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Brahmins and Vaishnavas

 

Brahmins and Vaishnavas
(From the account by Sri Bhakti Kusum Sraman Maharaja)

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Brahmins and Vaishnavas
Sri Bhakti Kusum Sraman Maharaja

Feeling pained by the distress of others, caused by the misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the pure principles of Vaishnavism, there arose in Prabhupada Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura an indomitable enthusiasm to preach in an extensive manner Sriman Mahaprabhu's pristine religion of divine love. At that time his initiating spiritual master Srila Gaura Kishore das Babaji Maharaja, who would not allow anyone to touch his feet, by his own will bestowed the dust of his feet upon the head of Srila Saraswati Thakura and gave him the order to preach the message of Mahaprabhu in an extensive way. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Prabhupada preached strongly about the conclusions of the scriptures which corruptly selfish readers of the scriptures conceal.

siksa guruke ta' jani krishnera svarupa
antaryarni bhakta srestha ei dui rupa.

"I know the instructing Guru to he the own-self of Krishna in these two Forms - the in-dwelling Monitor and the best of devotees." Ch. Car. (Adi 1/47)

In the Anubhasya (commentary) to this verse of the Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita, Srila Sarasvati Thakura has written, "He who gives instruction on Hari bhajana is the instructing (siksa) Guru. A Guru or Acharya is never devoid of bhajana or badly behaved. The great Guru who takes bliss in bhajana and the mental Guru (Chitta-guru) Who gives the discrimination for accepting things favorable to bhajana are the two types of instructors. The instructions of bhajana differ with the differences in the stage of practice (sadhana) and attainment (sadhya). Sri Gurudeva, the bestower of Krishna, by enriching his disciple with the knowledge of relationship (sambandha-jnana) unfolds to him the realization of his own service. After attaining the grace of that initiating Guru, the instructions, which are then given on the immaculate service of Vishnu, are described by the name 'abhideya'. The instructing Guru in the form of a servitor - the embodiment of abhideya, is not a different entity from the initiating Guru - the bestower of sambandha-jnana. Both of them are Gurudeva. To see or understand them unequally brings spiritual offence. Between Krishna's Form (rupa) and His Own Self (svarupa) there is none of the dissimilarity brought about by language. The initiating Guru is Sanatana - the bestower of Madana Mohanas Lotus Feet. To the souls who have forgotten God and are unable to roam in Vraja he gives the realization of the Feet of God as one's all in all. The instructing Guru is Rupa - the bestower of the fitness to perform service to Govinda and to the Feet of His Dearest One."

In the eighth chapter of the Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita we can see Sriman Mahaprabhu saying to Srila Raya Ramananda

kiba vipra, kiba nyasi, sudra kene naya
yei krishna tattva vetta sei guru haya

"Whether one be a Brahmin, or a Sannyasi, or a Sudra, he who is versed in the truth of Krishna is a Guru."

In the Anubhasya to the that verse Srila Sarasvati Thakura has written, "Let him be a Brahmin by caste, or let him be a Ksatriya, Vaisya or Sudra ; let him be a sannyasi by stage of life or let him be a brahmachari, vanaprastha or grihastha ; let him be situated in any caste or stage of life - he who is versed in the truth of Krishna can become a Guru, i.e. a I>vartmapradarsaka-Guru, an instructing Guru or an initiating Guru. The fitness to be a Guru rests only upon the knowledge of the truth of Krishna - it does not rest upon caste or stage of life; this direction of Sriman Mahaprabhu is not opposed to the scriptural directions. By following the purport of this Sri Visvambhara Mahaprabhu was initiated by the sannyasi Sri lsvara Pun. Sri Nityananda Prabhu was Initiated by the sannyasi Sri Madhavendra Puri Gosvami (by Srimat Laksmipati Tirtha according to another opinion) and Sri Advaitacharya was initiated by the sannyasi Sri Madhavendra Puri. Sri Rasikananda was initiated with Pancharatrika initiation by Sri Syamananda who appeared in a family who were not seminal Brahmins, Sri Ganganarayana Chakravarti and Sri Ramakrishna Bhattacharya (seminal Brahmins) were initiated by Sri Narottama Thakura who appeared in a family who were not seminal Brahmins, and Katwa's Sri Yadunandana Chakravarti was Initiated by Sri Dasa Gadadhara. Being a religious-minded hunter etc. was not even an obstacle for many people to become instructing Gurus. By the proper application of the rules of the Mahabharata's clear injunctions in pursuance of the Vaishnava faith and by the utterance in Srimad Bhagavata's Seventh Canto, Eleventh Chapter, 32nd verse

yasya yal laksanam proktath
pumso varna bhiv yanjakam
yadan yatrapi dris yeta
tattenaiva vinirdiset

"The signs (qualities) that divide mankind into castes have been described, wherever those qualities are observed then the appropriate caste will be ascertained there accordingly. (Caste will not be ascertained by birth alone."

