Varnasrama, the Vedic Social System
Culture means dharma. Vedic culture means sanatana dharma - elevation, self-realization, avoiding death, realizing and satisfying the Lord, and spreading His message.
SB 4.25.13 p.:
"Thus whoever takes birth in the land of Bharata-varsa attains all the facilities of life. He may take advantage of all these facilities for both material and spiritual advancement and thus make his life successful. After attaining the goal of life, one may distribute his knowledge and experience all over the world for humanitarian purposes. In other words, one who takes birth in the land of Bharata-varsa by virtue of his past pious activities gets full facility to develop the human form of life. In India, the climatic condition is such that one can live very peacefully without being disturbed by material conditions. Indeed, during the time of Maharaja Yudhisthira or Lord Ramacandra, people were free from all anxieties. There was not even extreme cold or extreme heat. The three kinds of miserable conditions - adhyatmika, adhibhautika and adhidaivika (miseries inflicted by the body and mind itself, those inflicted by other living entities, and natural disturbances) - were all absent during the reign of Lord Ramacandra or Maharaja Yudhisthira. But at present, compared to other countries on earth, India is artificially disturbed. Despite these material disturbances, however, the country's culture is such that one can easily attain the goal of life - namely salvation, or liberation from material bondage. Thus in order to take birth in India one must have performed many pious activities in a past life.
"In this verse the word laksita-laksanam indicates that the human body attained in Bharata-varsa is very auspicious. Vedic culture is full of knowledge, and a person born in India can fully take advantage of Vedic cultural knowledge and the cultural system known as varnasrama-dharma.
"Even at the present time, as we travel all over the world, we see that in some countries human beings have many material facilities but no facilities for spiritual advancement. We find everywhere the defects of one-sided facilities and a lack of full facilities. A blind man can walk but not see, and a lame man cannot walk but can see. Andha-pangu-nyaya.
"The blind man may take the lame man over his shoulder, and as he walks the lame man may give him directions. Thus combined they may work, but individually neither the blind man nor the lame man can walk successfully. Similarly, this human form of life is meant for the advancement of spiritual life and for keeping the material necessities in order. Especially in the Western countries there are ample facilities for material comforts, but no one has any idea of spiritual advancement. Many are hankering after spiritual advancement, but many cheaters come, take advantage of their money, bluff them and go away. Fortunately the Krsna consciousness movement is there to give all facilities for both material and spiritual advancement. In this way people in the Western countries may take advantage of this movement. In India any man in the villages, unaffected by the industrial cities of India, can still live in any condition and make spiritual advancement. The body has been called the city of nine gates, and these nine gates include two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, one mouth, a genital and a rectum. When the nine gates are clean and working properly, it is to be understood that the body is healthy. In India these nine gates are kept clean by the villagers who rise early in the morning, bathe in the well or rivers, go to the temples to attend mangala-arati, chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra and take prasada. In this way one can take advantage of all the facilities of human life. We are gradually introducing this system in different centers in our Society in the Western countries. One who takes advantage of it becomes more and more enlightened in spiritual life. At the present moment, India may be compared to the lame man and the Western countries to the blind man. For the past two thousand years India has been subjugated by the rule of foreigners, and the legs of progress have been broken. In the Western countries the eyes of the people have become blind due to the dazzling glitter of material opulence. The blind man of the Western countries and the lame man of India should combine together in this Krsna consciousness movement. Then the lame man of India can walk with the help of the Westerner, and the blind Westerner can see with the help of the lame man. In short, the material advancement of the Western countries and the spiritual assets of India should combine for the elevation of all human society."
The basic principle of brahminical culture is to satisfy Lord Visnu, the personification of sacrificial and ritualistic ceremonies. Lord Visnu is the personified reservoir of all religious principles, and He is the shelter of all the demigods, the great pitas, and the people in general. When the brahmanas are killed, no one will exist to encourage the ksatriyas to perform yajnas, and thus the demigods, not being appeased by yajna, will automatically die.
Since Visnu is the central point of brahminical culture, Hiranyakasipu's plan was to kill Visnu, for if Visnu were killed, naturally the brahminical culture would also be lost. With brahminical culture lost, yajna would no longer be performed, and for want of yajna the regular distribution of rainfall would cease (yajnad bhavati parjanyah (BG 3.14). Thus there would be disturbances all over the world, and naturally the demigods would be defeated. From this verse we get a clear indication of how human society is disturbed when the Vedic aryan civilization is killed and the Vedic ritualistic ceremonies performed by the brahmanas are stopped. Kalau sudra-sambhavah: because the population of the modern world consists mostly of sudras, the brahminical culture is now lost and is extremely difficult to reestablish in a proper way. Therefore Lord Caitanya has recommended the chanting of the holy name of the Lord, which will revive brahminical culture very easily.
