Recently our attention was drawn to a small pamphlet entitled 'Guru Nirnaya Dipika' written by Mahant Krsna Balarama Svami, who considers himself to be a disciple of His Divine Grace Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Svami Prabhupada. In 'Guru Nirnaya Dipika' the author has strongly advocated that only a Vaisnava born in a brahmana family has the right to initiate disciples and confer diksa-mantras to them. Coincidentally, the author just happens to be born in a brahmana family.
The author has gone to great lengths to prove his theory that the brahmana caste has a monopoly on imparting spiritual knowledge and has sifted through many sastras, extracting those particular verses that help substantiate his philosophy. However, despite his creating a facade of erudition, his essay is fraught with serious philosophical errors that are not in harmony with the opinions of the previous acaryas of our sampradaya.
Eighty-two years ago, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada was requested by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura to address an assembly of panditas in Midnapura to prove the superiority of the Vaisnava over the brahmana. His caste-brahmana opposition claimed that even an uttama adhikari Vaisnava, if he is not born in a brahmana family, is not qualified to perform the duties of an acarya. Srila Sarasvati Thakura spoke for two hours and utterly silenced the opposing party (he later wrote an essay based on his lecture called 'Brahmana o Vaisnaver Taratamya Visayaka Siddhanta' which we have referred to in this essay to address the various points of contention found below.)
Unfortunately the bombastic boastings of the caste brahmanas and their mundane beliefs have again appeared to plague the world of Gaudiya Vaisnavism and it is somewhat ironic that this time they have seeped into the very line of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura..
In truth, it takes a great deal of tolerance to sit and write refutations to such conceited statements and gross misconceptions the likes of which are found in 'guru nirnaya dipika.' Nonetheless, since we have been instructed by the senior Vaisnavas to do so we have responded to some of the points in 'guru nirnaya dipika' below:
POINT 1.) Only such perfect traditionally born qualified brahmanas can act as gurus for human society.
REFUTATION: Firstly one should ask, what is a 'perfect traditionally born brahmana'? 'Traditionally born' implies that the garbhadana-samskara (ritual of impregnation) has been performed. This is one of the most important rites for a brahmana to ensure pure progeny. However, in this day and age, we see that most people born in brahmana families do not follow scriptural injunctions strictly, nor do they perform the duties of a brahmana (such as sandhya-vandana, tarpana, agnihotra etc). Added to this, the fact that many brahmanas tend to take up low-class professions such as clerks and salesmen, would seem to suggest that most brahmanas today do not perform the garbhadana-samskara anymore. Indeed, some who have been born into brahmana families even take the sudras occupation of a chowkidhar (night watchman) for the sake of money. However, when such fallen brahmanas discover that the occupation of a guru is more financially lucrative, they again turn to their so-called brahmanism with great fervor.
Whether one is a night-watchman (ratri-jagrakan), government servant (raja-sevakan), a salaried teacher, (bhrtakadhyapakan), a bank-clerk (vanijakan), a doctor (cikitisikan) or a computer programmer or is involved in any other kind of technology (yantra-vidyakan), all of these professions fall under the category of sudra-karma. A brahmana never takes employment (thus becoming dependant) from anyone (especially from those who are sudras and lower). A brahmana must be independent. This is explained in the Kurma Purana -
go-raksakan vanijakan tatha karuka-silinah
presyan vardhusikams caiva vipran sudra-vad acaret
"Those brahmanas 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 sudras."
In the case of an emergency then Srimad Bhagavatam (11.17.47) explains that a brahmana may perform another occupation -
sidan vipro vanig-vrttya panyair evapadam taret
khadgena vapadakranto na sva-vrttya kathancana
"If a brahmana 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."
In other words, a brahmana may take up the occupations of the ksatriyas and vaisyas, but never that of the sudra. So, if one takes his birth in a brahmana family, and takes up the occupation of, for example, a night-watchman, then according to the scriptures, he loses his brahmanatva (brahminical status) and becomes a sudra. But if such a person later takes initiation from a bona-fide guru, he may again become a brahmana through the purifying process of initiation.
yatha kancanatam yati kamsyam rasa-vidhanatah
tatha-diksa-vidhanena dvijatvam jayate nrnam
"Just as bell-metal is transformed into gold by alchemy, a common man is transformed into a twice-born (brahmana) by diksa from a bona-fide guru." (Tattva-sagara, quoted in Hari Bhakti-vilasa 2.12).
In his Dig-darsini-tika to this verse, Srila Sanatana Gosvamipada has clearly stated thus:
nrnam sarvesam eva dvijatvam viprata
"Any person of any status (nrnam-sarvesam), if properly initiated with the correct mantras, can become a brahmana (viprata)."
So, if a fallen brahmana can again become a twice-born through the process of diksa, why not one who was not initially born into a brahmana family?
