bhagavān ṛṣabha-saṁjña ātma-tantraḥ svayaṁ nitya-nivṛttānartha-paramparaḥ kevalānandānubhava īśvara eva viparītavat karmāṇy ārabhamāṇaḥ kālenānugataṁ dharmam ācaraṇenopaśikṣayann atad-vidāṁ sama upaśānto maitraḥ kāruṇiko dharmārtha-yaśaḥ-prajānandāmṛtāvarodhena gṛheṣu lokaṁ niyamayat.
bhagavān—the Supreme Personality of Godhead; ṛṣabha—Ṛṣabha; saṁjñaḥ—named; ātma-tantraḥ—fully independent; svayam—personally; nitya—eternally; nivṛtta—free from; anartha—of things not wanted (birth, old age, disease and death); paramparaḥ—the continual succession, one after another; kevala—only; ānanda-anubhavaḥ—full of transcendental bliss; īśvaraḥ—the Supreme Lord, the controller; eva—indeed; viparīta-vat—just like the opposite; karmāṇi—material activities; ārabhamāṇaḥ—performing; kālena—in course of time; anugatam—neglected; dharmam—the varṇāśrama-dharma; ācaraṇena—by executing; upaśikṣayan—teaching; a-tat-vidām—persons who are in ignorance; samaḥ—equipoised; upaśāntaḥ—undisturbed by the material senses; maitraḥ—very friendly to everyone; kāruṇikaḥ—very merciful to all; dharma—religious principles; artha—economic development; yaśaḥ—reputation; prajā—sons and daughters; ānanda—material pleasure; amṛta—eternal life; avarodhena—for achieving; gṛheṣu—in household life; lokam—the people in general; niyamayat—He regulated.
Being an incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Ṛṣabhadeva was fully independent because His form was spiritual, eternal and full of transcendental bliss. He eternally had nothing to do with the four principles of material misery [birth, death, old age and disease]. Nor was He materially attached. He was always equipoised, and He saw everyone on the same level. He was unhappy to see others unhappy, and He was the well-wisher of all living entities. Although He was a perfect personality, the Supreme Lord and controller of all, He nonetheless acted as if He were an ordinary conditioned soul. Therefore He strictly followed the principles of varṇāśrama-dharma and acted accordingly. In due course of time, the principles of varṇāśrama-dharma had become neglected; therefore through His personal characteristics and behavior, He taught the ignorant public how to perform duties within the varṇāśrama-dharma. In this way He regulated the general populace in householder life, enabling them to develop religion and economic well-being and to attain reputations, sons and daughters, material pleasure and finally eternal life. By His instructions, He showed how people could remain householders and at the same time become perfect by following the principles of varṇāśrama-dharma.
The varṇāśrama-dharma is meant for imperfect, conditioned souls. It trains them to become spiritually advanced in order to return home, back to Godhead. A civilization that does not know the highest aim of life is no better than an animal society. As stated in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam: na te viduḥ svārtha-gatiṁ hi viṣṇum [SB 7.5.31]. A human society is meant for elevation to spiritual knowledge so that all of the people can be freed from the clutches of birth, death, old age and disease. The varṇāśrama-dharma enables human society to become perfectly fit for getting out of the clutches of māyā, and by following the regulative principles of varṇāśrama-dharma, one can become successful. In this regard, see Bhagavad-gītā (3.21–24).
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