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Viprasamya, or similarity with a brahmana
Any person initiated into Vishnu mantras by a bona fide spiritual master is qualified to worship shri-shalagrama-shila.
While ascertaining the qualification for the kanishtha-adhikaris' worship of Lord Vishnu, Shrila Sanatana Gosvami Prabhu has concluded that although according to the concocted remarks of some envious smartas only seminal brahmanas are qualified to worship shalagrama and uninitiated women and shudras are not qualified, if a person, regardless of varna, is initiated into Vishnu mantras by a bona fide spiritual master, he is qualified to worship shri-shalagrama. Because according to the scriptures Vaishnavas are accepted as equal to brahmanas even in ordinary consideration. In this regard, Shrila Sanatana Gosvami Prabhu has quoted many scriptural statements in his Dig-darshini-tika to prove this point. For example, he has quoted the statement of Lord Kapila from His conversation with Devahuti in Shrimad Bhagavatam (3.33.6): “To say nothing of the spiritual advancement of persons who see the Supreme Person face to face, even a person born in a family of dog-eaters immediately becomes eligible to perform Vedic sacrifices if he once utters the holy name of the Supreme Personality of Godhead or chants about Him, hears about His pastimes, offers Him obeisances or even remembers Him.” Again, from the topics of Prithu Maharaja in Shrimad Bhagavatam (4.21.12), Shrila Sanatana Gosvami Prabhu has quoted: “Maharaja Prithu was an unrivaled king and possessed the scepter for ruling all the seven islands on the surface of the globe. No one could disobey his irrevocable orders but the saintly persons, the brahmanas and the descendants of the Supreme Personality of Godhead [the Vaishnavas].” In other words, Maharaja Prithu treated the brahmanas and Vaishnavas with equal vision. Shrila Gosvami Prabhu has also quoted the statement of King Puranjana from Shrimad Bhagavatam (4.26.24) as follows: “O hero's wife, kindly tell me if someone has offended you. I am prepared to give such a person punishment as long as he does not belong to the brahmana caste. But for the servant of Muraripu [Krishna], I excuse no one within or beyond these three worlds. No one can freely move after offending you, for I am prepared to punish him.” In all these places the brahmanas and the Vaishnavas have been equally respected even in worldly dealings.
The explanation of the word viprasamya
by the less-intelligent people.
At this juncture a doubt may arise that while the procedure to show respect equally to the brahmanas and the Vaishnavas in worldly dealings is there, and the acaryas have mentioned the word viprasamya, and while the word vipra refers to the subject of comparison, the word Vaishnava refers to the object being compared, so it is certainly indicated that the object being compared is inferior to the subject of comparison. For example, if we say that the face of Devadutta is like the moon, than we can understand that the face of Devadutta is not the moon, rather it has some similarity with the moon. Therefore, in beauty, the face is inferior to the moon. Considering in this way, some less-intelligent people may conclude that the word viprasamya indicates that although the Vaishnavas are equal to the brahmanas in some ways, they are nevertheless inferior to the brahmanas.
Explanation of the word viprasamya
by intelligent people.