harer nama harer nama
harer namaiva kevalam
kalau nasty eva nasty eva
nasty eva gatir anyatha
(CC Adi 17.21)
Because of the increment in demoniac population, people have lost brahminical culture. Nor is there a ksatriya government. Instead, the government is a democracy in which any sudra can be voted into taking up the governmental reigns and capture the power to rule. Because of the poisonous effects of Kali-yuga, the sastra (Bhag. 12.2.13) says, dasyu-prayesu rajasu: the government will adopt the policies of dasyus, or plunderers. Thus there will be no instructions from the brahmanas, and even if there are brahminical instructions, there will be no ksatriya rulers who can follow them. Aside from Satya-yuga, even formerly, in the days when demons were flourishing, Hiranyakasipu planned to destroy the brahminical culture and the ksatriya government and thus create chaos all over the world. Although in Satya-yuga this plan was very difficult to execute, in Kali-yuga, which is full of sudras and demons, the brahminical culture is lost and can be revived only by the chanting of the maha-mantra.
Therefore the Krsna consciousness movement, or the Hare Krsna movement, has been inaugurated to revive brahminical culture very easily so that people may become happy and peaceful in this life and prepare for elevation in the next. In this regard, Srila Madhvacarya quotes this verse from the Brahmanda Purana:
harir ity asuram matam
harir eva hi sarvasya
mulam samyan mato nrpa
"O King, the demons think that Hari, Lord Visnu, exists because of the brahmanas and yajna, but factually Hari is the cause of everything including the brahmanas and yajna." Therefore, through the popularizing of hari-kirtana, or the sankirtana movement, the brahminical culture and ksatriya government will automatically come back, and people will be extremely happy.
As long as he has intelligence and bodily strength, an intelligent person must try to avoid death. This is the duty of every embodied person. But if death cannot be avoided in spite of one's endeavors, a person facing death commits no offense.
It is natural for a person facing untimely death to try his best to save himself. This is one's duty. Although death is sure, everyone should try to avoid it and not meet death without opposition because every living soul is by nature eternal. Because death is a punishment imposed in the condemned life of material existence, the Vedic culture is based on avoiding death (tyaktva deham punar janma naiti, BG 4.9). Everyone should try to avoid death and rebirth by cultivating spiritual life and should not submit to death without struggling to survive. One who is not trying to stop death is not an intelligent human being.
SB 11.7.8 p.:
Vedic culture is arranged in such a way that everyone can become perfect in self-realization simply by performing his occupational duty for the satisfaction of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Sve sve karmany abhiratah samsiddhim labhate narah. Some conditioned souls, however, believe that complete perfection in life may be achieved by performing ordinary, nonspiritual duties on behalf of family, nation, humanity, and so on. Others are interested in neither service to God nor noble mundane activities, and there are others who actively pursue sinful life. Such sinful persons generally rise from bed late in the afternoon and stay awake all night, taking intoxicants and engaging in illicit sex. Such a dark, hellish existence is caused by attraction to tamo-guna, the mode of ignorance. Actions in the mode of ignorance are called vikarma, as mentioned in this verse. Unfortunately, neither the materially responsible person nor the materially irresponsible person nor the sinful person can achieve the real perfection of life, Krsna consciousness. Although different societies and different individuals maintain different concepts of good and evil, all material things are ultimately useless in terms of our eternal self-interest, which is Krsna consciousness.
Learned persons dedicated to Vedic culture are elevated by the mode of goodness to higher and higher positions. The mode of ignorance, on the other hand, forces one to fall headfirst into lower and lower births. And by the mode of passion one continues transmigrating through human bodies.
Sudras, persons in the mode of ignorance, are generally in deep illusion about the purpose of life, accepting the gross material body as the self. Those in passion and ignorance are called vaisyas and hanker intensely for wealth, whereas ksatriyas, who are in the mode of passion, are eager for prestige and power. Those in the mode of goodness, however, hanker after perfect knowledge; they are therefore called brahmanas. Such a person is promoted up to the supreme material position of Brahmaloka, the planet of Lord Brahma. One who is in the mode of ignorance gradually falls to the level of unmoving species, such as trees and stones, while one in the mode of passion, filled with material desire but satisfying it within Vedic culture, is allowed to remain in human society.
CC Adi 12.73 p.:
The essence of the Vedic culture is the message of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Lord Caitanya instructed:
yare dekha, tare kaha 'krsna' upadesa
amara ajnaya guru hana tara' ei desa
(CC Madhya 7.128)
One should simply instruct everyone he meets regarding the principles of krsna-katha, as expressed in Bhagavad-gita As It Is and Srimad-Bhagavatam.
Nectar of Devotion 35 (Neutral Love of God):
Actually, all Vedic culture is aiming at understanding Lord Visnu. In the Rg Veda one mantra says that any advanced saintly person is always aspiring to be fixed in meditation upon the lotus feet of Visnu.
