Being an incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Rshabhadeva 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 varnasrama-dharma and acted accordingly. In due course of time, the principles of varnasrama-dharma had become neglected; therefore through His personal characteristics and behavior, He taught the ignorant public how to perform duties within the varnasrama-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 varnasrama-dharma.
The varnasrama-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 Srimad-Bhagavatam: na te viduh svartha-gatim hi vishnum [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 varnasrama-dharma enables human society to become perfectly fit for getting out of the clutches of maya, and by following the regulative principles of varnasrama-dharma, one can become successful. In this regard, see Bhagavad-gita (3.21–24).
Whatever action is performed by a great man, common men follow.
Similar slokam is also found in Bhagavad-gita (3.21). It is essential for human society to have a section of men perfectly trained as qualified brahmanas according to the instructions of Vedic knowledge. Those below the brahminical qualification—administrators, merchants and workers—should take instructions from those ideal people who are considered to be intellectuals. In this way, everyone can be elevated to the highest transcendental position and be freed from material attachment. The material world is described by Lord Krishna Himself as duhkhalayam asasvatam [Bg. 8.15], a temporary place of misery. No one can stay here, even if he makes a compromise with misery. One has to give up this body and accept another, which may not even be a human body. As soon as one gets a material body, he becomes deha-bhṛt, or dehī. In other words, he is subjected to all the material conditions. The leaders of society must be so ideal that by following them one can be relieved from the clutches of material existence.
Although Lord Rshabhadeva knew everything about confidential Vedic knowledge, which includes information about all types of occupational duties, He still maintained Himself as a kṣatriya and followed the instructions of the brahmanas as they related to mind control, sense control, tolerance and so forth. Thus He ruled the people according to the system of varnasrama-dharma, which enjoins that the brahmanas instruct the kshatriyas and the kshatriyas administer to the state through the vaisyas and sudras.
Although Rshabhadeva knew all the Vedic instructions perfectly well, He nonetheless followed the instructions of the brahmanas in order to perfectly maintain the social order. The brahmanas would give advice according to the sastras, and all the other castes would follow. The word brahma means “perfect knowledge of all activities,” and this knowledge is very confidentially described in the Vedic literatures. Men trained perfectly as brahmanas should know all Vedic literature, and the benefit derived from this literature should be distributed to the general populace. The general populace should follow the perfect brahmana. In this way, one can learn how to control the mind and senses and thus gradually advance to spiritual perfection.