It is stated in the Skanda Purana, 'kalau sudra sambhavah' - in Kali-yuga everyone is basically a sudra. It is only by brahminical qualifications and acceptance of panca-samskara diksa from Sri Guru that one can actually attain the status of a brahmana in the age of Kali. Therefore, the Mahabharata states:
na yonir napi samskaro na srutam na ca santatih
karanani dvijatvasya vrttam eva tu karanam
"Neither birth, nor samskaras, nor learning, nor progeny are the qualifications to be a brahmana. Only brahminical conduct is the basis for brahminical status." (Anusasana-parva 143.50)
Mere birth in a particular caste does not entitle one to be called a brahmana and the right to disseminate divine knowledge to others is not transferred through the gross medium of sexual intercourse. If the author of 'guru nirnaya dipika' believes that brahmanatva is only by birth, then let him successfully trace his familial line all the way back to Lord Brahma to prove his pedigree; let him also confirm that all his descendents never wavered from brahminical behavior and constantly engaged in brahminical activities throughout their entire lives. According to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura it is practically impossible to ascertain if a person has descended in a thoroughly pure line of brahmanas:
"It is especially difficult to ascertain whether a given person is born from a brahmana, ksatriya, or other caste father. Other than trusting a person's words there is no way to investigate his caste. The caste of those belonging to brahmana and other caste dynasties coming from Lord Brahma and said to be purely descending to the present day cannot be known in truth without definitely validating every person in the line. Sri Nilakantha, the commentator on the Mahabharata, quotes from the Vedas as follows:
na caitad vidmo brahmanah smo vayam abrahmana veti
"We do not know whether we are brahmanas or non-brahmanas"
"Such doubts arose in the hearts of the truthful sages." (brahmana o vaisnaver taratamya visayaka siddhanta)
Furthermore, Srila Sarasvati Thakura writes:
“Similar to the prakrta-sahajiya sect, who, while claiming themselves to be the followers of Sri Rupa Gosvami, amass heaps of offences at the holy feet of Sripada Jiva Prabhu, are some modern caste Gosvami-type sahajiyas who proudly proclaim themselves to be the followers of Cakravarti Thakura. Yet they actually go to hell by using humiliating expressions in regard to the commentator (Srila Baladeva Vidyabhusana Prabhu) on the strength of their prakrta sahajika conceptions. Such pseudo-brahamanas try to conceal the statement of the smrti:
yo’nadhitya dvijo vedam anyatra kurute sramam
sa jivan eva sudratvam asu gacchati sanvayah
"A brahmana who instead of studying the Vedas engages himself in any other pursuits (being keen for honors, money and worldly advantages), becomes a sudra together with his whole family in this very life". (Manu-smrti 2.168)
Such seminal pseudo-brahmanas of dim understanding strive to be acknowledged as (pseudo-) brahmanas and claim that if one is born in anything other than a pseudo-brahmana lineage, he can never become a Vaisnava acarya, bear the title of 'vidyabhusana' or study the sruti and other sastras. Their lack of awareness of the historical facts is extremely deplorable.
Vidyabhusana Mahasaya was himself the person who smashed to pieces their speculative arguments. It is from vrtta-brahmanas (brahmanas by aspiration and engagement) that the lineage of seminal brahmanas sprang, who accepted the smarta-dharma established by Manu and other rsis.
The Gita has taken a stand for the vrtta determination of varna against the above concoctions. Lacking in a working knowledge of the relevant portions of Mahabharata, Srimad Bhagavatam, the accompanying Gosvami literature, Agama-pramanya, Narada and other Pancaratras, Ramarcana-candrika and other paddhati literature, the Smartas of Bengal became an obstacle to the path of transcendental revealed sound. (srauta-pantha). Sri Thakura Narottama, Sri Raghunatha Dasa Gosvami, Sri Haridasa Thakura and other great acaryas have broken the elephant tusk-like form of the dry argumentative approach (tarka-pantha) of the empiricists. Srauta-pantha is another name for the path of devotion (Bhakti-patha). Tarka-pantha takes its birth in the appetites of unsurrendered atheists. Having obtained a clear understanding of all these truths, a reader of the Gita can easily traverse along the path leading to the highest goal of life.
(Introduction to Srila Baladeva Vidyabhusana’s Bhagavad-gita commentary by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada)
Birth in a brahmana family is not a major qualification to take up the responsibilities of a spiritual master. The actual prerequisites to such are thus explained by Srila Rupa Gosvami Prabhupada:
vaco vegam manasah krodha vegam
jihvah vegam udaropastha vegam
etan vegan yo visaheta dhirah
sarvam apiman prthivih sa sisyat
"A sober person who can control the urge to speak, the mind, the urges of anger, the tongue, belly, and genitals is qualified to make disciples all over the world." (Upadesamrta verse 1)
Only a Vaisnava who is dhirah (sense-controlled) is qualified to become a spiritual master. Nowhere in this verse does it mention that he must be born in a particular family or caste. In other words, any qualified brahmana can act as a guru for human society, whether he is a brahmana by birth (saukra-brahmana) or a brahmana by diksa (daiksa-brahmana). This is the opinion of the Gosvamis and their true followers.
POINT 2.) The conversion of non-brahmanas into the brahmana order began in the early twentieth century by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Thakura to encourage everyone to take to spiritual life. Even though such conversions are accepted by the scriptures to allow one to advance in spiritual life, it does not allow converted brahmanas to function as gurus.
