bhagavan srotum icchami
nrnam dharmam sanatanam
yat puman vindate param
sri-yudhisthirah uvaca—Maharaja Yudhisthira inquired; bhagavan—O my lord; srotum—to hear; icchami—I wish; nrnam—of human society; dharmam—the occupational duties; sanatanam—common and eternal (for everyone); varna-asrama-acara-yutam—based on the principles of the four divisions of society and the four divisions of spiritual advancement; yat—from which; puman—the people in general; vindate—can enjoy very peacefully; param—the supreme knowledge (by which one can attain devotional service).
Maharaja Yudhisthira said: My dear lord, I wish to hear from you about the principles of religion by which one can attain the ultimate goal of life—devotional service. I wish to hear about the general occupational duties of human society and the system of social and spiritual advancement known as varnasrama-dharma.
Sanatana-dharma means devotional service. The word sanatana refers to that which is eternal, which does not change but continues in all circumstances. We have several times explained what the eternal occupational duty of the living being is. Indeed, it has been explained by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Jivera ‘svarupa’ haya—krsnera ‘nitya-dasa’: [Cc. Madhya 20.108] the real occupational duty of the living entity is to serve the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Even if one prefers to deviate from this principle he remains a servant because that is his eternal position; but one serves maya, the illusory, material energy. The Krsna consciousness movement, therefore, is an attempt to guide human society to serving the Personality of Godhead instead of serving the material world with no real profit. Our actual experience is that every man, animal, bird and beast—indeed, every living entity—is engaged in rendering service. Even though one’s body or one’s superficial religion may change, every living entity is always engaged in the service of someone. Therefore, the mentality of service is called the eternal occupational duty. This eternal occupational duty can be organized through the institution of varnasrama, in which there are four varnas (brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya and sudra) and four asramas (brahmacarya, grhastha, vanaprastha and sannyasa). Thus, Yudhisthira Maharaja inquired from Narada Muni about the principles of sanatana-dharma for the benefit of human society.
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