Krsna Consciousness: Hindu Cult or Divine Culture?:
India's actual culture is described in the Bhagavad-gita, where it is stated that according to the different qualities or modes of nature there are different types of men, who are generally classified into four social orders and four spiritual orders. This system of social and spiritual division is known as varnasrama-dharma. The four varnas, or social orders, are brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya. and sudra. The four asramas, or spiritual orders, are brahmacarya, grhastha, vanaprastha, and sannyasa. The varnasrama system is described in the Vedic scriptures known as the Puranas. The goal of this institution of Vedic culture is to educate every man for advancement in knowledge of Krsna, or God. That is the entire Vedic program.
Human Society or Animal Society?:
Interviewer: Here's the second question: "The traditional charge against Vedic culture is that it is fatalistic, that it makes people slaves to the belief in predestination, and that it therefore inhibits progress. How far is this charge true?"
Srila Prabhupada: What is that progress? Is a dog's jumping progress? Is that progress? A dog is running here and there on four legs, and you are running here and there on the four wheels of the automobile. Is that progress? That is not the Vedic system. According to the Vedic system, the human being has a certain amount of energy, and since the human being has better consciousness than the animals, the energy of the human beings is more valuable than the energy of the animals.
Interviewer: Probably no one would dispute that the human being has more freedom or, I suppose, responsibility than the animals.
Srila Prabhupada: So human energy should be utilized for spiritual advancement, not that the energy should be employed to compete with the dog. The saintly person is not busy like the dog. Today people think that "dog-ness" is life, but actual life is spiritual progress. Therefore, the Vedic literature says,
tasyaiva hetoh prayateta kovido
na labhyate yad bhramatam upary adhah
tal labhyate duhkha vad anyatah sukham
kalena sarvatra gabhira-ramhasa
"Persons who are actually intelligent and philosophically inclined should endeavor only for that purposeful end which is not obtainable even by wandering from the topmost planet [Brahmaloka] down to the lowest planet [Patala]. As far as happiness derived from sense enjoyment is concerned, it can be obtained automatically in the course of time, just as in the course of time we obtain miseries, even though we do not desire them." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.5.18)
But you cannot trace out the beginning of this Vedic scripture. It is therefore called sanatana, eternal. This culture is for this whole human society. It is not a religious faith. Religious faith you can change, but real dharma you cannot change. Try to understand Krsna.
The Vedic culture is respected all over the world, and there are people everywhere eager to understand it. The highest perfectional stage of understanding Vedic culture is explained in the Bhagavad-gita, in the Fifteenth Chapter (15.15), where the Lord says that the purpose of all the Vedas is to understand Him (Lord Krsna). Fortunate are those who are attracted to the Vedic cultural life.
Spiritual Advice to Businessmen:
The brahmanas, the head of the social body, are meant to guide society in culture. Culture means knowing the aim of life. Without understanding the aim of life, a man is a ship without a rudder. But at the present moment we are missing the goal of life because there is no head department in society. The whole human society is now lacking real brahmanas to give advice to the other departments.
Lecture on Bhagavad-gita 2.46-47 - New York, March 28, 1966:
We have already discussed this matter, that brahmana does not mean a particular class or born in a particular country. A brahmana means who knows the position of the soul, or the constitution of the soul. He is brahmana. Just like a person who is conversant with medical science. He is called medical man or a doctor. It doesn't matter whether he is born in India or born in America or whether he is black or white. It doesn't matter. One must have the qualification of a medical man, and he is called a doctor. Similarly, Bhagavad-gita also accepts the brahminical culture, the brahminical culture. Brahminical culture means the social position in which everyone is assisted to elevate himself to the highest position of understanding the position and the constitution of the soul. That should be the aim of human society.
Room Conversation - June 29, 1972, San Diego:
To do good to others, para-upakara. So those Indians who are here, it is all right you are earning for some economic development, but at the same time, you try to make your life perfect by Krsna consciousness and spread it to the foreigners as far as possible. That's your duty, not that, that you are getting decent salary than India, and enjoy life and forget your culture. That is suicidal. You have got a culture... So this culture is Vedic culture and Vedic culture means Krsna conscious. As it is said in the Bhagavad-gita, vedais ca sarvair aham eva vedyah (BG 15.15). Vedic culture means to understand Krsna. One who has not understood Krsna, he has no Vedic culture. But every Indian is supposed to have Vedic culture. And to have Vedic culture means to understand Krsna. Therefore all Indians, they should cultivate this Krsna consciousness personally, make their life successful, and distribute it to the, our neighbors.
Lecture on Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.3.20 - Los Angeles, September 25, 1972:
Brahminical culture means the aim of advancement of civilization is spiritual realization, self-realization, Visnu. Ultimately, Lord Visnu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. That is the prerogative. That is a special chance for the human being. This chance is not for any other living being. So for this purpose, there are so many rules and regulation: Manu-samhita, the social system, the political system, the spiritual system, so many things. Everything chalked with an aim: how to understand Brahman. Brahma janati iti brahmanah. As soon as one understands what is Brahman, Parabrahman, Krsna - Krsna is Parabrahman - then his life is perfect. That was the aim.
