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Friday, 13 September 2013

Brahmana and Vaishnava

To establish brahmanatva, it takes many generations. We cannot simply initiate someone and make him a brahmana. What happened in the 19th century was that brahmanatva declined, to the greatest degree in Bengal, due to the British rule. So, Bhaktivinoda Thakura realised that varnashrama dharma needed to be re-established and he was empowered by Krishna. Under the orders of Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Gaura Kishora Dasa Babaji, Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati initiated devotees, irrespective of caste, as brahmanas. His followers were mostly pious Hindus, so there were hardly any fall-downs. But when Prabhupada initiated non-Hindus, the weakness was exposed.
Actually, all of us, the entire range of species are descendants of Lord Brahma and the sages; so by birth, all of us are brahmanas in one sense. But no one can be brahmana by birth, we need proper samskaras. Samskara is an interesting word: it means the impressions from our previous lives as well as rituals performed to purify us. So, those who underwent samskaras and concentrated on brahmanical activities, viz., performance of Vedic yajnas, studying and teaching Vedas and living on alms became brahmanas like Sage Bhrigu. Those who were authorised to rule the land became kshatriyas like King Manu and those who engaged in production became vaishyas. From the Puranic lineages, it is clear that persons of the same family could belong to different varnas. Now, those who did not undergo samskaras but chose to serve the other three varnas became shudras. Together, they were referred to as Aryans.
The caste brahmanas are right to assert their claim to brahmanatva, if they actually undergo all samskaras and engage in brahmanical activities. But do they? Is their lineage from Brahma unbroken, i.e., all their ancestors of thousands of generations were brahmanas? Actually, in different periods of time, great avataras and acharyas have organised people deviated from Vedic path into the varnashrama fold. They have reinstated the fallen races to brahmanatva and rajatva. There has been intermarriages and absorption of foreign races. Extraordinary personalities like Vishwamitra have become full-fledged brahmanas on the strength of their spirituality. The goal of Saraswatideva and Prabhupada was simply to re-establish varnashrama.
Iskcon devotees should be humble, serve the Sankirtana Movement and raise our children as brahmanas. If the latter show proper behaviour, all will be forced to accept their brahmanatva. Nobody can stop. But alas! We have seen too many fall downs of sannyasis and gurus. We have seen gurukulis turn into mlecchas. The reason is inculcation of wrong samskaras. What to do about it? How will the caste brahmanas respect such unqualified persons as brahmanas? Simply because they receive a thread and a mantra? I am fully convinced that if the Iskcon devotees show proper behaviour, these people will embrace us. Look at Saraswatideva and Prabhupada, they were not born in brahmana families, can anyone dare to say that they were unqualified sannyasis?

If we are qualified (please read the news item at the end), the traditionalists will not raise a hue and cry. The problem is that we have failed to establish varnashrama. Advaita Acharya, the leader of the Vaishnava brahmanas in Navadvipa, the premier centre of brahmanical learning at that time, invited a yavana by birth, Shrila Haridasa Thakura to partake of the first meal on the shraddha ceremony of his forefathers in the presence of learned brahmanas. Was it not the breach of brahmanical privilege? By the example of the great avatara and acharya, Shri Advaita, it is proven that pure Vaishnavas like Haridasa Thakura, Raghunatha Dasa Goswami, Narottama Dasa Thakura, Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati and our dear Prabhupada are worshippable by all the brahmanas.
If we remain humble, offer our obeisances to all the Shri and Madhva brahmanas and continue to serve the Sankirtana Revolution, if we train our children as brahmanas, one day they will be recognised by our Shri and Madhva brothers and sisters.

(Addressed to Anantavijaya Dasa, a Balinese devotee):

Prabhu, you need to perform all the proper samskaras and engage in brahmanical activities, viz., performance of yajna, studying and teaching Vedic literature and sustain on alms received for your services. Then you are a qualified brahmana. If not, still you are a Vaishnava (if actually you follow the four regulative principles, chant 16 rounds daily and fast on Ekadasi and Janmastami), respectable to all the brahma-bandhus like me. If you are acting as a brahmana, you are a brahmana within that society. You may not be recognised as such by older brahmanical societies, until you have maintained high standards for several generations. Just take for example, Manusmriti 2.17-24: 

The tract of land founded by the demigods between the celestial Sarasvati and Drsadvati Rivers is called Brahmavarta. The traditional behavior of the people in the various castes and mixed classes of that land is called sad-achara, or proper behaviour. Kurukshetra, Matsya, Panchala, and Surasena— these four sacred provinces situated in the south of Brahmavarta are called Brahmarishi-desha.The people of this world should mold their character after the brahmanas who originally inhabited all these provinces. The province west of Prayaga is named Madhya-desha.The area between the Himalaya and Vindhya Mountains and stretching from the eastern ocean to the western ocean is called Aryavarta by those who are learned. The place where spotted deer naturally wander is suitable for sacrifices. Other places are known as Mleccha-deshas, the lands of barbarians. Those who are twice-born should endeavor to take shelter of these pure tracts of land. There is no restriction, however, on where a shudra may earn his livelihood.

