Eligibility of Brāhmaṇas and Vaiṣṇavas

Question: In SB 3.33.6, it is stated:

tyan-nāmadheya-śravaṇānukīrtanād, yat-prahvaṇād yat-smaraṇād api kvacit
śvādo ‘pi sadyaḥ savanāya kalpate,  kutaḥ punas te bhagavan nu darśanāt

“To say nothing of the spiritual advancement some who see the Him 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 Bhagavān or chants about Him, hears about His pastimes, offers Him obeisances or even remembers Him.”

I have head devotees saying that Śrīdhara Svāmī says, pūjyatvam means “he immediately becomes as respectable as a most learned brāhmaṇa and can be allowed to perform Vedic sacrifices.” Is that true?

Answer: No. Śrīdhara Svāmī does not say so. He only says the first part – anena pūjyatvam lakṣyate – He becomes respectable like a brāhmaṇa. Śrīdhara Svāmī does not say that he is allowed to perform Vedic sacrifices. That is an extrapolation of the statement.

Question: This is also confirmed in the Hari-bhakti-vilāsa by Śrī Sanātana Gosvāmī: “As a base metal like bell metal can be changed into gold by a chemical process, any person can similarly be changed into a brāhmaṇa by dīkṣā-vidhāna, the initiation process”.

Answer: This also does not imply that he can do yajña. Just think in practical terms. I am not sure, but let me assume that you are a brāhmaṇa by birth. The I also assume that you did not study Veda and did not learn how to do yajña, even if by chance you had upanayana saṁskārā, which often is the case in the contemporary Indian society. I assume that you have taken Vaiṣṇava dīkṣā. Can you do a Soma yajña? Can you chant SāmaVeda mantras? The answer is certainly categorically no because you have never learned the SāmaVeda and the chanting of the mantras.

So what is the point in saying that by taking Vaiṣṇava dīkṣā, one is qualified to do Soma yajña? How can one become qualified to do Soma yajña just by taking Vaiṣṇava dīkṣā? You need to study Vedas, learn how to chant mantras and then learn the process of doing a yajña. It takes years of training for a brāhmaṇa boy who may have saṁskārās from his family. Then how can one who is not even born as a brāhmaṇa do yajña just because he has taken Vaiṣṇava dīkṣā?  This is impossible.  Of course, you can make a show of doing it in the midst of people who have no idea how a Soma yajña is done.

Question: So if one does not take birth in a brāhmaṇa family, then can he become brāhmaṇa only by dīkṣā (brahma gāyatri) from a spiritual master?

Answer: Brahma gāyatri is offered in varṇāśrama dīkṣā, not in Vaiṣṇava dīkṣā. Do not confuse the two. If Brahma gāyatri is given in Vaiṣṇava dīkṣā, then what is the difference between varnāsrama dīkṣā and Vaiṣṇava dīkṣā?

Question: What is the opinion of our previous ācāryas regarding this?

Answer: You yourself have quoted the opinion of a previous ācārya. So which other “previous ācārya” are you referring to?

By Vaiṣṇava dīkṣā, one does not become a brāhmaṇa, but respectable like one. Varṇāśrama is inferior to Vaiṣṇava dharma. I hope you know this. So why should dīkṣā with Vaiṣṇava mantra make one a brāhmaṇa? It makes one a Vaiṣṇava, who is superior to a brāhmaṇa. Why do you want to pull him down to the brahmaṇa level?

Question: As stated in CB Adi 17.20:

tabe prabhu vyavasthilā auṣadha āpane
‘sarva-duḥkha khaṇḍe vipra-pādodaka-pāne’

“Then the Lord prescribed His own medicine, ‘If I drink the water that has washed the feet of a brāhmaṇa, My suffering will be relieved.'”

Here according to Śrī Mahāprabhu, what does vipra mean? Only a qualitative brāhmaṇa (by dīkṣā irrespective of birth) or one who is born in the family of a brāhmaṇa and who has upanayana saṁskārā? What is the opinion of Goswāmis and ācāryas of Vṛṇdāvana regarding this?

Answer: One who is born in a family of brāhmaṇa, has undergone upanayana saṁskārā, has studied the branch of Vedas belonging to his family and observes the brahminical duties.

