Śrī Babaji answers questions in Pearls of Wisdom
Question: What is dīkṣā? Does it refer to getting Hari-nāma and taking a different name? Or does it refer to getting brāhmaṇa initiation, when one gets the Brahma Gāyatrī?
Answer: There are three levels of dīkṣā, namely, harināma-dīkṣā, mantra-dīkṣā, and veśa- or vairāgī-dīkṣā. In the first one, the guru gives the harināma in the right ear of the would-be śiṣya, applies tilaka, and ties beads. In the second one, the śiṣya gets the Gāyatrī mantras in the right ear. The third one is for those who want to take to the renounced order of life. All three dīkṣās can be given simultaneously or in steps, depending on the qualification of the student and the will of the guru.
There is no such thing as brāhmaṇa initiation. Brāhmaṇa is a varṇa or jāti and not a form of dīkṣā.
Question: In SB 3.33.6, it is stated:
“To say nothing of the spiritual advancement of someone who sees Him face to face, even a person born in a family of dog-eaters immediately becomes eligible to perform Vedic sacrifices if he once utters the Holy Name of Bhagavān or chants about Him, hears about His pastimes, offers Him obeisance, or even remembers Him.”
Does Śrīdhara Svāmī say here that pūjyatvam means “He immediately becomes as respectable as a most learned brāhmaṇa and can be allowed to perform Vedic sacrifices?”
Answer: No. Śrīdhara Svāmī does not say so. He only says the first part, anena pūjyatvam lakṣyate—He becomes respectable like a brāhmaṇa. Śrīdhara Svāmī does not say that he is allowed to perform Vedic sacrifices. That is an extrapolation of the statement.
Question: This is also confirmed in the Hari-bhakti-vilāsa 2.12 by Śrī Sanātana Gosvāmī: “As a base metal like bell metal can be changed into gold by a chemical process, any person can similarly be changed into a brāhmaṇa by dīkṣā-vidhāna, the initiation process.”
Answer: This also does not imply that he can do yajña. Just think in practical terms. Let me assume that you are a brāhmaṇa by birth. Then I also assume that you did not study the Veda and did not learn how to do yajña, even if by chance you had upanayana-saṁskārā, which often is the case in contemporary Indian society. I also assume that you have taken Vaiṣṇava dīkṣā. Can you do a Soma-yāga? Can you chant Sāma Veda mantras? The answer is certainly categorically “no,” because you have never learned the Sāma Veda and the chanting of the mantras.
So, what is the point in saying that by taking Vaiṣṇava dīkṣā, one is qualified to do Soma-yajña? How can one become qualified to do Soma-yajña just by taking Vaiṣṇava dīkṣā? You need to study the Vedas, learn how to chant mantras, and then learn the process of doing a yajña. It takes years of training for a brāhmaṇa boy who may have saṁskāras from his family. Then how can one who is not even born as a brāhmaṇa do yajna, just because he has taken Vaiṣṇava dīkṣā? This is impossible. Of course, you can make a show of doing it in the midst of people who have no idea how a Soma-yajña is done.
As an aside, the verse from Hari-bhakti-vilāsa does not say that one becomes a brāhmaṇa but that one becomes a dvija. The word dvija literally means, “one who has a second birth.” It simply means that he has taken dīkṣā.
Question: If one does not take birth in a brāhmaṇa family, then can he become a brāhmaṇa just by dīkṣā into Brahma Gāyatrī from a spiritual master?
Answer: Brahma Gāyatrī is offered in varṇāśrama dīkṣā, not in Vaiṣṇava dīkṣā. Do not confuse the two. If Brahma Gāyatrī were given in Vaiṣṇava dīkṣā, then what would be the difference between varṇāśrama dīkṣā and Vaiṣṇava dīkṣā?
Question: What is the opinion of our previous ācāryas regarding this?
Answer: You yourself have quoted the opinion of a previous ācārya. So which other “previous ācārya” are you referring to?
