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Vaisnavas and varnasrama


mam hi partha vyapasritya
ye 'pi syuh papa-yonayah
striyo vaisyas tatha sudras
te 'pi yanti param gatim

O son of Prtha, those who take shelter in Me, though they be of lower birth, women, vaisyas [merchants] and sudras [workers] can attain the supreme destination. (Bhagavad-gita 9.32)

asmat kulino 'nanucya
brahma bandhur iva bhavati

"A brahma-bandhu, or a mere relative of a brahmana, is one who belongs to our brahmana community but has not studied the Vedas." (Chandogya Upanisad)

Om. There once lived Svetaketu, the grandson of Aruna. To him his father said: "Svetaketu, lead the life of a brahmacari; for there is none belonging to our family, my dear, who, not having studied the Vedas, is a brahmana only by birth." (Chandogya Upanisad 6.1.1)

tam hovaca na etad abrahmano vivaktum arhati. samidham saumya ahara upayitva nesye. na satyad aga iti.

"Gautama then said: 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'." (Chandogya Upanisad of the Sama Veda, 4th prapathaka, 4th khanda)

Vajrasucika Upanisad


abhira-sumbha yavanah khasadayah
ye 'nye ca papa yad-apasrayasrayah
sudhyanti tasmai prabhavisnave namah

Kirata, Huna, Andhra, Pulinda, Pulkasa, Abhira, Sumbha, Yavana, members of the Khasa races and even others addicted to sinful acts can be purified by taking shelter of the devotees of the Lord, due to His being the supreme power. I beg to offer my respectful obeisances unto Him. (Srimad Bhagavatam 2.4.18)

yat-prahvanad yat-smaranad api kvacit
svado 'pi sadyah savanaya kalpate
kutah punas te bhagavan nu darsanat

To say nothing of the spiritual advancement of persons who see the Supreme Person face to face, even a person born in a family of dog-eaters immediately becomes eligible to perform Vedic sacrifices if he once utters the holy name of the Supreme Personality of Godhead or chants about Him, hears about His pastimes, offers Him obeisances or even remembers Him. (Srimad Bhagavatam 3.33.6)

aho bata sva-paco 'to gariyan
yaj jihvagre vartate nama tubhyam
tepus tapas te juhuvuh sasnur arya
brahmanucur nama grnanti ye te

Oh, how glorious are they whose tongues are chanting Your holy name! Even if born in the families of dog-eaters, such persons are worshipable. Persons who chant the holy name of Your Lordship must have executed all kinds of austerities and fire sacrifices and achieved all the good manners of the Aryans. To be chanting the holy name of Your Lordship, they must have bathed at holy places of pilgrimage, studied the Vedas and fulfilled everything required. (Srimad Bhagavatam 3.33.7)

sva-dharma-nisthah sata-janmabhih puman
virincatam eti tatah param hi mam
avyakrtam bhagavato 'tha vaisnavam
padam yathaham vibudhah kalatyaye

A person who executes his occupational duty properly for one hundred births becomes qualified to occupy the post of Brahma, and if he becomes more qualified, he can approach Lord Siva. A person who is directly surrendered to Lord Krsna, or Visnu, in unalloyed devotional service is immediately promoted to the spiritual planets. Lord Siva and other demigods attain these planets after the destruction of the material world. (Srimad Bhagavatam 4.24.29)

yaviyamsa ekasitirjayanteyah pitur adesakara maha-salina
maha-srotriya yajna-silah karma-visuddha brahmana-babhuvuh.

In addition to these nineteen sons mentioned above, there were eighty-one younger ones, all born of Rsabhadeva and Jayanti. According to the order of their father, they became well cultured, well behaved, very pure in their activities and expert in Vedic knowledge and the performance of Vedic rituals. Thus they all became perfectly qualified brahmanas. (Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.4.13)

nalam dvijatvam devatvam
rsitvam vasuratmajah
prinanaya mukundasya
na vrttam na bahu jnata

na danam na tapo nejya
na saucam na vratani ca
priyate 'malaya bhaktya
harir anyad vidambanam

My dear friends, O sons of the demons, you cannot please the Supreme Personality of Godhead by becoming perfect brahmanas, demigods or great saints or by becoming perfectly good in etiquette or vast learning. None of these qualifications can awaken the pleasure of the Lord. Nor by charity, austerity, sacrifice, cleanliness or vows can one satisfy the Lord. The Lord is pleased only if one has unflinching, unalloyed devotion to Him. Without sincere devotional service, everything is simply a show. (Srimad Bhagavatam 7.7.51-52)

viprad dvi-sad-guna-yutad aravinda-nabha-
padaravinda-vimukhat svapacam varistham
manye tad-arpita-mana-vacanehitartha-
pranam punati sa kulam na tu bhurimanah