But before concluding in this way, one should patiently deliberate how it has been described everywhere that the beauty of the moon is more beautiful than a man's face. Furthermore it has always been the practice to exhibit the similarities of a more beautiful and famous object with a less beautiful and nonfamous object, and thus the beauty of the latter has been established. In this type of comparison the fault of exaggeration may often arise. But if we carefully analyze the statements of the scriptures, then we will find that the devotees of the Lord have always been established as the topmost. If we study the commentary of Shrila Sanatana Gosvami Prabhu with special attention, then we will know that a Vaishnava has not been compared with a brahmana in the same way that a face is compared with the moon; rather the fact that a Vaishnava is not inferior to a brahmana in any way as far as external prestige is concerned has been shown with gross external worldly considerations to envious people who are unqualified to see other's supremacy. For example when the shastras explain the form of the Supreme Lord to a devotee who is attached to the opulent feature of the Lord, it conceals the most wonderfully sweet form of Shri Krishna and depicts Him with names like Narayana, Kshirodakashayi Vishnu, or Brahman. By this process, the complete eternal form of Shri Krishna is not indicated, yet at the same time it is not a lie to call Krishna Kshirodakashayi or Narayana. The knowers of the science of Krishna understand that just as a person who possesses a million rupees also possesses a hundred rupees or a thousand rupees, or just as Brahman, Narayana, and Kshirodakashayi Vishnu are inseparably present in the form of Krishna, or when Shri Krishna is explained as equal to Narayana, actually Shri Krishna is not inferior to Narayana, rather He is the source of Narayana. Similarly, though a Vaishnava is accepted as equal to a brahmana in the primary worldly consideration, yet a Vaishnava is nothing less than a brahmana, rather he is the crest jewel on the head of the brahmana communities. Because a worshiper of the Supreme Lord who knows Brahman is a Vaishnava. If by the word viprasamya it is concluded that a Vaishnava is inferior to a brahmana or only equal to a brahmana, then the behavior of shastras and sadhus would not have proved opposite. When Vaishnavas have been glorified thousands of times as greater than brahmanas, then it cannot be concluded that the word viprasamya means that a Vaishnava is inferior or equal to a brahmana. Among the brahmanas and Vaishnavas, the qualities of the brahmanas are a common factor. For example: in the numbers five and ten, the number five is present in both. Similarly brahmanism or brahminical qualities are eternally present in Vaishnavas, hence the word viprasamya is indicated. Had it been a fact that brahmanas were glorified in many places in the scriptures as greater than Vaishnavas, then we would have accepted the meaning of the word viprasamya as being equal to the comparison of a face with the moon.
A Vaishnava is always a topmost brahmana.
It is mentioned in the Garuda Purana:
brahmananam sahasrebhyah satra-yaji vishishyate
sarva-vedanta-vit-kotya vishnu-bhakto vishishyate
“It is said that out of thousands of brahmanas, one is qualified to perform sacrifices, and out of many thousands of such qualified brahmanas expert in sacrificial offerings, one learned brahmana may have passed beyond all Vedic knowledge. Among many such brahmanas, one who is a devotee of Lord Vishnu is the best.”
In Naradiya Purana it is stated:
shvapaco 'pi mahipala vishnor bhakto dvijadhikah
“O king, a devotee of Lord Vishnu, though born in a dog-eater family, is higher then a brahmana.”
The Hari-bhakti-vilasa quotes the Itihasa-samuccaya, wherein the Lord states:
na me 'bhaktash catur-vedi mad-bhaktah shva-pacah priyah
tasmai deyam tato grahyam sa ca pujyo yatha hy aham
“Even though a person is a very learned scholar of the Sanskrit Vedic literatures, he is not accepted as My devotee unless he is pure in devotional service. However, even though a person is born in a family of dog-eaters, he is very dear to Me if he is a pure devotee who has no motive to enjoy fruitive activity or mental speculation. Indeed, all respect should be given to him, and whatever he offers should be accepted. Such devotees are as worshipable as I am.” Even if the word viprasamya indicated that a Vaishnava should be considered equal to a brahmana, let alone inferior to a brahmana, then the Supreme Lord would have advised us to see a nondevotee brahmana who knows the four Vedas and a devotee of the Lord who is born in a dog-eater family on an equal level. Rather, He says that a devotee is nondifferent from Him, and a devotee is as worshipable as Himself; but a brahmana who knows the four Vedas is even lower than an ordinary dog-eater because he is devoid of devotion to the Lord. This is confirmed by the Lord as follows:
candalo 'pi dvija-shreshtho hari-bhakti-parayanah
hari-bhakti-vihinash ca dvijo 'pi shvapacadhamah
“Even if one is born in the family of a candala, if one engages in the devotional service of the Lord, he becomes the best of brahmanas. But even a brahmana who is devoid of devotional service is on the level of the lowest dog-eater.”