Lecture on Srimad Bhagavatam (Preface) - Bombay, January 11, 1973:
So my request, especially to the Indians, that do not neglect your culture, the Vedic culture. Vedic culture means Krsna consciousness. There is no other, different meaning of Vedic culture. In the Bhagavad-gita you have seen:
sarvasya caham hrdi sannivisto mattah smrtir jnanam apohanam ca vedais ca
sarvair aham eva vedyah... (BG 15.15)
That Krsna is to be understood. Vedic culture means to understand Krsna, what is Krsna. Vedic culture... All the Vedas, they're meaning how to understand Krsna.
Lecture at Bharata Chamber of Commerce "Culture and Business"
- Calcutta, January 30, 1973:
So culture means that one should know what is the aim of life. Without understanding the aim of life, a man without aim is ship without, a ship without rudder. That is an English proverb. So at the present moment, we are missing the goal of life because there is no head department. The whole human society is lacking now real brahmanas who can give advice to the other departments.
Lecture on Bhagavad-gita 4.13 - Bombay, April 2, 1974:
Similarly, when the society is divided nicely in these four divisions, the brahminical culture, the ksatriya culture, the vaisya culture, and the sudra culture... Brahminical culture means people should learn how to speak truth, satya, sama, how to control the mind, how to control the senses. Satya, sama, damah, titiksa, how to become tolerant, arjavam, how to become simple in life, how to become cleansed, how to acquire knowledge and how to practically apply the knowledge in daily life.
Lecture on Bhagavad-gita 7.1 - Bombay, December 20, 1975:
So our Vedic culture, Vedic culture means that human culture, not animal culture. Animal culture means to satisfy the needs of the body, and Vedic culture or human culture means to satisfy the needs of the soul. That is the beginning of Bhagavad-gita.
Evening Lecture - Bhubaneswar, January 23, 1977:
As yesterday we were talking of varnasrama-dharma, four varnas and four asrama - brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya, sudra - so the Vedic culture means to execute the varnasrama-dharma.
(from "Brahmanas & Vaisnavas" article by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, translated and published by Bhumipati Das and Pundarika Das)
In the Mahabharata (Vana-parva 180.31-32) it is stated:
jatir atra maha-sarpa manusyatve maha-mate
sankarat sarva-varnanam duspariksyeti me matih
sarve sarvasv apatyani janayanti sada narah
van-maithunam atho janma maranam ca samam nrnam
"Maharaja Yudhisthira said to Nahusa: O broad-minded, great serpent, because there are persons born from mixed marriages among each of the varnas, it is extremely difficult to determine an individual's caste. This is my opinion. The reason for this is that men of all castes are able to beget children in the women of any caste. Speech, sex, birth, and death are similar for men of all castes."
It is especially difficult to ascertain whether a given person is born from a brahmana, ksatriya, or other caste father. Other than trusting a person's words there is no way to investigate his caste. The caste of those belonging to brahmana and other caste dynasties coming from Lord Brahma and said to be purely descending to the present day cannot be known in truth without definitely validating every person in the line. In his commentary on the above verse, Sri Nilakantha, the commentator on the Mahabharata, quotes from the Vedas as follows:
na caitad vidmo brahmanah smo vayam abrahmana veti
"We do not know whether we are brahmanas or non-brahmanas." Such doubts arose in the hearts of the truthful sages.
The qualification of those who take birth in brahmana families but are unable to maintain brahminical qualities and the qualification of their descendants needs to be considered. By immoral activities the qualification and potency based on seminal descent is reduced, and by sinful activities persons become sinners and fall from their positions. The compilers of Dharma-sastras Visnu (93.7-13) and Manu (4.192,195-200) have stated as follows:
na vary api prayacchet tu vaidala-vratike dvije
na baka-vratike vipre naveda-vidi dharma-vit
dharma-dhvaji sada lubdhas chadmiko loka-dambhakah
vaidala-vratiko jneyo himsra-sarvabhisandhikah
adho-drstir naikrtikah svartha-sadhana-tatparah
satho mithya-vinitas ca baka-vrata-paro dvijah
ye baka-vratino vipra ye ca marjara-linginah
te patanty andha-tamisre tena papena karmana
na dharmasyapadesena papam krtva vratam caret
vratena papam pracchadya kurvan stri-sudra-dambhanam
pretyeha cedrso vipro grhyate brahma-vadibhih
chadmanacaritam yac ca tad vai raksamsi gacchati
alingi lingi-vesena yo vrttim upajivati
sa linginam haraty enas tiryag-yonau prajayate
"Religious-minded persons should not give even a drop of water to the hypocritical son of a brahmana, the follower of the "vow of a cat." One should not give even a drop of water to the son of a brahmana who is either a sinful imposter or ignorant of the Vedas.
"One should know that a dharmadhvaji (who makes a false show of being religious), a person who always desires other's wealth, a duplicitous person, a cheater, an envious person, and a blasphemer is a hypocritical brahmana who follows the `vow of a cat.'
"An imposter brahmana, the follower of the `vow of the heron,' is he who always looks down in order to make a show of humility, who is cruel, and who pretends to be submissive.