If a brahmana has all twelve of the brahminical qualifications [as they are stated in the book called Sanat-sujata] but is not a devotee and is averse to the lotus feet of the Lord, he is certainly lower than a devotee who is a dog- eater but who has dedicated everything - mind, words, activities, wealth and life - to the Supreme Lord. Such a devotee is better than such a brahmana because the devotee can purify his whole family, whereas the so-called brahmana in a position of false prestige cannot purify even himself. (Srimad Bhagavatam 7.9.10)

yasya yal laksanam proktam
pumso varnabhivyanjakam
yad anyatrapi drsyeta
tat tenaiva vinirdiset

If one shows the symptoms of being a brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya or sudra, as described above, even if he has appeared in a different class, he should be accepted according to those symptoms of classification. (Srimad Bhagavatam 7.11.35)

Five brahmins, though as learned as Brhaspati, are never honoured: the impatient, the harsh, the haughty, the ill-clad and the uninvited. (Garuda Purana 1.115.22)

brahmananam sahasrebhyah
satra-yaji visisyate
satra-yaji-sahasrebh yah
visnu-bhakto visisyate
vaisnavanam sahasrebhya
ekanty eko visisyate

"A brahmana qualified to offer sacrifices is better than an ordinary brahmana and better than such a brahmana is one who has studied all the Vedic scriptures. Among many such brahmanas, one who is a devotee of Lord Visnu is the best; and among many such Vaisnavas, one who fully engages in the service of the Lord is the best." (Garuda Purana)

bhaktir asta-vidha hy esa
yasmin mlecche'pi vartate
sa viprendro muni-sresthah
sa jnani sa ca panditah
tasmai deyam tato grah ya-
msa ca pujyo yatha harih

"There are many different kinds of devotees, but even a Vaisnava coming from a family of mlecchas or yavanas is understood to be a learned scholar, complete in knowledge, if he knows the Vaisnava philosophy. He should therefore be given charity, for such a Vaisnava is as worshipable as the Supreme Personality of Godhead." (Garuda Purana)

maha kula prasuto'pi sarva yajnesu diksitah
sahasran sakhadhyayi ca na guruh syad avaisnavah

Even if one is a famous brahmana, born in a high class family, who is expert in performing sacrifices, who has achieved a Vedic education and who is well versed in Vedic injunctions in a thousand Vedic scriptures, if he is not a Vaisnava, he is unable to become a spiritual master. (Hari Bhakti Vilasa 1.54, from Padma Purana)

grhita visnu diksako visnu pujaparo narah
vaisnavo'bhihito'bhijnair itaro'smad avaisnavahc

A person who is initiated in Visnu mantras, and who is expert in worshiping Lord Visnu, such a person is known as a Vaisnava. Besides this, everyone else is an avaisnava. (Hari Bhakti Vilasa 1.55, from Padma Purana)

yatha kancanatam yati kasyam rasa-vidhanatah
tatha diksa vidhanena dvijatvam jayate nrnam

As bell metal is turned into gold when mixed with mercury in an alchemical process, so in that very way, by the process of proper initiation by a bona fide spiritual master, a person becomes a brahmana. (Hari Bhakti Vilasa 2.12, from Tattvasagara)

avaisnava upadistena mantrena nirayam vajet
punas ca vidhina samyag grahayed vaisnavad guroh

If someone, due to some circumstance is initiated by a nonvaisnava spiritual master, he is destined to go to hell. He should again accept reinitiation from a Vaisnava spiritual master according to Vedic instructions. (Hari Bhakti Vilasa 4.366, from Narada Pancaratra)

(Srila Sanatan Gosvami writes a commentary on this verse, stating) "Either he is situated properly or he is situated improperly." From this quote, it should be understood that the spiritual master is never to be rejected, but if somebody has accepted a nonvaisnava spiritual master then according to scriptures, it is allowable that such a spiritual master be rejected because such a spiritual master remains selfish while delivering the mantra. A real sadhu or a saintly person (Vaisnava) is not like that. He is very merciful upon a person to whom he is delivering the sacred mantra. Vaisnava generally means a twice born person who knows the scriptures properly.

tat-paratvena nirmalam
hrsikena hrsikesa-
sevanam bhaktir ucyate

"Bhakti, or devotional service, means engaging all our senses in the service of the Lord, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the master of all the senses. When the spirit soul renders service unto the Supreme, there are two side effects. One is freed from all material designations, and, simply by being employed in the service of the Lord, one's senses are purified." (Narada-pancaratra)

asuddhah sudra-kalpa hi brahmanah kali-sambhavah
tesam agama margena suddhir na srauta vartmana

