sri sri guru gauranga jayatah!

Special On-line Edition for the disappearance day of Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Mahārāja
& Year 5 & year 17
Posted: 17 November 2012
& 28 May 2024

Dedicated to
nitya-līlā praviṣṭa oṁ viṣṇupāda

Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Gosvāmī Mahārāja

Inspired by and under the guidance of

Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja

The Most Compassionate Avatara - Part 2
Karuṇaya-avatīrṇaḥ kalau

Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Mahārāja

The Perversion of Varṇāśrama

In Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā (4.13) the Supreme Personality of Godhead said:

cātur-varṇyaṁ mayā sṛṣṭaṁ

I created the four social orders based on the divisions of guṇa (qualities as influenced by the modes of nature) and karma (the subsequent proclivity for work).

Anything created by Him cannot be destroyed. For this reason, in this age of Kali, all four social divisions (varṇas) – brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya, vaiśya and śūdra, which are based on guṇa and karma – are extant, but there have been alterations to their hue, or certain given aspects.

The system of varṇāśrama-dharma as delineated in the scriptures solves, beyond doubt, the problem of birth and death, since its aim is to achieve the favour of Lord Viṣṇu. The currently imperilled system has produced a perversion of these four varṇas, or class distinctions, now represented by political diplomats, soldiers, capitalists and the general mass of skilled and unskilled labourers.

Previously, the brāhmaṇas competently used their best intelligence to serve their fellow man by solving the problems encountered in human life. Now politicians have taken the position of brāhmaṇas and are using their best intelligence to execute plans for their own selfish benefit. The only result for society will be disaster.

The current military system is a perversion of the kṣatriya class. It is the duty of the kṣatriyas to give the people protection, but they now suck the very blood of the mass of citizens in every state by imposing upon them unbearably heavy taxes for their personal squander.

The present capitalists are a perverted representation of the vaiśyas, who customarily accumulated wealth to execute the will of Viṣṇu. But now, amassing vast amounts of wealth for their own sense-gratification, these capitalists are the cause of the many problems that have arisen all over the globe, in the form of selfishly motivated political creeds.

And finally, the simple labourers are the perverted representation of the śūdra class. They serve the capitalists, who are exploiting them for their own ends. All the while they groan and resort to politics to force the capitalists to solve the problems related to their work.

Thus, although the varṇāśrama system has not been rejected altogether as some would like, the entire system has become perverted and complex due to the human tendency to transgress codes of conduct. Thus a peaceful atmosphere that supports progress in the human form of life has been intentionally jeopardized. The authentic varṇāśrama-dharma has been fossilized, and its perverted counterpart is incapable of pleasing the all pervading Godhead, Śrī Viṣṇu. Consequently, no one can escape the police action of material nature, regardless of how expert he is in manipulating it through material science.

Thus when Śrī Rāmānanda Rāya raised the question of varṇāśrama-dharma, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu at once rejected it, saying that in regard to pure devotional service, varṇāśrama-dharma has no value.

There is No Hope for Demoniac Varṇāśrama-dharma

Out of compassion, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu appeared in this age of Kali – karuṇaya avatīrṇaḥ kalau. It there-fore follows that His unprecedented gift to humanity is not accessible through varṇāśrama-dharma, even if one strictly adheres to it. In this context, we must consider two points.

The first is that in this age of Kali, it is of no use to follow a crumbled varṇāśrama-dharma that is adaiva, or demoniac [in which one’s birth determines one’s varṇa, or social order]. No particular benefit can be derived by reinstating such a shattered and crumbled system. By remaining inclined toward this adaiva varṇāśrama-dharma there is no hope of achieving devotion to the Lord (bhagavad-bhakti).

The second consideration is that, within the present system of varṇāśrama-dharma, there is no benefit even if one meticulously adheres to it. This is because by following it, one’s endeavour to serve the lotus feet of Lord Viṣṇu is based on identifying with one’s external false ego. Thus the benefit of following it is nowhere close
to the gift bestowed by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Indeed, with this under-standing, Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī addressed Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu as mahā-vadānyāya, the
most munificent incar-nation who bestows kṛṣṇa-prema.

The supremely pure varṇāśrama-dharma, which complies with the principle that someone’s varṇa is detemined by his guṇa and karma, not by his birth, is known as viśuddha deva varṇāśrama-dharma.
For one who abides by its principles, gradually it becomes possible to attain sādhu-saṅga (association with saintly persons). The power and influence of this sādhu-saṅga alone becomes the means to attain kṛṣṇa-prema.

