The Divinity Of Śrī Caitanya MahāprabhuThe Divinity Of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu
The Supremacy of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam over the VedasThe Supremacy of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam over the Vedas
By Published On: August 4, 2001Tags: 38.1 min read

Overview

This article, The Ontological Position of the Vaiṣṇava Over the Brāḥmaṇa’ examines the notion that a caste-brāhmaṇa is superior to a Vaiṣṇava. The author primarily draws evidence given in the book, Brāhmaṇa o Vaiṣṇavera Tāratamya Viṣayaka Siddhānta’ by Prabhupāda Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura.

Part 1

OBJECTION 1

OBJECTION: Through their process of initiation, many Gauḍīyas who are not born in brāhmaṇa families claim to be brāhmaṇas, having the right to perform arcana and yajna. This is not in line with the Dharma-śāstras wherein it is explained that one must be born in the family of a brāhmaṇa in order to be one –

yajña-siddhy-artham anaghān brāhmaṇān mukhato ‘sṛjat
brāhmaṇyāṁ brāhmaṇenaivam utpanno brāhmaṇaḥ smṛtaḥ

From the mouth (of the Lord) sinless brāhmaṇas were created for the purpose of performing sacrifices. The child born of a brāhmaṇa in the womb of a brāhmaṇa wife is known as a brāhmaṇa. (Hārita Smṛti 1.12.15)

REFUTATION: Let us first examine what a brāhmaṇa is, by stating the qualities of a brāhmaṇa. According to Śrī Kṛṣṇa in Bhagavad-gita (18.42), the qualities of a brāhmaṇa are as follows —

śamo damas tapaḥ śaucaṁ kṣāntir ārjavam eva ca
jñānaṁ vijñānam āstikyaṁ brahma-karma svabhāva-jam

Peacefulness, self-control, austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, knowledge, wisdom and religiousness — these are the natural qualities by which the brāhmaṇas work.

In the Mahābhārata *(1) it is stated:

dharmaś ca satyaṁ ca damas tapaś ca
amātsaryaṁ hrīs titikṣānasūyā
yajñaś ca dānaṁ ca dhṛtiḥ śrutaṁ ca
vratāni vai dvādaśa brāhmaṇasya

A brāhmaṇa must be perfectly religious. He must be truthful, and he must be able to control his senses. He must execute severe austerities, and he must be detached, humble and tolerant. He must not envy anyone, and he must be expert in performing sacrifices and giving whatever he has in charity. He must be fixed in devotional service and expert in the knowledge of the Vedas. These are the twelve qualifications for a brāhmaṇa.

satyaṁ dānaṁ kṣamā śīlam ānṛśāṁsyaṁ tapo ghṛṇā
dṛśyate yatra nāgendra sa brāhmaṇa iti smṛtaḥ

A person who possesses truthfulness, charity, forgiveness, sobriety, gentleness, austerity and lack of hatred is called a brāhmaṇa.

In the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (7.11.21) Śrī Nārada Muni states:

śamo damas tapaḥ śaucaṁ santoṣaḥ kṣāntir ārjavam
jñānaṁ dayācyutātmatvaṁ satyaṁ ca brahma-lakṣaṇam

The symptoms of a brāhmaṇa are control of the mind, control of the senses, austerity and penance, cleanliness, satisfaction, forgiveness, simplicity, knowledge, mercy, truthfulness, and complete surrender to the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

Having established the lakṣaṇas of a brāhmaṇa, let us see who is qualified to be a brāhmaṇa. The verse by Hārita quoted by our challengers is correct so far as both the husband and the wife exhibit all the brahminical qualities referred to above, and perform the garbhādāna-saṁskāra correctly. Furthermore, both families must be able to ascertain their forefathers from Lord Brahma without any break, can confirm that their descendants had all properly undergone the ten purificatory processes (daśa saṁskāra), can prove that there was never any inter-caste marriages in their families and can establish that before each pregnancy the appropriate samskaras had been performed. Such a child born from these parents can be termed as a seminal brāhmaṇa. Such a child born to them may display brahminical tendencies but is not considered a brāhmaṇa in the true sense of the word until he is purified by samskaras. *(2)

Although such verses may be found to establish that a brāhmaṇa may be by birth, the scriptures also state otherwise — it cannot be ruled out that anyone may become a brāhmaṇa by the process of initiation:

yathā kāñcanatāṁ yāti kāṁsyaṁ rasa-vidhānataḥ
tathā dīkṣā-vidhānena dvijatvaṁ jāyate nṛṇām

Just as bell-metal is transformed into gold by alchemy, a common man is transformed into a twice-born brāhmaṇa by dīkṣā from a bona-fide preceptor. (Tattva Sāgara 2.12)

So, by dīkṣā-saṁskāra a person who was not born in a brāhmaṇa family, but who exhibits brahminical qualities, may become a twice-born. Again, quoting Mahārāja Yudhiṣṭhira in Mahābhārata (Vana-parva chapter 180):

śūdre tu yad bhavel lakṣma dvije tac ca na vidyate
na vai śūdro bhavec chūdro brāhmaṇo na ca brāhmaṇaḥ

If such symptoms are found in a śūdra, he should never be called a śūdra, just as a brāhmaṇa is not a brāhmaṇa if he lacks these characteristics.

Similarly, Lord Śiva tells Umā in the Mahābhārata (Anuśāsana-parva 163.8, 26, 46):

sthito brāhmaṇa-dharmeṇa brāhmaṇyam upajīvati
kṣatriyo vātha vaiśyo vā brahma-bhūyaḥ sa gacchati

ebhis tu karmabhir devi śubhair ācaritais tathā
śūdro brāhmaṇatāṁ yāti vaiśyaḥ kṣatriyatāṁ vrajet

etaiḥ karma-phalaiṛ devi nyūna-jāti-kulodbhavaḥ
śūdro ‘py āgama-sampanno dvijo bhavati saṁskṛtaḥ

sarvo ‘yaṁ brāhmaṇo loke vṛttena tu vidhīyate
vṛtte sthitas tu śūdro ‘pi brāhmaṇatvaṁ niyacchati