By Vaiṣṇava dīkṣā, one does not become a brāhmaṇa but respectable like one. Varṇāśrama is inferior to Vaiṣṇava dharma. I hope you know this. So why should dīkṣā with Vaiṣṇava mantra make one a brāhmaṇa? It makes one a Vaiṣṇava, who is superior to a brāhmaṇa. Why do you want to pull him down to the brāhmaṇa level?
Question: I understand that Gāyatrī mantra is not part of Vaiṣṇava dīkṣā but is part of varṇāśrama dīkṣā. In Tattva Sandarbha (Anuccheda 22), Śrī Jīva Gosvāmipāda has established that Gāyatrī mantra is for worshiping Lord Viṣṇu. I am unable to reconcile the fact that Gāyatrī mantra is for varṇāśrama dīkṣā while the Bhāgavata Purāṇa is about Vraja prema-bhakti, which is clearly far superior to varṇāśrama. As the essence of Gāyatrī is prema-bhakti, why it is only for varṇāśrama dīkṣā?
Answer: The Savitrī or Brahma Gāyatrī does not directly speak about Viṣṇu or Kṛṣṇa. However, the real meaning of Gāyatrī is worship of Viṣṇu. This is what Jīva Gosvāmī explains in Tattva Sandarbha. This is not known to people in general. They think that it is for the worship of the sun god or Brahman. There is no mention of Kṛṣṇa’s name in it. But in the Vaiṣṇava mantras, Kṛṣṇa’s name is directly mentioned. Gāyatrī can be interpreted at different levels. It is part of varṇāśrama, and the followers of this system don’t have the understanding that the essence of Gāyatrī is prema-bhakti. They consider it to be worship of fire or the sun or of Brahman.
Secondly, Gāyatrī is a Vedic mantra, and for that, one has to be born in a brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya, or vaiśya family, whereas our dīkṣā mantras come from the Smṛti and not from the Vedas. Therefore, they don’t have a restriction of birth. They can be given to anyone who has śraddhā and wants to be a devotee. As far as the essence of Gāyatrī being prema-bhakti, that does not mean that Gāyatrī is for everyone. The essence of the Veda is also prema-bhakti, but the Veda has restrictions. It can be studied only by dvijas. The essence of the Veda is prema-bhakti, but still, Vyāsadeva wrote Bhāgavata Purāṇa to explain it. Just as traditionally, the Vedas can only be studied by a person born within varṇāśrama, whereas the Bhāgavata can be studied by anyone—so too, Gāyatrī dīkṣā is only for dvijas, while Vaiṣṇava dīkṣā can be taken by anyone.
Question: Dīkṣā would bestow the full blessings of the mantra, but would chanting without dīkṣā give any benefit? If such chanting is not harmful and only beneficial, then I am unable to understand the prohibitions behind sharing the mantra publicly. One can hear the Gāyatrī mantra blasting through loudspeakers in many holy places in India.
Answer: To get its full benefit, the mantra has to be received from the guru. This is the injunction of śāstra. But at present, everything is available on the internet, so one can do whatever one likes. Please investigate for yourself whether such chanting is bringing the desired benefit to the chanter. You do not need to ask anyone. Just remember the basic principle that if you want to achieve the benefits described in the śāstra, you have to follow śāstra. It is not that by rejecting the śāstric injunctions, you can get the benefits described in śāstra. Kṛṣṇa has made it very clear in Bhagavad Gītā (16.23–24):
yaḥ śāstra-vidhim utsṛjya vartate kāma-kārataḥ
na sa siddhim avāpnoti na sukhaṁ na parāṁ gatim
“One who casts aside the ordinances of scriptures and who acts instead under the impulse of material desires, attains neither perfection, nor contentment, nor the supreme goal.”
tasmāc chāstraṁ pramāṇaṁ te kāryākārya-vyavasthitau
jñātvā śāstra-vidhānokta karma kartum ihārhasi
“Therefore, scriptural revelation is the means of authentic knowing available to you in ascertaining what is to be done and what is to be avoided. You should act in this world only after knowing the injunctions of scripture.”