REFUTATION: It is wrong to assume that the conversion of non-brahmanas into brahmanas only began in the early Twentieth Century with Srila Sarasvati Thakura. Throughout history, many personalities who came from non-brahmana backgrounds became brahmanas and functioned as gurus. The following is a list of personalities who were born in non-brahmana families who became qualified brahmanas and acaryas due to their qualities.
The famous sage Visvamitra was previously known as Maharaja Gadhi of the Candra-vamsa, but became a brahmana through the strength of his austerities. This is explained in Mahabharata, Adi-parva 174:
ksatriyo'ham bhavan vipras tapah-svadhyayah-sadhanah
sva-dharmam na prahasyami nesyami ca balena gam
dhig balam ksatriya-balam brahma-tejo-balam balam
balabalam viniscitya tapa eva param balam
tatapa sarvan diptaujah brahmanatvam avaptavan
"Visvamitra said to Vasistha: You are a brahmana, endowed with the qualities of austerity and Vedic knowledge. I am a ksatriya, so on the basis of my nature I will forcibly take this cow (Nandini).
"Later, when Visvamitra was defeated, he declared that the strength of the ksatriya was inferior to that of the brahmanas. He thus decided that the performance of austerities was the only way to empower one with superior strength.
"The greatly effulgent Visvamitra thus performed all kinds of austerities and attained the position of a brahmana."
It is well known that Visvamitra was a brahmana by conversion, yet he was also a guru with many disciples. Amongst his most famous disciples who received mantra from him were Lord Sri Ramacandra and His brother Sri Laksmana, Sunasepha, and Galava. At present many brahmana families in India trace their gotra (lineage) to Visvamitra. Furthermore, Visvamitra is the rsi (seer) of many mantras of the Rg Veda including the brahma-gayatri which is chanted by all brahmanas thrice daily.
In Chapter 30 of the Anusasana-parva of Mahabharata, the story is given of Maharaja Vitahavya who was originally a ksatriya king who became a brahmana by the mercy of Bhrgu Muni. His son, Grtsamada became a brahmacari and a brahmana sage who was equal to Brhaspati. Suceta, the son of Grtsamada, also became a brahmana. In this dynasty was born the sage Pramiti and Saunaka Rsi. Saunaka wrote many works on the Rg Veda and also wrote the Brhad-devata. He was also the guru of Sage Asvalayana. Asvalayana's disciple was Katyayana, and his disciple was Patanjali Muni.
The caste of Satyakama Jabala was unknown, yet his guru Gautama Rsi accepted him as a brahmana simply due to his truthful nature. Satyakama went on to initiate many disciples, out of which Upakosala was the most prominent.
Agnivesya Muni was born as the son of the king Devadatta, and the brahminical dynasty known as the Agnivesyayana sakha appeared from him.
Both Medhatithi and Kanva Muni were born in the ksatriya dynasty of Puru.
The sage Citramukha was born a vaisya, yet he became a brahmarsi with many disciples.
There were also other great personalities in Vedic history that were not born in brahmana families, but acted as gurus. In the Padma Purana, the original brahmana, Lord Brahma says:
sac-chrotriya-kule jato akriyo naiva pujitah
asat-kstrakule pujyo vyasa-vaibhandukay yatha
ksatriyanam kule jato visvamitro'sti matsamah
kesyaputro vasisthas ca anye siddha dvijatayah
yasya tasya kule jato gunavaneva tairgunaih
saksad brahmamayo viprah pujiyah prayatnatah
"If one is born in a family of brahmanas who are absorbed in hearing divine sound, but has bad character and behavior, he is not worshipable as a brahmana. On the other hand, Vyasa and Vaibhandaka Muni were born in unclean circumstances, but they are worshipable. In the same way, Visvamitra Muni was born a ksatriya, but he became a brahmana by his qualities and activities. Vasistha was born of a prostitute. Many other great personalities who manifested the qualities of first-class brahmanas also took birth in similar humble circumstances, but they are also called perfect. The place where one takes birth is of no importance in determining whether one is a brahmana. Those who have the qualities of brahmanas are recognized everywhere as brahmanas, and those who have such qualities are worshipable by everyone." (Padma Purana, Srsthi-kanda 43.321,322, Gautamiya-samskarana)
A similar verse is found in the Vajrasucika Upanisad of the Sama Veda:
tarhi jatir brahmana iti cet tan na tatra jatyantara-jantusu aneka-jati-sambhava maharsayo bahavah santi rsyasrngo mrgah kasuikah kusat jambuko jambukat valmiko valmikat vyasah kaivarta-kanyayam sasa-prsthat gautamah vasisthah urvasyam agastyah kalase jata iti srutatvat etesam jatya vinapyagre jnana-pratipadita rsayo bahavah santi tasman na jatih brahmana iti
"Does birth make a brahmana? No, this is also not the case. Many great sages have been born of other living entities. Rsyasrnga was born from a deer, Kausika was born from kusa grass, Jambuka 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, Vasistha was born from Urvasi and Agastya was born from a pot. Apart from these personalities, there are many other wise persons born from other castes who became sages. Therefore birth does not make a brahmana."
All the great historical personages mentioned above were not born brahmanas or had mixed parentage, yet they acted as spiritual masters to thousands of disciples.