If ksatriyas or vaisyas become situated in the behaviour of brāhmaṇas and spend their lives in the occupation of brāhmaṇas, then such persons attain the position of brāhmaṇas. O goddess, by the same process, a śūdra can become a brāhmaṇa and a vaiśya can become a kṣatriya. O goddess, by the results of these activities and by following the āgamas, then even a low-born śūdra also becomes a brāhmaṇa. A person in this world is born a brāhmaṇa simply as a result of his nature. A śūdra situated in the profession of a brāhmaṇa also becomes a brāhmaṇa.

na yonir nāpi saṁskāro na śrutaṁ na ca santatiḥ
kāraṇāni dvijatvasya vṛttam eva tu kāraṇam

Neither birth, purificatory ceremonies, nor learning, nor progeny are qualifications for brahminical status. Only brahminical conduct is the basis for brahminical status. (Mahābhārata‚ Anuśāsana-parva 143.50)

Furthermore, Śrī Kṛṣṇa states in Bhagavad-gita (4.13):

cātur-varṇyaṁ mayā sṛṣṭaṁ guṇa-karma-vibhāgaśaḥ
tasya kartāram api māṁ viddhy-akartāram avyayam

According to the three modes of material nature and the work associated with them, the four divisions of human society are created by Me. And although I am the creator of this system, you should know that I am yet the non-doer, being unchangeable.

None of the above scriptural statements mention birth as a brahminical qualification. This is also confirmed by the Śruti in the Vajrasūcikā Upaniṣad of the Sāma Veda.

OBJECTION 2

OBJECTION: Birth itself is dependent upon guṇa and karma. The Lord Himself determines where a jīva takes birth according to the individual jīva’s karmic activities in his previous life. Without prior knowledge of one’s previous birth, it is erroneous to assume that, based on one’s guṇa and karma in this birth, one’s varṇa may be determined.

REFUTATION: At present in Indian society, one’s varṇa is ascertained solely by seminal consideration. Yet the Vedic scriptures approved of a rational system ascertaining varna according to one’s inherent qualities (svabhāva). In order to prove that this is not a new invention created by envious people, we herein cite the case of Satyakama Jabala from the Chandogya Upaniṣad (4.4.1-5):

satyakāmo ha jābālo jabālāṁ mātaram āmantrayāṁ cakre
brahmacaryaṁ bhavati vivatsyāmi. kiṁ gotro ‘ham asmīti.

sā hainam uvāca
nāham etad veda. tāta yad gotras tvam asi. bahv-ahaṁ carantī paricāriṇī yauvane tvām alabhe. sā ahaṁ etan na veda.
yad gotras tvam asi. jabālā tu nāmāham asmi. satyakāmo nāma tvam asi. sa satyakāmo eva jābālo bruvīthā iti.

sa ha hāridrumataṁ gautamaṁ etya uvāca. brahmacaryaṁ bhagavati vatsyamāmy upeyāṁ bhagavantam iti.

taṁ hovāca kiṁ gotro nu saumyāsīti.
sa hovāca
nāham etad veda bho yad gotro ‘haṁ asmi. apṛcchaṁ mātaram. sāmā pratyabravīd bahv-ahaṁ carantī paricāriṇī yauvane tvāṁ alabhe.
sāhaṁ etan na veda yad gotras tvam asi. jabālā tu nāmā aham asmi. satyakāmo nāma tvam asīti. so ‘haṁ satyakāmaḥ jābālo ‘smi bho iti.

taṁ hovāca
na etad abrāhmaṇo vivaktum arhati. samidhaṁ saumya āhara upayitvā neṣye. na satyād agā iti.

Once, Satyakāma, the son of Jābāla, asked his mother, “I want to live as a brahmacārī. Which dynasty (gotra) do I belong to?”
Jābāla answered, ‘My son, I do not know which dynasty you belong to. In my youth I served as a maidservant in various places and at that time begot you as my son. Therefore, I don’t know which gotra you belong to. My name is Jābāla and your name is Satyakāma. Therefore, you should say that your name is Satyakāma Jābāla.’
Thereafter Satyakāma Jābāla approached Hāridrumata Gautama and said, “I wish to live with you as a brahmacārī.”
Gautama replied, “O gentle one, which dynasty do you belong to?”
Satyakāma replied, “I do not know which dynasty I belong to. I asked my mother and she said, ‘I begot you as my son when I was wandering in my youth as a maidservant. Thus, I do not know which dynasty you belong to. My name is Jābāla and your name is Satyakāma. So I am called Satyakāma Jābāla.’”
Gautama then said to him, “My dear son, no one other than a brāhmaṇa can speak such truth that you have spoken. Therefore, you are a brāhmaṇa, and I accept you. O gentle one, go and bring wood for sacrifice.”
Jābāla replied, “I am going right now to bring wood.”
Gautama said, “Never divert from the truth.”

In his commentary to the Chandogya Upaniṣad, Śrī Madhvācārya says:

ārjavaṁ brāhmaṇe sākṣāt śūdro ‘nārjava-lakṣaṇaḥ
gautamas tv iti vijñāya satyakāmam upānayat

A brāhmaṇa possesses the quality of simplicity, and a śūdra possesses the quality of crookedness. Knowing this fact, Gautama gave upanayanam to Satyakāma.

Although there was no evidence that Satyakāma was born from a brāhmaṇa family, Hāridrumata Gautama accepted him as a brāhmaṇa simply on the strength of his brahminical character.

Satyakāma is not the only example we can find of a person born in a lower varṇa achieving the status of a brāhmaṇa. The son of Mahārāja Gādhi, Viśvāmitra, became a brāhmaṇa by the strength of his austerities:

tatāpa sarvān dīptaujāḥ brāhmaṇatvam avāptavān

That effulgent one (Viśvāmitra) performed all kinds of austerities and attained the position of a brāhmaṇa. (Mahābhārata, Ādi-parva, Chapter 174)

