Srimad Bhagvata Mahapurana: Book 11: Chapter 17: Verses 1-15
Uddhava submitted : The righteous course expressive of and engendering devotion to You and open to those observing the rules of conduct laid down for the (four) Varnas (grades of society) and Asramas, nay, to all human beings was taught by You in the foregoing Kalpa (cycle). (Now) be pleased to tell me in detail, 0 lotus-eyed One, how Devotion is engendered (in man) through one's own (allotted) duty being (duly) followed. The supreme and blissful course of conduct, 0 Lord of mighty arms, which You taught, it is said, to Brahma in the former days in the form of the divine Swan mentioned before (in Discourse XIII), 0 Lord of Laksmi ! has now disappeared after a very long time, 0 Chastiser of foes l and will not ordinarily survive on this mortal plane, even though it was taught (by You) long ago. Other than You, 0 immortal Lord, there is none to teach, institute or defend this righteous course on earth, (nay) not even in Brahma's court, where (all) sciences (in the form of the Vedas etc.) are in attendance in a personal form. When the terrestrial soil is deserted, 0 Slayer of the demon Madhu ! by You-who institute, maintain and teach this righteous course-0 Lord ! who will expound this extinct Dharma ? Therefore, 0 Knower of (the secret of) all righteous courses, (pray,) tell me, 0 Lord, how and on whom among us the Dharma engendering Devotion to You has been enjoined. Sri Suka continued : Thus interrogated by Uddhava (the foremost of His servants), the celebrated Lord Sri Hari (Sri Krsna) felt (much) delighted and taught (as follows) for the welfare of mortals the courses of conduct which are binding for all times.The glorious Lord began again: This question of yours is full of righteousness in that it leads to Devotion (which is conducive to the highest good of men). (Now) hear from Me (something) about the righteous course followed by those observing the rules prescribed for the (four) Varnas (grades of society) and Asramas (stages in life). (9) In the (very)-first Satya Yuga (of the present Kalpa) the caste of men was (only one and) known by the name of Hamsa. People had their object (of life) accomplished by virtue of their (very) birth; hence they understood it by the name of Krtayuga (the aeon of blessedness). (10) In the beginning Pranava (the mystic syllable OM) alone formed (the text of) the Veda; while I (alone as existing in their thought) constituted their piety appearing in the form of a bull (standing on all its four feet). Firm in askesis (in the shape of one-pointedness* of mind and senses) and free from sin they contempiated on Me, the immaculate Lord. At the beginning of (the next Yuga known by the name of) Treta (after the expiry of Krtayuga), O highly blessed Uddhava, was revealed from My heart through My respiration the threefold Veda (knowledge cosisting of three limbs in the shape of Rk, Sama and Yajus); (and) from the latter appeared I as (the institution of) sacrificet with its triple functions (of a Hota, Adhwaryu and Udgata). (Again) from Brahma (born of the Cosmic Person) appeared the (four grades of society under the names of) Brahmanas, the Ksatriyas, the Vaisyas and the Sudras, evolved (respectively) from His mouth, arms, thighs and feet and distinguished by their own (respective) conduct. The householder's order appeared from My hips and loins; the It order of (lifelong) celibates, from My heart; forest-life (the order of anchorites) from My chest (below the heart); while the order of recluses (Samnyasa) was located in (sprang from the) crown of My head. The nature of men belonging to the (different) Varnas and Asramas developed according to the character of their place of origin (the limb of the cosmic body from which they sprang up)-low in the case of those of a low origin and lofty in the case of those sprung of high origin.