A person who is versed in the truth of Krishna naturally has the character of a Brahmin. Therefore, wherever it is said that anything apart from 'seminal Brahminism' (which is introduced in the Age of Kali ) will not do, Mahaprabhu has carefully given us the understanding that even a 'seminal Sudra' who is a knower of the truth of Krishna is able to become the Guru there, for he has attained scriptural Brahminism. Those knowers of the truth of Krishna who do not accept the Savitra Samskara ( the ceremony of acceptance of the sacred thread ), which is mentioned in the Katyayana Grihyasutra within the Vedic Vajasaneya section, are all Brahrnins initiated in the ekayana. However, most of the time, foolish people are unable to understand that they are infallible Brahmins (achyuta brahmana) and they thus become condemned to hell. It is for this reason that the sacred thread ceremony and the function of acting as Acharyas even for seminal Brahmin sects has been going on since the very beginning in Rasikananda Prabhu's family, in Navani Hoda's family and in Mukunda Dasa's family of Khetari. It is not that since the bhajanandi Vaishnavas have not accepted the savitra samskara that this is the only rule. Vaishnavas ascertain caste by characteristics. But, as foolish people are unable to ascertain caste in that manner, Sri Mahaprabhu has clearly given the understanding of the purport of the scriptures. Even though the compiled conclusions of the Haribhaktivilasa are one with "Mahaprabhu's exemplary behavior and instructions, people, by the judgement of fools, are under the belief that they differ. By their judgement the quoted word 'Guru' alludes to the sravana (hearing) Guru or to the Guru instructing on bhajana, it does not allude to the initiating or mantra-giving Guru, since, in their opinion, the fitness to be the bestower of divine knowledge is ascertained and introduced by family reputation, that is, by blood or semen ; so by their idea, devotion to Krishna, the propensity of the pure soul, is not independent. Moreover, according to their foolishness, the initiating or mantra - giving Guru is superior to the sravana -Guru and the instructing Guru on bhajana. Factually, the only result of this type of idea which is born from sensory knowledge is spiritual offence."

In the conclusion of the Amritapravaha-Bhasya on Sriman Mahaprabhu's aforementioned saying, Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura has written, "When it is mentioned in the Haribhaktivilasa that if there is a fit person of a high caste present then it is improper to accept the Krishna mantra from a person of low caste, then this is vaishnavism relative to the society ; that is, it is for those who practice family life by the customary rules and who have somewhat of a desire for spirituality. But for those people who know the import of vaidhi and raganuga bhakti and who wish to get pure Krishna devotion, the rule for them is that in whatever caste or stage of life the suitable knower of the truth of Krishna may be in, he should be respectfully accepted as a Guru. In the words of the Padma Purana quoted in the Sri Haribhaktivilasa

na sudrah bhagavad bhaktasthe'pi bhagavatottamah
sarva varnesu te sudra ye na bhaktah janardane

sat karma nipuno vipro mantra tantra visradah
avaisnavo gurur na syad vaisnavah svapaco guruh
maha kulaprasuto'pi sarva yajnesu diksitah

sahasra sakha dhyayi ca na guruh syada vaisnavah
vipra ksatriya vaisyas ca guravah sudra janmanam
sudras ca guravas tesam trayanam bhagavat priyah

"Those who have taken recourse to the devotion of Krishna are never to be counted as Sudras but they are to be glorified as Bhagavatas. Amidst all the castes, those people who are devoid of devotion to Sri Janardana are Sudras. A Brahmin who is expert in the six works and also in mantras and the tantra should not be selected as a Guru if he is a non-Vaishnava. If someone from a dog-eater family is a Vaishnava he may be accepted as a Guru. Even if one is born in the best of families, even if one is initiated in all the sacrifices and is learned in all the branches of the Vedas, if he is a non-Vaishnava he is unable to become a Guru. Generally, Brahmins, Ksatriyas and Vaisyas should be the Gurus of Sudras but even Sudras can be the Gurus of these three castes if they are dear to God ."

In the Padma Purana there is also another saying

arcye visnau siladhir gurusu nara matir vaisnave jati budhir
visnor va vaisnavanam kalimala mathane pada tirthe’ mbu buddhi
sri visnor namni mantre saka’ akalusahe sabda samanya buddhir
visnau sarves varese tada tira samadhir yasya va naraki sah

"That person who thinks the worshipped Deity to be just stone, who considers the Vaishnava Guru to be a mortal human being, who considers the caste of a Vaishnava, who considers the water that has washed the feet at Vishnu and Vaishnavas to be just water, who considers the Name and Mantra of Vishnu, which is the destroyer of all sins, to be just a sound, and who considers the Lord of lords Vishnu to be equal to other demigods is condemnable to hell."

na me' bhaktas caturvedi
mad bhaktah svapacah priyah
tasmai deyam tato grahyam
sa ca punyo yatha hy aham

"It is not that if one is versed in the four Vedas, i. e. is a Choube Brahmin, then he is a 'devotee'. Even if My devotee is dog-eater he is dear to Me, the devotee is the proper object of charity and the proper acceptor of gifts; devotees are just as worshippable as Me."