Our ancestors considered the people living south of Vindhyas as mlecchas, until there emerged great acharyas, Shankara, Ramanuja and Madhva, who proved the Dravida brahmanas are also qualified. In fact, after the Islamic invasion, the brahmanical culture of Aryavarta was mostly preserved in Dravida-desha. Most Aryavarta brahmanas, Kashmiris, Kumaonis, Garhwalis, Nepalis, Maithilis, Bengalis, Assamese and Oriya began to consume meat, due to Shaiva-Shakta predominance in the region. Even the Vaishnavas in Eastern India consumed fish, offering it to Krishna with Tulsi leaves. They called it jaler phal (water fruit). By the efforts of Gaudiya Math and now Iskcon, better standards have been set.

(quoted from Brahmana and Vaishnava by Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura, Founder Acharya-President of Gaudiya Math)

(1) The principle of birth is a hegemonic strategy to stop unwanted and unqualified elements from intruding the brahmanical fold, thus reducing the standards. Otherwise, Sage Bhrigu says (Mahabharata, Shanti Parva, Moksha Dharma, Chapter 188):
There are no real differences among varnas. When Brahma first created the universe, it was inhabited only by brahmanas. Later on, as a result of their activities, people attained the designations of different varnas. When the brahmanas commit violence, speak lies, become greedy, earn their livelihood by any and all activities, lose their purity by sinful activities, then they become degraded into shudras.
Bhrigu continues (Chapter 189): 

A person who has been purified by the reformatory processes like jata-karma, etc, who is clean, devoted to studying the Vedas, expert in the six occupations, situated in pure conduct, eating the remnants of his spiritual master, dear to the spiritual master, regularly engaged in performing vows, and fixed in truthfulness is considered a brahmana. A human being who is truthful, charitable, shy, not hateful, austere, not vengeful, and not cruel is a brahmana. One who is attached to eating all kinds of foods and performing all kinds of activities, who is impure, deviant from the principles of Vedic culture, and ill-behaved is known as a shudra. If the symptoms of a brahmana are found in a shudra and if the symptoms of a shudra are found in a brahmana, then the shudra should not be called a shudra and the brahmana should not be called a brahmana. (2) Sage Markandeya quotes in Vana Parva, Chapter 211:  
O brahmana, if a person is born in the family of a shudra and possesses good qualities, he becomes a vaisya or a ksatriya. And if he possesses the quality of simplicity, he is a brahmana.

(3) Lord Shiva confirms (Mahabharata, Anushasana Parva, Chapter 163):
If kshatriyas or vaisyas become situated in the behaviour of brahmanas and spend their lives in the occupations of brahmanas, then such persons can attain the position of brahmanas. O goddess, by the same procedure a shudra can become a brahmana and a vaisya can become a kshatriya. By the results of these activities and by becoming an adherent of the agama scriptures, or in other words, by taking initiation through the pancharatrika system, then a low-born shudra also becomes a brahmana. O goddess, Lord Brahma has personally declared that by performing pure activities, a self-controlled shudra is fit to be served just like a brahmana. In my opinion, if pious activities and good character are found in a shudra, it should be understood that he is better than a brahmana. Birth, purificatory processes, study of the Vedas, and good birth are not the criterion for being a brahmana. The only criterion is one's behaviour. A person is born as a brahmana in this world simply as a result of his nature. A shudra situated in the profession of a brahmana also becomes a brahmana. I have thus explained to you the secret of how a person who is born as a shudra becomes a brahmana and how by deviating from his occupational duties a person born in the family of a brahmana becomes a shudra.
(4) Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.11.35:
yasya yal laksanam proktam pumso varnabhivyanjakam
yad anyatrapi drsyeta tat tenaiva vinirdiset
If one shows the symptoms of being a brahmana, kshatriya, vaisya or shudra, as described above, even if he has appeared in a different class, he should be accepted according to those symptoms of classification.
(5) Bhagavad Gita, 4.13: catur-varnyam maya srstam guna-karma-vibhagasah tasya kartaram api mam viddhy akartaram 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. 