The brahmanas born in Kali-yuga are impure and no better than sudras. In Kali- yuga, whatever brahmanas take birth are equal to sudras and are equally impure. According to scriptural injunctions, they are purified, but in Kali-yuga, they cannot be purified by chanting or learning Vedic mantras. (Hari Bhakti Vilasa 5.5, from Visnu Yamala)

striyo va yadi va sudra brahmanah ksatriyadayah
pujayitva sila cakra labhante sasvatam padam

Worship of Salagram Sila can be done by women, sudras (low caste), brahmanas (twice born), ksatriyas (administrators), etc. and they can all achieve the eternal abode of Lord Krsna perfectly. (Hari Bhakti Vilasa 5.452, from Skanda Purana, conversation between Lord Brahma and Narada Muni)

sudram va bhagavad-bhaktam
nisadam sva-pacam tatha
viksatam jati-samanyat
sa yati narakam dhruvam

A Vaisnava, 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. (Hari Bhakti Vilasa 10.119, from Itihasa Samuccaya, Lomasa Rsi speaks)

na me'bhaktas catur-vedi
mad-bhaktah sva-pacah priyah
tasmai deyam tato grahyam
sa ca pujyo yatha hy aham

If someone is not My devotee, even if he is expert in the four Vedas, he is not dear to Me. If someone is My devotee, even if he is lowborn, he is dear to Me. Therefore, one should give charity to such a low born person and accept charity from him. Even a low born devotee is equally worshipable as Me. (Hari Bhakti Vilasa 10.127, from Itihasa Samuccaya, spoken by the Supreme Lord)

ye tyakta loka dharmartha visnu bhakti vasam gatah
bhajanti paramatmanam tebhyo nityam namo namah

Any person who is not attached to sons, wife, varnasrama system, wealth and even liberation, and worships Lord Sri Visnu properly with devotion, to such a devotee, I pay my obeisances again and again. (Hari Bhakti Vilasa 10.248, from Narayana Vyuha)

kim vedaih kimu va sastraih kimu tirthati sevanaih
visnu bhakti-vihinanam kim tapobhih kimadhvaraih

Those people who are bereft of devotional service, what is the result of their performing Vedic studies, Vedic activities, study of scriptures, going to places of pilgrimage, great austerities and acquiring knowledge? (Hari Bhakti Vilasa 10.302, from Brhan Naradiya Purana)

vahni-surya-brahmanebhyas tejiyan vaisnava sada
na vicaro na bhogas ca vaisnavanam sva-karmanam

likhitam samni kauthumyam kuru prasnam brhaspatim

"The Vaisnavas are always more powerful than Agni, Surya, and the brahmanas. Vaisnavas do not have to suffer the reactions of fruitive activities or concern themselves with analyzing these activities. This is stated in the Kauthumi branch of the Sama Veda. You may ask Brhaspati for confirmation of this." (Brahma-vaivarta Purana, Krsna-janma-kanda, ch. 59)

harer abhakto vipro'pi vijneyah svapacadhikah
hari bhakta svapako'pi vijneya brahmanadhikah

Any person who is not a devotee of Lord Sri Hari, even though he is a brahmana, he is lower than a dog-eater. Even if one is a dog-eater, if he is a devotee of Lord Sri Hari, he is understood as being better than a brahmana. (Padma Purana, Kriya Yogasara 16.3)

arcye visnau sila-dhir gurusu nara-matir vaisnave jati-buddhir visnor va vaisnavanam kali-mala-mathane pada-tirthe 'mbu-buddhih sri-visnor namni mantre sakala-kalusa-he sabda-samanya-buddhir visnau sarvesvarese tad-itara-sama-dhir yasya va naraki sah

"One who thinks the Deity in the temple to be made of wood or stone, who thinks of the spiritual master in the disciplic succession as an ordinary man, who thinks the Vaisnava in the Acyuta-gotra to belong to a certain caste or creed or who thinks of caranamrta or Ganges water as ordinary water is taken to be a resident of hell." (Padma Purana)

sat-karma-nipuno vipro
avaisnavo gurur na syad
vaisnavah sva-paco guruh

"A scholarly brahmana, expert in all subjects of Vedic knowledge, is unfit to become a spiritual master without being a Vaisnava, or expert in the science of Krsna consciousness. But a person born in a family of a lower caste can become a spiritual master if he is a Vaisnava, or Krsna conscious." (Padma Purana)

na sudra bhagavad-bhaktas
te tu bhagavata matah
sarva-varnesu te sudra
ye na bhakta janardane

