ISKCON’s mission not only includes the propagation of pure devotion to Lord Sri Krishna but also includes the reestablishment of brahmanas within society at large.
People in general are being guided into hellish condition of life by the rascal leaders, so we must establish qualified brahmanas at the head of the society, and widely distribute Krishna conscious principles. (Letter to Balavanta 17 June 1972)
We have enough of technological and other types of educational institutions, but perhaps there is none where actual brahmanas and Vaisnavas are produced. So we will have to establish an educational institution for that purpose. (Letter to Kirtanananda 12 January 1969)
Your idea to recruit many brahmacaris is nice. We need a class of men purely brahmanas. The whole world is full of sudras. The Krishna Consciousness movement is meant for re-establishing the system of four varnas and asramas, then there will be progress of civilization. (Letter to Rupanuga 3 May 1972)
I am so pleased to know that you have been recommended by Sriman Bhagavan das Prabhu for gayatri mantra initiation. Actually that is what I am trying to do in your country is to establish a brahminical society. So when I see that these young American boys are becoming eligible by qualification to take second initiation and become qualified Brahmins, I become very much pleased and my Guru Maharaja becomes pleased also. (Letter to Laksmi Narayana 8 July 1971)
However, in many of the countries throughout the world where there are ISKCON centers there are many twice initiated devotees who live outside of the temple but who on account of their professions are unable to devote substantial time to preaching. The vast majority of these have jobs and accept a salary, which according to the shastras and our parampara is forbidden for a brahmana.
In time of emergency, one may accept any of the various types of professions known as rta, amrta, mrta, pramrta and satyanrta, but one should not at any time accept the profession of a dog. The profession of uñchasila, collecting grains from the field, is called rta. Collecting without begging is called amrta, begging grains is called mrta, tilling the ground is called pramrta, and trade is called satyanrta. Engaging in the service of low-grade persons, however, is called sva-vrtti, the profession of the dogs. Specifically, brahmanas and ksatriyas should not engage in the low and abominable service of sudras. Brahmanas should be well acquainted with all the Vedic knowledge, and ksatriyas should be well acquainted with the worship of demigods. (SB 7.11.18-20)
[Purport to SB 7.11.18-20:] As stated in Bhagavad-gita (4.13), catur-varnyam maya srstam guna-karma-vibhagasah: the four divisions of human society were created by the Supreme Lord according to the three modes of material nature and the work ascribed to them. Formerly, the principle of dividing human society into four sections — brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya and sudra — was strictly followed, but because of gradual neglect of the varnasrama principles, varna-sankara population developed, and the entire institution has now been lost. In this Age of Kali, practically everyone is a sudra (kalau sudra-sambhavah), and finding anyone who is a brahmana, ksatriya or vaisya is very difficult. Although the Krsna consciousness movement is a movement of brahmanas and Vaisnavas, it is trying to reestablish the divine varnasrama institution, for without this division of society there cannot be peace and prosperity anywhere. [end of purport]
Srila Prabhupada: No, they are not brahmanas. Those who give education in exchange for money—they are not brahmanas. For instance, we are lecturing, educating people. We don’t say, “Give us a salary.” We simply ask them, “Please come.” That is why we are cooking food and holding so many free festivals. “We’ll give you food. We’ll give you a comfortable seat. Please come and hear about self-realization and God consciousness.” We are not asking money—“First of all pay the fee; then you can come and learn Bhagavad-gita.” We never say that. But these so-called teachers who first of all bargain for a salary—“What salary will you give me?”—that is a dog’s concern. That is not a brahmana’s concern. A brahmana will never ask about a salary. A brahmana is eager to see that people are educated. “Take free education and be educated; be a human being”—this is a brahmana’s concern: You see? I came here not to ask for any money but to give instruction. (Journey of Self-Discovery, Chapter 6, Slaughterhouse Civilization)
In India, schoolchildren are taught Canakya Pandita’s instructions. Although he was the prime minister, Canakya Pandita maintained his brahma?a spirit; he did not accept any salary. If a brahmana accepts a salary, it is understood that he has become a dog. That is stated in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. He can advise, but he cannot accept employment. (Science of Self-Realization, Chapter 6, Spiritual Communism)
Not only do we see from these statements that establishing brahmanas in society is fundamental to Srila Prabhuapda’s mission, and therefore fundamental to ISKCON’s mission, we see that being a brahmana means not accepting a salary. Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita (4.13), “According to the three modes of material nature and the work associated with them, the four divisions of human society are created by Me.” Therefore work itself is an essential qualification for a brahmana. That is why according to authorized parampara understanding we see that those who accept a salary are no longer considered brahmanas.
Yet salaried brahmanas who contribute little to preaching are common among ISKCON’s members. The proliferation of brahmanas who have jobs, and who therefore do not follow brahminical principles, is one of the most significant reasons for lower levels of preaching in various countries around the world.
To correct this problem, a modest proposal is made along the lines of Srila Prabhupada’s statement to Professor Kotovsky in his famous conversation with him in Moscow:
As I told you, this propaganda is meant for creating brahmanas all over the world, because the brahmana element is lacking. One who seriously comes to us has to become a brahmana, so he should adopt the occupation of a brahmana and give up the occupation of a ksatriya or sudra.
Of course, Srila Prabhupada accepted as twice-initiated disciples people who did not give up their non-brahminical occupations, and he made them brahmanas. Following from what Srila Prabhupada says, he immediately also says that anyone from any social or occupational position can be a spiritual master:
But if one wants to keep his profession and also at the same time understand our movement, that is allowed. We have many professors following our movement. There is Howard Wheeler, a professor at Ohio State University. He is my disciple. He is continuing with his professorship, but almost all the money he is getting he is spending for this Krsna consciousness. Grhasthas, those who are in householder life outside, are expected to contribute fifty percent of their income for our society, keep twenty-five percent for family, and keep twenty-five percent for personal emergencies. But Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu teaches that it does not matter whether one is a grhastha (householder), or in the renounced order, or a brahmana, or a sudra. Lord Caitanya says, “Anyone who understands the science of Krsna becomes My spiritual master.” The actual words in Bengali are kiba vipra, kiba nyasi, sudra kene naya.
Yet the problem we face today is that most who decide to remain in their salaried professions are not exceptions in terms of the standards that Srila Prabhupada describes above—someone who gives 50% of his salary to the Krishna consciousness movement. The problem, though circumstantial, is nonetheless formidable, and it requires corrective action in the following time, place, and circumstance recommendation.
The following modest proposal is thus made:
- New initiates will be required to either give up their occupations for a brahminical one, as outlined in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, or contribute 50% of their salary on a sustained, indefinite basis, to the Krishna consciousness movement as a prerequisite for being considered for second initiation.
- Older second-initiates who are “out of compliance” will be given five years to make the necessary arrangements for their livelihoods to bring them in compliance. Those who remain out of compliance will no longer be regarded as brahmanas, nor should they be called brahmanas, call themselves brahmanas or expect to be called brahmanas. Their status will be similar to that of dvija-bandhus. Standard brahminical activities like worshiping the Deities in the temple or cooking for Them should be reserved for those who are in compliance, though the out-of-compliance brahmanas should still be encouraged to continue serving the Lord in whatever capacity they can.
It is expected that this policy will achieve the following:
- Increase the number of full and part-time preachers.
- Increase the purity of existing and new brahmanas.
- Please Srila Prabhupada, as he has stated that reestablishing brahmanas in society is one of his main objectives.
Your servant, Krishna-kirti das