It has been described in the Srimad Bhagavata (3-33-8)-

aho bata svapaco'to gariyan
yaj jih vagre vartate nama tubhyam
te pusta paste juhuvuh sasnur aryah
brahman ucurnar na grinanti ye te

"Oh Lord I Those persons in whose mouths Your Name is present, even though they be born in a dog-eater family, are the best of all. Those persons who glorify Your Name have performed all types of penances, they have done all sacrifices and they have bathed in all the holy places, therefore they are to be counted amongst the Aryans."

vipra ad dvisada guna yutada dara vinda nabha
padaravinda vimukhat svapacam baristham
manye tadarpita mano vacane hitartha
pranam punati sa kulam na tu bhuri manah
(Bhagavata
7-9-9)

"Even if they be dog-eaters, I respect those people who dedicate their mind, endeavor, words, wealth and life to Krishna as being better than Brahmins who are endowed with the twelve qualities but who are adverse to the Lotus Feet of Krishna, because he (the devotee appearing in a dog-eater family) purifies his family, and proud Brahmins are unable to do that."

In the Sri Hari bhakti sudhodaya Third Chapter, verses 11 and 12,

bhagavad bhakti hinasya jatih sastram japastapah
apranasyaiva dehasya mandanam lokaranjanam sucih
sad bhakti diptag nidag dhadur jati kalmasah
svapko'pi budaih slaghyo na veda jno'pi nastikah

"The noble family, knowledge of the scriptures, japa and penances of people devoid of devotion to God are just like the ornaments of a dead body and are of no use at all, they are only for public entertainment. Those people whose sins of low birth have been burnt up by the blazing fire of good character and true devotion, even though they be dog-eaters, are respected by the learned, but even if an atheist knows the Vedas he is not worthy of respect.

The words of the Tattvasagara in the Sri Hari Bhaktivilasa's second Vilasa, twelfth verse

yatha kancha natam yati kasyam rasa vidha natah
tatha diksa vidhanena dvija tvam jayate nrinam

"In the same manner that bell-metal attains the quality of being gold by the influence of a special chemical process, so also, by the influence of initiation men attain the state of being twice-born (i.e. Brahminism)."

In the commentary to this verse the conclusion of Srila Sanatana Gosvami Prabhu is nrinam sarvesameva dvija tvam 'viprata' . (All men can attain the Brahminism of the twice born.)

There is also the statement of the Vishnupurana in relation to the glories of mahaprasada

naivedyam jagadisasya tvan napa nadi kancha yat
bhaksya bhaksya vicaras ca nasti tad bhaksane dvijah
brahma vinnirv vikaram hi yatha visnus tathaiva tat
vikaram ye prakur vanti bhaksane tat dvija tayah
kusthav yadi sama yuktah putra dara vivarjitah
nirayam yanti vipras tasman na vartate punah

"Oh Brahmins ! No kind of consideration is to be given to the edibility or non-edibility of the things such as food and drink, which have been offered to Vishnu. Those Brahmins who judge about its edibility lose their sons and wives and being attacked with leprosy go to hell, from where they do not return."

When all of these non-envious Bhagavata conclusions were preached on a large scale by Srila Prabhupada, and when many descendants of Brahmins accepted initiation from a few Vaishnava acharyas who came from families other than Brahmins by following the conclusion of Sriman Mahaprabhu's above mentioned verse and also the ideal of Sri Ramakrishna Bhattacharya and Sri Ganganarayana Chakravarti's acceptance of initiation from Srila Narottama Thakura, who appeared in a Kayastha family, a terrible agitation was seen amongst the Karmajada Smartas. They girded up their loins to prove the Vaishnavas to be lowly. A few established people of the caste Gosvami sect also joined those Smartas due to the attachment of the materialistic social tie, and instead of exhibiting the moral courage to protest against them, they began to support them. Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura, who was then bed-ridden with rheumatism, said in a roaring voice, "ls there not such a person manifest in the Vaishnava world who is capable to hold a meeting with them and by the conclusions and original logic of the scriptures put a stop to these lowly activities which are the frenzied dance of the three material qualities?" Srila Sarasvati Thakura then wrote "Brahmana 0 Vaisnavera Taratamya Visayaka Siddhanta"(The conclusion about the subject of comparison between Brahmins and Vaishnavas) and read it to Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura. [This discussion can be seen in the book ‘Brahmana 0 Vaishnava’ published from Sri Chaitanya Math, Sridham Mayapur.] Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura was so glad upon hearing the essay that, although he was unable to arise, out of joy he sat up and said to Srila Sarasvati Thakura in vigorous language, "Sarasvati, truly, truly Sarasvati! Truly, truly the acharya sun, lighting the face of the Vaishnava world. By the light of these judgements the darkness of the Karmajada Smarta's doctrine will certainly soon be dispelled."