Grantha-raja Shrimad Bhagavatam
establishes the supremacy of Vaishnavas.
It is stated in Shrimad Bhagavatam (7.9.10) as follows:
viprad dvi-shad-guna-yutad aravinda-nabha-
padaravinda-vimukhat shvapacam varishtham
pranam punati sa kulam na tu bhurimanah
The Vaishnavas who are attached to devotional service are naturally indifferent to fruitive activities. So if according to the considerations of the materialists the word viprasamya indicated that a Vaishnava is inferior or equal to a brahmana, then the above-mentioned verse from Shrimad Bhagavatam would not have described as follows: “If a brahmana has all twelve of the brahminical qualifications [as they are stated in the book called Sanat-sujata] but is not a devotee and is averse to the lotus feet of the Lord, he is certainly lower than a devotee who is a dog-eater but who has dedicated everything-mind, words, activities, wealth and life-to the Supreme Lord. Such a devotee is better than such a brahmana because the devotee can purify his whole family, whereas the so-called brahmana in a position of false prestige cannot purify even himself.”
Immediately after using the word viprasamya in his commentary on this verse, Shrila Sanatana Gosvami Prabhu has written: viprad dvi-shad-guna-yutad ity adi-vacanaiva-vaishnava-brahmanebhyo nica-jati-jatanam api vaishnavanam shreshthyam-“it has been established by various statements such as viprad dvi-shad that a low-born Vaishnava is greater then a nondevotee brahmana.” When such clear understanding is there, then other concocted narrow opinions are understood to be in the language of Shrila Sanatana Gosvami Prabhu as matsarya-paraih smartaih kaishcit kalpitam iti mantavyam-“the wicked imagination of some envious smartas.”
It is prohibited to consider the Vaishnavas
as belonging to a particular mundane caste.
But the word viprasamya that Shrila Sanatana Gosvami Prabhu has mentioned is only to display primary worldly considerations. In other words, one should not consider a Vaishnava who is duly initiated into Vishnu mantras but born in a family lower than the brahmanas in anyway inferior to a so-called brahmana, even by worldly considerations and mundane kanishtha-adhikara consideration. One cannot deprive a Vaishnava from the qualifications of a brahmana. Because brahmanism is a common factor in a Vaishnava. A person born of any family becomes a brahmana by the influence of Vaishnava initiation, even at the stage of kanishtha-adhikari. Shrila Sanatana Gosvami's commentary on the yatha kancanatam verse is proof of this fact. He has given the evidence of Kapiladeva's statement that by the influence of hearing and chanting the holy names of the Lord a person born in the family of dog-eaters immediately becomes qualified to perform soma-yajna. But a Vaishnava who is attached to the service of Krishna does not run to perform fruitive soma-yajna by giving up the sacrifice of chanting the holy names. At the same time he is fully qualified to perform the soma-yajna. In other words, according to worldly consideration, he is not less than a brahmana who performs soma-yajna. Therefore the acaryas and the shastras have never said that an initiated Vaishnava should be considered a dog-eater or belonging to a particular caste. By the word viprasamya the caste mentality towards a Vaishnava has been refuted.
The Vaishnavas are under the shelter of the holy names, therefore brahmanism is their pre-attained right.