"A devotee should never be considered a sudra. All the devotees of the Supreme Personality of Godhead should be recognized as bhagavatas. If one is not a devotee of Lord Krsna, however, even if born of a brahmana, ksatriya or vaisya family, he should be considered a sudra." (Padma Purana)

sva-pakam iva nekseta
loke vipram avaisnavam
vaisnavo varno-bahyo'pi
punati bhuvana-trayam

"If a person born in a brahmana family is an avaisnava, a nondevotee, one should not see his face, exactly as one should not look upon the face of a candala, or dog-eater. However, a Vaisnava found in varnas other than brahmana can purify all the three worlds." (Padma Purana)

guror apy avaliptasya
karyamkaryam ajanatah
karyam bhavati sasanam

Anyone who is supposed to be a guru but who goes against the principle of visnu-bhakti cannot be accepted as guru. If one has falsely accepted such a guru, one should reject him. (Mahabharata, Udyoga Parva (5.)178.24; apy>aty in Narada Pancaratra 1.10.20)

yudhisthira uvaca
satyam danam ksama-silam anrsamsyam damo ghrna
drsyante yatra nagendra sa brahmana iti smrtah

"Maharaja Yudhisthira replied: A person who possesses truthfulness, charity, forgiveness, sobriety, gentleness, austerity, and lack of hatred is called a brahmana." (Mahabharata, Vana Parva (3.)177.16)

yudhistira uvaca
sudre tu yad bhavel laksma dvije tac ca na vidyate
na vai sudro bhavec chudro brahmano na ca brahmanah

yatraital laksyate sarpa vrttam sa brahmanah smrtah
yatraitan na bhavet sarpa tam sudram iti nirdiset

"Maharaja Yudhisthira replied: If such symptoms are found in a sudra he should never be called a sudra, just as a brahmana is not a brahmana if he does not possess these qualities. O snake, only a person who is endowed with the characteristics of a brahmana can be called a brahmana, otherwise he is a sudra." (Mahabharata, Vana Parva, (3.)177.20-21)

sudra-yonau hi jatasya
vaisyatvam bhavati brahman
ksatriyatvam tathaiva ca
arjave vartamanasya
brahmanyam abhijayate

"O brahmana, if a person is born in the family of a sudra and posesses good qualities, he becomes a vaisya or a ksatriya. And if he possesses the quality of simplicity, he is a brahmana." (Mahabharata, Vana Parva, (3.)203.11-12)

tam brahmanam aham manye vrttena hi bhaved dvijah

"Indeed, the only criteria for being a brahmana is to possess pure characteristics." (Mahabharata, Vana Parva, (3.)206.12)

sthito brahmana-dharmena
brahman yam upajiva ti
ksatriyo vatha vaisyo va
brahma-bhuyaya gacchati
ebhis tu karmabhir devi
subhair acaritais tatha
sudro brahmanatam gacched
vaisyah ksatriyatam vrajet
na yonir napi samskaro
na srutam na ca samnatih
karanani dvijatvasya
vrttam eva tu karanam

"If one is factually situated in the occupation of a brahmana, he must be considered a brahmana, even if born of a ksatriya or vaisya family. "O Devi, if even a sudra is actually engaged in the occupation and pure behavior of a brahmana, he becomes a brahmana. Moreover, a vaisya can become a ksatriya. "Therefore, neither the source of one's birth, nor his reformation, nor his education is the criterion of a brahmana. The vrtta, or occupation, is the real standard by which one is known as a brahmana." (Mahabharata, Anusasana Parva, (13.)131.8,26,49)

himsanrta-priya lubdhah
krsnah sauca-paribrastas
te dvijah sudratam gatah

"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 sudras." (Mahabharata, Santi Parva, Moksa-dharma, (12.)181.13)

bhrgur uvaca
jata-karmadibhir yas tu samskaraih samskrtah suci
vedadhyayana-sampannah sah sukarmasvavasthitah

saucacara-sthitah samyak vighasasi guru-priyah
nitya-vrati satya-parah sa vai brahmana ucyate

satya-danam damo drohanrsamsyam ksama ghrna
tapas ca drsyate yatra sa brahmana iti smrtah

sarva-bhaksa-ratir nityam sarva-dharma-karo 'sucih
tyakta-vedas tv anacarah sa vai sudra iti smrtah

sudre caitad bhavel laksyam dvije caitat na vidyate
na vai sudro bhavec chudro brahmano na ca brahmanah