Also, in the Mahābhārata (Anusasana Parva, Chapter 30), we find the example of Mahārāja Vītahavya who also became a brāhmaṇa:

evaṁ vipratvam agamad vītahavyo narādhipaḥ
bhṛgoḥ prasādād rājendra kṣatriyaḥ kṣatriyarṣabha
tasya gṛtsamadaḥ putro rūpeṇendra ivāparaḥ
sa brahmacārī viprarṣiḥ śrīmān gṛtsamado ‘bhavat
putro gṛtsamadasyāpi sucetā abhavad dvija
varcāḥ (sutejasaḥ) sucetasaḥ putro vihavyas tasya cātmajaḥ
vihavyasya tu putras tu vitatyas tasya cātmajaḥ
vitatyasya sutaḥ satyaḥ santaḥ satyasya cātmajaḥ
śravās tasya sutaś carṣiḥ śravasaś cābhavat tamaḥ
tamasaś ca prakāśo ‘bhūt tanayo dvija-sattamaḥ
prakāśasya ca vāgindro babhūva jayatāṁ varaḥ
tasyātmajaś ca pramitir veda-vedāṅga-pāragaḥ
ghṛtācyāṁ tasya putras tu ruru-ṇāmodapadyata
pramadvarāyān tu ruroḥ putraḥ samudapadyata
śunako nāma viprarṣir yasya putro ‘tha śaunakaḥ

This is how Mahārāja Vītahavya attained the status of a brāhmaṇa: O best of the ksatriyas, although Vītahavya was a ksatriya by birth, by the mercy of Bhṛgu he became a brāhmaṇa. His son was Gṛtsamada who was as beautiful as Indra. He became a brahmacārī and a brāhmaṇa sage. Sucetā, the son of Gṛtsamada, also became a brāhmaṇa. The son of Sucetā was Varcā, and his son was Satya. The son of Satya was Santa, whose son was Ṛṣiśvarā. The son of Ṛṣiśvarā was Tama and his son, Prakāśa, was the best of the brāhmaṇas. The son of Prakāśa was Vāgindra, whose son Pramiti, was learned in the Vedas and Vedangas. Pramiti begot Ruru in the womb of Ghṛtācī. In his wife, Ruru begot a son named Śunaka, who became a viprarṣi. The son of Śunaka was Śaunaka Ṛṣi.

The Hari-vaṁśa (29.7-8) explains that in the dynasty of Gṛtsamada, there were brāhmaṇas headed by Śaunaka, as well as kṣatriyas, vaiśyas and śūdras:

putro gṛtsamadasyāpi śunako yasya śaunakāḥ
brāhmaṇāḥ kṣatriyāś caiva vaiśyāḥ śūdrās tathaiva ca

In Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (9.2.16-17) we find that the dynasty of Mahārāja Dhṛṣṭa also became brāhmaṇas:

dhṛṣṭād dhārṣṭam abhūt kṣatraṁ brahma-bhūyaṁ gataṁ kṣitau

From Dhṛṣṭa came the dynasty called Dhārṣṭa, whose members achieved the position of brāhmaṇas in this world.

Also, in the Bhāgavatam (9.2.22), we see the example of Mahārāja Agniveśya, the son of Devadatta, who began a race of brāhmaṇas:

tato brahma-kulaṁ jātam āgniveśyāyanaṁ nṛpa

O King, from Agniveśya came a brahminical dynasty known as Āgniveśyāyana.

Other examples are Jahnu Muni, who was born as the son of Hotra in the Lunar Dynasty (Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 9.15.1-4); in the dynasty of Mahārāja Puru, Kanva Ṛṣi was born and from him the sage Medhātithi who began the Praskanna brāhmaṇa line (Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 9.20.1-7); Gārgya, the son of King Śini, began a generation of brāhmaṇas; Trayyāruṇi, Kavi and Puṣkarāruṇi, the three sons of Mahārāja Duritakṣaya, became brāhmaṇas; the descendants of Ajamīḍha headed by Priyamedha all achieved the position of brāhmaṇas, and in their family the great sage Mudgala of the Maudgalya brāhmaṇas was born: of the hundred sons of Rṣabhadeva, eighty-one of them became brāhmaṇas (SB 5.4.13); Nābhāga and the son of Diṣṭa, although born as vaiśyas, became brāhmaṇas *(3); Mahārāja Bali begot five kṣatriya sons, and also had sons who founded brāhmaṇa dynasties (Hari-vaṁśa 31.33-35). Other great personalities such as Vaśiṣṭha, Gautama, Agastya, and Ṛṣyaśṛṅga were not brāhmaṇas by ordinary standards, yet who will doubt their qualification and that of their descendants?

Another supporting evidence is found in Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (7.11.35):

yasya yal lakṣaṇaṁ proktaṁ puṁso varṇābhivyañjakam
yad anyatrāpi dṛśyeta tat tenaiva vinirdiśet

If one shows the symptoms of being a brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya, vaiśya or śūdra, as described above, even if he has appeared in a different class, he should be accepted according to those symptoms of classification. (Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 7.11.35)

Śrī Lomasa Ṛṣi in the Itihāsa Samucchaya states:

śūdraṁ vā bhagavad-bhaktaṁ niṣādaṁ śva-pacaṁ tathā
vīkṣate jāti-sāmānyāt sa yāti narakaṁ dhruvam

A Vaiṣṇava, even if he is born in a sudra, dog-eater or even lower class family than that, if somebody sees such a devotee in bad behavior (due to being born in that kind of family), he is certainly said to be going to hell. (Itihāsa Samucchaya)

na me bhaktaś caturvedī mad-bhaktaḥ śvapaco guruḥ
tasmai deyaṁ tato grāhyaṁ sa ca pūjyo yathā hy aham

A brāhmaṇa who is expert at chanting the four Vedas is not dear to me, but a devotee who comes from a family of dog-eaters is dear to me. Whatever he touches becomes pure. That devotee, although born in a family of outcastes is as worshippable as I am. (Itihāsa Samucchaya)

The Padma Purāṇa says:

na śūdrā bhagavad-bhaktās te tu bhāgavatā matāḥ
sarva-varṇeṣu te śūdrā ye na bhaktā janārdane

A devotee should never be considered a śūdra. All the devotees of the Supreme Personality of Godhead should be recognised as bhāgavatas. If one is not a devotee of Lord Kṛṣṇa, however, even if born of a brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya or vaiśya family, he should be considered a sudra.

