Monday, August 27, 2012

Ksatriya, Vaisya and Sudra are all Brahmanas in Daiva-Varnasrama

Srila Prabhupada had an interesting conversation with devotee’s on 14 February 1977, covering important aspects of some misconceptions we may have regarding "Daivi Varnasrama", in which he said varnasrama should be established as it is not so easy to become a vaisnava. This conversation clarifies how daivi-varnasrama, which is unique to Gaudiya Vaisnavism, is different from traditional varnasrama of ages gone by. Daiva-varnasrama is especially tailored for the golden age within this Kali-yuga, where devotees of all varnas are actually brahmanas in consciousness. All varnas are equal spiritually.

In reply to a question whether varnasrama is for the kanistha-adhikari, Srila Prabhupada said yes but he also said that kanistha-adhikari means he must be a qualified brahmana. And he gave an example of what a brahmana is: as a materialistic devotee gradually elevates himself from the material stage to the spiritual stage, during this actual process of spiritual advancement, one is a brahmana. So in daivi-varnasrama, devotees of all varnas could be considered brahmanas. That is - all devotees, no matter what varna they are in, following the regulative principles within daivi varnasrama, will act to elevate themselves gradually through their varnas. There is an equal chance of spiritual advancement for all.

Srila Prabhupada said that by hearing and devotional service, we become brahmanas – irrespective of whether one is a sudra or vaisya. And when we become brahmanas, we are vaisnavas. So we can understand that in daivi varnasrama, although one may be brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya or sudra; in essence and because of the meaning of “daivi” in varnasrama which is unique to this age, we all should develop brahmana consciousness. He says below the brahmana, there is no question of vaisnava.

As Srila Prabhupada says, during the actual process of transcending from a materialist devotee, all within the stage of a kanistha-adhikari, one will be in brahmana consciousness. So even a sudra engaged in his varna, could advance spiritually, as equally as a ksatriya or vaisya and also become brahmana and there is no reason for him to give up his varna activities. Ramananda Raya was a sudra by birth and a grhastha, but as a politician, he acted as a ksatriya and at the same time, he was top-most in brahmana consciousness. The purpose of varnasrama is to create a favourable situation for all devotees, women included, to gradually transcend from the material stage to the spiritual stage. So in the “daivi varnasrama” of our acaryas, a brahmana is a brahmana, a ksatriya is a brahmana, a vaisya is a brahmana and a sudra is a brahmana – in consciousness.

The term “daivi” as a prefix to varnasrama, was used by our acaryas, mainly as a way to distinguish from the present caste system, a throwback from traditional varnasrama, where  anyone born in a brahmana family would automatically become a brahmana, even without the qualities of a brahmana. “Daivi” also means divine or spiritual and refers to the followers of the Supreme Personality of Godhead exclusively, according to Srila Prabhupada.

Although all devotees within daivi-varnasrama should be or endeavour to be in brahmana consciousness, one may question how we can prevent the caste system from being abused within our communities as varnasrama evolves. It needs to be understood that in traditional varnasrama, with proper rules, regulations and samskaras followed, a child born of parents in a certain varna would take on the qualities of that varna. In this regard, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura said, “Much disturbance is created, both individually and aggregately, on account of the non-acceptance of this inviolable scientific principle of natural predilection as observed and promulgated by our ancient sages of vast experience, and the wrong adoption of the seminal principle only, i.e., the principle of determining caste by birth alone. It is due to the fact that this principle of caste determination was at one time perfect and nice at all points in India, that even this day the Indians are able to stand erect with a challenging mood before the world on the glorious foundation of the past. Here, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura says that caste by birth alone as wrongly followed presently is an idea conceived from a perfect system in times gone by, where this principle of caste by birth worked perfectly.

Presently, we do not follow any samskara rituals for conceiving a child and this is not necessary at the moment but can evolve with time if necessary. Srila Prabhupada stated that our grhasthas should simply chant fifty rounds before conceiving. Grhasthas following this and practicing devotional service strictly will ensure that children born to them take on their spiritual and work qualities. So as this system evolves, it is likely that a child with brahmana qualities will be born in a brahmana family, a child with ksatriya qualities will be born in a ksatriya family and so on. There could be exceptions. If a devotee from one varna desires to do the work of another, it will be rare and can be rectified. But the main point of this daivi-varnasrama which is especially designed for the golden age within this Kali-yuga is that all varnas share an equal chance of fast track spiritual advancement, despite their qualities of work. This advantage is not available in the other ages.

Srila Prabhupada said that daivi means devata and devata actually means those who accept the authority of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and unless one is not a vaisnava, he cannot be a devata. He cannot be a civilized man. Worshippers of other religious systems and arguably even demigod worshippers cannot be devata or included into daivi-varnasrama. This is the unique position of daivi-varnasrama – even a sudra is a brahmana.