miércoles, 22 de septiembre de 2010

Rays of The Harmonist Monthly On-line Edition

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Special On-line Edition for the Appearance Day of
Srila Saccidananda Bhaktivinoda Thakura

sri sri guru gauranga jayatah!

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Year-3, Special On-line Edition
Posted: 21 September 2010

Dedicated to
nitya-lila pravista om visnupada

Sri Srimad Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Gosvami Maharaja

Inspired by and under the guidance of

Sri Srimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja

Appearing in English for the first time

Conceiving of Caste Distinctions in Vaisnavas –
Vaisnave Jati-buddhi

by Srila Saccidananda Bhaktivinoda Thakura

Portrait of by Srila Saccidananda Bhaktivinoda Thakura

~ The belief that a pure Vaisnava belongs to a mundane caste paves the road to hell ~

In Sri Caitanya-Bhagavata, Sri Vrndavana dasa Thakura has written:

je se kule vaisnavera janma kene naya
tathapi sarvottama sarva-sastre kaya
je papistha vaisnavera jati-buddhi kare
janma janma adhama yonite dubi mare

Sri Caitanya-bhagavata (Madhya-khanda, 10.100, 102)

The meaning of this verse is as follows: “There is no flaw in the bhakti of a person who has developed genuine attachment to serving Sri Visnu, regardless of which dynasty he has taken birth in. All the scriptures have declared that Vaisnavas are superior to those who are intoxicated by their good lineage and respectable caste, or by their distinguished work or vast wealth, even if they are of the highest birth. The living entity’s eternal goal is to awaken krsna-prema, and worldly considerations of high and low cannot effect one’s progress toward attaining that prema. If someone perceives that, externally, a particular Vaisnava was not fortunate enough to have been born in a high caste or to belong to a respected lineage, or that he is poverty-stricken, then that person’s attachment to sinful activities will increase immensely. Moreover, his outlook will degrade his consciousness so much that he will subsequently have to take birth in the lowest of species.”

The purport of these statements is extremely profound. Because of the way the people of today have come to behave, it is impossible for me to imagine that they will ever be able to offer Vaisnavas proper respect without first understanding that purport. Through these statements, Srila Vrndavana dasa Thakura wished to impress upon us that one should never consider a pure Vaisnava to be underprivileged in any way, no matter what dynasty he has appeared in. The scriptures unanimously affirm that if someone has become a pure Vaisnava, he is truly the greatest of all personalities. A pure Vaisnava should never be considered lowly on account of his birth within a low caste. Only those who are heinously sinful adopt such a conception, and as a consequence they wander amidst the lowest forms of life, birth after birth.

~ Absolute spirituality has no connection with social stratification ~

There is no separate caste known as the “Vaisnava caste”. If someone takes full shelter of suddha-bhakti then he alone is known as a Vaisnava, regardless of his birth in a brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya, sudra or even antyaja* (outcaste) dynasty. It is inappropriate to try to ascertain the extent of his value based on his caste. But in the age of Kali, people are extremely selfish. They have created a caste masquerading as ‘vaisnava-dharma ’ and have declared that only those who take birth in that caste can be called Vaisnavas. Such behaviour is abominable.

* The four varnas are (1) brahmana – the priestly class; (2) ksatriya – the noble class; (3) vaisya – the merchant class, which includes those involved in business and agriculture; and (4) sudra – the artisan class. All others, including carnivores and so on, are considered outside the traditional Vedic model for society and are collectively termed antyaja.

The stratification of society into separate castes and varnas – namely, brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya and sudra – exists to maintain the proper execution of all worldly transactions. But there is no confluence between paramartha-dharma (absolute spirituality) and such stratification. Essentially, paramartha-dharma is perpetually resting on and grounded in the determination (nistha) of each individual. One who, by some good fortune, develops faith (sraddha) or confidence (visvasa) in exclusive devotional service to Sri Bhagavan is indeed paramarthika, an absolute spiritualist. Neither his caste nor the duties and codes of conduct prescribed for him according to his varna play any role in his spiritual practices. Anyone who, absorbed in hypocrisy and faultfinding, busies himself declaring that a genuine spiritualist took birth in a low class family is extremely sinful.

~ Vaisnavas do not belong to any caste or ancestry ~

There is no such thing as Vaisnava-ancestry (vaisnava-vamsa). Ancestry cannot guarantee that one will become a Vaisnava. We find that even within various ‘vaisnava-vamsas ’, many individuals have taken birth who are a disgrace to their dynasty and who behave like demons. On the other hand, many great souls have taken birth in the families of dog-eaters (candalas) and barbarians (yavanas), yet they became Vaisnavas on the strength of practising pure bhakti. In fact, it is seen that many non-Vaisnavas have even taken birth in the dynasties of Vaisnava acaryas, while many Vaisnavas have taken birth in extremely irreligious dynasties. Therefore, any respect or honour that comes with the reputation of being born in a so-called Vaisnava-caste or in being a direct descendent of a Vaisnava acarya, can never add dignity to true vaisnava-dharma. Instead, it only increases the rivalrous moods that are antithetical to the principles of Vaisnavism. And the root cause of that rivalry is nothing but selfishness and incompetence.

~ It harms one’s bhakti to consider a non-devotee to be a Vaisnava
or to believe that a pure Vaisnava belongs to a particular caste ~

O readers! To the exact degree that you honour and respect a pure Vaisnava in accordance with the awakening of bhakti within him, disregarding any apparent shortcoming in his birth, you will be liberated from the mundane conception that Vaisnavas belong to any worldly caste.

There is no other way to attain bhakti than through the association of pure Vaisnavas. Yet if we associate with anyone and everyone considering them to be Vaisnavas, or if we dishonour a genuine Vaisnava by calling attention to the inferiority of the dynasty in which he was born, then we will be left with no hope of attaining the association of a pure Vaisnava. It is therefore imperative that we become unbiased and simple in all activities. If you dread being in a state of self-deception, then you should never adopt the belief that a Vaisnava belongs to some mundane caste.

Translated from Sri Gaudiya Patrika, Year 7, Issue 8
by the Rays of The Harmonist team


Next Issue – Year 3, Issue 9: “The Disposition of a Suddha Bhakta”, 28 September 2010
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