Srimad Bhagvata Mahapurana: Book 7: Chapter 11: Verses 1-17
An inquiry into right conduct
Sri Suka began again : Having heard the narrative-celebrated (even) by assemblies of pious souls-of Prahrada (the ruler of the Daityas), the leader of most exalted souls, whose mind was fixed on the almighty Lord Visnu, Yudhisthira, full of joy, further inquired (as follows) of Narada (son of Brahma, the self-born).
Yudhisthira said: O divine personage, I am anxious to hear (from you) about the eternal Dharma (course of right conduct) prescribed for men, along with the ethical code governing the (four) Varnas (or grades of society) and Asramas (stages in life), by following which a human being (eventually) reaches the Supreme (either through devotion or spiritual enlightenment). You are a (mind-born) son of no other than Brahma (the lord of created beings), the highest deity-(nay) the most beloved of (all) his sons, O holy one, by virtue of (your) asceticism, concentration of mind and deep meditation. (Hence he must have revealed to you the secret of Dharma, of which he is the first and foremost exponent). (Only) kind-hearted, pious and tranquil Brahmanas like you, devoted to Lord Narayana, know the highest (conception of) virtue, which is a (guarded) secret; not so others (the so-called law-givers, the compilers of the various Smrtis). Narada resumed : Bowing (my head) to gain the favour of the birthless Lord (Narayana), the Promoter of righteousness among the people, I shall expound the eternal Law as learnt from the lips of (the divine sage) Narayana, who, taking His descent along with His part manifestation (the sage Nara) from Dharma (the god of piety) through (his wife) Murti (daughter of Daksa) is, as a matter of fact, practising austerities (even to this day) in His hermitage at Badrinatha for the good of the people. The source of and the authority on
Dharma (righteousness) really are Lord Sri Hari, the embodiment of all the (four) Vedas, the body of Codes handed down by those well-versed in the Vedas, O Yudhisthira, and the feeling of self-satisfaction (that by which the mind derives real satisfaction) as well as the conduct (example) of the virtuous.
The highest virtue of all men, by which the Lord (the Soul of the universe) is pleased, has been duly proclaimed, O king, as consisting of the following thirty features, viz., (1) truthfulness, (2) compassion, (3) .austerity (fasting etc.), (4) purity (of body), (5) endurance (of heat and cold etc.) (6) discrimination (the power of distinguishing right from wrong), (7-8) control of mind and the senses, (9) non-violence, (10) continence, (11) charity, (12) muttering prayers, (13) straightforwardness, (14) contentment, (15) service of those who look upon all with the same eye, (16) gradually withdrawing from (all) mundane activity, (17) pondering the contrary result of men's (egotistic) actions, (18) refraining from useless talk, (19) inquiry into the Self (as distinguished from body etc.), (20) equitable distribution among created .beings, according to their worth, of rice and other eatables etc.,(21) and regarding them, particularly human beings, as one's own self or deity, O Yudhisthira (son of Pandu), (22) the hearing and (23) chanting of and (24) dwelling on the names and glories of, (25) waiting upon, (26) worshipping, and (27) bowing to, (28) offering the fruit of one's action performed in the spirit of service to, (29) treating as one's bosom friend, and (30) dedicating oneself (one's body and all) to, the Lord, the goal of exalted souls. A Dwija or twice-born (a member of the first three classes of Hindu society, viz., the Brahmanas, Ksatriyas and the Vaisyas, so-called because of their investiture with the sacred thread, which is said to constitute their second birth or regeneration) is he in whose family the (sixteen) purificatory rites (accompanied by the recitation of Mantras or sacred texts) have been performed in unbroken succession and whom Brahma (the birthless creator) has denominated as such (through the Vedas and other scriptures).
Performance of sacrifices, study (of the Vedas and other sacred books) and charity as well as the duties prescribed for the (four) Asramas (stages in life, viz., Brahmacarya or student life, Garhasthya or the life of a householder, Vanaprastha or the life of an anchorite and Samyasa or the life of a recluse) have been enjoined on the twice-born that are pure by birth and conduct. Study (of the scriptures and so on (viz., performance of sacrifices and charity, which along with study are of an obligatory nature; and three more-viz., teaching, officiating as a priest at sacrifices, and receiving gifts from those whose earnings are free from blemish-which are recommended as a means of subsistence and are therefore not obligatory) are the six duties of a Brahmana. Non-acceptance of gifts is the rule for the other one (viz., the Ksatriya, or a member of the warrior class, who comes next in order to the Brahmana and is allowed to earn his livelihood by the other two means, viz., teaching and officiating as a priest at sacrifices in distress. Of course, he is free to practise these otherwise than as a means of subsistence).
Maintenance is to be sought by a Ksatriya, protecting the people, optionally by recovering taxes and fines from his subjects other than a Brahmana (who is ordinarily exempted from such taxes and fines). A Vaisya (a member of the trading and agricultural classes) as a matter of fact should make his living by agriculture, breeding of cattle, trade and usury and should always follow the lead of the Brahmana race. Service to the twice-born classes has been enjoined upon the Sudra (a member of the labouring and artisan classes) and service to his master has been ordained as his means of subsistence too. (1) Occupation of various kinds (such as agriculture, breeding of cattle, trade and so on as enumerated in verse 15), (2) accepting gifts without the impudence of asking, (3) begging foodgrains daily (lit., the life of a vagrant mendicant) and (4) gathering ears of corn left by the owner while reaping the harvest or gleaning foodgrains lying scattered in a grain-market after the heaps have been sold off or removed-this is the fourfold means of livelihood sanctioned fora Brahmana (one belonging to the priestly class). (Of these four,) again, each succeeding one is preferable (to the preceding). With the exception of a Ksatriya, a man belonging to a lower grade should not adopt a higher vocation except in distress. (Of course, a Ksatriya may adopt the means of livelihood of a Brahmana other than accepting gifts made by another.) In (times of) distress, however, all sorts of vocations are open to all without distinction.