The Ontological Position of the Vaishnava over the Brahmana

Date Unknown - Article

Part One

Brahmana Vaisnava

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

yajna-siddhy-artham anaghan
brahmanan mukhato'srjat
brahmanyam brahmanenaivam
utpanno brahmanah smrtah

"From the mouth (of the Lord) sinless brahmanas were created for the purpose of performing sacrifices. The child born of a brahmana in the womb of a brahmana wife is known as a brahmana." (Harita Smrti 1.12.15)

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

samo damas tapah saucam
ksantir arjavam eva ca
jnanam vijnanam astikyam
brahma-karma svabhava-jam

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

In the Mahabharata 1it is stated:

dharmas ca satyam ca damas tapas ca
amatsaryam hris titiksanasuya
yajnas ca danam ca dhrtih srutam ca
vratani vai dvadasa brahmanasya

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

Elsewhere in the Mahabharata (Vana Parva Chapter 180) Yudhisthira explains

satyam danam ksama-silam
anrsyamsam tapo ghrna
drsyante yatra nagendra
sa brahmana iti smrtah

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

In the Srimad Bhagavatam (7.11.21) Sri Narada Muni states -

samo damas tapah saucam
santosah ksantir arjavam
jnanam dayacyutatmatvam
satyam ca brahma-laksanam

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

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

Although such verses may be found to establish that a brahmana may be by birth, the scriptures also state otherwise — it cannot be ruled out that anyone may become a brahmana by the 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 preceptor." (Tattva Sagara 2.12)

So, by diksa-samskara a person who was not born in a brahmana family, but who exhibits brahminical qualities, may become a twice-born. Again, quoting Maharaja Yudhisthira in Mahabharata (Vana Parva chapter 180) -

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

"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 lacks these charactaristics."

Similarly, Lord Siva tells Uma in the Mahabharata (Anusasana Parva 163.8, 26, 46) —

sthito brahmana-dharmena
brahmanyam upajivati
ksatriyo vatha vaisyo va
brahma-bhuyah sa gacchati

ebhis tu karmabhir devi
subhair acaritais tatha
sudro brahmanatam yati
vaisyah ksatriyatam vrajet

etaih karma-phalair devi
suddhatma vijitendriyah
sudro'pi dvija-vat sevya
iti brahmabravit svayam

sarvo'yam brahmano loke
vrttena tu vidhiyate
vrtte sthitas tu sudro'pi
brahmanatvam niyacchati

"If ksatriyas or vaisyas become situated in the behavior of brahmanas and spend their lives in the occupation of brahmanas, then such persons attain the position of brahmanas.

O Goddess, by the same process, a sudra can become a brahmana and a vaisya can become a ksatriya.

O Goddess, by the results of these activities and by following the agamas, then even a low-born sudra also becomes a brahmana.

A person in this world is born a brahmana simply as a result of his nature. A sudra situated in the profession of a brahmana also becomes a brahmana."

na yonir napi samskaro
na srutam na ca santatih
karanani dvijatvasya
vrttam eva tu karanam

"Neither birth, purificatory ceremonies, nor learning, nor progeny are qualifications for brahminical status. Only brahminical conduct is the basis for brahminical status." (Mahabharata‚ Anusasana Parva 143.50)

Furthermore, Sri Krsna states in Bhagavad-gita (4.13)

catur-varnyam maya srstam
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 nondoer, being unchangeable."

None of the above scriptural statements mention birth as a brahminical qualification. This is also confirmed by the sruti in the Vajrasucika Upanisad of the Sama Veda.

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

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

satyakamo ha jabalo jabalam mataram amantrayam cakre
brahmacaryam bhavati vivatsyami kim gotro'ham asmiti

sa hainam uvaca-
naham etad veda
tata yad gotras tvam asi
bahvaham caranti paricarini yauvane tvam alabhe
saham etan na veda
yad gotras tvam asi
jabala tu nam-aham asmi
satyakamo nama tvam asi
sa satyakama eva jabalo bravitha iti

sa ha haridrumatam gautamam etyovaca-
brahmacaryam bhagavati vatsyamy-upeyam bhagavantam iti

tam hovaca-
kim gotro nu somyasiti

sa hovaca -
naham etad veda bho yad gotro'ham asmyaprccham mataram
sa ma pratyabravid bahvaham caranti paricarini yauvane tvam alabhe

saham etan na veda yad gotras tvam asi jabala tu nam-aham asmi satyakamo nama tvam asiti
so'ham satyakamo jabalo'smi bho iti

tam hovaca-
naitad abrahmano vivaktum arhati
samidham saumyaharopa tva nesye na satyadaga iti