"Bhrgu replied: A person who has been purified by the reformatory processes like jata-karma, or name-giving ceremony, who is clean, devoted to studying the Vedas, expert in the six occupations like worship and teaching worship, 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 sudra. If the symptoms of a brahmana are found in a sudra and in the symptoms of a sudra found in a brahmana, then the sudra should not be called a sudra and the brahmana should not be called a brahmana." (Mahabharata, Santi Parva, (12.)182.2-4,7-8)

sarve varna brahmana brahmajas ca
brahmasyato brahmanah samprasutah
bahubhayam vai ksatriyah samprasutah
nabhyam vaisyah padatas capi sudrah
sarve varna nanyatha veditavyah

tat-stho brahma tasthivams caparo yas
tasmai nityam moksam ahur dvijendra

"Persons of all varnas are brahmanas, because they are all born from Lord Brahma. The brahmanas were born from the mouth of Brahma, the ksatriyas from his arms, the vaisyas were born from his navel, and the sudras were born from his legs. Do not consider the varnas in another way. One who is fixed in knowledge is a brahmana. Therefore, O king, this moksa-sastra was spoken for the benefit of those brahmanas and ksatriyas who have attained knowledge. This is the opinion of ancient scholars." (Mahabharata, Santi Parva, (12.)306.86-87,89)

(He who has not been initiated) should not pronounce (any) Vedic text excepting (those required for) the performance of funeral rites, since he is on a level with a Sudra before his birth from the Veda. (Manu-samhita 2.172)

kiba vipra, kiba nyasi, sudra kene naya
yei krsna-tattva-vetta, sei `guru' haya

"Whether one is a brahmana, a sannyasi or a sudra--regardless of what he is--he can become a spiritual master if he knows the science of Krsna." (Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila 8.128)

tomara nama suni' haya svapaca `pavana'
alaukika sakti tomara na yaya kathana

"Simply by hearing Your holy name, dog-eaters become holy saints. Your uncommon potencies cannot be described in words." (Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila 18.124)

candalo 'pi dvija-srestho
hari-bhakti-vihinas ca
dvijo 'pi svapacadhamah

"Even if one is born in the family of a candala, if one engages in the devotional service of the Lord, he becomes the best of brahmanas. But even a brahmana who is devoid of devotional service is on the level of the lowest dog-eater." (Srimad Bhagavatam 4.31.10, purport, source unspecified)

rg-vedo 'tha yajur-vedah sma-vedo 'py atharvanah
adhitas tena yenoktam harir ity aksara-dvayam

"A person who chants the two syllables Ha-ri has already studied the four Vedas--Sama, Rk, Yajuh and Atharva." (CC Adi-lila 7.72, purport, source unspecified)

Canakya's Niti-sastra, ch. 11:

13. The brahmana who is engrossed in worldly affairs, brings up cows and is engaged in trade is really called a vaishya.
14. The brahmana who deals in lac-die, articles, oil, indigo, silken cloth, honey, clarified butter, liquor, and flesh is called a shudra.
15. The brahmana who thwarts the doings of others, who is hypocritical, selfish, and a deceitful hater, and while speaking mildly cherishes cruelty in his heart, is called a cat.
16. The brahmana who destroys a pond, a well, a tank, a garden and a temple is called a mleccha.
17. The brahmana who steals the property of the Deities and the spiritual preceptor, who cohabits with another's wife, and who maintains himself by eating anything and everything is called a chandala.

One cannot ascribe the prestige of a Satya-yuga brahmana to a Kali-yuga brahmana.

The Dharma-sastras that support the seminal brahmanas do not contradict Vyasadeva. The evidence in Sri Mahabharata, however, is more important and more respected than that of the Dharma-sastras. The evidence of the Dharma-sastras is only theoretical, while the evidence in the Mahabharata is practical.

The various scriptural references describing the qualifications of brahmanas and showing respect for brahmanas refer to both seminal brahamanas and those who have become brahmanas by initiation. These references from scriptures on karma, jnana, and bhakti do not refer only to seminal brahmanas. In no case are brahmanas by initiation disregarded. Although in the opinion of some scriptures there is no possibility of becoming an initiated brahmana unless one is a seminal brahmana, this restriction was imposed only because of narrow-minded social traditions. When this narrow-mindedness is given up by deep research and higher education, then the entire world will be illuminated by the glories of the eternal Aryan culture. Then we will understand how futile is the attempt of frogs to fill the universe with the sound of their croaking.

Vedic system
Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura: Brahmana and Vaisnava

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