Definition - What does Vaishya mean?
Vaishya is the name traditionally given to the class of people in Indian society who worked in agriculture, trade and commerce. The Vaishya comprise the third of the four social groups in the rigid Indian caste system, which divides people into hereditary groups with specific limitations and privileges, depending on where the person is on the social strata.
Although it is illegal in India today to discriminate based on caste, the system traditionally prevented those in the lower castes from improving their economic and social status. The caste system is rooted in Hinduism, but there has also been Hindu opposition to the barriers that castes present. Yoga developed outside the restrictions of society and, therefore, provided a means of salvation regardless of caste.
Yogapedia explains Vaishya
Vaishya is a Sanskrit word that translates as “settler” and derives from a word that means “to live.” As the caste, or varna, system developed, the Vaishya evolved from uneducated farmers and tradesman to skilled laborers, landowners, business owners and educated professionals who became an economic force in Indian society. Although considered members of one of the lower classes, the Vaishya traditionally have been wealthy.
The traditional castes include:
- Brahmin – the priestly and teacher caste. Salvation (moksha) is achieved through Jnana yoga (learning and knowledge).
- Kshatriya – the ruler and public service caste. Moksha is achieved through Karma yoga (good works).
- Vaishya – the business and merchant caste. Moksha is attained through Bhakti yoga (devotion to the Divine).
- Sudra/Dalit – the semi-skilled and unskilled workers. Moksha is attained through Bhakti yoga.
Hinduism offers a path to moving up the caste system via reincarnation. Someone who fulfills his/her duty (dharma) in one life may improve his/her social position in the next.