"Once, Satyakama, the son of Jabala, asked his mother, 'I want to live as a brahmacari. Which dynasty (gotra) do I belong to?' Jabala answered, 'My son, I do not know which dynasty you belong to; in my youth I served as a midservant 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 your name is Satyakama Jabala.' Thereafter Satyakama Jabala approached Haridrumata Gautama and said, 'I wish to live with you as a brahmacari.' Gautama replied, 'O gentle one, which dynasty do you belong to?' Satyakama replied, ' I do not know which dynasty I belong to. I askd 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 called 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 and bring wood for sacrifice.' Jabala replied, 'I am going right now to bring wood.' Gautama said, 'Never divert from the truth.'

In his commentary to the Chandogya Upanisad, Sri Madhvacarya says —

arjavam brahmane saksat
gautamas tviti vijnaya
satyakamam upanayat

"A brahmana possesses the quality of simplicity, and a sudra possesses the quality of crookedness. Knowing this fact, Gautama gave upanayanam to Satyakama."

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

Satyakama is not the only example we can find of a person born in a lower varna

achieving the status of a brahmana. The son of Maharaja Gadhi, Visvamitra, became a brahmana by the strength of his austerities —

tapata sarvan diptaujah
brahmanatvam avaptavan

"That effulgent one (Visvamitra) performed all kinds of austerities and attained the position of a brahmana." (Mahabharata, Adi Parva, Chapter 174)

Also in the Mahabharata (Anusasana Parva, Chapter 30) we find the example of Maharaja Vitahavya who also became a brahmana —

evam vipratvam agamad
vitahavyo naradhipah
bhrgoh prasadad rajendra
ksatriyah ksatriyarsabha

tasya grtsamadah putro
rupendra ivaparah
sa brahmacari viprarsih
sriman grtsamado'bhavat

putro grtsamadasyapi
suceta abhavad dvija
vacah sucetasah putro
vihavyas tasya catmajah

vihavyasya tu putras tu
vitatyas tasya catmajah
vitatasya sutah satyah
santah satyasya catmajah

sravas tasya sutas carsi
sravasas cabhavat tamah
tamasas ca prakaso'bhut
tanayo dvija-sattamah

prakasasya ca vagindro
babhuva jayatam varah
tasyatmajas ca pramitir

ghrtacyam tasya putras tu
pramadvarayan tu ruroh
putrah samdapadyata

sunako nama viprarsir
yasya putro'tha saunakah

"This is how Maharaja Vitahavya attained the status of a brahmana: O best of the ksatriyas, although Vitahavya was a ksatriya by birth, by the mercy of Bhrgu he became a brahmana. His son was Grtsamada who was as beautiful as Indra. He became a brahmacari and a brahmana sage. Suceta, the son of Grtsamada, also became a brahmana. The son of Suceta was Varca, and his son was Satya. The son of Satya was Santa, whose son was Rsivara. The son of Rsivara was Tama and his son, Prakasa, was the best of the brahmanas. The son of Prakasa was Vagindra, whose son Pramiti, was learned in the Vedas and Vedangas. Pramiti begot Ruru in the womb of Ghrtaci. In his wife, Ruru begot a son named Sunaka, who became a viprarsi. The son of Sunaka was Saunaka Rsi."

The Hari-vamsa (29.7-8) explains that in the dynasty of Grtsamada, there were brahmanas headed by Saunaka, as well as ksatriyas, vaisyas and sudras

putro grtsamadasyapi
sunako yasya saunaka
brahmanah ksatriyas caiva
vaisyah sudras tathaiva ca

In Srimad Bhagavatam (9.2.16-17) we find that the dynasty of Maharaja Dhrsta also became brahmanas

dhstad dharstam abhut ksatram
brahma-bhuyam gatam ksitau

"From Dhrsta came the dynasty called Dharsta, whose members achieved the position of brahmanas in this world."