(6) Vajra-suchikopanishad: “There are four varnas—brahmana, kshatriya, vaisya, and shudra. According to the statements of the Vedas, the brahmanas are the highest class. This is confirmed by the smritis as well. Therefore the question now comes: Who is a brahmana? The living entity, the body, the caste, the knowledge, the activities, or the religionist—of these, which is the brahmana? If it is proposed that the living entity is the brahmana, that is not correct. The living entity remains the same in the past, present, or future. Though he receives various types of bodies according to his karma, he remains unchanged. Therefore the living entity is not the brahmana. Then is the body the brahmana? No, it is not. The bodies of human beings down to the chandala are all made of the same five gross elements. Therefore, birth and death and religion and irreligion equally effect all bodies, and since there is no law that the brahmanas are white, the kshatriyas are red, the vaisyas are yellow, and the shudras are black, the body is therefore not the brahmana. Moreover, when the son of a brahmana burns the body of his dead father, he does not commit the sin of killing a brahmana. Therefore the body is not the brahmana. So, then, is caste the brahmana? No, this is also not the case. Many great sages have been born of other living entities. Rsyashringa was born from a deer, Kaushika was born from kusha grass, Jambuka Rsi was born from a jackal, Valmiki was born from an ant hill, Vyasadeva was born from a fisherman's daughter, Gautama was born from the back of a rabbit, Vashistha was born from Urvashi, and Agastya was born from a pitcher. Apart from these personalities, there are many other wise persons born from other castes who became sages. Therefore, caste is not the brahmana. So, then, is knowledge the brahmana? No, it is not that either. Because many persons, such as some kshatriyas, were very learned and knew the Absolute Truth. Therefore, knowledge is also not the brahmana. Then, are activities the brahmana? No, they are not. Because every living entity shares the common nature of having to suffer the matured reactions of his karma that come to him in the future. By karma, human beings are engaged in further karma. Therefore, activities are not the brahmana. Then is the religionist the brahmana? No, he is not. Because many kshatriyas give gold in charity. Therefore, the religionist is not the brahmana. Then, who is the brahmana? Anyone who knows the Self as one; devoid of mundane caste, qualities, and activities; devoid of contamination by the six enemies and six waves; the personification of transcendental knowledge and bliss; beyond duality, yet the basis of all material dualities; the Supersoul of all living entities; all-pervading inside and outside like the vast sky; endowed with uninterrupted bliss; immeasurable; known only through spiritual realization; and directly self-manifesting—one who directly realizes the Self (as one sees an amlaki fruit in the palm of his hand), who lives always satisfied, devoid of faults like lust and anger, who possesses qualities like peacefulness and self-control, who is devoid of envy, the thirst for material enjoyment, illusion, and other faults, and who is untouched by pride, false ego, and so on—such a person is a brahmana. This is also the opinion of the Shrutis, Smritis, Itihasas, Puranas, and other scriptures. Otherwise, one cannot be a real brahmana. The Upanishads instruct us that the Supreme Soul is sac-cid-ananda and the Absolute Truth, one without a second.” (7) Chandogya Upanishad: “Once Satyakama, the son of Jabala, asked his mother, `I want to live as a brahmachari. Which dynasty do I belong to?' In answer, Jabala told Satyakama, `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 Jabala and your name is Satyakama. Therefore, you should say that you are Satyakama Jabala.' Thereafter, Satyakama Jabala approached Haridrumata Gautama and said, `I wish to live with you as a brahmachari.' Gautama inquired, `O gentle one, which dynasty do you belong to?' Satyakama 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. Therefore, I do not know which dynasty you belong to. My name is Jabala, and your name is Satyakama.” So I am Satyakama Jabala.' Gautama then said to him, `My dear son, no one other than a brahmana can speak such truth that you have spoken. Therefore, you are a brahmana, and I accept you. O gentle one, go bring wood for sacrifice.' Jabala replied, `I am going right now to bring wood.' Gautama said, `Never divert from the truth.'” (8) In his commentary on this story, Shri Madhvacharya writes: naham etad veda bho yad gotro 'ham asmiti satya-vacanena satyakamasya shudratvabhava-nirdharane haridrumatasya na etad abrahmano vivaktum arhatiti tat-samskare pravrttes ca. “By Satyakama's truthful statement, `I do not know, sir, which dynasty I belong to,' Haridrumata ascertained that he was not a shudra and therefore said, `A non-brahmana cannot speak like this.' He then proceeded to perform the purificatory rituals for him.” Madhavcharya further quotes Sama Samhita: arjavam brahmane sakshat shudro 'narjava-laksanah gautamas tv iti vijnaya satyakamam upanayat
“A brahmana possesses the quality of simplicity, and a shudra possesses the quality of crookedness. Knowing this fact, Gautama awarded sacred thread initiation to Satyakama and made him a first-class brahmana.” 

Thus, there is clear evidence from Shabda, Pratyaksha and Anumana that a brahmana with exemplary qualifications can be born in any family. Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati and Shrila Prabhupada were such great personalities. They wanted to establish daivi varnashrama system based on their example and teachings. I agree that the reputation of Iskcon has been tarnished by the fall-down of sannyasis and gurus and the adoption of mleccha behaviour by gurukulis, for which we should beg forgiveness from our acharyas.

I offer my obeisances to my Gurudeva, His Holiness Bhakti Vikasa Swami and pray that may all of us in Iskcon become exemplary brahmanas as Shrila Prabhupada desired. To all Shri and Madhva brahmanas, obeisances of this fallen brahma-bandhu of Kanya Kubja heritage. Om tat sat.

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