Vaishya Varna

Definition - What does Vaishya Varna mean?

Vaishya varna is a Sanskrit term that refers to the third of the four social groups in the Indian caste, or varna, system. Vaishya translates as “settler” or “homesteader” and derives from a word that means “to live.” Traditionally, the Vaishya varna was composed of people who worked in agriculture, trade and commerce.

The varna system 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 varna, the system historically prevented those in the lower varnas from improving their economic and social status. Yoga developed outside the restrictions of society and, therefore, provided a means of salvation regardless of varna.

Yogapedia explains Vaishya Varna

The Vaishya varna evolved from a class of uneducated farmers and tradesman to one that became an economic force in Indian society, as it encompassed skilled laborers, landowners, business owners and educated professionals. Although considered one of the lower varnas, the Vaishya varna has included many wealthy and successful people.

The varnas and their paths to moksha (salvation) include:

  • Brahmin – the priestly and teacher caste. 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.

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