Also in the Bhagavatam (9.2.22) we see the example of Maharaja Agnivesya, the son of Devadatta, who began a race of brahmanas —

tato brahma-kulam jatam
agnivesyayanam nrpa

"O King, from Agnivesya came a brahminical dynasty known as Agnivesyayana."

Other examples are Jahnu Muni, who was born as the son of Hotra in the Lunar Dynasty (SB 9.15.1-4); in the dynasty of Maharaja Puru, Kanva Rsi was born and from him the sage Medhatithi who began the Praskanna brahmana line (SB 9.20.1-7); Gargya, the son of King Sini, began a generation of brahmanas; Trayyaruni, Kavi and Puskararuni, the three sons of Maharaja Duritaksaya, became brahmanas; the descendants of Ajamidha headed by Priyamedha all achieved the position of brahmanas, and in their family the great sage Mudgala of the Maudgalya brahmanas was born: of the hundred sons of Rsabhadeva, eighty-one of them became brahmanas (SB 5.4.13); Nabhaga and the son of Dista, although born as vaisyas, became brahmanas 3; Maharaja Bali begot five ksatriya sons, and also had sons who founded brahmana dynasties (Hari-vamsa 31.33-35). Other great personalities such as Vasistha, Gautama, Agastya, and Rsyasrnga were not brahmanas by ordinary standards, yet who will doubt their qualification and that of their descendants?

Another supporting evidence is found in Srimad 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, 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)

Sri Lomasa Rsi in the Itihasa Samucchaya states -

sudram va bhagavad bhaktam
nisadam svapacam tatha
viksatam jati samanyat
sa yati narakam dhruvam

"A Vaisnava, even if he is born in a sudra, dogeater 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." (Itihasa Samucchaya)

na me bhaktas caturvedi
mad-bhaktah svapacah priyah
tasmai deyam tato grahyam
sa ca pujyo yatha hyaham

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

The 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 a nondevotee, one should not see his face, exactly as one should not look upon the face of a dog-eater. However, a vaisnava found in varnas other than brahmana can purify all the three worlds." (Padma Purana)

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

"One who considers a devotee of the Supreme Personality of Godhead who was born in a family of sudras, nisadas or candalas to belong to that particular caste certainly goes to hell." (Padma Purana)

Further evidence that a brahmana is not simply by birth is again provided by Sri Acarya Madhva himself. In his Gita Tatparya commentary, the acarya gives no mention of birth as a prerequisite to be a brahmana when commenting on Chapter 4 verse 13. 4 Rather, he states it is according to one's svabhava (inherent nature) —

svabhaviko brahmanadih samadyaireva bhidyate
yonibhedakrto bhedo jneya caupadhikastvayam
(Gita Tatparya 4.13)

This is also reiterated by Sri Raghavendra Yati in his commentary, Gita Tatparya Nirnaya. In this regard Sri Jaya Tirtha is also in agreement. In his Sruta Prakasika commentary, he writes

brahmanad eva brahmana iti niyamasya kvacid anyathatvopapatte vrscika
tanduliyakadi-vad iti

Here Sri Jaya Tirtha cites the vrscika-tanduli-nyaya — the logic of the 'scorpion and the rice'. When the seed of the scorpion is placed in the womb of another scorpion, a scorpion is born. This is the general law of nature. Yet sometimes it is seen that scorpions are born from rice. Although in this case the placement of the seed is not seen, the inconceivable potency of the Lord, which makes the impossible possible, brings about the scorpions' appearance.

Our challengers have stated that "Without prior knowledge of one's previous birth, it is erroneous to assume that, based on one's guna and karma in this birth, one's varna may be determined." In order to help the reader to understand their hypothesis more clearly, we have created the following scenario —

We have a western Vaisnava, who wakes up during the brahma-muhurta every morning, takes bath thrice daily, applies urdhva-pundra in all twelve places on the body, wears dhoti and kaupina, chants Lord Govinda's name 25,000 times, worships Tulasi, worships the Deity form of the Lord with sixteen upacaras, lives a life of celibacy, is a strict vegetarian, does not eat onions, garlic and other forbidden foods, does not drink tea or coffee, does not take any form of intoxication, offers whatever he cooks to Krsna, does not smoke, does not gamble, studies the sastras, performs kirtana, fasts on ekadasi, and distributes the Bhagavad-gita to fallen people in the most degraded places.

he is a fallen Mleccha, without any brahminical quality whatsoever and is destined to be cast into eternal hell.

