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Brahmachari is also a designation

Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu declared: “I am not a brahmana, a kshatriya, a vaishya, or a shudra. I am not a brahmacari, a grihastha, a vanaprastha, or a sannyasi. I identify myself only as the servant of the servant of Krishna, the maintainer of the gopis.”(Cc. Madhya 13.80) The goal of life is not to be a brahmacari, nor a grihastha, nor even a sannyasi. It is to be a pure devotee of Krishna. Shrila Prabhupada often quoted from the Narada-pancaratra:

tat-paratvena nirmalam
hrishikena hrishikesha-
sevanam bhaktir ucyate

“Pure devotional service means being freed from all material designations.”

“Brahmacari” is also a designation. If we put too much emphasis on making distinctions between varnas and ashramas, especially amongst devotees, we are in the bodily concept of life. For, “One cannot realize the Absolute Truth simply by observing celibacy.” (SB 5.12.12) In India there are Mayavadi sannyasis who follow difficult rules and regulations far more strictly than most devotees could even dream of. But they are not dear to Krishna.

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu would give respect even to Mayavadi sannyasis, as was the social etiquette, but He associated only with devotees. When He visited Varanasi, Mahaprabhu avoided the numerous Mayavadi sannyasis and chose to live amongst His grihastha devotees instead—Tapana Mishra, Candrashekhara (a shudra by caste), and the Maharashtrian brahmana. The Mayavadi sannyasis were astonished at this and criticized the Lord. Only after He had converted them to Vaishnavism was the Lord pleased to sit amongst them and take prasada. (-See Cc. Adi Chapter 7 and Madhya Chapter 25)

In considering a devotee’s spiritual advancement, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu never considered his external situation. Of His “three and a half” intimate associates, two (Ramananda Raya and Shikhi Mahiti) were householders, “half” (Madhavi-devi) was an old woman, and one (Svarupa Damodara) was a renunciate who had not even bothered to accept all the external formalities of sannyasa. Many of Lord Chaitanya’s leading devotees were householders and some were rejects from society. Indeed, Lord Chaitanya blessed Haridasa Thakura (who was born in a Muslim family) to be the acarya of the holy name, just to demonstrate that spiritual advancement is not dependent on being respectable according to varna and ashrama considerations.

So we should not be overly concerned with externals: “I am a brahmacari,” “I am a sannyasi.” We are all servants of Krishna. Jivera ‘svarupa’ haya—krishnera ‘nitya-dasa’: “The constitutional position of the living entity is as the eternal servant of Krishna.” (Cc. Madhya 20.108) The relative advancement of a Vaishnava is understood only by the quality of his devotion to Krishna. Varna and ashrama don’t matter. (Cc. Antya 4.66-67)

Still, in our present position, brahmacarya must be emphasized as an essential part of the means to our end of attaining love of Krishna. In our present neophyte position, unless we make a rigid program to control our senses, there will never be any possibility of advancement to higher levels.

“A human being is meant to be trained according to certain principles to revive his original knowledge. Such a methodical life is described as tapasya. One can gradually be elevated to the standard of real knowledge, or Krishna consciousness, by practicing austerity and celibacy (brahmacarya), by controlling the mind, by controlling the senses, by giving up one’s possessions in charity, by being avowedly truthful, by keeping clean, and by practicing yoga-asanas… Unless one is master of his senses, he should not be called Gosvami, but go-dasa, servant of the senses. Following in the footsteps of the six Gosvamis of Vrindavana, all svamis and gosvamis should fully engage in the transcendental loving service of the Lord. As opposed to this, the go-dasas engage in the service of the senses or in the service of the material world. They have no other engagement. Prahlada Maharaja has further described the go-dasa as adanta-go, which refers to one whose senses are not controlled. An adanta-go cannot become a servant of Krishna.” (NOI, Text 1)


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