śva-pākam iva nekṣeta loke vipram avaiṣṇavam
vaiṣṇavo varṇo-bāhyo ‘pi punāti bhuvana-trayam

If a person born in a brāhmaṇa family is a non-devotee, one should not see his face, exactly as one should not look upon the face of a dog-eater. However, a Vaiṣṇava found in varnas other than brāhmaṇa can purify all the three worlds. (Padma Purāṇa)

śūdraṁ vā bhagavad-bhaktaṁ niṣādaṁ śva-pacaṁ tathā
vīkṣate jāti-sāmānyāt sa yāti narakaṁ dhruvam

One who considers a devotee of the Supreme Personality of Godhead who was born in a family of śūdras, niṣādas or caṇḍālas to belong to that particular caste certainly goes to hell. (Padma Purāṇa)

Further evidence that a brāhmaṇa is not simply by birth is again provided by Śrī Ācārya Madhva himself. In his Gītā Tātparya commentary, the ācārya gives no mention of birth as a prerequisite to be a brāhmaṇa when commenting on Chapter 4 verse 13. *(4) Rather, he states it is according to one’s svabhāva (inherent nature):

svābhāviko brāhmaṇādiḥ śamādyair eva bhidyate
yoni-bheda kṛto bhedo jñeya aupādhikastvayam

(Gītā Tātparya 4.13)

This is also reiterated by Śrī Rāghavendra Yati in his commentary, Gītā Tātparya Nirṇaya. In this regard Śrī Jayatīrtha is also in agreement. In his Śruta Prakāśikā commentary, he writes

brāhmaṇād eva brāhmaṇa iti niyamasya kvacid anyathātvopapatte vṛścika-tāṇḍulīyakādi-vad iti.

Here Śrī Jayatīrtha cites the vṛścika-tāṇḍulī-nyāya – ‘the logic of the scorpion and the rice.’ When the seed of the scorpion is placed in the womb of another scorpion, a scorpion is born. This is the general law of nature. Yet sometimes it is seen that scorpions are born from rice. Although in this case the placement of the seed is not seen, the inconceivable potency of the Lord, which makes the impossible possible, brings about the scorpions’ appearance.

Our challengers have stated that, “Without prior knowledge of one’s previous birth, it is erroneous to assume that, based on one’s guṇa and karma in this birth, one’s varṇa may be determined.” In order to help the reader to understand their hypothesis more clearly, we have created the following scenario:

We have a western Vaiṣṇava, who wakes up during the brahma-muhūrta every morning, takes bath thrice daily, applies urdhva-puṇḍra in all twelve places on the body, wears dhotī and kaupīna, chants Lord Govinda’s name 25,000 times, worships Tulasī, worships the Deity form of the Lord with sixteen upacāras, lives a life of celibacy, is a strict vegetarian, does not eat onions, garlic and other forbidden foods, does not drink tea or coffee, does not take any form of intoxication, offers whatever he cooks to Kṛṣṇa, does not smoke, does not gamble, studies the śāstras, performs kīrtana, fasts on Ekādaśī, and distributes the Bhagavad-gītā to fallen people in the most degraded places.…but (according to our Tattvavādī friends) he is a fallen mleccha, without any brahminical quality whatsoever and is destined to be cast into eternal hell.

Compared to…

A young man from Karnataka, born in a brāhmaṇa family, who studied some scripture at the local sabhā when he was a child, now living in America, who wakes up at 7.00am, eats his Corn-Flakes, gulps down his coffee and rushes out to catch the tube into town, works for a mleccha beef-eating-manager (now what does that say for their guṇa and karma?) in a software company in order to send some money home to his family in Bangalore, watches Hindi films and cricket on Zee-TV on the cable-television so that he doesn’t become totally home-sick, wears a three-piece suit at the office and Levi jeans at home, has never heard of a kaupiṇa or longhoti and wears ‘Fruit of the Loom’ underwear instead, has forgotten how to put on a dhotī or lungī (and is not inclined to remember), wouldn’t dare apply urdhva-puṇḍra because his friends would laugh at him, who is trying desperately for a green-card, is vegetarian but doesn’t really look too closely at the ingredients on the back of the packet (“It’s OK — Kṛṣṇa says in Gītā, ‘Patram puṣpam‘ and ‘Mā sucaḥ!’”), has no time to read śāstras because he is too busy working for money, and tries to keep in touch with his culture via a webpage run by a group of young men in a similar situation…and of course, he is a brāhmaṇa!

One may argue that this may be a hasty generalisation. But if the shoe fits… *(5)

The question may be raised at this point as to why would the Lord allow a brāhmaṇa to be born in a low family? The Varāha Purāṇa states –

rākṣasāḥ kalim āśritya jāyante brahma-yoniṣu
utpannā brāhmaṇa-kule bādhante śrotriyān kṛśān

Those who were rākṣasas in previous ages, have taken birth as brāhmaṇas in Kali-yuga to torment the physically weak saintly persons who are engaged in the culture of hearing about the Lord.

In other words, this verse shows that birth is no guarantee of pure spiritual pedigree in Kali-yuga, for even demons are born in the families of brāhmaṇas. It is also interesting to note from this śloka that those demons in the guise of brāhmaṇas obstruct the saintly devotees engaged in chanting the holy names of the Lord. *(6)

Thus, we may observe that although the glories, prestige and prowess of the brāhmaṇas are sung throughout the śāstras, their degraded condition in the age of Kali is also described there. A similar verse to the previous one is found in Padma Purāṇa:

brāhmaṇāḥ kṣatriyā vaiśāḥ śūdrāḥ pāpa-parāyaṇāḥ
nijacārā-vihīnāś ca bhaviṣyanti kalau yuge
viprā veda-vihīnāś ca pratigraha-parāyaṇaḥ
atyanta-kāminaḥ krūrā bhaviṣyanti kalau yuge
veda-nindākarāś caiva dyūtacaurya karās tathā
vidhavā-saṅga-lubdhāś ca bhaviśanti kalau dvijāḥ
vṛtty-arthaṁ brāhmaṇāḥ kecit mahākapaṭa-dharmiṇaḥ
raktāmbarā bhaviṣyanti jaṭilāḥ śmaśrudhāriṇaḥ
kalau yuge bhaviṣanti brāhmaṇāḥ śūdra-dharmiṇa

In Kali-yuga, all four varnas are devoid of character and proper behaviour and are addicted to sin. The brāhmaṇas are devoid of Vedic knowledge and sacrifice. Giving up the five sacrifices mentioned in the Vedas and all brahminical behavioir and consciousness, they engage in inferior activities. They collect charity to satisfy their unlimited appetite for sense enjoyment. The brāhmaṇas of Kali-yuga are characterised by the qualities of lust and cruelty. Unholy in deed and thought, they take pleasure in malice and envy. These professional thieves blaspheme the Vedas, drink liquor and exploit women for sex, taking great pleasure in adultery and fornication. They accept extremely sinful means of maintaining their lives and, posing as sādhus, dress in red cloth and wear long hair and beards. In this way the wretched so-called brāhmaṇas of Kali-yuga accept the dharma of śūdras.