At 3 p.m. on Friday 8th September 1911 A. D, the meeting for the discussion between the Karmajada Smarta Brahmins and the Vaishnavas was begun at Midnapore District's Balighat Uddhavapura. Prabhupada Srila Sarasvati Thakura set out from Calcutta with Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura's follower Sriyukta Sureshchandra Mukhopadhyaya on the 6th September and at 10 p. m. he reached the Sauri Prapannasrama where he saw that Panditapravara Srila Madhusudhana Gosvami Sarvabhauma (of Srila Gopala Bhatta Gosvamipada's family) from Sridhama Vrindavana's Radharamana enclosure and Panditapravara Srila Visvambharananda Devagosvami (of Srila Shyamananda Prabhu's family) from Sripata Gopivallabhapura were waiting for him there The two Gosvamipadas and Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura's follower Srimat Sitanatha Bhaktitirtha Mahasaya accorded Srila Prabhupada a reception with the honor befitting an Acharya. In their mutual meeting of giving and taking affection the waves of bliss began to flow. Srila Sarasvati Thakura, along with the other Vaishnavas, arrived for the meeting on the 8th September. The seminal Brahmin pandits of the Karmajada society also joined the meeting from various places at the correct time. Many people introduced by the name of descendants of customary Acharyas from the caste Gosvami society also took their seats in the debate under the Karmajada party. By the Karmaj ada Smarta's opinion:

1) Even if a person appearing in a Sudra family is initiated by the Pancharatrika initiation according to the Vaishnavite scriptural rules, still he is not fit to worship the Salagrama.

2) He who does not take his birth in a Brahmin family by seminal consideration is not fit to undertake all tasks. Even if he is a Vaishnava of the highest order (uttama adhikari) he is never able to perform the duties of an Acharya.

By the consent of all, Panditapravara Sri Visvambharananda Devagosvami accepted the Chair as the meeting’s president. Prabhupada Srila Sarasvati Thakura then began to recite the conclusions which were written in the ‘Brahmana 0 Vaisnavera Taratamya Visavaka Siddhanta,' in order to destroy the said doctrine. This address is divided into the Prakritajana section and the Harijana section. When he began to recite the glories of Brahmins from the Prakritajana section the pandits of the opposing side lost themselves in joy. It was not known to them that there were this many utterances in various scriptures expressing the glories of Brahmins. When the discussion was begun clearly with the original reasoning of the scriptures as to who is a Brahmin, who is a Vaishnava, what is the relationship between them both and who is whose Guru etc., the joy of those people opposed to the Vaishnavas vanished. On not getting any suit able counter many people amongst them started an uproar. After the uproar was quelled some argumentative people spoke three or four statements no doubt, but they were reduced to ashes immediately by the cannon like good logic issuing forth from Srila Sarasvati Thakura's mouth. Gradually, the meeting went on for three days. Making known the substantiality of Srila Sarasvati Thakura's conclusion, Srila Madhusudana Gosvami Sarvabhauma, Sriyukta Ramananda Dasa Babaji and Sriyukta Sitanatha Bhaktitirtha Mahodaya lectured on the subject that no matter what family a Vaishnava appears in, he always has perfect fitness for worship of the Salagrama and recital of the Vedas. On the final day, Srila Sarasvati Thakura, as concluding speaker, delivered a speech in vigorous and ornate language for a period of two hours. There remained nothing for the opposite side to counter. Thousands of voices extensively proclaimed the victory of the Vaishnavas.

After the meeting thousands and thousands of people halted and surrounded Srila Prabhupada in order to take the dust of his feet. The guards told them to stay peacefully and assured everyone that their longed for object would be given. The guards then took a large basin full of water for touching his feet in and took Srila Prabhupada to another place. To give the water that washed his feet was a far-removed subject. Srila Prabhupada would never even allow anyone to touch his feet. If anyone prostrated to him he would immediately return the prostration and exhibit the behavior of the Vaishnava's ideal - ''I shall not take anyone's worship." To protect Srila Prabhupada from the pressure of the crowd, despite his intense objections. The guards forcefully collected the water which had touched his feet and then took Srila Prabhupada to a resting-place. Gradually, a few water pots full of water were added to this water and within a short time it was completely exhausted. On receiving the water which had washed Srila Prabhupada's feet the people were grateful and felt blessed.