Question: I heard that in Gambhira Maṭh, Puri, there is a custom that Vaiṣṇavas born in brāhmaṇa families only are allowed to do deity worship. But SB 7.11.35 says that:

yasya yal lakṣaṇaṁ proktaṁ,   puṁso varṇābhivyañjakam
yad anyatrāpi dṛśyeta,    tat tenaiva vinirdiśet

“If one shows the symptoms of being a brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya, vaiśya or śūdra, as described above, even if he has appeared in a different class, he should be accepted according to those symptoms of classification.”

Also supported by, Bhagavad-gītā (4.13), cātur-varṇyaṁ mayā sṛṣṭaṁ guṇa-karma-vibhāgaśaḥ. Thus the four divisions of society—brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya, vaiśya, and śūdra—are to be ascertained according to qualities and activities.

Although Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī has not commented on this verse, elsewhere he says that if he has no seminal birth from a brāhmaṇa family but chants Hare Krishna, his purification starts and he shall be respected as brāhmaṇa. This means that although he has the qualification of a brāhmaṇa, still he is not authorized to perform brāhminical functions.  For this he has to take another birth again. This is even supported by Śrī Sanātana Gosvāmī as found in the Gaura kṛpā taraṅgiṇī commentary in Caitanya Caritāmṛta by Rādhā-govinda Nātha.

Here it seems it contradicts Śrī Śrīdhara Svāmī and SB 7.11.35 in respect of quality being not by birth.

Answer: There is no contradiction. Whether it is  Śrīdhara Svāmī or the SB verse 7.11.35 referred by you, it is very clear that such a person is accepted like a brāhmaṇa, not that that he can engage in brahminical duties without proper educational training. Even a person born in a brāhmaṇa family needs proper education and training to execute these brahminical duties. As far as the verse 7.11.35, who will ascertain whether that person has the symptoms of the brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya, vaiśya or śūdra. Who is the authority to give such a certificate? At present, I do not know of any such system and in the absence of such a system, the only viable choice is by birth. Unless there is a system or an authorized group of learned wise men who are appointed to ascertain the varṇa of a person, we are left only with the present custom of accepting varṇa by birth. You have only mentioned Gambhira Maṭh, but in all the major temples of India and even outside of India, this system is practiced.

Question: Śrī Sanātana Gosvāmī and Śrī Haridās Ṭhākura in their pastimes show respect even to a brāhmaṇa only by birth. Does this mean that they do so out of humility? So, please clarify this in a simpler way: how to understand this? What should be our vision regarding this?

Answer: Follow the example of Śrī Sanātana Gosvāmī and Haridās Ṭhākura. They are our ācāryas and very dear associates of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, who said amānina mana dena. It is quite amazing that you yourself quote these examples and then raise this question. Why not respect whom you are citing?


9 thoughts on “Eligibility of Brāhmaṇas and Vaiṣṇavas”

  1. Bābājī’s explanation is in accordance with the teachings of the previous ācāryas. Śrīdhara Svāmī says that even if a person of lower social status hears and chants the glories of Bhagavān, such a person: savanāya somayāgāya kalpate yogyo bhavati. That’s to say, Śrīdhara reasonably accepts the potential of that person to learn and perform the soma-yajña; he does not automatically accept him as versed in such a sacrifice. And Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura adds: durjātyārambhakaprārabdhapāpanāśo vyañjitaḥ, such a person has clearly begun the destruction of ignorance and saṁskāras that surround him.

    Now, if I’m a brāhmaṇa—by birth or by dīkṣā—who don’t practice a deep svādhyāya, can I demand the respect of others? And if I really do that, can I still demand it?

    1. In this age of democracy, anybody can demand anything. But it is to be seen whether the demand is reasonable and that one actually deserves it.

  2. Babaji,

    Thanks a lot for the clear answers. A couple of questions popped into my mind upon reading this which I couldn’t really resolve, therefore I would be grateful if you could answer them.

