Indian Ethics Varnashrama & the Concept of Shreyas and Preyas for Competitive Exams

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Varnashrama & Shreyas and Preyas

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  • Varnashrama is a fundamental concept of Hinduism.
  • Etymologically speaking Varna means colour or the social standings of the people of the society.
  • The concept of jati or sub-communities comes under the concept of varna or communities.
  • Hence, it can be said that varnashrama is the idealised four-part division of the society into
    • Brahmins
    • Kshatriyas
    • Vaishyas
    • Shudras
  • People belonging to these varnas are said to possess certain set of characteristics and perform their individual functions in accordance with dharma.
  • It is important to note that the first three varnas, i.e.. Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas are called the “twice-born,” meaning they are allowed to read or study the Vedas.

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Varnashrama Concept


  • Brahmins is the top most level of the Varnashrama system.
  • The people belonging to this varna perform the functions of learning and teaching.
  • In other words, their function is to learn the eternal knowledge of the Vedas and perform academic activities and sacrificial rituals.
  • The brahmins are said to be of sattvic nature.
  • They are pure, spiritual in nature and are said to be the society՚s bank of knowledge and wisdom.


  • Kshatriyas are regarded as the marital class.
  • They perform the actives of the military defence and also perform the administrative activities or functions of the people and the society.
  • They fight the battles against the intruders, rule over the people and defend them.
  • They are responsible for maintaining peace and order in the society.
  • Their nature is sattvic and rajastic.
  • They share the Brahminic privilege of reading the Vedas.

III. Vaishyas

  • Vaishyas belong to the third varna, they are regarded as the productive class of the society.
  • Their functions include trading and business.
  • They also deal with the work of cultivation of land, growing of crops, breeding of cattle, etc.
  • They belong to the business class and deal with money.
  • They always hence generate wealth.
  • For them, artha is important.
  • They have rajastic and tamasic nature.
  • They share the Brahmanic privilege of reading the Vedas.


  • They are considered to belong to the lower most varna.
  • They are believed to serve the other classes.
  • They are the artisan class; they are also those who perform the occupations of agriculture and mining.
  • They are believed to be of tamasic nature.
  • In short, they are the serfs or labour class.
  • They do not share the Brahmanic privilege of reading the Vedas.

The Concept of Shreyas & Preyas

  • According to the Katha Upanishad, all the human endeavours or actions fall under the two categories of Sreyas and Preyas.
  • In other words, there is not a single aspect that lies outside these two.
  • According to Katha Upanishad II, “The Shreyas is one thing and the Preyas is another. These two have different purposes which binds a man. The Shreyas (good) and the Preyas (pleasant) will approach a man and only the wise will distinguish the difference between the two.”
Human Action


  • Preyas means pleasure.
  • It deals with the sense bound actions.
  • In other words, dealing with those actions which give us pleasure or are pleasant in nature.
  • Majority of mankind deals with such actions alone.
  • Preyas deals with pleasure or they are pleasure oriented. They are regarded as inferior in nature as they are directed towards the worldly outlook.


  • Shreyas on the other hand means what is good.
  • It deals with virtues and strengths.
  • It deals with the good and the right actions.
  • Shreyas deal with the spiritual outlook, so, they are considered to be superior in nature.
  • According to the scriptures, the wise men perform them, while the fool choose preyas over shreyas.

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