In more recent times, many Gaudiya Vaisnava acaryas who were not born in brahmana families have accepted the role of guru. These personalities include Srila Gadadhara Dasa Thakura, Sri Mukunda Dasa, Srila Narottama Dasa Thakura, Srila Syamananda Gosvami, Srila Rasikananda Prabhu, Srila Baladeva Vidyabhusana, Uddharana Datta Thakura, Srila Jagannatha Dasa Babaji Maharaja, Srila Gaura-kisora Dasa Babaji Maharaja, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. Amongst the many disciples of Srila Sarasvati Thakura who were not born in brahmana families, but who acted as acaryas are such personalities as Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Svami Prabhupada, Srila Bhakti Pradipa Tirtha Maharaja, Srila Bhakti Vilasa Tirtha Maharaja, Srila Bhakti Kevala Audulomi Maharaja, Srila Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Maharaja and Srila Bhakti Kumuda Santa Maharaja.
However, at least two stalwart disciples of Srila Sarasvati Thakura, namely Srila Bhakti Pramoda Puri Gosvami Maharaja and Srila Bhakti Dayita Madhava Maharaja were both born in illustrious brahmana families, yet they gave the power of succession to two of their senior disciples who were not born brahmanas, namely Sripada Bhakti Vibudha Bodhayana Maharaja and Sripada Bhakti Vallabha Tirtha Maharaja.
It is also interesting to note that according to the memoirs of Sri Paramananda Vidyaratna Prabhu in Sarasvati Jayasri, (the first official biography of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura written during his lifetime), Srila Sarasvati Thakura visited the sripata of Srila Narahari Sarakara Thakura in 1912 and learned that upanayana and other samskaras were being performed since ancient times for vaidyas (ayurvedic doctors). Vaidyas were considered as sudras yet the descendents of Srila Narahari still initiated them with gayatri etc. This information was given to Srila Sarasvati Thakura by the mahanta of Sri Khanda, Sriyukta Radhikananda Mahasaya. It is also noteworthy that Srila Narahari Sarakara Thakura himself was not a brahmana, yet he gave initiation to Srila Locana Dasa Thakura who was born in a brahmana family.
Of course, we expect the author of 'guru nirnaya dipika' will attempt to refute all the above evidence by claiming that all these personalities were extraordinary and such devotees cannot be found in this day and age. Nonetheless, these great personalities have set the precedence and we find none of them speaking to the contrary. As Sri Krsna has stated in Bhagavad-gita (3:21):
yad yad acarati sresthas tad tad evetaro janah
sa yat pramanam kurute lokas tad anuvartate
"Whatever a great man does, the world follows. Whatever standards he may set, the world follows in his footsteps."
Thus the conjecture that converted brahmanas cannot function as acaryas has no basis in pauranika history or in the history of our sampradaya and thus the idea should be rejected.
POINT 3) Actually, our guru maharaja (A.C. Bhaktivedanta Svami Prabhupada) appeared in the chain of the Brahma-kayastha family in the Dalabhya dynasty. I know this after learning of his father's last name and gotra. In Vedic civilization the Brahma-kayastha caste is equal to brahmana in every way.
REFUTATION: If we accept the words of Srila Prabhupada (the guru of the author of 'guru nirnaya dipika' ) then we can only conclude from the above statement that the author of 'guru nirnaya dipika' is a victim of misinformation, or that he has deliberately fabricated evidence in support of his own theory.
Srila Prabhupada has stated in various places that his family belonged to the suvarna-vanik community who were gold-merchants. Furthermore, his family gotra was Gautama and not Dalabhya and his father's surname was De, a prominent name amongst the mercantile class of Bengal.
"Our family gotra, or original genealogical line, is the Gautama-gotra, or line of disciples of Gautama Muni, and our surname is De. But due to their accepting the posts of zamindars in the Muslim government, they received the title Mullik." (Caitanya-caritamrta, purport to Adi-lila 10.84)
"Calcutta was developed under British rule by the influential mercantile community, and especially by the suvarna-vanik community who came down from Saptagrama to establish their businesses and homes all over Calcutta. They were known as the Saptagrami mercantile community of Calcutta, and most of them belonged to the Mullik and Sil families. More than half of Calcutta belonged to this community, as did Srila Uddharana Thakura. Our paternal family also came from this district and belonged to the same community. The Mulliks of Calcutta are divided into two families, namely the Sil family and De family. All the Mulliks of the De family originally belong to the same family and gotra. We also formerly belonged to the branch of the De family whose members, intimately connected with the Muslim rulers, received the title Mullik." (Caitanya-caritamrta, purport to Adi-lila11.41)
It should also be noted that Srila Prabhupada's spiritual master, Srila Sarasvati Thakura and Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura both appeared in the kayastha community which in Bengal is considered to be a sudra caste.