One can give ample historical evidence of the degradation of the brahminical society. When Śrī Kṛṣṇa returned to His divine abode, it was the brāhmaṇas who became affected by Kali first when Śṛṅgi, the son of Śamīka Ṛṣi, cursed Mahārāja Parikṣit. Later, in the history of India, we see that Lord Buddha appeared to preach against the Vedic injunctions because the brāhmaṇa class were misusing them and performing indiscriminate animal-sacrifices. Many highly learned brāhmaṇas such as Bauddhi-dharma, Buddhaāalita, Nāgārjuna, Aśvaghoṣa, Asaṅga, Kumarajīva, Dinnaga, Dharmakīrti, Candrakīrti, Śāntideva, and Ratnakīrti all became Buddhists and decried the Vedas. By their influence, many kings began to patronise Buddhism and as a result the country became weak and was eventually conquered by foreign invaders. The nāstika Jain philosophy was also spread throughout India by such brāhmaṇas as Prabhācandra, Anantavīrya, Devasuri, Hemacandra, Nemicandra, Mallisena, and Siddhasena Divakara. The followers of Ādi Śaṅkara such as Hastāmalaka, Padmapāda, Sureśvarācārya, Toṭakācārya, Vidyāraṇya, and Madhusūdana Sarasvatī all hailed from brāhmaṇa families and spread the Advaitavāda doctrine which is against the Vedic siddhānta. After the Moghul invasion, innumerable Hindus were forced to take shelter under the banner of Islam due to the archaic social strictures enforced by the brāhmaṇa community. At the time of the British, it was the brāhmaṇas who, tempted by money, taught Sanskrit to the likes of H.H. Wilson, who proceeded to tamper with the scriptures and translate them in such a way as to make sanātana-dharma look barbaric. Spurious socio-religious institutions such as the Arya Samaj, Ramakrishna Mission and Brahmo Samaj were mostly spearheaded by brāhmaṇas. When the British converted Hindus to Christianity, it was those who originally came from the brāhmaṇa section who preached the Gospel to the backward-classes, translating the Bible into local languages. After independence in 1947, what was left of the brāhmaṇas?

From rickshaw-wallahs to politicians, brāhmaṇas have entered every occupational sphere there is. Even those who are performing pūjā in the temples are generally on the government’s payroll and will stop at nothing to squeeze a few rupees from innocent pilgrims. The only remaining visible vestige of most of the brāhmaṇa community today is a grey 10-paisa thread hanging over their left shoulder.

FOOTNOTES

(1) Throughout his chapter we will quote from Śrīla Vyāsadeva’s Mahābhārata. It is important to note that although the Mahābhārata is not a śruti-śāstra (a subject which is addressed at length in another chapter), Śrī Madhvācārya extols it as the ‘Fifth Veda‘ and claims that ‘it contains esoteric truths not to be found even in the Vedas.’ (B.N.K. Sharma –History of the Dvaita School of Vedānta and its Literature, Chapter 13, p.132)

(2) Therefore the śāstras enjoin –

janmanā jayate śūdraḥ saṁskārad bhaved dvijaḥ
veda
paṭhanāt bhavet vipraḥ brahma janāti brāhmaṇaḥ

By birth one is a sudra, by the purificatory process one becomes a dvija, by study of the Vedas one becomes a vipra, and one who knows Brahman is a brāhmaṇa.

(3) nābhāgādiṣṭa-putrau dvau vaiśyau brāhmaṇatāṁ gatau. (Hari-vaṁśa 11.9)

(4) The distinguished Madhva scholar Śrī Bannanje Govindacharya writes:

“The idea of chaturvarnya or ‘four colors’ in the Gita vindicates this view only. The Gita idea of ‘four colors’ is quite distinct from the idea of ‘four castes’ prevalent today. It is a idea which relates only to the soul’s inmost nature or personality-trait. The true color of the soul needs to be discovered. That indeed is a right social order. In such a social order, the son of a low-born (sudra) may be a nobleman (brahmana); contrarywise, a brāhmaṇa’s son may also be a sudra. For, ‘varna’ or color is not something which is transmitted hereditarily; it is something quite personal; something which is determined by the individual’s own personality traits.” (Madhwacharya –Life and Teachings, Śrī Bannanje Sanmana Samiti, Poorna Prajna Vidyapeetha, Bangalore 1997)

(5) If our readers object to our sarcastic tone, we refer them to the Dvaita website where they can observe a similar manner aimed at our Gauḍīya ācāryas.

(6) Five-hundred years ago, the main opponents of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s saṅkīrtana-movement were the caste brāhmaṇas, who requested the Muslim Kazi to prohibit the chanting of the Lord’s name. The same envious opposition from the brahminical section continues to this day, though in a slightly different fashion.


Part Two

OBJECTION 1

OBJECTION: Lord Kṛṣṇa also tells Arjuna:

śreyān svadharmo viguṇaḥ para-dharmāt svanuṣṭhitāt
sva-dharme nidhanaṁ śreyaḥ para-dharmo bhayāvahaḥ

It is far better to discharge one’s prescribed duties, even though faultily, than another’s duties perfectly. Destruction in the course of performing one’s own duty is better than engaging in another’s duties, for to follow another’s path is dangerous. (Bhagavad-gītā 3.35)

In light of this, why do you not accept your karma and remain in the position that you were born in, rather than pretend to be brāhmaṇas and attempt to follow brahminical codes?

REFUTATION: From this argument it seems that our opponents are requesting us to follow nagna-mātṛkā-nyāya. When the mother was a child, she was naked, therefore she should always remain naked. In other words, because some Vaiṣṇavas were born in low-class families, they should remain low-class. Does Madhva suggest that spiritual elevation is the exclusive birth-right of those born in the family of a brāhmaṇa?