Compared to…

A young man from Daksina Kannada, born in a brahmana family, studied some scripture at the local sabha when he was a child, now living in America, wakes up at 7.00am, eats his Corn-Flakes, gulps down his coffee and rushes out to catch the tube into town, works for a Mleccha beef-eating-manager (now what does that say for their guna and karma?) in a software company in order to send some money home to his family in Bangalore, watches Hindi films and cricket on Zee-TV on the cable-television so that he doesn't become totally home-sick, wears a three-piece suit at the office and Levi jeans at home, has never heard of a kaupina or longhoti and wears 'Fruit of the Loom' underwear instead, has forgotten how to put on a dhoti or lungi and is not inclined to remember, wouldn't dare apply urdhva-pundra because his friends would laugh at him, trying desperately for a green-card, is vegetarian but doesn't really look too closely at the E-numbers on the back of the packet ("It's OK — Krsna says in Gita, 'Patram puspam' and 'Ma sucah!'"), has no time to read sastras because he is too busy working for money, and tries to keep in touch with his culture via a webpage run by a group of young men in a similar situation.

…and of course, he is a brahmana!

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

The question may be raised at this point as to why would the Lord allow a brahmana to be born in a low family? The Varaha Purana states -

raksasah kalim asritya
jayante brahma-yonisu
utpanna brahmana-kule
badhante srotriyan krsan

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

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

So we may observe that although the glories, prestige and prowess of the brahmanas are sung in the sastras, their degraded condition in the age of Kali is also described there. A similar verse to the previous one is found in Padma Purana —

brahmanah ksatriya vaisah
sudrah papa-parayanah
nijacara-vihinas ca
bhavisyanti kalau yuge

vipra veda-vihinas ca
atyanta-kaminah krur
bhavisyanti kalau yuge

veda-nindakaras caiva
dyutacaurya karas tatha
vidhva-sanga-lubdhas ca
bhavisyanti kalau dvijah

vrttyartham brahmanah kecit
raktambara bhavisyanti
jatilah smasrudharinah

kalau yuge bhavisyanti
brahmanah sudra-dharmina

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

One can give ample historical evidence of the degredation of the brahminical society. When Sri Krsna returned to His divine abode, it was the brahmanas who became affected by Kali first when Srngi, the son of Samika Rsi, cursed Maharaja Pariksit. Later, in the history of India, we see that Lord Buddha appeared to preach against the Vedic injunctions because the brahmana class were misusing them and performing indescriminate animal-sacrifices. Many highly learned brahmanas such as Boddhidharma, Buddhapalita, Nagarjuna, Asvaghosa, Asanga, Kumarajiva, Dinnaga, Dharmakirti, Candrakirti, Santideva, and Ratnakirti all became Buddhists and decried the Vedas. By their influence, many kings began to patronize Buddhism and as a result the country became weak and was eventually conquered by foreign invaders. The nastika Jain philosophy was also spread throughout India by such brahmanas as Prabhacandra, Anantavirya, Devasuri, Hemacandra, Nemicandra, Mallisena, and Siddhasena Divakara. The followers of Adi Sankara such as Hastamalaka, Padmapada, Suresvaracarya, Totakacarya, Vidyaranya, and Madhusudana Sarasvati all hailed from brahmana families and spread the Advaitavada doctrine which is against the Vedic siddhanta. After the Moghul invasion, innumerable Hindus were forced to take shelter under the banner of Islam due to the archaic social strictures enforced by the brahmana community. At the time of the British, it was the brahmanas who, tempted by money, taught Sanskrit to the likes of H.H. Wilson, who proceeded to tamper with the scriptures and translate them in such a way as to make sanatana-dharma look barbaric (See also Vedic Chronology). Spurious socio-religious institutions such as the Arya Samaja, Ramakrishna Mission and Brahmo Samaja were mostly spearheaded by brahmanas. When the British converted Hindus to Christianity, it was those who originally came from the brahmana section who preached the Gospel to the backward-classes, translating the Bible into local languages. After independence in 1947, what was left of the brahmanas?