"It is said that the Bengali kayasthas were originally engaged as servants of brahmanas who came from North India to Bengal. Later, the clerical class became the kayasthas in Bengal. Now there are many mixed classes known as kayastha. Sometimes it is said in Bengal that those who cannot claim any particular class belong to the kayastha class."(Caitanya-caritamrta. Purport, Madhya 7.64)
In his autobiography Svalikhita Jivani, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura gives his family lineage and nowhere does he mention that his family belongs to the brahmana-kayastha caste:
"I was born a descendent of Purusottama Datta, a Kanyakubja kayastha. Among the five kayasthas who came to the Gauda region on the invitation of Maharaja Adisura, namely Makaranda Ghosa, Dasaratha Vasu, Kalidasa Mitra, Dasaratha Guha and Purusottama Datta, Purusottama Datta was the foremost."
Datta is a standard kayastha surname in Bengal and certainly not the title of a brahmana. If indeed Bhaktivinoda was a brahmana-kayastha, why does he not mention it in his autobiography. Why is there no reference to his upanayana ceremony in his autobiography, and how is it that we do not see him wearing a sacred-thread in any photograph?
Due to the fact that Srila Siddhanta Sarasvati gave mantra-diksa, especially to those born in brahmana families, many smarta-brahmanas and Vaisnava brahmana gurus in Bengal became outraged to the point that they hired gundas to physically attack members of the Gaudiya Matha on several occasions and even made attempts to assassinate Srila Sarasvati Thakura. If we are to accept the author's opinion in 'guru nirnaya dipika' , then we must also accept that Srila Narottama Dasa Thakura, Srila Syamananda Gosvami, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Srila Sarasvati Thakura were ineligible to initiate since they all came from a so-called sudra class. Thus, according to the logic presented in 'guru nirnaya dipika,' our whole parampara becomes faulty and invalid thus also implying that it's authors initiation into our parampara via Srila Prabhupada is also ineffectual. Thus the author of 'guru nirnaya dipika' has in effect, 'shot himself in the foot.'
POINT 4) The translations and purports of my guru maharaja were dictated on a dictaphone, unless the tapes are produced, we must believe that the purports have been altered making it look as if anyone can become guru... English was his second language, and to understand his exact meaning one would have to refer back with him. The message given in these books is altered because of this lack of communication between the author and the editors.
REFUTATION: Here, the author of 'guru nirnaya dipika' makes a very unique assumption suggesting that from the very beginning of Iskcon there was a conspiracy by Srila Prabhupada's western disciples to change any reference to brahmana-gurus in his books in order that they could become spiritual masters themselves later. Even if, for arguments sake, we entertain such an absurd idea, there are recorded lectures, room conversations and morning walks with Srila Prabhupada wherein he makes exactly the same points on brahmanism that he does in his books. All of Srila Prabhupada's book dictations on cassette, his original letters and other resources are readily available at the BBT archives in North Carolina, U.S.A. for anyone to review, or will the author also claim that Prabhupada's recorded lectures and conversations have also been tampered with by ambitious disciples? Below are a few examples of lectures and letters of His Divine Grace speaking on the qualification to be a guru:
"If a man from the sva-pacah family, or the candala family, he becomes a Vaisnava, strictly according to the orders, then he can become guru, but not a brahmana if he's not a Vaisnava. This is the stricture. Even one is born in the family of a brahmana, and he's not only born, he's qualified, sat-karma-nipuno... Nipuno means qualified." (Bhagavad-gita lecture, London July 28th 1973)
"Generally, a qualified brahmana becomes guru. That is natural. A brahmana is the head of the society. So he is... And without becoming brahmana, nobody can become guru. That is also fact. Because brahmana means brahma janatiti brahmanah. One who knows Brahman, Brahman. So guru must be a brahmana, mean a qualified brahmana, not born-brahmana, so-called brahmana. Qualified brahmana." (Bhagavad-gita lecture, Ahmedabad Dec.7th 1970)
"Anyone who is qualified with Krsna consciousness, he can become guru. It doesn't matter where he is born, what is his family and identification. It doesn't matter. He must know the science. It is very practical. Just like when you go to consult an engineer or a medical man or some lawyer, you do not ask him whether he's a brahmana or a sudra. If he's qualified, if he can help you in the particular subject matter, you consult with him, you take his help. That is practical. So similarly, in the spiritual matter it doesn't matter what he is. If he knows Krsna, then he can become guru. It doesn't matter." (Srimad Bhagavatam lecture, Bombay Nov. 7th 1974)
"So one may be very illiterate, no education, or no scholarship, may not be born in brahmana family, or may not be a sannyasi. There are so many qualification. But one may not have all these qualifications. He may be rascal number one, but still, he can become spiritual master. How? Amara ajnaya. As Krsna says, as Caitanya Mahaprabhu says, if you follow, then you become spiritual master. One may be rascal number one from material estimation, but if he simply strictly follows whatever is said by Caitanya Mahaprabhu or His representative spiritual master, then he becomes a guru." (Vyasa-puja address, London, August 1973)
"So at the present moment, because these purificatory processes are not accepted, even in India... Accepted, they're unable. Everything has topsy-turvied. Therefore the sastra says that: "Accept everyone as sudra." Kalau sudrah sambhava. There is no more brahmana, ksatriya or vaisya. All sudras. We have to accept. Because no Vedic culture, no Garbhadhana samskara. They are born like cats and dogs. So where is this division? There cannot be.
