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NITAAI-Veda.nyf > All Scriptures By Acharyas > Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura > Brahmana & Vaishnava > Appendixes > Brahmanism and Vaineavism

Brahmanism and Vaishnavism

(by Shrila Sac-cid-ananda Bhaktivinoda Thakura)Brahmanism is a step towards Vaishnavism.

Many people think that brahmanism and Vaishnavism are two different things. From this belief, some foolish people who are partial to Vaishnavas criticize the brahmanas. And some, who are partial to brahmanas, criticize the Vaishnavas. But persons who know the science of the scriptures do not approve of this. They say that brahmanism is a stage or qualification of  a Vaishnava and Vaishnavism is the fruit of brahmanism.

Shri Mahaprabhu has said:

sahaje nirmala ei `brahmana'-hridaya

krishnera vasite ei yogya-sthana haya

`matsarya'-candala kene ihan vasaile

parama pavitra sthana apavitra kaile

“The heart of a brahmana is by nature very clean; therefore it is a proper place for Krishna to sit. Why have you allowed jealousy to sit here also? Because of this, you have become like a candala, the lowest of men, and you have also contaminated a most purified place-your heart.” The sanctified heart of the living entity is called brahmanism. Devotional service to Krishna resides in that sanctified heart.

Envy is opposite to love of God,

and envious persons are not brahmanas.

If envy, which is compared to a dog-eater, captures the sanctified heart of a living entity, then devotion to Krishna disappears from his heart. Then he no longer remains a brahmana. To feel distressed by seeing other's happiness and to feel happiness by seeing other's distress is called envy. Envy and love are diametrically opposite. Wherever there is envy, there is no love; and wherever there is love, there is no envy. A nonenvious heart is the only identification of a brahmana. It is certainly the residence of love of God.

Symptoms of a brahmana.

The symptoms of a brahmana are described in Shrimad Bhagavatam (7.11.21) as follows:

shamo damas tapah shaucam        santoshah kshantir arjavam

jnanam dayacyutatmatvam        satyam ca brahma-lakshanam

“A brahmana must possess these eleven symptoms. One who does not possess peacefulness, self-control, austerity, purity, satisfaction, forgiveness, simplicity, knowledge, compassion, and devotion towards the Supreme Lord can not be called a brahmana.” In the heart of a brahmana with such qualities the science of Krishna always shines brightly. One who does not have devotion to Krishna is certainly not a brahmana.

The identification of a brahmana

is only by qualities, not by caste.

Shri Narada Muni has stated in Shrimad Bhagavatam (7.11.35) as follows:

yasya yal lakshanam proktam        pumso varnabhivyanjakam

yad anyatrapi drishyeta        tat tenaiva vinirdishet

“If one shows the symptoms of being a brahmana, kshatriya, vaishya or shudra, as described above, even if he has appeared in a different class, he should be accepted according to those symptoms of classification.”

In his commentary on this verse of Shrimad Bhagavatam, Shridhara Svami Mahashaya has stated: shamadibhir eva brahmanadi vyavaharo mukhyah, na jati matrad ity aha-yasyeti. yad yadi anyatra varnantare 'pi drishyeta tad varnantaram tenaiva lakshana nimittenaiva varnena vinirddishet, na tu jati nimittenety arthah-“The brahmanas' main characteristics are qualities such as peacefulness, not birth. If these main characteristics are seen in persons other than those born as brahmanas, then such persons should be considered brahmanas. They should not be considered according to their caste by birth.”

If we carefully analyze these statements of the Vaishnava scriptures and smritis, such as Manu-samhita, which are very helpful for maintaining one's worldly life, then we understand that there are two types of brahmanas, namely ordinary brahmanas and spiritual brahmanas. Ordinary brahmanism is based on caste, and spiritual brahmanism is based on qualities.

Unless one becomes a spiritual brahmana

he cannot become a Vaishnava.

The symptoms of a spiritual brahmana are mentioned in Brihad-aranyaka Upanishad (3.9.10) as follows:

etad aksharam gargy aviditvasmal lokat praiti sa kripanah

atha ya etad aksharam gargi viditvasmal lokat praiti sa brahmanah

“O daughter of Gargacarya, he who leaves this world without learning about the infallible Supreme is a kripana, or miser. O Gargi, one who is acquainted with that infallible truth by which one transcends death is a brahmana.”