By quoting various scriptures, including Śrī Madhva, we have previously shown that one’s varṇa is not determined by birth. Therefore, it is only logical to assume that one’s prescribed duties are also not determined by birth. Rather, they are dictated by one’s inherent varna.

A similar question could be put to our challengers  – “Why don’t the young members of your community accept their karma of being born in a brāhmaṇa-parivāra and attempt to follow brahminical codes? Why are they flying to America to do the jobs of śūdras in order to get some money to send home to their parents?”

If they wish to rigidly adhere to the rules of the Dharma-śāstras by proclaiming that a brāhmaṇa is by birth, they should apply the rules of that scripture in toto. They are simply following the ardha-kukkuṭī-nyāya (the logic of half a hen) – they will take the rear part for the eggs, but they reject the front part because it is too bothersome to feed. What they have failed to understand is that according to the same Dharma-śāstras, a brāhmaṇa who crosses the ocean loses his caste. This means that those Madhva-brāhmaṇas who have gone to work in foreign countries have become lower than śūdras! Only a śūdra is allowed to reside outside Ārya-varṣa when he is in distress for subsistence. Thus, the injunction is given:

na śūdra-rājye nivaset nādharmika-jana-ākīrṇe

Let him (a brāhmaṇa) not dwell in a land that is governed by śūdras. (Manu Saṁhitā 4.61)

Furthermore, such ‘brāhmaṇas‘ become degraded associating with fallen people (patita-saṁsārgan) at their place of work:

uttamānuttamān gacchan hīnān hīnāṁś ca varjayan
brāhmaṇaḥ śreṣṭhatām eti pratyavāyena śūdratām

If a brāhmaṇa disassociates himself from lower caste people and associates only with higher caste people, he attains greatness. If he does the opposite, he becomes a śūdra. (Manu Saṁhitā 4.245)

Whether one is a government servant (rāja-sevaka), a salaried teacher (bhṛtakādhyāpaka), a bank-clerk (vāṇijakā), a doctor (cikitisika) or a computer programmer or is involved in any other kind of technology (yantra-vidyāka), all of these professions fall under the category of a śūdra. A brāhmaṇa never takes employment from anyone (especially from those who are śūdras and lower). He must be independent. This is explained in the Kūrma Purāṇa:

go-rakṣakān vāṇijakān tathā kāruka-śīlinaḥ
preṣyān vārdhuṣikāṁś caiva viprān śūdra-vad ācaret

Those brāhmaṇas who make a living from protecting cows, engage in trade, become artists, take the occupation of servants, and loan money on interest are no better than śūdras.

sevā śva-vṛttir yair uktā na samyak tair udāhṛtam
svacchanda-caritaḥ kva śvā vikrītāsuḥ kva sevakaḥ

Those who describe the occupation of a servant to be like that of a dog are unable to give a proper comparison. How can a freely wandering dog be compared to a sold-out servant?

yo ‘nyatra kurute yatnam anadhītya śrutiṁ dvijāḥ
sa sammūḍho na sambhāṣyo veda-bāhyo dvijātibhiḥ

O Brāhmaṇas, one who does not study the Vedas but carefully endeavours for other pursuits is certainly foolish and ostracized from Vedic life. Brāhmaṇas should not speak to such a person.

In the case of an emergency then Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (11.17.47) explains that a brāhmaṇa may perform another occupation:

sīdan vipro vaṇig-vṛttyā paṇyair evāpadaṁ taret
khaḍgena vāpadākrānto na śva-vṛttyā kathañcana

If a brāhmaṇa cannot support himself through his regular duties and is thus suffering, he may adopt the occupation of a merchant and overcome his destitute condition by buying and selling material things. If he continues to suffer extreme poverty even as a merchant, then he may adopt the occupation of a ksatriya, taking sword in hand. But he cannot in any circumstances become like a dog, accepting an ordinary master.

Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (12.3.35) also states however, that this is one of the symptoms of Kali-yuga:

paṇayiṣyanti vai kṣudrāḥ kirāṭāḥ kūṭa-kāriṇaḥ
anāpady api maṁsyante vārtāṁ sādhu jugupsitām

Businessmen will engage in petty commerce and earn their money by cheating. Even when there is no emergency, people will consider any degraded occupation quite acceptable.

By eating the food of non-brāhmaṇas, one also falls from his exalted brahminical position (sudranna-pustan):

nādyāc chūdrasya vipro ‘nnaṁ mohād vā yadi kāmataḥ
sa śūdra-yoniṁ vrajati yas tu bhuṅkte hy anāpadi

A brāhmaṇa should never eat food cooked by a śūdra. If other than in an emergency one either willingly or mistakenly does eat food cooked by a śūdra, then as a result of eating such food he is born as a śūdra. (Kūrma Purāṇa)

According to the Dharma-śāstras, if one does take birth in a brāhmaṇa family but does not cultivate scriptural knowledge, he cannot be accepted as a brāhmaṇa (svadhyāya-tyāgi). This is stated thus:

yatraital lakṣyate sarpa vṛttaṁ sa brāhmaṇaḥ smṛtaḥ
yatraitan na bhavet sarpa taṁ śūdram iti nirdiśet

na vāry api prayacchet tu vaiḍāla-vratike dvije
na baka-vratike vipre nāveda-vidi dharma-vit

Religious-minded people should never give even a drop of water to the hypocritical son of a brāhmaṇa, the follower of the ‘vow of a cat’ *(7). One should not give even a drop of water to the son of a brāhmaṇa who is ignorant of the Vedas or a sinful imposter. (Viṣṇu Dharma-śāstra 93.7)

yathā kāṣṭha-mayo hastī yathā carma-mayo mṛgaḥ
yaś ca vipro ‘nadhīyānas trayas te nāma bibhrati

A brāhmaṇa who does not study the Vedas is similar to a wooden elephant or a deer made of skin, which are an elephant or deer only in name but do not effectively function as such. (Manu Saṁhitā 2.157)

śūdreṇa hi samas tāvad yāvad vede na jāyate

One should know that until a brāhmaṇa is qualified in the Vedas, he is on the same level as a śūdra. (Manu Saṁhitā 2.172)

OBJECTION 2

OBJECTION: We agree that we cannot perform all the duties of a brāhmaṇa due to other commitments. However, in Bhagavad-gītā (9.26) Lord Kṛṣṇa has said:

patraṁ puṣpaṁ phalaṁ toyaṁ yo me bhaktyā prayacchati
tad ahaṁ bhakty-upahṛtam aśnāmi prayatātmanaḥ

If one offers a leaf, a flower, fruit or water to Me with love and devotion, I will accept it.