Therefore, accept them as sudra. Varna-sankara is less than sudra. So at least, sudra they should be. So there is no Vaidic diksa. For sudra, there is no diksa, there is no initiation. Initiation is meant for the persons who are born in brahmana family, ksatriya family, or vaisya family. The sudra has no initiation. So in India there are professional gurus. They initiate sudras, but do not eat foodstuff touched by the disciple. So there are so many things, that if he's initiated, how he can remain sudra? But they keep him sudra; at the same time, they become guru. Sanatana Gosvami gives direction in the Hari-bhakti-vilasa that: tatha diksa-vidhanena dvijatvam jayate nrnam. If properly initiated, he becomes immediately brahmana. Dvijatvam. Dvija means second birth. Yatha kancanatam yati kamsyah rasa-vidhanatah. There is a chemical process that kamsya, bell metal, can be turned into gold by mixing with proportionately mercury. Now here is a hint of chemistry. If anyone can prepare gold... But it is very difficult to mix mercury. As soon as there is little heat, immediately the mercury's finished. So there is a process. Everything has process. Many yogis know how to make gold from copper. Actually, chemically, copper, tin and mercury, if you mix proportionately, it will be gold. So Sanatana Gosvami gives this example. As the copper and tin, these two metals, mixed with mercury, there can be production of gold, similarly, by proper initiation, by the proper spiritual master, one sudra, even though he's a sudra, less than sudra, varna-sankara, or candala, he can become dvija, brahmana. So our process is to make dvija. Pancaratrika vidhi. Pancaratrika vidhi. That is recommended."(Bhagavad-gita lecture, London, July 28th 1973)
"Sei guru. Who can become guru? Generally a brahmana, a sannyasi, that is, that is, they are forced. A brahmana is the guru of other varnas, and sannyasi is the guru for all varnasrama. This is... But Caitanya Mahaprabhu says that is social system. If there is a brahmana, if there is a sannyasi, one should accept, give preference to him, to accept guru. But Caitanya Mahaprabhu says, "That is not the criterion. One must be well expert, experienced, well aware of the science of Krsna. He shall be guru." ( Srimad Bhagavatam lecture, Vrndavana, Oct.30th 1976)
"Regarding the validity of the brahminical status as we accept it, because in the present age there is no observance of the Garbhadhana ceremony, even a person born in brahmana family is not considered a brahmana, he is called dvija-bandhu or unqualified son of a brahmana. Under the circumstances, the conclusion is that the whole population is now sudra, as it is stated kalau sudra sambhava. So for sudras there is no initiation according to the Vedic system, but according to the pancaratrika system initiation is offered to a person who is inclined to take Krsna consciousness. During my guru maharaja's time, even a person was coming from a brahmana family, he was initiated according to the pancaratrika system taking him to be a sudra. So the birthright brahmanism is not applicable at the present moment. The sacred thread inaugurated by my guru maharaja according to pancaratrika system and Hari-bhakti-vilasa by Srila Sanatana Goswami must continue. It does not matter whether the priestly class accepts it or not. When my guru maharaja Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Goswami Prabhupada introduced this system, it was protested even by His inner circle of Godbrothers or friends. Of course He had actually no Godbrothers, but there were many disciples of Bhaktivinode Thakura who were considered as Godbrothers who protested against this action of my Guru Maharaja, but He didn't care for it." (Letter to Acyutananda, 14th Nov. 1970)
We will now see what the author of 'guru nirnaya dipika' has to say about the following verse:
kiba vipra kiba nyasi sudra kene naya
yei krsna-tattva vetta sei guru haya
"Whether one is a brahmana, a sannyasi, or a sudra, one who knows the science of Krsna is to be accepted as guru." (Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila 8.128)
POINT 5) This verse (kiba vipra kiba nyasi...) is written in Bengali language. Sanskrit is the timeless, changeless, language of God. Nowhere in Sanskrit literatures is such a statement written pertaining to the initiating guru.
REFUTATION: We must emphatically state that indeed Bengali is the language of God! Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu Himself spoke Bengali and Bengali is spoken in the eternal Navadwip. The Caitanya-caritamrta written by Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvamipada, the incarnation of Sri Kasturi Manjari, the intimate associate of Sri Rupa Manjari and Srimati Radharani, was written in Bengali. Any literature written by such an exalted personality, in whatever language, should be considered on par with the Vedas. To denigrate such a transcendental literature merely because it was not written in Sanskrit certainly betrays a lack of faith in the previous acaryas and in Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
Sanskrit is indeed an important language but it must be remembered that in the Goloka Vrndavana Krsna does not speak Sanskrit. Krsna speaks Vraja-bhasa.
The author of 'guru nirnaya dipika' is of the opinion that Srila Prabhupada's purport to this verse (kiba vipra kiba nyasi sudra kene naya) has been hijacked by his unscrupulous and ambitious disciples. However, what the author does not seem to understand is that Srila Prabhupada's purport, like most of his purports to his books, is simply a summary of his guru maharaja's purport to the same verse. Herein we are presenting both the purports of Srila Sarasvati Thakura and Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura below in both Bengali and English to confirm that Srila Prabhupada's purport is in harmony to that of his guru-varga.