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


1 Throughout his chapter we will quote from Srila Vyasadeva's Mahabharata. It is important to note that although the Mahabharata is not a sruti-sastra (a subject which is addressed at length in another chapter), Sri Madhvacarya extols it as the 'Fifth Veda' and claims that 'it contains esoteric truths not to be found even in the Vedas.' (B.N.K. Sharma -History of the Dvaita School of Vedanta and it's Literature, Chapter 13, p.132)

2 Therefore the sastras enjoin –

janmana jayate sudrah
samskarad bhaved dvijah
veda-pathad bhaved vipro
brahma janatiti brahmanah

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

3 nabhaga-distaputro dvau vaisyau brahmanatam gatau (Hari-vamsa 11.9)

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

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

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

Part Two

Brahmana Vaisnava

OBJECTION: Lord Krsna also tells Arjuna:

sreyan sva-dharmo vigunah
para-dharmat sv-anusthitat
sva-dharme nidhanaa sreyah
para-dharmo bhayavahah

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

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

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

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

A similar question could be put to our challengers — "Why don't the young members of your community accept their karma of being born in a brahmana-parivara and attempt to follow brahminical codes? Why are they flying to America to do the jobs of sudras in order to get some money to send home to their parents?"

If they wish to rigidly adhere to the rules of the Dharma-sastras by proclaiming that a brahmana is by birth, they should apply the rules of that scripture in toto. They are simply following the ardha-kukkuti-nyaya (the logic of half a hen) — they will take the rear part for the eggs, but they reject the front part because it is too bothersome to feed. What they have failed to understand is that according to the same Dharma-sastras, a brahmana who crosses the ocean loses his caste. This means that those Madhva-brahmanas who have gone to work in foreign countries have become lower than sudras! Only a sudra is allowed to reside outside Arya Varsa when he is in distress for subsisitence. Thus the injunction is given

na sudra-rajye nivasenn-adharmikajanavrte

" Let him (a brahmana) not dwell in a land that is governed by sudras." (Manu 4.61)

Furthermore, such 'brahmanas' become degraded associating with fallen people (patita-samsargan) at their place of work:

uttamanuttaman gacchan
hinam hinams ca varjayan
brahmanah sresthatam eti
pratyavayena sudratam

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

Whether one is a 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 a sudra. A brahmana never takes employment from anyone (especially from those who are sudras and lower). He 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."

seva sv-vrttir yair ukta
na samyak tair udahrtam
svacchanda-caritah kva sva
vikritasuh kva sevakah

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

yo'nyatra kurute yatnam
anadhitya srutim dvijah
sa sammudho na sambhasyo
veda-bahyo dvijatibhih

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

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."

Srimad Bhagavatam (12.3.35) also states however, that this is one of the symptoms of Kali-yuga -

panayisyanti vai ksudrah
kiratah kuta-karinah
anapady api mamsyate
vartam sadhu jugupsitam

"Businessmen will engage in petty commerce and earn their money by cheating. Even when there is no emergency, people will consider any degraded occupation quite acceptable." (SB 12.3.35)

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

nadyac chudrasya vipro'nnam
mohad va yadi kamatah
sa sudra-yonim vrajati
yas tu bhunkte hy-anapadi

"A brahmana should never eat food cooked by a sudra. If other than in an emergency one either willingly or mistakenly does eat food cooked by a sudra, then as a result of eating such food he is born as a sudra." (Kurma Purana)

According to the Dharma-sastras, if one does take birth in a brahmana family but does not cultivate scriptural knowledge, he cannot be accepted as a brahmana (svadhyaya-tyagi). This is stated thus —

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

na vary api prayacchet tu
vaidala-vratike dvije
na baka-vratike vipre
naveda —vidi dharma-vit

"Religious-minded people should never give even a drop of water to the hypocritical son of a brahmana, the follower of the 'vow of a cat' 7. One should not give even a drop of water to the son of a brahmana who is ignorant of the Vedas or a sinful imposter." (Visnu Dharma-sastra 93.7)

yatha kastha-mayo hasti
yatha carma-mayo mrgah
yas ca vipro'nadhiyanas
trayas te nama bibhrati

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

sudrena hi samas tavad
yavad vede na jayate

"One should know that until a brahmana is qualified in the Vedas, he is on the same level as a sudra." (Manu 2.172)

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

patram puspam phalam toyam
yo me bhaktyam prayacchati
tad aham bhakty-upahrtam
asnami prayatatmanah

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

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

sreyan sva-dharmo vigunah
para-dharmat sv-anusthitat
svabhava-niyatam karma
kurvan napnoti kilbisam

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

So even if we are performing our brahminical duties imperfectly (i.e. not performing yajnas (8), ekadasi-vrata (9) , vedadhyayana (10), sandhya-vandana (11) etc), there is no sin involved because we are at least performing our occupation.

