Is it better to choose a guru born in a brahmana family?

By Purushottam Nitai Das - 23.11 2017

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura met with opposition when he had taken his disciples for braj mandal parikrama because many temple priests of Vrindavan were of the opinion that he should not have given brahminical threads to those who were not born in a brahmana family.

But Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura gave reference of various scriptures and proved that one should be considered a brahmana not by birth but by qualities. He quoted verse from Srimad Bhagavatam wherein sage Narada tells Yudhisthir that even if one is born in the family of a sudra but acts like a brahmana he should be accepted as a brahmana and if one is born in the family of a brahmana but acts like a sudra then he should be considered a sudra. “If one shows the symptoms of being a brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya, vaiśya or śūdra, as described above, even if he has appeared in a different class, he should be accepted according to those symptoms of classification.” S.B. 7.11.35. If anyone is living as per the guidelines of the scriptures, is chanting the holy names of the Lord with love and sincerely following the four regulative principles of no meat eating, no gambling, no intoxication and no licit sex should be considered a saintly person and he is fit to become a guru. Chaitanya Mahaprabh says, “kiba vipra, kiba nyasi, sudra kene naya/yei kṛṣṇa-tattva-vetta, sei guru haya: “It does not matter whether a person is a vipra [learned scholar in Vedic wisdom], or is born in a lower family, or is in the renounced order of life – if he is a master in the science of Kṛṣṇa, he is the perfect and bona fide spiritual master.”” (Caitanya-caritamṛta, Madhya 8.128). It is also said in the Vedic literature:

ṣaṭ-karma-nipuṇo vipro
mantra-tantra-viśāradaḥ
avaiṣṇavo gurur na syād
vaiṣṇavaḥ śva-paco guruḥ

“A scholarly brāhmaṇa, expert in all subjects of Vedic knowledge, is unfit to become a spiritual master without being a Vaiṣṇava, or expert in the science of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. But a person born in a family of a lower caste can become a spiritual master if he is a Vaiṣṇava, or Kṛṣṇa conscious.” (Padma Purāṇa)

Srila Prabhupada writes, “If a person is born in a śūdra family but has all the qualities of a spiritual master, he should be accepted not only as a brāhmaṇa but as a qualified spiritual master also. This is also the instruction of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura therefore introduced the sacred thread ceremony for all Vaiṣṇavas according to the rules and regulations.” CC Madhya 8.128 Purport.

Anyone can become a brahmana
In India it is very common to see that sometimes a person born in a brahmana family declare that they are the only ones who have complete understanding of the Vedic knowledge. They claim to have direct access to the mercy of the Supreme Lord possessing the ability to deliver the mankind. So they demand to be declared and accepted as a guru. Many a times the gullible masses without verifying the character and qualities of such people surrender their life unto them and ruin their spiritual life.

But if we take shelter of the Vedas and study it carefully then we would never get cheated in our pursuit of finding a genuine guru. No one becomes a brahmana, kshatriya, vaisya or sudra just by taking birth in that particular family. Krishna in Gita clearly state that the four divisions of human society has been created according to the three different modes acquired by the living entities and the type of work they perform. Bhagavad Gitas 4.13. Krishna never says that just by taking birth in the family of a brahmana one becomes a brahmana or just by taking birth in the family of a Kshatriya one becomes a Kshatriya. One does not become a doctor just by taking birth in the family where parents are doctors. To become a doctor one has to first get admitted to an authorized medical college, there he has to study under the guidance of learned medical scholars, clear various exams and then only he is awarded the degree of a doctor.
Similarly when one studies scriptures under the guidance of a bonafide guru, practices the teachings of the Vedic literature in his personal life and devote his life in the service of the Lord then he is accepted as a brahamana. Bhakti Vinod Thakura, Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakura, Srila Prabhupada was not born in a brahamana family but were great devotees of the Lord fit to deliver the entire world. Haridas Thakura was not even a Hindu but he used to be so absorbed in chanting the holy names of Krishna that Lord Chaitanya gave him the name ‘namacharya.’

Guru should be decorated with saintly qualities
A genuine guru is always engaged in the service of the Supreme Lord and is always eager to share the message of the scriptures to others. He is endowed with all divine qualities as given in the scriptures, “The symptoms of a sadhu are that he is tolerant, merciful and friendly to all living entities. He has no enemies, he is peaceful, he abides by the scriptures, and all his characteristics are sublime. Srimad Bhagavatam 3.25.21. Haridas Thakura was beaten mercilessly at 22 marketplaces by the miscreants but instead of become angry and cursing the perpetrators he prayed to the Lord to forgive them. He had so much compassion even for his enemies who wanted to kill him.

This human form of life which we have got is very precious because it is in this life that we can re-establish our lost relationship with the Supreme Lord and return back to the spiritual kingdom of Krishna. And this can be possible only when we practice our devotional life under the guidance of a bonafide guru. So, we should be utterly careful in identifying our spiritual master. It does not matter if a guru is born in a brahmana family or a non-brahmana family or whether he is an Indian or non-Indian. The most important thing is he should be sincerely following the footsteps of present and previous acharyas.