Varne brahmani huna va ksatriya-vasiya-sudra-huna, asrame sannyasi huna va brahmacari-vanaprastha-grhasthi huna, ye kona varne va ye kona asramei avasthita huna, krsna-tattva-vettai guru arthat vartma-pradasaka, diksa-guru u siksa-guru haite paren. Gurur yogyata kevalamatra krsna-tattva-jnatara upari nirbhara kare - varna va asramer upara nirbhara kare na. Sri Mahaprabhura ei adesa sastriya adesera viruddha nahe. Ei tatparyanusare Sri vVsvambhara Mahaprabhu Sri Isvara Puri-sannyasira nikata, Sri Nityananda Prabhu Madhavendra Puri Gosvami (matantare Srimad Laksmipati Tirtha) sannyasira nikata, Sri Advaita Acarya ei Sri Madhavendra Puri sannyasira nikati diksita hayachilen. Sri Rasikananda srotrabrahmane tarakulodbhuta Sri Syamanandera nikata, Sri Ganga-narayana Cakravarti u Sri Ramakrsna Bhattacarya srotrabrahmanetara kulodbhava Srila Narottama Thakurera nikata, katoyara Sri Yadunandana Cakravarti Sri Dasa Gadadharera nikata pancaratrika diksaya hana. Dharma-vyadhadi anekarata siksa-guru haybara vyaghata chila na. Mahabharatera spasta adesasamuha evam Srimad Bhagavate saptam-skandha ekadasa adhyaya 32 sloke - "yasya yal laksanam proktath pumso varna bhiv yanjakam, yadan yatrapi dris yeta tattenaiva vinirdiset" Ei vakye vidhilikh prayoge vaisnava-visvasanugamane krsna-tattva-vettara vrtta-brahmanatai svabhavika, sutaram kalipracalita srotra-sambandha vyatita brahmanata yekhane haite pare na, tat-sthale krsna-tattva-vitta haile srotra-sudra u sastriya brahmanata labha kariya guru haite paren - ihai Sri Mahaprabhu suksmabhave bujhaiya dilen. Ye sakala krsna-tattva-vita vaidika vajasaneya sakhaurgata katyayana grha-sutrakta savitrya-samskara grhana karena na, tahara - ekayana-sakhi daiksya-brahmana matra. Kintu nirboddha lokera tahardig ke aneka samaya 'acyuta-brahman' baliya bujhite na pariya nirayagami haya; tajjanya Rasikananda Prabhura vamsa, Srikhander Sri Mukunda Daser vamsa, Navanihodera vamsa savitrya-brahmana-samskara evam srotra-vipra-sisya-sampradayera acarya-karya avahaman-kala caliya asiteche. Bhajanandi vaisnava-gana savitriya-samskara grhana karena nai boliya ye ekamatra vidhi haibe, ekrupa nahe. Vaisnava-gana laksana-dvara varna nirnaya kariya thaken, kintu nirboddha-gana adrsa laksana dvara varna karate asamarta baliya Sri Mahaprabhu spstabhavei sastra-tatparya bujhiya dilen. Hari-bhakti-vilase samgrhita siddhanta Sri Mahaprabhura nija adarsacara u upadesera sahita eka haile u nirboddhera vicare bhinna boliya pratita haya. Ei sankhyadhrta 'guru' sabdetita tahara vicare sravana-guru, va bhajana-siksa-gurui udista. Diksa va mantra-data guru udista hana nai; kena na tahara mate vamsa-paricaya arthat rakta va sukrai divya-jnana-datara adhikara nirnaya u paricaya pradana kare. Sutaram suddhatma-vrtti krsna-bhati tahara mate nirapeksa nahe; visesatah diksa-guru va mantra-datara sresthatva u mahatmya tahara murkhatanusare 'sravana- guru' athava 'bhajana-siksa-guru' apeksa adhikatara! E-sambandhe adhi, 9m p. 41 sankhyara anubhasya visesabhave alocya. Vastutah eirupa dharana tahadera aksajajnanajanita aparadhera phala-matra.
"Let him be a brahmana by caste, or let him be a ksatriya, vaisya or sudra; let him be a sannyasi according to his asrama or a brahmacari, vanaprastha or grhastha; let him be situated in any caste or stage of life - he who has understood the science of Krsna can become a guru, i.e. a vartmana-pradarsaka-guru, a siksa-guru or a diksa-guru. The qualification to be a guru rests only upon the knowledge of the science of Krsna - it does not rest upon caste or varna; this direction of Sriman Mahaprabhu is not opposed to the scriptural injunctions. By following the purport of this Sri Visvambhara Mahaprabhu was initiated by the sannyasi Sri Isvara Puri. Sri Nityananda Prabhu was initiated by the sannyasi Sri Madhavendra Puri Gosvami (by Srimad Laksmipati Tirtha according to another opinion) and Sri Advaita Acarya was initiated by the sannyasi Sri Madhavendra Puri. Sri Rasikananda took pancaratrika diksa from Sri Syamananda who appeared in a family who were not seminal brahmanas, Sri Ganganarayana Cakravarti and Sri Ramakrsna Bhattacarya (both seminal brahmanas) were initiated by Sri Narottama Thakura who appeared in a family who were not seminal brahmanas, and Katwa's Sri Yadunandana Cakravarti was initiated by Sri Dasa Gadadhara. Even being a religious-minded hunter etc. was not even an obstacle for many personalities to become instructing gurus. This is considered to be the proper application of the Mahabharata's clear injunctions in pursuance of the Vaisnava faith and by the utterance in Srimad Bhagavatam's Seventh Canto, Eleventh Chapter, 32nd verse
yasya yal laksanam proktath pumso varna bhiv yanjakam
yadan yatrapi dris yeta tattenaiva vinirdiset
"The 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)."
