Who is a Brahmana?

A text of the Vedas quoted by Nilakantha in his annotation of the Mahabharata *(1) puts the following confession in the mouth of the Vedic rishis —‘We do not know whether we are Brahmans or not-Brahmanas’. The claim of heredity which is the sole test now-a-days is categorically disallowed by the Scriptures. The Mahabharata *(2) says, ‘Birth, purificatory ritual, the study of the Vedas or descent, none of these make a Brahmana. The mental disposition is necessary. Even one who may be a Shudra by birth attains to the condition of a Brahmana if he possesses the settled disposition that is characteristic of the Brahmana.’

The Bhagabata *(3) has preserved the account of the origin of the varnasrama institution. In the Satya Yuga all the people had the same varna which had the designation of hansa. The three Vedas (viz. Rik, Yajus, and Saman) arose in the beginning of the Treta Age. After this arose the four varnas of Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra, each order possessing its typical disposition.

Mankind *(4) is divided into four varnas according to their nature. Those who are eqable, self-controlled, austere, pure, contented, forgiving, sincere, intellectual, kind-hearted, Godly and truthful, are Brahmanas. The Kshatriyas, the next order, possess the qualities of heroism, prowess, patience, energy, spirit of sacrifice, mastery over self, forgiveness, magnanimity, cheerfulness and truthfulness. The special characteristics of the Vaishya are devotion to the gods, the gurudeva and the Supreme Lord, willingness to support and foster religion and promote the satisfaction of wants and desires, faith in the Vedas, enterprise and skill. The Shudra nature exhibits the following traits viz. obedience to the good, purity, loyalty in serving the master, performance of sacrifice without the mantra, freedom from any desire to rob other people’s wealth, truthfulness, a desire to protect the cattle and the Brahmanas. The Geeta *(5) says that the division into four varnas is in accordance with the predominating quality (the qualities being sattva, rajas and tamas). The Mahabharata *(6) in one passage says explicitly that a Brahmana is made by disposition alone. It is stated in the Sama Veda Samhita that Gautama on this principle permitted the upanayana ceremony, which admits one into the order, to Satyakama for the reason that he possessed the distinctive Brahmana quality of sincerity. This is by no means the only instance of the kind that actually occurs in the Shastras.

Any persons possessing the requisite qualities becomes a Brahmana after Vedic initiation. But in the Kali Yuga *(7) as persons born of Brahmana parentage resemble the Shudras they fail to obtain the necessary purification by the method of the Vedic ritual and can be purified only by the method of the Pancharatra,—because all persons are enabled to attain to the condition of a Brahmana by the Satwata Pancharatric initiation ‘just as bell-metal is changed into gold by a proper chemical process.’ *(8) The initiation is named diksha for the reason that it confers the transcendental knowledge and completely destroys all sinfulness. *(9) We are told expressly by the Brihadaranyakopanishad *(10) that ‘one who departs from this world after becoming acquainted with the Absolute Truth is alone Brahmana’.

*(1) Bana Parva 180-32
*(2) Anu. Parva 143/50, 51
*(3) Bhag. 11-17-10,12,13
*(4) Bhag. 7-11-21,24
*(5) Geeta 13-4
*(6) Mahabharata Bana Parva 215-(13-15)
*(7) vide dictum of Vishnuyamala quoted in H. Bh. V. 5-3
*(8) Tattvasagar quoted in H. Bh. V. 2-7
*(9) Vishnuyamala quoted in H. Bh. V. 2-7
*(10) Brihad—3 9-10

Sree Sree Chaitanya Bhagavat

(Continued from P.48, July, 1928.)



