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Beyond Varna and Ashrama
In the teachings of Lord Chaitanya, especially in this perverted age of Kali, the passage mentioned above, wherein it says that it does not matter whether a person is a brahmana, sannyasi, or a shudra, is important. The qualification for a spiritual master is that he must be thoroughly conversant in the art and science of devotional service. This is revolutionary to the stereotyped, so-called spiritual mastership prevailing among the masses in India. The exploitative method is herein dealt a deadly blow and this truth is established by the devout followers of Shri Chaitanya Maha- prabhu’s conception.
The fact is that a person who is thoroughly conversant about Shri Krishna can become a spiritual master either as an initiator or an instructor. It does not matter whether such a person is a brahmana, kshatriya, vaishya, or a shudra. Nor does it matter whether he is a brahmacari, grihastha, vanaprastha, or a sannyasi. The only qualification of a spiritual master is his knowledge of the truth about Shri Krishna. The qualification certainly does not rest on his particular situation in terms of the system of varnashrama-dharma.
This order of Lord Chaitanya, although apparently revolutionary to the non-progressive opportunists, is not at all against the injunctions of the scriptures. Following this principle, Lord Chaitanya Himself took initiation from Shripad Ishvara Puri, and Lord Nityananda Prabhu and Advaita Prabhu took initiation from Shripad Madhavendra Puri Goswami. Rasikananda Prabhu took initiation from Shrila Shyamananda Prabhu, who appeared in the family of a non-brahmana, and Shri Ganga Narayana Cakravarti and Shri Ramakrishna Bhattacarya took initiation from Shrila Narottama dasa hakura, who also happened to appear in the family of a non-brahmana. In the ancient literatures, it is written that there are no hereditary considerations for becoming a spiritual master.
In the Mahabharata and other historical literatures, there are innumerable examples of non-hereditary gurus and determination of caste by quality and action rather than by birth. In the Shrimad-Bhagavatam (7.11.35), it is said that a person should be classified as belonging to a particular varna or caste in terms of his qualification:
asya yal-lakshanam proktam
yad anyatrapi drishyeta
tat tenaiva vinirdishet
According to Bhagavad-gita, a really qualified brahmana possesses nine qualities, a kshatriya seven qualities, a vaishya three qualities, and a shudra only one quality. So, wherever the particular qualities are found or developed, the person possessing these particular qualities should be regarded as such. Accepting this formula from the scriptures, the Vaishnava accepts a spiritual master upon his becoming conversant in the knowledge of Shri Krishna. The qualities of a brahmana appear naturally, and, as such, a thoroughly conversant spiritual master cannot be anything but a qualified brahmana. The false notion that without being a caste brahmana a person cannot become a spiritual master is therefore a misconception. A person born in the family of a shudra can become a spiritual master if he has acquired the necessary knowledge about Shri Krishna.
Sometimes it is seen that a pure Vaishnava does not undergo the formalities of the system of varnashrama-dharma by accepting the regulative principles thereof, but that does not mean that he is not a brahmana or a bona fide spiritual master. The Vaishnavas determine the varna and ashrama of a person simply by their symptoms and not by their birth. Foolish people are unable to recognize such qualified Vaishnavas, and as such Lord Chaitanya distinctly emphasizes all the above mentioned points. There is no difference in essence between the regulative principles found in the Hari-bhakti-vilasa and the statements of Lord Chaitanya. The difference is concocted by the mental speculations of ignorant men.