There are ten kinds of ordinary activities like offering of oblations and funeral rites that are prescribed for the ordinary brahmanas. It is written in the smriti literature that by performing these activities an ordinary brahmana becomes prestigious. Taking initiation, worshiping the Supreme Lord, accepting the renounced order of life, and observing vows for strengthening one's spiritual life are activities by which a spiritual brahmana is honored. Unless one achieves the platform of spiritual brahmanism, he cannot achieve the platform of Vaishnavism.

It is stated in Brihad-aranyaka (4.4.21) in this regard as follows:

tam eva dhiro vijnaya prajnam kurvita brahmanah

“A wise person who knows the Supreme Lord, Parabrahman, through the process of devotion, is a brahmana.”

A brahmana should aspire for knowledge of the relationship between matter, spirit, and the Supreme Lord. In other words, he should cultivate pure devotional service.

After considering these conclusions of the scriptures, we can certainly understand that there is no difference between an advanced brahmana and a Vaishnava. When a brahmana's faith is awakened, his life becomes successful and he achieves devotion to the Lord.

There is no need to become a caste brahmana

in order to attain the Supreme Lord.

By seeing the example of Jada Bharata many people doubt whether a low caste person who performs devotional service must be born in the family of a brahmana in order to achieve the goal of life. In this regard, we can always discuss the following conclusive statements of Bhagavad-gita:

mam hi partha vyapashritya        ye 'pi syuh papa-yonayah

striyo vaishyas tatha shudras        te 'pi yanti param gatim

kim punar brahmanah punya        bhakta rajarshayas tatha

anityam asukham lokam        imam prapya bhajasva mam

“O son of Pritha, those who take shelter in Me, though they be of lower birth-women, vaishyas [merchants] and shudras [workers]-can attain the supreme destination. How much more this is so of the righteous brahmanas, the devotees and the saintly kings. Therefore, having come to this temporary, miserable world, engage in loving service unto Me.” Where is the doubt that if strong devotion for the Supreme Lord is awakened in the hearts of the brahmanas and kshatriyas that they will be delivered? Because even women, vaishyas, shudras, outcastes, and sinful candalas can attain the supreme destination by taking shelter of pure devotional service.

By the influence of devotional service

one's position as an outcaste is destroyed

and he becomes a spiritual brahmana.

If one understands the purport of the following two Bhagavad-gita verses directly preceding those quoted above, then he will have no doubts whatsoever.

api cet su-duracaro        bhajate mam ananya-bhak

sadhur eva sa mantavyah        samyag vyavasito hi sah

kshipram bhavati dharmatma        shashvac-chantim nigacchati

kaunteya pratijanihi        na me bhaktah pranashyati

The purport of these two verses are that living entities who become devotees or Vaishnavas generally possess brahminical qualities. If by the strength of the association of devotees a person attains unalloyed devotional service before possessing the wealth of brahminical qualities, then he should also be accepted as a devotee. Because by My mercy he will soon become a pious soul. In other words, brahmanism, which is the right of a Vaishnava, is attained by him as a concomitant fruit of devotional service. O son of Kunti, such a person will never fall down in the form of taking rebirth, etc. This is My promise. I will bestow love of God by awarding him pure spiritual brahmanism in this life, without having to undergo atonement.

The brahmanas and the Vaishnavas

are related as brothers.

O readers, do not differentiate between brahmanism and Vaishnavism. The brahmanas are naturally qualified to become Vaishnavas. That is why Lord Krishna has displayed so much respect for the brahmanas who are qualified for pure devotional service. If we receive the causeless mercy of the brahmanas, we can become pure. No one can become a Vaishnava by disregarding the position of the brahmanas, and a brahmana can never become successful by disregarding the position of the Vaishnavas. Therefore let the natural brotherhood of the brahmanas and Vaishnavas shine brightly throughout the entire world. Do not let selfishness and foolishness enter between them and create enmity. In order to spread the prestige of the brahmanas in this world Shriman Mahaprabhu enacted the pastime of curing His fever by drinking the caranamrita of a brahmana. O brahmanas (pure devotees), please be merciful to us.