One who is conversant with the science of Krsna naturally has the character of a brahmana. Therefore, wherever it is said that anything apart from 'seminal brahmanism' is lower (a concept which has only been introduced in the age of Kali) will not do, Mahaprabhu has carefully given us the understanding that even a 'seminal sudra' who knows the science of Krsna is able to become a guru because he has attained scriptural brahmanism. Those acquainted with the science of Krsna who do not accept the savitra-samskara (the ceremony of acceptance of the sacred thread), which is mentioned in the Katyayana Grhya-sutra within the Vedic Vajasaneya section, are actually all brahmanas initiated in the ekayana system. However, most of the time, some foolish people cannot understand that these Vaisnavas are infallible brahmanas (acyuta brahmanas) and thus such fools become condemned to hell. It is for this reason that the sacred thread ceremony and the function of acting as acaryas even for seminal brahmana 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 because the bhajanandi vaisnavas have not accepted the savitra-samskara that this is the only system. Vaisnavas 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 Hari Bhakti-vilasa are in conjunction with Mahaprabhu's exemplary behavior and instructions, some people, due to their foolish judgment, are under the belief that they differ. By their judgment the quoted word 'guru' only alludes to the sravana-guru or to the bhajana-guru and does not refer to the initiating or mantra-giving guru, since, in their opinion, the fitness to be the bestower of divine knowledge can only be ascertained and introduced by family reputation, that is, by blood or semen. Therefore, by their opinion, devotion to Krsna, the propensity of the pure soul, is not independent. Moreover, according to their foolishness, they believe that the diksa-guru is superior to the sravana-guru and the instructing guru on bhajana. Factually, the only result of this idea which is born from sensory knowledge is spiritual offence." (Anubhasya of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura)
Sri Hari-bhakti-vilase uccharane yogya-purusa thakete, hina0varna vyaktira nikata haite krsna-mantra loya ucita naya - erupa ye katha acche, taha lokapeksa-vaisnavapara; arthat samsare yahara pracalita-vidhimate kathanchita paramarthera uddesa karate iccha Karen, tahadera pakse. Parantu yahara vaidhi u raganuga-bhaktira tatparya janiya visuddha krsna-bhakti paite iccha Karen, tahadera sambandhe upayukta krsna-tattva-vetta ye kon varne va ye kon asramei pauya yauika na kena, tahakei 'guru' baliya varana karai vidhi. Sri Hari-bhakti-vilasa-dhrta Padma Purana vacana -
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
"When it is mentioned in the Hari Bhakti-vilasa that if there is a fit person of a high caste present then it is improper to accept Krsna-mantra from a person of a lower caste, then this should be understood to be vaisnavism relative to society. In other words, 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 devotion for Krsna, the rule for them is that in whatever caste or stage of life the suitable knower of the truth of Krsna may be in, he should be respectfully accepted as guru. In the words of the Padma Purana quoted in the Sri Hari Bhakti-vilasa:
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 Krsna are never to be considered as sudras but they are to be glorified as bhagavatas. Amongst all castes, those people who are devoid of devotion to Lord Janardana are sudras. A brahmana 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-vaisnava. If someone from a dog-eater family is a vaisnava 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-vaisnava he is unable to become a guru. Generally, brahmanas, 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." (Amrta-pravaha Bhasya of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura)
It is clear from the words of Srila Bhaktivinoda and Srila Sarasvati Thakura that any Vaisnava, irrespective of his birth and caste, is eligible to become guru if he has the necessary adhikara. The transcendental diksa-mantras are not the sole property of a particular class of men. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu has said that anyone who knows the science of Krsna is qualified to be guru. If one says that it is imperative that the guru must be born in a brahmana family, he has clearly not understood the science of Krsna consciousness and is therefore unqualified to initiate disciples.
1) According to the sastras and the previous acaryas, anyone who is a qualified brahmana, by birth or by initiation, may take up the responsibility of acarya.
2) There are numerous examples in history of persons appearing in non-brahmana families and converting into brahmanas, including Srila Prabhupada and other members of our sampradaya. Such personalities are qualified to accept disciples.
3) According to the Anubhasya of Srila Sarasvati Thakura, any person, whatever his birth, can become a diksa-guru if he is conversant with the science of Krsna-consciouness. The word 'guru' does not necessarily mean that a non-brahmana can only function as a siksa-guru.
4) Those scriptural verses which indicate that one should take diksa only from a person born in a brahmana family should be understood to be promoting Vaisnavism relative to mundane society. Those who desire pure bhakti may accept diksa from any advanced Vaisnava no matter what his caste may be. This is the conclusion of Srila Thakura Bhaktivinoda.