It is just like taking an Āyurvedic medicine to cure an ailment. It is not that you can take the medicine but not follow the prescribed diet, not refrain from eating the prohibited food items, and still get the result described in the book. If you want the proper result from the medicine, you also have to follow the prescription and the prohibition.
Question: It is stated in Caitanya Bhāgavata, Adi 17.20: “Then the Lord prescribed His own medicine, ‘If I drink the water that has washed the feet of a brāhmaṇa (vipra), My suffering will be relieved.’” Here, what does “vipra” mean—only a qualitative brāhmaṇa (by dīkṣā irrespective of birth) or one who is born in the family of a brāhmaṇa and who has upanayana saṁskārā?
Answer: Vipra means one who is born in a family of a brāhmaṇa, has undergone upanayana saṁskārā, has studied the branch of Vedas belonging to his family, and observes the brāhmiṇical duties.
Question: I heard that in Gambhira Maṭh, Puri, there is a custom that only Vaiṣṇavas born in brāhmaṇa families are allowed to do deity worship, but SB 7.11.35 says:
“If one shows the symptoms of being a brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya, vaiśya, or śūdra, as described above, even if was born in a different class, he should be designated according to those symptoms.”
This is also supported by Bhagavad Gītā (4.13), cātur-varṇyaṁ mayā sṛṣṭaṁ guṇa-karma-vibhāgaśaḥ. Thus the four divisions of society—brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya, vaiśya,and śūdra—are to be ascertained according to qualities and activities.
Although Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī has not commented on this verse, elsewhere he says that if he has no seminal birth from a brāhmaṇa family but chants Hare Kṛṣṇa, his purification starts and he shall be respected as a brāhmaṇa. This means that although he has the qualification of a brāhmaṇa, still he is not authorized to perform brāhmiṇicalfunctions. For this, he has to take birth again. This is even supported by Śrī Sanātana Gosvāmī in the Gaura kṛpā taraṅgiṇī commentary in Caitanya-caritāmṛta (by Rādhā-Govinda Nātha). This seems to contradict Śrī Śrīdhara Svāmī and SB 7.11.35 in respect of one’s qualification being not by birth.
Answer: There is no contradiction. Whether it is Śrīdhara Svāmī or the SB verse 7.11.35 referred to by you, it is very clear that such a person is accepted like a brāhmaṇa, not that he can engage in brāhmiṇical duties without proper educational training. How is it possible for a person who simply displays brāhmiṇical qualities to engage in brāhmiṇical duties without proper education and training? Even a person born in a brāhmaṇa family needs proper education and training to execute brāhmiṇical duties.
As far as the verse 7.11.35, who will ascertain whether that person has the symptoms of a brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya, vaiśya,or śūdra?Who is the authority to give such a certificate? At present, I do not know of any such system, and in the absence of such a system, the only viable choice is by birth. Unless there is a system or an authorized group of learned wise men who are appointed to ascertain the varṇa of a person, we are left with the present custom of accepting varṇa by birth. Moreover, we should know the distinction between varṇa and jāti. Varṇa is by guṇa and jāti is by birth. However, at present both are based upon birth.
You have only mentioned Gambhira Maṭh, but in all the major temples of India and even outside of India, this system is practiced.
Question: In their pastimes, Śrī Sanātana Gosvāmī and Śrī Haridās Ṭhākura showed respect to a brāhmaṇa qualified only by birth. Did they do so out of humility? What should be our vision regarding this?
Answer: Follow the example of Śrī Sanātana Gosvāmī and Haridās Ṭhākura. They are our ācāryas and very dear associates of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, who pointed out, amānina mana dena. Of course, they did so out of humility and such humility is not a show or a disqualification. It is quite amazing that you yourself quote these examples and then raise this question. Why not respect whom you are citing? Why shall we not follow their example?