  1. Misra said, ‘I have seen a dream to-night,
    As if Nimai has shaved off His hair.
  2. ‘He wore the garb of a sannyasi which was so wonderful that no words can describe it.
    And laughed, danced and cried always calling upon the Name of Krishna.
  3. ‘Advaita Acharyya and all the devotees
    Chanted the kirtan making a circle round Nimai.
  4. ‘At times Nimai sat on the couch of Vishnu
    And holding up His feet placed them on the heads of all.
  5. ‘Four-faced, five-faced, thousand faced beings
    All sang, ‘Victory to the Darling of Sri Sachi.’
  6. ‘There was great joy as all chanted His Name on every side.
    Seeing all this I could not speak any words for fear.
  7. ‘Thereafter I saw that taking with Him crores and crores of people
    Nimai wandered about in every town dancing.
  8. ‘Millions of crores of people ran after Nimai;
    All of them sang the Name of Hari which thrilled the Universe.
  9. ‘On all sides I heard nothing but singing of the praises of Nimai
    Going toward Nilachal in the company of all the devotees.
  10. ‘This dream has filled my mind with anxious thoughts
    And the fear lest our Son leave the world and become a sannyasi’.
  11. Said Sachi, ‘It is after all only a dream, Gosain,
    Have no anxiety; Nimai will certainly remain at home.
  12. ‘Nimai knows nothing except His books.
    The taste of study is all the religion He has’.
  13. Thus those two, of a most generous disposition,
    Had many a talk by reason of their affection for their Son.
  14. Staying on for a short time longer in this manner the best of Misras
    Withdrew his eternal and pure form from the view of the people of this world.
  15. The Lord wept much at the departure of Misra
    Like Raghava at the disappearance of Dasarath.
  16. The loving attraction of Gaurchandra is irresistible;
    Wherefore the life of the mother was preserved.
  17. It is sad to dilate on a great sorrow;
    It is very pathetic and so I have been most brief.
  18. In this manner, in the company of His mother, Gaur-Hari
    Restraining Himself, remained scarcely manifest.
  19. At sight of the fatherless condition of the Boy, mother Sachi
    Ceased to perform all work except tending her Son.
  20. If the mother did not see Gaurchandra for half an hour
    Both of her eyes lost their vision and she became senseless.
  21. The Lord also evinced constant love for His mother
    And soothed her by cheering words—
  22. ‘Listen, mother, harbour no anxieties in your mind;
    You have all if you have only Me.
  23. ‘Even that which is said to be obtainable with difficulty by Brahma and Siva
    I will procure for you with ease.’
  24. Sachi, too, looking at the beautiful face of Gaurchandra,
    Lost even the memory of her body; how could there be any sorrow?
  25. By the mere recollection of Whom all desires are fulfilled—
    The Supreme Lord Himself was by her side as her Son.
  26. How could there be any sorrow in such as she?
    The Lord made His mother as joy’s own self.
  27. In this manner in the guise of a Brahman child at Navadwip
    Abode the Lord of Vaikuntha self-delighted.
  28. Utter poverty wore a visible form in the house:
    But His commands were as magnificent as of the Lord of Lords.
  29. Whether a thing was or not in the house He recked but little.
    If He did not get it for the asking chaos was let loose.
  30. The house, doors and windows were instantly smashed.
    He did not trouble about any damage to His own property.
  31. Yet Sachi promptly supplied whatever He demanded,
    And with the greatest care, out of affection for her Son.
  32. One day the Lord was going out for a bath in the Ganges
    He asked His mother for oil and amalaki
  33. ‘Give Me also good garlands and sweet-scented sandalwood paste.—
    Therewith I want to worship the Ganges after bath.’
  34. Said the mother, ‘Darling, listen to what I say.
    If Thou wilt wait a little I shall fetch the garlands.’
  35. No sooner did He catch her words that the garlands had to be fetched
    The Son of Sachi grew terrible like the god Rudra in His anger—
  36. ‘Will you then have to go out for the garlands?’ —
    With these words raging He entered the room.
  37. Under the influence of anger He smashed first of all
    The earthen pitchers filled with Ganges water, that were in the room.
  38. With a stick in His hand He then broke
    All those earthen pots that contained oil, salt, ghee.
  39. Self-willed God then broke to pieces all those pots big and small
    That happened to be in the room,—
  40. Oil, milk and ghee, husked rice, cotton, paddy, salt,
    Dried cakes of pulse and mudga—rolled on the floor.
  41. Snatching away all the hanging shikas of rope
    The Lord tore them to pieces in His fit of rage.
  42. All the clothing and such other stuff that He found in the room
    He tore them to shreds with both hands.
  43. When everything had been smashed and there remained nothing to break
    As a last resort the fury of the Lord was turned against the house.
  44. Pling the big stick with both hands the Lord showered blows on the rooms,
    No one thought it worth his life to forbid.
  45. After breaking up the house, doors and windows
    He cudgelled all the trees laying on with both hands.
  46. Still there was no abatement of His wrath!
    He rained un-numbered blows on the ground.
  47. Much alarmed Sachi had placed herself behind a corner of the house;
    In her fear she almost hid herself.
  48. The Lord, the Establisher of religion,—the eternal religion itself,—
    Never raised His hand against His mother.