The main objective of Varnavyavastha was to bring about the progress of the individual and the society without creating a conflict in the society, through mutual coordination of various elements in the society. Chaturvarna (The system of four classes) did not exist in Satyayug and the period before Satyayug. In that period everyone was engrossed in self-realisation. Dharma in Satyayug consisted of the four aspects of
Spiritual knowledge (Sadhana (Spiritual practice) of the Brahman varna),
Penance (Sadhana of the Kshatriya varna),
Offering (Sadhana of the Vaishya varna) and
Truthfulness (Sadhana of the Shudra varna).
When these four aspects of Dharma remain secure, that is, they are followed by the society, the Satyayug reigns supreme. At that time, the evolved and sattvik (Sattva-predominant) intellect necessary for acquiring spiritual knowledge was present with the ability to perform austerities and the attitude of donating generously. Besides, all were truthful.
1. Creation of administrative system in Tretayug
Since the Prakruti is comprised of trigunas, sooner or later, the Raja and Tama components are bound to be generated through the Sattva component. Due to pride, attachment and ego, Dharma deteriorates. Once this happens, it is apparent that the bhav (Spiritual emotion) towards God will also reduce. It is then that the deterioration of Dharma will begin. As a result, Dharma that was bestowed with four pillars in Satyayug becomes weak in one pillar, that is, spiritual knowledge. To prevent the lawlessness generated due to unrighteousness, it became very necessary to create a structure of punishment, that is, create an administrative system to bring about stability.
In Tretayug, after the creation of the administrative system Kshatriyas (The warrior), having mastery over their sense organs became the rulers and their chief responsibility was to protect the Brahmans (The one who studies scriptures and imparts knowledge to the society) and the cattle. The Kshatriyas continued to remain enriched with Kshatratej (Radiance of a warrior) with the support of Brahmatej (Radiance of a Brahman). The kings themselves were moralistic.
2. Creation of Chaturvarna
It was beyond the ability of the ordinary individual to understand the underlying meaning and behave accordingly. Hence, in Tretayug, the Sages and Seers established various Dharma, that is, action-oriented basic natural laws in the form of Shudra (The varna which performs physical work), Vaishya (The one who carries on some trade), Kshatriya and Brahman varna, and thus laid the guidelines of various acts to be performed in Hindu Dharma. Astrologers would predict the varna of a new-born studying the positions of the planets. Then the child would be allotted a profession based on its varna.
Later, as the proportion of the Sattva component decreased further, two pillars of Dharma were destroyed and this marked the commencement of Dwaparyug. The kings became ordinary followers of Dharma; consequently, the subjects too followed suit.
3. Deterioration in abiding by Dharma in Kaliyug
Soon after the Incarnation of Shrikrushna, the proportion of the Sattva component decreased tremendously. Three pillars of Dharma deteriorated completely; only truthfulness remained. This marked the commencement of Kaliyug.
Later, in the Kaliyug, as a result of falling prey to awareness of the body, there was deterioration in abiding by Dharma, and the structure of Chaturvarna collapsed. Kaliyug is an Era of ignorance, darkness and egoism. During this period, due to decrease of the Brahman (Priest) qualities in Brahmans (Seekers), instead of worshipping Brahman and making efforts to realise the Brahman Principle, they became blind, ignorant, foolish and egoistic. Kshatriyas forgot their valour and ultimate aim and resorted to malevolent conduct and politics. Internal feuds, conflicts, and deceitful rule began in royal dynasties. Vaishyas became icons of greed and Shudras lost their status completely.
In addition, demoniacal energies (in the form of jivas) took birth everywhere and attacked Bharat (India) in the form of Yavans (Foreign invaders), thus disrupting its entire social system. They looted the country of its wealth and spiritual knowledge. Ignorance and egoism became rampant, and the society had no saviour. At such times, various evolved beings and Sages in the Himalayas have Incarnated in the two thousand years of this Kaliyug with the aim of taking the society onto the righteous path. These attempts are continuing and will continue in future as well.
4. Importance of abiding to conduct as per Chaturvarna
The sole objective of this system of Chaturvarna is to protect man from the influence of time and to liberate him. However, time proved detrimental to this objective, and the collapse of this wonderful social system led to hatred, strife and caste system. In the current times, righteous conduct in man has virtually reached a nadir. At the end of Kaliyug, because of a rise in the Tama component, all creation will be unhappy in all aspects, and everywhere unrighteousness will be rampant. Few mumukshus (Seekers with intense desire for Moksha), as well as other seekers and Saints will find it difficult to survive, and then due to their yearning, God will hear their call.
In this way, in every Yug one-fourth of Dharma on the earth has deteriorated and now it exists only in Bharat (India).
As long as time consisting of trigunas continues, the Chaturvarna will naturally exist. The question then is only of introspection. We should humbly contemplate about the varna we actually belong to and what our conduct should be, so as to progress spiritually. To benefit from the system of varnas, we should give up the ego that ‘I belong to so-and-so caste’. When performing actions, an attempt should be made to acquire the state of a Brahman, that is, obtain sattvikta (Purity), love of God and related virtues.