By His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedānta Swami Prabhupāda
One who is qualified as a brāhmana, he has to observe the four āśramas:
- the brahmacārī-āśrama,
- the grhastha-āśrama,
- the vānaprastha-āśrama and
- the sannyāsa-āśrama.
The ksatriyas, have to observe three āśramas: brahmacārī, grhastha and vānaprastha.
And the vaiśyas, two āśramas: brahmacārī and grhastha.
And śūdra, only one āśrama – grhastha.
A śūdra is never offered sannyāsa. Only the brāhmana is offered. So in Śankara-sampradāya, strictly, unless one is born in brāhmana family, he’s not offered sannyāsa. He’s not given sannyāsa.
So far we are concerned, we also offer sannyāsa to the brāhmana, and not to the śūdras. But according to quality we create brāhmanas. Not that we are offering sannyāsa to the śūdras, No. The principle is: sannyāsa can be offered only to the brāhmanas. So one may not mistake that we are offering sannyāsa to the mlecchas, yavanas, as they complain. Some of my Godbrothers, they criticize like that, that I am offering sannyāsa to the mlecchas, yavanas. This is wrong idea. This is nārakī-buddhi.
Actually, a Vaisnava is above this varnāśrama-dharma. But we don’t claim that we have become perfect Vaisnava. We are not so impudent. We want to remain under the Vaisnava. Otherwise Vaisnava means… In Caitanya-caritāmrta you’ll find the Vaisnava is paramahamsa. Vaisnava has no saffron cloth. Vaisnava is white cloth because Vaisnava is paramahamsa.
But we don’t claim the position of Vaisnava. We want to remain servant of Vaisnava. Therefore sannyāsa order is below the position of Vaisnava. Sannyāsa order means still in the material classification. But this Vaisnava is paramo nirmatsarānām satām. Dharmah projjhita-kaitavo ‘tra paramo nirmat… [SB 1.1.2]. This Vaisnavism is meant for paramo nirmatsarānām, paramahamsa.
Sa gunān samatītyaitān brahma-bhūyāya kalpate [Bg. 14.26]. Vaisnava position is not very easy thing, (It is) above all qualities. Therefore Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Thākura introduced not to become an imitation of Rūpa Gosvāmī. Rūpa Gosvāmī, Sanātana Gosvami, the Gosvāmīs of Vrndāvana, they are paramahamsas.
And in Vrndāvana you’ll find so-called bābājīs, they have imitated the dress of Rūpa Gosvāmī—half loincloth—but a bidi in the mouth. What is this nonsense? Rūpa Gosvāmī used to smoke bidi? Not only that. You’ll find in Vrndāvana so many Rūpa Gosvāmīs are making bidi. Have you seen in the Gopīnātha Bazaar? They’re making trade – bidis – and shameless. Therefore my Guru Mahārāja introduced this.
Of course, sannyāsa is there in the Vaisnava… All the ācāryas, they were sannyāsis, but later on, it got so degraded that these bidi-smokers, gānjā-smokers, they imitated Rūpa Gosvāmī. Therefore to purify, Guru Mahārāja introduced this sannyāsa system, below the paramahamsas, not that by artificial means I become a paramahamsa, No.
[An excerpt from a lecture given on the Srimad Bhagavatam 1.8.41 in Mayapur, West Bengal on October 21, 1974]