Definition of Varnashrama dharma
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Varnashrama dharma Definition from Encyclopedia Dictionaries & Glossaries
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Varna is a Sanskrit term (वर्ण) is derived from the root , meaning "to cover, to envelop" (compare ). Derived meanings include "kind, sort, character, quality". Contemporary students of Hindu society understand Varna as an ancient fourfold arrangement of socioeconomic categories called the varnas, which is traced back to an oral tradition preserved in the Rigveda (dating perhaps from between 1500 and 1200 bce). One might argue that Hinduism is a belief system wedded to the idea that a well ordered society is composed of four castes: Brahmins (priestly or scholarly caste), Kṣatriya (marshal or royal caste), Vaiśyas (merchant caste) and Sūdras (labor caste). This argument is fallacious for primarily two reasons. First, caste (“varna,” or more commonly “jāti”) is an Indian phenomenon that is not restricted to Hindu sections of society. It has been argued that the approving use of the term “Brahmin” in Buddhist and Jain texts shows that even these socially critical movements were comfortable with a caste structured society as long as obligations and privileges accorded to the various castes were justly distributed (cf. Dhammapada ch. XXVI; cf. Sūtrakṛtānga I.xii.11-21). Second, caste is not philosophically important to many schools that are conventionally understood under the heading of “Hindu philosophy.” Some philosophical schools, such as Yoga, seem to be implicitly critical of life in conventional society guided by the values of social and ecological domination, while other schools, such as Advaita Vedānta, are openly critical of the idea that caste morality has any relevance to a spiritually serious aspirant.
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