In other words, one should perform his duties as much as possible. The main point is that they should be done in devotion. Śrī Kṛṣṇa further states –

śreyān sva-dharmo viguṇaḥ para-dharmāt svanuṣṭhitāt
svabhāva-niyataṁ karma kurvan nāpnoti kilbiṣam

It is better to engage in one’s own occupation, even though one may perform it imperfectly, than to accept another’s occupation and perform it perfectly. Duties prescribed according to one’s nature are never affected by sinful reactions. (Bhagavad-gītā 18.47)

So even if we are performing our brahminical duties imperfectly (i.e. not performing yajñas *(8), Ekādaśī-vrata *(9), vedādhyāyana *(10), sandhyā-vandana *(11) etc), there is no sin involved because we are at least performing our occupation.

REFUTATION: If you are not performing such brahminical duties, then what activities are you performing that makes you a brāhmaṇa? You have quoted Gītā wherein it says that, “One should perform one’s own occupation, even though one may perform it imperfectly.” We have already shown that according to śāstra, you are engaging in another’s occupation (which, we may add, you are performing perfectly!). Obviously, the ‘other commitments’ that you speak of are of more importance in your life than your brahminical svadharma. Therefore, it is said:

hiṁsānṛta-priyā lubdhāḥ sarva-karmopajīvinaḥ
kṛṣṇāḥ śauca-paribhraṣṭās te dvijāḥ śūdratāṁ gatāḥ

sarva-bhakṣa-ratir nityaṁ sarva-dharma-karo’śuciḥ
tyakta-vedas tv anācāraḥ sa vai śūdra iti smṛtaḥ

Brāhmaṇas who live a life of violence, lies, and greed, who are impure and indulge in all kinds of karmic activity in order to maintain their lives are degraded to the status of śūdras. Such a person, who eats anything and everything without discrimination, who is attached to worldly things, who will accept any occupation just to make money, who has given up Vedic dharma and proper behaviour is called a śūdra. (Mahābhārata, Śānti-parva 189.7)

We find the opponent’s above declaration an extremely feeble excuse given by insincere people who wish to engage in a low-level form of non-committal bhakti, whilst performing mundane activities.

Our challengers (and many others throughout the Indian subcontinent) are ignorant of the fact that Brahmanism and Vaisnavism are two different things. Brahmanism is a stage or qualification of a Vaiṣṇava and Vaiṣṇavism is the fruit of Brahmanism. Therefore, it is said:

brāḥmaṇānāṁ sahasrebhyaḥ satrayājī viśiṣyate
satrayājī-sahasrebhyaḥ sarva-vedānta pāragaḥ
sarva-vedāntavit-koṭyā viṣṇu-bhakto viśiṣyate

Out of thousands of brāhmaṇas, one is qualified to perform sacrifices, and out of many thousands of such qualified brāhmaṇas expert in sacrifices, one learned brāhmaṇa may have passed beyond all Vedic knowledge. Among many such brāhmaṇas, one who is a devotee of Viṣṇu is the best. (Garuḍa Purāṇa)

We have shown previously, through numerous scriptural quotations, that Vaiṣṇavas born in families lower than brāhmaṇas are equal to brāhmaṇas (and superior to them if such a brāhmaṇa is not a Vaiṣṇava). This is because brahminical qualities are automatically present in a Vaiṣṇava. For example, in the numbers five and ten, the number five is present in both. Similarly, brahminical qualities are eternally present in the Vaiṣṇava, hence the word ‘vipra-samya’ is used in describing them.

Although they follow brahmincal culture, such Vaiṣṇavas are actually beyond varṇāśrama-dharma as they have no interest in this material world and its ephemeral social regulations. The brahminical culture is adopted as it elevates one to the platform of sattva (goodness) which is only a step away from the transcendental platform of pure goodness (śuddha-sattva).

However, even if one only follows brahminical culture perfectly, one does not attain the śuddha-sattva platform since the mode of sattva is also a material mode of nature. One can only attain the śuddha-sattva level of consciousness by associating and serving higher Vaiṣṇavas — this is pure goodness, or Vaisnavism.

Although a Vaiṣṇava’s activities may appear to be similar to those following the system of varnasrama, in reality it is totally different since whatever actions he performs are only for the pleasure of the Lord and His devotees.

CONCLUSION

We have shown through śāstrika injunctions that brahmatva is not simply by birth but by dīkṣā if one exhibits brahminical qualities.

Furthermore, we have explained how a real Vaiṣṇava is above all temporary material designations, including that of brāhmaṇa, while naturally exhibiting all brāhmaṇa-lakṣaṇas.

Finally, we have established that according to their own logic and pramāṇa (i.e. Dharma-śāstras) *(12) some of our challengers can only be classified as śūdras due to their surly behaviour, their low-class occupations, the association they keep, the food they consume, their country of residence and the fact that they are not performing the duties of brāhmaṇas. The Dharma-śāstras describe such ‘brāhmaṇas‘ as the worst kind and a disgrace to their lineage (brāhmaṇāpasadā hy ete kathitāḥ paṅkti-dūṣakāḥ). This obviously brings into question the potency of the garbhādāna-saṁskāras performed in the brāhmaṇa community today. It is hoped that by reading this treatise they will honestly acknowledge the error of their ways and, if indeed they deem themselves as brāhmaṇas, they will reject their lowly employment and resume their brahminical duties in some of the poorly managed Vaiṣṇava temples and maṭhas in India.

In actual fact, the followers of Śrī Caitanyadeva do not condemn anyone according to their birth, religion, social status etc. The followers of Mahāprabhu hailed from all walks of life, thus confirming that the transcendental designation of ‘Vaiṣṇava’ is above the social laws of varṇāśrama.