Then where is the question of a Vaishnava's inferiority? The word brahmana indicates a majority of unnecessary fruitive actions, and the word Vaishnava indicates a majority of necessary devotional feelings, hence unnecessary fruitive actions are considerably less. This fact can be understood by the logic of “brihad-vrati and griha-vrata-purusha.” Though a Vaishnava appears in a dog-eater family, still he is not a non-brahmana. His brahminical qualifications are eternally perfected or previously acquired. This has been proved in the very next verse by Kapiladeva from Shrimad Bhagavatam (3.33.7):
aho bata shva-paco 'to gariyan
yaj-jihvagre vartate nama tubhyam
tepus tapas te juhuvuh sasnur arya
brahmanucur nama grinanti ye te
“Oh, how glorious are they whose tongues are chanting Your holy name! Even if born in the families of dog-eaters, such persons are worshipable. Persons who chant the holy name of Your Lordship must have executed all kinds of austerities and fire sacrifices and achieved all the good manners of the Aryans. To be chanting the holy name of Your Lordship, they must have bathed at holy places of pilgrimage, studied the Vedas and fulfilled everything required.” So when Vaishnavas born in dog-eater families but engaged in chanting the holy names of the Lord possess the previously acquired brahminical qualities and are properly initiated according to the shastra and are inclined towards chanting the holy names in this life, then those who want to see them in their ordinary respective castes are certainly opposing the principles of Shrimad Bhagavatam and are envious towards the devotees. Such people maintain animosity towards the book Bhagavata and devotee Bhagavata and are proceeding towards hell, while dancing frantically like demons.
Vaishnava acaryas who were born in seminal brahmana families refuted the atheistic philosophy of considering Vaishnavas as belonging to particular castes.
If the opinion of the shastras were that Vaishnavas born in families lower than so-called brahmanas are inferior to the brahmanas, and the word viprasamya meant that the Vaishnavas are inferior to the brahmanas, then why doesn't the behavior of the Vaishnava acaryas support this? Did Acarya Shrila Narottama Thakura commit a great offence by accepting as disciples Shripada Ganganarayana Cakravarti and Shripada Ramakrishna Bhattacarya, who were born in seminal brahmana families? From this example of the acarya, it is proved that the word viprasamya indicates that what to speak of a Vaishnava's being inferior or equal to a brahmana, rather he is qualified to become the spiritual master of brahmanas. Otherwise why did Shrila Narahari Cakravarti Thakura, the author of Bhakti-ratnakara and a topmost Vaishnava born in a brahmana family, write as follows:
shri-thakura narottama patita-pavana
tanra shishya cakravarti ganganarayana
ganganarayana vidyavanta atishaya
khandiya `pashanda-mata' bhakti prakashaya
“Shrila Narottama dasa Thakura was a deliverer of the fallen souls. His disciple was Ganganarayana Cakravarti. Ganganarayana was learned scholar. He refuted atheistic philosophy and preached devotional service.” By using the word pashanda-mata, or atheistic philosophy, is it not being indicated that the envious smartas are considering Shrila Narottama Thakura as belonging to a particular caste? That is why Shri Narahari Cakravarti Thakura has mentioned the philosophy of the smartas as “atheistic philosophy.” He has written in the Bhakti-ratnakara, Fifteenth Wave:
jaya jaya shri-ganganarayana cakravarti ati dhira gambhira
“All glories to Shri Ganganarayana Cakravarti, who is very sober and grave.”
shrila narottama-carana-saroruha-bhajana-parayana bhuvana-ujora
“By worshiping the lotus feet of Shrila Narottama dasa Thakura, I will cross over material existence.”
Under the shelter of sensual perception,
the envious smartas and their feet lickers,
the sahajiyas, glorify the darkness of hell.
Against the offensive mundane considerations of narrow-minded envious smartas and their feet licking sahajiyas of today, Shrila Vishvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, a follower of Shri Rupa Gosvami, instead of considering Shrila Narottama Thakura as belonging to a particular caste, displayed great respect befitting an nonduplicitous disciple by composing the Shri Shri Narottama Prabhor-ashtakam prayers. This was not the exhibition of the pseudo respect of a sahajiya nor an offensive consideration in the guise of humility that a Vaishnava belongs to a particular caste. We will present with scriptural references and conclusions the behavior of the acaryas in our next article. But it is also a fact that envious people who are like owls cannot tolerate the sun rays of the devotee Bhagavata and book Bhagavata, thus they will continue to praise the darkness of hell forever. (Weekly Gaudiya, Vol. 4, Part 16)
(End of Acarya-santana)