    1. Gayatri not part of Vaishnava diksha:
    I guess that Gayatri mantra is not part of Vaishnava diksha (all sampradayas), but is part of varnashrama diksha. In Tattva Sandarbha (Anu 22), Shri Jiva Gosvamipada has established that Gayatri mantra is for worshipping Lord Vishnu. I am therefore wondering why the Gayatri is part of only varnashrama diksha but not Vaishnava diksha (during diksha the Guru could explain the real meaning of Gayatri)? I am unable to reconcile the fact that Gayatri mantra is for varnashrama diksha while the Bhagavata Purana is about Vraja prema-bhakti which is clearly way more superior to varnashrama but yet it is the essence of the Gayatri. The essence of Gayatri is prema-bhakti, then I am confused as to why it is only Varnashrama diksha.

    2. Mantras for everyone:
    Diksha would bestow the full blessings of the mantra (divya-jnana), but would chanting without diskha give any benefit? If such chanting is not harmful and only beneficial then I am unable to understand the prohibitions behind sharing the mantra publicly. Or is Gayatri chanting by non-Brahmanas without diksha harmful? One can hear the Gayatri mantra blasting through loudspeakers in many holy places in India.

    Thanks again.

    1. 1. The Savitri Gayatri does not directly speak about Visnu or Kṛṣṇa. There is no mention of Kṛṣṇa’s name in it. But in Vaisnava mantras, Kṛṣṇa’s name is directly mentioned. Gayatri can be interpreted at different levels. It is part of varnashrama and the followers of this system don’t have the understanding that the essence of Gayatri is prema bhakti. They consider it to be worship of fire or the sun or of Brahman. Secondly, Gayatri is a Vedic mantra and for that one has to be born in a brahmana, ksatriya or vaishya family, whereas our diksa mantras are coming from the Tantras and not Vedas. Therefore they don’t have a restriction of birth. They can be given to anyone who has sraddha and wants to be a devotee. As far as the essence of Gayatri being prema bhakti, that does not mean that Gayatri is for everyone. The essence of the Veda is also prema bhakti, but the Veda has restrictions. It can be studied only by dvijas. The essence of the Veda is prema bhakti, but still Vyasadeva wrote Bhagavata Purana to explain it. Just as traditionally, the Vedas can only be studied only by a person born within varnashrama whereas the Bhagavata can be studied by anyone, similarly Gayatri diksa is only for dvijas, while Vaishnava diksa can be taken by anyone.

      2. To get its full benefit, the mantra has to be accepted from the guru. This is the injunction of shastra. But at present everything is available on the internet, so one can do whatever one likes. Please investigate for yourself whether such chanting is bringing the desired benefit to the chanter.

  3. Hare Krishna!
    Thank you for the interesting post.

    I would like some clarifications with regards to arcana and puja, since the rules to be followed are tantric/agamic, and also about the other Vaishnava rituals in general that follow this category of scriptures.
    Can a non-brahmin Vaishnava perform them?

    Also, provided he gets the proper, extensive and in depth training, could, hypothetically, a vaishnava, who is as good as a brahmin, perform Vedic rituals>

    Thank you.
    Hare Krishna!

    1. Sri Vishvanath comments on 7.11.35 as follows “If anyone shows the symptoms of being a brähmaëa, kñatriya, vaiçya or çüdra,
      as described above, even if he has born in a different class, he should be designated according to those symptoms.
      However, if a man designated by a particular varëa shows the qualities of another varëa, he should be classified according that other varëa, and should be called by that name, such as brähmaëa. What is meant by “showing qualities” is showing general qualities like control of the sense and mind (for the brähmaëa for instance), not particular actions like performing
      sandhya rites. This means he should be given the respect like a brähmaëa.One should not say “Performing another’s dharma is dangerous” since attaining qualities like control of the senses and mind is not another’s dharma.”

      Its better to do one’s own duty born of birth even if it is with faults.


  4. In one of the explanations I heard of Gayatri mantra it was explained that because the Mantra has word “na” in it, that makes it open for everyone. Also the Mahamantra, though is from Kali Santarana Upanishad making it a Vedic and not from Tantras, seems to be open for everyone.
    The efficacy of receiving even an open Mantra from the Guru is undeniable and the mercy of the Guru gets one to the depths of the Mantra, not experienced before, but my question is that is there any injunction in the Vedas that make these two specific Mantras open to everyone and anyone.

    1. > I heard of Gayatri mantra it was explained that because the Mantra has word “na” in it, that makes it open for everyone.

      What is this “na”? Who says that “na” makes it open for everyone?

      The Mahamantra is not a Vedic mantra.

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