"As a result of their sinful activities, those who are hypocrites and imposters go to the hell known as Andha-tamisra.
"Such people make a show of being religious in order to impress women and sudras by pretending that their acts of atonement, which are meant for counteracting their sins, are simply pious vows.
"Such people are condemned in this world and the next by those who are conversant with the Absolute Truth. Vows that are executed with duplicity are simply demoniac.
"If someone accepts the symptoms and occupation of a status for which he is not qualified, he is guilty of breaking the principles of varnasrama, and as a result of those sins he will take birth as an animal."
The Dharma-sastra compiler Visnu (82.3-29) also states:
hinadhikangan vivarjayet, vikarma-sthams ca, vaidala-vratikan,
vrtha-linginah, naksatra-jivinah, devalakams ca, cikitsikan,
anudha-putran, tat-putran, bahu-yajinah, grama-yajinah, sudra-yajinah,
ayajya-yajinah, tad-yajinah, parva-karan, sucakan, bhrtakadhyapakan,
bhrtakadhyapitan, sudranna-pustan, patita-samsargan, anadhiyanan,
sandhyopasana-bhrastan, raja-sevakan, nagnan, pitra vivadamanan,
pitr-matr-gurv-agni-svadhyaya-tyaginas ceti, brahmanapasada hy ete
kathitah pankti-dusakah. etan vivarjayet yatnat sraddha-karmani
"One should reject the following brahmanas: those with missing limbs, those with extra limbs, those who behave unjustly, hypocrites, those who falsely accept the signs of some status, professional astrologers, professional priests, physicians, the sons of unmarried women, their sons, worshipers of many gods, priests of the village, priests of the sudras, priests of the untouchables, those who have failed to take their second birth, their priests, performers of religious rites, betrayers, salaried teachers, the students who pay the salaries, those who are nourished by the food of sudras, those who associate with fallen persons, those who are ignorant of the Vedas, those who fail to observe the sandhya rites (chanting the Gayatri mantra), government servants, those who do not wear clothes, those who quarrel with their fathers, and those who reject their father, mother, spiritual master, the sacred fire, or the study of the scriptures. Such persons are considered the worst kinds of brahmanas and are disgraces to their line. Learned persons should carefully reject these persons while performing the sraddha ceremony for their fathers."
Since brahmanas are also capable of committing any of the nine types of sinful activities - atipataka, mahapataka, anupataka, upapataka, jati-bhramsa-kara, sankari-karana (killing animals), patri-karana, malavaha, and prakirnaka - it is difficult to know how far a brahmana is qualified if he conceals these sins without undergoing atonement. It is true that a brahmana can escape reproach from society if he successfully conceals those sinful activities by which he becomes fallen, but if he does so his truthfulness is ruined and as a result he is degraded. The descendants of such a person will then surely and proudly accept that same sinful way of life.
According to their occupations, there are many types of brahmanas. Atri (364-374) has stated:
devo munir dvijo raja vaisyah sudro nisadakah
pasur mleccho 'pi candalo vipra dasa-vidhah smrtah
sandhyam snanam japam homam devata-nitya-pujanam
atithim vaisvadevam ca deva-brahmana ucyate
sake patre phale mule vana-vase sada ratah
nirato 'rahah sraddhe sa vipro munir ucyate
vedantam pathate nityam sarva-sangam parityajet
sankhya-yoga-vicara-sthah sa vipro dvija ucyate
astrahatas ca dhanvanah samgrame sarva-sammukhe
arambhe nirjita yena sa viprah ksatra ucyate
krsi-karma-rato yas ca gavam ca pratipalakah
vanijya-vyavasayas ca sa vipro vaisya ucyate
vikreta madhu-mamsanam sa viprah sudra ucyate
cauras ca taskaras caiva sucako damsakas tatha
matsya-mamse sada lubdho vipro nisada ucyate
brahma-tattvam na janati brahma-sutrena garvitah
tenaiva sa ca papena viprah pasur udahrtah
vapi-kupa-tadaganam aramasya sarahsu ca
nihsankam rodhakas caiva sa vipro mleccha ucyate
kriya-hinas ca murkhas ca sarva-dharma-vivarjitah
nirdayah sarva-bhutesu vipras candala ucyate
"There are ten kinds of brahmanas mentioned in the scriptures - devas, munis, dvijas, rajas, vaisyas, sudras, nisadas, pasus, mlecchas, and candalas.
"One who regularly bathes, chants japa, performs fire sacrifices, daily worships the demigods, observes the sandhya rites, honors his guests, and worships the fire-god is a deva-brahmana.
"One who always lives in the forest, eats only spinach, leaves, fruits, and roots, and regularly performs the sraddha rites is called a muni-brahmana.
"One who gives up all association and spends all his time reading Vedanta and studying Sankhya-yoga is called a dvija-vipra.
"One who publicly attacks opponents who confront him with weapons and defeats them with his own weapons is called a ksatra-vipra.