Mahaprabhu’s Munificence

Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu inquired from Śrī Rāmānanda Rāya about the goal of life (sādhya) and the means to achieve it (sādhana) with the sole intention of precisely ascertaining the process to attain kṛṣṇa-prema. In their discussion, they carefully and systematically analyzed this subject in order to establish that kṛṣṇa-prema is the transcendental, inherent dharma (occupation) of the jīva and that it cannot be accessed by ritualistically following the principles of the scriptures, or by accepting the ordinary conceptions of the common man.

Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu will bestow His mercy upon the living entities of Kali-yuga to the extent that they are degraded, and to that extent He grants them the topmost gift. As the most munificent incarnation, He has appeared in this world to do just this. Thus, those who cannot avail the opportunity provided by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s quality of great munificence shall, without doubt, remain deprived forever. The crux of this matter has specifically been delineated by the mahājanas, or highly exalted sages. With the intention of teaching it to us, Śrīla Prabodhānanda Sarasvatīpāda, has said in Caitanya-candrāmṛta, Text 46:

vañcito smi vañcito smi
vañcito smi na saṁśayaḥ
viśvam gaura-rase magnam
sparśo’pi mama nābhāvat

I have been deprived, I have been deprived, surely I have been deprived! The whole world became immersed in love for Śrī Gaura, but alas! my destiny is such that not a drop of that love has touched me.”

Following, and helping others follow, are one and the same

Anarpita-carīṁ-cirāt – This topmost of all benedictions, which reveals to the jīva his transcendental, natural dharma, and which can inundate the whole world, has not been bestowed for a long, long time. If we contact it but are unable to understand Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s teachings, or even if we can understand them but do not try to help others understand, then surely we will be deprived of this love for Śrī Gaura. In order to give us a firm and thorough understanding of this subject matter, Śrīla Prabodhānanda Sarasvatīpāda used the term vañcito smi three times – “I have been deprived, I have been deprived, I have been deprived.”

Following the teachings of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu ourselves and helping others follow them are one and the same. Śrīla Kavirāja Gosvāmī wrote the following about Śrīla Haridāsa Ṭhākura:

āpane ācare keha, nā kare pracāra
pracāra karena keha, nā karena ācāra

‘ācāra’, ‘pracāra’,—nāmer karaho ‘dui’ kārya
tumi—sarva-guru, tumi jagatera ārya

Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Antya-līlā 4.102–3)

Some persons behave properly but do not preach the glories of chanting śrī nāma, whereas others preach but do not behave according to the principles. In relation to the holy name, you both behave in an exemplary way (ācāra) and preach to others (pracāra). You are the guru of all, for you are the topmost devotee in this world.

Since ācāra (practice) and pracāra (preaching) are one and the same, they should be simultaneously and actively cultivated. Those who maintain that spiritual maturity is an essential prerequisite to preaching do not have an admirable conception because preaching is identical to kīrtana. Bhakti has nine limbs, or nine kinds of practice, and the limb that excels all others is kīrtana. It is through this one practice alone – kīrtana, or preaching – that all the other limbs attain purity.

Indeed, this was Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura’s teaching to us. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, the most munificent incarnation, imparted the same instruction. He commanded one and all to perform the function of guru everywhere. He has apprised us of this order as follows:

ĵāre dekha, tāre kaho ‘kṛṣṇa’-upadeśa
āmāra ājñāya guru haĩyā tāra’ ei deśa

Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya-līlā 7.128)

My order is to instruct whomever you meet to follow the instructions of Śrī Kṛṣṇa as given in the scriptures, which advise one to worship Him. In this way become guru and deliver everyone in this land).

If Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Ṭhākura Prabhupāda had waited for his disciple-preachers to attain perfection before he engaged them in acting for the welfare of others, his system of preaching would have unfolded quite differently. With the aim of revealing the glory of Śrī Gaura’s potency, he personally transmitted that potency to ordinary persons, who generally were only fit to per-form menial work even by the standards of the material world. By thus engaging them in preaching activities in the form of hari-kīrtana, his mission attained success.

His Simple and Pure Message

“Mūkaṁ karoti vācālaṁ – By the mercy of Śrī Guru, even a dumb man can become the greatest orator.” We had the opportunity to directly witness this. How can a dumb man become a great orator? If one preaches the pure, unadulterated teachings of Śrīman Mahāprabhu, then and only then is it possible. But the moment we mix His pure teachings with even a few words of our own speculation, it marks our greatest misfortune. This act alone becomes the root cause of our complete destruction.

Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu did not come to teach anything abstruse that would be difficult for the common people to comprehend. If He had done
so, the statement “jagat-plāvana – inundation of the whole world with prema” would have no truth.

