Are Shudras and women more fortunate than Brahmanas according to the Vishnu Purana? Or is it better to be a Brahmana?
Are Shudras and women fortunate than Brahmanas?
Yes, Shudras and women are more fortunate than Brahmanas.
From the Vishnu Purana:
As my son plunged down into the water, and again rose up from it, the Munis heard him exclaim, "Excellent, excellent, is the Kali age!" Again he dived, and again rising, said in their hearing, "Well done, well done Śúdra; thou art happy!" Again he sank down, and as he once more emerged they heard him say, "Well done, well done, women; they are happy! who are more fortunate than they?"
The Munis then went to question Vyasa on what he means by that:
We heard you say, 'Excellent is the Kali age! Well done, Śúdra! Well done, women!' Now we are desirous to know why this was said, why you called them repeatedly, happy. Tell us the meaning of it, if it be not a mystery."
And Vyasa answers:
Formerly, [in previous Yugas] the Vedas were to be acquired by the twice-born through the diligent observance of self-denial; and it was their duty to celebrate sacrifices conformably to the ritual. Then idle prayers, idle feasts, and fruitless ceremonies, were practised but to mislead the twice-born; for although observed by them devoutly, yet, in consequence of some irregularity in their celebration, sin was incurred in all their works, and what they ate, or what they drank, did not effect the fulfilment of their desires. In all their objects the twice-born enjoyed no independence, and they attained their respective spheres only with exceeding pain. The Śúdra, on the contrary, more fortunate than they, reaches his assigned station by rendering them service, and performing merely the sacrifice of preparing food, in which no rules determine what may or may not be eaten, what may or may not be drunk. Therefore, most excellent sages, is the Śúdra fortunate.
And he answers for women:
Riches are accumulated by men in modes not incompatible with their peculiar duties, and they are then to be bestowed upon the worthy, and expended in constant sacrifice. There is great trouble in their acquisition; great care in their preservation; great distress from the want of them; and great grief for their loss. Thus, eminent Brahmans, through these and other sources of anxiety, men attain their allotted spheres of Prajápati and the rest only by exceeding labour and suffering. This is not the case with women: a woman has only to honour her husband, in act, thought, and speech, to reach the same region to which he is elevated; and she thus accomplishes her object without any great exertion. This was the purport of my exclamation, 'Well done!'
In truth, in the Kali age duty is discharged with very little trouble by mortals, whose faults are all washed away by the water of their individual merits; by Śúdras, through diligent attendance only upon the twice-born; and by women, through the slight effort of obedience to their husbands.
So, in reality, it is better to be a Shudra or woman than a Dvija!