Who is a Brahmana? Part IV

(Continued from P. 146. Oct. 1930.)

January 1931

In the light of the spiritual principle which the varnasrama system was meant to serve, by scientific interpretation of the Scriptures that have a bearing on this issue, from what has already been said it would appear that the Brahmana, who is at the head of the institution, is himself in need of constant control from persons who are placed above the institution. The paramahansa is not subject to the guidance of the Brahman. On the contrary it is the Brahmanas who must always look up to the paramahansa for enabling them to perform their duty towards other sections of the organised community in the sense required by the Scriptures.

In any scheme of revival of the spiritual varnasrama organization the initiative and absolute control of the paramahansa is the one essential condition. But how will it be possible to find out the real paramahansa? It will not do to try to elect him by the democratic method. The Scriptures declare that the paramahansa is delegated the requisite power of getting himself accepted as autocratic organiser of spiritual society when such is the will of Godhead.

At the time of Sri Chaitanya the attempt was made to establish the spiritual community. It was necessary to compile a code of regulations for the guidance of the members of such society. These regulations were collected mostly from the extant dharma-shastras. The system itself was necessarily of a highly elastic nature. The paramahansa was given complete freedom of interfering with every part of it. The word ‘Vaishnava’ was adopted as a general designation of all members. They were graded into four classes. The paramahansa formed the first class. Under them came the class of senior students, in training under the paramahansa. Below these came the junior Brahmacharins who had been admitted to the status of spiritual pupillage. The fourth class consisted of candidates who were waiting as probationers for admission as students. This was the spiritual community proper. It consisted entirely of celebates. We accordingly find no provision for marriage in this community.

The spiritual community was set up alongside the secular society which was hereditary. No attempt was made to change the customary regulations of the hereditary society. But it was open for all members of the secular society, married or unmarried to become members of the spiritual community by eschewing the worldly life. A member of the secular society, desirous of entering the spiritual community, was not, however, compelled to cut off all external connection with secular society. But he was to live the spiritual life even when he was allowed to retain his external connection with the secular society. But the secular society already possessed a code of regulations, which was also supposed to be part of the Scriptures. As a matter of fact, as has been already stated, the code that was compiled for the regulation of the ‘Vaishnava’ community, was itself derived from this class of literature which bears the generic name of Dharmashastra. There had been a time when the spiritual regulation had not yet become adulterated. But the line of demarcation between the spiritual and the worldly was lost sight of in course of time. And, later still, the worldly was also supposed to be a spiritual concern.

For instance let us take perhaps the most characteristic of all the secular regulations. According to the spiritual code of regulations compiled by direction of Sri Chaitanya the paramahansa is perfectly free to marry if he likes. But one who is not a paramahansa need not marry at all. It is also not obligatory for a paramahansa to marry. The provision that is found in all the secular codes, viz., that the obligatory marriage is for the strictly spiritual purpose, should be perfectly meaningless according to the code of Sri Chaitanya. Therefore, the spiritual professions of the secular codes need not be taken seriously, in even a single instance. Their whole spirit and outlook are necessarily purely secular. As such they may, or may not, possess any merit in terms of worldly value.

It is perfectly conceivable that there should be and, if it be the will of Godhead, can be, a society of paramahansas. But such a society would not require any code of regulations. Such codes can apply, if they are spiritual, only to those who are in the stage of pupillage. But as we have seen that those who are under spiritual training must be celebates, therefore, there can be no regulation regarding marriage in any spiritual code. This is perfectly consistent and philosophical. It is also in accordance with the rules actually laid down even in the secular codes for the guidance of pupils during their period of training.

The idea of samabartan or relapse into the worldly state, after completion of pupillage, is unknown to the spiritual code. It no doubt provides a clue to the attempt to preserve the appearance of connection between the secular and spiritual codes. But the regulations regarding marriage must have been obtained from elsewhere. The ‘Vaishnava’ householders of the code of Sri Chaitanya are paramahansas. They might belong externally to any class of the secular society. There is no distinction between a ‘vaishnava’ householder appearing in a hereditary Brahmana family and another descended from a Sudra lineage. They are, neither of them, either Brahmana or Sudra. They may submit externally to the customs of any class without any real possibility of ever getting identified with any worldly class.

There is, therefore, no real point on contact anywhere between the spiritual community and the hereditary secular society. The former is essentially individualistic. A ‘vaishnava’ is never born, nor can he die. Therefore, neither birth nor death are really of any importance to him. The institution of marriage also ceases to be necessary for him for the same reason. This cannot be comprehensible to those who are not vaishnavas. Worldly people also value the principle of social freedom. But they value such freedom for ensuring increase of worldly enjoyment. This they are pleased to call by the highsounding names of progress, prosperity, well-being, happiness. They are naturally very anxious to secure these. It is for this reason that they devise such institutions as those of marriage, divorce, etc. But how can these institutions find a place in the code of the ‘Vaishnavas’?

All that is feasible is to set up a purely spiritual community with its own code of regulations to be administered by those to whom the authority may be delegated by the head of the community who can be no other than the paramahansa.

The existence of the spiritual community is, however, bound to react beneficially on the practices and ideas of the secular societies that may exist alongside the spiritual. There need be no opposition of interest between the two groups. Many of the regulations of the non-spiritual Dharmashastras are regarded as being of a salutary character by those who look at them from the worldly point of view. The spiritual code has nothing to do with such regulations. The ‘Vaishnavas’ have no ambition of regulating secular society from within. They know very well that the secular can by no means be improved into the spiritual. The two are categorically different from one another.

The varnasrama institution is, therefore, of the nature of a purely secular arrangement. But this arrangement itself may or may not be opposed to the spiritual outlook and guidance. If it is not opposed to the ideal of spiritual living it can only do so by frankly admitting its own inferiority and avoiding all rivalry. It should also allow any of its members to be freely enrolled in the spiritual community. It should, by all means in its power, encourage conversion to spiritual life. If the secular society is organised and administered in this spirit, it should be appropriately described by the designation of ‘daiva’. Any secular society which is deliberately opposed to spiritual living, is no less appropriately termed ‘asura’. The difference between the two is described in the Gita.

It is not possible for the secular society to be converted en masse into the spiritual. It is, however, possible to convert it into the daiva varnasrama society. It is also possible that daiva varnasrama classification itself is not based on heredity. The Gita says so. It will be necessary to study all the implications of the position. For this purpose also the autocratic guidance of the paramahansa is necessary, for avoiding conflict with the spiritual society. But as a daiva varnasrama society happens to be a carefully graded organisation it should not be possible to do without the leadership of Brahmanas within the society. The Brahmana, as leader of the daiva varnasrama society, is nearest in position to the society of the ‘vaishnavas’. He should, therefore, be fully alive to the unconditional superiority of the ‘vaishnavas’ in all matters.

(To be continued.)