Within the human society of Hindu India, there is recognized a caste system, referred to as varna. Hinduism identifies four social classes based on occupation: the Brahmin are the priests, teachers and philosophers of society; the Kshatiya are the rulers and warriors; the Vaishya are the merchants and landowners – the economic base of society; and the lowest caste, the Shudra serve as the servants and unskilled laborers.
Hinduism also recognizes four goals of life known as dharma: Kama is the pursuit of sensual pleasures, Artha is pursuit of success, dharma is fulfillment of one’s duties and responsibility to the larger society. Then there is the goal of moksha which seeks release from reincarnation.
Within Hindu culture, people generally follow four stages in life, or Ashrama: student, householder and retirement are more worldly in nature. The fourth “stage” is that of renunciation, rejecting life in society and this world, looking beyond to liberation from the cycle of reincarnation. These people are recognized in India as holy men or sahdu and are highly respected.