"One who likes to cultivate the land, protect cows and other animals, or accept the profession of trade and commerce is called a vaisya-vipra.
"One who sells varnish, salt, safflower oil, milk, honey, or meat is called a sudra-vipra.
"One who is a thief or a rogue, who gives bad counsel, who is a betrayer, who bites with his harsh words, and who is always greedy to eat fish and meat is called a nisada-brahmana.
"One who proudly advertises himself as a sanctified brahmana but is ignorant of the Absolute Truth is because of this sin called a pasu-vipra.
"One who prevents others from using ponds, wells, lakes, or gardens is called a mleccha-vipra.
"One who is devoid of pious activities, who is a fool, completely irreligious, and merciless to all living entities is called a candala-brahmana."
Apart from these ten kinds of brahmanas, Atri Mahasaya (376-379) also describes:
jyotir-vido hy atharvanah kira-paurana-pathakah
avikas citrakaras ca vaidyo naksatra-pathakah
catur vipra na pujyante brhaspati-sama yadi
magadho mathuras caiva kapatah kauta-kamalau
panca vipra na pujyante brhaspati-sama yadi
yajne hi phala-hanih syat tasmat tan parivarjayet
"There are three types of brahmanas - those who know astrology, those who know the Atharva Veda, and those who recite the Puranas like parrots.
"Goat traders, painters, physicians, and astrologers - these four kinds of brahmanas never become worshipable, even if they are as learned as Brhaspati.
"Magadhas, Mathuras, Kapatas, Kautas, and Kamalas - these five kinds of brahmanas never become worshipable, even if they are as learned as Brhaspati.
"Such brahmanas will spoil the results one's sacrifice, so they should be rejected."
In addition to this, Atri (287) also says:
satham ca brahmanam hatva sudra-hatya-vratam caret
"If one kills a deceitful brahmana he should perform the same atonement as prescribed for killing a sudra."
According to Atri, a compiler of the Dharma-sastras, besides these above-mentioned twenty-three types of brahmanas, there is one other kind. He says as follows (Atri 375):
vedair vihinas ca pathanti sastram
sastrena hinas ca purana-pathah
purana-hinah krsino bhavanti
bhrastas tato bhagavata bhavanti
"If a brahmana is unable to extract any benefit from his hard studies of the Vedic literatures, he begins to study the Dharma-sastras. If he is unable to abstract any benefit from studying the Dharma-sastras, he becomes a reciter of the Puranas. If he fails to get any benefit from reciting the Puranas, he considers that it is better to earn his livelihood by farming. In other words, such people consider that studying the Vedic literatures, the Dharma-sastras, or the Puranas is simply meant for earning one's livelihood; they see no other purpose in these activities. When such brahmanas are unsuited for all these engagements, they even take to farming. When they cannot be successful even in reciting Puranas, they decide that farming is the best occupation for them. And when due to incompetence and lack of skills they fail to fill their bellies even by farming, they become spiritual masters of the Vaisnavas, accumulate wealth, and advertise themselves as great devotees, establishing this as their means of livelihood."
In this way, including this pseudo-devotee brahmana, there are twenty-four varieties of brahmanas described by the Dharma-sastra compiler Atri Mahasaya. Manu (2.157-158, 168, 172, and 4.245, 255) has stated:
yatha kastha-mayo hasti yatha carma-mayo mrgah
yas ca vipro 'nadhiyanas trayas te nama bibhrati
yatha sandho 'phalah strisu yatha gaur gavi caphala
yatha cajne 'phalam danam tatha vipro 'nrdho 'phalah
yo 'nadhitya dvijo vedam anyatra kurute sramam
sa jivan eva sudratvam asu gacchati sanvayah
sudrena hi samas tavad yavad vede na jayate
uttamanuttaman gacchan hinan hinams ca varjayan
brahmanah sresthatam eti pratyavayena sudratam
yo 'nyatha santam atmanam anyatha satsu bhasate
sa papa-krt-tamo loke stena atmapaharakah
"A vipra 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.
"As a eunuch is of no use to women and a cow cannot be impregnated by another cow, giving charity to a foolish brahmana who does not study the Vedas yields no result.
"One who in his lifetime does not endeavor to study the Vedas but labors hard in other pursuits quickly becomes a sudra along with his family.
"One should know that until a brahmana is qualified in the Vedas, he is on the same level as a sudra.
"If a brahmana dissociates himself from lower caste people and associates only with higher caste people, he attains greatness. If he does the opposite, he becomes a sudra.
"A person with a particular nature who claims to be different when coming before a sadhu is the topmost sinner, a cheater of himself, and a thief."
In the Anusasana-parva, Chapter 143, of the Mahabharata it is stated:
guru-talpi guru-drohi guru-kutsa-ratis sa yah
brahma-vic capi patati brahmano brahma-yonitah
"One who has sex with the wife of his spiritual master, one who is envious of his spiritual master, one who habitually criticizes his spiritual master - such a brahmana, even if he knows the Absolute Truth, falls from his position."
sruti-smrti ubhe netre vipranam parikirtite
ekena vikalah kano dvabhyam andhah prakirtitah
"The sruti and smrti scriptures are the two eyes of the brahmanas. Lacking one of them, a brahmana is half blind, and deprived of both he is considered completely blind."
