By Niraj Bidawatka
In the current fortnight, people, especially in India, are engaged in offering oblations to their forefathers as per the custom called “shrāddha.” It is a ceremony wherein one offers Vishnu prasāda, or sanctified foodstuffs to the forefathers (pitrs) through the brāhmanas. The Brāhmanas are considered the most intelligent class of men because they possess knowledge about God. Thus, through the aegis of such pure souls, the ancestors are fed.
The definition of a brāhmana is – “brahma jānāti iti brāhmana” – One who knows “brahma” (God), is called a brāhmana. But, now people are mostly inviting hereditary brāhmanas, who have no knowledge about God. No one cares to ensure whether the person, who is being invited, is a real brāhmana or not. People don’t care to test this essential ingredient of being a brahmana – whether he possesses knowledge about God or not.
Simply taking birth in the family of a brāhmana does not ensure that one is brāhmana. He should be trained up as a brāhmana. On the other hand, even if one is born in a family of dog-eaters, but still undergoes proper training about the science of God and thus attains and realizes genuine knowledge of God, then such a person is considered to be a true brāhmana. Simply taking birth in a lawyer’s family, does not make one a lawyer. He has to undergo proper training and only then will he be recognized as a lawyer. Similarly taking birth in a brahmin’s family does not make one a brahmin. He has to undergo proper training as a brahmin, says Prabhupada.
na me ‘bhaktaś catur-vedī mad-bhaktah śva-pacah priyah
tasmai deyam tato grāhyam sa ca pūjyo yathā hy aham
Lord Krishna says, “Even if a nondevotee comes from a brāhmaṇa family and is expert in studying the Vedas, he is not very dear to Me, whereas even if a sincere devotee comes from a low family of meat-eaters, he is very dear to Me. Such a sincere pure devotee should be given charity, for he is as worshipable as I.”
[Quoted from Srila Prabhupada’s Purport to CC Antya 3.222]
Srila Haridas Thakur, who was born in a Muslim meat-eater family, was a great devotee of Krishna. By dint of his exalted devotion, he was conferred the title of nāmāchārya by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Nāmāchārya means “the teacher of the Holy Name.”
When Advaita Āchārya performed the shrāddha ceremony, he invited and served the plate of the ceremony to Srila Haridas Thakur. The local brāhmanas criticized this act of Advaita Acharya’s. But Advaita Acharya has set the example that feeding a pure devotee of Krishna is thousand times greater than feeding ordinary brāhmanas.
“Feeding you is equal to feeding ten million brāhmaṇas,” Advaita Ācārya said. “Therefore, accept this śrāddha-pātra.” Thus Advaita Ācārya made him eat. [CC Antya 3.222, Translation by Srila Prabhupada]
“Śrāddha is prasādam offered to the forefathers at a certain date of the year or month. The śrāddha-pātra, or plate offered to the forefathers, is then offered to the best of the brāhmaṇas in society. Instead of offering the śrāddha-pātra to any other brāhmaṇa, Advaita Acarya offered it to Haridāsa Thākura, considering him greater than any of the foremost brāhmaṇas.” [Srila Prabhupada’s Purport to CC Antya 3.222]
Srila Prabhupada authoritatively states that, “Not only the yavanas (meat-eaters) and khasādayah but even those born in still lower families can be purified (śudhyanti) by the grace of a devotee of Lord Krishna, for Krishna empowers such devotees to perform this purification. Advaita Ācārya had confidence in the śāstric evidence and did not care about social customs. The Krishna consciousness movement, therefore, is a cultural movement that does not care about local social conventions. Following in the footsteps of Sri Caitanya Mahāprabhu and Advaita Ācārya, we can accept a devotee from any part of the world and recognize him as a brāhmana as soon as he is qualified due to following the principles of Vaishnava behavior.” (CC Antya 3.221 Purport)
Jai Srila Prabhupada! All glories to Srila Prabhupada’s Krishna consciousness movement, which is churning out real and qualified brāhmanas.