After the marriage of Draupadi with five Pandava brothers, Narada Muni visited Indrapasth to advice Pandavas to make some rules to be followed for living together in a way which doesn’t lead to dissention.
The Pandavas consulted one another in the Narada Muni’s presence. Finally they agreed that they would each spend a certain amount of time with Draupadi. If any of them saw another when he was alone with her, there would be a severe consequence; the offender would have to go to the forest for one year and have no contact with Draupadi during that time.
The Pandavas and Draupadi were living happily until one day, a Brahmin came running to Arjuna saying that thieves had stolen his cows. As a younger brother of a ruler Arjuna considered it as his duty to catch the thieves and get the Brahmin’s cows back. But he realized that his bow and arrows were kept in a room where Yudhisthira was in the company of Draupadi.
Arjuna considered that to get back the Brahmin’s cow is his prime duty even if it costs a pain of living alone in forests for a year. He knocked on the door and walked in. Looking straight ahead of him, he strode quickly toward the weapons. Yudhisthira smiled to see his younger brother. He knew Arjuna must have an important reason for entering. Arjuna then explained the situation, took his bow and rushed out of the palace. Taking the Brahmin and mounting his chariot, he pursued the robbers. When he saw them in the distance, Arjuna released infallible arrows, striking down the thieves as they made off with the Brahmin’s cows. Having dealt swift justice to the robbers, Arjuna restored the property to the grateful Brahmin and returned to the city.
Yudhisthira greeted his brother warmly as he entered the palace. Along with his other brothers he applauded Arjuna for saving the Brahmin. Arjuna bowed before Yudhisthira and said, “O lord, please give me permission to observe the vow as we have agreed. I shall leave for the forest at once.”
Yudhisthira’s heart was pierced by grief when he heard Arjuna’s statement. He immediately replied, “Why should you go? O sinless one, if I am your authority, then heed my words now. I was not in the least disturbed by your entering the room. There is no need for you to leave for the forest.”
Even though Arjuna had entered the room only in pursuance of duty and in service to King Yudhisthira, he decided to act on a call of his next duty of adhering to truth. He said to King Yudhisthira “My lord, I have heard from you that duty must be performed without hesitation or quibble. I shall not waver from truth. Truth is my weapon and virtue my strength. Grant me permission to leave and I shall proceed to the forest today.” Thus Arjuna left Indraprastha to spend a year in forests.
Such was the importance given to performance of duty over any other consideration. If only a portion of modern population adhere such an importance to execution of duty then problems of modern world like corruption, poverty, pollution, crimes etc would become non-existent. What to mention of adhering importance to duty, modern man is not even aware of his duties. People are living with only one purpose: how to enjoy their senses to fullest. In the pursuit of sense enjoyment modern man cares neither to know nor to adhere to his duties. This has lead to chaotic condition all over the world. Such was not the condition in Vedic Civilization.
In Vedic Civilization everyone was taught his duties and importance of executing those duties. Man lives two track of life: personal life and occupational life. Both the tracks were classified and lived to execute prescribed duties. Below is the description of that classification along with duties as mentioned in the Srimad Bhagavatam translated by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
1) Personal life:
One’s personal life can be divided into four stages: 1) Student life 2) Householder life 3) Retired life 4) Renounced life. Some of the most important prescribed duties in these four stages are as follows:
- Student life (Brahmacharya ashrama): Live in gurukul under the care of Guru, serve Guru, study, to not indulge in sense enjoyment etc.
- Householder life (Grihastha ashrama): Live with wife, serve parents, serve saints etc.
- Retired life (Vanaprastha ashrama): Travel to various places of pilgrimages, take spiritual lessons from saints, to not indulge in sense enjoyment etc.
- Renounced life (Sannyasa ashrama): Travel and preach God Consciousness or Krishna Consciousness to general masses, live by accepting alms only, to not have attachment to any worldly thing, to not indulge in sense enjoyment etc.
2) Occupational life:
All the legitimate occupations that exists in world can be divided into four categories: 1) Brahmanas (Priests, philosophers, scientists, teachers, and intellectuals) 2) Kshatriyas (Politicians, administrators, police, and army) 3) Vaishyas (Farmers, merchants, and businessmen) 4) Shudras (Artisans and workers). Some of the most important prescribed duties for each of them are as follows:
- Brahmanas: Study Vedas, worship Lord, teach, give charity, accept charity, guide men of other three occupations etc.
- Kshatriyas: Learn military art and politics, give protection to citizens from all types of calamities, administer the state, making sure that citizens are employed in their respective occupations, levying appropriate tax etc.
- Vaishyas: Protecting cows, farming, earning by trading only legitimate products, paying tax, giving charity to Brahmanas etc.
- Shudras: To provide service to people of other three occupations.
Such classification of society, based on occupational and personal life, is called Vranashrama System. The goal of Varnashrama System is to please the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This is mentioned in Srimad Bhagavatam 1.2.13:
atah pumbhir dvija-shreshtha
“O best among the twice-born, it is therefore concluded that the highest perfection one can achieve by discharging the duties prescribed for one's own occupation according to social divisions and orders of life is to please the Personality of Godhead”
If all members of society execute their prescribed duties according to Varnashrama System, aiming to please Lord, then there will be overall growth of peace and prosperity among the people.
At every stage, man should live to answer the calls of his duties to please The Supreme Personality of Godhead and not to just enjoy his senses. In that way whole world can become happy place.