It is stated in the Kurma Purana:
yo 'nyatra kurute yatnam anadhitya srutim dvijah
sa sammudho na sambhasyo veda-bahyo dvijatibhih
na veda-patha-matrena santusyed esa vai dvijah
yathoktacara-hinas tu panke gaur iva sidati
yo 'dhitya vidhi-vad vedam vedartham na vicarayet
sa candhah sudra-kalpas tu padartham na prapadyate
seva sva-vrttir yair ukta na samyak tair udahrtam
svacchanda-caritah kva sva vikritasuh kva sevakah
pani-krtyatmanah pranan ye vartante dvijadhamah
tesam duratmanam annam bhuktva candrayanam caret
nadyac chudrasya vipro 'nnam mohad va yadi kamatah
sa sudra-yonim vrajati yas tu bhunkte hy anapadi
go-raksakan vanijakan tatha karuka-silinah
presyan vardhusikams caiva vipran sudra-vad acaret
trnam kastham phalam puspam prakasam vai hared budhah
dharmartham kevalam vipra hy anyatha patito bhavet
"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 with such a person.
"A brahmana should not be satisfied merely with studying the Vedas, for if he does not act accordingly he will be as helpless as a cow that has fallen in the mud.
"One should know that a person who has studied the Vedas but does not properly consider their purport is like a blind person or a sudra and will never attain the supreme goal of life.
"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?
"If one eats food cooked by fallen, sinful brahmanas who have sold themselves to others, then one must atone by observing candrayana.
"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.
"Those brahmanas who protect cows, engage in trade, become artists, take the occupation of servants, and loan money on interest are no better than sudras.
"If a brahmana does not accumulate grass, wood, fruits, and flowers for religious purposes, he becomes eligible for falling down as result of such actions."
By seminal consideration, the descendants of a brahmana are also brahmanas - this belief has been generally accepted for a long time. There is no shortage of evidence from the smrtis, Puranas, and histories in support of this belief. Yet by the evidence that we have presented regarding the degradation of brahmanas, the disqualification of brahmanas who commit sinful activities, and the uncertainty of who is a real brahmana, every listener will be able to understand how qualified the present day descendants of brahmanas are. Why should those who are brahmanas by birth but have taken to other occupational duties and not shown any interest in acquiring the characteristics of properly initiated brahmanas be respected? The word bandhu generally means relatives like one's son, but the word brahma-bandhu cannot be simply used for those who are related to brahmanas by birth. Since the word brahma-bandhu has been used in a derogatory way, such descendants of brahmanas have not accepted this designation very proudly. Women, sudras, and brahma-bandhus all belong to a particular category that is inferior to the class of topmost brahmanas. These people have no qualification to study the Vedas. Brahma-bandhus are those who are devoid of brahminical culture, engaged in abominable activities, and brahmanas simply by birth.
It is stated in the Chandogya Upanisad:
asmat kulino 'nanucya brahma-bandhur iva bhavati
"A brahma-bandhu, or a mere relative of a brahmana, is one who who belongs to our brahmana community but has not studied the Vedas."
Sripada Sankaracarya has commented on this verse as follows:
he saumya ananucya anadhitya brahma-bandhur iva bhavatiti
brahmanan bandhun vyapadisati, na svayam brahmana-vrtah.
"O beautiful woman, one who has not studied the Vedas is like a mere relative of brahmanas. He calls the brahmanas his relatives, but he does not have the behavior of a brahmana."
It is stated in the Srimad Bhagavatam (1.4.25):
stri-sudra-dvijabandhunam trayi na sruti-gocara
"The Rg, Sama, and Yajur Vedas should not be recited before women, sudras, and dvija-bandhus."
One should neither kill nor award physical punishment to brahma-bandhus. This is confirmed in the following words of the Srimad Bhagavatam (1.7.57):
esa hi brahma-bandhunam vadho nanyo 'sti daihikah
Q: What is the string worn across the chest by Hindus - I saw them many times on pictures, for example Plate Two of "The Science of Self-Realization" book. Lord Krsna Himself is wearing it on the following plates - has it a special meaning? Is it just a piece of string or has it got to be made with special fabric?
A: This is upavita, a thread signifying the acceptance of gayatri mantra(s) from guru by those so qualified (not simply by birth). After this the person is known as dvija, or twice-born: first birth is biological, by our father and mother, and this second birth is spiritual - by Veda-mata (gayatri) and Lord Himself. (Upavita is sometimes called brahmana thread which is not technically correct because also ksatriyas and vaisyas do wear it. Sudras do not.) The upavita is composed of several cotton (?) threads.
Vraja Kisor Das (108)
For some people, anarchy means freedom. Who is a free man? Anarchy literally means: An-archy. "Archy" refers to government - and "an" means without. Therefore anarchy exactly means "without government."
