of ones capabilities. Scientific research has also shown that when one works as per his aptitude, he enjoys the work, his efficiency is at the highest level and his production will also be maximum. Thus to engage in activities according to Varna will be for the benefit of individuals constituting the society.
The aim of the above four divisions based on Ashram Dharma was for the benefit of the entire society. Every individual was required to live life according to his Varna Dharma and Ashram Dharma to ensure optimum progress of the individual and the society in general.
To be continued
About the author
Shiv Swarup Agarwal
This article is written by Shiv Swarup Agarwal, Secretary General, Central Chimaya Vanprath Sansthan. It is an excerpt from “The Art of Graceful Ageing in Indian Culture'. This article deals about ageing gracefully and discusses about the misinterpretations of the Indian culture.