We have given evidence from Śrīmad Ānanda Tīrtha Muni (Madhvācārya) stating that brāhmaṇa is not necessarily by birth. This evidence is also acknowledged by many Madhva scholars today. Although Śrī Madhvācārya has stated that it is the jīva-svabhāva which determines his varna, this is not being followed by the Tattvavādīs today. We challenge our opponents to find us one specific quote of Madhva wherein he clearly states that brahmatva is based upon one’s birth.

In reality the challenging party is doggedly following in the footsteps of Ādi Śaṅkara who shamelessly declares in his Taittirīyopaniṣad Bhāṣya that he rejects any Vedic statement that does not suit his philosophy. Similarly, as a frog jumps from one pond to another, our challengers oscillate between denying the smṛti when it does not conform to their narrow-minded social dogmas and accepting the smṛti when it does. They would do well to learn that their cacophonous croaking does not resemble the sweet vibration of the Vedic literatures, rather it is a disturbance to all sincere devotees of Lord Hari.

FOOTNOTES

(7) The ‘Vow of a cat’ is that of hypocrisy, envy, lies and cheating.

(8)

agnihotryapavidhyāgnīn brāhmaṇaḥ kāmakārataḥ
cāndrāyaṇaṁ caren māsaṁ vīrahatyāsamaṁ hi tat

A Brāhmaṇa who, being an agnihotrin, voluntarily neglects the sacred fires, shall perform the candrayana-vrata for one month; for that (offence) is equal to the slaughter of a son.” (Manu Saṁhitā 11.41)

(9)

vaiṣṇavo yadi bhuñjīta ekādaśyāṁ pramādataḥ
viṣṇv-arcanaṁ vṛthā tasya narakaṁ ghoram āpnuyāt

If, due to bewilderment, a Vaiṣṇava eats grains on Ekādaśī day, then whatever merit has attained by worshipping Lord Śrī Viṣṇu becomes fruitless and he falls into hell. (Gautamīya Tantra)

(10)

yo ‘nadhītya dvijo vedam anyatra kurute śramam
sa jīvan eva śūdratvam āśu gacchati sānvayaḥ

A brāhmaṇa who without studying the Vedas who labours for other things – wealth, position, adoration, and other opulence, becomes a śūdra along with all his family members. (Manu Saṁhitā 2.168)

(11) In the Viṣṇu Dharma it is stated:

yo’nyatra kurute yanaṁ dharma-kārye dvijottamaḥ
vihāya sandhyā-praṇatiṁ sa yāti narakāyutam

Any twice-born brāhmaṇa who does not perform his sandhyā-vandana properly and engages in other activities and vows, goes to hell for one billion years.

(12) We have decided not to include the reference to Bhagavad-gītā 4.13 as one of our challenger’s pramāṇas since this is their own concocted misinterpretation and is not in line with Ācārya Madhva’s commentary on it.

The Divinity Of Śrī Caitanya MahāprabhuThe Divinity Of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu
The Supremacy of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam over the VedasThe Supremacy of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam over the Vedas

Share this article!

About the Author: Swami B.V. Giri

Avatar of Swami B.V. Giri
  • Prema Dhāma Deva Stotram with the Narasiṅgha Sevaka Commentary – Verses 61-65

Prema Dhāma Deva Stotram with the Narasiṅgha Sevaka Commentary – Verses 61-65

By |April 19, 2024|Tags: |

In verses 61 to 65 of 'Prema Dhāma Deva Stotram', Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja narrates the pastime of Śrī Caitanya at Caṭaka Parvata In Purī and explains how the scriptures produced by Brahmā and Śiva are ultimately searching for the personality of Mahāprabhu who is merciful too all jīvas, no matter what their social position.

  • Prabhupāda Śrīla Sarasvatī Ṭhākura’s Visit to Ayodhyā

Prabhupāda Śrīla Sarasvatī Ṭhākura’s Visit to Ayodhyā

By |April 12, 2024|Tags: |

With the forthcoming observance of Śrī Rāma Navamī, we present 'Prabhupāda Śrīla Sarasvatī Ṭhākura’s Visit to Ayodhyā' written by Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda from The Gaudīyā magazine, Vol 3. Issue 21/ In December 1924, after visiting Benares and Prāyāga, Sarasvatī Ṭhākura visited the birth-site of Śrī Rāmācandra in Ayodhyā.

  • Ātma Samīkṣā – The Value of Introspection

Ātma Samīkṣā – The Value of Introspection

By |March 29, 2024|Tags: |

In this article, "Ātma Samīkṣā – The Value of Introspection" Kalki Dāsa highlights the importance of introspection in the life of a devotee and especially in relation to the worldly environment that surrounds us. He also explains how transcendental sound influences our capacity to introspect.

  • Prema Dhāma Deva Stotram with the Narasiṅgha Sevaka Commentary – Verses 61-65

Prema Dhāma Deva Stotram with the Narasiṅgha Sevaka Commentary – Verses 61-65

By |April 19, 2024|Tags: |

In verses 61 to 65 of 'Prema Dhāma Deva Stotram', Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja narrates the pastime of Śrī Caitanya at Caṭaka Parvata In Purī and explains how the scriptures produced by Brahmā and Śiva are ultimately searching for the personality of Mahāprabhu who is merciful too all jīvas, no matter what their social position.

  • Prabhupāda Śrīla Sarasvatī Ṭhākura’s Visit to Ayodhyā

Prabhupāda Śrīla Sarasvatī Ṭhākura’s Visit to Ayodhyā

By |April 12, 2024|Tags: |

With the forthcoming observance of Śrī Rāma Navamī, we present 'Prabhupāda Śrīla Sarasvatī Ṭhākura’s Visit to Ayodhyā' written by Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda from The Gaudīyā magazine, Vol 3. Issue 21/ In December 1924, after visiting Benares and Prāyāga, Sarasvatī Ṭhākura visited the birth-site of Śrī Rāmācandra in Ayodhyā.

  • Ātma Samīkṣā – The Value of Introspection

Ātma Samīkṣā – The Value of Introspection

By |March 29, 2024|Tags: |

In this article, "Ātma Samīkṣā – The Value of Introspection" Kalki Dāsa highlights the importance of introspection in the life of a devotee and especially in relation to the worldly environment that surrounds us. He also explains how transcendental sound influences our capacity to introspect.