In the Krsna conscious system, anarchy is also equated with freedom. However, anarchy is a privilege that proves to be disastrous if awarded to everyone. It is a privilege which can be awarded only to those who are qualified to handle it.
By becoming self-controlled, not controlled by one's body and social programming, this is how one becomes (in the Vedic, Krsna conscious understanding) qualified to be a brahmana - which is equivalent to an un-governed anarchist.
A brahmana is a free man, because he is not controlled by his senses and social programming - thus he does not need any government to regulate him. Spontaneously, he always acts for the ultimate well-being of all people.
hy abhihito bhagavato dharmah
yam upasate tv aryah
na - not; vyabhicarati - fails; tava - Your; iksa - outlook; yaya - by which; hi - indeed; abhihitah - declared; bhagavatah - in relationship with Your instructions and activities; dharmah - religious principle; sthira - nonmoving; cara - moving; sattva-kadambesu - among the living entities; aprthak-dhiyah - who do not consider distinctions; yam - which; upasate - follow; tu - certainly; aryah - those who are advanced in civilization.
My dear Lord, one's occupational duty is instructed in Srimad-Bhagavatam and Bhagavad-gita according to Your point of view, which never deviates from the highest goal of life. Those who follow their occupational duties under Your supervision, being equal to all living entities, moving and nonmoving, and not considering high and low, are called Aryans. Such Aryans worship You, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. (SB 6.16.43)
tasyaaM sa.nsadi sarvasyaaM kshattaaraM puujayaamyaham.h
vR^ittena hi bhavatyaaryo na dhanena na vidyayaa
"Person's behavior, not learning or wealth, determines if he can be called an Arya." (Mahabharata 5.88.52)
krnvanto visvam aryam - "Make all of us in the universe arya, noble" (Rig Veda 9.63.5)
For more see Aryans.
The word "Gothra" literally means "to take care of the cows". In ancient times the main duty of a disciple was to take care of the cows of the maharshi, his guru. To be born in a gotra means to belong to a lineage of that particular maharshi.
The gotra system is part of a system of classification or identification of various brahmana families in ancient times. Gotras (now account to a total of 49) started to consolidate some around 10-8 Century B.C. The present day gotra classification is created from a core of 8 rishis (the Sapta rishis + Agastya). The Seven rishis are Gautama, Bharadvaja, Visvamitra, Jamadagni, Vasistha, Kasyapa and Atri, recognized as the mind born sons of the creator Brahma. All present day brahmana communities are said to be descendants of these 8 rishis.
Over the years the number of gotras increased due to:
Descendants of these Rishis also started new family lineage or new gotras (Kaundinya was a descendant of Vasistha, Kausika was a descendant of Visvamitra and Vatsa was a descendant of Jamadagni).
By inter marriage with other brahmanas.
Inspired by a saint whose name they bear as their own gotra.
Ksatriyas were taken into fold by some rishis.
The lines of descent from the major rishis are originally divided into ganas (sub divisions) and each gana is further divided into families. However, subsequently the term gotra is frequently applied to the ganas and to the families within the ganas interchangeably.
These rishis belonged to different sampradayas like sakta, saiva and vaisnava. Their deities came to be known as the kuladevatas.
Importance of gotras
The gotra system was instituted for the purposes of identifying one's ancestors and pay respects during various rituals to honor forefathers up to the rishis. Marriage will not be allowed within the same gotra in order to avoid impure matrimony. This thinking is in tune with the modern day genetic paradigms of hybrid vigor.
Gotras, surnames and kuladevatas
The gotra is interlinked with the surnames and the kuladevatas:
- Bharadvaja gotra - Pai
- Athri gotra - Pai
- Kaushika gotra - Pai
- Gargya gotra - Shenoy
- Gargya gotra - Kamath
- Gargya gotra - Bhat
- Kausika gotra - Bhaktha
- Athri gotra - Bhat
Ramanath Santeri Kamaksi
- Vatsa gotra - Shenoy
- Vatsa gotra - Baliga
- Kaundinya gotra - Shenoy
- Kaundinya gotra - Nayak
- Kaundinya gotra - Pai
- Kaundinya gotra - Bhat
- Vatsa gotra - Bhat
- Kaundinya gotra - Kini
- Kausika gotra - Prabhu
- Kausika gotra - Kamath
- Kasyapa gotra - Hegde
- Kasyapa gotra - Baliga
- Bharadvaja gotra - Prabhu
- Vatsa gotra - Mallya
- Kausika gotra - Nayak
- Kausika gotra - Shenoy
Devaki Krisna Ravalnath
- Atri gotra - Prabhu
- Kasyapa gotra - Prabhu
Narasimha Santa Durga
- Sankha Pingala Kaunsa gotra - Nayak
- Sankha Pingala Kaunsa gotra - Padiyar
- Sankha Pingala Kaunsa gotra - Bhandarakar
- Kondinaya gotra - Kamath
(based on http://www.gsbkerala.com/gotra.htm)
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