He is certainly more intelligent than each and every one of us, and He knows how to make the fallen souls of Kali-yuga best understand His high-level teachings. Indeed, His teachings are comprehensible by all. Still, our misfortune prevails. First, we do not accept His teachings. Second, to impress others with our prowess we mix something of our own with them.

This behaviour has been observed in groups like Sahajiyā, Āul, Bāul and Karttā-bhajā. They have inserted untruths into the teachings of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. As a result they have become overcome by mundane inertia and rejected by pure Vaiṣṇavas. Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura vigorously strived throughout his life to ensure we understood that their contrived conception of dharma is not the dharma propounded by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Only the endeavour to spread the teachings of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu in a simple manner, while being careful not to manipulate them even slightly, will be our sole bhajana. But if a person waits till he becomes perfect before he disseminates those teachings, he will be deprived of the service of preaching. Indeed, he will remain in that immature state throughout his whole life.

Offering Without Love

Even if we fully lack the capacity to understand the pure and simple teachings of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, if we just pass them on, carrying them to the next person like a load-carrying donkey, we will still receive Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s blessings. This is, of course, provided we do not adulterate those teachings with any of our own mental speculations.

If by following His instructions to the slightest degree we attract even His mere glance, which is full of compassion (kāruṇya), then we will undoubtedly attain something far superior to the fourfold goals of dharma, artha, kāma and mokṣa. It is to be understood that the benevolent benediction of the most compassionate incarnation is the most exalted of all attainments, yet it is achieved even by meagre effort.

In His conversation with Śrī Rāya Rāmānanda, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu informed adherents of the karma-kāṇḍa section of the Vedas who maintain the notion that spirit can be synthesized with matter (cid-jada-samnayavāda) that varṇāśrama-dharma is ineffective. For their benefit, He then said, “āge kaha āra – please speak something more than this.”


1. The karma-kanda section of the Vedas delineates fruitive activities and their temporary results.

Then, inspired by Śrī Mahāprabhu, Rāmānanda Rāya spoke the next highest truth: “kṛṣṇe karmārpaṇa – sarva-sādhya-sāra – to offer Śrī Kṛṣṇa the results of one’s action is the essence of all perfection.” Yet offering the results of one’s activities in this way is not the means to attain kṛṣṇa-prema. To convey this, Mahāprabhu said, “eho bāhya, āge kaha āra – This is external. Please tell me a conception higher than this.”

Offering the results of one’s activities to the Lord (karma-arpaṇa) dispels one’s conception that Śrī Viṣṇu is impersonal, or featureless. One may then have realization that Śrī Bhagavān is a person, but still, the means to achieve kṛṣṇa-prema remains far away.

The conception of the Absolute Reality of a person who offers the fruit of his activities in this way may be limited to the understanding that Bhagavān will always accept his offerings. But if someone makes an offering without being inspired by bhagavat-prema, he is unable to offer the fruits of his activities in the real sense.

It is not possible to offer one’s hard earned money for the service of Śrī Bhagavān if one does not love Him. Without loving Him, one cannot offer anything to Him in the real sense and one’s self identity will be external: “I am a donor.” Nonetheless, the very words “karma-arpaṇa – offering the results of one’s activities” will faintly resound in one’s ears, making the following impression on the mind of the spiritual practitioner (sādhaka): “When I have offered this, the Lord can accept it. If He can accept it, it only follows that He can eat and also give blessings. Certainly, therefore, He could not be devoid of features.”

The awakening of this type of understanding invokes a mood (bhāva) that can rescue one from the grip of impersonalism and help one become established in a personal conception of Bhagavān. Yet this realization of personalism is somewhat gross and far from the quest for the supra-mundane personal reality (aprākṛta-saviśeṣa-tattva) that Śrī Gaurasundara intended to bestow.

Since it is not possible to achieve love of God (bhagavat-prema) through this type of karma-arpaṇa (offering the results of one’s activities) Mahāprabhu also rejected it, labelling it “external”. He then requested Śrī Rāmānanda Rāya to elaborate further.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Translated from Śrī Gauḍīya Patrikā, Year 7, Issue 2, 1956
by the Rays of The Harmonist team
CC-BY-SA Rays of The Harmonist, No.17 (Karttika 2007)

Rays of The Harmonist On-line, “The Compassionate Avatāra of Kali-yuga – Karuṇaya-avatīrṇaḥ Kalau – Part 2” by Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Mahārāja, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License to ensure that it is always freely available. You may redistribute this article if you include this license and attribute it to Rays of The Harmonist. Please ask for permission before using the Rays of The Harmonist banner-logo.