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

himsanrta-priya lubdhah
krsna saucaparibhrasthaste
dvijah sudratam gatah

sa vai sudra iti smrtah

"Brahmanas who live a life of violence, lies, and greed, who are impure and indulge in all kinds of karmic activity in order to maintain their lives are degraded to the status of sudras. Such a person, who eats anything and everything without discrimination, who is attached to worldly things, who will accept any occupation just to make money, who has given up Vedic dharma and proper behavior is called a sudra." (Mahabharata, Santi Parva 189.7)

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

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

brahmananam sahasrebhyah
satrayaji visisyate
visnu-bhako visisyate

"Out of thousands of brahmanas, one is qualified to perform sacrifices, and out of many thousands of such qualified brahmanas expert in sacrifices, one learned brahmana may have passed beyond all Vedic knowledge. Among many such brahmanas, one who is a devotee of Visnu is the best." (Garuda Purana)

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

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

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

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

CONCLUSION: We have shown through sastric injunctions that brahmantva is not simply by birth but by diksa if one exhibits brahminical qualities.

Furthermore, we have explained how a real Vaisnava is above all temporary material designations, including that of brahmana, while naturally exhibiting all brahmana-laksanas.

Finally we have established that according to their own logic and pramana (i.e. Dharma-sastras (12) ), some of our challengers can only be classified as sudras due to their surly behavior, their low-class occupations, the association they keep, the food they consume, their country of residence and the fact that they are not performing the duties of brahmanas. The Dharma-sastras describe such 'brahmanas' as the worst kind and a disgrace to their lineage (brahmanapasada hyete kathitah pankti-dusakah). This obviously brings into question the potency of the garbhadana-samskaras performed in the brahmana community today. It is hoped that by reading this treatise they will honestly acknowledge the error of their ways and, if indeed they deem themselves as brahmanas, they will reject their lowly employment and resume their brahminical duties in some of the poorly managed Vaisnava temples and mathas in India.

In actual fact, the followers of Sri Caitanyadeva do not condemn anyone according to their birth, religion, social status etc. The followers of Mahaprabhu hailed from all walks of life, thus confirming that the transcendental designation of 'Vaisnava' is above the social laws of varnasrama.

We have given evidence from Srimad Ananda Tirtha Muni (Madhvacarya) stating that brahmana is not necessarily by birth. This evidence is also acknowledged by many Madhva scholars today. Although Sri Madhvacarya has stated that it is the jiva-svabhava which determines his varna, this is not being followed by the Tattvavadis today. We challenge our opponents to find us one specific quote of Madhva wherein he clearly states that brahmanatva is based upon one's birth.

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


7 The 'Vow of a cat' is that of hypocrisy, envy, lies and cheating.


brahmanah kamakaratah
candrayanam caren masam
virahatyasamam hi tat

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


vaisnavo yadi bhunjita
ekadasyam pramadatah
visnu arcana vrtha tasya
narakam ghoram apnuyat

"If, due to bewilderment, a Vaisnava eats grains on Ekadasi day, then whatever merit has attained by worshipping Lord Sri Visnu becomes fruitless and he falls into hell." (Gautamiya Tantra)


yo'nadhitya dvijo vedam
anyatra kurute sramam
sa jivan eva sudratvam
asu gacchati sanvayah

"A brahmana who without studying the Vedas who labors for other things – wealth, position, adoration, and other opulences, becomes a sudra along with all his family members." (Manu Samhita 2.168)

11 In the Visnu Dharma it is stated -

yo'nyatra kurute yatnam
dharma karye dvijottamah
vihaya sandhya pranatim
sa yati narakayutam

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

12 We have decided not to include the reference to Bhagavad-gita 4.13 as one of our challenger's pramanas since this is their own concocted misinterpretation and is not in line with Acarya Madhva's commentary on it.